I had a nasty flashback to last season during yesterday’s game. When DeAngelo Williams caught that dump-off pass and turned the corner with David Harris struggling and failing to get off a block at the second level, I had a horrible sinking feeling.
Yes, the secondary could and should have prevented that from being a touchdown, but we’ll concern ourselves with that later. Harris’ inability to get off blocks has been his Achilles’ heel over the past few seasons, but hasn’t been as much of an issue this year, so the fact it was happening yesterday – and not just on that isolated play – gives cause for concern. Is Harris worn out, has the defensive line been less effective at keeping blockers off him or were the Panthers one of an increasing number of teams in recent weeks to exploit something of a weakness?
Compounding matters is the fact that Demario Davis isn’t doing a good job of avoiding or getting off blocks either. While the Jets managed to hold the Panthers to 3.6 yards per carry, they had nine carries of four or more yards in the first half alone, a much bigger number than usual. However on “short passes” (as classified by the NFL gamebook) Cam Newton was 11-for-11 for 193 yards and a touchdown in the first half, a staggering number that underlines the Jets issues in coverage near the line and tackling in the open field.
Harris was in on a couple of run stuffs in the second half and Davis stuffed one run and made a good play in coverage, but these were outweighed by a series of disappointing mistakes. Davis missed a couple of tackles, bit on a playfake leading to a big pass and was blocked out at the second level on a run and a screen pass. Harris missed one tackle, was blocked out of several plays and gave up some plays in coverage, including one where the Jets ran a Tampa-Two look with Harris chasing a receiver down the middle.
On a brighter note, Calvin Pace had yet another sack, giving him a career high nine on the season. The Jets hadn’t had a player with double digit sacks since John Abraham in 2005, but if Pace can get one more sack over the next two weeks, that will give them two (since Muhammad Wilkerson already has 10 on the year). Other than that, Pace had kind of a quiet game, but didn’t really make any major mistakes.
Quinton Coples also had a sack for the third straight game, as one of Pace, Coples or Wilkerson have had a sack in every game since week two. Coples had a couple of other pressures, including one where he wrenched Newton’s arm to force an incompletion on fourth down in the red zone. He also had a solo tackle for a loss and was in on a couple more run stops, although he did overpursue upfield a couple of times and did get blocked to the inside on Tolbert’s touchdown run. Coples played every snap for just the second time in his career.
Off the bench, Ricky Sapp moved into a situational rusher role and had a terrific performance, with three pressures in 10 pass rush attempts off the edge, including one play where he beat the right tackle and drove the right guard into the quarterback’s face (leading to an interception) and another where he nearly had a sack. Unfortunately, he did this in the Texans-Colts game because the Jets, in their wisdom, decided that releasing him without ever giving him a decent shot was a good idea.
Garrett McIntyre did get some time off the bench but had just one tackle and no pressures in limited action.
Next up…we look at the secondary, where coverage is the least of their issues.