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Jets vs. Bears: Week 8 defensive grades

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28: Jordan Howard #24 of the Chicago Bears is tackled by the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on October 28, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 28: Jordan Howard #24 of the Chicago Bears is tackled by the New York Jets in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field on October 28, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Despite the seemingly positive statistics, the New York Jets defense didn’t play up to par in the team’s 24-10 loss to the Chicago Bears. What grade did the unit earn following this disappointing showing?

On the surface, it would appear that the New York Jets defense played a tough, resilient game of football on Sunday against the Chicago Bears.

After all, the team allowed under 400 yards of offense and held the Bears to 24 points despite an apathetic showing from the offense. In fact, if not for a 70-yard screen pass to scatback Tarik Cohen, the Jets defense would have shut the Bears out in the first half alone.

But don’t be fooled by misleading statistics. When the Jets defense needed to come up big, they folded.

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After a Chris Herndon touchdown early in the fourth quarter put the Jets right back in the game down by a touchdown, the defense proceeded to get steamrolled by the Bears offense allowing an eight-play, 79-yard drive to essentially put the final nail in the coffin. The Bears ran the ball down the Jets throats and threw the ball with ease as the defense finally caved.

Or was it that the Bears offense finally started clicking?

While certainly, some credit should go to the defense for holding the Bears to just 14 points through three quarters, much of this was due to quarterback Mitch Trubisky‘s struggles completing passes. Trubisky was erratic and inaccurate for most of the day with Chicago’s few big plays coming on dump-offs to Cohen and rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller.

Essentially, the Bears beat themselves on offense more than the Jets defense beat them.

Unfortunately, this came to a head on the ill-fated Bears fourth-quarter touchdown drive when the offense finally came alive and took advantage of a Jets defense clearly not on their best day.

And it’s not as if the excuse can be made that they were “tired” and were “on the field all game.” The Jets had just come off their longest drive since the first quarter and had given the defense plenty of time to rest up. They simply shrunk when they needed to rise to the occasion the most.

This is concerning, as is the fact that for the second consecutive game, the team failed to record a single takeaway. The Jets entered Week 7 second in the league in forcing turnovers on defense and have failed to force any since then. There is an abundance of talented playmakers on the team’s defense but it’s clear that their game revolves around forcing takeaways. Unfortunately, they have been unable to do so over the past two weeks.

Perhaps the most concerning aspect as of late has been the Jets run defense. The Bears totaled 179 yards on the ground and averaged over five yards per attempt setting the tone on the ground with multiple different players. While starting running back Jordan Howard didn’t really get it going until the fourth quarter, both Trubisky and Cohen out-rushed any Jets rusher with Trubisky almost out-rushing the entire Jets team by himself.

This continues a recent trend that has become a pretty significant issue as of late. At the end of the day, this blame ultimately falls squarely on the shoulders of the front seven. The inside linebackers need to do a better job of filing their gaps and the outside linebackers must set the edge and shed blocks more effectively.

Perhaps more than anything though, the Jets need their “star” defensive lineman to step up.

Leonard Williams was once again a relative non-factor in this game and with the run defense now struggling, excuses are beginning to run out for the talented former first-rounder. Not only did Williams lack any splash plays, save for a single tackle for loss, but he was actually one of the players cleared out of running lanes by Bears offensive linemen.

And no he wasn’t getting double-teamed on every single snap.

It was one of Williams worst games in recent memory and the Jets are going to need him to step his game up if they want their front seven to perform up to expectations.

The USC product was even out-performed by veteran nose tackle Mike Pennel in run defense who filled in nicely when starter Steve McLendon went down with an ankle injury. Pennel has been a solid rotational defensive lineman for the Jets and the team should feel pretty comfortable with him in the middle of the defense if McLendon is forced to miss any time.

On top of the struggles in run defense, the Jets once again failed to get any real consistent pressure on Trubisky for much of the game. Edge-rusher Brandon Copeland recorded a sack with his typical “one splash play per game” while Frankie Luvu collected a coverage sack later in the game.

The real surprise, however, came from recent acquisition Tarell Basham. Basham made his Jets debut last week and played exclusively on special teams but the former Indianapolis Colt was given a chance to contribute on defense this week and he made the most of his snaps.

While he only came away with two tackles and no credited sacks, Basham was able to generate actual pressure off the edge multiple times against Trubisky throughout the game. Given the barren wasteland that is the Jets edge rush room, Basham will likely receive more snaps going forwards as a reward for his solid game. And they may come at the expense of Jordan Jenkins who has been awfully quiet over the past few weeks.

In the secondary, Darryl Roberts put together another very solid performance in coverage as the veteran cornerback was given another chance to start with Trumaine Johnson still nursing a quad injury. The Jets wisely opted to keep Roberts on the outside and start the returning Buster Skrine in the slot as opposed to Skrine on the outside and rookie Parry Nickerson starting in the base nickel defense.

Roberts rewarded the team by coming away with a great day of coverage highlighted by two very solid pass breakups. The former New England Patriots draft pick will continue to receive playing time until Johnson returns from injury and it’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t even after Johnson is fully healthy.

The secondary didn’t put together a picture-perfect game however as Marcus Maye didn’t tackle as efficiently as he typically does playing with essentially one good hand and with Jamal Adams having probably his worst game of the season. Adams missed multiple tackles including one questionable play where he seemingly shied away from contact on Howard’s fourth-quarter touchdown.

It was an uncharacteristically poor performance from Adams who has been perhaps the Jets best defender to this point. This likely won’t become a trend and it’s safe to expect the LSU product to return to Pro Bowl form next week against the Miami Dolphins.

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Altogether, it was a severely disappointing performance for the defense highlighted by a lack of turnovers and a shoddy run defense. The failure to come through when the team needed them most was just the icing on the cake.

Final Grade: D+

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