In a departure from the norm, this week we’ve been breaking down the Jets game AS IT HAPPENS.
After the jump, final conclusions from the win over/loss to the Dolphins together with links to each of the live analysis posts.
Here are the links to the analysis posts for each quarter:
Now, brief thoughts on each unit:
I could throw many different statistics at you, such as how Geno Smith’s QB rating was below 25 in November, but in the high 70’s in December. Or how his QB rating was in the high 70’s if you exclude the games Jeremy Kerley missed and even higher if you also exclude games where Santonio Holmes was unavailable. There’s also a major correlation between his rushing stats and the Jets’ win-loss record. However, his growth over the last few weeks goes beyond statistics.
In terms of consistency, pocket presence and confidence, he’s come on leaps and bounds since those three straight losses after the bye where he was benched twice (without which, let’s not forget, the Jets won 8 of 13 games). He seems to be more decisive, reading the field better and making smart decisions. While his footwork and accuracy still lets him down from time to time and this means we’re realistically talking about a mediocre player at best, the progress is certainly encouraging.
I noticed in the fourth quarter that Smith was dropping back with the Jets in a one-possession game, but that sense of impending doom that was consistently prevalent throughout most of the rest of the season was gone. That’s a sign of the confidence he’s exuding. Smith made one ill-advised throw all day, towards the end of the third quarter, but otherwise did a good job of taking what the defense gave him when his primary option wasn’t there.
Finally, what I really liked about his performance was that he left everything on the field. On three or four separate occasions, he took off running and fought for every yard, taking some hits in the process. That included his go-ahead touchdown run just before the half. That’s the way you want to see your team play in the last game of the season.
It was disappointing to see Chris Ivory’s season ended prematurely when he suffered a first half injury, but Bilal Powell stepped in and did a decent job in his absence. Powell only averaged 3.6 yards per carry, but helped wear down the defense as the Jets won the time of possession battle by almost five minutes. He did break a couple of 10+ yard gains, breaking some tackles on one, but for the most part just did a good job of falling forward and making modest gains. His only reception went for a loss and he did struggle in pass protection at times, but he did complete a 30-yard pass, which was well-placed, even if it was an ugly left-handed wobbler.
Tommy Bohanon contributed a couple of solid carries too and although he didn’t make much of an impact as a blocker, he didn’t make any drastic mistakes. Alex Green carried once, but for no gain.
Once again the Jets wheeled out the Blast Chiller and Sheldon Richardson got himself in the end zone. I’m not sure that can be stopped. All four of Richardson’s carries this season went for a one yard gain. They even ran one play with Damon Harrison and Kenrick Ellis also in the backfield in a three back set, which was fun.
Excellent pass protection again from the offensive line this week, as Smith was rarely troubled. One wrinkle was that the Jets circumvented the Cameron Wake-Austin Howard matchup by often employing Jeff Cumberland as a pass blocker from the tight end position, usually with backfield help from Powell. Of the pressure the Dolphins did generate, the majority of it came from this matchup as Wake beat Cumberland a handful of times. The Jets did mix it up at times though. On one play where Howard was beaten for a pressure, Cumberland set up like he was going to block Wake and leaked out downfield and Howard was required to quickly drop back and pick up Wake, which he half-managed to do with a cut block that Wake scrambled over to still pressurize Smith.
At left tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson had no problem with Olivier Vernon in pass protection. However, he did let him get off a few blocks on the inside to bottle up a few runs. Up the middle, the Jets benefited from Howard blocking down to limit the pressure from the Dolphins’ formidable three man line. There was one blitz up the middle where a rusher came free that perhaps Nick Mangold could have picked up but, other than that, the protection held up well.
In the running game, Howard had some good blocks in the second quarter, but did allow his man to make a stop in the fourth. Mangold had another strong performance, creating some good lanes and not making any obvious mistakes to conclude his excellent finish to the season. Colon had a similarly impactful performance, but did get called for one holding penalty. He did manage to avoid leading the league in penalties though, by being penalty-free in four of the last six games. Over the last couple of drives, Vladimir Ducasse filled in at right guard and the offense didn’t miss a beat. He had one outstanding run block.
