A loss here would have put an end to any lingering hopes for an outside chance of a playoff berth once and for all, allowing us to write off this year and look ahead. These are the Jets, though, so you don’t get off that easily.
Next week is a game that very few people felt the Jets had a chance in, even back when they were playing well. They’re apparently a 12-point underdog on the road, despite the fact that the Saints exposed a few chinks in the Panthers’ armor last night. Carolina is a formidable opponent on both sides of the ball and the Jets will need everything to go right to have any chance of being competitive.
This is their toughest remaining opponent, though, so if they can pull off the unthinkable, who’s going to stop them from running the table? After all, everyone was writing them off in Mark Sanchez’s rookie season and things clicked for them just at the right time. For at least seven days, Jets fans can allow themselves to have some probably-destined-to-be-futile hopes that it’s not quite over yet.
At the end of the day, that’s what being a Jets fan is all about.
We hope you are continuing to enjoy the new BGA format. There are links to each BGA article or the option to read the offensive and/or defensive BGA in full after the jump.
To re-read the offensive BGA in full, click here
It may have just seemed like an insignificant nine-yard completion on second and long, but there was an identifiable “Eureka” moment for Geno Smith in the second quarter.
After a shaky start, Smith had been more lucky than good in helping the Jets to build a 10-3 lead. His touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley was lofted up for grabs with three defenders at the back of the end zone and he’d already been interecepted once (almost twice) and misfired on another potential touchdown pass with the receiver open. However, he took a three drop and threw a completion to David Nelson coming back to the ball.
The key here was that Nelson broke back for the ball and it was already on its way to him, as it has to be if you want to complete that throw in the NFL. Smith got his feet set, stepped into the throw and made it accurate but, more importantly, on time. We’ve all been waiting for that pass…not least the receivers.
By George, I think he’s got it.
Whether or not that ultimately proves to be the moment where the lightbulb went on for Smith, he was much more confident and decisive from that point on. In fact, on the very next play, he sat confidently in the pocket (something else we haven’t seen in recent games) and threw on time to Kerley to keep the chains moving. Earlier in the game, he had hit Santonio Holmes for a 32-yard catch-and-run where Holmes stopped his route and had time to hop up and down on the spot four times before the ball arrived, so the difference was striking. Maybe that long-overdue touchdown pass, fortunate though it was, snapped him out of his funk and he can progress over the remainder of the season. It will be interesting to see if he can follow this up against a top defense. Remember, he still hasn’t had two decent games in a row yet this year.
For the rest of the game, he was doing a much better job of getting the ball out on time, although to be hyper-critical the ball could still have been out a beat earlier on some of his throws and he did almost throw a redzone pick. Trusting your receivers to make the break as you’re already releasing the throw is a big hump to get over and it’s no coincidence that this would happen when he had most of the receivers he trusts back in the lineup. Kerley, Holmes and Kellen Winslow were out there for a combined 90 snaps whereas it was less than 20 last week. I just don’t think he trusts the likes of Stephen Hill (inactive due to a knee injury) and Jeff Cumberland (out there for 47 snaps, but not targeted) enough to throw it until he sees they’re open, which is invariably too late.
I’m sure the timing of his throws has been a point of emphasis and credit goes both to the player and the coaches for manufacturing some improvements there. On one play, he bobbled the snap, but still made an effort to get the ball out on time, although it was off-line. In previous games, that has happened and the throw has been delayed, allowing the cornerback to jump the route.
Those early struggles for Smith were all too familiar although pass protection was a factor. The offensive line did a great job of keeping Smith clean all day, but on a couple of the early throws he missed he was hit as he released the ball. One saw him miss Kellen Winslow open on a third down route to the pylon and another saw him overthrow the receiver and almost get picked off. He then was picked off on the very next play, but that was more of a bad read, as he stared down Kerley and Kevin Burnett made an athletic diving play.
Statistically, this was an enormous improvement on the last few weeks, as he completed 64% of his passes and averaged 8.8 yard per attempt. 42% and 6.1 has been his “best” performances over the previous four games and that’s the best yards per attempt average he’s had since the Falcons game in week five. Also, crucially, he contributed with his legs, picking up 50 yards and touchdown on five carries with some decisive running. His numbers could have been even better, but he didn’t attempt a pass or run in the last 10 minutes.
