Dolphins vs. Jets: Week 2 defensive grades
By Justin Fried
The New York Jets defense impressed in the team’s home opener against the Miami Dolphins but still had a few mental lapses that ultimately cost the team. Balancing the good with the bad, how does the unit grade out following the team’s Week 2 loss?
The New York Jets handled prosperity about as well as they typically have in the past with a frustrating loss to their division rivals in Week 2. The theme of the game turned out to be “mistakes.”
Mistakes by the offense, mistakes by the defense, and mistakes by the entire team which in the end cost them the game. If this team is ever going to take their game to the next level and be considered true contenders, they’re going to have to limit these mistakes as much as possible.
While the stat sheet will show that most of these mistakes came courtesy of the offense, there were numerous backbreaking errors committed by the defense that blew a golden opportunity for a change in possession or at least a shift in momentum.
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There was holding penalty from Morris Claiborne that extended the drive after the Jets had sacked the Dolphins with time winding down in the second quarter. Miami went on to score and take a 20-0 lead into the half.
It’s hard to forget the play that essentially proved to be the final dagger as with 3:36 remaining in the game, the Jets allowed a 3rd-and-19 conversion to Frank Gore on a simple dump off. The Jets would never get the ball back.
Still, the defense kept the team in the game for much of the contest even holding the Dolphins scoreless in the second half. That type of effort starts with the tone-setters up front, that being the front-seven.
The Jets picked up their first four sacks of the season as the pass rush took full advantage of the Dolphins shotty offensive line. Each starting outside linebacker, Jordan Jenkins and Brandon Copeland, picked up a sack with Copeland missing out on his second following a Buster Skrine holding penalty.
Where they struggled, however, was containing quarterback Ryan Tannehill and remaining disciplined in their assignments. Both Jenkins and Copeland were victims of the read option as Tannehill was able to scramble outside the tackles for chunks of yardage multiple times throughout the game.
A starting edge rusher in the NFL isn’t only asked to rush the passer but to set the edge and not allow any player to break free to the outside. When you lose containment, bad things happen.
In this case, the bad thing was Tannehill rushing for more yards than the entire New York Jets.
On the contrary, the Dolphins struggled to run the ball between the tackles for most of the game only having some more success later in the game when the defense was exhausted from the offense’s short drives. Henry Anderson and Leonard Williams stood out as players who had great games with the former picking up his first sack as a Jet and the latter tallying six total tackles, many of which came in run defense.
It was a quiet game for the team’s linebackers with Darron Lee failing to follow up on his breakout performance last week, but ultimately there were no outrageous mistakes from the third-year linebacker. Avery Williamson also had a quiet day recovering a botched Miami snap but also being a part of a miscommunication with safety Doug Middleton that led to a Dolphins touchdown.
The unit that really stood out, however, was the secondary who played (mostly) lockdown coverage for much of the game apart from a few costly mistakes.
Starting with the good, Trumaine Johnson played a shutdown game with very few targets coming his way for a reason. The former Los Angeles Ram shut down the speedy Kenny Stills, who he was matched up with for the majority of the game holding him to just two catches for 17 yards.
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It was a less-than-stellar start to his Jets career in Week 1 but it appears that Johnson has turned it around at least after a solid Week 2 showing. His position-mate Morris Claiborne fared similarly well, albeit not with the same level of success. There was the aforementioned holding penalty that proved to be a killer mistake as that score ultimately ending up being the difference in the final score.
One mistake that may get lost in the shuffle came midway through the fourth quarter when Albert Wilson burnt Claiborne on a fly route only to see the pass sail over his head for a harmless incompletion. If that ball is completed, it’s a 75-yard touchdown and the game would’ve been over even sooner for Gang Green.
Skrine saw shades of his dreadful game last year against Miami, albeit not to the same degree. The veteran nickel cornerback was also beaten by Wilson, this ball on target for a 29-yard Dolphins touchdown late in the second quarter. This came just one play after Skrine was flagged for a 15-yard facemask penalty as his aggressive ways reared their ugly head again.
On a side note, these were the only two plays of that Miami drive.
It’s hard to argue that Skrine wasn’t almost fully responsible for the second Dolphins touchdown. This on top of a holding penalty later in the game that negated a Jets sack results in a very poor game for the former Cleveland Brown.
On a lighter note, safety Jamal Adams continued his ascension towards stardom with another impressive performance where he looked like the best player on the field. The former LSU standout led the team in tackles and picked up a strip sack on Tannehill on Miami’s second offensive possession showing off his speed and athleticism.
Adams has been all over the field during the first two weeks of the season and at this rate, it won’t be long before he begins to get national recognition for his outstanding play.
Ultimately, the final grade for the defense suffers as a result of a handful of mistakes that may have potentially cost them the game. The defense played well for three-quarters of the game, but it was that final 25 percent that proved to be the difference-maker.