BGA: Jets at Seahawks

Bent , TheJetsBlog.com

This analysis 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, your breakdown of yesterday’s loss to the Seahawks, together with detailed analysis of personnel groupings and individual performance.

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

For the second straight week, the Jets lost by 21 points. At last, some consistency!

The Jets did make some changes this week but none of them really had a significant positive effect. The end result was the same: Killer mistakes undoing any good work and preventing the Jets from stringing together enough plays to be successful.

While the Jets were in the game deep into the second half – and arguably blew so many chances while the game was close that they should have been leading – they’re an easy team to beat right now. I’m just an amateur, but I could give any team a list of things to do against this Jets team that will be successful most of the time and will probably net you enough big plays to be the difference in the game. I’d also note that this was not the case over the past few years, where it was different things every week that would let the Jets down. While I’m not going to list those things here, because I don’t feel comfortable with putting up a blueprint of how to beat the Jets, it probably doesn’t matter because every team the Jets seem to face has done its preparation and identified these things for themselves. This enables them to exploit some very obvious weaknesses in the Jets line-up. (Maybe I’ll do it after the season is over). Needless to say, when the Jets do the same things to their opponents, they never have quite the same level of success.

Let’s look at some of those individual performances:

Quarterbacks

If you’ve read BGA over the years, you’ll know what I think about Mark Sanchez. When he isn’t decisive, he isn’t very good. His red zone interception and his fumble in the second half couldn’t have illustrated this any better. I’m not sure what else needs to be said. However, let’s not forget that when he is decisive, he can play well. So, how do they get him back to playing more decisively? Ummm…

Rex Ryan keeps saying that Sanchez gives the Jets the best chance to win. I think a decisive Sanchez does give them the best chance to win, but he hasn’t been decisive. The indecisive Sanchez we’ve seen over the past few games isn’t an upgrade over anyone. Not even Tim Tebow. Right now, his confidence looks crushed and the juggling act of trying to get Tebow involved while trying not to adversely impact Sanchez’s rhythm is failing badly.

It’s barely worth trying to break down Sanchez’s throws because you could count the good ones on one hand. In fact, if you were being strict, you could probably count them on one finger. He hit Jeremy Kerley in stride for a big play and most of the rest of his completions were dumpoffs – and even some of those were inaccurate. He did hit Clyde Gates downfield for a first down, but that was a risky throw that a defensive back just missed getting his hands on. He also hit Dustin Keller downfield for two first downs but one was so low that Keller had to dive to catch it and the other saw Keller wide open but the ball was delivered late and floated to him, perhaps costing him some extra yardage.

As for the rest of his throws, there were ill-advised tosses into tight coverage and inaccurate passes where he missed his target. However, once again my biggest concern was his blitz recognition. On a couple of occasions, blitzers came unblocked off the edge to sack him. While it’s possible one of his blockers missed an assignment, that’s still almost certainly on him to make sure he calls the protection correctly and gets rid of the ball when he sees the blitz coming. In each case, Lex Hilliard – who one would expect to know Sparano’s scheme as well as anyone – could have potentially picked up the blitz, but either ran an underneath route or blocked on the other side instead. The Jets have to be able to deal with this otherwise they may never put together another scoring drive.

Last week, I said the Jets needed a rethink in terms of Tim Tebow’s role. With two weeks to prepare, they installed a new play where there was no back in the backfield so that his option changed from handoff/run to dumpoff/run. This did net them a few first downs but ultimately just 27 yards on eight plays. Once again, they had 3rd and two and then 4th and one but didn’t use him and came up short. Then when they had third and goal at the two, they DID use him and Keller false started. Still no touchdowns for Tebow, which is hard to fathom. If the Jets had the best short yardage offense in the NFL (which they should) maybe that would have been enough to elevate them from underachieving to in-the-mix. It’s probably too late now.

My proposal: Get them to alternate series instead of changing them out during a drive. Maybe give Tebow every third drive like they do with Vladimir Ducasse. If he goes three and out, so what? That’s what Sanchez is doing half the time anyway. Even if they do adopt that plan, I still would bring in Tebow as soon as they got inside the three yard line and on every third or fourth and short.

