In-Depth Analysis - Jets @ Lions (Defense)

The Jets came back down to earth yesterday, albeit in what many would consider a scheduled landing. It was a useful test against a good-looking Detroit team who had been rampant in their previous preseason game against the Colts.

In what one might expect to become a common refrain this season, the Jets' defense played quite well but was let down by an impotent offensive performance.

This week, we'll start by looking at the defense:

Defensive Line - Scratched and Claude

The first thing to note about last night's defensive performance was that they had a completely different approach in terms of personnel packages. In the first game, the Jets played a lot of 3-4 base. However, last night, they operated almost exclusively out of what would most accurately be described as a 2-4-5 nickel.

This meant fewer defensive linemen on the field and limited their impact to some extent. However, there were still mostly good signs from the first unit.

Leonard Williams blew up a run in the backfield, penetrated well on another running play and helped create pressure when he lined up outside and stunted inside to collapse the pocket. He was handled at the point of attack a couple of times, but he's looking like he's going to be as disruptive as ever based on preseason so far.

Sheldon Richardson continues to look much, much more comfortable inside and is making more of an impact. He stuffed a couple of runs in the backfield, got good penetration on a couple more plays and recorded a quarterback hit off a good swim move that almost led to an interception. He wasn't blocked out of any plays and seems able to hustle harder than we saw from him when he had the added responsibilities of playing on the edge.

There were some good signs from Muhammad Wilkerson too, although he disappointingly jumped offsides on a 3rd-and-short in the red zone to set up the only touchdown. (This was wrongly called as on #92 by the officials). However, Wilkerson extended his arms well to control his man at the point of attack a few times, on one occasion shedding the block to stuff a run for a short gain. He also showed some explosiveness to record a hit on Matthew Stafford, although that didn't prevent Stafford's touchdown pass:


Steve McLendon didn't get much playing time with the sub-package constantly on the field, but penetrated well a couple of times.

It's interesting to contrast Wilkerson taking on his blocker, keeping his head up and seeing what's going on ahead of him, with McLendon who pretty much just tries to shoot a gap and crash into the backfield much of the time - which, we've heard in the past, is what Todd Bowles wants his linemen to do. I wonder how much of that is by design, playing to those players' respective strengths, and how much is down to those players' own approach.

Once again, the battle for reserve roles on the line was interesting and, once again, Claude Pelon was one of the main stand-outs, holding up well at the point of attack, getting some good penetration and recording one hurry.

Anthony Johnson was one of the first players in off the bench, but unfortunately suffered a stinger on his very first snap and did not return. That perhaps allowed Pelon to get more snaps than he otherwise would have.

Lawrence Thomas also saw some first half action, although he was sealed inside on one run. He showed some good power to penetrate into the backfield on a couple of plays, but wasn't credited with a tackle.

Rookie Patrick Gamble was only in for a few snaps and didn't make an impact, while Devon Still didn't play at all.

Mike Pennel and Deon Simon continue to battle for the back-up nose tackle role, but neither is presenting a challenge to McLendon at this stage. Pennel was in on a couple of stops, while Simon batted down a pass and drew a hold, but was also handled at the line on a couple of runs, including one where he was expertly sealed to the inside by Joe Dahl:


Rookie Jeremy Faulk did not get any snaps this week.

Linebackers - King of the Fumble

The Jets continue to shuffle the pack in terms of their outside linebackers, but once again it was Josh Martin who generated the most production. Martin's performance was highlighted by a sack and forced fumble, but he also was in on a couple of stops in the backfield and had three pressures.

Jordan Jenkins also had a tackle for loss, as well as creating pressure on a few plays and setting the edge well a couple of times in the running game. He was driven downhill and out of the play on one misdirection run, though.

While Jenkins' spot in the starting line-up seems secure, the other outside linebacker role is up for grabs. Freddie Bishop got the start again, and did pretty well. His early pressure led to a sack and he showed good power to drive his man back into the quarterback, flushing him from the pocket. He also penetrated well on one play and was credited with a tackle for loss on another, although he did get blocked off the edge once.

Corey Lemonier had a couple of flashes off the bench in the second half, dropping into coverage for an interception, bottling up a run and recording a sack off the edge. Maybe he will move up the pecking order this week on the basis of that.

Finally, while Frank Beltre and Lorenzo Mauldin remain out injured, rookie Dylan Donahue made his first appearance. He was disruptive and the athletic ability they saw in him is immediately apparent but he ended up almost making big plays rather than being able to finish.

