BGA Extra: Saints at Jets

Bent, TheJetsBlog.com

Welcome to BGA Extra, where I draw a line under the previous weekend’s game by responding to your questions from Bent’s Game Analysis during the week. After the jump, I respond to your questions about the win over the Saints. If you would like your questions answered in future, remember to read my BGA game breakdowns every Monday and leave your question in the comments section.

Before we get started today, a little housekeeping. First of all, a small programming note. Watch out for plenty of BGA content between now and next week’s game preview, including an Expendables update and an update on the draft picks situation. Then, starting with the Bills game following the bye, watch out for a new-look BGA over the remainder of the season. Finally, I want to revisit one of last week’s questions where JetsFanSince98 asked me if any team had ever continued a win-loss-win-loss pattern throughout the season and ended up 8-8.

Having done some further research on this, I’ve discovered that the only other team to extend such a pattern into the 10th game was the 2005 Patriots, who broke that streak with a win to go to 6-4 and ended up going 10-6 and making it to the postseason as a wildcard. Therefore, if the Jets lose their next game and drop to 5-5 they will have done something unprecedented. The Patriots also went win-loss-win-loss in preseason that year, so the streak actually went 13 games if you include those.

Anyway, let’s move onto this week’s questions…

Dustin •
Curious if anyone else noticed, on one of the last drives, Geno’s dismay after throwing an incomplete pass. He gestured as though the receiver was supposed to come back as the pass fell well short. I guess it makes me wonder if we’ll have any real chance to analyze his play until he has some of his regular receiving options back. Until then, I expect a lot of miscommunication on routes.

Yes, that was on the throw to Hill on the penultimate drive. As I noted, Hill initially showed for a pass in the flat and then ran downfield. I suspect he was expecting to get the ball there. He then ran downfield and Smith threw it behind him as if he was expecting Hill to break back to the ball. These things do happen from time to time and I’d assume they will happen less once the Jets have a full compliment of receivers (which may only be a few games away, during which time some of the newer players will also have longer to get on the same page.

DarrolRayFanClub •
I believe it was 20-14 early in the third, right after Salas’ big play that Geno threw the worst pass of the day, a floater attempt to Nelson into triple coverage. Was Hill open further down the field near the goal line, or was this a case of a TV angle making someone look open after the ball was thrown to someone else. Maybe he just underthrew Hill? Or just a boneheaded idea.

As I noted, it looked like Hill was open from the TV angle. Having looked at the coaches film, Greer jumped the route and if he didn’t the pass to Nelson would probably have been a completion. As he jumped the route, Hill did indeed head out to the corner and the safety wouldn’t have had time to get over if Smith had pump faked to Nelson and gone over the top. However, with the pocket collapsing due to Cameron Jordan bullrushing Ducasse into Smith, I’m not sure he’d have had time to do that. It definitely wasn’t an underthrow intended for Hill.

somejetsfan •
Do you feel concerned about the anemic pass offense? We are in the 9th week and I kind of feel that Geno has somewhat regressed, the numbers definitely point in that direction. I know he does not have a great receiving corp around him but do you feel he is progressing in his reads, anticipation, accuracy, leading his receivers and pocket presence? We obviously cannot keep leaning on the run especially against better run defenses and I feel shielding him will be making the same mistake we did with Sanchez in his early years. Also this is kind of a trial period for Geno, Jets only have 7 more potential games to judge how good he is.

I didn’t really expect the pass offense to be that good anyway and was surprised with some of the successes the Jets had in some earlier games. As long as the running game is working, that’s okay, but then once teams put extra guys in the box, the Jets have to go back to showing they can attack single coverage. The fact that he’s going to be going up against Buffalo – a team he had one of his better games against – with a full(ish) compliment of guys around him and two weeks to prepare is a verrry interesting test of how far he’s progressed, or otherwise. I’m looking forward to it.

GhostofBrowningNagle •
Can you provide some perspective on the Jets 3rd and long success (or lack thereof) against a blitz? Seems that on many 3rd and long opponents send everyone and Geno is swallowed up. As usual, its probably one of those things where it seems significant at the time so I remember it more, even though it might not happen as often as I think.

