Preseason BGA – Giants “at” Jets Part One
Bent , theJetsBlog.com
This analysis 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.
Note: The feedback I got last week suggested you guys preferred BGA to be split into two parts, so we’ll deal with the offense first. Defense and special teams will be covered in part two to follow later tonight…
BGA is back…and this time it’s preseasonal (again)!
Coming up, your breakdown of last night’s 26-3 loss to the Giants together with detailed analysis of the offensive struggles, especially on the offensive line.
Join me after the jump as I attempt to cover every angle. As always, there are some silver linings, trust me.
One of the major focuses for Mark Sanchez this offseason was improving his completion percentage. Another was not making any major mistakes. Clearly he went one-for-two yesterday, going 9-for-11 with a drop, but also seeing one pass intercepted and returned for another long touchdown. A third key area was sustaining last year’s performance in the red zone but we won’t be able to evaluate him until the Jets actually get there.
The 9-of-11 should be taken with a pinch of salt because they were mostly short passes. However, he did make intermediate downfield throws to Jeff Cumberland and Patrick Turner. I’d also add that his receivers bailed him out with tough catches on two throws with less-than-ideal placement.
We can also talk about how he dealt with pressure, since that was the main focus after the game. We’ll get to how the offensive line played soon. One positive was that there were no plays this week where the starters screwed up the protection scheme and left a guy unaccounted-for. Although it’s always impossible to apportion blame between the center and quarterback, that was one thing that perhaps Sanchez deserves partial credit for. Could he have got rid of the ball earlier on some of the plays where he was sacked? I thought this was certainly the case on one of them, although it wasn’t the one where Greg Buttle said Sanchez should have got rid of the ball sooner.
Ultimately, Sanchez’s performance has one huge black mark and that’s the pick six. He made the correct read, because Patrick Turner clearly had a step on his man, just didn’t throw it out in front of him. With the replacement officials, teams have been getting away with pick plays all throughout the preseason and that could have worked out as one, but Dustin Keller didn’t do a good enough job of disrupting the defensive back’s path to the ball. I’d also say that perhaps Turner could have done a better job of contesting the pass, but his momentum was carrying him away from the ball (similar to Plaxico Burress in the same situation in Denver). It was a great play by Hosley, but that’s no excuse. This is the NFL and players are going to make good plays if you give them the chance. Sanchez must have realized that by now.
Sanchez is now under a different kind of pressure in the Panthers game. With no real downfield completions from his first two games and no sustained scoring drives to show for his efforts, he must get something done against Carolina, otherwise he risks entering the season with nothing to build on from his preseason. You can control the huddle, say all the right things, lead by example and get rookies to carry your pads all you want in practice – if you want to be a franchise quarterback, you need to get the job done and eliminate the mistakes while you’re doing so.
The starting offense has struggled so much that I wouldn’t be surprised to see them get some extra work in the Bollinger Bowl. However, any success achieved against the Eagles backups could be fools gold – and how demoralizing would it be if they couldn’t move the ball in that game either?
Tim Tebow put together a pretty good scoring drive to open up the third quarter, but his flaws were clearly demonstrated when he underthrew Stephen Hill who was all alone in the end zone following a coverage breakdown. Then, in the fourth quarter, he “led” five drives for a combined minus-13 yards, going one-for-nine, with three particularly bad throws and getting sacked four times. While I dispute the value of compiling training camp statistics for quarterbacks, one thing that is obvious is that Tebow gets sacked far too often in a conventional offense. While, in a real game, he might be able to evade some of those would-be sacks, that wasn’t the case yesterday.
Tebow did have one pass dropped and did look good on his first three throws (and running for a first down). One other designed run, from a spread formation, saw him stuffed for a loss. As with Sanchez, you need to take into account how much pressure he was under, which we’ll get to. However, unlike with Sanchez, there were three occasions where the protection scheme screwed up and he was nailed by an unblocked blitzer. Again, that’s a by-product of not being comfortable in a conventional scheme.
There was no work for Greg McElroy or Matt Simms this week. Clearly the Jets feel Tebow needs the work with the second unit, but the fourth quarter display was so bad, I don’t think leaving him in there achieved much. Maybe Rex simply had no faith in either of his other backups to do anything with the way the rest of the offense was performing.
A horrible performance by Wayne Hunter, who trended worldwide after somehow managing to give up four sacks in the first half, even though the Jets as a team only allowed three (that’s 133 per cent!). Of course, one of them was negated by penalty. I’d also say that, although another of the sacks came as a result of pressure from Hunter’s side and Sanchez stepping up, it was actually D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s man (Osi Umenyiora) that made the sack. Ferguson could have done a better job of staying with Osi after Hunter had ridden Justin Tuck out of the play and Sanchez had stepped up. The official scorer credited Osi and Tuck with half a sack each, but really it was Osi’s sack.
