Are first team defensive struggles a concern?
By Mark Kelly
The first team defensive struggles of the New York Jets have been noticed so far during preseason football. Could it be a concern heading into the upcoming season?
The New York Jets are working hard to be ready for what awaits once the regular season arrives. There is no doubt going into the season with five of their first six games against playoff teams from last season, the New York Jets need their strengths to be exactly that.
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However, whether it is disinterest, trying to get routines down or just not wanting to give away anything, the Jets first team defense in their first two preseason games has been downright ugly. So far the first team has been on the field for 44 plays totaling 25:46. They have allowed 262 yards, eight first downs, and 10 points. Perhaps that would be acceptable if the Jets’ defense was on the field for eight or nine possessions. However, the first team defense has only been on the field for four possessions.
In those four possessions, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Washington Redskins averaged 11 plays and 65 yards per drive. One bright side of the Jaguars game is the Jets did not allow a third-down conversion. However, their defense was so poor, that Jacksonville only had one third down. Of the 19 plays Jacksonville ran against the Jets first team defense, 17 were 1st or 2nd down plays.
Against the Redskins, the Jets first team defense fared a little better, as they forced five third downs. However, the Redskins converted three of them. Against the run, the first team defense didn’t exactly turn heads with their inspired performance. Jacksonville ran for 52 yards on 10 carries, while the Redskins carried the ball 14 times for 56 yards. All totaled, the Jets allowed 108 rushing yards on 24 carries (4.5 YPC).
So needless to say, the Jets final preseason game that the starters will play on Saturday against the Giants might be a good time for the first team defense to stiffen their lip a bit.
Last season, the Jets finished third in the NFL allowing just 3.6 YPC. If you remember, I touched on how this number was a bit deceiving, as their running game was exposed in the losses:
“However – a closer look shows something more troubling. In five of the Jets six losses they were run on consistently, averaging 125 rushing yards per game in those losses. Latavius Murray, LeSean McCoy and Ryan Matthews set season-highs in yardage or YPC in running for 100 yards in wins against the Jets in 2015, while Darren McFadden also recorded a 100-yard game in the Jets win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Part of that was due to the Jets’ inability to consistently set the edge, along with lacking overall speed at the LB position. Hopefully the drafting of Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins at the linebacker position will help address those needs but until we see actual results and the speed backs that hurt the Jets in 2015 held in check, this will be a question most will have.”
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The defense also struggled mightily against the pass, as both Blake Bortles and Colt McCoy were able to do just about whatever they wanted.
Bortles connected on 7 of his 8 attempts for 105 yards, while McCoy finished 7-9 for 66 yards. One thing that gets missed in McCoy’s performance is that is first drive ended with an awfully thrown interception that cornerback Darrelle Revis picked off in the end zone. However, two plays before that McCoy connected with wide receiver Jamison Crowder on a 7-yard touchdown pass that was nullified by an offensive pass interference call.
The alarming thing about the pass defense these first two games is how easy completing passes has looked for both quarterbacks. Looking deeper at the 2015 season, the defense struggled against quarterbacks that hadn’t accomplished much in their NFL career. In 2015, five of the Jets six losses came against quarterbacks that won a total of three games in 2014 (all won by Derek Carr). You expected the Jets’ defense to not play well against Tom Brady, not T.J. Yates. Too often last season, the Jets’ defense failed to show up against very mediocre quarterbacks that they should have dominated.
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There is no need to panic or worry about this defense; certainly not after two meaningless preseason games where you never really know what the coaches are trying to identify. However, if this team is going to fight for a division title, they can’t sleepwalk through games like they did at times last season. If they don’t want to be buried from a brutal early-season schedule, then the defense needs to not be just good, but the best in the AFC.