It’s baby steps for Smith at the moment, because many of these things I’m excited to see and praising him for are pretty routine and a notch below being able to read and pick apart an opposing defense which would be the ultimate goal for him. However, with the regression we’ve seen from him over the last month, it’s a big deal even for him just to stop the bleeding.
On the offensive line, Brian Winters continues to be the story. This week, the rest of the offensive line played really well, which made Winters’ mistakes all the more glaring than they had been in recent weeks.
Winters ended up on the ground on each of the first three snaps, which can’t have been a good sign. He then struggled through an error-strewn first half where he was badly beaten three times in pass protection and blown up three times on running plays that went for a loss. Each of these plays stood out because the rest of the line did their job and his mistake led to the play being unsuccessful (although Smith did complete a pass on one of the three plays where Winters’ man created pressure).
I’d probably go as far as to say that Winters played as poorly in that half as he has all year. However, they stuck with him and in the second half, to his credit, he did make some positive contributions and limited the severity of his mistakes.
While this was going on, though, the rest of the line looked good. Can that have had something to do with the approach the Jets took?
In the Jets’ running game, you can generally break down the majority of the left guard’s assignments between (a) double teaming with one of the guys next to him, (b) zone blocking, often on the move and (c) pulling to the right. However, in this game, they went to a fourth option with regularity. Winters was employed as a second-level blocker, meaning that the other four linemen blocked at the line of scrimmage and Winters ignored the defensive line and went to pick up a linebacker or safety. While they didn’t have much success with this in terms of Winters springing anything with an effective second level block, it did seem to help the cohesiveness of the rest of the line and if Winters ever failed to make his block, that would mean there’s a tackler coming up into the hole rather than breaking into the backfield.
It’s something the Jets did to simplify matters for Vladimir Ducasse when he saw playing time as a rookie. You may recall that Ducasse saw extended playing time at right guard in the final game of his rookie season (a blowout win over the Bills) and graded out really well. That was how Ducasse was employed on that occasion and, although Winters didn’t perform anywhere close to as well as Ducasse did on that occasion, it did seem to have an overall positive effect on the rest of the line and he did make improvements during the second half.
While this isn’t likely to be a permanent fix, because to do it all the time would render the running game too predictable, it does seem like an option they can employ from time to time, which will allow the other linemen to make more of the key blocks and prevent too many of Winters’ mistakes from being too costly.
Nick Mangold was the primary beneficiary of this gameplan, as he had probably his most dominant game of the year, constantly leveraging his man the way he wanted him to go and then turning him away from the primary running lane. He was completely flawless in the first half, although he did miss a couple of blocks early in the second half.
At left tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson did miss a few blocks in the running game, but made up for it with four good edge setting blocks. His opposite number, Austin Howard, did let his man get off his block a few times in the running game, but had one good kickout block and another where he drove his man out of the play and to the ground. He also helped shove Chris Ivory into the end zone on his touchdown run.
The right guard, Willie Colon, remained penalty free which is always a cause for celebration. He only made a couple of mistakes all day. Colon turned his man to the outside a couple of times and blocked down to force his man inside on another play as he had a positive impact in the running game. The highlight though (and I might have to make a gif of this) was when he blocked Jack Crawford to the ground and then dived on top of him to keep him down.
Ducasse was in on three plays as an extra tight end next to Ferguson, but let his man get off the block to get in on a stop on one of those plays.
In pass protection, other than Winters, the Jets were solid, with Ferguson, Mangold and Colon all managing to avoid allowing any pressure. Howard was beaten on the outside twice, although one of these plays was when Winters got beaten anyway and his man got there first.
Chris Ivory’s season has been uneven due to injuries, the struggles on the offensive line and the fact that Bilal Powell has been seeing more action than him at times. However, when he gets going, he’s proven to be an excellent runner and his spectacular driving 15-yard touchdown run in the second half underscored that.
Despite the issues limiting his playing time, Ivory needs just 87 yards over the last three games to make this a career year. In order to become a 1,000 yard back, he needs to average 120 yards per game, so that’s probably unlikely but not entirely unfeasible.
The Jets’ running game did rack up an impressive 143 yards on the ground, although to some extent that was artificially skewed by the fact that Geno Smith ran for 50 yards. Ivory did average over four yards per carry though, breaking five tackles and averaging over three yards per carry after contact to move himself into a first placed tie for the NFL lead in that category with Adrian Peterson and Andre Ellington.
