BGA: Jets at Patriots (Part One – Offense)

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Welcome to Bent’s Game Analysis, which is based on watching and re-watching TV footage. As such, it is not always possible to accurately determine everything that was going on. However, every effort has been made to ensure that the information below is as complete and correct as possible.

Coming up, part one of your breakdown of the Jets’ loss last night to the Patriots, with detailed analysis of the offensive players. Join me after the jump as I attempt to cover every angle.

This week’s BGA is going to be two parts, so I’ll be back with the defensive analysis later. For now we’re focusing on the offense.

Last night’s game could probably be looked upon as one that got away. In many ways, it was a strange game, as both teams missed opportunities that could have swung the outcome by a couple of touchdowns in either direction. Despite all the missing players on offense, New England had a healthy defense that was able to exploit some of the Jets’ inexperience and stifle the Jets just about enough to get the win.

While I’m not going to break down the other team in any kind of detail, it’s interesting to compare the two offensive performances. With Jeremy Kerley out, Santonio Holmes not yet up to speed and the rawness of some of their other skill position players, the Jets were in a similar boat to New England’s decimated offense in terms of being on the same page with their quarterback. It had an effect on both ends as both quarterbacks completed less than 50% of their passes and the cohesion you’d usually expect from a Patriots offense wasn’t quite there. However, the veteran did enough to get the win while the rookie was unable to get his team over the hump. That was probably the difference between the two teams and perhaps even something we should have anticipated.

Earlier in the week, I said that the “this is our big chance” lead-in to the game was reminiscent of the week two clash between these two teams five years ago. On that day, Brett Favre faced off against Matt Cassel and the Patriots won 19-10 in a game with sloppy offensive performances from both teams. Last night was indeed eerily similar to that, but – taking a step back and looking at the big picture – I think most Jets fans would have taken a 1-1 record at this stage of the season.

Let’s look into how it came about…

Quarterbacks

The announcers had plenty of good things to say about Geno Smith in the first three quarters and he did make some great throws. Early in the fourth quarter he lofted a long pass down the left sideline to Stephen Hill for a first down at the New England 32 with the Jets trailing 13-10. They were in field goal range at that point, with a good chance to tie the score or even take the lead. At that point, Smith was 14-for-26 for 206 yards. Not great, but not too bad considering the rainy conditions. After that completion, he ended the game 1-for-9 with three interceptions. That obviously makes his statline look terrible and represents three blown chances to get back in the game.

Let’s look at the three interceptions in turn:

The first one came as Santonio Holmes had a step on his man coming across the field, but Smith’s throw was on his back shoulder and was batted into the air. Intially Brad Nessler said that the pass “should never have been thrown”. Sure enough, had he thrown it away, Nick Folk would have been able to attempt a 44-yard game-tying field goal. On review, however, the play did have a chance to be a good gain had Smith been able to lead Holmes with the pass. A definite contributing factor in this was that in order to do that, he’d have had to throw the ball either over Aqib Talib or in a tight window between him and the defender trailing Holmes across the field. Stephen Hill had run a similar, more shallow route across the field and as he slowed to look back for the ball, this drew Talib too close to the passing lane and it seems likely that Smith saw/sensed him and overcompensated.

The second one saw Clyde Gates get an inside release and a couple of steps on his man down the seam. On this occasion, Smith’s pass was underthrown and the defender was able to recover and come underneath for an easy pick. Again, Smith’s throw was perhaps influenced by what he read in the coverage because Devin McCourty was coming across from the other side, so he couldn’t afford to lead him to the inside too far. Again, it’s possible he short-armed the throw because of this.

On the final throw, I don’t know what happened to be honest. Hill ran downfield and Smith’s throw was easily intercepted because it was well behind him. Maybe this was some kind of miscommunication.

Smith did miss a couple of opportunities for big plays, notably when Bilal Powell had a step down the sideline on the first drive and then in the second quarter when Gates was open down the seam and ended up dropping Smith’s underthrow. He also held the ball for far too long a couple of times, leading directly to pressure and sacks. A delay of game on third and five was also disappointing. However, these are the kind of growing pains that were to be expected if the Jets were going to start the rookie this year.

The announcers weren’t wrong to praise some of the things he did though, he just needs to do it on a more consistent basis. His deep completion to Gates was a perfect throw and the completion down the middle to Hill (which ended up being a fumble) was a play that was there for him last week and he opted to run instead. He again had a nice first down scramble in this game, although he perhaps wasn’t as decisive with his running this week as New England sought to box him in.

