BGA: Jets at Steelers – Part Two
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.
Note: Your feedback indicated you prefer me to divide BGA into two parts. Part One covered the offense and can be accessed here…
We’re recapping yesterday’s loss to the Steelers. After the jump, Part Two looks at the performance by the defense and special teams and also draws final conclusions. Remember, if you want me to go back and look at anything, or have any other questions, let me know in the comments and I’ll respond in BGA Extra later in the week.
With 6:43 to go in the second quarter, the Jets led 10-6 and had held the Steelers to just 88 total yards. However, they then allowed an 80-yard touchdown drive, on which the Steelers converted two key first downs. Ultimately, they would score 21 points and gain 243 yards over those last 37 minutes. The Steelers time of possession over that period was approximately 24.5 minutes.
Clearly there was some element of tiredness that factored into the defensive struggles, which included just as many missed tackles as last week and eight third down conversions surrendered. However, surely the biggest factor was the absence of Darrelle Revis. Ben Roethlisberger completed 24-of-31 passes against a team which – with Revis in the lineup – only allowed opposing QBs to complete 54% of their passes last year. In 2010, Roethlisberger was 33-of-63 in two games against the Jets. I would like to think they’d have been able to get off the field on some, if not most of those scoring drives if Revis had played.
In terms of results, you can’t argue with the defensive line’s performance. While it might feel like they were manhandled up-front, the Steelers averaged just 2.4 yards per carry and were under pressure a lot. Most of the missed tackles came from the linebackers and the defense was let down by the secondary and the linebackers in coverage.
As I expected, Sione Po’uha’s return made life a lot easier for the other defensive linemen. It’s amazing what a difference not being double teamed all the time makes. Po’uha, as you’d expect, drew constant double teams, which enabled guys like Muhammad Wilkerson, Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis to be disruptive in one-on-one matchups. Early on, Po’uha wasn’t his usual dominant self and I was concerned that his back injury was going to be a lingering issue when he was driven off the line a few times and blocked to the ground. Really the only time he has struggled over the last few years has been when his back was acting up at the end of the 2010 season. However, he blew up a run, broke up a pass and was credited with a sack, so there was more good than bad.
In reality, his impact was mostly felt in how well the rest of the front seven performed compared to last week, although that may be partially attributable to the fact Buffalo arguably has a better offensive line. Last year, Po’uha was having this kind of impact but also blowing up a lot more plays himself, so there may be more to come – his playing time could increase too. For now, it’s just good to see him back in the lineup.
Muhammad Wilkerson was the first player to benefit from not getting double teamed. He was in on five tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, including three that went for a loss and also had an encouraging three pressures as a pass rusher. He was blocked to the ground on one short yardage play, but otherwise held his own at the point of attack all day and was disruptive with penetration. His playing time is up this year (over 50 snaps in each of the first two games) and deservedly so.
Mike DeVito didn’t get as much playing time as Wilkerson, but made just as much of a contribution. His ability to shed blocks and get in on tackles is excellent and he did that at least three times. He also affected a couple of other plays by getting good penetration, drew a key holding penalty and collapsed the pocket once to put Roethlisberger under pressure.
Having done a good job filling in for Po’uha last week, Kenrick Ellis was back on the bench this week, but made a positive impact in just 20 snaps. He was in on two run stuffs, affected two other plays with penetration and held up well against a double team on another run that was bottled up. That was in only 11 running plays. He only had one negative moment, where he was blocked to the ground. The Jets defensive line continues to have strength in depth, especially now Po’uha is back.
Adding to their depth this week was Marcus Dixon, who after a rough performance last week, didn’t find himself double teamed at all this week and responded by holding his own. He saw plenty of action at both tackle and end and blew up one run with penetration. He did get caught inside once, but didn’t get driven off the line like last week.
Quinton Coples didn’t get much playing time and only got credited with one tackle, but I was encouraged by his performance. He rushed the passer 11 times, almost getting there for a pressure once and almost picking up a sack on another play where Roethlisberger broke away from him in the pocket. On just five running plays, he had an impact on four of them. Two were stuffed for a loss with him in on the tackle, another was stopped for a short gain with him again in on the tackle and he got good penetration on a fourth. With no real negative plays, Coples will be hoping his playing time will go back up next week.
It was an impact performance from Garrett McIntyre in place of Bryan Thomas. A star is born, perhaps? With two sacks and a huge hit in the backfield, McIntyre definitely stepped up. That wasn’t all he did though, as he was in on another couple of run stuffs, including two more that went for a loss. McIntyre has now played 66 snaps this season after just playing 85 all of last year.
