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06 Dec 2006

Every Play Counts: The Jets Defense

by Michael David Smith

Eric Mangini was hired as the Jets head coach because of his experience as a defensive assistant to Bill Belichick, who is widely regarded as the sharpest defensive mind in the game. Some of that defensive knowledge must have rubbed off on Mangini, the Jets brass figured, and he'd be the right person to build the defense in New York.

The early returns, however, were not impressive. Week after week, opposing running backs had big days against the Jets, and even the worst of offenses (like the Kerry Collins-led Tennessee Titans) could be counted on to put up a couple of touchdowns. But after the Jets' Week 9 bye, something changed. In the last four weeks, no team has scored more than 14 points against the Jets, and they're starting to look like legitimate playoff contenders. Is the Jets' defensive improvement real, or a mirage?

To find out, I watched the Jets defense on every play of their 38-10 win over the Green Bay Packers. The Jets got out to such a huge first-half lead that most of the second half consisted of soft zones, so I'll mostly focus on the first half. I saw a defense that does a lot of things well, like changing its blitzes and maintaining coverage discipline, but also a front seven that struggles with that most basic of tasks: stopping the run up the middle.

Let's start with that weakness on running plays. The Packers' second play was a second-and-2 handoff to Ahman Green. If you watched the tape of the play one frame at a time, you'd be sure after the first few frames that the Jets were going to stuff it. The Packers line hardly got any push at all, nose tackle Dewayne Robertson got past both center Scott Wells and left guard Jason Spitz, and linebacker Eric Barton hit Green at the line of scrimmage. But Robertson over-pursued and opened just enough room in the middle of the line for Green to get through, and Green kept pushing forward after Barton's initial contact and managed to pick up the first down.

The Jets played like that a lot on running plays: They did everything correctly ... right up until the point where they had to make the tackle. On a fourth-and-1, Green picked up the first down even though the Jets got good penetration into the backfield because no one wrapped Green up. On a first-and-10 pass to Vernand Morency, cornerback David Barrett got his arms around him but couldn't bring him down. All in all, I think the Jets could benefit by spending some time on some basic Pop Warner-style tackling drills.

Tackling isn't the only problem with the Jets run defense, though. On a first-and-10, the Packers ran a Colts-style stretch handoff to Green, and Wells destroyed Kimo von Oelhoffen, who lined up at nose tackle. Wells pushed von Oelhoffen about five yards downfield, then dumped him onto his back. It was the definition of a pancake block. I wouldn't want to be von Oelhoffen during film study when that play comes up. Spitz also knocked linebacker Brad Kassell onto his back on the same play, although Kassell did a nice job of sticking his arm out as he went to the ground to help slow Green before Erik Coleman brought him down.

On the Packers' biggest running gain of the day, Green went 35 yards on a handoff that looked like a typical Denver Broncos "one cut" play. Fullback Brandon Miree made the key block on Jets middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma to lead Green through the hole. Vilma is great in coverage and pursuit, but offenses have a lot of success running directly at him. I think Vilma is much more suited to playing in a 4-3 front, with two big defensive tackles helping to keep blockers off him, than he is to Mangini's 3-4 front. Vilma made some nice plays, including an excellent tackle of Morency, but as long as teams know they can send their running back up the middle behind their fullback every time they play the Jets, the Jets will have problems on defense. Linebacker Victor Hobson isn't nearly as fast as Vilma in the open field, but he's much better in traffic because he can fight off lead blockers. On a handoff in the third quarter, Hobson shoved Miree aside and tackled Green.

What can the Jets do to shore up that porous run defense? Backup Rashad Moore looks more comfortable than Robertson does as a 3-4 nose tackle, and he should get more playing time. He's stout against the run, and he's a better pass rusher than you'd think from looking at his big body. He chased Brett Favre and forced an incompletion on a third-and-1 in the third quarter. Robertson wouldn't need to come off the field when Moore enters; he might be better suited to end in the 3-4 front. Strong safety Eric Smith doesn't play a lot, but he looked good when he did against Green Bay. He prevented a first down on a third-and-10 pass to Green by coming in and laying a hard hit on him, limiting his gain to nine yards. Smith should probably get some more playing time in place of Coleman, who took a terrible pursuit angle on that 35-yard Green run, finally pushing Green out of bounds about 15 yards after he should have reached him.

