Disclaimer: All analysis was taken from the TV coverage, so at times it may have been hard to identify players or what was happening, because I was limited by their footage. However, I have tried to be as accurate as possible and apologize for any inaccuracies or omissions (which I am happy to correct).
Here comes this week’s in-depth analysis of the win over the Bengals. If you have anything else you’d like me to comment upon, please leave your requests in the comments and I’ll do a follow-up post tomorrow night.
After the jump, catch my analysis of Sunday’s game, including – but not limited to – comments on Calvin Pace, Eric Smith and Damien Woody.
As predicted last week, the Jets didn’t really approach the Bengals game differently than the Houston game. When Rex Ryan said they’d fixed the issues with the breakdowns in zone coverage, he was clearly being truthful, because there were no major breakdowns defensively. Although the Jets didn’t take the lead for good until early in the third quarter, they moved the ball with more ease than the Bengals all night long and cashed in their statistical dominance with a 23-3 second half.
In terms of new wrinkles this week, the Jets debuted a funky new formation called the “Victory Formation”. Okay, so maybe they have used that a few times earlier in the year, but it was certainly a welcome sight. Other than that, the gameplan was pretty much as it had been all season long, a run-pass balance on offense, taking what the defense gives you and a mixture of looks defensively, with coverages and blitz packages varied in order to confuse the offense and force 3rd and long situations.
The Jets have been developing certain tendancies all season long on offense, which they can break in order to catch the defense out. We saw two crucial examples of this in the second half:
First, you may remember how, during the Vikings game, they sent Brad Smith on a fake end-around to keep the defensive ends “honest”, but then ran a draw play up the middle every time (with immediate success, but then it didn’t work as well later on in the game). This time, on the second play of the second half, they faked the run up the middle, actually handed the ball to Smith and he ran for a 53 yard touchdown with blockers ahead of him as the defensive line pinched in, expecting the run up the middle.
Secondly, you may have noticed that the Jets often line their fullback up out wide or in the slot. That player then “always” shifts back to the fullback position and blocks for a run up the middle. This time, however, Shonn Greene went in motion instead and lined up in the right slot. The defense didn’t react, indicating underneath zone coverage and Mark Sanchez knew he could throw the quick slant to Santonio Holmes for a touchdown.
Two key plays that worked because the defense thought it knew what was coming. Think about that the next time you complain that the offensive gameplan is too predictable.
In terms of the offensive gameplan, the Jets ran a lot more this week, but that was largely because there was seven, rather than eight in the box on most plays, apart from obvious running downs. Even when there were eight in the box, they were still able to make some first down conversions on the ground, so they had confidence in the running game all day. This also enabled them to be aggressive with play action, and they opened up with a play action pass on their first play of each half. The quick slant to Braylon Edwards on their first play of the game would have gone for a big gain if it wasn’t batted down at the line. In the third quarter, Sanchez did find Holmes to set up Smith’s first touchdown.
I saw some grumbling about playcalling on third down in the first half, but again the issues were more to do with execution than anything else:
On one third down, the Bengals sent a seven man rush, but the Jets called a WR screen to Santonio Holmes. This was actually a perfect call, but Jonathan Wade made a terrific read, evaded the block of Brad Smith and made a fine open field tackle.
On another third down, the Jets needed about nine yards and Sanchez hit Edwards over the middle for about five, where Dhani Jones, who was level with the sticks, was able to come up and tackle him immediately. Again, this play might have worked if Holmes and Edwards didn’t nearly collide while running their crossing patterns, so that Edwards had lost his momentum when he caught the ball and wasn’t able to get to the marker.
On yet another third down, Sanchez threw a long bomb to Edwards, who was in single coverage with Wade. The ball fell incomplete, but Wade could easily have been flagged for interference. Again, I’m sure this is what most fans would want the play call to be in that situation.
Overall, the offensive performance was not all that sharp, but they still moved the ball well until late in the game, where they just ran the clock down by constantly running (on each of their last 11 plays). This might have been partly due to the fact they gave some extra playing time to some reserve players in order, perhaps, to give their starters a bit of rest leading up to the New England game.
In that game next Monday, there seems to be a common belief that the Jets will empty their playbook and throw everything at them. With several tough games still to come, even if they win on Monday, including a possible postseason rematch at some point, I wonder if that’s wise. More importantly, I wonder if it’s necessary. If the Jets execute well, they move the ball and score points. Resorting to trick plays might be a desperate measure, but is Monday night a desperate time, or just another step on the road to the postseason?