I suspect it’s one of those things that isn’t as bad as it seems. A few weeks ago, the Jets were leading the league in 3rd and long conversions. In this game, they did deal with several third and long situations, converting only one (when Smith changed the play at the line and Salas ran for 44 on a WR screen). The Saints didn’t always blitz though. On two they just did a good job in coverage and on one Smith was under immediate pressure because Winters missed his block. On the plays where they did blitz, there was one on an eight man rush (with seven blocking) where he had to get rid of it immediately and couldn’t hit Nelson in single coverage and another where Cameron Jordan dropped into the flat and Smith seemed to sense this and threw it in the dirt. On the whole, his decision making when rushed was the one area I saw some improvement this week.

Gray17 •
I think many fans are disappointed with Stephen Hill’s performance to date – apparently he gets good separation on many plays, but may not be running the route correctly or well, and he most certainly doesn’t have great receiving skills (going up for the ball, stretching his arms out for the ball, catching with his hands, using his body better in positioning for the catch, fighting for the ball, etc). It’s really unclear if he is learning or developing his weaknesses.

So two questions: (1) do you see any developmental arc over his time with the Jets that gives you any sign of hope? And (2) under the adage that teams should never draft project wide receivers in early rounds (that many of the best receivers are found in the middle and later rounds) – can you review the WR draft picks (and their performances thus far) from the first two rounds in the year Hill was picked and also look at notable receivers from the draft picked in the mid/late rounds? I know this is Monday Morning Quarterbacking (maybe Receivering), but is there anything to be learned on taking WR projects so early in the draft?

I agree that he doesn’t look like a natural pass catcher, but as you suggest, he does have the ability to get open. The Jets haven’t been throwing downfield much at all in the past two games and in the one before that they almost connected with Hill downfield on three occasions, which still served to help stretch the field. His recent contributions have been limited to short passes, clear out routes and blocking, but there is no doubt he’s progressed in terms of the reliability of his hands, which was his biggest issue. Hopefully he can get it going again in the second half.

The only thing to be learned about when and where to take receivers is that the draft is a total crap shoot. However, from that draft Ryan Broyles and Brian Quick were drafted close to where he was and haven’t been any better than him. Alshon Jeffrey and Rueben Randle seem to have progressed more in their second season that he has, but he’s still not that far behind either in terms of productivity. With the benefit of hindsight, TY Hilton is the guy you’d take, or one of the Bengals picks (Sanu and Jones), but their faster development has probably happened as a result of superior play from the QB position.

I also suspect Hill is a little banged up and will hopefully be in better shape after the bye.

Adam Cohen •
Considering we broke off so many big runs, I was wondering if you could talk a bit about our use of play-action. Did we use it? How frequently? Was it successful? Also, if/when you get a chance to look at All-22, I was wondering if you could expand on Stephen Hill’s performance. Was he getting any separation? Lastly, did Cromartie really get both feet in on his interception? I was in the stadium and the replays didn’t show his feet, but I was quite surprised that it wasn’t reviewed.

Cromartie’s pick was clearly fine. He dragged his back foot. None of us thought it was inbounds in real-time either.

Assessing the play action is difficult because a lot of their play action was just a token fake hand-off followed by a quick pass rather than just a fake run where the quarterback can then survey the field. However, the numbers are that Smith was 4-for-7 for 58 yards on plays where he faked a hand-off and also rushed three times for 10 yards and a touchdown. Cribbs’ 25 yard completion also came on play action.

As for Hill, he was used as a decoy quite a lot with Geno throwing a short pass or rolling out the other way on many occasions. There was one play – the one where Nelson gained 19 on a crossing route – where Hill burned his man and had a step on him but Smith took the easier option (and perhaps had to because a blitz was coming). I will say that Hill does draw a lot of defensive attention and definitely helped create room for Sudfeld on his second big reception. I was actually encouraged by watching him in detail, you certainly couldn’t say that they blanketed him, he just wasn’t a primary option most of the time.

