BGA: Jets at Patriots (Part Two – Defense/ST)

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.

We’re breaking down last night’s game against the Patriots. Part one is here. In part two, we’re focusing on the defense and special teams.

Join me after the jump as I attempt to cover every angle.

Interior Line

Just like last week, Muhammad Wilkerson didn’t have the kind of disruptive game he was able to produce throughout last season. You’ve got to think he’s missing the likes of Sione Po’uha, Mike DeVito and Quinton Coples. Hopefully Coples’ return is imminent and will free him up to do more damage, although now Wilkerson has his own ankle injury so we’ll have to cross our fingers that it won’t slow him down.

Although New England followed the Bucs’ blueprint by running away from and double teaming him, Wilkerson had more of a direct influence this week – there was only one play when he got driven off the line and the play went for a loss anyway. He blew up a couple of runs and was in on the tackle close to the line a few times too. While he only had one pressure as a pass rusher, he’s a constant disruption in the passing game as he gets off blocks and pulls everyone out of position.

The good news about Sheldon Richardson is that he returned to the lineup after his injury late in the fourth quarter, so hopefully he’ll be fine for the Bills game in week three. (Wilkerson’s injury was on the last defensive snap). Richardson had three pressures, the most impressive of which saw him collapse the pocket with a bullrush up the middle. He also had a tackle for a loss and blew up a couple of other runs, but did get blown off the line once.

At nose tackle, Damon Harrison again did a solid job, stuffing three runs including one in the backfield and bottling up another. He didn’t generate any pressure and was walled off on a couple of early runs in the first half though. He’s been a major part of the Jets run defense though, which has been excellent so far.

Four days removed from making his return from a back injury, it probably wasn’t surprising that Kenrick Ellis didn’t play much. He made one great play, shedding his block to stuff a run, and had good penetration on another.

My favorite play of this week (maybe I’ll make a gif if you ask nicely) came from Leger Douzable. He was picked up by Michael Hoomanawanui coming off the edge, but just clubbed him out of the way to pressure Tom Brady. Hoomanawanui was swept aside like a scolded puppy on that play. Where I come from, that’s called a “clip round the ear-’ole”. Douzable entered the game with one career sack, but picked up another half-sack here. He was also in on one run stuff.

Edge Rushers

Calvin Pace again played most of the game and was blocked out of a few running plays, while being held to just one pressure. However, he set the edge well all day and made two nice plays in coverage, helping to stop a receiver after a pass to the flat and deflecting a pass thrown to the back of the end zone.

Garrett McIntyre hasn’t done badly while filling in for Coples. He missed one tackle and got blocked out when the Patriots ran an end around for a first down, but contributed as an edge setter and did record a half-sack and three pressures as a pass rusher.

Antwan Barnes was quiet but did force a couple of runs back inside. He had one pressure but got beaten in coverage for a catch.

Finally, I’d liked to have seen more of the Jets’ dime package. This was the only package where Demario Davis came out of the game and saw Ricky Sapp enter as a pass rusher and Isaiah Trufant and Ellis Lankster enter the game as additional defensive backs. In that package, Lankster was covering the tight end, which isn’t a bad concept considering his physical play. However, New England barely used their tight ends in this one, so that package was only used three times. Those were the only three snaps for Sapp (and Lankster and Trufant) in the game.

Interestingly, the four edge rushers had zero tackles between them.

Linebackers

For the second week in a row, David Harris and Demario Davis both played well. Much of the credit has to go to Wilkerson, who is creating room for them to work by drawing so much attention, but both look comfortable with the system. Harris was in on a total of six tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, including one for a loss and Davis was in on four (also including one for a loss) and blew one run up by taking out the lead blocker, Bart Scott-style. Harris was pretty good in coverage too. There was one late third down conversion where Edelman ran a drag route and the announcers blamed Harris, but it was actually Davis that got beaten. He gave up one other catch but made a good open field tackle to limit that gain to seven.

What happened on the touchdown though? That was attributed to a personnel mix-up by the linebackers as everybody played the run and nobody went with Aaron Dobson, who lined up as a tight end and leaked out down the right side.

A review of the film actually shows that the Patriots rushed to the line and the Jets had to hurry to get lined up. Dobson was over on the right side and Dee Milliner likely would have been the guy responsible for matching up with him, but he started out in that direction and Antonio Cromartie actually called out to him and gestured to him to stay in the middle. Although Milliner is on the other side of the field, you can tell he doesn’t know what his assignment is and he looks totally lost before realizing where Dobson is and chasing him to the end zone. You’d like to think that either Harris or Landry would recognize that Milliner was out of position at the snap and for one of them to pick up Dobson as he leaked out, but they realized too late.

Cornerbacks

While his error on that play seemed to be at least partly Cromartie’s fault, Milliner did have a rough day and was benched at halftime for Darrin Walls and Kyle Wilson. For me, that’s a move that’s long overdue. It’s clear Milliner has some potential, but he’s been playing catch-up all offseason and has looked lost the majority of the time. Walls and Lanskter both clearly outplayed him in preseason and have shown they can be effective full-time players at various times. I get that Milliner seeing as much action as possible is a positive thing for his overall development, but the Jets can’t afford to worsen their secondary in the short term when they’re involved in competitive games.