Offensive Line

Other than those mix-ups that led to unblocked rushers coming off the edge, Sanchez can’t really blame his pass protection too much. Austin Howard did get beaten badly for a sack and also gave up a handful of pressures and D’Brickashaw Ferguson gave up a big hit from Chris Clemons. He only got beaten for one other pressure though – on the first play of the game. The interior line didn’t surrender any pressure, other than on one play where Tebow held the ball for far too long and Mangold’s man eventually got into his face. That play ended up being a first down due to a penalty. Off the bench, Jason Smith gave up a pressure, as did Ducasse, who blocked his guy initially but then allowed him to stunt to the outside.

The running game wasn’t too bad with 84 yards on 22 carries despite not breaking a single run of 10 yards. The fact that they fell behind really hurt the Jets by taking away the option of continuing to run the ball. The starters basically all did okay in the running game, with Mangold and Brandon Moore standing out. When runs did fail it often came down to bad reads or bad blocks by the fullback or tight ends. That includes Jason Smith who allowed his man to burst into the background to blow up Shonn Greene on fourth and one.

The Jets have had some success in recent weeks when Ducasse entered the game, but he didn’t get much of an opportunity this week. They gained 12 net yards on 11 plays with him in there. It wasn’t directly his fault – in fact he had a good driving block on one play – but that was disappointing to see.

As a whole, the offensive line isn’t playing badly right now. I can’t see any obvious changes that they could make with this unit to improve matters.

Running Backs

Shonn Greene picked up 58 yards on 15 carries, but was unable to benefit from continuing to carry the ball deep into the fourth quarter and wearing down the defense. Contrast that with Marshawn Lynch, who only gained 45 yards on his first 15 carries, but was able to carry the ball another 12 times for 79 more yards as the Jets defense became worn out. Greene’s vision and decision making have been a lot better in the last few games, but here he left some yards on the field as he went up the middle for a short gain when there was a wide open lane over the right side.

Bilal Powell’s return to the lineup saw him gain seven yards on his only carry before going down with an injury on special teams. He also caught a four yard pass which was notable because since week three he had been targeted nine times with just one catch for one yard (although four of those were batted down at the line).

Lex Hilliard’s struggles extended beyond the mix-ups in pass protection. He also had an inconsistent day as a blocker, dropped a pass and got beaten for a pressure. He and Greene did catch one short pass each.

Receivers

Once again Jeremy Kerley led the Jets in receiving, although other than his 43 yard catch (where he was caught from behind for at least the third time this year), he was targeted seven times for a total of just 14 yards. Still, that was much better than any of the other receivers. Clyde Gates caught one ten yard pass, Stephen Hill had no catches on two targets, Chaz Schilens wasn’t targeted and Jason Hill didn’t even get on the field.

At tight end, Dustin Keller’s performance was extremely disappointing too. He ended up with three catches for 47 yards, but had two costly false start penalties, a third down drop and a couple of bad missed blocks.

The backups, Jeff Cumberland and Konrad Reuland each had at least one bad block and weren’t targeted in the passing game, although Reuland did draw a holding penalty on one of Tebow’s throws.

Defensive Line

As I’ve already mentioned, the run defense held up well until late in the second half, where I would attribute the fact that Lynch was able to break some longer runs to the tiredness of the Jets’ front seven. The pass rush was also good, although much of the pressure actually came from the linebackers.

It was a case of good news/bad news in respect of Sione Po’uha. The good news was that he had a strong start to the game and was more disruptive than he has been in most of the games so far this season. It certainly looked like the two week layoff had had a positive effect on his ailing back, although I hasten to add that a performance like this still falls well short of his outstandingly consistent play last year where he was extremely disruptive in almost every game. The bad news is that, although he still played quite well, he wasn’t as good in the second half as he was in the first half. Maybe that was because he would suffer more than most with the strain that the Jets’ offensive woes put on the defense, but it will depend on how he responds to treatment this week as to whether there’s any chance at all of him being able to play two games in five nights in the run-up to Thanksgiving.

