Preseason BGA: Jags at Jets – Part Two (Defense/ST)

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)!

We’re breaking down last night’s win over the Jags. Part one is here. In part two, we’re focusing on the defense and special teams.

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

Interior Line

Let’s start at nose tackle where Kenrick Ellis was unable to go due to a back injury and Damon Harrison got the opportunity to start. Harrison was in on a couple of plays near the line of scrimmage and his only negatives were very minor things. Although he doesn’t get much penetration, he’s difficult to move off the line and works hard. He even collapsed the pocket on one play, leading to a sack for his teammate. He might not be as dominant as Ellis, but the Jets should feel good that they have a viable option to fill in for him if he continues to deal with durability issues.

Before we move on to talk about the rest of the starters, I want to mention a possible diamond in the rough sitting behind Harrison on the depth chart. Junior Aumavae flashed last week and looked good again this week in limited action, stuffing a run up the middle and blowing up a screen pass that he sniffed out well. While there might not be room for him on the active roster, I’d imagine the Jets definitely would like to keep him in the system if he continues to show this kind of promise.

As you’d expect, Muhammad Wilkerson had another good game. He seems to be developing a knack for coming up with big plays at important moments. He got a good jump to pressurize the quarterback into an incompletion on third down, submarined the line to hit the quarterback low on a failed quarterback sneak and got good penetration on 4th and short, although the ball carrier got a favorable spot. His most outstanding play saw him make an open field tackle in the backfield, displaying amazing athleticism to stay in front of a quick back and maintain his balance. Wilkerson blew up another play with good penetration and got in on a tackle for a short gain. There was only one play where he was handled at the point of attack.

Seeing Wilkerson perform well is par for the course though. I was more excited about Sheldon Richardson’s performance. Right now, he’s looking every bit the player Wilkerson was when he was also a rookie. That might be a big statement, but I’m not guaranteeing Richardson will be as good as Wilkerson, who has admittedly come a long way since then. It’s a mouth-watering possibility though! He blew up several runs with penetration, including one that went for a loss and also got in on a handful of tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, including another one in the backfield despite being held on the play. On one play, he expertly span to get off a block and stuff the run at the line. Like Wilkerson in his rookie year, he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher yet, but there was one play where he hurried the quarterback into an incompletion after stunting to the outside. There were negatives – one play where he struggled to get off a block on the edge and another where he took a bad pursuit angle on a run outside – but I was extremely impressed by his athleticism and the strides he’s made even since last week.

Leger Douzable was one player who actually played better in the first game, but he did stuff one run, broke up a pass to the flat and also hurried the quarterback on one pass rush. He was blocked to the ground on one play this week and caught inside on another. Antonio Garay is yet to make much of an impact, but did penetrate well on one running play, forcing the runner back inside.

Lanier Coleman and Tevita Finau got into the game late and didn’t get much of a chance to impress.

Edge Rushers

Quinton Coples should be absent for the next month or thereabouts after suffering a leg injury. This is really disappointing because the Jets can count on him for a couple of impact plays per game and he still needs a little refinement in respect of some of the nuances of playing outside. In this game, he was effective as a pass rusher, beating his man inside only for a quick throw to be released before he got there, driving his man into the backfield to pressurize the quarterback rolling out and exploding into the backfield to swat the ball away from Chad Henne, which was a hair away from being a strip sack.

In the running game, he did lose contain a few times, but he also had some positive plays, blowing up one run with penetration and almost making a tackle in the backfield. Edge setting is perhaps the one hole in his game right now (if we can all agree that coverage is a non-factor in his current role) and something it would have been nice to see him work on over the next couple of weeks. He’s hardly a liability though – the Jaguars didn’t have a single 10 yard run with him in the game and had just 51 yards on 17 carries when he got hurt.

With Coples out, the Jets will presumably choose between Garrett McIntyre, Ricky Sapp and Antwan Barnes to replace him at rush linebacker. Then on passing downs, I’d expect Richardson to replace Coples on the inside next to Wilkerson. This was something they did in last night’s game, even before Coples went down.