One thing the Jets were not prepared for was Jason Pierre-Paul to be matched up with Wayne Hunter. In their meeting last year, JPP NEVER lined up on the left side of the line. I wonder if Hunter spent any time watching film on Pierre-Paul or not, because the way he was knocked off balance and spun around for the first sack was as bad as I’ve ever seen Hunter manhandled on any play. Pierre-Paul, Umenyiora and Tuck moved around quite a bit as the Giants mixed up their personnel.
One other issue was that the Jets didn’t give Hunter much help. Was this a case of throwing him to the wolves to see where his deficiencies lie and where they need to give him help, perhaps? Or is it just a matter of them not trusting any of their backs or tight ends to stay in? After Hunter was beaten a few times, they did make a minor adjustment, relying on Mangold and Slauson to single block their man, so that Moore was free to come off a double team and give Hunter some assistance on the inside. However, on one play Hunter was beaten on the outside, perhaps because Moore went too far inside with his initial block, leaving Hunter exposed and on his heels.
Here’s your unexpected silver lining from the starting offensive line, though. Yes, Hunter gave up three sacks (one of which didn’t count) and a pressure that led to another. Other than those four plays, how much pressure did the starting offensive line give up?
So, while Hunter is a problem, if that problem can be solved – whether that be because he was hurt and not entirely up-to-speed, or by giving him more help or by replacing him with someone else – then maybe there’s hope for the offensive line yet. Everyone who said “Our offensive line is terrible” after last night’s game should really have been saying “Our worst offensive lineman was terrible last night”.
Back to Hunter – he’s not getting off that lightly. Only getting beaten four times in one half doesn’t sound that bad, but getting beaten in that manner is completely unacceptable. Sanchez only dropped back to pass 15 times, so four out of 15 is also too much. Was it worthy of all the vitriol he got last night, where I saw people calling him the worst right tackle in NFL history or the worst player in the NFL? No, because tackles often get beaten much more often than that, some on a regular basis. However, the Jets are aiming to be a good team and that won’t be possible unless they get markedly better performances out of the right tackle position.
An optimistic Hunter supporter might suggest that Hunter got off to a slow start last season and eventually started playing well at the end of September. However, it’s often overlooked that Hunter was pretty reliable in last year’s preseason, only giving up one sack and four pressures, so last night’s performance was much worse than he looked 12 months ago.
So, were there any redeeming qualities to Hunter’s performance? Actually, there were. It was one of the better run blocking games I’ve seen from him since he’s been starting. Also, on the 11 passes Sanchez did manage to get rid of, he did a decent job in pass protection, sometimes one-on-one with one of the Giants’ fearsome threesome. However, the bad plays were so bad, that far outweighs the good. In that respect, it reminded me of a typical Matt Mulligan performance from last year – and when you’re getting compared to Matt Mulligan, that’s not usually a good thing.
So, how about the rest of the offensive line, then? As noted, other than Ferguson giving up a sack that was partially caused by Hunter, there were no issues in pass protection. There was one other play where Ferguson was almost beaten to the edge, but recovered to ride his man out of the play as Sanchez stepped up. However, his run blocking still isn’t back to the level it was at from 2008 to 2010. There was one play where he looked to make a block in space and his man ran right past him.
The interior line did do a good job of run blocking, with Matt Slauson possibly the best of the bunch, although he did get called for a holding penalty on a screen pass. Nick Mangold was typically dominant, other than on one short yardage play where he let a guy into the backfield to blow up the run. Brandon Moore started off with some good blocks, but then had a couple of letdowns in the second quarter, including on fourth down where his man shed his block and stuffed the run. Buttle suggested that Hunter should have helped him on that block before going to the second level, but having seen many variations of the same play from the Jets, I’m not sure that was his assignment.
There was another short yardage play that was blown up, but on that occasion, the offensive line blocked well and it was the tight ends and fullback that let them down. We’ll address that later on.
Slauson played the third quarter with the second unit at center. He wasn’t quite as good as he was in the first half, but the line did an outstanding job of pass protection on that drive. Caleb Schlauderaff started the third quarter at right guard and played well. He also wasn’t quite as good once he moved to center and while he looks good pulling to the outside, he needs to do a better job of locking onto a block in space. Matt Kroul got reps at right guard in the fourth quarter and was badly beaten twice for pressures. However, he did do a good job of getting back and helping out Robert Griffin on one pass rush.
Vladimir Ducasse played at left guard and continues to look solid. Again, he didn’t have any mistakes or surrender any pressure and he had a couple of nice blocks in the running game.