McIntyre wasn’t perfect, though. He was involved in a coverage mix up where he tried to pass off Leonard Pope to the guy behind him, but the guy behind him (Kyle Wilson) stayed with the slot receiver. That could have worked out, if David Harris had got across quicker and allowed Wilson to follow Pope out to the sideline, but based on the way those two reacted, Pope looked like he was McIntyre’s responsibility. Other than a missed tackle, McIntyre’s only other negative moment was also in coverage as he overpursued on a screen pass, leading to a first down.
So, is this a sign of things to come, or could it just be a one-off (like the game Jamaal Westerman had against New England last year)? He’s probably earned himself more playing time, but will need to keep working at his coverage responsibilities otherwise teams will look to exploit him.
McIntyre’s emergence no doubt eats into the playing time Aaron Maybin would have been hoping to get. Maybin rushed the passer on all but three of his 14 snaps and didn’t record any pressure, although he did almost get there once only to trip up by Roethlisberger’s feet.
Calvin Pace had three more pressures and made several plays against the run, including a tackle for a loss, but he was one guy who I felt suffered from the time of possession the Steelers had. Late in the game he was well handled by his blocker, which is uncharacteristic for a guy who is usually very consistent against the run. Pace was also targeted on two passes, but they gained just 12 yards.
David Harris was targeted in coverage too, with six completions for 49 yards and a touchdown, including two first downs. I saw a lot of people complaining that Harris was exposed in coverage, but they were playing zone and his role within that was no different than usual. He did make one good play in coverage to break up a pass and another where he read a screen pass well. He was productive with 10 tackles, although seven of these were assists. He did stuff two runs, but whiffed on a few tackles and got badly blocked out of one play. As a pass rusher, he pressured Roethlisberger twice, but allowed him to get away from him in the pocket for another key completion. On first viewing, it seemed like Harris had a really bad game, but actually he wasn’t that bad. Far from his best though, admittedly.
Finally, Bart Scott missed four tackles last week and there was some concern that he is declining. This week, he missed three more. However, it was actually a very good performance by Scott. Even on those missed tackles, he was affecting plays in a positive way. One saw him pressure Roethlisberger and – like everyone else, it seems – couldn’t bring him down, but that led to an intentional grounding call. Another saw him blow up a run in the backfield and although he didn’t complete the play himself, it still went for a loss. On the third, Isaac Redman scored the final touchdown, but what actually happened is that Scott shed his blocker to meet Redman in the hole. Redman was able to bounce off that contact but David Harris was in perfect position to finish him off – until he was tackled to the ground in the most egregious holding non-call you’re ever likely to see.
Last week, Scott made a few plays, but the missed tackles overshadowed these. This week, he made a bunch of good plays to more than balance out the missed tackles. He was in on five tackles at or close to the line of scrimmage, blew up a couple of blockers, got penetration to redirect the runner a couple of times and read a screen pass well. He once again did a good job in coverage, giving up just two short catches in 23 plays, although one of these was Jerricho Cotchery’s key first down. Despite this, any complaints that Scott – who missed just 10 snaps – looks slow or isn’t contributing appear to be unfounded based on the totality of his work in this game.
Here’s a stat to once again re-emphasize the importance of Darrelle Revis being absent for the Jets: Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson started and were targeted 10 times. The result? 10 catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Revis allowed a 41% completion rate last season.
The Jets actually mixed up who was covering who and incorporated plenty of zone coverages. As I had predicted in BGA Extra, when they went to the nickel package, Wilson remained in the slot and Ellis Lankster filled in for Revis on the outside. The dime package saw the Jets use a third safety (Eric Smith), so there was no playing time on defense for Isaiah Trufant (or Josh Bush).
Cromartie was obviously at fault on the touchdown throw, where he was in good position but then fell victim to an underthrown ball. He was also beaten for two other first downs, as he generally was giving up too much of a cushion all day. It’s typical of Cromartie to follow up last week’s great performance with a bad one.
Wilson only gave up one first down and did make a couple of good plays in run support, although he also got caught up in some traffic on a few plays. The biggest completion he gave up was actually a 25-yarder on 3rd and 33, so he was backed right off his man.