Mike DeVito was also up and down, but did make some big impact plays – notably the strip sack that led to a touchdown and a big wrap-up tackle in the backfield. There were a few plays where he got driven off the line or to the ground and there was also a play where he could have had another sack on Russell Wilson but missed the tackle.

Muhammad Wilkerson scored his first NFL touchdown when he ran back the fumble forced by DeVito, but that was not his only impact, as he added a forced fumble, a couple of QB hits, a pressure and four run stuffs, including one on third down. He did see a lot of double teams too and wasn’t always able to hold his ground. He was driven out of the play on Lynch’s short touchdown run for example. However, this was another dominant performance from the second year man.

Quinton Coples didn’t have as much of an impact as Wilkerson, but still came up with a couple of pressures and a tackle for a loss. Although it was otherwise a quiet game, he did manage to limit any negative plays, although he was another one to miss a potential sack on Wilson by letting him break his tackle.

Finally, Damon Harrison was active once again, but only really saw action in the goal line packages. He almost made the stop on Lynch’s touchdown run, getting some penetration and grabbing hold of Lynch, but was unable to prevent him from breaking the plane.

Linebackers

It was the linebacker position that yielded the most interesting performances this week, almost across the board. The Jets had made some tweaks to their rotations, notably making Aaron Maybin a healthy scratch and promoting Ricky Sapp to the active roster for his first NFL game. They also gave Garrett McIntyre some rotational reps and split duties between Demario Davis and Bart Scott alongside David Harris.

The first thing to note, which I would imagine went largely unnoticed, is that Bryan Thomas had probably his best performance since 2010. Thomas had three pressures and half a sack as a pass rusher and was in on four run stuffs, including one on a key third down play. He did a good job of setting the edge all day and wasn’t really taken out of any plays.

Perhaps the most confounding performance came from Calvin Pace. Pace had a terrific first half performance with four pressures, a fumble recovery and a batted pass with no real negative plays. However, the script flipped and he was as bad in the second half as he had been good in the first half. It started with a bad missed tackle on third down in the flat, then continued as he misread and overran the play three times, enabling Wilson to roll out to the right for some big first downs. Finally, he had another missed tackle. In the second half, he had no positive plays, making it one of the more Jeckyll/Hyde type performances I can recall seeing.

I don’t think he’s going to grade out that badly but I was extremely disappointed with the performance of David Harris. Although the defense played well in the first half, Harris was rarely around the football which is completely out of character. He had hardly any influence on the fact that the Jets were able to more or less shut the Seahawks down for most of the half. At the same time, it didn’t seem like he was getting taken out of too many plays, which is usually the case in his quieter performances. Maybe the Seahawks deliberately stayed away from him and tried attacking different parts of the defense instead. I don’t know. Harris made more noise in the second half, getting in on four run stuffs, including one in the backfield and adding a half sack and one pressure. He did also have two bad missed tackles – one to enable Lynch to break it to the second level for the first time all day and the other to allow Golden Tate to break away from him in the flat and convert on third down.

For someone who was not expected to play, Scott played extremely hard. He was attacking the line of scrimmage all day and blew up several runs. He also added a sack and a pressure. It wasn’t until late in the game that he had any negative plays, as he was another one that seemed to tire at the end.

I still believe that Scott’s recent reduction in playing time is more down to his health than his level of play and this game was further evidence of that as he certainly outplayed Davis. Davis overpursued a couple of plays, took some bad angles, gave up a couple of catches and got blocked out of a few plays. He did get some pressure in the pass rush, but let himself down with a missed tackle on Wilson in the pocket.

In his NFL debut, Sapp gave a strong account of himself. He chased Wilson out to the sideline on one play and beat the left tackle on the outside a few times, including once where he chased Wilson from the pocket. He also had one blitz where he lined up on the edge and went up the middle, creating a lane for his teammate to get the sack. There was one running play where he was driven back off the line and then tried to get back into the play but Lynch was able to drive the pile for about eight yards, but other than that he didn’t do anything wrong – although maybe he should have recovered that fumble. He seems to have done enough to earn at least a second look.

McIntyre stuffed one run and beat his man for a pressure, but Marcus Dowtin and Nick Bellore just played on special teams.