Of the three, McIntyre perhaps has the best reputation for being a run stopper, so perhaps he is the most likely to start and play that role on running downs. They may even put McIntyre on the strong side and use Pace as the rush backer on first and second down. Having said that, McIntyre had a bad play against the run last night, overpursuing downhill off the backside edge so he was caught inside when the runner cut back. That led to a 19 yard gain. In the passing game, McIntyre forced the quarterback to step up on one play and had a hit (albeit unblocked off the edge) on another.

Sapp helped his case with his first sack of the preseason. He beat his man around the corner and showed great strength to drive his way into the quarterback as he hesitated. Perhaps more importantly, Sapp showed something against the run, setting the edge and shedding his block to get in on the tackle for a short gain. There was another play where Sapp was fooled by a playfake allowing the quarterback to bootleg for a big gain and he did jump offsides again too, so he still needs to show more when he presumably gets a bigger opportunity next week.

Barnes was quieter this week, although he did show good hustle to get off the field when the Jets lined up with 12 men. Barnes got upfield on his man to force a run back inside and may have deflected a pass when he jumped in the passing lane on a throw to the left side, but it was a quiet performance after he spent so much time in the backfield last week.

The other starter, Pace, was also somewhat quiet although he did chase a play out to the sideline to make a tackle for a loss. He was handled with a good kickout block on one running play though.

Jacquies Smith flashed briefly, batting down a pass, but Sean Progar-Jackson and Troy Davis were quiet.

Linebackers

The linebackers were a bit disappointing this week. I’m not overly concerned yet, but David Harris has yet to show real signs of the bounce-back year we’re all hoping for from him. He got caught up in traffic a couple of times and was beaten for a first down in coverage. Compounding matters, when he did get into position to make the tackle, he let the ball carrier slip through his grasp on three separate occasions and had a late hit penalty. He did get in on two tackles close to the line, but you’d expect more. Hopefully, he’s pacing himself to go all out once the season starts or something.

Demario Davis wasn’t much better than Harris, but did at least make some good plays once he settled down. Initially, he jumped offsides, missed a tackle and got beaten for a touchdown, but later in the game he made a solid open field tackle, stuffed a run and was in good position on a throw to the end zone. He’s not doing too badly, but I’ll admit, I was hoping for more.

With Josh Mauga out, an interesting development saw Danny Lansanah improve his case for a roster spot (which had essentially been based on special teams prowess alone). Lansanah stuffed two runs and made an athletic interception, although he almost fumbled it away again immediately. Alongside him, Nick Bellore was quiet, although on that play his delayed blitz helped force the quarterback to step up and he did stuff one run.

Late in the game, Jojo Dickson got some playing time and hit the quarterback on consecutive pass rushes (the first of which was the screen pass that Aumavae blew up).

Cornerbacks

Dee Milliner was a bit of a disappointment in this game. It’s clear that, if he starts, teams are going to challenge him and he needs to improve on this display. Milliner was beaten for four first downs including one that went for a 35-yard gain down the seam where he was burned by Ace Sanders. Perhaps more concerning though was his inability to get off blocks, which saw him taken out of three plays. Milliner needs to be more physical, which was Kyle Wilson’s biggest issue when he first entered the league.

One glimmer of hope from Milliner came on a 15-yard catch that he gave up. He closed well on that play and did well to get his hand on the ball, almost jarring it loose. In fact, it might have been overturned if the Jets challenged it. Ball skills and recovery speed such as that are always going to give him a chance, especially if the Jets can generate pressure.

On the other side, Antonio Cromartie got himself caught up in a (well-timed, seemingly legal) pick play for one first down and missed a couple of tackles leading to two others. His tackling was much improved last season and he did make amends with a nice hit on third down. He had one other tackle for a short gain in run support, although that was somewhat fortunate as he slipped over and the runner ran into him. In coverage, he was in position on three incompletions, including one pass break-up in the end zone.

With Milliner struggling due to a lack of physicality, that was exactly what Ellis Lankster brought to the table. Lankster broke up two passes and made two excellent open field tackles, including one on third down where he stood up his man and wrapped him up without giving up any ground to force a punt.

