The New York Jets came up short in their first game of the season falling to the Buffalo Bills by a final score of 21-12. Who’s to blame for this disappointing defeat?
I like to consider myself an optimist. When things look down, I always try and look on the bright side.
That’s not going to work for this series of articles.
Every week I will take a look and examine five players that either won or lost the game for the Jets and something tells me that there’s going to be an abundance of pessimism this season.
The Jets 2017 season got off to a sloppy start Sunday as Gang Green put forth a disappointing, yet expected effort when they took on the Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The offense looked about as advertised with a very little spark from the running game and an ultra-conservative passing attack. On the defensive side of the ball, the team was gashed for big gains over the middle of the field and struggled to contain Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy all day long.
But who specifically is to blame for the Jets’ lackluster effort?
Next: 5. Matt Forte
5. Running Back Matt Forte
It seems like every year the talk amongst Jets faithful is that Matt Forte has lost a step.
At this point, I don’t know if he has any steps left to lose.
The 31-year old is a shell of his former self and has lost essentially all of his dynamic ability out of the backfield. He has little-to-no burst when he hits the hole and his top speed is something reminiscent of a tortoise with bricks on its feet.
Too harsh? Maybe. But the fact of the matter is, Forte continues to receive significant playing time while it appears that the team is still content on using Bilal Powell in a complementary role rather than as a featured back.
Granted, the Jets did appear to use Powell a bit more consistently after two dropped passes from Forte who to his credit is normally sure-handed. However, this needs to be more of the norm.
It’s almost become cliche at this point but the Jets need to utilize Powell more regularly in their offense and at this stage, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t see some snaps go Elijah McGuire’s way after the solid preseason he had.
One thing’s for sure, Forte’s workload has to diminish.
Next: 4. Buster Skrine
4. Cornerback Buster Skrine
Much like Forte, Buster Skrine is another player whose best days are behind him. At 28-years-old Skrine is far from ancient, but it’s clear that his play has dropped off significantly in the past year or so and now it’s more likely you’ll hear his name called for blown coverage rather than a good defensive play.
This was once again on display this past game as Skrine allowed a 47-yard reception to Jordan Matthews on a play that shouldn’t have been any more than an 8-yard completion. Instead, Skrine gambled and took a horrible angle while attempting to knock the ball away and Matthews was able to run free for the long gain. This set the Bills up inside the 15 and ultimately led to a Buffalo touchdown.
Unfortunately, this is becoming a recurring problem for Skrine who seems to be on the ground more than he actually defends passes. If Juston Burris continues to play well, there’s no reason that he shouldn’t be the starter opposite Morris Claiborne in the team’s base defense.
It doesn’t bode well for a rebuilding team if one of the highest paid players on the team continues to be a liability.
More on that in a second….
Next: 3. Muhammad Wilkerson
3. Defensive End Muhammad Wilkerson
Muhammad Wilkerson is not trying to the best of his ability. It’s as plain and simple as that. Wilkerson is without a doubt one of the most talented players on a Jets roster that’s not exactly full of…..well…..talent. The Temple product has multiple double-digit sack seasons under his belt and has proven that, when motivated, he could be one of the most dominant defensive ends in the game.
But none of that matters if he’s out there giving minimal effort on most plays and very visibly jogging after the opposing ball carriers on a consistent basis. His lack of effort is equally as evident in the run game as he was perpetually getting driven back off the line of scrimmage with little resistance.
This is even crazier when you consider the fact that Wilkerson’s $18 million cap hit is good for 12% of the team’s total salary cap.
Wilkerson blamed his lack of production last season on a lingering injury and the inability of the Jets training staff to help him effectively recuperate.
There will be no one to blame this year but himself.
Next: 2. Demario Davis
2. Linebacker Demario Davis
Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the Jets season opener was the incompetence of their inside linebacker and their inability to control the middle of the field.
Demario Davis and his positional partner Darron Lee (more on him later) had very rough games getting beat in coverage on multiple occasions and consistently being out of position on run defense assignments.
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Davis looked like the 2015 version of himself, a player who was admired more by opposing team’s tight ends than the Jets faithful. The Arkansas State product was beaten pretty bad on a 35-yard reception by Charles Clay on a play where he bit on the play fake and was completely out of position to defend the pass.
There were also multiple instances of Davis being way out of position on runs by McCoy such as this one right here. Davis isn’t blocked, he isn’t even touched. He simply overpursues the ball carrier and McCoy is able to pick up a large gain on the ground.
If the Jets defense is going to be successful, they are going to need more production out of their middle linebackers or else they risk a repeat performance.
Next: 1. Darron Lee
1. Linebacker Darron Lee
In defense of Davis, Darron Lee is equally, if not more to blame for the lackluster showing by the Jets linebackers in Sunday’s loss.
Let’s not kid ourselves. Lee did not have a good rookie season. Sure, he showed some promise and his athletic prowess was on display at times but his inconsistencies in coverage and his tendency to over pursue when tackling opponents overshadowed much of that.
Going into this season, the Jets promised a new and improved Lee. They even went as far as to release veteran David Harris in a clear sign that they were moving towards the future and putting more responsibility in Lee’s hands. If Sunday’s game is any indication, it’s the same old Lee.
Lee was spotty at best in coverage and despite his athletic ability, proved to be incapable of keeping up with opposing receivers. His biggest weakness though has to be in his run defense.
The former Ohio State Buckeye misses assignments on a regular basis and seems to be out of position more often than not. He is overly aggressive on tackles which ultimately leaves a scene of Lee laying on his back a recurring image in Jets fan’s minds.
One example from this last game resulted in a 21-yard gain by McCoy.
While it may be too early to start throwing around the “bust” label, Lee is going to have to start showing some improvement if he ever wants to develop into a capable starter in this league.
For the Jets, it’s a must.