Bdarc23 •
The BGA on Mangold and Brick have been pretty consistent this season and not particularly good or bad. For these 2 guys I’d expect them to be great every week. Do they look to have lost some ability the last 2 years or is it the offensive system?

With Mangold, I feel that his impact has been dampened by the situation at left guard. To me, the fact he is able to hold the fort while also keeping tabs on another guy is, in many respects, more impressive than a run-of-the-mill center playing a basic “snap the ball and then block someone or double team with one of the guards” role. Even if that guy grades out better by virtue of having more positive and/or fewer negative plays.

With Ferguson, it’s similar. He is still a pass protector that you can rely on to only have a couple of lapses a game even if you leave him on an island and I would say that some of his pressures and sacks have again been partly caused by the issues at left guard. In terms of the running game, it’s usually the same with Ferguson – if the line is doing well as a unit, he will make lots of effective blocks and grade out well, but if they’re out of sync, none of his blocks will be effective and only his mistakes will stand out. I would say that his performance is a function of how well the line plays as a unit rather than the other way around, because most of the blocks that he does well occur after the run has developed (which doesn’t happen when the line is struggling).

I don’t think either of them have lost any ability based on how good they look when things are going well, but they have each made uncharacteristic mistakes at times and while I would like to credit that to issues with the system and the line gelling, I couldn’t say for sure that this was the case.

1/12/69-OrangeBowl •
RE: Stephen Hill, you said “Disappointingly, he was completely shut out as a receiver with his only target being some kind of mix-up, as he initially showed for the ball in the flat and then ran a go-route as Smith threw behind him on third and long late in the game.” I think on this play, it was 3rd down near the end and we needed a completion to hold onto the ball…it looked to me that Geno was peeved at Hill. As if Hill didn’t realize that Geno would be under tremendous pressure and a go-route wasn’t going to happen. Pull up and help your QB out. What do you think ?

I addressed this higher up, but you’re right. His instincts in those kind of situations seem to be lacking. Jeff Cumberland has similar issues with that sort of situation.

rip •
Why is Hill non-existent in the passing game?

He’s been inconsistent, with some good games and some bad (and this game where he was a non-entity) and the big plays have dried up over the last few weeks, but there may be other reasons for that (Geno being gunshy, Hill being injured, Marty being conservative, the lack of Holmes/Winslow/Cumberland/Kerley). He has progressed since last year, already eclipsing last year’s numbers. Hopefully, he’ll start to produce more once some of the other starters return.

MrM •
How many times was Hill on the field that was a passing play, and how often did he seem to get separation for more than a second or two? Did he somehow get into MMs doghouse? Or is he still injured, and they needed to get anyone who could run out there? Full speculation on that part, of course.

I’ve answered the rest of this above, but Hill ran a route on all 23 of Smith’s dropbacks. He missed 10 snaps and all 10 were running plays.

Tk •
What do you think the plan is going to be for Harrison and Ellis. Harrison starts now and is doing a great job, but every time Ellis gets in I notice he gets great penetration. Are you noticing the same? Is there room, or enough snaps, to keep them both on the team?

I think the plan is going to be “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” but, yes, I’ve noticed Ellis. So have PFF, who have Harrison as the 4th best NT/DT in the league with a +20.8 rating in 275 snaps, but Ellis is 15th with a +9.0 rating in just 101 snaps. Sure there’s room for both and the good news is they’re both under contract for next year at a combined cost of about $1.2m.

levi •
After last weeks whooping the CBs and Dbs took I said the system is to complicated. This week Rex simplified it and they did much better. Its about time he starts listening to me. But seriously, did it seem like it helped them? I didnt notice any glaring coverage break downs like they usually have.

It helped, but there were some coverage breakdowns that I pointed out in my BGA. Pace vacated his zone, leaving his man open underneath, Davis was late getting over to cover a back a few times, Harris let a receiver run behind him and didn’t pick him up and Jarrett picked up Graham when he criss-crossed with the outside receiver, but then allowed him to get by him on a double move. It’s good to not see Kyle Wilson on this list for a change.

