Preseason BGA: Jags at Jets – Part One (Offense)

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.

BGA is back…and this time it’s preseasonal (again)!

Coming up, part one of your breakdown of last night’s 37-13 win over the Jaguars with detailed analysis of the offensive players, including one outstanding performance that for some reason went unnoticed.

Join me after the jump as I attempt to cover every angle.

This week’s BGA is going back to two parts, so I’ll be back with the defensive (and ST) analysis later. For now we’re focusing on the offense, led by the man upon whom most of the focus shone before, during and after the game…

Quarterbacks

Joey – What?!! That’s even worse!

Chandler – How is that worse?

Joey – I don’t know, but it’s the same!

The glass half full reaction to Mark Sanchez throwing another interception could be to say (and I’ve seen people saying it already) “Well, at least it wasn’t a pick-six…”

That’s absolutely true and while Sanchez was at least able to avoid pulling off what’s fast becoming his signature move – and I loved it when the crowd gave him a Bronx cheer for throwing the ball away instead of trying to force it or taking a sack when nobody was open – you have to wonder how the coaches feel about a red zone turnover. Earlier in the week, Rex Ryan said, “A turnover in the red zone is worth twice as much as a turnover anywhere else. It kills you.” Maybe – despite the fact he had some good moments too – that could end up killing Sanchez’s hopes of hanging onto the starting job.

You could even classify the debacle before half time as a red zone turnover, given that they were in good position to score and again came up empty. (More on that in a bit). Ultimately, though, the fact that Sanchez left six points on the field didn’t hurt them, as they scored 27 unanswered points in the second half, with contributions from Sanchez along the way.

There’s a lot of people saying that Sanchez padded his stats against backups, but he actually only completed five of his last 11 passes (starting late in the second quarter), so he should perhaps get more credit for his 8-for-12 start – especially the first drive where he was 4-for-4 with a touchdown. In fact, everything was going swimmingly until he threw that pick on a pass intended for Kellen Winslow Jr. in the end zone.

That gave rise to an issue which has plagued Sanchez in the past. Not so much the throw itself, but how he responded to it. On the throw, you could say that Winslow did a disappointing job of letting his man break in front of him for the pick. There might even be an argument to suggest that Sanchez put the ball where it was supposed to be and was let down by his intended receiver. Without being privy to the exact play design, I can’t assume that either way. Nevertheless, after bailing Sanchez out last week, there’s definitely a slight sense that Winslow could have done more to at least prevent the interception, if not give himself a chance to catch the ball.

Make up your own mind. As you can see, just before he releases the pass, Winslow is fighting for position and looks set to try and leverage his way in front of the defensive back.

…but once he goes into his throwing motion, the defensive back has done a good job of getting the inside position. Ironically, it still probably would have been a completion if he just threw it a bit higher, but having got on Sanchez’s case for not making decisive throws in the past, it is perhaps slightly unfair of me to expect him to exercise caution there. Looking at this second image though, Cumberland over the middle would have been the better read.

Interceptions happen, but Sanchez cannot afford to fall into the trap of allowing the fear of a turnover to make him indecisive or lose trust in his receivers and that’s exactly what seemed to happen when the Jets ended up back inside the five following a turnover. On one play, he had Clyde Gates wide open in the back of the end zone and had to have seen him, but apparently trusted himself more to avoid a defensive lineman and get to the goal line than to toss Gates a paper dart on the move. He failed to get in and then on the next play, threw an incompletion when he perhaps had some room to run. He’d then compound that error by allowing the clock to run out on third down when a quick incompletion would have enabled them to settle for a field goal.

Further evidence of Sanchez’s returning indecisiveness happened on the drive prior to that when – on third and two – Tommy Bohanon was beaten by Jeremy Mincey for a sack. On the play, Winslow had chipped Mincey and then leaked into the right flat. Sanchez took the snap when he should have been able to anticipate the rush and flip it out to Winslow, who was in plenty of space and looking back for the ball the whole time.

Here’s a couple of looks at that play.

What is encouraging about that whole sequence though is that Sanchez didn’t seem to let it affect him in the second half. If he can put mistakes behind him and move on then there’s no question he’ll have more success than he did at the end of last year, where he let his mistakes dictate how he played, leading to further mistakes and so on…

Again, plenty of credit must go to Marty Mornhinweg for the successes Sanchez did have. The Jets certainly seem to be having more success throwing the ball downfield this preseason. Sanchez averaged 13 yards per completion, which is a big number for him, especially considering there were no 40+ yard plays to skew the numbers.

We’ll look forward to seeing Geno Smith getting plenty of reps last week, but Sanchez led five scoring drives, so he has plenty to live up to. Imagine how good he’d be if he knew how to pick apart defenses!

Just under a year ago, Matt Simms’ NFL debut saw him go three and out on all five drives, gaining minus-eight yards in total, at one point getting sacked on four consecutive snaps. As I said last week, I was eager to see him play this year because he must have made improvements to have been kept around this long. David Lee has praised his arm in camp and that was on show here as Simms completed all five of his passes, the best of which was a 27-yarder to Ryan Spadola down the seam.