Donahue failed to make the tackle in the backfield a couple of times, including one play where he blew past the right tackle. He also got driven off the edge and lost contain once. However, he was in on a stop near the line and almost got to the quarterback on a stunt up the middle.

I hate to keep harping on this, but his lack of length remains a concern that was hardly dispelled by seeing runners slip from his grasp or his struggles to get a blocker off him on the edge. Situationally, that athleticism could generate some good production though.

On the inside, Darron Lee had one of his better performances as a Jet, leading the team in tackles with six. That included a third down stop and a couple of plays near the line. He also limited the gain on a couple of passes out to the flat. He only had a couple of minor negatives and one particularly good sign was in zone defense where his positioning and communication looked sound as he picked up a man coming across the middle and then passed him off to pick up the back leaking to the opposite flat. This almost led to an interception.

Demario Davis got off to a good start with an early sack and was in on a run stuff shortly afterwards, but it was a quiet performance from him overall. He missed a chance to make a tackle in the backfield and gave up a first down in coverage on a dump-off over the middle.

Reserves Bruce Carter and Julian Stanford were solid once again. Both made a couple of plays against the run, including a tackle for loss by Carter. They contributed in the passing game too, as Carter made a good play in coverage to sniff out a screen and force a throw-away, while Stanford's delayed blitz created the pressure that led to Lemonier's interception:


Spencer Paysinger and rookie Connor Harris got into the game late and didn't make much impact. Harris was blocked out of a play at the second level on one run.

Defensive Backs - You put a spell on me ... cuz you're Lion

After both were quiet last week, rookie safeties Marcus Maye and Jamal Adams were much more involved last night, albeit with mixed results.

Adams' positional play was good and he was in on a couple of run stuffs, but his tackling was poor:


He missed a couple, including the one above, and - even on the ones he made - allowed the runner to fall forwards for extra yardage. He was also sealed to the inside as he came up to try and stop one run.

Adams wasn't really tested in coverage, although he got a little caught up in traffic after a pass to the flat, which meant he didn't have the angle to prevent the receiver from picking up the first down.

Maye had some nice hits early and was in on five tackles, including three near the line of scrimmage, but he was late getting over on one coverage play and badly missed his tackle after giving up a downfield catch on another:


Maye flying around and making more noise with impact plays but also being more prone to costly mistakes is something we've been predicting. It will be worth keeping an eye on whether that pattern continues.

Morris Claiborne wasn't tested in the first game, but Detroit went after him a few times, including on the game's only touchdown. He gave up a couple more first downs and a nine yard pass on 1st-and-10. Statistically, the damage wasn't too dramatic, but this falls well short of the "No. 1 corner in the league if I'm healthy" that Claiborne declared himself to be during the offseason.

Buster Skrine had a quiet game, as he wasn't targeted and didn't have any tackles. His main contribution was that he helped bottle up a run that was stuffed in the backfield.

Juston Burris missed a chance to make some headlines when he dropped an interception that he might have been able to return for a touchdown.

Burris only gave up one catch but it was a third down conversion on a quick slant and he was also beaten on another slant that was dropped and had a bad missed tackle in the running game. Burris' best play was a pass break-up on a fade to the end zone, although that one didn't count because the Jets had jumped offside.

The five players listed above played every snap of the first half, as the Jets remained in nickel.

In the battle for the fourth cornerback role, Marcus Williams perhaps lost ground to Darryl Roberts this week after he got beaten for a first down, while Roberts had a nice third down break-up on the outside. Williams did made a stop against the run, although the ball carrier was able to fall forwards for a few extra yards after contact.

Dexter McDougle continues to put pressure on those two, as he had another solid performance. We'll be writing more about McDougle's performance later today.

Rookies Derrick Jones and David Rivers got into the game for the last drive and each gave up a catch near the marker, with the difference being that Jones stopped his man short of the marker on third down to force a field goal, whereas Rivers allowed his man to fight for the first down.

In terms of reserve safeties, Rontez Miles was lost to an eye laceration/head injury. His only significant contribution was a run stuff.

Ronald Martin had three of his four tackles close to the line of scrimmage, but also allowed the ball carrier to bounce off his tackle for extra yards on one play. He wasn't tested in coverage.

Finally, we got our first look at Shamarko Thomas and he made an impact with a couple of nice hits, including one for a loss. However, he also allowed a runner to pick up the first down by lowering his head to drive past the marker.

Don't go away because we'll have our offensive review later this morning.