Brendan L •
Could you provide a bit more analysis on the play where Cromartie tripped while covering Meachem? It looked like Milliner ran a country mile to get to Meachem. I know he actually missed the tackle and a safety finally finished the job, but it really looked like an outstanding play by Milliner to save a TD on that play.

A few points on this play from the coaches film:

First of all, Cromartie’s claims that he was interfered with seem justified here. There appeared to be a grab and a pull to get Cromartie off balance.

Secondly, Milliner did react well to come off his underneath route and get back into the play but Antonio Allen even covered more ground than he did.

Finally, this should have been an easy touchdown, even with how well Milliner recovered. Awful throw by Drew Brees, who wasn’t pressured and should have put another 10 yards on the throw.

Nick •
Asomugha cut in San Fran, think Rex could rehab this guy?

Maybe, but I don’t think Idzik will make the move (although I suspect Tannenbaum would).

I can see Asomugha contributing for a contender down the stretch. He has been banged up though.

jetsfan74 •
If I’m correct, didn’t Allen lay the wood on Sproles that put him out of the game?

Yes, that happened on the third play of the game in the flat. Sproles played just two snaps.

jetsfann28 •
I know Coples had a better game this time around. Any comment on this analysis from PFF? “The move to outside linebacker hasn’t been great for Quinton Coples where his 4.9 Pass Rushing Productivity is second worst amongst 3-4 outside linebackers. As a rookie his Pass Rushing Productivity was 8.0 which was fifth best for 3-4 defensive ends.”

I’m really encouraged by Coples, he seems to be improving week on week and since his return Wilkerson had absolutely taken off. The numbers will come around. His injury and the number of double teams he was seeing meant that he got off to a slow start, but he was still contributing by helping create pressure for others.

As I pointed out in my analysis during the offseason (here and here), they moved him about a lot last year and he had plenty of pressure when lined up outside and matched up with a tackle. Not that much has changed – he’s been standing up on less than one play in every eight and has dropped into coverage just 10 times.

canizare1 •
This is probably too late, but Cimini noticed on the last drive that there was a play where Cromartie operated as a safety. Is this something the jets have employed before? Is it a strategy used for late two minute drill type situations where they can use Cromartie’s range/speed to cover ground on throws that need to be made down the field when the offense needs to pick up big chunk plays?

Cromartie has been a safety on 39 snaps this year, but only a deep safety once. It’s usually just because the other team just has one receiver and so one of the cornerbacks reverts to safety, but the Jets also like to sometimes put a cornerback in press coverage and another cornerback behind them 10 yards off, so that the corner can blitz and the deeper corner (who would be classed as a safety) can play off-coverage on the receiver. In terms of employing Cromartie as a center fielder, the Jets don’t really do that and given his struggles in zone coverage over the course of his career, that’s probably just as a well because read/react is not his strong suit.

JetFanOverseas •
One question regarding Folk’s kickoffs. He has gotten many more touchbacks this year than in previous years. Do you think this is due to: a) a stronger leg from better offseason conditioning, b) a less tired leg because of fewer practice kicks being attempted with Kotwica during the week after Westy allegedly overtaxed his leg in practice, or c) were his kicks shorter in previous years because of a deliberate Westhoff policy of trying to aim shorter but higher to avoid the possibility of a long return?

Any time someone asks me a question like this with a bunch of possible answers, it’s nearly always the same answer: It’s a combination of these factors! Since I’ve pointed out the fact that he always seems to start the season strong, but then gets inconsistent as soon as he misses a couple, I’m really hoping reason (b) is the key factor here, because that offers hope that he can sustain it (like he was able to early in his career). Of course, it corresponds with the cold weather too, so there’s almost certainly a “combination of these factors” element there, too.

JetFanOverseas •
Could you explain the changed approach to pass defense in this game in greater detail? Were we playing more zone than our usually predominant man coverage? Also, did our DB’s do any more hitting at the line this week? That has been something we have completely failed at this year and it has driven me nuts, as the receivers just have free release and room to run untouched for 10 yards, allowing the QB to throw to open men within 2-3 seconds and thus avoiding our pass rush (that was how Dalton, in particular, was able to kill us). I seemed to notice, especially in covering Graham, that the DB was pasted right on the line of scrimmage and directly in his face.