Ivory also served notice of his improvements as a pass blocker, lighting up Sio Moore on a blitz and sending him over to the sideline. There were negatives though – he did get beaten for the Raiders’ only sack and also fumbled in the second half, although he did well to recover that himself.
Bilal Powell continues to struggle to get anything going on the ground. He gained just two yards on five carries in the first half, although he did pick up a first down with some tough wildcat yardage. In the second half, he had a nice 11-yard run where he spun out of a tackle and broke a tackle in the open field on a 24-yard screen pass, but he’s averaged less than 30 rushing yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry since week four.
At fullback, Tommy Bohanon was once again ineffective as a blocker. They also threw to him twice with one pass off his fingertips and another one completed, but failing to pick up the first down because his momentum carried him out of bounds. While the placement of the pass could have been better on each of those plays, I wonder if he could have done a better job of sharpening his route to the flat.
Alex Green was in on a couple of wildcat plays but did not handle the ball. Debutante Darius Reynaud was only used on special teams.
Last week, I wrote the following: “The last vestiges of hope are that Jeremy Kerley’s return will make a big difference [to Geno Smith]. Smith has missed him, but I fear that’s merely contributed to his overall loss of confidence which may be irredeemable in the short term.” Sure enough, Kerley’s return did coincide with an upturn in performance by Smith.
It’s time to update the stats for Smith when Kerley and Santonio Holmes are both in the lineup, now that we can increase that sample size to four games. He has completed 63% of his passes, averaged 274 yards per game and posted an 83.9 quarterback rating. If that’s who he is when he has a full complement of receivers around him, then that’s not bad at all for a rookie. Next week will provide another interesting test.
Kerley caught four passes for 41 yards and a touchdown, so you might not think that would make too much of a difference, but as noted earlier, Smith threw the ball with more confidence. Maybe that lost confidence is not irredeemable after all.
On Kerley’s 25-yard touchdown, that pass might not even have been intended for him. Holmes had beaten his man by a step down the left sideline, but Kerley, running down the seam was able to react first to what looked like an underthrown ball and make a leaping grab in traffic. It’s likely someone screwed up there, because no route tree is designed to have three defenders in the area of the primary option. I’d imagine that Kerley was the one at fault (unless Holmes improvised on the fly), but he certainly redeemed himself and there was nothing apologetic about Smith’s celebrations.
Kerley’s other four touches netted just 19 yards but did include a third down conversion on a superbly executed whip route. He almost came up with another diving catch on third down, but couldn’t hold on and was short of the marker anyway.
After sitting out most of last week for unclear reasons, Holmes contributed too, with 55 yards on three catches. He might have had a bigger day, but dropped a well-placed fade route in the end zone. Holmes still doesn’t look 100%.
Kellen Winslow still didn’t play very much (19 snaps) but led the Jets with 61 yards on three first down catches. He made a good leaping catch and also tried (and failed) to hurdle a defender, so he must be feeling good physically. He was also open on a corner route on the first drive, but Smith was hit as he threw so the chance at a possible touchdown was missed. Interestingly, Winslow has been employed as a blocker just 19 times in his last five appearances (78 in his first four).
Both Winslow and Holmes showed some frustration at Smith on a couple of screen passes where he hesitated and then threw the ball in the dirt. On the first occasion, he should have thrown the ball to Holmes immediately and I’m not sure why he didn’t. Then, having hesitated, the chance was gone. On the other, he might have been able to complete the throwback to Winslow if he’d been slightly more patient, but Winslow wasn’t as wide open as the TV replay seemed to show because there was a safety lurking just out of the shot. I don’t have a problem with Smith throwing either of those into the dirt and while the veterans’ frustration is understandable, they must be wary of the fact he’s trying to develop some confidence.
David Nelson contributed again, with four catches including one first down where he leaked out into the flat and was open. Greg Salas, on the other hand, did not play much and was not targeted. He got blown up by a defensive back on Kerley’s end around in the first quarter, preventing him from turning the corner and limiting a nicely designed play to a short gain.