With that said, remarkably the Patriots were completely unable to capitalize on Milliner in coverage. They targeted him several times in that first half and only one of them (a pick play for a short gain) was a completion. However, here’s how those other targets went:

- He was beaten on an out pattern that was dropped;
- burned at the line of scrimmage on a deep ball that was also dropped after the safety had to pick his man up;
- was too far off his man at the goal line when the receiver ran an out pattern and Brady threw it low, expecting the receiver to see Milliner playing off him and just sit down for the easy score;
- beaten again on a pass that was overthrown;
- burned for a touchdown that was overturned by the replay booth.

On his usual form, Brady would have turned those opportunities into a series of big plays.

There was one other target that I didn’t mention yet and that’s the one where he was beaten on a crossing pattern, but recovered well to knock the ball loose. Obviously that was a fumble and is yet another example of “Indisputable Video Evidence” gone awry. If the explanation for why it’s an incompletion is “the ball came loose as his second foot came down” and the replay clearly shows the second foot coming down well before the strip, then something doesn’t add up. Nice play by Milliner either way and a sign that he does have some ability, as badly as he struggled.

More jarring was just how badly Cromartie struggled. He was only beaten for one first down, but constantly missed jams at the line and fell for double moves to let his man get behind him over and over again. He was called for pass interference early on and got away with a hold near the end zone later in the game. He was also burned three times deep, with one overthrown, one underthrown and one where Brady didn’t throw his way. On another occasion he was burned at the line and passed his man off to the deep safety, Landry, who clearly wasn’t expecting that and was too far off to prevent a big gain. Cromartie did have some positives – an open field tackle in the flat, a play where he missed the tackle in run support but did enough to blow up the play and a good third down coverage – but this was one of the worst performances I’ve seen from him in some time and would normally have been punished a lot worse than it was. This is not what we expected from someone who was supposed to be one of the leaders on defense this year.

Walls deserves credit for his performance and I can see him starting next week. Other than one third and eight play where he maddeningly backed off a few extra yards as the ball was being snapped and gave up a first down in front of him, he did well, breaking up two passes, although on one of them he never looked back at the ball. That’s perhaps his biggest weakness.

Kyle Wilson didn’t do too badly for the second game in a row. He gave up three short catches and was in good position on one deep ball. He did miss a tackle and lost contain on one run, but it’s good to see him staying largely error free after such a disappointing preseason.

As noted, Lankster and Trufant saw three snaps each in the dime package. Trufant gave up two quick slants to Edelman, one for a first down, on those three plays, which might be part of the reason they didn’t keep using them.

Safeties

Aside from his involvement in some of the plays we’ve already mentioned, Landry had one play where he took a poor angle on an end around and got beaten around the outside for a first down. He did have a good coverage downfield on one play and added five tackles, but the secondary as a whole needs tightening up.

Antonio Allen led the team in tackles and made some good plays in coverage, including an open field tackle on third down and a good read to blow up a screen pass for no gain. However, he was beaten for a first down on another Edelman drag route, had a missed tackle and was out of position on a play where Brady threw wide of the intended receiver. All-in-all he gave up 13 yards on six targets, but again it might have been worse if Brady and his receivers were in synch.

Jaiquawn Jarrett shared reps with Allen at the strong safety position, blowing up one play with a nice hit in the flat. He closed well on another incompletion, but did have one missed tackle.

Special Teams

What a mess the punt return unit was for the Jets. Wilson got the job with Kerley out, but his decision making was even worse than that of Kerley and the Jets didn’t even bother to put a return man back there on three punts. You can’t really blame Wilson for not going back, because the coaches seemed to tell him to stay up.

Punt coverage wasn’t much better, with Edelman racking up a useful 72 yards on six returns. Lankster, McIntyre, Purdum and Bellore all missed tackles. Other than McIntyre, each of those made up for it with a good tackle as well.

Reuland (on the field goal unit) and Wilkerson (on the punt block unit) committed penalties.

I don’t know what it is about playing the Patriots but no matter who the punter is you can always guarantee at least one shank. Robert Malone had a 21-yard kick and his net average was just 36.6 yards per punt.

Credit to Nick Folk for kicking his field goal twice following a holding penalty. He added two touchbacks and the other kick return was stopped short of the 20 by Josh Bush.

Conclusions

We’re gradually starting to learn about this team. They seem to be capable of stopping the run better than we expected, but the secondary isn’t as good as anticipated (yet). Still, Rex has vowed to “fix” the secondary when they’ve struggled in the past and usually been able to be true to his word. Quinton Coples’ return will be welcomed because that will bolster the pass rush and perhaps that will help the secondary out a bit more.

On offense, the Jets have only scored 26 points in two games, but they’ve left a lot of potential big plays on the field, so I’m still excited about the potential of this offense. It looks like the running game is coming around too, so (injuries and possible suspensions notwithstanding) hopefully things will move in the right direction going forward.

It’s clear Geno Smith, Milliner and one or two of the receivers are works in progress, but if we have some patience maybe we’ll see that players can get better given time. After all, take a look at Vladimir Ducasse.

Up next, a long week and then the Bills next Sunday. It’s a good job they have the extra preparation time…there’s plenty of work to do.

If you have anything you’d like me to take a closer look at or any other questions for me, leave them in the comments section of either BGA post, tweet them to @Bent_Double or email bentdouble@gmail.com and I’ll respond in BGA Extra on Wednesday.