After his not-so-wise words earlier in the week, Santonio Holmes had a disappointing performance highlighted by an awful drop on his first target of the game.
I tend to think his comments – which many have acknowledged were taken out of context – were overblown before the game and will be blown up even more after the game. The Panthers secondary didn’t play that well, because there were Jets receivers open pretty regularly and a better quarterback likely would have been able to punish them. Though they say they were motivated, I’m pretty sure Captain Munnerlyn didn’t need to be any more fired up than usual to have intercepted that pass which was thrown right to him. In truth, if the main outcome of the comments was that the Panthers played more physically, this actually benefited the Jets in some cases, because they drew a couple of penalties that led to first downs, although the officials missed one on a throw to Holmes in the end zone. It also led to the 15-yard penalty after the pick six and perhaps even to some of the over-aggressiveness that led to Cumberland and Hakim being open downfield on plays that the Jets couldn’t capitalize upon.
The biggest disappointment is that they couldn’t get more from Holmes’ matchup with rookie Melvin White. Holmes schooled him several times on routes, but only caught two passes and drew one penalty in nine targets, as Smith threw behind him twice. Maybe a healthy Holmes would have been able to adjust to those passes in mid-air but he was only able to get his fingertips on one hand to the ball. Ultimately, I wouldn’t attribute the ineffectiveness of the passing offense to how well this suddenly motivated (like they wouldn’t have been anyway with a division title up for grabs) secondary played. The Jets just don’t have a good passing game this year.
Despite this, whether they were taken out of context or not, it’s never a good idea to poke the bear and the outcome is pretty humbling for Holmes. The fact that some teammates have been commenting that it wasn’t exactly helpful is reminiscent of the reaction to Kerry Rhodes doing something similar against the Dolphins in 2009, shortly after which he fell completely out of favor.
With the connection to Holmes not working, you’d have expected the Jets to lean on Jeremy Kerley and Kellen Winslow, but neither of them had a reception until the last drive. Kerley did almost make a diving catch on one play and at least was able to draw a holding penalty. I have to give credit to Quintin Mikell who was the first guy I’ve seen that’s been able to stay with Kerley on the whip route which has been a go-to play for the Jets this year. Smith was rolling out and had to throw the ball away with that option covered. Kerley did have one missed block.
Winslow was only in for 17 snaps and hasn’t played 20 snaps in a game since he was suspended in week five. Prior to that, he had been averaging 42 snaps per game. I doubt this is an extension of limiting his “pitch count” in games as well as practice. It probably just means that they don’t see him as part of the future. On one play, he lined up in the backfield and stayed in to pass block, which has been a rarity this year (entering the game, just eight times all season and only twice since week three). Two players came off the edge and he failed to block either of them.
David Nelson was a bright spot with three catches for 44 yards, including two first downs. He also contributed a good downfield block and might have had another catch over by the sideline but the pass led him out of bounds. Has Nelson established himself as a keeper?
Jeff Cumberland led the Jets with 50 yards on three catches, which comprised a touchdown reception, an eight yard gain on a play where he broke a tackle in the backfield and a 35-yard catch and run. However, his blocking continues to be inconsistent. He did have some good blocks, but there were a series of plays where he missed or did not sustain his block to lead to a run being stuffed. It almost seemed like the Jets’ efforts to ensure that the success or failure of a play didn’t hinge on a Brian Winters block left Cumberland exposed to those situations instead.
I’m not really impressed with Zach Sudfeld’s blocking either, so I’m not sure he is likely to emerge as a potential Cumberland replacement. He let Greg Hardy get off his block to stuff a second and one run by Chris Ivory in the fourth quarter that should have been an easy first down.
Greg Salas played briefly but wasn’t targeted. However, debutante Saalim Hakim showed some flashes, breaking a tackle to gain eight on an end around and beating his man deep on a play where Smith missed him.
Next up…onto the defense – could Wilkerson bounce back from his quiet game last week?