For those of you that favor an aggressive offensive approach with lots of downfield passing, Mark Sanchez provided a reminder as to why the Jets are reluctant to take such an approach. He threw one terrible interception and almost had two others. Not only that, but he also had three passes batted at the line, which easily could have gone anywhere.
However, his line – 16-28-166 yards, one TD, one interception – would have been one of his better ones from last season, which shows how our expectations for him have risen. Sanchez only threw two passes to his left all day, for some reason, and was only one-of-four on passes longer than 20 yards through the air.
Sanchez just seemed to be a little off all night. Brad Smith had to adjust in mid-air to catch a throw down the seam and Braylon Edwards should have had a long catch that would have made Sanchez’ numbers look much better, but the throw was off-line and he failed to come down with it inbounds.
One positive: It was good to see him re-establish some chemistry with Dustin Keller, who was so important in the first meeting between the Jets and Patriots this year. Sanchez will need to discover the form he displayed on that day, especially in the second half.
After all the panic about how the Jets would cope without Damien Woody at Right Tackle, Woody suited up anyway and played the whole game, despite not having practiced all week. As a result, the pass protection was excellent. The Bengals got just two sacks, one hit and two pressures (and one each of the sacks and pressures was due to downfield coverage).
Matt Slauson, Nick Mangold and Woody all had a flawless game in pass protection, Brandon Moore gave up a sack and D’Brickashaw Ferguson gave up a hit and a pressure. Ferguson made up for this by having the best grade for run blocking, whereas Woody had the best grade for pass blocking, but the only negative run blocking grade. Slauson actually had the best grade overall and Mangold also had a solid all-round game as he graded out second best on the line. Although Moore had the lowest overall grade on the line, it was still a positive grade.
Interestingly, Wayne Hunter was nowhere to be seen on offense.
Shonn Greene ended up with more carries than LaDainian Tomlinson this week, but many of them were at the end of the game. Greene carried on eight plays in a row before the Jets started taking a knee. Prior to that, Greene was 10-40 and Tomlinson was 13-49.
Neither was able to break a run as long as ten yards in the game, but Greene did a good job of gaining extra yards after contact (2.3 per carry, as compared with 1.3 by Tomlinson). Greene was also the only one to break a tackle. They did combine for 25 receiving yards, but Tomlinson also had another drop, his third of the year. He has now gone five games without a touchdown.
Tony Richardson saw his workload reduced this week, as John Conner was in on 13 plays. Neither had much of an impact.
Tight Ends and Receivers
It was a quiet day for Braylon Edwards, who only caught two of the six passes thrown his way. He perhaps should have caught the errant long throw by Sanchez, but his foot came down just out of bounds. On another occasion, he had half a step on the defender, but Sanchez threw to the endzone and the pass was out of his reach as he dived for it.
Santonio Holmes had a bigger day, with five catches on seven throws. He only had 44 yards, but a big touchdown, as he was once again one of the heroes in a Jets win.
The main hero, though, was of course Brad Smith. A 53 yard touchdown run and an 89 yard kickoff return for another touchdown were all the Jets needed on the day. He even threw in his longest catch since December 2007 for good measure, going down the seam to haul in a 23-yarder.
With Jerricho Cotchery out, Patrick Turner saw action on nine plays, catching one short pass. He was also in the mix on special teams. Notably, none of the receivers or tight ends dropped a pass this week.
Dustin Keller made the most of his opportunities this week, catching all four balls thrown his way for 49 yards. He also matched his best run-blocking grade of the year. In relief, Ben Hartsock was effective as a run blocker and Matthew Mulligan also performed well, as he saw 13 snaps, his most action since week four.
There was much better pressure from the defense this week. Although much of it came at the end of the game when the Bengals’ resolve had been broken, they were getting some pressure early too, and ultimately totalled 11 pressures, to go with three sacks and a QB hit. The number of pass rushers sent (4.1 on average) was consistent with recent weeks and they blitzed 20 times on 46 dropbacks.
Oddly enough, the starting defensive line generated no pressure whatsoever, but the reserves did a great job, with Vernon Gholston, Trevor Pryce and Jason Taylor combining for five pressures and a sack. We’ll call Taylor a defensive lineman this week, since he was only an outside linebacker on 4 of 43 snaps. He deserves extra credit this week for batting three passes down at the line. Although he didn’t record a tackle, mainly because he rushed the passer on 31 of those plays, this was probably his best game since opening day.