For anyone looking for an in-house solution to the Hunter conundrum, the news isn’t good. Their most experienced option, Stephon Heyer, played so poorly with the second unit last week that he didn’t get any playing time this week. That meant putting Griffin, a natural guard, out at right tackle, where he really struggled, giving up four pressures, a hit and a sack (although two of the pressures were after Tebow had held onto the ball for too long). He also got beaten three times on the inside on running plays that were stuffed.
Over at left tackle, Austin Howard didn’t have a very good game either after a positive display with the starters last week. Howard gave up a sack and two pressures and also got beaten on a play where his man stuffed the runner for a loss. On one other play he got driven back into the running lane. The most disconcerting thing of all is that neither Howard or Griffin had any positive moments to balance out their struggles. Maybe Howard would respond positively to getting more work with the starters, but I am not optimistic that the Jets view him as anything more than an extra blocker with some residual upside.
None of the third unit got to play this week on offense. I expect that would have been different if the offense had performed a little better.
The running backs accounted for just 60 yards on 22 carries, which is not particularly impressive. Shonn Greene started off well, picking up 12 yards on his first two carries and finished well, picking up 19 yards on his last four carries. However, in between, there were five carries that went for just five yards, including one failure on third and short, although there was really nowhere for him to go. Greene was noticeably frustrated when Conner failed to convert on 4th and one.
I did notice one play to the outside where Greene should have read that it wasn’t going to work and cut back for a short gain, but other than that he had a couple of good straight ahead runs and moved the pile a bit. I don’t really expect much more in the preseason.
Bilal Powell definitely seems to have the lead for the third down back role. His 21 yards on six carries is underwhelming, but he started off well with 17 yards on three consecutive plays. Joe McKnight gained just three yards on as many carries and also failed to hold onto a throw which was initially called a fumble, before being downgraded to a drop. There was also one play where an unblocked blitzer sacked Tebow and – while I don’t know for sure what McKnight’s assignment was – it looked like he was supposed to stay in for a while and then run a route only if there was no blitz to pick up.
At fullback, John Conner was just as inconsistent as last week. Every now and again he rocks someone with a well-timed block, but there was one play where two guys ran either side of him to the ball carrier and he blocked neither of them and another where he ran into the back of the tight end, so the runner had nowhere to go. He did make a nice catch, but was 0-for-2 as a short yardage back.
Josh Baker again played fullback with the second unit as well as H-back and tight end with the starters. He had a horrible drop and there was also a play where he was the lead blocker on a run to the outside which got stuffed for a loss, although that wasn’t entirely his fault as there were two guys out there. He did have one good run block where he set the edge, but it wasn’t an encouraging game from the second year player.
Rookie Terrance Ganaway didn’t get any reps on offense.
With perhaps their top three veteran receivers out, the Jets started Stephen Hill and Patrick Turner, with Jordan White getting some reps with the first team in the slot. Hill wasn’t targeted until after half time but did catch two passes. However, he should also have had a touchdown, as he ran downfield and there was nobody on him due to a coverage breakdown. Tebow’s throw was woefully underthrown, but Hill should have come back to the ball sooner and lost his footing as he tried to adjust to the underthrow. Hill also got called for a false start penalty.
Once again, Turner looked like he was Sanchez’s favorite target, although he might like him a little less after he dropped one of the three balls thrown his way. His 12 yard catch was Sanchez’s best throw of the game.
White led the team with three catches for 28 yards and showed excellent hands to snag a low Sanchez pass to the outside. They definitely seem keen to get him the ball with short passes, but he also caught one downfield from Tebow, although he still came up short on 3rd and long.
Joe Collins was the only other receiver targeted and made a nice 17 yard catch from Tebow over by the sideline, Tebow’s only completion of the fourth quarter.
At tight end, Dustin Keller had a couple of catches after being shut out last week, but what about his blocking? Well, the good news is that he threw one of the most effective blocks I’ve seen from him. The bad news is that the guy he blocked was Mangold. That was on the play where Greene ran outside with Baker leading the way. Mangold pulled left and was presumably supposed to block one of the two guys Baker ending up having to try and block, but Keller got driven back and ended up right in Mangold’s way. Keller also had one other play where he got driven back.
Jeff Cumberland had an eventful game with a couple of first down catches. He also got called for holding and was beaten on the inside as the Giants stuffed a short yardage run. None of this is indicative that the Jets won’t sign a blocking tight end in the first week of September, if not before. At least there were no TE breakdowns in pass protection this week.
Tarren Lloyd and Hayden Smith didn’t get any offensive reps this week, but Derrick Epps got a few. He failed to sustain a block on a run that was stuffed and Tebow threw an incompletion his way in the fourth quarter.
Still to come…defense , special teams and conclusions – in part two tonight.