Schematically it wasn’t *that* different. They played zone over the middle, which they usually do anyway and brought guys up to cover in the slot, which again is something they usually do. One change was that Dawan Landry was a deep safety 87% of the time – the most he’s been there all season, but not that dramatic of an increase over his average (76%). They had two deep safeties on 28 plays, including on many passing downs, so that’s the cover two look Lynch referenced in his comments. They also only used three cornerbacks, instead opting for a three safety package in the dime. They didn’t noticeably make contact, jam or disrupt at the line any more than they usually would and they still had the cornerback lined up in press coverage but not making contact on regular occasions.

JetFanOverseas •
Why was Stephen Hill shut out? Was he unable to get sparation all day? Also, how often did he run deep routes, if any? Have you noticed any recent patterns, because he has totally gone awol during the last few weeks. Finally, did you notice any plays where Geno was looking deep but didn’t throw because he had no time or because nothing opened up, or did he simply not have any deep playcalls at all?

I think I’ve covered most of this above, but it does give me a chance to mention one play where Jabari Greer blitzed from the corner and Greg Salas was wide open running a fly pattern towards the left sideline. On that play – and a couple of the Hill plays I mentioned above, Geno perhaps didn’t have time to see that and had to choose an alternative option (in this case, he tried to scramble and got tackled in the pocket for no gain).

dave from haifa •
Could I get the Mo Hula dance gif? surprised no one has asked for it before me.

JayM provided this, not me…

dave from haifa •
Looking ahead, Baltimore and Cleveland still have great defense, and Carolina has been unstoppable of late. What are your thoughts on how the Jets match up against these three and how they should attack them? Winning 2 out of three should be enough to earn an invitation to the dance at 9-7, no?

You know I don’t like to look ahead! One game at a time!

Anyway, the Jets have never matched up well with Baltimore, but the Cleveland game is winnable. I haven’t seen much of the Ravens and Browns yet this year, so you’ll have to wait until I preview those games for a detailed take.

As for the Panthers, it took a year or two longer than I expected, but they’ve been on the brink of contention for a while now. They have a solid secondary, two good pass rushing ends, a good run stuffer in Star and versatile linebackers. Their offense is solid too and Cam Newton is a rarity in that his numbers don’t tend to sink when he’s pressured. This might not be a great matchup for the Jets, either, but if the secondary can get it together by then, it might give them a good chance.

Marcus •
I felt all the playing time for Troy Davis/Ricky Sapp/Josh Bush was a play to rest up starters for a “last stand” on the Saints’ final possession – Would you agree with that assessment?

It wasn’t – because they were direct injury replacements for Pace, McIntyre and Allen, none of whom re-entered the game for the final series. The only other starters that did miss a few snaps – presumably because they were exhausted rather than any pre-planned move – were Coples and Wilkerson, who each re-entered the game for that last series and did benefit from the rest by creating some crucial pressure. I assume Coples would have been replaced by McIntyre in that situation. Douzable replaced Wilkerson.

I hope this tells the team that they will be better off giving reps to their backups (whoever they may be) than trotting out a tired Pace and/or Coples. Give them a few plays to catch their breath and reap the benefits. Sapp and Davis brought good energy and Idzik indicated on Monday that he was delighted with their contributions.

Lam Jones •
Graham obviously played more than the 20 or so snaps he played last week; did the Jets have a consistent plan for him that you noticed? Also, how do you think seeing Sproles leave so early affected their use of more zone coverage schemes?

A consistent plan for him is exactly what they didn’t have. They mixed up how they dealt with him and who was matched up with him all game long. And, yes, he played 60 snaps. I don’t know if losing Sproles affected their gameplan, because Thomas is almost as much of a pass catching threat.

a57se •
If Allen is out for any extended time, do you think Miles replaces him? He is the most athletic of the remaining safeties.

I don’t think so – I think he’s been called up for special teams duties mainly. I’d expect Jarrett to move into the starting lineup and they’ll revert to a four cornerback dime package and/or use Josh Bush more.