Gholston also continues to show glimmers of hope and saw 13 snaps this week. His pressure was nothing more than a blown assignment by the offensive line, but he was solid against the run, on one occasion splitting a double team to force a runner back inside for a loss and on another holding up well in the face of another double team. The Bengals rushed for eight yards on seven carries with him in there by my count.
Returning to the starters, Ellis, DeVito and Pouha only combined for two solo tackles and two assists, but they were a big part of holding Cincinnati to 46 yards rushing and less than a yard per carry before contact. Pouha in particular was solid, but Ellis also graded out well.
After two consecutive sub-par performances, Calvin Pace had an excellent game, especially against the run. On two occasions he showed tremendous speed in lateral pursuit to come off the edge and make the tackle on the opposite edge. He didn’t overpursue this week, either, which had been a problem the last few weeks. He did record a sack again, but still needs to get more consistent pressure on the quarterback over the course of a game.
Bart Scott had yet another solid all-round performance. He only rushed the passer eight times, but picked up a pressure and a hit, and also did a fine job in coverage, giving up just two catches for 12 yards on four throws. Needless to say, he also did his usual job of attacking the line of scrimmage and blowing up running plays.
One major beneficiary of Scott’s efforts was David Harris, who has graded out positively against the run in every game since week three. Harris had five tackles and added a sack and a pressure, although he did give up three catches for 32 yards.
Bryan Thomas still saw action on only 28 plays, but did record two pressures on just seven pass rush attempts. He only recorded one tackle though.
After all the hand-wringing over the Jets’ atrocious safety coverage over the course of this season and all the breakdowns in the zone last week, it comes as a pleasure to relay the fact that Jim Leonhard, Eric Smith and Brodney Pool ALL did a solid job in coverage this week. Smith played virtually the whole game, with Pool entering in three safety alignments. Smith did give up an eleven yard catch to Gresham, but other than that none of them gave up a catch. Pool broke up the only pass thrown his way and Leonhard intercepted the only pass thrown to him. The zone definitely looked much tighter this week and holding Gresham to two catches is a positive sign, as he averages four catches per game. I did notice that the outside linebackers or defensive ends were jamming him at the line on some passing downs, which I expect to be part of the gameplan against the Patriots’ tight ends.
Smith also did a great job in run support, with eight tackles. The Bengals only ran twice with Pool in the game, though, and it is worth noting that the Jets were much more effective in the second half with Pool in, than they were in the first half with Smith in, during the first meeting with New England. As for Leonhard, this was his best game of the season and his fourth solid game in a row after a poor start to the year.
How about the cornerbacks? Well, he may be just an average corner, but Darrelle Revis had no problems with Terrell Owens. Matched up against him on just about every snap, Revis held him to 17 yards on five throws. Antonio Cromartie – mostly matched up with Chad
Ochocinco Johnson – was targeted 11 times and gave up just 46 yards on five catches. He even shut Chad out in the second half.
In the slot, Drew Coleman saw plenty of action and looks set to get the nod next week. Remember, the Jets tend to play exclusively five (or more) DB sets against the Patriots. Coleman gave up two catches for 17 yards. Kyle Wilson saw action on just a handful of plays.
There were plenty of positives this week. Smith’s wonderful return and the blocking that sprung it. Josh Mauga and (yes) Joe McKnight flying around everywhere making plays. James Ihedigbo’s quick thinking and sharp reactions. Steve Weatherford’s continued consistency. However, Nick Folk missed yet another kick and didn’t kick off well. I will defend him for one thing though – that extra point that he nearly missed was rushed because (for the second week running) Sione Pouha blocked the wrong guy and the kick was almost blocked. Folk can be forgiven for snatching at that one, because it probably would have been deflected if he kicked it in rhythm.
This week, I did not contribute to the game recap article for ProFootballFocus.com (which also gives you a sneak preview of some of their player ratings) but here’s a sample quote anyway:
This was a game dominated by a combination of defense and inept, woeful, disastrous interception-throwing from the quarterbacks on both sides … In the end, Carson Palmer managed to throw more horrific interceptions than Mark Sanchez did, but the young upstart had to rely on some suspect hands from Bengals corner Leon Hall to avoid a tie in that regard … As has become the trend recently, the Jets found a way to win in the second half and the Bengals found a way to capitulate away a halftime lead.
TJB readers can obtain full access to PFF’s premium stats for $63 this season. The discount available has been increased to 30%. E-mail me ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) to obtain a code to enable you to get the discount.
Conclusions, Shmonclusions. I’m ready for the Patriots. Are you? More importantly, are the Jets?
As mentioned above, if you have anything you’d like me to comment upon in more detail, please let me know in the comments.