The Jets' two best players Sunday were Shaun Ellis and Bryan Thomas. On a second-and-10 handoff to Green off the right tackle, the Packers line couldn't move Ellis and Thomas at all. Ellis forced Green to the outside and Thomas tackled him for a gain of two. On a third-and-6, Ellis beat the double team of Spitz and right tackle Tony Moll and hurried Favre just enough to force him to miss what could have been a long pass to Greg Jennings. Thomas showed great versatility. He's officially listed as a defensive end, but he's all over the field. On some plays he even lined up opposite slot receiver Donald Driver, jammed him at the line of scrimmage, and then rushed Favre. Mangini uses Bryan Thomas somewhat like Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan uses Adalius Thomas.

Frustrating Favre, as Ellis and Thomas did, was the key to the Jets' game plan against the pass. Although they only sacked Favre twice, they pressured him into making rushed or ill-advised throws throughout the game. They also exploited a clear weakness in the Packers' blocking schemes by repeatedly blitzing the outside linebacker who lined up across the line of scrimmage from tight end Bubba Franks.

On one first-and-10, the Packers signaled run by coming out in a two-tight end formation, and when Favre faked a handoff to Green, six of the Jets' front seven bit on the play action. But the one who didn't, outside linebacker Victor Hobson, came on a blitz, and Franks whiffed on the pickup. Hobson was about to sack Favre, but Favre made a nifty little shovel pass to Franks to avert disaster. Franks took it about two yards before free safety Kerry Rhodes and Robertson brought him down. Although Robertson, the starting nose tackle, is one of the reasons the Jets are weak against runs up the middle, that was a great play. He kept chasing Franks even though the play was well past him. That play was also one of many times that Rhodes went from deep pass coverage to making a tackle near the line of scrimmage quickly.

On a first-and-10 early in the game, with the Packers in a three-receiver set, the Jets came with their first big blitz, rushing five. Thomas came around the end untouched and sacked Favre, forcing a fumble that Robertson recovered. The key to the play was the way the two blitzing linebackers mixed up Franks, who let Thomas rush right past him and instead helped Morency block the Jets' other blitzing linebacker, Vilma, even though Thomas was clearly Franks' responsibility and Morency didn't appear to need any help with Vilma. It was a good play by Thomas, a bad play by Franks, but also a smart part of the game plan by Mangini to have his linebackers repeatedly rushing into areas occupied by Franks.

I mentioned the play when von Oelhoffen was pancaked, so I should also mention that he had a very good pass rush on a first quarter play. The Jets blitzed five and the Packers kept six in to block. Even though von Oelhoffen was the one Jets player who got double-teamed, he was the key to the pressure, beating Wells and left guard Daryn Colledge. Favre made a bad throw to get rid of the ball before von Oelhoffen got to him, and Coleman probably would have intercepted it if Franks hadn't tackled him. (Franks should have been called for offensive pass interference.)

I was impressed with both starting cornerbacks, Andre Dyson and new addition Hank Poteat. On a first-and-10 Dyson was in man coverage on receiver Donald Driver and stayed with him every step of the way on a deep route along the right sideline. When Favre (who wasn't pressured at all, as the Packers line picked up the Jets' four-man rush) threw the pass, Dyson made a great diving interception.

If Dyson and Poteat can be a reliable pair of corners down the stretch, that will allow the Jets to keep Rhodes, their great safety, closer to the line of scrimmage to help out against the run. That won't be enough to make the Jets a great defense against the run, but it might be enough to make them good. And with the Jets a surprising 7-5 and playing their best football as the calendar turns to December, a good run defense is probably all they need to get to the playoffs.

Each week, Michael David Smith looks at one specific player or one aspect of a team on every single play of the previous game. Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season.

Posted by: Michael David Smith on 06 Dec 2006

46 comments, Last at 09 Dec 2006, 2:57pm by Led

Comments

1
by Tom S (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 1:01pm

First.

Wow, would never have expected this. They seemed to be playing pretty well. Better postpone the postseason celebration for at least a year.

2
by Doug Farrar :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 1:08pm

Nicely done, as always.

Rashad Moore was a good young 4-3 DT in Seattle until a shoulder injury threw him out a rotation that was getting harder and harder to crack. Glad to hear he's still impressing the educated observer.

