After each game, we've been highlighting three defensive and three offensive players and looking in detail at their performance. We'll wrap up today with the defense:
Total Eclipse of the Art
The absence of injured rookie Javelin Guidry presented the Jets with an interesting dilemma. The team had expressed a desire to leave Arthur Maulet at safety, but he was the only other player available with any significant experience in the slot on the active roster or practice squad, apart from Corey Ballentine.
While the Jets could just have plugged Ballentine in to that nickel role, he has yet to play any defensive snaps this season, as the team's preference appears to be for him to establish himself on special teams. However, the Covid-19 outbreak for the Browns presented the Jets with a viable solution.
Since Cleveland would be without their top four receivers, it was inevitable that they would operate out of a lot of two tight end sets and that's what they did. This enabled the Jets to either match up out of a base defense with Maulet at safety or to operate out of a three-safety set with Matthias Farley entering the game and Maulet able to revert to slot where appropriate.
This worked well, as Maulet gave up just 40 yards on 10 targets and broke up three passes, including one where he ranged across from deep center field and this spectacular diving play as he reacted well and came off his assignment down the field:
Although Maulet gave up two first downs in the second quarter and had a couple of missed tackles, his overall performance was solid.
Maulet seems to be doing well in his deep safety role and obviously has value as a special teamer, although he hasn't been used as much in that capacity over the past few weeks. He's a free agent at the end of the season but the Jets should consider bringing him back as a low cost, versatile rotational option.
Having been replaced in the starting lineup by Maulet, Farley got a bit of a reprieve this week and, if he perhaps wasn't in the team's long-term plans, he at least gave them something to think about with this performance.
Farley had five tackles and two passes defensed as he didn't give up a catch despite being targeted six times.
Both Farley's pass breakups prevented potential touchdowns, including this one right near the end of the game:
Farley had one missed tackle, but otherwise didn't really have any negative plays and was also in on a run stop in the backfield.
Guidry wasn't placed on injured reserve so there's presumably a chance he'll return this weekend. If he doesn't, then Farley might get one last chance to convince the Jets he's worth keeping.
Although the Jets didn't want to play someone with zero defensive reps this season in the slot, they had no choice at inside linebacker with Harvey Langi placed on injured reserve.
Bryce Hager stepped in and led the Jets with 10 tackles, including this stop in the backfield:
Hager fared quite well in coverage, where he gave up four catches on five targets but with only one first down.
However, he didn't generate any pressure on eight pass rushes and he was blocked out of a handful of plays at the second level, including one in the fourth quarter which saw him pancaked:
Langi's energetic performances drew rave reviews but Hager graded out much better than Langi did in his time as a starter. This suggests that although Langi made some splashy plays, Hager was a lot more consistent in terms of not having as many negatives.
Hager has performed well on special teams this year which will always give a veteran player a chance to return as a rotational reserve, but if the Jets opt to continue experimenting with Langi - a pending restricted free agent - they'll need to reign in some of his recklessness. Otherwise, he'll lose playing time to a steadier, more reliable player such as Hager.
Previously - Three on O: Brown, Crowder, Perine