Dyl •
Random question: Any idea why Millner (1 snap) and Wilkerson (6 snaps per PFF) were off the field for some snaps?

Any time a defensive back only misses a small number of snaps, it’s usually one of two things. Either they came out in a short yardage situation or they got banged up or worn out covering a play and came out briefly to get checked out or take a blow. In Milliner’s case, it was the former. He came out for an extra linebacker as the Jets went with a 4-4-3 look on 3rd and inches (when Collins dropped the ball).

Wilkerson came out three different times, for Douzable, including on the penultimate drive of the game. I assume he just needed a breather each time and, again, I approve of using Douzable in this way.

NickyBoomBoom •
How much penalties have Wilkerson drawn already…I feel like OL always false start when he is lined up against them.

I can’t tell you how many false starts were caused by him spooking someone, but he has been held seven times since the beginning of preseason and still made the play anyway on four of those.

Bdarc23 •
What am I missing about Allen and the TEs? We say he did great against Gronk who had a career high in receptions and Graham goes 9/116/2tds. It seems like TEs are absolutely feasting on the Jets. Tony Gonzalez had 14 receptions and even Heath Miller with his best game of the season. These are top TEs but these are big performances even for Gronk, Graham (who is hurt) and Gonzalez.

Allen only played 16 snaps in the Atlanta game and was never targeted when on Gonzalez. In Sunday’s game, he was targeted twice while covering Graham – a five yard gain and a pass break up. He did give up five catches for 77 yards to Gronkowski, but that was on 13 targets and he had two breakups and a pick six. When employed in this way, he has been good.

This is one area where the PFF ratings and coverage numbers can be misleading. Allen ranks poorly in coverage because he gets difficult assignments which are going to lead to him getting beaten a few times a game and grading out negatively, but that doesn’t give him sufficient credit for all the times he covers his man so well that he isn’t even targeted – as against a deep safety like Dawan Landry who rarely covers one on one and therefore when he comes over to break up a pass, he’ll either break it up and get credit, or not get there in time but not get hit with a negative play or have the coverage numbers count against him because that player is being covered by someone else. Essentially Allen might give up a few plays a game, but he gives up fewer than most other people would in the same situation and enables the Jets to not have to double team that player.

Quarterbacks have a 72.4 rating when throwing at Allen, which is eighth best among the 29 safeties who have been targeted more than 20 times. Not bad, especially considering the caliber of tight ends he’s been matched up with.

a57se •
What was Jarrett doing on Graham? I was shocked when I saw his lame attempt at a tackle.

Nice play design by the Saints. Graham motioned from the outside to the slot and Jarrett went with him, leaving Cromartie on the outside receiver. Then the outside receiver ran a post route to take Cromartie out of the equation as Graham ran an out-and-up and Jarrett reacted late to the fact he had nobody behind him and took a bad angle, perhaps affected by the criss-cross action of their routes.

The tackle was all about leverage. He couldn’t get back into the play and Graham was able to use his 61-pound weight advantage.

Bdarc23 •
Was there anything different this week in terms of scheme for the DL to suddenly get lots of pressure compared to “the game that must not be named” in the prior week?

I think the fact that Brees doesn’t get rid of the ball quite as quickly as Dalton and also that the Jets pressure up the middle was able to disrupt his vision and ability to slide in the pocket to create passing lanes had more of an effect on him. Also, their personnel on the line isn’t as good. I don’t think the team did a significantly better job of jamming receivers at the line, although they may have deterred them from making the early passes by being in the area.

‘NYCPE’inGermany •
On one of Graham’s TD catches, I thought I saw Pace give a half-hearted swipe at him, as if he thought about chipping him. If he did, it may have slowed him just enough to prevent the TD. Did you see this on that specific play?

I see what you mean, but I don’t know if that was his assignment on the play. He wasn’t lined up opposite Graham, who motioned into the slot as described above, he just dropped off into his general area and then let him go. That might have been all he was supposed to do there, to prevent him from releasing inside and deter a quick pass.

>>>

That’s it for this week. Thank you for your great questions and comments. I’ll be back with more stuff over the next week or so, as mentioned above.