Jeff Cumberland wasn’t targeted and continues to struggle as a blocker following some early season signs that he’d really improved there. He was beaten a couple of times in pass protection and missed three blocks in the running game. He did have one pancake block and another good run block in the second half, but overall continues to grade out negatively, as he has done since the bye week.
Finally, Zach Sudfeld was in for seven plays, but for the third straight week a run was blown up because he got driven back into the backfield.
To re-read the defensive and special teams BGA in full, click here
For a change, the Jets defensive line wasn’t quite so dominant this week. Oakland racked up 150 yards on the ground and the Jets didn’t register a sack until midway through the fourth quarter.
However, they still won the battle in the trenches overall. 63 of those rushing yards came on one play, with Marcel Reece breaking a touchdown run up the middle. Other than that, the Raiders’ running backs gained just 63 yards on 20 carries, much more in line with the usual output of a Jets opponent in 2013, and Matt McGloin was ultimately sacked three times and under pressure 13 times in 35 dropbacks.
The Raiders offensive line has been poor all year under the tutelage of Tony Sparano, but the recent return of their best lineman, left tackle Jared Veldheer, seems to have helped a lot. It therefore perhaps wasn’t as unexpected as you might think that the Jets’ line weren’t their usual dominant selves.
Perhaps the biggest factor was that Muhammad Wilkerson had probably his quietest game of the season. The Raiders specifically avoided running the ball at him and double teamed him constantly in pass protection. This is an approach some other teams have taken, especially early in the season, but Wilkerson had still been able to mix in a couple of impact plays. On this occasion he was limited to one pressure and two tackles. Of course, we have to take into account that he was nursing an injured wrist and perhaps this limited his ability to get off blocks, which may be his greatest asset.
Whenever Wilkerson is being taken out of the game as he was yesterday, this tends to open things up for his linemates to make plays and yesterday was no exception. Sheldon Richardson had a couple of pressures, but it was in the running game where he made an impact. He span off a block to assist on a run stop and blew up two runs with penetration, including one at the goal line. It’s hard to believe he’s still a rookie and next week’s battle featuring arguably the league’s two best rookies (Richardson and Star Lotulelei) should be a fine one for trench battle junkies.
After the game, Damon Harrison sent out a tweet apologizing for letting everyone down. I would have to assume he’s referring to the Reece touchdown, where he span off his blocker and had a chance to make the stop in the hole, only to miss the tackle allowing Reece to break into the open field.
However, Harrison is the last person who needs to apologize for anything. He’s developed into one of the most consistent players on a team and its incredible that he’s already a player we take for granted despite being an undrafted rookie from a small school who had to fight just to make it onto the roster last August. Harrison has had a sensational season, without which the Jets likely wouldn’t have been competitive and certainly wouldn’t boast the league’s best run defense.
He’s one of the main reasons Jets fans are looking ahead optimistically to next season and beyond and can legitimately claim to be an elite nose tackle, just like Sione Po’uha before him.
Despite that play – where although Harrison missed a chance to make the tackle, it was poor play from his teammates at the second level and downfield that turned it from a modest gain into a touchdown – Harrison still put forward another great effort, bottling up several runs, getting in on a number of tackles close to the line and even making contributions as a pass rusher and in coverage.
I can also recall a similar tweet that Harrison sent out during his rookie year following a preseason game where he again didn’t play that badly on balance. It’s great that he sets such high standards for himself and that’s a sign of how ambitious he is, which has fostered a drive that has him continuing to defy the odds. I also love the fact that immediately before he tweeted about his own (perceived) poor performance, he had sent out a tweet saying that it was a great team win! That sums him up.
When Harrison goes to the bench, the Jets don’t lose anything, because Kenrick Ellis is doing a great job too (and would probably be starting on 25-30 other teams around the league). Ellis got into the backfield for a pressure, stuffed two runs and blew up another run with penetration. All that in just 14 snaps.
Finally, Leger Douzable did get forced inside on one run, but also had one play where he penetrated to stuff the runner and another where he helped bottle up a run for a short gain. He’s been a consistent rotation player all season.
Following his much-maligned “move” to “linebacker” this offseason, Quinton Coples is looking more and more comfortable and starting to look like a force to be reckoned with. There were those that doubted he’d be able to consistently turn the corner against offensive tackles, but he’s proven he can do that on a consistent basis, just like we predicted (based on the fact he’d already shown he could do that).