The only real criticism you could levy at him (and this might not be his fault at all) was that there was a busted play where he was forced to scramble, leading to a holding call. He did also take a sack on one play. Other than that, although he was only going against backups and third stringers, he did everything right. They ran the ball on 13 of his 20 snaps (for 54 yards).

Each nursing ankle injuries, Smith and Greg McElroy may have lost a little ground by sitting out here, but they played pretty well last week, so it will be interesting to see how they divide up the reps from here on in.

Running Backs

At last we got our first look at Chris Ivory and, while he wasn’t statistically productive with four of his six runs stuffed at or near the line of scrimmage, he showed a few signs of the burst and elusiveness Jets fans are eager to see more of. On one play he was able to spin out of the first tackle nicely, but couldn’t break free for a bigger gain.

This was Bilal Powell’s day though, as he busted a 37-yard run over the right side and made a couple of nice reads on wildcat plays. Altogether, he gained 68 yards on seven carries and is making a strong case to be the opening day starter with Ivory not yet firing on all cylinders.

At fullback, Bohanon gave up the sack, failed to make his block on a run to the outside, leading to a tackle for a loss and made a bad decision to cut back inside when catching a pass on the outside early on. His blocking overall is not too bad though, certainly more consistent that John Conner’s usually was and he did make a nice catch and carried the ball from the tailback position a couple of times as well. While these were some disappointing mistakes, he’s not doing too badly when you consider it was only his second game and the fullback position is not often that integral to the Mornhinweg offense. Tight ends Konrad Reuland, Chris Pantale and Mike Shanahan all also got reps at fullback.

Off the bench, Kahlil Bell made an immediate bid to end up back on the active roster with two touchdowns and a nice run to the outside. He even showcased some versatility with a good blitz pickup on one play. Behind him, Mossis Madu also impressed in pass protection and had a couple of nice runs, bouncing one outside to allow them to run the clock out. Chad Spann didn’t get as many reps this week, although I don’t know whether he’s fallen behind or just was relegated so they could get more of an extended look at Madu and Bell.

Receivers

This week’s most impressive receiving performance was from Braylon Edwards, who made a sensational shoestring catch running down the seam and another nice downfield catch over by the sideline. He did juggle one throw that was slightly behind him and couldn’t hang on. That was somewhat fortunate because he easily could have done a volleyball dig to set up a turnover. Edwards did all of his damage in the second half, as once again he is yet to crack the main rotation.

Another of the guys battling for the 4th and 5th receiver spots (as Edwards currently seems to be) had identical stats to Edwards (three catches, 49 yards). That was Spadola, who made two of his three catches from Simms, including one where he ran a nice route to get open down the seam and took a nice hit at the end of the play.

After leading the Jets in receiving last week, Ben Obomanu wasn’t targeted and one of the apparent top three receivers, Clyde Gates, wasn’t either, although he was flagged for a penalty. An interesting battle is shaping up here.

Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley remain the current starters, with Hill making a nice catch early in the game and drawing a pass interference penalty on the same route later on. Kerley had a couple of nice catches too, but came up empty on a low and outside throw by Sanchez near the goal line. Hill also had a ball go off his fingertips on a throw high and behind him that may have been tipped.

Help may be at hand though. In case you missed it, there were reports that Santonio Holmes was running routes, sprinting, cutting and catching passes in the pregame. If he’s activated from the PUP list soon, that will be a sure sign the Jets are confident he’ll be back early in the season.

At tight end, even if he might have done better on the play that went for an interception, Winslow had a catch on a tough low pass and Cumberland added another touchdown. Cumberland also had a good block to set the edge, driving his man into the ground after winning a battle for leverage.

Reuland seems to be locking down the third tight end spot, unless they’re going to bring someone in from outside the organization. He had a better game than last week despite getting called for a hold, missing a second level block and failing to come up with a low pass that may have been tipped. Reuland made a 31-yard catch running down the seam and had a couple of good blocks from the fullback position, showing his toughness by leading the way on one play despite losing his helmet.

In terms of the guys currently on the outside looking in, Zach Rogers continues to make a case with a first down catch over the middle from Simms. Michael Campbell caught a short pass, also from Simms, as did back up tight end Shanahan, having lined up at fullback and leaked into the flat. Joseph Collins didn’t catch a pass but did gain 17 on an end around. After all the buzz about Hayden Smith earlier in the offseason, he’s not getting much playing time any more. On one running play, he did drive his man off the line, although he really had to fight to stay on the block. I do see some potential there.

Offensive Line

I was very impressed with how the offensive line blocked as a unit this week, but equally impressed by a series of solid individual performances – and not just from players in the starting unit. After this game, I came away thinking that this unit has been extremely well-coached. There weren’t many penalties, missed assignments or not-sustained blocks and many players didn’t make the same mistakes they were guilty of last week.