3
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 1:13pm

I havw thought for a while that the Jets defense has been held back by having high pick players who would be good in differing defensive schemes. For example Ellis, Thomas and Hobson fit a 34 two-gap system while Robertson and Vilma are prototypical players for a tampa2. Throw in a two of guys who left over the last couple of seasons (Ferguson a 34 NT, and Abraham who would be perfect in a tampa2) and it begins to become clear why things have seemed a bit confused on defense for the Jets.

4
by PackMan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 1:28pm

Can we get an EPC on the Falcons receivers?

5
by ABW (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 1:34pm

Interesting that you mention Poteat, one of the Patriots carousel of defensive backs from the past couple of seasons. He's an OK player, but IMO he just doesn't have the physical attributes necessary to be a good NFL starter. He's just not big enough and fast enough - he needs to be protected by the scheme so that he doesn't end up going deep with a bigger, faster WR.

Kerry Rhodes has always impressed me as well when the Patriots have played the Jets - I thought in the game the Jets won this year he made a key difference in the game, as he was up near the line of scrimmage making plays in the running game and the Patriots ended up keeping both of their safeties back.

6
by DGL (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 1:38pm

Should the Jets think about moving Vilma to OLB, maybe flip-flopping with Hobson, if Vilma is better in coverage and pursuit and Hobson is better at fighting off blocks?

And is this the first time the sentence "I was impressed with... Hank Poteat" has ever been seen in print?

7
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 1:39pm

Hmmm, I wondered at the time if the Patriots kept the wrong CB when they cut Poteat and kept Chad Scott. Hearing that Poteat is playing well for the Jets, and seeing Scott do an (albeit imperfect) imitation of Duane Starks makes me wonder even more...

8
by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 1:56pm

I think it's worth mentioning how Bubba Franks was the weak link in the Packers blocking scheme. That Franks has no speed is evident by being brought down by a NOSE TACKLE from behind.

Franks is the very definition of "washed up". His only assets were his blocking and his good hands. And this season he has repeatedly dropped catchable balls and the Jets debacle was not the first time Bubba has failed to do even an adequate job. It's no coincidence that the last three teams have all went after Franks as a blocker with success. Observers are seeing what's obvious on the game film and exploiting the weakness.

The three people who need to expunged from the Packers ranks are Franks, Marquand Manuel, and coach Kurt Schottenheimer. If any of these three return folks can quickly discern that Ted Thompson and/or Mike McCarthy are not interested in results as part of the evaluation process.

Because there have been NO positives in the performance of these people in 2006. And in Schottenheimer's case he was a disaster with the Packers in 2004. Once might be an aberration. Twice and the guy has got to go.

His exile won't solve all the problems in the secondary but at least it shows tha the team is paying attention to what his happening in the field.

9
by Seante (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 1:56pm

I guess Poteat has struggled most of his nfl career but the times he's been adequate or better have come when Mangini's been his coach. There has to be something to that, maybe?

10
by James C (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 2:13pm

I think that the Jets defense is helped by the fact that they get to practice and play every week with the gravity distorting effect that is Eric Mangini. Is it any suprise that they lost to Cleveland - the only team that they have played so far that posesses and anti Mangini device, coach Crennel? And is it any coincidence that the Pats were the best team in football when they could deploy the trifecta of gravity wells in Crennel, Weis and Mangini?

What we all thought was great coaching was in reality skillful manipulation of the graviton flux around the stadium. And the real reason for an open ended stadium, well we know now. And those little grey deelies either side of the half way line at Gillette, ahaa I'm onto you Belichick.

11
by Andrew Cascini (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 2:20pm

While I really appreciate any article focusing on the surging Jets, I'm suprised that there's not more mention of Kerry Rhodes. Rhodes is quietly having what should be a Pro Bowl season. Out of all players on the Jets defense, Rhodes has been the biggest and only pleasure.

I have no idea what's going to be done with Vilma. I think perhaps trading him might be a good option. He's really struggling in the scheme.

12
by Michael David Smith :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 2:28pm

Rhodes is great, no doubt about that. You might enjoy reading "Safety Rhodes May Be Jets' MVP So Far." The main reason I didn't mention him much in this piece is that the CBS cameras rarely showed him -- they were too busy focusing on Favre, which meant I had more to say about the Jets players who were closest to him.

13
by ABW (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 2:43pm

Re: 7

The reason they kept Scott is because he can play safety in addition to corner, albeit pretty ineffectively, and Poteat can't.