Considering he was thrown into the fire, Lankster held up pretty well. He was targeted twice on 14 coverage snaps while covering Antonio Brown. One went for 18 yards and a first down and one was incomplete down the sideline (on a play where LaRon Landry was lucky not to be flagged for a late hit). Lankster was beaten by half a step on that one, but may have got a finger on the ball. He did grab Brown’s arm momentarily as they were running downfield and while it would have been a ticky-tack call, that could easily have cost them too. Lankster made one great play, coming off his man to make a tackle for a loss on a dump off pass.
Although Landry got away with that call, he continued to play pretty recklessly and did get punished for it. He had two costly personal fouls and was yet another player guilty of whiffing on Roethlisberger in the pocket, on a crucial third down in the red zone. If he made that tackle, the Jets would likely have led 10-9 at half time. He also got blocked out of a couple of running plays. However, he did get in on one run stuff for a loss and didn’t give up any catches in coverage, making one good hit on Antonio Brown which somehow didn’t knock the ball out. On balance, while most people were excited about his performance last week and down on his performance this week, they were pretty much the same. It’s amazing how winning or losing can affect your perception. Landry has already commented that he needs to play smarter. Yes…yes, you do.
Yeremiah Bell was beaten for one first down and gave up a costly penalty on a play where he was in perfect position but mistimed his hit. This was called holding, but should have been pass interference. However, he this was the extent of his mistakes as he has been a much more disciplined player than Landry so far. He made a couple of plays in run support, a big hit at the goal line to save (well, delay) a touchdown and could have forced a crucial turnover if the officials had correctly reversed the on-field decision that the runner was down.
Smith was back in the dime package, but played as a deep safety and didn’t do anything of note, other than get caught up on a block on a running play.
After last week’s heroics, Kerley’s muff was disastrous for the Jets. Though Pittsburgh didn’t score on the ensuing possession, that was demoralizing for a defense which had managed to get off the field and should have set the offense up with great field position, down by just 10 with plenty of time left in the third quarter. Instead, the Steelers were able to run three more plays, further exhausting the defense and the Jets eventually got the ball back pinned inside their own 10-yard line. He was also a little shaky fielding one other punt too.
Nick Folk made his only field goal and didn’t let the Steelers out past the 25 on any of his three kickoffs, but Robert Malone needs to realize that a 55-yard kick that gets returned 15 yards, isn’t any better than a 45-yard kick that gets returned five yards. He did have one punt downed inside the five by Ellis Lankster though.
Bush did make a good special teams tackle and Bellore missed one, whereas Trufant and Powell had penalties on special teams. Trufant also failed to down a punt at the goal line. The biggest breakdown on special teams, other than Kerley’s fumble, was on the same play – Wilson got burned by his man, putting Kerley under pressure, and was also penalized for blocking him in the back (although Pittsburgh would obviously decline that when they recovered the ball).
It seems like a lot of the issues I raised after last week’s win came to fruition in week two. Unfortunately, most of that was negative, especially Landry’s over-aggressiveness and Howard’s potential struggles. However, it wasn’t all bad. I reasoned that Wilkerson would find life a lot easier once Po’uha returned to the line-up and that appears to have been the case.
With that in mind, let’s get back to focusing on some positive trends. The first thing I would note is that while the running game has yet to get off the runway, it does seem to be heading in the right direction. Secondly, the defensive line won the battle this week without Po’uha making as many dominant plays as he is capable of, so that unit has the potential to make even more of an impact. Finally, once Revis returns, that should have a similar effect to the Po’uha return in that it will move every cornerback down a slot and make their lives a lot easier.
I was quite fearful that the week one blowout would raise expectations too far and this definitely happened with the fanbase, so it may have affected the team as well. The bottom line is that this was a game that even the more optimistic among us would have pencilled in as a likely loss at the start of the season and while the scoreline flatters the Steelers, the Jets missed several opportunities to extend drives and it was a tight contest until late in the fourth quarter.
On paper, the next game should be easier and the Dolphins are coming off a game where everything that could go right did go right, especially in the second half. As Jets fans can attest, that doesn’t necessarily mean it will carry over into the next game. This is good, because the Jets wouldn’t want their second half performance to carry over into next week either.
While the offense ground to a halt this week, let’s not forget that this was only the second ever game for the Jets using Sparano’s system. We once again shouldn’t fall into the trap of assuming the offensive staff is incapable of making adjustments just because the previous guys seemingly were. Adjustments do need to be made though, so let’s see what they are and how effective they can be. I’m sure Mr. Sparano has kept something in reserve for his old club…