BGA: Jets at Titans (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 yesterday’s loss to the Titans. 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.

After a terrific performance last week, Jets fans were disillusioned by the defensive performance in Tennessee. While they didn’t give up many yards and were terrific against the run, it wasn’t close to last week in terms of how disruptive they were up front. Of course, much of that is simply due to the fact that the Titans have a very good offensive line, but were there other factors at play?

During the game, the announcers made a big deal over the time of possession and the fact that the Jets defense would be wearing out from being on the field so much, but the Titans’ advantage in that category was insignificant (30:38 to 29:22). Instead, the big key was field position – mostly due to the Jets’ turnovers, but also because of the Titans outperforming them on special teams. All 13 Jets drives began in their own territory, with 12 of the 13 starting from inside their own 25 yard line. Now that is a perfect recipe for a team to outgain their opponents and still get blown out.

By contrast, the Titans took over in Jets territory four times and only inside their own 25 six times. The average starting point for the Jets was the 18.6 yard line and for the Titans was the 36.5 yard line.

Still, the Jets won’t be happy to have allowed three touchdowns and a field goal in four first half red zone possessions. The second half touchdowns, of course, came on a defensive play and a long touchdown pass. The game was already over by then though.

Interior Line

After last week’s dominant pass rushing display, Muhammad Wilkerson was quieter this week, but did make a strong contribution to stopping the run. Chris Johnson gained 14 yards on his first two carries, but then was held to just seven yards on 13 carries the rest of the way. Wilkerson was credited with three tackles, one on a play that went for a one yard gain and two on plays that went for a loss. He also was in on one tackle on a play that went for no gain but was negated by a hold. He did have one missed tackle and lost contain once, but other than that held his ground well all day helping to blow up two other runs.

In an interesting wrinkle, the Jets lined up in a conventional 4-3 formation a few times with Wilkerson as the primary weakside rusher (often with Coples – the usual weakside guy – as the strong side end). That didn’t translate to extra pass rushing productivity – Wilkerson had a hit (which probably should have drawn a flag) and a pressure – but the Titans were scrambling all day to stay in front of their men.

Sheldon Richardson didn’t have much more luck as a pass rusher, although he did pressure Locker once in the first half and flushed him from the pocket on another occasion. He was in on three tackles, all close to the line of scrimmage, and got some penetration to blow up a couple of other runs. There was just one negative play when the Titans ran a counter and he got blocked to the inside. It’s a measure of how well he’s doing so far that this kind of performance is already the least we expect from him every week.

I made a point of tracking how many times Damon Harrison was double-teamed in the running game this week and it was just the once, with one of the blockers peeling off the double team to block at the second level. Give our old friend Robert Turner credit, because he handled Harrison about as well as anyone has so far – although Chance Warmack and Andy Levitre both had cracks at him too. Even so, Harrison still controlled the point of attack and made two tackles – one at the line of scrimmage and one where Jackie Battle carried him for four yards. His penetration affected at least three other runs and there were not many occasions where his blocker moved him out of the way.

I’m continuing to really appreciate the job Kenrick Ellis is doing while backing up Harrison. He’s less consistent than Harrison – on one play he’ll be in backfield blowing a play up and on the next play he might end up on the ground, but he is usually good for a couple of impact plays in his cameo appearances. On one play, he got penetration and drew a hold from Levitre, enabling Wilkerson to stuff the run for no gain. On another he penetrated to stuff the run for no gain. He also handled a double team well to bottle up a run at the line of scrimmage.

Finally, Leger Douzable didn’t get much playing time off the bench, but did flash once, bursting into the backfield to stuff a run for a loss. He’s usually good for one highlight play per week too and I’d feel good about Douzable or Ellis if they were forced into more significant roles.

Edge Rushers

Quinton Coples stuffed one run for a short gain and was in on another stop in the backfield, but didn’t quite make the impact as a pass rusher you’d hope for. He did beat his man twice, flushing him from the pocket on one occasion and forcing the back to come across and bail the left tackle out following a nice inside move on another. He also half-beat his man on the play where Locker was injured, but of course Wilkerson got there ahead of him.

Calvin Pace and Antwan Barnes once again contributed a sack each and combined for another three pressures (although two of those were completely unblocked). That’s good, but falls well short of the constant pressure off the edge we saw last week. Pace got off to a bad start as he was blocked out of the first two plays, but then he responded to stuff two runs. He was also in good position in coverage on a throw to the slot receiver in the end zone. However, he had a quiet second half and lost contain badly on Battle’s 20-yard run to ice the game.

Garrett McIntyre didn’t make much impact other than on one play where he chased Locker into the backfield. Locker got away from him and then McIntyre was flagged for a late hit after Dawan Landry tackled him for a short gain. That was another weak call because McIntyre pulled up and barely contacted Locker, but he still perhaps would have been wiser to ensure he avoided any contact whatsoever. There was also a play where Locker escaped the pocket and Barnes had a chance to bring him down but missed the tackle. I wonder if the more athletic Ricky Sapp might have done a better job than these two in the open field. I don’t know why he isn’t getting more opportunities to build on his solid preseason campaign but now that the Jets have established their ability to stop the run, perhaps they need to add a more dynamic presence to their pass rush.

Linebackers

Both David Harris and Demario Davis continue to be productive and make stops, although there were some negatives from each of them in this game too. Focusing first on the positives, Davis led the team with a career high nine tackles, most of which were at or near the line of scrimmage. He also added one pressure. Harris added six tackles, four of which were near the line.