In this game, he had a big hit early on, then it was his pressure that caused Matt McGloin’s first half interception. Later on in the game, his inside pressure caused McGloin to fumble the ball and then Coples tackled him for a 15-yard loss (which the NFL seems to have credited as a “team sack” but may change at a later date) and he finally got his sack on the penultimate play of the game.
That doesn’t tell the whole story though. There was also a play where he beat Jared Veldheer cleanly and drew a holding penalty and four other plays where the quarterback had to take off early because he was coming. He’s causing the kind of consistent disruption over the last month or so that the elite edge rushers in the league do…and that’s exciting.
In the running game, Coples overpursued on one play and was blocked out of another, but did contribute positively with a run stuff at the goal line. He also batted down a pass.
Off the other edge, Calvin Pace continues to sip from the fountain of youth, as he tied his career high with his 8th sack of the season. He also had another three pressures, including one that led to Coples’ sack. In the running game, he stuffed a couple of runs and in coverage he made a good open field tackle on third down to force a punt before halftime. There was one play where he and Demario Davis both covered the same receiver, leaving Reece wide open for a big gain, but Pace is showing no signs of slowing down as we approach the end of the season.
Davis was also involved in another couple of mix-ups in coverage, including one where he vacated his zone to create an angle for McGloin to complete a pass down to the goal line and another where he left a man open. He did get in on a handful of tackles near the line in the running game though and took Terrelle Pryor down for a big loss on a read option play. Davis added a couple of pressures, but did miss two tackles.
David Harris also missed two tackles, but led the Jets with eight tackles, including a handful near the line of scrimmage and two on third down. He was blocked out of the middle on the Reece touchdown and embarrassingly juked in the open field by McGloin, but made a couple of good plays in coverage and almost had two pressures, only to trip and fall just before he got there each time.
The Jets welcomed Garrett McIntyre back this week and he played 19 snaps although he was pretty quiet. He did get in on one run stop and also contributed to Davis’ tackle for loss on Pryor when he burst into the backfield to force him to bounce it outside.
Jets fans have been asking all season – especially since the Bengals (and to a lesser extent the Falcons and Titans prior to that) exposed the Jets’ frailties in terms of defending quick passes – Why don’t they jam the receivers at the line more often?
My reasoning has been that the guys they had that were most effective at doing that (Darrelle Revis, Aaron Berry and Ellis Lankster) are all not playing for various reasons, so the players that remain might not be able to do it effectively.
Another factor has been Antonio Cromartie’s injured hip, which maybe has an effect upon how readily he can explode forward to jam the receiver and then turn his hips to run with him, so he almost has to play either off coverage or press bail technique to give himself enough of a head start to stay with his man. Cromartie is a particularly interesting study because in the past the Jets coaches have said that they’ve tried to get him to put his hands on the receiver more often and that when he has, the results have been good. The injury may have scuppered that for this year though.
However, whether it’s a sign that Cromartie is feeling better, a last desperation attempt at something new or even a change in philosophy they hadn’t fully considered until now, Cromartie was in press coverage and jamming the receiver at the line on a regular basis in yesterday’s game. So, how did it go?
You can sum this up in two words: Mixed results. Let’s break down all of the main plays he was involved in:
– Playing off the receiver, closed to make the tackle short of the marker but missed the tackle and allowed the first down
– In press coverage, jammed the receiver at the snap, only to do that a beat early and get called for being offside
– In press coverage, jammed the receiver, delaying his route and causing the throw downfield to be harmlessly incomplete on 3rd and 17
– In press coverage, tried to jam the receiver, didn’t get a clean jam and gave up a first down catch
– Playing off his man with outside technique, the throw down the middle ended up being caught for a 48-yard touchdown as he collided with Ed Reed
– In press coverage, he didn’t jam at the line, but did make contact within five yards. However, the receiver tossed him aside and was wide open for the first down. I’d need to see the coaches film, but I suspect the receiver got away with offensive pass interference there
– Playing off-coverage, he tracked the receiver across the field and the throw to the end zone was low and away, although the receiver wanted a flag
– In press coverage on 4th and five, he didn’t jam at the line, but did make contact within five yards to try and slow the receiver’s route. The fade was still thrown over the top and Cromartie had blanket coverage but didn’t look back for the ball and made contact before it arrived to get hit with a pass interference call
– Finally, he lined up in press coverage, but bailed out and dropped off, then jumped the route and dropped a potential interception
Conclusions? Well, sometimes being in press coverage doesn’t work, Cromartie is equally capable of having successes or failures whether pressing or not and, finally, it probably is a good idea to mix things up, as long as Cromartie is capable of doing so physically.
