BGA: Is cornerback a secondary concern?

A week ago, Jordy Nelson had nine catches against the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, a team regarded as having the best secondary in the NFL. Yesterday, he had nine catches against the Jets. The main difference? Against Seattle, he only had 83 yards. Against the Jets, he racked up 209.

Here’s where we need to examine whether the cornerbacks were the issue or was it the safeties? Seattle obviously has two of the best safeties in the NFL and are excellent at keeping things in front of them whereas the Jets are relying on a rookie, Calvin Pryor, to allow Rex Ryan to scheme around the fact the Jets don’t have a high priced cornerback. Sure enough, on Nelson’s two longest catches – which accounted for 113 of those 209 yards, Pryor was partly at fault.

The first of these saw Milliner slow up as if to pass Nelson off to Pryor behind him, but Pryor was late getting over and the pass went for 33 yards. Pryor may have been tempted to try and jump the slot route because Rodgers froze him slightly by looking at that and that player ran an out-and-up which seemed to also fool Dawan Landry, but whatever the reason, it gave him a poor angle. On the second one, Milliner was more at fault in terms of the catch because he was fooled slightly by a double move, but again Pryor was late getting over and then compounded that with a bad angle and his overpursuit turned another 30 yard gain into an 80-yard game winning score. Rex Ryan has since confirmed that this was a double coverage.

This is the kind of mistake I was fearing we would see from Pryor in the early stages of his rookie season. As I said all summer long, I still feel the Jets should have brought back Ed Reed to enable them to bring Pryor along slowly. Good quarterbacks are going to be able to freeze, deceive and/or exploit him and good quarterbacks are all the Jets are going to see over the next month or so. I still feel bringing back Reed (assuming that was ever a realistic option) into the fold would have been positive for both Milliner and Pryor, each of whom are instead being relied upon to play at an extremely high level when that expectation is perhaps unreasonable.

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BGA: Sacking the Pack

With the way the team has been set up to generate pressure from the front three, it’s not often you’ll see the Jets get four sacks, all from its linebacker corps. Of these four, two came from Demario Davis, although one was totally unblocked on a blitz and another was a coverage sack. Calvin Pace also had what I would term a coverage sack.

The other sack was more legitimate, as Quinton Coples beat his man and used his long reach to drag down Aaron Rodgers before he could escape the pocket. For Coples, I think this might have been one of the best pass rushing performances of his career so far, as he also had two hits and two pressures in 32 pass rush attempts. That came on a rushes from either side and on both inside and outside moves using speed and/or power. Coples is developing into a statistically productive disruptive force as a pass rusher, but it’s still early. If he can continue to perform like he has in the first two games, the sky’s the limit for his burgeoning career.

There still might be more to come from this team in terms of the pass rush, too. This week, Babin replaced Coples on 21 snaps. They never played together. Babin himself contributed a couple of pressures and was similarly disruptive. He also made a few good plays against the run, where he had been struggling. As noted last week, in the opener, Coples and Babin played together on three snaps and two ended up in sacks with the other being a three yard run. Don’t forget, there’s also the option to add Antwan Barnes into the mix too, once he’s ready to come off the PUP list later in the year.

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BGA: Where there’s no Wilk, there’s no way

Just after the Packers took the lead for the first time, frustrations boiled over on the Jets defense. In the ensuing scrum, Muhammad Wilkerson was ejected for throwing a punch, robbing the Jets of a key player in a game that was still up for grabs. That just can’t happen.

Wilkerson was just pushing and shoving although when it escalated a little, he attempted to throw a punch, airballing it wildly. It’s probably just as well, because about the best outcome you can hope for from throwing a punch at a guy wearing a football helmet is a broken hand. For a guy the Jets look up to as a leader to lose his cool like that – whether or not he was provoked into it and whether or not any Packers players should also have drawn a flag – looks bad, especially in the immediate aftermath of losing the lead. This group has pride, which is one thing, but the timing of that incident just makes it look like sour grapes and then Wilkerson’s smiling, mocking reaction to the Packers fans leaves a sour taste in the mouth, because he left his teammates short-handed in a game that was still eminently winnable.

I hate to criticize Wilkerson at all because he’s a consummate pro, a tremendous role model for the other players on the team and, moreover, the most talented player we’ve got. His apology, which you may have seen on TJB earlier, was welcome and appropriate. Let’s hope he means those words and will learn from the incident. Maybe we don’t win that game even if he remains out there, but as far as I’m concerned, he owes us one now.

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BGA: Stacking the Decks

Much has been made of the Jets’ supposedly dramatically improved receiving corps in 2014, but yesterday’s game did little to alleviate my concern that they’re not that far removed from the 2013 group.

To some extent, I did feel the 2013 group (and that of 2012) was unfairly criticized because injuries played a major part in their struggles. If the group could avoid injuries this year, then it would surely look a lot better even if the talent level hasn’t been upgraded as much as anticipated. However, losing Eric Decker to a hamstring injury in just the second game is not a good sign.

All of a sudden, everyone moves up a slot and has to face more defensive attention than before. This is where the facts that Stephen Hill didn’t pan out and all three draft picks missed time in camp hurt your depth. Jeremy Kerley is a good player, but once Decker left the game, the rest of the receivers on the team had zero combined catches to that point.

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BGA: Not exactly bursting at the seams

The Jets may have run all over the Raiders’ undersized line last week, but the Packers’ defensive front – even without BJ Raji – would prove to be an altogether different animal.

A quick look at the stat sheet suggests the running game wasn’t too bad. 146 yards at just under four yards per carry would seem pretty good and will certainly serve to keep the Jets running game statistics among the league leaders. It’s very misleading though because a huge chunk of the yardage came on a gadget play where Geno Smith pitched the ball to Jeremy Kerley. Smith also bolstered the numbers with some scramble yardage (and, in fact, Mike Vick probably should have done the same rather than allow himself to get sacked while waiting for a downfield route to not develop).

The accusation has been levied at Marty Mornhinweg that he “abandoned” the running game, but I think it’s more accurate to say that it just wasn’t very good. They did still rush 15 times in the second half. One stat sums up how disappointing the Jets running game was: Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson combined for 64 yards on 25 carries.

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Quote: Mea culpa

“Everything happened so fast. I don’t know what player it was, but I can’t do that. I let my teammates down. We’re a family here and I let everybody down. I apologized to everybody in the locker room. My actions, I can’t do that. I’m a leader of this team. That’s just not the way I’m supposed to act.”

– Muhammad Wilkerson on Sunday’s ejection

(via New York Post)

BGA: Winters falls again

One week after what was probably his best game as a pro, Brian Winters had a nightmare performance at left guard, one which arguably rivalled any of his games from last season in terms of his ineffectiveness.

Winters clearly made several mistakes in pass protection, leading to Geno Smith being sacked once and nailed a couple of other times. That includes the play where he threw his interception, with the hit directly contributing to the ball’s flight being affected. Perhaps even more jarring though was the complete lack of positive contributions from Winters in the running game, just a week after he made a series of good blocks against the Raiders.

Winters was driven into the backfield on a regular basis, whether pass protecting or run blocking as the Packers went after him and exploited his struggles to make several important plays. The fact Winters looked good briefly only to then regress creates worrying echoes of last year when Vladimir Ducasse had looked so good early in the season only to then go downhill and find himself benched permanently for Winters (who fared no better). Maybe the left guard position isn’t going to be better this year as we previously thought.

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