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Jets vs. Dolphins: Week 9 defensive grades

MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 04: Jamal Adams #33 of the New York Jets reacts in the fourth quarter of their game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - NOVEMBER 04: Jamal Adams #33 of the New York Jets reacts in the fourth quarter of their game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 4, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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The New York Jets defense played lights out in the team’s 13-6 loss to the Miami Dolphins but it wasn’t enough to overcome their hapless offense. How does the unit grade out following another disappointing defeat?

The New York Jets may have lost their third consecutive game on Sunday, but it’s hard to blame the defense for any of the team’s struggles. It was another week of offensive deficiency for the Jets only this week the defense definitely came to play.

The Jets defense held the Miami Dolphins to just 168 yards of offense throughout the entirety of the game. Brock Osweiler and the Dolphins managed just 104 passing yards as a team, the lowest total given up during head coach Todd Bowles tenure with the team. The team allowed just 64 rushing yards as the run defense returned to form and shut down Frank Gore and the Miami running game.

Still, the offense couldn’t take advantage and the defense was left to flounder and make up for the offensive struggles.

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The tone was set early on by the front seven as the Jets run defense recovered from a couple of poor weeks of play. Leading the pack was defensive lineman Leonard Williams who showed up after a two-game slump to record four tackles including a pair of tackles for loss. The former USC star took advantage of a lackluster Dolphins interior offensive line and came away with his best game in a few weeks.

We all know that Williams can be a game-wreaker and at times he could look like the most dominant player on the field. The key to his success is doing so consistently and against greater levels of talent. A player with his talent should perform as he did against the Dolphins and there’s no reason as to why he can’t do it again next week when the team takes on the Buffalo Bills who don’t exactly have a threatening interior either.

With Williams in a contract year, he’s going to need to do all he can to prove to the Jets that he deserves a long-term contract extension. More games like this will certainly do the trick.

The Jets were also able to take advantage of injuries at offensive tackle for the Dolphins as both starting tackles went down for significant periods of time during the game. Reserve lineman Zach Sterup filled in for both Ja’Wuan James and Laremy Tunsil and the second-year pro looked like he didn’t even belong on the field.

Jordan Jenkins was able to beat him for two sacks while Jeremiah Attaouchu picked up his second sack as a Jet against the oversized but immobile offensive tackle. While Sterup’s poor play likely played a big role in Jenkins and Attaochu’s sacks, it’s certainly encouraging to see the pass rush step up especially Jenkins.

The Georgia product has been extremely quiet over the past couple of weeks so it was good to see him make a few plays and remind everyone that he still could be a solid building block on this young Jets defense. Jenkins hasn’t taken quite the step forward as a pass rusher that the team might’ve hoped this year, but the 2016 third-round pick remains a solid run stopper and overall edge defender.

Linebacker Avery Williamson once again paced the team in tackles picking up 12 total and recording a sack, his third of the season. Williamson has been a very solid addition to the team via free agency and as the weeks go on, the similarities in usage to Demario Davis become more and more apparent.

Williamson’s three sacks rank second on the team and his numbers are just about on pace to match what Davis did last year with the team. Considering Williamson is three years younger than Davis, it’s safe to say that this signing has been a pretty solid success for general manager Mike Maccagnan so far.

But neither Williams nor Williamson dominated the game the way safety Jamal Adams did on Sunday.

After a less-than-stellar game against the Chicago Bears, Adams bounced back in a big way picking up seven total tackles and single-handily halting various Dolphins drives. Adams deflected multiple passes as he was rushing the passer and he was good for his usual two tackles for loss in run defense.

The second-year safety has quickly developed into one of the premier young safeties in the league and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him earn a Pro Bowl nod this year for his work in every facet of defense. His run defense skills have been world class, his pass rush traits have matched that of the best edge rusher on the team, and his pass coverage has been above average despite the team using him less in that role than last year.

Adams is the most talented player on the Jets defense at this point and it’s easy to make the argument that he’s the best overall player on the entire team too. At just 23-years old there’s so much room to grow for the outspoken locker room leader and watching his development over the next couple years should be enough of a reason for fans to tune in every Sunday.

The only real downfall of the defense continues to be the lack of takeaways as the Jets went their third straight game without a takeaway. This comes just three weeks after the team had ranked second in the league in takeaways creating a worrisome trend.

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The Jets defense can play the “bend-but-don’t-break” game all they want but at some point, the team is going to have to take advantage of turnover-prone quarterbacks and force some turnovers. Next week’s matchup against the Bills is a golden opportunity to buck this recent tendency, regardless of who the team lines up under center.

Ultimately, the lack of takeaways hurts the final grade but it’s hard to justify giving the unit anything lower than an “A-” for as well as they played, particularly in the second half.

Final Grade: A

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