BGA: Jets at Lions

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 Lions. 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 morning.

After the jump, catch my analysis of Sunday’s game, including – but not limited to – comments on Matt Slauson, Drew Coleman and Jerricho Cotchery.

Playcalling

After the first game of the year, I said I didn’t want to talk about playcalling every week. So, this week, I’m not going to. Regardless of the play calls, this team needs to execute to be successful, so I’m going to focus on that this week.

Quarterback

Last week, in BGA Extra, I said that Sanchez didn’t fill me with confidence when operating the two minute drill. Obviously, this was an attempt at a reverse jinx and therefore I deserve all the credit for their come-from-behind win. Okay, not really, but Sanchez did remain composed and made smart decisions at the end of the game, using LaDainian Tomlinson as his safety valve well and hitting a few clutch passes to Dustin Keller.

As for the earlier part of the game, he again had some struggles. The interception was a badly underthrown deep ball that could perhaps have been a touchdown and on another occasion, Braylon Edwards had half a step deep to the inside, but Sanchez threw to the outside. Sanchez has to make those throws, because that’s one of the things the defense is giving him. When he gets it right, as he did on the touchdown to Edwards, the results can be spectacular. Overall, he was 8-for-11 for 249 yards on passes down the middle longer than 10 yards.

Sanchez was still holding the ball too long, early in the game, which was the cause of one sack and four pressures. The Jets only gave up two sacks, one QB hit and eight pressures, so he was responsible for half of that. I’m wondering if the forced switch to a no-huddle offense sped up his internal clock and returned him to the decisive passer he was earlier in the year.

Perhaps more important than the performance itself was the news that he raced off the field to congratulate each player personally at the locker room door and then gave an impassioned speech in the locker room. Leadership void? What leadership void? (In other news, Miami’s quarterback of the future was just benched).

Offensive Line

The offensive line played pretty well this week, with one exception. Brandon Moore really struggled in the running game against Ndamukong Suh. He also gave up two pressures.

By contrast, Matt Slauson had an excellent game, with easily the best run blocking grade on the line and the best overall grade as well. To give him his full due, he was actually matched up against Suh on six plays and Corey Williams is no slouch. Slauson did give up two pressures, but no sacks.

As for the rest of the line, D’Brickashaw Ferguson gave up a QB hit and I wonder if he’s set himself a weekly target of keeping his QB untouched, because he thumped the turf in frustration after the play. Mangold had a solid day and was flawless in pass protection, but Damien Woody gave up a sack. Wayne Hunter played more than he has in any other game this year, partly in relief of Woody who missed a few plays. He got badly beaten (and was called for holding) on one running play where Shonn Greene was stuffed for a five yard loss and also negated a first down when he was penalized for not declaring himself ineligible when Woody left the game and he stayed in and moved from TE to RT.

Running Backs

LaDainian Tomlinson had another poor game running the ball (1.7 yards per carry after contact), but came up big in the fourth quarter, with two critical broken tackles (his first since week five) on two of his team-high six pass catches. Overall, he contributed a healthy 102 all-purpose yards on 21 touches.

Shonn Greene, on the other hand, was extremely solid. He had no chance on the play that was stuffed for a loss, but his other nine carries netted 51 yards – 5.7 yards per carry. He also averaged a solid 3.1 yards per carry after contact and broke two tackles. Here’s a scary thought for the rest of the AFC. What if the Jets are under-utilizing Greene to keep him fresh for the stretch run?

Both fullbacks were excellent this week. John Conner was only in for eight plays, but posted his best run blocking grade of the year, and his insertion into the game seemed to grease the wheels after a stagnant start. Tony Richardson played almost four times as much and posted his best overall grade of the year. Richardson’s best moment came when he made a block at the line and then hustled downfield to make another block at the second level as the runner got to the outside.

In terms of strategy this week, the Jets used four two-back sets with Greene and Tomlinson in the game together. They ran twice (for 10 yards) with one of the backs split out wide, passed for a three yard gain with one of the backs in the slot and converted a 3rd and 10 with both backs in the backfield and one staying in to block. I also tried to count the number of play action passes and came up with five, but I may have missed a few.

