Quick Hits: Communication breakdowns sink Jets' defensive effort

We'll still be sharing a breakdown of each player's performance over the next day or two, but we're also going to provide some separate strategic analysis as well. We'll start with a look at one of the major issues with the Jets' defensive performance...

The Jets gave up over 400 yards defensively, including 190 on the ground. Big plays were a feature, with five 10+ yard runs and five 20+ yard passes accounting for approximately two-thirds of the Bills' offensive output.

A common theme in most of these plays where that their roots lay in poor communication by the back seven. Jets coaches have lauded how much better the communication has been this year, but this game showed that there is a lot of work to do as many of the plays they gave up, including several third down conversions, probably could have been avoided.

Let's take a look at some examples and try to figure out what went wrong.

In the running game, virtually all of the big runs the Bills came up with were exacerbated by a poor run fit from the Jets defense. Could this be because there were players not fully sure of their assignment?

An example of this came on Mike Tolbert's big cutback run up the middle:


Clearly there's a problem up front, as Steve McLendon is driven off the line by a double team and Claude Pelon can't get downhill due to a cut block. This creates a big cutback lane for Tolbert.

The Bills were crafty here; calling a counter-type run with Tolbert who is considered a power runner. The Jets' linebackers played right into their hands by following the flow of the action to the right, ending up sealed on the backside. On such plays, the Jets have to have someone responsible for the cutback lane and Jamal Adams finds himself completely isolated as the only defender in the box that's still on that side.

To his credit, Adams realizes that the tight end is going to seal him off by kicking him to the outside and gives ground so that he can still get to the ball carrier. However, he's on his heels as the does so and can't prevent Tolbert barrelling forwards for several more yards after contact.

This was not an isolated incident, as there was another very similar run just a few plays later.

Here was another example of poor lane integrity from Darron Lee, this time on an outside run:


It's not always apparent who was at fault on plays like this, but the most revealing part of this plays is at the end where Muhammad Wilkerson noticeably reprimands him.

Outside contain has to be one of Lee's main priorities there, as he lines up outside and up at the line of scrimmage. However, he immediately loses outside leverage and gets driven back at the snap so he no longer has an angle to prevent an easy run around the edge.

Lining up in the right spot and knowing your assignment is crucial in the running game and was always going to be a learning curve for Lee, who primarily played outside the tackle box in college.

It's just as important in coverage though. If the Jets don't feel they have the talent to match up man-to-man, then that places an extra onus on the back seven to communicate and know their role within zone coverages. Based on their gameplan today that seems to be the case, but there were multiple breakdowns as a result.

Take a look at this play, where the receiver is wide open down the sideline. This play ends with the familiar sight of Demario Davis chasing after an open receiver, but it's perhaps not his fault.


Jamal Adams is aligned on the right side and he's caught peeking in the backfield as the tight end leaks out behind him. Adams then drops into the left flat, although there's no other eligible receivers on that side of the formation.

If this was Adams' error, then that doesn't really absolve Davis of blame, considering it's his job to call the defense and ensure everyone knows their assignment before the snap.

Here's another coverage breakdown involving Davis. This time, it initially appears that Morris Claiborne has been easily beaten for a first down.


However, you can see that Claiborne gave his man a clean inside release, obviously expecting help. Lee and Davis pick up the tight end, though, instead of dropping off. In such a situation, you might double team and bracket an elite tight end, but you wouldn't go to these lengths to stop Nick O'Leary. And even if you did, you'd have Claiborne playing tighter coverage.

Still, it was better than how they dealt with O'Leary later on, leaving him completely uncovered on another play action pass for another big gain.

What's frustrating is that the Jets weren't getting beaten in coverage very often. Instead the Bills were exploiting gaps in the defense to find open receivers.

That's not to say that there weren't individual errors, because the missed tackle count was extremely high with a handful of players missing more than one. This play on 3rd-and-long was just a spectacular failure across the board as six separate defenders overpursued:


The bigger immediate concern, though, is these coverage breakdowns and the long plays they will create. Mitigating these issues was an obvious offseason priority so it is disappointing to see this continue.

The good news is that is should be fixable. However, youngsters like Adams and Lee will be counted upon to get more comfortable within the system as soon as possible. Both had positive moments too, so they can't be written off as a lost cause at this early stage.

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