Broncos vs. Jets: Week 5 defensive grades
By Justin Fried
The New York Jets offense led the team to a 34-16 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday but that doesn’t mean the defense didn’t make plays too. How does the unit ultimately grade out following the team’s big victory?
Sunday’s game may have been all about the offense, but the New York Jets defense did their part as well to make the plays needed to emerge victoriously.
While the highlights of the game will undoubtedly be saturated with Isaiah Crowell‘s record-breaking performance or Robby Anderson‘s flashy touchdowns, the defense stepped up in a huge way holding Denver to just 10 points through the first 58 minutes of the game.
Although a late garbage-time touchdown from Demaryius Thomas and some meaningless yards towards the end of the game may have inflated the stats for Denver’s offense, the final stat line is ultimately misleading. The Jets defense held tough restraining Case Keenum and the Broncos offense paving the way for a Jets victory.
The Jets offense brought the flash and excitement to Sunday’s game. The defense brought the stability.
That stability was headlined by the big defensive linemen up front who not only set the tone in run defense but pressured Keenum enough to disrupt the Broncos passing game. The team finished with four sacks adding to an already impressive total from the team this year.
With their four sacks in Sunday’s contest, the Jets now rank ninth in the NFL with 14 total sacks, far exceeding any expectations for the team’s pass rush. Credit should go to Todd Bowles and Kacy Rodgers, who is out indefinitely with an illness, for dialing up creative blitz packages to make the most of the weapons at the team’s disposal.
At the same time, part of this recent surge in pass rush is due to the resurgence of Leonard Williams who has awoken from his sackless slumber to pick up three sacks in the team’s last two games. Williams was in on three different sacks picking up one full and two half sacks adding to his recent string of impressive performances.
The quarterback hits and pressures are finally beginning to convert into sacks and tackles for loss-making his “hidden production” not so hidden anymore. With Williams in a contract year, it appears that the former first-round pick is finally stepping it up and fulfilling his potential as a top-six draft pick.
Williams has always been a good, if not a very good player. But if he could keep this level of production up, it won’t be long before he’s no longer considered good, but great.
Elsewhere in the Jets pass rush, early-season waiver acquisition Jeremiah Attaochu recorded his first sack with his new team, a strip sack of Keenum late in the second quarter. Attaochu, a former second-round pick of the Los Angeles Chargers, is just 25-years old despite this being his fifth NFL season. General manager Mike Maccagnan has a very good track record of making solid, under-the-radar moves and the pickup of Attaochu may be yet another one.
Attaochu, Jordan Jenkins, and Frankie Luvu combined for eight total quarterback pressures and 1.5 sacks as the Jets edge defenders continued to impress. Once again, credit should go out to the coaching staff for maximizing the abilities of the Jets edge rushers, despite their lack of proven success.
Linebacker Avery Williamson led the team in tackles this week totaling nine and picking up another tackle for loss. The former Tennessee Titan has been a very solid addition to the Jets defense and has really shined, especially over the past couple weeks, with his run defense.
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The real story of the Jets defense, however, came in the secondary.
With the Jets already without number one corner Trumaine Johnson who was out nursing a quad injury sustained in practice, the loss of starting nickel cornerback Buster Skrine early in the game could have been disastrous.
Outside of Morris Claiborne, the Jets were forced to rely on veteran backup Darryl Roberts and unproven rookie Parry Nickerson and while the duo certainly had their share of ups and downs, they ultimately held their own against a talented Broncos receiving corps.
While nobody will mistake Roberts for Jalen Ramsey, the former New England Patriots draft pick proved to be adequate depth at a position where the Jets really need it. If Johnson is forced to miss next week as well, look for Roberts to once again start on the outside in the Jets nickel defense.
The same could be said for Nickerson who will likely start in the slot in the Jets nickel defense if Skrine isn’t able to suit up next Sunday. The rookie out of Tulane had a shaky start to the day allowing multiple catches over the middle but settled down and was mostly solid in coverage throughout the second half.
Nickerson could very well be the Jets future at nickel corner so the next few games, or however much time Skrine may miss, could serve as an early audition of sorts for the young cornerback.
Each of the Jets safeties enjoyed fine games as well with Jamal Adams putting together another standout performance and Marcus Maye looking to be completely back to full health. Adams picked up another six tackles and a tackle for loss as the LSU product continued his ascent towards stardom.
For at least this week though, his partner in crime outshined him as Maye was all over the field totaling eight tackles, a half a sack, and an interception at the end of the game. Maye’s interception went into the record books at 104 yards yet the former Florida Gators safety didn’t score as he was tackled at the one-yard line by rookie Courtland Sutton.
While Maye might catch some flack for his pick-six that wasn’t, this shouldn’t take the attention away from the fantastic game that he had. Although Maye hasn’t been tested quite so much in pass coverage, his run defense has looked top notch and the 2017 second-round pick flashed some of that in this game.
With Maye healthy, the Jets have their young safety tandem back together once again and that should serve to benefit a Jets defense going forward that has been solid even without Maye. Overall, the Jets defense proved to be the backbone for the team’s dominant victory and every flashy offense needs a defensive backbone to maximize their potential.