BGA: Defensive Line – Holding their own

Some experts were critical of the defensive line yesterday, because the Jets gave up 125 rushing yards, only recorded one sack and didn’t put enough pressure on Ryan Tannehill. However, the reality is that this was another dominant display up front.

None of Miami’s backs averaged over 3.5 yards per carry and the fact the Jets only pressured Tannehill 12 times in 44 dropbacks had more to do with him getting rid of the ball quickly. His time to throw was 2.17 seconds per PFF, the lowest in the NFL this week and .2 of a second quicker than his average, which is already among the league leaders. On 70% of his throws, he got rid of the ball within 2.5 seconds and he only had 11 attempts where he held the ball for longer than that.

To their credit, the Dolphins line did what they could to slow them down. One particular thing that made a difference was that they had a lot of hard counts, which caused the Jets to jump offside once (Kenrick Ellis) and almost on several other occasions (including four times by Damon Harrison) which meant that the player was off-balance as the ball was snapped.

Muhammad Wilkerson saw a lot of double teams and had a quiet game by his standards with four tackles and no sacks. However, he still had a couple of impact plays, batting down a pass and hitting Tannehill on a play that was very similar to the one last week where Joe Flacco threw the ball up for grabs. This time, the Jets intercepted it though. On one of the few plays where Miami had success in the running game, Wilkerson got great penetration and then was blatantly held, enabling the running back to turn the corner for 17. That was one play after the Simms fumble and one play before the first touchdown, so that was a horrible miss by the officials.

While he was kept off balance by the hard counts and also got nicked up a couple of times, Harrison delivered as usual getting some good penetration to bottle up some runs. He was in on the tackle for one play that went for no gain and another that went for a short gain and also had a tackle in the backfield late in the game. He did miss one tackle though.

Other than jumping offside, Ellis was solid once again, although he still only saw action on 12 snaps. His best play saw him blow up a play at the goal line with penetration, but he also helped bottle up a couple of other runs.

Sheldon Richardson didn’t do much as a pass rusher but did a great job in the running game, blowing up several runs at or close to the line of scrimmage. He also had a great play where he clearly stripped the ball away from the running back, but the play had been blown dead by a premature whistle. Richardson showed frustration in throwing the ball down, earning himself a delay of game penalty. Unfortunately, that’s not reviewable. One observation I have made before on Richardson is that he often gets handled initially, but is able to work so hard to get off his block that he can get himself back into the play. I often wonder if that would be as effective without the likes of Harrison and Wilkerson holding their ground on a consistent basis to afford him the time to do that before the runner hits the hole.

That may sound like it’s a criticism, but it’s really not. Richardson plays like that because he can and it’s what makes him such an ideal fit for this defense. If it were a situation where he wasn’t able to do that, I’m sure he’d be equally capable of leveraging himself in the way of any runs in his direction instead, but the strength of the players alongside him are what affords him the opportunity to fight off blocks and make plays and the unit is thriving as a result.

Finally, Leger Douzable stuffed a couple of runs and had a big hit on Tannehill to lead to an early incompletion, but he was also caught inside on one play and may have inadvertently prevented Quinton Coples from sacking Ryan Tannehill by getting in his way as Tannehill stepped up to avoid the rush and then ran for 18 yards.

Next up…the linebackers, where Coples is emerging nicely, but what about his fellow second year colleague?