Wilson had a quiet game, which is a good thing. He was in good position on one ball that was dropped. Isaiah Trufant was also quiet.

Darrin Walls broke up two passes on consecutive plays, although one didn’t count due to a penalty. After giving up a touchdown on a play where he didn’t get his head turned around last week, he did a good job of making that adjustment here.

Some of the players who didn’t get any reps on defense last week got their chance last night, with Mike Edwards actually scoring a touchdown on a freak play and Royce Adams breaking up a pass nicely. Adams did miss a tackle and got beaten by a step on a pass than was overthrown, though.

Safeties

None of the safeties were exploited in coverage last night and the starters both made some contributions in the box.

Given the chance to start, Jaiquawn Jarrett fared reasonably well, with two good tackles in run support – one on the outside and one after he chased down the runner from behind off the opposite edge. He was also involved in a key play when he drew a penalty that negated a 21-yard run.

Dawan Landry assisted on a tackle for a loss, made a touchdown saving tackle and forced a runner outside on a play where he came up into the box but missed the tackle. There was one play where he overpursued, enabling the runner to turn the corner but he was generally in position.

Relegated to back-up status, Antonio Allen didn’t make much noise, although he did recover Lansanah’s fumble. Josh Bush didn’t make much impact either, with one missed tackle in the open field. Much like the cornerbacks, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that these guys were quiet.

After not getting any reps last week, Rontez Miles got into the game at the end and broke up a pass.

Special Teams

Nick Folk staked a good claim to the kicker position this week, by nailing a 54-yarder. However, he made a big mistake by landing a kickoff out of bounds. Billy Cundiff made two shorter field goals, but continues to pile on the pressure with superior kickoffs. He had two touchbacks to Folk’s one this week.

With Robert Malone out, Ryan Quigley grasped the opportunity with both hands. He punted four times with good hang time and not much in the way of return yardage. His numbers were decent too, with three of the four landing inside the 20 and one muffed. I’m impressed with Quigley and think he’s good enough to punt somewhere in the league this year.

The punt coverage unit was good with great hustle by Trufant and Sapp to set up Konrad Reuland’s fumble recovery. On another play, Trufant and Lankster couldn’t make the tackle themselves, but slowed the return man up for McIntyre to hold him to one yard. On kickoff coverage, the Jets did give up a couple of decent returns but Sapp and Pantale combined for a big tackle inside the 15.

On returns, Clyde Gates was pretty impressive. I wonder if he was impressive enough that the Jets could see themselves moving on without Joe McKnight. Jeremy Kerley made the first man miss on one punt return and Wilson had a good runback on another. Zach Rogers also saw time there. McIntyre and Reuland did a good job of blocking on Gates’ first two returns, but Reuland lost his block on the third one.

I’d also like to note that Ben Obamanu and Ryan Spadola did some good work on special teams…and Lankster is getting closer and closer to blocking a field goal or extra point every week. It’s coming.

Finally, for those of you interested in the long snapper battle, Tanner Purdum was used most of the time, but Pat Scales got a couple of reps … and on one punt he actually made the tackle! Purdum has two career tackles.

Conclusions

I’m legitimately enthused about the offensive line, Richardson and Lankster after this week’s game. It was also good that they were much more disciplined than last week, not just in terms of penalties, but also things like gap integrity and playing to the whistle. The inside linebackers, Dee Milliner and how the team will cope without Coples are my biggest concerns after this game.

Next week, I’ll be looking to see more of Geno Smith and (hopefully) Brian Winters. I’d also anticipate some additional opportunities for the likes of Sapp/McIntyre/Barnes and possibly Vladimir Ducasse. Considering how terrible the Jets were supposed to be, I don’t see too many major weaknesses and the potential for them to be dominant in certain areas. The Giants should present a much bigger challenge next week though, because it’s painfully obvious the Jaguars have limited depth.

It was definitely fun to see the Jets win a game. Let’s hope that’s the first of many.

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