Tight Ends and Receivers

During the game, CBS posted a graphic that suggested the Jets had dropped five passes. PFF only has one listed (the one that Jerricho Cotchery couldn’t hold on a quick slant near the goalline. There were obviously several others that were plays the receivers could have made. Cotchery had one hit him in the helmet, but Sanchez fired the ball at him so fast it was practically uncatchable, Keller made a great catch downfield, but then the defender knocked it out of his hands at the last moment and Tomlinson had a pass whizz right past him when he wasn’t looking. Whatever the official count should be, it was clearly zero over the last few minutes, as Sanchez completed 10 of 12 and one of them was a spike to stop the clock.

Santonio Holmes had the big game statistically, with 114 yards on five catches. Getting caught from behind by a linebacker was not good though. In case you’re wondering, DeAndre Levy ran a 4.50 at the combine. Keller came up big in the clutch, with some tough grabs. He caught all four balls thrown his way (the “drop” mentioned earlier was called back for a penalty). Edwards had the big 74 yard touchdown, underlining what a big threat he is. He’s now averaging just under 10 yards per target, which is something only 13 receivers in the NFL can boast (and that doesn’t include elite guys such as Marshall, Fitzgerald, White, A. Johnson, C. Johnson, Owens, Wayne, Austin, Jennings). His fumble was bad though. Cotchery was held to just two catches and didn’t get a lot of playing time after last week’s struggles. He was only in on four plays in the first quarter (Edwards and Holmes: 12 each) and until the Jets went to the no-huddle with just under five minutes left, he had only been in on 31 of 57 plays.

In terms of backups, Brad Smith only lined up at receiver twice. Matthew Mulligan saw action on a couple of plays, his first appearance on offense since week four. Ben Hartsock had a pretty good game as primarily a run blocker.

Defensive Line

The line did a solid job of generating some pressure this week, despite the fact they did not send as many blitzes as they did in some of the games earlier in the year. The Jets sent an average of 4.2 rushers per dropback, which contrasts with the 5.8 they sent on average against the Ravens. Overall, the Jets had two hits, two sacks and ten pressures, with one of the hits and six of the pressures coming from the line.

Stepping in at starting defensive end was Vernon Gholston and, predictably, many people were pointing to the fact he had no tackles as further evidence of how terrible he is. However, he actually played pretty well. I wouldn’t have said that after my initial viewing, but re-watching the game showed that he held up well at the point of attack, took on blocks and generated some pressure. Gholston was credited with two pressures on eight pass rush attempts, which is particularly nice to see because he had registered just one pressure in 52 attempts entering the game. That was actually the fifth mutliple-pressure game of his career. He also graded out solidly against the run and his overall grade was fourth best defensive grade on the team, despite the fact that every other starter and two backups all played at least three times as much as he did.

So, is Mike DeVito’s starting job in jeopardy? I don’t think so. He didn’t generate any kind of pass rush, but he was very good against the run. Ultimately, he played three times as much as Gholston, who was in on just four second half plays. As for the rest of the line, Sione Pouha had a couple of stuffs and knocked down a pass, Shaun Ellis had three pressures and a QB hit and Trevor Pryce, despite his costly/game deciding penalty, continues to contribute, adding another pressure, his 7th in five games as a Jet (to go along with four QB hits).

Linebackers

The Jets defense did a great job of putting the Lions into passing situations and this was mainly due to the linebackers, all of whom performed well against the run. On the first drive, the Lions went 3-for-3 on third and long situations, but after that they were 2-for-12 the rest of the way. The Lions did run for 78 yards on 28 carries, but a high percentage of the runs were being stuffed. 32 of the yards came on two plays, as only five of Jahvid Best’s 16 carries gained more than two yards. They were also held to 0.9 yards per carry after contact. Wow.

The pick of the linebackers this week was Bryan Thomas, who was credited with a sack and a pressure and also stuffed a run behind the line and a pass in the flat. It’s good to see him emerge like that after I said last week that one of the outside linebackers needed to step up. Calvin Pace stuffed a couple of runs too and was solid against the run all day, but only recorded one pressure. Bart Scott again was spectacular against the run and had a sack of his own (on a run blitz where he instantly diagnosed the play action). However, he also got burned deep by Jahvid Best, although the pass was dropped. David Harris had a solid all-round performance. He did give up five catches on five passes, but on two of those plays he stuffed the receiver immediately for a short gain. He did overpursue on a dump off to Best in the flat though, with Best getting down inside the five.

