We're going to kick off today's analysis with some things you might not have noticed from yesterday's win over the Bills:
Say yes to the Bless
Interestingly, having himself been inserted into the line-up when Nate Hairston was having a bad game and then establishing himself as a full-time starter, Bless Austin did not play at all after being benched for a mistake just before half time in last week's game.
In fact, Austin didn't even get any special teams reps, which seems strange because he was active and has typically done some good things in that role.
While making him accountable for what the team must regard as an unacceptable performance last week makes sense on some level, why not just make him inactive? Blake Countess and Bennett Jackson could have contributed on special teams and each would be capable of playing the cornerback position in an emergency. Neither of those played any defensive snaps all season, which makes you wonder why you'd even have them on the roster if not to play special teams.
If this were last season, we'd be speculating about a disconnect between the front office and coaching staff. Maybe we should be speculating about a disconnect within the coaching staff as the season winds down.
The hits keep on not coming
The offensive line had an awful second half in the running game but actually did a decent job of keeping Sam Darnold relatively clean. While he had to move around a lot to avoid pressure, Darnold was sacked twice and the Bills weren't otherwise credited with a quarterback hit.
On those two sacks, both by Trent Murphy, Brandon Shell and Daniel Brown each got beaten around the edge and Darnold was unable to sense the hit coming from behind, although he did at least manage to hang onto the football.
On offense, the Jets had similar issues getting to the quarterback. Jordan Jenkins and Tarell Basham each had a strip sack, although Basham's was controversially overturned by the replay booth and ruled an incomplete pass. Those were the only two hits registered by the Jets, officially.
Basham's came off a clean one-on-one move around the edge, but the Jenkins one was an interesting play. The Jets set up with three down linemen - Jenkins, Nathan Shepherd and Quinnen Williams - and with two edge rushers - Basham and James Burgess - up at the line.
However, they dropped the two edges and sent Jamal Adams on a blitz. Williams drew a double team leaving the other three rushers one-on-one and all three beat their man to get to the quarterback:
With the Bills in such disarray on this play, it's surprising the Jets weren't able to generate more quality pressure in the second half.
Gregg Williams at times simply opted to have his defense sit back in coverage in the second half which worked from a bend-but-not-break perspective but actually translated to one of their worst halves of the season in terms of yardage surrendered (247).
At half-time, Le'Veon Bell was on the way to having the type of performance Jets fans were hoping he'd give them most weeks. He'd rushed for 45 yards and added 21 through the air. A similar performance in the second half would have given him a nice, productive statline.
However, he rushed for minus-four yards on four second half carries. In the event Bell doesn't return in 2020, that would be a symbolic way for his Jets career to flame out.
Bell having a strong start but then an unproductive second half, when you'd probably expect him to produce more, is nothing new. In fact, he averages 3.5 yards per carry in the first half of games and only 2.9 in the second half. Moreover, he averages 3.6 on his first 10 carries, 2.8 on his next 10 and only 1.4 after his 20th carry. By comparison, the league's leading rusher, Derrick Henry, got stronger as the game progressed, averaging 5.8 yards per carry in the second half.
Bell also managed to go the whole season without breaking a single 20-yard run having had 27 in 62 games as a Steeler. Nevertheless, given the number of times he turned nothing into something this year, you're left wondering where the running game would have been without him. Either way, it seems clear the Jets underused Bilal Powell and Ty Montgomery who averaged just 4.2 carries between them in the games where Bell was in the line-up.
Let's first focus on his first half performance though. Bell had a couple of nice runs, including this one which was arguably one of his best-looking runs all season:
To Bell's credit, despite the frustrating second half, he made arguably the biggest play of the game when he turned this 3rd-and-11 dumpoff pass into a late first down. (Kudos to Brent Qvale and Jonotthan Harrison for their blocking on this play too). That set up Sam Ficken's game-icing field goal:
On the whole though, it's been a year that has fallen far short of expectations. Who can predict what could happen next year with a renovated offensive line, though?
Not so Fats, my friend
One of the most impressive plays of the game for the Jets saw Foley Fatukasi explode into the backfield to impressively blow up a red zone run, aided by his linemate and fellow 2018 draftee Nathan Shepherd, who made the tackle for loss cleaning up.
Unfortunately, a little of the magic is lost in watching this play back as Fatukasi got out of the blocks a beat early and should've been called for offside:
Then again, for the flag not to be thrown, Fatukasi apparently got out of the blocks faster than the eye can see, so he gets credit for getting away with it and blowing up the play.
The ascendance of both Fatukasi and Shepherd following the Leonard Williams trade has been one of the biggest bright spots of the second half of the season with the Jets proving they didn't need Williams and his big-money contract to get good production from the individuals on the defensive line and that group as a unit.
If the jury was out on that deal when it was made, it's pretty clear the Jets made the right move given their situation at the time. Those extra picks, the first of which will be number 68 in April's draft (or even higher if the Patriots or anyone else is stripped of draft picks for cheating), will certainly come in handy as the Jets continue to re-build.
Much more analysis to come later today and over the next few days. Please let us know who you'd like to see us feature in more detail in 3-on-D and 3-on-O.