Defensive Backs

Antonio Cromartie continues to lead the secondary, making a big hit in the flat and breaking up a pass in the end zone. However, that pass breakup came as he was fooled by a flea-flicker and had to recover and he was also fooled on the WR option pass and beaten for a score. It’s good that Cromartie has been more aggressive in run support this year – and he did make one good run stop – but the Seahawks took note of that and exploited it. Cromartie also overpursued on one other running play. His performance in coverage has been almost flawless since Revis went down, but he can’t afford to try and do too much and start missing coverage assignments as a result.

Kyle Wilson got off to a disappointing start, giving up a first down on Seattle’s second play of the game and then a touchdown on the next play. In each case, he was in pretty good position, but still continues to be out-physicalled by receivers at this level. Despite all the vitriol hurled at him, it is worth noting that he didn’t give up a catch over the entire rest of the game and was in good position on two more incompletions.

With Isaiah Trufant suffering an early injury, Ellis Lankster saw a lot of action as the slot corner. While he did a great job as a pass rusher (one hit, one pressure, one strip sack), he also got beaten for a touchdown and one other first down and missed a couple of tackles.

At safety, Yeremiah Bell was flagged for an illegal hit late in the game on what was one of the worst calls of the season so far. However, he got away with a flag despite the protestations of the crowd when he tackled a scrambling Wilson on the outside. Alongside him, LaRon Landry had a poor game with three more missed tackles, a blown coverage and a pass interference penalty in the end zone. There was also one play where he lined up close to the line of scrimmage and shot the gap which not only opened up a big hole behind him, but also took out his teammate (Thomas) on his outside shoulder, preventing him from being able to stop the play too. Landry did make one good open field tackle on Wilson.

Eric Smith also saw plenty of action but did not have much of an impact – positively or negatively.

Special Teams

The special teams unit continues to be a disaster. Nick Folk had a kickoff out of bounds, Kerley had another momentum-shifting muff and Robert Malone continues to outkick his coverage. Marcus Dowtin added a penalty, Lankster had a missed tackle, Hilliard badly blew a block and Gates had only one kickoff return past the 20.

On the positive side, Malone did land four kicks inside the 20 and Aaron Berry and Davis each had good tackles in coverage.

This unit is still playing poorly though and we don’t expect that from a Mike Westhoff unit. It’s a sorry state of affairs in what should be his farewell season.

Conclusions

While, on paper, this looked like a really tough game for the Jets, in weighing it up during the week, I was confident that the Jets could do a pretty good job defensively against the run – especially once I heard that Po’uha and Scott would play. What I was not expecting was for the Jets to be able to get so much pressure on Wilson, although I did have hope that the secondary could limit the damage. In that respect, you could say that the defensive performance exceeded my expectations. With the running game still not clicking on all cylinders, but still much better than it had been early on in the season, everything was set up for Sanchez to be able to win this game for the Jets.

In retrospect, maybe it was set up for Sanchez to be the difference in the game and that he was. While I don’t expect big numbers from Sanchez, especially against the Seahawks’ formidable secondary, it shouldn’t be too much to ask to expect mild competence. However, even this eluded him and this turned out to be yet another game where the Jets are chasing uphill all day long and suffer constant setbacks as they perpetually shoot themselves in the foot. It’s not all his fault and, as noted above, he IS capable of playing well. Right now, the Jets season is taking on the same characteristic as those all-too-often seen games. They are chasing uphill and suffering constant setbacks. The margin of error which was already almost nothing is now at absolute zero and the Jets seemingly have no traction whatsoever to turn things around.

There are some (other) lousy teams on the schedule coming up, so plenty of winnable games, but unfortunately the Jets have three games to make up just to get to .500 and right now don’t look like a team that’s capable of winning one in row, let alone three. Still, a win on Sunday against Schottenheimer, Hunter, Mulligan and Co. gets them back to 4-6 and they made the postseason from 4-6 in 2009, so you never know…

…okay, sometimes you know.

We’re back to normal service now, so hit me with your BGA questions in the comments section and I will answer them for you in BGA Extra on Wednesday or Thursday.