Re: Vilma

I don't think switching Vilma to OLB in a 3-4 would be a good idea. OLBs in a 3-4 are eventually going to have to take on a tackle, and if Vilma is getting blown up by fullbacks it's probably not a good idea to ask him to fight through a TE or OT. If I was an offensive coordinator and I saw Vilma lined up opposite my right tackle I know I would call a play right at him.

3-4 OLBs should be around 250-270 - Vilma is around 230-235. OLB isn't the place for him. I'm not sure there is a place for a 230 pound linebacker in a 3-4.

14
by PackMan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 2:56pm

13.
Indy would love Vilma.

15
by princeton73 (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 3:11pm

Indy would love Vilma.

I can't help it--I keep hearing Fred Flinstone screaming that name

16
by MFurtek (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 3:20pm

I don't see it mentioned anywhere. Do the Packers employ a zone blocking scheme similar to Denver? Have they been blocking this way for awhile?

I think the perception is that Denver is one of the few teams that use it... and maybe they use it the most, but don't KC, Washington, and some other teams that maybe aren't so great have this scheme during running plays?

17
by The Jerricho Road (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 3:25pm

VILMA FOR PEP ADDAI !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

18
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 3:27pm

[Favre made] rushed or ill-advised throws throughout the game.

Does he make any other kind anymore?

7) I wondered at the time if the Patriots kept the wrong CB when they cut Poteat and kept Chad Scott. Hearing that Poteat is playing well for the Jets, and seeing Scott do an (albeit imperfect) imitation of Duane Starks makes me wonder even more

Scott had ONE bad game, against Detroit, last week. Other than that he's been solid (prior to his groin injury, which is my culprit for the terrible game against Detroit). Don't get me wrong, I loved Poteat for stepping in in 2004 and playing well, including his fantastic open field tackle of Hines Ward in the AFC Championship game, and I wish he were on the roster instead of newly-signed Mickens, but he's not nearly as good of a player as Chad Scott has been for the Patriots (most of) this year.

19
by PackMan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 3:35pm

16.
Yes, so does Atlanta. Mike McCarthy hired Alex Gibbs's protege (I want to say his name is Jagodinski or something like that) as his O-coordinator, and he has done wonders with what should be one of the worst O-lines in the league. If only we kept Jim Bates as D-coordinator : (

20
by giving him the business (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 4:27pm

RE: Kerry Rhodes

I was pretty upset when the Jets passed on Ed Reed in the draft, but Rhodes posseses a lot of the same skills and instincts as Reed. Kerry Rhodes has consistently made plays all year. He is exactly where he needs to be most of the time, and has that intangible knack for making plays.

RE: Vilma

Everything I've read this year points to the struggles of the ILBs in the first year of a 3-4 scheme. Because of the obvious coaching parallels, I've read a lot about how Tedi Bruschi struggled to adjust to his role with the Pats. Despite his lack of highlight film material, Vilma has put everyone else in a position to succeed this year. He is making all of the defensive adjustments at the line, and is credited with reading the offense very well. Vilma is very smart, and I think he'll flourish in the 3-4 if given some time.

21
by Charlie (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 4:58pm

re Vilma

I think people probably make too much of the size thing. So perhaps the prototypical 3-4 ILB is going to be upwards of 240, but I think if you're a good enough player a lack of size isn't such a catastrophe - the player who immediately came to mind as a comparison is Donnie Edwards in San Diego, who is pretty small (listed at 6'2, 227 which would actually make him slightly less sturdy than the than the 6'1, 230 Vilma) but has still excelled in that 3-4 defence. Whilst I suspect that Edwards benefits from being placed in coverage more often than he is asked to take on blockers, it surely is no coincidence that he plays behind the far superior Charger d-line, which would offer far more protection. If the Jets improve their d-line in the offseason (surely one of their main priorities) then I wouldn't be surprised if Vilma begins to perform a lot better, especially with a year in that system under his belt.

22
by bsr (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 5:02pm

#18 - You beat me too this. It also should be mentioned that Scott has been switching back and forth between corner and saftey this year as well. Other then that one game, he has been solid this year.

Having said that, I don't understand why Poteat was cut at all, since it appears he could have been kept on the roster fairly easily.

23
by RecoveringPackerFan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 5:14pm

Can anyone who gets Packer games give an explanation of why our defense is horrendous in ALY but excellent in both power and 10+? I can understand 10+ on the pursuit abilities of the LBs, but it seems like there is no good reason that a run D that is only impressive against right tackle should be good in short yardage.

