BGA: Cardinals at Jets – Part Two (Defense/Special Teams)

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.

We’re recapping yesterday’s win over Arizona. After the jump, we turn our attention to the defensive side of the ball. If you missed part one – go here.

Defensive Line

While it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt due to the fact that Cardinals quarterback was clearly out of his depth, the Jets’ defensive performance was pretty spectacular. They mixed up their coverages, were creative with the pass rush and rotated their players less than they usually do. It didn’t appear that there were any major coverage breakdowns and the tackling was extremely efficient. The defense gave up less than two yards per run and, although they didn’t generate much pressure, much of that was down to the fact that Lindley was getting rid of the ball extremely quickly as soon as the Jets blitzed.

According to how the Jets grade their plays, it constitutes a win if you allow four yards or less on first down, less than half the required yardage on second down and if you get off the field on third down. On that basis, they had 47 wins out of 53 plays. By contrast, as badly as the Jets offense seemed to play, the Cardinals defense had just 40 wins in 76 plays.

As ever, Muhammad Wilkerson was a standout with a half-sack and a big hit on Lindley to go along with a series of good plays against the run. Mike DeVito was the starter at nose tackle for this one, but continues to move all over the line. He got consistent penetration into the backfield to affect multiple plays.

With several of the Jets’ players past their prime, it can’t have been a coincidence that the team’s defense looked re-energized after a ten-day layoff. Sione Po’uha was one of them. While he didn’t play that much, he did a solid job and got in on a few run stuffs. He isn’t getting blown off the line like he was earlier in the year, but he still isn’t anywhere near as disruptive as he was last year. I’ve got to imagine his strength has been compromised, because I know from personal experience how difficult it is to maintain strength when you have a bad back.

Quinton Coples didn’t play that much again, just entering the game on passing downs. He did get credited with a batted pass and almost got to Lindley once, but there really weren’t many opportunities for pass rushers to make an impact with Lindley throwing it away at the first sign of pressure.

Kenrick Ellis was in for just three snaps. That’s a guy that would make me feel much better about next season if he could show something over the last month.

Linebackers

After last week, where he didn’t play again after Shane Vereen’s long touchdown catch, many people probably expected Bart Scott to return to a rotational role this week, but he actually played most of the game and was another one to benefit from the long week. This was his best game of the season so far. He recorded two half sacks, one pressure, a tackle for a loss and two other tackles close to the line of scrimmage. As I’ve said before, Scott is at his best when he’s attacking the line of scrimmage and he did plenty of that yesterday, blowing up blockers and redirecting runners. Perhaps more importantly, he didn’t have any negative plays. Scott is a guy who likely doesn’t have a future with the Jets and some fans would perhaps prefer to see younger players like Demario Davis and Nick Bellore getting reps instead. However, this performance proves that when healthy he is still capable of playing like an top-level linebacker and does deserve to be out there.

Alongside Scott, David Harris was able to pick up half a sack and a pressure, along with five tackles, including one good open field tackle on third down and a couple more close to the line of scrimmage. Unlike many of the games earlier this year, Harris didn’t find himself blocked out of many plays and it’s no coincidence that this would happen on a day when Scott did such a good job. Davis was only in for two plays and it’s a bit difficult to evaluate his contribution this season because his playing time and consistency are all over the place.

On the outside, Bryan Thomas batted down a pass and did a good job of setting the edge, including one play where he stretched a run out to the sideline for a big loss. However, Calvin Pace didn’t have much of an impact despite being on the field for every snap. He did assist on one tackle near the line and also helped bottle up a screen pass that Scott made the tackle on, but didn’t generate any pressure.

Garrett McIntyre saw 17 snaps, mostly as a pass rusher, but made no impact. Ricky Sapp missed out with an ankle injury, but should be back in the lineup for next week’s game.

Defensive Backs

The secondary of course deserve plenty of credit for Lindley’s appalling numbers, not just for their coverage, but also for some good open field tackling that helped prevent any completions that were made from going for any significant yardage.

Larry Fitzgerald beat Antonio Cromartie once for a first down and also was open on at least one of Lindley’s incompletions against him. However, Cromartie broke up a pass that he perhaps should have intercepted and was in good position on one other incompletion. He continues his consistent play and also made a good play in run support, something he’s been doing a lot more of since Revis went down.

The other two corners, Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster, continue to hold their own in coverage. Wilson has been targeted 21 times since those two completions early in the Seahawks game and has given up 11 catches for less than four yards per target. He did have a penalty early on in this one and was beaten twice in the second half – once for a first down and once on an incompletion – but his open field tackling was excellent as he made four good tackles, one of which went for no gain and two of which forced the Cardinals to punt. Lankster didn’t put a foot wrong, breaking up one pass and getting into good position on two others. He also had two good open field tackles.

At safety, it wasn’t a fault-free performance from LaRon Landry, but it was probably his most consistent game of the year. He intercepted a pass, made some plays in run support and could have had a fumble recovery too, if the replay booth had overturned the down by contact ruling. Landry missed one tackle and was late getting over in coverage a couple of times, but maybe the most encouraging thing I’ve seen from him all year was when he made a play over at the sideline, but demonstrably pulled away from making a big hit to ensure he wasn’t penalized. If he’d have played with that kind of discipline and self-awareness all year, I wouldn’t be so down on him. This was much more like it – although that feeling is tempered somewhat by Rhodes’ fantastic performance for Arizona.

The other safety, Yeremiah Bell, was mostly operating deep so was rarely tested. He did make one play against the run and almost got to Lindley on a blitz. Eric Smith played on passing downs and had a good pass breakup while not giving up any catches. He was in for 21 snaps – all of them pass attempts.

The only other defensive back to get any playing time on defense was Donnie Fletcher who saw action on five snaps in the slot. He was covering the receiver on the play where Landry got his interception. Although he allowed the receiver to get a step on him, that may have been by design, because by leading him with the pass, Lindley ended up throwing it right to Landry.

Special Teams

Once again, the special teams unit was far from perfect this week. Nick Folk hit the upright with each of his field goal attempts, although they were both long kicks. As I’ve noted before, he’s always been streaky. He’s now missed five of his last eight after starting the year 12-for-12. Last year, he started 12-for-12 and missed seven of his last 13. The bigger issue this week on special teams was the fake punt. Arizona gained 40 yards on that play, which could have been the difference in the game. Interestingly, earlier in the game, the Jets had left some of their starters in as they tried to get a punt block. Pace almost got the block coming up the middle, as DeVito and Scott were both in the game too. However, when the Cards ran the fake, they had reverted to their usual punt return personnel, with the defensive line consisting of all the backup linebackers. It was Demario Davis who ended up getting caught inside.

On the bright side, Robert Malone’s directional punting was excellent as they deliberately kicked to the sidelines each time to avoid Patrick Peterson. Also, Fletcher did a good job as a gunner on the one punt he did field, almost bringing him down inside the five, before he slipped and fell down at the 10.

Conclusions

I don’t know where this will lead, but there is certainly a sense of anticipation around these parts. The running game and the defense seem to really be coming together. All that was missing was competent quarterback play and it remains to be seen whether we’ll get that from whoever starts the next game. Obviously, one other thing is missing and that’s enough wins to have much hope of getting back in the postseason race. However, there’s still plenty to keep us interested, including players fighting for their jobs or trying to improve their contractual situations going forward.

I don’t know if there will be any more games that I’ll enjoy as much as I did this one over the remainder of the season, but whatever happens, it’s likely to be interesting.

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