Top of the class? Austin Howard. I’m surprised nobody else made note of this, but he had a monster game. Solid block after solid block, driving his man out of the play over and over again. Not every one of these plays were successful, but if you drive your man out of the play and someone else’s man makes the stop, there’s nothing more you can do. On top of that, he didn’t get into any trouble in pass protection like last week – in fact, there were several examples of where Sanchez had four or five seconds to throw. He was half-beaten maybe once all game and showed some veteran smarts by reacting when the defensive lineman jumped into the neutral zone to draw a flag.

Not far behind was Willie Colon, who made a good seal block to help spring Powell’s big run and had two outstanding pulling reach blocks, where he got to his target’s outside shoulder and drove them back to the inside. There were one or two plays where he missed his target when pulling and a couple of plays in pass protection where he was driven back into the backfield by a bullrush (although he did a creditable job of anchoring himself and staying in front of his man to create plenty of time for the throw to be made each time). What a tandem these two could be on the right side if this game is any indication of what’s to come.

On the left side, Stephen Peterman had a rough first game and this one didn’t start out much better as he got beaten on the inside early on and then beaten again to blow up a run shortly after that. He then went down injured and it would have been a disappointing game for him again had he not returned. However, when he did return, he played much better, with a good pulling block to pave the way for Powell and another play where he and D’Brickashaw Ferguson both drove their respective men to the inside and out of the play so that a running lane was created behind them.

Ferguson was once again pretty flawless in pass protection, although on one play he was half-beaten, recovering well to push his man upfield and allow Sanchez to step up into a clean pocket. In some ways, it’s more encouraging to see that than in he just stayed in front of his man the whole time, because some guys are inevitably going to get half a step on him, so it’s good to know he is already dealing with that well at this early stage. He also had a positive role in the running game, setting the edge well on a couple of plays and driving his man off the line a few times too. One of his better blocks came on a short yardage wildcat play with an unbalanced line and Ferguson on the right side. Similarly, Howard had a great block from the left side on one such play.

Nick Mangold was his usual solid self. No pressures allowed, no penetration allowed and plenty of solid blocking at the point of attack. He missed one block at the second level, but otherwise anchored the unit effectively.

Note: After I observed last week that they surprised me by not running any zone/stretch plays to the outside, they did plenty of that this week. However, they also made good use of several plays where one or both of the guards pulled.

Onto the backups, with a special mention for Vladimir Ducasse. When Peterman went down, he stepped in at left guard and the offense didn’t miss a beat. It was only two plays, but Ducasse did his job in pass protection, leading to the first touchdown. With the second unit, he played right guard and then later played right tackle with the third unit. Ducasse wasn’t perfect, but performed some of the most dominating blocks I’ve ever seen from him. He’s doing a much better job of staying on his block and actually driving his man back when he does. On one play, he completely pancaked a defensive tackle. On another, he showed good awareness by dropping off to help the right tackle in pass protection by rocking his man off balance. On still another, he pulled to the outside and executed a perfect cut block on the outside defender to give Bell loads of room to turn the corner. These aren’t things we often see from Ducasse. He did miss a couple of blocks on the move, getting in the runner’s way on one of them and allowed his man to get half a step on him in pass protection, but was able to recover well enough to give Sanchez room to make the throw. Overall, in addition to the above, he did a good job of most of the things he usually does well and kept his mistakes to a minimum – regardless of where he lined up.

The other guard on the second string unit also had a solid game. After playing center on the second string unit last week, Caleb Schlauderaff looked much more comfortable at left guard. He wasn’t consistently able to find someone to block when on the move, but did a good job whenever he got his hands on someone, with a few good drive blocks, an ability to turn his man out of a play and none of the pass protection issues that he struggled with in the opener. Schlauderaff did play some center with the third unit, with the second string center Erik Cook swapping out to left guard.

Cook didn’t make a major impact, but avoided any obvious mistakes and showed good instincts to drop off and help out Oday Aboushi in pass protection on one play. Bell ran behind him up the middle for his second score.

Aboushi was a lot better this week too. He had no penalties and was only really beaten once in pass protection with his man flushing Simms from the pocket. In the running game he was solid enough but did whiff on a cut block and allowed his man to blow up a run by beating him inside.

At right tackle, JB Shugarts continues to hold his own, setting the edge well on one good running play. He did miss a screen block on a toss to the outside, although it took some pretty impressive athleticism just to get out there, running parallel to the line of scrimmage. I’d like to see them run the same play with Howard. Shugarts was beaten on a spin move on one play, but did well to recover and drive his man upfield to enable the throw to be made.

On the third unit, William Campbell moved to right guard and Trey Gilleo came in at left tackle. Campbell’s man sacked Simms on one play, but that was because he stepped up to avoid Gilleo’s man following an outside speed rush that beat Gilleo cleanly. Campbell does show some promise as a run blocker.

Part two will cover the defense. We’ll be posting this tonight.