24
by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 5:27pm

I don’t see it mentioned anywhere. Do the Packers employ a zone blocking scheme similar to Denver? Have they been blocking this way for awhile?

They haven't been blocking that way for a while, no. It was just this year.

Denver is usually the one that gets mentioned because they've been doing it for so long.

25
by NJPHONES (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 5:55pm

I find it difficult to compare what you said happened to what really happened in the first half of the Packers-Jets game.
From what you wrote in paragraphs 4, 5, and 6 it sounds like the Jets defense played a poor game.
From what I saw, they shut out the packers 31-0!
How odd!
You also compaired the Jets from week 1 to where they are today, and that is not the same beast-not even close. Youre talking about a turkey while I'm looking at a bear!
This is a defense who went through 3 defensive coordinators, a new head coach and switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 formation, so it is hard to imagine that they were 100 percent ready out of the gate. In reality, it took them until the bye week to figure everything out.
It is silly to compare the week 1 team to the team that Jets are today unless you are talking about how far they have come.
They may have given up some plays here of there, but they shut them out in the first half and that is as close to perfect as you can get in football.
The Jets defense has only given up 14 points per game since the bye week (8) and they have not allowed a first half touchdown to the Patriots, Bears, Texans or Packers, so they are playing pretty well I'd say. Almost like an NFL elite defense since the break.
I have great confidence in the abilities of this unit as the season draws close, and they will only get better.

26
by Are-Tee (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 5:57pm

Re. Kerry Rhodes - he was a 4th round pick in 2005. Their 4th rounder the year before was Jerricho Cotchery. 4th round pick for 2006 - Brad Smith.

Based on the above, the Jets overpaid greatly for Kevan Barlow ( a 2007 4th round pick.)

27
by Travis (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 6:01pm

Do the Packers employ a zone blocking scheme similar to Denver?

Yes, and it led to yet another incident where a defensive lineman thought the OL was unfairly targeting his knees. I don't think Shaun Ellis and Tony Moll will be exchanging Christmas cards this year.

28
by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 6:02pm

25: Chill out. He was by and large applauding the Jets defense, and only comparing it to the old one to show the same improvement to which you allude.

29
by jgm (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 6:15pm

I like this article and NYJ fans should be encouraged because in the last several years a team with a surging defense has won it all. Namely Pit last year and the Pats in 2001.(The Pats also averaged 14 pts/gm for the last 8 games of 2001. The Pat offense of 2001 was of similar strength to this years NYJ) Tough game this week though since Buf also has a defense that has played better and better the last few weeks. Probably too close to call with the advantage to NYJ for home field.

30
by MCS (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 6:25pm

Packman - I think that Bates came to GB under the belief that they would make him HC when Sherman left. When T^2 got McCarthy after Sherman left, Bates was probably more than a little bit bitter.

BadgerT1000 - I've been calling for the dismissal of Schottenheimer all season, just as I did in '04. For some reason, the TV doesn't hear me :-)

Last week I mentioned my son's luck with GB jerseys. We call it his Jersey Kiss of Death. The last two jerseys he got have led to the players leaving the team (Sharper and Gado). So, when he mentioned that he wanted a Kampman jersey for Christmas, I told him absolutely not. He could, however, have a Bubba Franks jersey.

He said no thanks.

So sad. . .

31
by MJK (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 6:26pm

Regarding Poteat:
I think he got cut because the Pats got too cute with the "sign a player one day, cut him the next" game. I think if Belichick had thought that he would get snapped up, he wouldn't have been out there to sign. But the perception was that they could keep juggling "off the street" players each week to optimize their roster, and it bit them. I bet the Pats would far perfer to have Poteat on the team right now than having to play the mighty nickleback Troy Brown.

Regarding zone blocking:
Zone blocking and cut blocking (diving at the knees) are NOT the same thing. One is a blocking scheme, meaning you defend a location in space rather than a specific person, while the other is a (reputedly dirty) technique for engaging the person in your space. It is true that in some schemes zone blocking becomes more effective if the linemen engage in cut blocking techniques, and Denver employs both zone blocking schemes and cut blocking techniques. Maybe Green Bay does too; I don't know.