Jason Taylor stopped a couple of runs, but his impact was again limited, as was his playing time, as he was in on only 35% of the snaps, which is a season low. In fact, it was the first time his percentage dipped below 50%. It’s probably misleading to call him a linebacker, because Taylor was actually only a linebacker on three snaps. Otherwise, he plays on the line.

Defensive Backs

Yes, Darrelle Revis is back. He was matched up on Calvin Johnson on virtually every play. The only ones where he wasn’t saw Jim Leonhard line up opposite him while he was in the slot, with Revis covering the outside receiver. Obviously this was a zone look and the Jets only employed it a couple of times. On one other occasion, Revis covered Nate Burleson, who actually got a catch underneath. Other than that, you all saw it – he is moving freely and constantly in perfect position. He broke up three of the four passes thrown to Johnson and deliberately gave him a cushion to pick up 13 on 2nd and 28 on the other one. The announcers suggested that he interfered with Johnson on one of the pass breakups, but a review of the film suggests no contact was made until the ball arrived.

Antonio Cromartie fared well too, giving up just two catches for 19 yards on throws in his direction. Instead, the Lions went after the linebackers, safeties and Drew Coleman. Coleman in particular struggled, giving up a team high six catches for 101 yards and a score. However, if I may defend him slightly, two of these passes were blatant push-offs by Burleson, one of which led to a 36 yard gain.

At safety, Jim Leonhard was beaten for a score, but only gave up 24 yards this week through the air and did lead the team with seven solo tackles. Also, one major improvement over last year is that he has 45 tackles and only 3 missed tackles over the first half of the season. In 2009, he had just 61 tackles and 12 missed tackles in the regular season (and most of those were before he hurt his thumb, before you point that out). Brodney Pool had another non-descript game this week, but did break up a pass in the endzone.

Dwight Lowery and James Ihedigbo were used sparingly this week and Kyle Wilson even made a two play cameo!

Special Teams

Nick Folk is obviously a hero and Steve Weatherford did well once again, but there were some lapses this week. Trevor Pryce’s roughing the kicker penalty may have been unlucky, but why even bother trying to block a chip shot field goal, when the risk of a penalty strongly outweighs the likelihood of a block? Also, the Jets missed four tackles on kick coverage and Kyle Wilson fumbled on a punt return. Jim Leonhard had to fair catch on three of his four punt returns, but that’s not all on him. The likes of Marquice Cole and Dwight Lowery must do a better job of slowing down the other team’s gunners.

PFF Analysis

I once again contributed to the game recap article for ProFootballFocus.com (which also gives you a sneak preview of some of their player ratings) and here’s a sample quote:

It wasn’t easy to know what to expect from a game between a team seemingly headed for a high draft choice that was coming off a win in a high-scoring game and a team challenging for a divisional title that had just lost a game where the two teams combined for nine points. As it turned out, the Lions and Jets met somewhere in the middle … In a sloppy game that saw the teams combine to rack up over 200 yards in penalties, the Jets finally played mistake-free football for the last five minutes of regulation and overcame a 20-10 deficit to win in overtime and deny the Lions their first back-to-back wins since 2007.

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 ( bentdouble@gmail.com ) to obtain a code to enable you to get the discount.

Here’s a bonus link from PFF, as they give us their mid-season report card from the AFC East. You’ll like their projections:

The Jets are a pretty darn good football team. If they can get Revis fully back to health and the defense back toward its dominance of a year ago — and if Sanchez can continue to be more asset than liability — all of the Jets’ bluster could be justified.

Conclusions

Just over a week ago, the Patriots had the best record in the NFL, and despite the fact they had managed to win two consecutive games in extremely fortunate fashion, they were lauded as the best team in the world and praised for their gritty, never-say-die attitude. Fast forward to Sunday and the Jets won in similar fashion, but this time it was “lucky” and “because of injuries”. Meanwhile, the Patriots got blown out by the Browns, but that’s okay because they are “still adjusting” and the Browns are “underrated”. Well, this week, the Jets will face the Browns, so anyone wondering where the balance of power lies in the AFC East will get a chance to make a direct comparison. Other than, you know, when the Jets and Patriots played each other earlier in the year and the Jets won handily. One thing’s for sure, the Jets need to play more like they did in the Patriots game than they did for most of Sunday. Let’s see how they respond.

As mentioned above, if you have anything you’d like me to comment upon in more detail, please let me know in the comments.