I think it’s apparent Smith would have been better off with more preseason reps and maybe starting off the season on the bench until he was 100% ready. However, that’s not a luxury the Jets have right now, so he’s going to have to learn on the job. Clearly he’s going to have his ups and downs. It might even be fun to watch.

Offensive Line

It’s pretty frustrating to have to BGA a game that was shown on the NFL Network. I constantly strive to point out things that weren’t highlighted in the coverage, but that’s harder to do with Mike Mayock often pointing things out that I would otherwise have mentioned. I get that Mayock isn’t very popular and I don’t always agree with everything he says, but he is usually correct. Moreover, I have to give credit to their production crew, because they do an excellent job of isolating footage of individuals that have just made a solid play.

With all that said, you’ll probably have noticed Mike Mayock praising Vladimir Ducasse on a number of occasions and may also have heard that he received a high grade from PFF, who already posted their grades from last night. This has been something that’s been coming for a while and hopefully is a sign that Ducasse is set to establish himself as a full-time starter at this level.

In my BGA Preview, I wrote that the Jets might look to get Ducasse to make blocks at the second level so that Nick Mangold could handle Vince Wilfork one-on-one, but for the majority of the time it was the other way around. Ducasse only got beaten once by Wilfork in his rotational role in the two games last year, so the Jets felt comfortable with his ability to handle Wilfork and saw plenty of success when they did so, both in the running game and in pass protection.

Ducasse would have graded out even better if he didn’t have a poor second quarter, underlining that he still needs to maintain consistency and has room to grow. He got beaten inside on a run that was stuffed by Wilfork and the Patriots got him out of his rhythm by lining Chandler Jones up opposite him on a few plays on passing downs. One saw him get beaten upfield for a sack and another saw him lose Jones on a stunt, leading to a hit.

Apart from that second quarter, though, Ducasse was arguably the most dominant player on the field, highlighting his performance with a great block on Wilfork to create the room for Powell’s touchdown. As further sign of his influence, Wilfork (who had a great game against the Bills) was the lowest rated player on either team according to PFF.

Having already faced Gerald McCoy last week, it’s Kyle Williams next week for Ducasse. Kind of a murderer’s row of top defensive tackle talent right there, but the fact he’s holding his own so far is certainly positive.

As noted above, Ducasse’s stellar work on Wilfork freed Mangold up to make blocks at the second level and he did a good job of this. He also did a solid job in pass protection. In terms of negatives, he got stood up on one short yardage play, but the Jets still converted. Another solid performance for Mangold, who usually brings his A-game against the Patriots.

At the other guard spot Willie Colon false started once, was beaten a couple of times in pass protection and lost his man on a stunt twice – once for a hit and once for a tackle in the backfield. However, the unit as a whole blocked a lot better this week and he had plenty of positive plays to contribute to that. He drove his man out of the play a few times and while he allowed his man to get off his block to make the tackle on a number of occasions, this was generally downfield by four or five yards. Colon usually does an excellent job of limiting penetration and, while he had one or two lapses on Sunday, he did that well last night.

The tackles gave up three sacks between them (two by D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s man and one by Austin Howard’s man) but in all three cases, I would attribute the sack to Smith holding the ball for too long after they had been well-blocked for long enough. They did each give up a couple of pressures too and Howard was twice guilty of something I mentioned last week – allowing his man to get pressure too readily on screen passes. After he performed so well last week, his run blocking wasn’t as good this week as the Jets tried pulling him left a few times and it never really worked out. Ferguson did have more positive run blocks this week, but let his man get off the block on a number of occasions too. In particular, the announcers praised how he set the edge when Powell bounced outside for a first down run to the left, but he allowed Jones to get off his block and the run was only successful because Powell broke the tackle, so I’d probably have graded him down on that play.

Howard got dinged up on one play where the running back ran into him and came over to the sideline, giving us the insight I was looking for last week into what the Jets would do if one of their tackles went down. As I probably would have expected, Brian Winters entered the game at left guard and Ducasse moved out to right tackle. However, the Jets called a time out anyway and Howard returned to the game, so we never saw this group in action.

Following the scrum at the end of the game, we’re now left to speculate on whether any of the Jets’ linemen could be at risk of suspension, which would obviously cause them to shuffle the deck in a similar fashion. If that does happen, it could be devastating to the chemistry of the starters, which seemed to be coming along nicely. It could also prove extremely hazardous to Smith’s health.