I would disagree with the statement that "Denver is one of the few teams that uses zone blocking". Many (if not all) teams use zone blocking schemes some of the time. Some use it more than others. A few use it almost exclusively (I think Denver is one of these, but I'm not sure). I would agree that the perception is that Denver and Atlanta are some of the only teams that employ a lot of cut blocking, but to be honest, while I used to hold that opinion, in the three Devner games that I've watched recently I didn't see much cut blocking at all (of course, in those three games, Devner's running game was shut down, so maybe there is something there... ;-)

32
by NJPHONES (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 7:48pm

28: I'm chill-I just think people over analize stats-they don't tell the whole story.
The biggest stat, and the only one that matters, is the "W"'s and the "L"'s.

33
by Joebediah (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 8:00pm

32:

I find your comment ironic. W's and L's barely tell any of the story. Articles like these do.

34
by Fizzman (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 8:10pm

32: doubly ironic, since the article is analysis of the PLAY, not of the stats.

35
by TheWedge (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 8:31pm

The only thing that matters is W's and L's? So Boise State is the best college football team in the country (well at least tied for #1)?

36
by A Jets Fan (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 9:26pm

Dear Football Gods,

Don't consider NJPHONES's comments reason enough to invoke the Football Outsiders Message Board troll curse, and have the Jets play really well the next couple of weeks, but lose.

Signed,

A Jets Fan

37
by billvv (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 9:34pm

As a Jets homer I can attest to the underappreciation we all feel and, ocassionally, it slips out. Whereupon we are crushed by well meaning but thoroughly superior beings. Thanks for reminding us once again.

38
by Johnny (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 9:44pm

Like you, Michael, I watch the tapes. Frankly, what I saw was a Packers team that did more to loose the game than the Jets did to win it, even considering the lopsided score. Favre is earning his playing time on the basis of reputation. His passing accuracy, simply, sucks. Many of his decisions are not good. HIS poor play, and not the Jets' pass D, was responsible for the Pack's sputtering offense.

The Jets' run defense CONTINUES to be a weakness that teams with a decent running game will expose. Vilma may be a smart player, but at the end of the day, give me a hitter who knows how to hit the holes and who really brings the wood when he does. He'll be a liability until he's gone and in somebody else's 4-3. Statistically, the Pack ran for a fat 6.5 ypc on only 23 rushes, including 33 yards on 3 Favre scrambles. McGhahee, as usual, will have a field day against this unit next Sunday.

The Jet's, on the other hand, rushed 31 times for 178, but excluding the reverse by Brad Smith, only averaged some 4.9 ypc. Chad was not the pinpoint passer that the papers have been raving about. On the O-line Brick continues his pace of allowing Chad to get nearly killed at least once a game. It was he who was responsible for letting in the rush that led to Pennington's second INT. And notice how Brick's still standing after almost every running play.

This game was, for me, an example of the old saw, you're never as good as you look on your best day nor as bad as you look on your worst. But the Bills game will finally tell to which end of the spectrum the Jets are closer.

39
by Led (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 10:23pm

Here are the yards gained by GB runs in the first half: 2, 2, 11, 35, 1, 3, 2. If you exclude Green's 35 yard run (not sure why you would exclude it, but it makes as much sense as excluding the Brad Smith's long run from the Jets stats), you get 3.7 ypc. Including the Green run you get a hefty 7.2 ypc, but in a boom/bust distribution that will tend not to sustain long drives. In short, the run defense was not hideous in a small sample of runs in the first half. In the second half things went down hill with more consistently successful runs, but it's hard to tell how much of that was a different defensive style with a 31 point lead. A good bit of it was poor tackling, which has not been a major problem since the bye. I hope that does not continue. All in all, I would agree with MDS that the run defense is still not good, but it's improving.

40
by underthebus (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 10:34pm

#32 I love how some of us FO readers suddenly devolve into complete team homers once an article is written about their team. I know I got really defensive about the 49ers AGS from a couple weeks ago.

"Yes, your argument about the 49ers is well thought out and well written with a lot of stats to back it up, but allow me to retort...stats are for nerds! GO NINERS!!!! U SUCK! U SUCK!"

41
by jack (not verified) :: Wed, 12/06/2006 - 11:39pm

#38 "The Jet’s, on the other hand, rushed 31 times for 178, but excluding the reverse by Brad Smith, only averaged some 4.9 ypc."