On the negative side, Davis was blocked out of a couple of running plays, including one where Tennessee’s outstanding fullback Collin Mooney drove him well out of the play. He also missed a tackle. As for Harris, he was also blocked out of a couple of plays and did give up two first down catches.

They were both involved in the coverage breakdown that led to Delaine Walker’s opening touchdown. That play saw Harris let Walker leak in behind him while safety Jaiquawn Jarrett vacated that area to pick up Mooney in the flat. With the Jets playing run, I believe it was probably Davis’ assignment to meet Mooney in the hole. Therefore, when Mooney leaked out to the flat, he would have been wide open because Davis got caught up in traffic at the line. This forced Jarrett to pick him up and unfortunately Harris was unable to recognize that this is what had happened.

Cornerbacks

Darrin Walls struggled badly in his first start, but definitely settled down in the second half. He was beaten for four catches in the first half – a nine yard gain and a first down on two plays where he gave the receiver too much of a cushion, a long pass over the top as he didn’t make contact at the line and the receiver beat him with an outside release and the touchdown pass where the ball was thrown up for grabs and the receiver out-muscled him for it. There was also a costly penalty where he was too physical with the receiver this time and ended up being called for a hold on third down.

In the second half, he was thrown at four times with just one short catch. However, he was too far off his man again on one incompletion. He was in good position on the other two, one of which saw him make a great pass breakup, enticing an excited fist-pump from Rex Ryan, even though the Jets were trailing by 18 at the time. There was one play where the slot receiver – with Kyle Wilson on him – ran an out pattern and both Wilson and Walls broke for the ball. Walls had obviously left his man to do that and I couldn’t tell from the film whether there was safety support behind him. If not, that’s a concern, because it might mean that Walls can be susceptible to a pump-and-go. Walls was seen remonstrating with his coaching staff at the end of that play.

To give Wilson credit, he didn’t make any mistakes in a reduced role this week. He made a good open field tackle on a screen and was in a good position on the above mentioned play, which fell incomplete. No penalties too, which is positive.

Antonio Cromartie had a disappointing day on the other corner. He was beaten for two scores and two other first downs, mostly because he was too far off his man. The first touchdown saw Richardson drop into coverage at the goal line again, much like on the play I highlighted last week. However, Cromartie let Nate Washington get too clean of a release to the inside and he made the catch and then beat Richardson into the end zone. The second touchdown was a deep ball where Cromartie did something I’ve seen Darrelle Revis do a lot in the past; he was in pretty good position, but then slowed down to track the flight of the ball, before speeding up again to close the gap on the receiver. Had it been a perfect throw, I think Cromartie would have recovered to knock it down, but the fact Fitzpatrick underthrew it by a good five yards actually worked against Cromartie even though he was working from behind as it gave Washington a chance to go up and get it. The fact it ended up in a touchdown was not really Cromartie’s fault as the official collided with the pair of them and Washington was able to run it in uncontested. On the plus side, Cromartie was in a good position on three incompletions, including one on a third down, but there was a lot of obvious confusion in the secondary and that’s concerning.

With Dee Milliner out and Isaiah Trufant relegated to special teams duties, Ellis Lankster got a couple of reps on defense this week, but was not targeted.

Safeties

Landry had some good plays in this one with three good plays in run support in the second half. He also made some contributions in the first half, making a tackle in coverage to force the Titans to settle for a field goal and tackling Locker on the scramble (although McIntyre’s penalty gave the Titans a first down). He only had one negative play, overpursuing in coverage to allow a catch downfield and some extra yards.

At the other safety position, Antonio Allen continues to start while Jarrett gets about one-third of the reps. Each had two tackles, with Allen stuffing a run near the line and Jarrett making a couple of good open field tackles. Allen had one poor play against the run where he let Battle get to the outside, although he did recover to make the tackle downfield. Jarrett also had a hit to break up a pass on third down.

Special Teams

Nick Folk was another bright spot, continuing his strong start to the year with two field goals from 45+ and four-for-four in terms of touchbacks. Ryan Quigley punted well on four of his five kicks, but out-kicked his coverage on one. Having said that, the Titans seemed to get away with two block-in-the-back violations on that play.

In punt coverage, Nick Bellore and Lankster both had tackles and Trufant drew a penalty.

The Jets once again got virtually nothing out of their return game. Again, we can only hope that Mike Goodson will contribute there when he returns. Konrad Reuland had a good block on Clyde Gates’ longest return that went for 28 yards. Reuland, Josh Bush, Trufant and debutante Scott Solomon were all used on special teams only.

This week, it was Antonio Allen who got closest to blocking a punt – on two separate occasions. That type of play could be just the sort of momenutum-shifter to get the Jets’ season going again.

Conclusions

It’s still early in the season and maybe this week’s meltdown will prove to be an aberration when all is said and done but, for now, it seems like we’re back to where we thought we’d be all along: This team is going to live and die by the success of its quarterback(s).

The previous version of this regime didn’t do a good enough job of leaning on their strengths to take the pressure off their quarterback, apart from at the tail end of the 2009 and 2010 season. Maybe the likes of Thurman and Mornhinweg will fare better than their counterparts in terms of doing that, but if not, then the Jets need better play from the position and no matter how much we’d like to see it, that’s clearly not going to happen overnight.

All is not lost though. Many Jets fans underestimated the Titans even worse than the team did and hopefully the Jets have some games coming up where they can compete better…especially if they don’t keep shooting themselves in the foot.

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.