Other than his ups and downs in coverage, Cromartie also overpursued on the Reece touchdown run.
The other cornerback, Dee Milliner, responded with easily his best game as a pro. Milliner looked – dare I say – good when targeted and the Jets smartly used Reed to give him plenty of help and dissuade the Raiders from targeting him too often. Three times he was targeted in the end zone and all three were incomplete. He still had a missed tackle and was also guilty of overpursuit on the Reece touchdown, but Milliner really does seem to have benefited from them forcing as much playing time as possible on him. Let’s hope this isn’t an aberration, because if he’s at last smashed through the rookie wall, this gives them a chance in each of their remaining games.
Reed played his part in Milliner’s solid performance and did intercept a wayward pass, but what will be remembered from this game is probably his collision with Cromartie that led to the Rod Streater touchdown. That was a bizarre play because it looked like the throw was intended for the slot receiver and Cromartie and Reed both jumped that route, only for the throw to by-pass everyone and end up in Steater’s hands on the back end. It was similar to the Jets’ first touchdown in that someone must have run the wrong route there.
Overall Reed is starting to look good. His range is far superior to anything the Jets have had back there in recent seasons and his comfort level is returning. He got there a hair late on two first down throws into zone coverage, but his closing speed was still impressive. The fact that they worked Antonio Allen into more packages so that Reed was only in the game 70% of the time may also have helped.
The other safety, Dawan Landry, made some good contributions in the running game, but again overpursued on the Reece touchdown run. He also gave up a couple of first downs in coverage for the second week in a row.
In Allen’s increased role he made a good play in run support and had a pressure off the edge. He did get beaten for a first down on one play but he was all over the receiver who made the catch.
Kyle Wilson had another quiet day in coverage, which of course is a good thing. He was in good position to make the tackle on a third down pass that was dropped anyway and should have drawn an offensive pass interference flag on a screen pass where he was being blocked with the ball still in the air.
Finally, Josh Bush and Jaiquawn Jarrett played 10 snaps between them and each contributed by helping to break up a pass.
The Jets’ special teams units have come under fire in recent weeks, where they’ve been giving up a ton of yardage on the coverage units. However, this week, it was the special teams unit which arguably came up with the biggest play of the game.
Antonio Allen’s punt block and recovery in the end zone transformed a pretty tight game into a comfortable half time lead for the Jets and it came on a well designed play where Ellis Lankster rushed across the face of the long snapper and drew the punt protector out of the middle, so that Allen had a clean path to the punter.
While Garrett McIntyre’s return to the lineup helped, the coverage units benefited from two things. First of all, the Jets only had to punt twice and when they did one went through the end zone and the other was a beauty by Ryan Quigley that bounced out of bounds at the two. Secondly, Nick Folk was hanging his kicks up short all day and that seemed to help the coverage units get down there quicker. They still missed six tackles, including two by Allen, but limited the damage with some good gang tackling and solid plays by the likes of Kyle Wilson, Isaiah Trufant and Nick Bellore.
Bellore also recovered an onside kick to preserve the win, although it’s well worth noting that there should have been a penalty on the Raiders because David Nelson was in perfect position to catch the ball and he got knocked over by Jack Crawford before the ball had traveled 10 yards.
On field goals, Nick Folk was flawless again, making three kicks, including a 51-yarder.
In the return game, Darius Reynaud was okay, but did bobble his first kickoff, preventing him from getting a chance to run it back. One other kickoff was fielded by Alex Green who juked a defender and looked set to make a long gain, but then slipped.
While there was no punt return yardage this week, we shouldn’t forget that this has been an area where they need to improve. McIntyre should help this, but it’s obvious that the cat is out of the bag in terms of Lankster being the biggest threat on that unit because the Dolphins reportedly admitted that stopping him was their number one priority last week. Much like with Muhammad Wilkerson, if they’re dedicating extra resources towards slowing him down, then someone else needs to step up.
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