Finally, Brian Winters was able to build on last week’s performance. Many writers called last week’s performance his best of the season so far. While he did do well in pass protection and did have as many positive impact blocks as he’s had all year, he still did make a lot of mistakes in the running game. However, this week was much better because he had fewer mistakes. Again, he held up well in pass protection and ended up the year surrendering just one sack in the last four games, following nine in his previous eight. In terms of the running game, he had a rocky start, allowing penetration that caused three first quarter runs to be blown up. However, he settled down in the second quarter and had some very good blocks on the move. In the fourth quarter, he had a good second level block, which was followed by the Jets running the same play on the next snap and this time Winters missed his block, but his man missed the tackle at the second level anyway. He’s definitely improved in terms of making clean blocks in space but, more importantly, he isn’t getting beaten cleanly as much now and adjusted well after his rough first quarter. Don’t get me wrong, he still has a ways to go to establish himself as a starter level player, but it’s good to see him trending upwards as the season comes to an end. (His last five PFF grades: -5.3, -4.0, -3.1, -1.5, +2.4).
Nice job by the Jets’ top three receivers, with Smith completing 13-of-18 passes to them and accounting for over two-thirds of his yardage. David Nelson led the way with five catches for 66 yards, making a particularly nice catch on Smith’s deep throw down inside the five to set up the go-ahead touchdown and a sliding grab downfield in the first quarter. Nelson had 36 catches for 423 yards this year, which is a nice contribution, especially since he didn’t join the team until week five and had to hit the ground running.
Jeremy Kerley also had five catches, moving the chains on a couple of clutch grabs. He was denied a touchdown by a last-second timeout by the Dolphins and was also blatantly held at the goal line on one play. It was interesting to see him line up in the backfield and get a carry, but that play failed due to poor blocking.
Santonio Holmes contributed three receptions, two for first downs, all in the second quarter. It was good to see Smith hit 3-of-4 passes to Holmes, who had a low catch rate (less than 40%) entering the game. However, whether they’ll get a chance to build on their chemistry next year remains up in the air. Holmes got hit with a block in the back penalty in the second half.
Greg Salas had one short catch, his eighth of the year, but first in four weeks. Saalim Hakim played briefly but did not get any touches or targets.
Each of the tight ends caught one pass each. Kellen Winslow’s went for a big gain after he broke a tackle downfield, although he almost fumbled the ball away. Cumberland’s was also a big gain, as he made an over-the-shoulder catch on Powell’s lofted duck. Zach Sudfeld lined up out wide and ran an in-and-out route to get open for a third down conversion, his first catch since before the bye. As noted, Cumberland had some difficult blocking assignments and was understandably beaten by Wake a handful of times. He did make some positive contributions as a run blocker though, notably from the fullback position on a couple of plays.
The Jets did end up with the number three run defense, as Miami’s backs averaged just under four yards per carry and 20 of their 92 yards came on a Ryan Tannehill scramble up the middle. They had no sacks either, although they were credited with three quarterback hits.
One interesting wrinkle this week saw them lining Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples alongside one another on the right side and getting them to overwhelm the left side of Miami’s line by rushing in tandem, either by stunting or just overpowering them with a dual-bullrush. Wilkerson had a couple of pressures and blew up a couple of runs in another solid display, but not as dominant as some of the ones he had earlier in the season. He ends up a magnificent year with 10.5 sacks.
Damon Harrison also had a magnificent year, notably against the run where he has graded out as the best DT/NT in the league by a mile. Harrison was in on a handful of run stuffs, including one in the backfield and chased Tannehill from the pocket once. He also had the key penetration to blow up Miami’s fourth and short run in the second half. His one negative was a missed tackle in the hole.
On defense, Richardson definitely played his part in terms of bottling up a few runs and collapsing the pocket, even though he was only credited with one tackle. He did draw a holding penalty, but there were also two plays where he lined up at tackle and beat the guard on his outside shoulder, leaving a huge gap up the middle. That can’t have been by design, surely. On one play, Richardson dropped into coverage, but didn’t react well to a crosser in front of him. He was visibly angry with himself after that play, showing how high the standards he sets for himself – even on a play that isn’t really part of his core role – have been.
Off the bench, Douzable and Ellis made contributions as ever. Douzable stunted underneath and hit Tannehill on his wobbly throw that produced the game clinching interception. He also got some good penetration on some running plays, although he was walled off on one big run. Ellis stuffed one run himself and was in on two other stops for short gains. I hope they bring back Douzable to keep this unit 100% intact. Oh, and extend Karl Dunbar NOW.