ONLY 4.9 - uh, that's excellent dude. And sorry, when it's 31-0, the team with 31 WON the game. The Pats D had no clue when the Jets were on the field, and CP had an incredible first half.

42
by NJPHONES (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 12:11pm

41: You hit it right on the head.

P.S. I wonder if the teams know that they are playing for stats and not to win the Super Bowl?
Stats tell only a very specific snapshot of what happened on the field. It can be very misleading and you have to keep in mind the big picture of what really happened out there and what the end result was.

43
by Led (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 2:03pm

"you have to keep in mind the big picture of what really happened out there and what the end result was"

This is, of course, correct. But one's subjective experience of watching the game can be just as misleading as improper use of statistics. I would submit that careful use of statistics plus close review of the games like MDS does in his EPC columns is the best way to understand "the big picture of what really happened out there and what the end result was."

My only beef with the EPC segment is that, in my opinion, MDS tends to draw broader conclusions about how players, units or teams are playing in general than might be warranted based on the sample he reviewed. His description and analysis of the plays he actually observed is positively Jaworskian. But sometimes players have bad games, teams matchup poorly, fluky things happen, etc., and so you really need to watch a larger sample of the games to draw general conclusions. Maybe MDS watches all the games and this comment is off base, I don't know. God bless him if he does.

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by Not saying (not verified) :: Thu, 12/07/2006 - 4:27pm

Re: 42

Name me one stat that was cited in the article. The first two paragraphs don't count; they set the stage for the article, rather than being part of the argument.

Re: 43

I don't think your comment is completely off base. On the one hand, there is this comment at the end of every EPC to consider: "Standard caveat applies: Yes, one game is not necessarily an indicator of performance over the entire season."

On the other hand, the best part about the articles are definitely the analysis and not the broad conclusions. Yes, it does show us areas of strength and weakness, but I agree about the things such as matchups.

I think part of the reason for the broader conclusions is appealing to a broader audience (i.e., Fox Sports). I tend to read these more for insight into how teams in general play to weaknesses and strengths in a game and how individuals act within a game (since it's hard to pick out individual play in games, especially along the lines), and not as much to get a complete picture of a team.

None of this is intended as a real criticism of MDS or EPC, and I hope no one reads it that way. I enjoy the articles every week.

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by Sean (not verified) :: Fri, 12/08/2006 - 8:06pm

I've been breaking down every Jets game all season, and the difference between the defense that started the season and the one that showed up from the fourth quarter of the Cleveland game on is simply remarkable. The transformation is partly a question of personnel. The team has greatly reduced Kimo von Oelhoffen's snaps, and they replaced Justin Miller with first Drew Coleman and then Hank Poteat. Those two moves have paid huge dividends. Kimo has been horrendous all year, and was the target of a great many of the running plays that gashed the defense. Miller was equally poor, and was especially vulnerable to quick plays and screens that forced him to step up and make a play. The rest of the transition seems to be a combination of players getting more comfortable with their roles and Bob Sutton being more willing to call an aggressive game. The Jets regularly send five players now, whereas they were playing more passively early in the year. Blitzing alone isn't enough; the players have to disrupt the offense. Fortunately, Bryan Thomas, Kerry Rhodes and Victor Hobson have all been very good at either getting to the quarterback or at least disrupting the play.

The team gave up rushing yards to New England, Chicago and Green Bay, but anyone who mistakes those efforts for the ones from earlier in the year simply doesn't know what they are talking about. While all three teams put up impressive rushing totals, they were not able to run effectively for the most part. In each case, teams broke a long run or two to pad the stats, but they were not running effectively in the sense of consistently creating favorable downs and distances, and they weren't scoring in drives predicated on the run. That was a massive departure from games against Buffalo or Jacksonville or Indy earlier in the year. The Jets are now mixing in enough stops to make the run a dicey proposition for an offense, and they are more frequently getting offenses into unfavorable third down situations. And on third downs, the defense has been trademark Belicheck at forcing the offense to check down and then making the tackle to end the drive.

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by Led (not verified) :: Sat, 12/09/2006 - 2:57pm

Sean: You have to admit that the tackling in the GB game left a lot to be desired. I guess it's positive that they're getting people in position more often, but they have to wrap up better then they did last Sunday, particularly with McGahee coming to town.

Do you have any thoughts about why we haven't seem more progress from Miller? He's got all the physical tools. I expected this to be a breakout year for him. Is he just not bright enough to play the defense?