Looking at the incident again, I don’t think Mangold’s hit was that bad. He contacted the back of Talib’s heels, but only because Talib jumped and landed where Mangold was falling as he dived over to cut off his angle at the sideline. I don’t think that was dirty, but I would expect him to get a fine for a late hit out of bounds, since he contacted him well beyond the sideline. For what it’s worth, Talib was dancing around on the sideline and went and sat on the bench while the fight was going on, so he wasn’t hurt.

Willie Colon was penalized for knocking an official down on his way over to the scrum. This appeared to be inadvertent, although the TV angle wasn’t conclusive. Ferguson threw a punch that didn’t really do any damage and the replay seemed to show that he was laying into a guy on the floor but, watching this again, he only really shoved him and then grabbed his jersey.

I wouldn’t ordinarily expect any suspensions to come out of an incident like this, but the cynic in me worries that the league might want to make an example of the high-profile Jets. If that happened, it will have been pretty costly for these players to lose their cool when the game was basically over, but you can understand the frustration and, on some level, appreciate them showing some fight and togetherness.

Running Backs

25-for-100. That was the combined output for Powell and Chris Ivory on the ground. Not bad at all, especially when it comes from consistent chunks of positive yardage rather than any big runs to artificially skew the numbers. Ivory ran the better of the two, averaging 4.3 yards and showing shiftiness, power and an ability to fall forwards at the end of a run. However, Powell had a key first down to the outside and added 22 yards on two catches for a total output of 70 yards on 15 touches altogether. Powell is a threat in the passing game, as he showed by getting open deep on Dont’a Hightower, but he did also have one drop and another pass that went off his fingertips. Give him credit for a good blitz pickup on one downfield completion though. Ivory also had a good block on Smith’s scramble, but he committed the cardinal sin by putting the ball on the ground. That was only his 2nd fumble in his last 237 touches though (and his first since 2010), so hopefully it’s an aberration.

At fullback, Tommy Bohanon didn’t make much of an impact as a blocker but had one or two good plays. He did contribute a little to the running game, though, including one short yardage conversion. He caught a pass too, but it went for a loss.

Receivers

The Jets really missed Kerley in this one, especially since their backs and tight ends combined for just 35 receiving yards. Let’s hope he’s ready for week three.

Hill led the team with 86 receiving yards on four catches, his best yardage output since his great performance in the opener last year. His fumble was unfortunate, as it was knocked from his grasp by hitting a defender on the knee, but he did a lousy job of protecting the ball on that play. He also had one high pass bounce off his fingertips and failed to convert on third and short when he caught the ball in the flat but was tackled in the open field. Still, there are signs that he’s starting to produce and if he can continue to improve, then he could still develop into a very good weapon. He is getting separation downfield and that’s half the battle. I’m not saying he’s definitely going to be a great player, but certainly think some of the people writing him off have been premature.

I respect Holmes for his performance yesterday. It doesn’t look like he’s 100% at all, but seems to be gutting it out. He still made three big catches, all of which were on well-executed plays. Like Hill, perhaps it’s not out of the question to expect him to improve over the course of the season. For Holmes, that would be getting back to his old self rather than entering unchartered waters. It was unfortunate that he slipped on the throw before Smith’s final interception and that he couldn’t adjust to the flight of the ball better on the interception thrown behind him. I wonder if those plays would have turned out differently with a Holmes that was 100%.

Gates was the recipient of (probably) Smith’s best throw of the day, but other than that was targeted seven other times, catching just one for eight yards. He should have had a touchdown because there was no angle that showed the ball ever hitting the ground, so the officials should have been forced to go with the call on the field. However, had he caught the ball cleanly, that wouldn’t be an issue. He also had two bad drops, albeit that each of them were on balls that Smith underthrew and, of course, Smith also underthrew him on his second interception. Gates is pretty fast and perhaps Smith just isn’t used to that yet. Both of them being hurt in preseason can’t have helped their chemistry. He’s getting open too, but he’s been in the league a year longer than Hill and should really be further along than him now in terms of polish.

Ryan Spadola saw action briefly and looked to have a reception downfield but the ball was knocked loose by the defender. That won’t go down as a drop, but it’s disappointing he couldn’t hold onto that one.

At tight end, Kellen Winslow caught three passes, but was tackled in the open field on all three. I guess you can’t spell “Winslow” without “slow”. To his credit, he did have a good block on Powell’s touchdown run, but he also false started once. The other tight end, Jeff Cumberland doesn’t have a catch yet this season. He wasn’t targeted in almost 40 snaps and missed his block on the read option play to allow Rob Ninkovich to blow it up.

Ben Obomanu and Konrad Reuland only played on special teams.

Part two will cover the defense. We’ll be posting this later today.




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