Once again, Coples was the outstanding pass rusher, with several pressures and a couple of hits. He’s been terrific over the second half of the season and we can safely say that those media members that doubted whether the “move” to “outside linebacker” would be a success were completely wrong. Look for them to try and say that actually he was more of a defensive end anyway to try and justify their previous comments. Of course, that is correct and it’s what we said all along, but don’t be surprised to see them try and frame this as a failed experiment where they moved him back when it wasn’t working.
Having recorded his 10th sack last week, Calvin Pace was quiet. He generated no pressure and only made a couple of minor plays against the run. He was also blocked out of the play on the outside on one running play. Garrett McIntyre was also quiet off the bench.
On the inside, Demario Davis and David Harris both had their ups and downs. Each were beaten for a first down in coverage, but they did generate some pressure on blitzes. Harris was in on some key stops, but did miss a couple of tackles. Davis missed one tackle and was only credited with two tackles. Crucially, there were a couple of runs up the middle where neither of them could get off their block.
This week’s stat of the week: At the midseason point, Dee Milliner had ONE pass defensed. He ended up the season with 20, which puts him in the top 10 for NFL cornerbacks and 12th overall. His 19 in the second half of the year must have led the league. Alterraun Verner, who led the NFL with 28, had just 12 in the second half of the season.
Milliner did get beaten for another touchdown and did give up a 21-yard catch to Rishard Matthews, but he was mostly matched up with $60m man Mike Wallace and held him to four catches (and 29 yards) on 10 targets. Once again, he was breaking to the ball and reacting well, icing the performance with two second half interceptions, one on a juggling, diving effort and the other on (gasp!) a clean catch! Milliner’s late season growth has been sensational. We knew he’d struggle early on in his rookie season, but now he’s showing signs that he could be the elite corner they drafted him to be. He still needs polish at times and did get lucky on one play where Wallace beat him deep, but the criticism he received for not looking back for the ball on a throw to the end zone was unwarranted because that’s an area where he’s improved significantly.
The other corner, Antonio Cromartie, gave up five catches for 77 yards, but did break up a pass and made a play in run support. Clearly he hasn’t been right all year, so it will be interesting to see where he is next year and on what kind of a contract. Hip surgery might be on the agenda, which would likely set him up for an incentivized deal.
In the slot, Kyle Wilson injured his knee early on, but kudos to Isaiah Trufant who hadn’t played on defense since week six. He stepped in and the Jets didn’t miss a beat. Trufant gave up three catches for three yards and had a good open field tackle for a loss.
At safety, Ed Reed locked down his third interception and had a key touchdown-saving tackle. He ended up with the best overall grade for any Jets defensive back this season. I guess the media were wrong about that one too. And, yes, I want them to bring him back next year. His impact on Milliner has been significant. The 21-yard catch he gave up came while Reed was in the box.
Dawan Landry was beaten a couple of times in coverage and was lucky on one play in particular where Tannehill threw behind a receiver that had two steps on him running a crossing route. He batted the ball up for Reed’s interception though and did lead the team with seven tackles.
Antonio Allen did start again and avoided any mistakes, but had a pretty quiet day. Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush played just one snap between them. I do like the young depth here though.
A disappointing end to the season for Nick Folk, who missed a chip shot field goal, his third miss in 13 attempts since the bye. I was thoroughly underwhelmed by Ryan Quigley all season, but I suppose he was fairly consistent. The return game was disappointing, with Cromartie making an awful decision and getting tackled at the 10 and the coverage unit gave up a couple of bad returns too, although Nick Bellore did shine with two tackles.
It’s good to end the season on a truly positive note for a change. Sneaking into the playoffs would have been nice, but then you’re likely to end the season on a downer. Even in those AFC Championship Game years, you still had the bitter aftertaste of losing potentially winnable games on the road to end the season. Let’s hope they can carry that momentum into the offseason and 2014.
Ultimately, I think bringing Rex Ryan back was probably the correct call. If you change your mind about him later on, you can fire him if he’s still here, but you can’t re-hire him if you realize it was a mistake to let him go. Continuity is going to be a positive thing for this team, which figures to have a much deeper roster next year. There is already some young talent with upside, but that’s going to increase with potentially 12 picks in the upcoming draft. Couple that with the nucleus already in place and the team has the potential to go far next season.
One thing’s for sure, the offseason is certainly going to be interesting.
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 email@example.com and I’ll respond in BGA Extra on Wednesday or Thursday.