After each game, we'll be highlighting three defensive and three offensive players and looking in detail at their performance. We'll start today with the defense:
Ashtyn Brutal Facts
One offseason decision for the Jets will be whether or not to bring back either or both of safeties Ashtyn Davis and Jordan Whitehead. The latter started every game and led the team in interceptions, albeit that three of his four came in the opener. Davis, in a fraction of the number of snaps, had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries.
On Sunday, a calf injury sidelined Whitehead less than 10 snaps into the game, giving us a good look at what the defense might look like with Davis starting instead of Whitehead.
Clearly the defense didn't miss a beat, although the fact they held New England to three points has to be taken with a pinch of salt given that they were missing a few key starters and playing in heavy snow.
Nevertheless, Davis looked good, as he had five tackles and three passes defensed, including his third interception of the season.
On that play, he jumped in front of a downfield throw to pick it off. A good play, tempered by the fact he then tried to lateral it to Sauce Gardner and lost possession.
His other two pass breakups were key plays. One saw him in good position to disrupt at the catch point on third down and the other was on 4th-and-short as he stayed with his man well but did get a little fortunate as he never got his head turned and it hit him in the back of this head.
Most of his tackles were downfield but he did make this good play near the line.
That's a good example of where Davis has improved because his biggest weakness in the past has been taking over-aggressive angles and over-running plays.
It should also be noted that Davis was also only one special teams tackle behind the league lead. He had a few chances to pick up one over the past three weeks but came up empty. If he continues to develop, though, perhaps his special team role will reduce and he'll get a bigger defensive workload from now on.
Most of the backup tackles that have filled in since Al Woods went down have really struggled, but Bruce Hector has actually done pretty well in his two games at the end of the season.
Hector was credited with three tackles, although actually one of those was a mistake because he was blocked out of the play and Will McDonald came off the backside to stuff it for no gain. Whoever filled out the gamebook obviously misread the number in the snow.
Despite this, Hector did make a couple of impressive plays. On this first one, he shows excellent technique as he stands up his blocker and frees up his outside hand to stop the run for a short gain.
This was also impressive, as he span off the block when the left guard tried to seal him off and blew up the quarterback draw.
Hector had a productive preseason with three sacks in three games but was the eighth defensive lineman to get on the field for the Jets this year. Having outplayed some of the guys ahead of him, he could have impressed the team enough to earn more of a shot at a role next year.
Didn't he do Will?
Rookie Will McDonald had a nice finish to the season as he recorded two tackles, including a sack and also added a pressure in 17 snaps.
(That doesn't include the run stuff mentioned above which was credited to Hector and was actually a pretty nice play by McDonald).
Here's McDonald's sack which was more about hustle and motor than anything else, as McDonald basically blew up the double reverse and then got Bailey Zappe to the ground before he had the ball out.
His other tackle was also good hustle and saw him stop Zappe short of the marker on 4th down to force a turnover. This came as he tried the spin move with which he had some good success in preseason, although that success hasn't been replicated against regular season opposition.
The move didn't exactly work, as Mike Onwenu repelled it, but it created enough disruption that Jalyn Holmes was freed up to pressure Zappe and force him outside. McDonald then ran him down well.
The season as a whole was disappointing for McDonald, who didn't get to play as much as he (and many fans) would have liked. However, it's a good sign that his pass rush numbers compare favorably with those of Jermaine Johnson, who obviously made a huge jump from year one to year two.
Those numbers per PFR:
Three sacks, seven pressures, two knockdowns and one hurry for McDonald
2.5 sacks, six pressures, two knockdowns and one hurry for Johnson.
That's encouraging, especially considering the fact that McDonald rushed the passer only 99 times while Johnson did 151 times. Of course Johnson showed more against the run, but McDonald wasn't alarmingly bad against the run or anything, and had some good moments (including the one in this game that he got no credit for).
With Bryce Huff's return by no means certain, McDonald could be a key player next season. While he hasn't shown that much in year one, there's enough here to give us some optimism that he'll develop similarly under the same staff.
Three-on-O will follow tomorrow.