Since the special teams unit had a major impact on this week's loss, we figured we'd start this week's analysis here. After Luke Kuechly's fumble return had given the Panthers a 26-20 lead in the fourth quarter, the Jets went three and out, leading to Kaelin Clay's 60-yard punt return for a touchdown. The Jets were unable to recover, eventually losing 35-27.
Let's review everything that went down:
Kick coverage - Bleugh Thomas
Let's get right to it and try to figure out what went wrong on this punt return:
Clearly long snapper Thomas Hennessy was at the root of the problem here, as he allowed Clay to spin out of his tackle and break into the clear. But what turned this one broken tackle into a chance to take it the distance?
Let's start with the gunners, Terrence Brooks and Rashard Robinson. No complaints here, as they do their job. Each gets upfield, forcing Clay to return it up the middle, where there should be plenty of bodies in the way. If Hennessy makes a clean stop there, it's a well executed play.
However, the entire second wave basically seemed to assume Clay would be stopped at that point as they all effectively overran the play. You have Julian Stanford and Darron Lee on the left and Bruce Carter and Eric Tomlinson on the right. In each case you can't really criticize any of them for getting out of their lanes, which is usually what leads to a long play like this.
Lee is too far from the play to make an impact and if you watch closely, Stanford is frozen by Clay's nifty jab step before he makes the spin move. That momentary hesitation means he gets caught up on a block. Carter should perhaps have squeezed in a bit tighter to bottle Clay up as he made the spin move, but had to be wary of a bounce to the outside with the gunners redirected upfield. Tomlinson simply came up too fast and wasn't quite able to recover in time, then compounded his error by inadvertently cutting Robinson - probably the fastest Jet on the field and the guy with the best hope of running Clay down from behind - to the deck.
Here's where Rontez Miles and Josh Martin are so crucial to the Jets coverage units, because it's their job to fill any gaps in the second wave. However, Miles was overaggressive, leading to him being caught up inside, and Martin lost contain, partly because he was cognisant of the danger of Clay cutting back up the middle and didn't want to get caught on the wrong side of his blocker. Martin's primary responsibility here was to keep contain and he was drawn out of position, similar to some of the issues the Jets had in the running game earlier in the year.
David Bass is also on this level, but on the other side of the field. Had Martin forced the return back inside, Bass would have had a chance to get over and make that stop but was too far away once Clay went outside.
Punter Lachlan Edwards made a stop last week as the last line of defense but didn't take a good enough angle to slow Clay down here.
How you apportion the blame on this play is open to interpretation, but there's plenty of it to go around.
Aside from this play, on other returns, Lawrence Thomas missed a tackle as did Robinson and Carter. Juston Burris made a couple of good plays as a gunner, though.
Martin got credit for a tackle on a kickoff return at the 18, although it was Miles and ArDarius Stewart who first contacted the return man. Miles was later credited with yet another special teams tackle as he continues to lead the team.
Kicking game - Blue Edwards
For Edwards to have a punt returned for a touchdown was disappointing, especially since this time he did the opposite of out-kicking his coverage. It was only a 37-yard punt, although it perhaps lacked the adequate hangtime for the coverage units to get aligned.
Edwards also had a few chances to pin Carolina inside their 10-yard line but wasn't able to do it. He almost landed one inside the five, but Brooks was unable to prevent the touchback although he was bailed out by a penalty and Edwards got a chance to re-kick.
Chandler Catanzaro made all three of his extra points and two short field goals, both on fourth and one. (Reminder: The Jets lost by eight). All his kickoffs went into the end zone although the Panthers brought two out, one to the 30 and one to the 18.
With the Panthers punting, Burris and Miles each came very close to a block on separate occasions.
Return game - Jojo finally finds his Mojo
Jojo Natson fared reasonably well on kickoffs, getting out past the 25 a couple of times. However, he was a disaster on punts, muffing one and recovering it himself and twice losing yardage. He also misjudged one and allowed it to land. That one bounced for several extra yards.
However, he finally made a good play on a 17-yard return in the 4th quarter, setting the Jets up with great field position near midfield while up 20-18 early in the fourth quarter. Two plays later, Josh McCown's fumble meant the lead was gone for good, though.
The rookie has looked out of his depth for the most part over these last two games and it wouldn't be a surprise to see the more experienced Lucky Whitehead elevated to the active roster sooner rather than later.
We'll have more analysis from yesterday's game throughout the day tomorrow...