This year, Matthew Sottile and I will break down the opposing team’s defense in our weekly scouting report. Like last year, I will be looking at the opposing team in a more broad, scheme-approach. Matthew will have a closer eye on the individual players.
Today, the New York Jets’ defense.
Alex’s Scheme Report
Jets’ Front Seven
Obviously, it’s an impressive group. You know the names. Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson, and Steve McLendon. And these dudes play a lot of snaps. Last week, Richardson and Wilkerson played 97%, Williams 93%, and McLendon 78%.
Todd Bowles may be a 3-4 guy but he’s running a full blown 4-3 in New York. No hybrid. Getting his best guys on the field.
Their depth isn’t the best, especially after losing DE Lawrence Thomas to injured reserve. But their core is pretty incredible and responsible for eight of their 11 team sacks. Leonard Williams leads the group with four. The DL also has 11 tackles for loss, half of the team’s total.
The run defense is stout. No runs of 20+ yards and allowing just 3.1 YPC, 2nd best only behind the Green Bay Packers.
Wilkerson is the left end, Williams often the three tech, McLendon the one tech, and Richardson their right end. Richardson is the most athletic of the lot and will often stand up and rush. Most movable piece of the quartet.
Their main three linebackers: Lorenzo Mauldin, the closest thing they have to an edge rusher, David Harris, and Darron Lee. Lee has played a lot to fill in for the injured Erin Henderson bu Henderson saw a role last week. Lee sure looks like the better player and like Mike Tomlin said, can really fly around the field a la Ryan Shazier.
They often shift to an over front to the strength of the formation.
Generally a two-gapping front and they’re darn good at holding the point of attack.
It is, uh, not good.
They’ve given up 16 passes of 20+ yards, tied for the 4th most. Seven of those have gone for 40+, the most by any team in the league.
Not only that but quarterbacks are completing 71.4% of their passes, the most against any team, thrown eight touchdown passes (tied 6th most), and averaging 9.1 yards per attempt, the most in the league. Horrific numbers across the board for New York.
If there is any upside, and this is for the entire defense, the Jets have the 7th best third down defense – 34.8% – and tied for the 10th best red zone defense – 50%.
Done some mixing and matching in the secondary. Darrelle Revis is dealing with a hamstring injury and Father Time, I don’t know which is more cumbersome, but if/when he’s out there, it’ll be at left corner. Buster Skrine, the former Cleveland Brown, opened up at right corner but also saw time in the slot.
Marcus Williams might be their best cornerback and has two picks this year. Really good ball skills. Think he’s played left and right corner.
Juston Burris and Rontez Miles have also seen time at cornerback, though the latter is conventionally viewed as a safety. Against the Seattle Seahawks, seven different DBs played at least 10 snaps. Cornerback casserole.
At safety, Marcus Gilchrist has played every snap this year at free safety while Calvin Pryor is the big hitting strong safety.
The Jets will occasionally stay in their base 4-3 to defend 11 personnel, choosing to roll Gilchrist or Pryor rolling over #2 in the slot. That helps beef up their run defense.
In coverage, they’re still trying to play a lot of man. Single high safety, Cover 1. Maybe why they’ve been burned so much deep.
Blitz wise, Bowles is passive, and wants to create pressure with stunts and games up front more than actual blitzes. But twice in some “and long” situations, 2nd and 7 and 3rd and 11 with the opponent at or inside their 20, they brought a strong safety blitz with Pryor coming off the edge.
Something to keep an eye on.
Jets’ Special Teams
Cornerbacks Juston Burris and Marcus Williams are the gunner. Calvin Pryor serves as the upback while Kellen Davis is the right wing, the only offensive player.
Linebacker Josh Martin, Burris, and Rontez Miles lead the Jets with 85 special teams snaps. Lee also has 50 snaps and he can fly, creating havoc. Martin leads the team with six special teams’ tackles.
Matthew’s Individual Report
The Pittsburgh Steelers take on the New York Jets on Sunday afternoon in their [questionable?] bumblebee outfits- let’s hope the Jets’ defense won’t play fly swatter. By the looks of things, they’d be hard pressed to stop the now top-geared Pittsburgh offense, especially with the return of Le’Veon Bell playing such a vital role in last week’s shellacking of the Kansas City Chiefs. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at the defensive culprits.
Few would argue that the heart and soul of this one-time [still?] dominant defense lay in the front line. Head Coach Todd Bowles incorporates more than their base 3-4 defense that he’s so accustomed to running, especially when attempting to deploy the likes of Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and [everyone hold their collective breath] Steve McLendon at once. (Reading those names makes me immediately think of the Monstars from Space Jam…only, the defensive line version. Scary.) This is a bad week to be thin at offensive line position.
Let’s start with the central portion, the aforementioned Steve McLendon that we’ve all grown to love. Last week’s contest against the Seattle Seahawks was a bit more of a struggle than we’re used to seeing from him, but he was able to grab 3 tackles- all of which were behind the line of scrimmage. Steelers fans will remember his tenacity, his ability to use his weight and lower body strength to throw large men aside like they’re nerf pylons.
Moving onto former USC star Leonard Williams, we see an absolute stud in the making. Last season saw him rack up an astounding 35 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, and grade positively (to profootball focus’ standards) in the pass rush, and absolutely flourish in the run game.
He’s also a workhorse, recording 56/62 (90%) snaps played last game- which is not a rarity, might I add. He also has quite a few sacks to thus far, as we take a look at one of his many below.
He lines up between the tackle and guards, fingers in the ground. This was due in part to the coverage, as Russsell Wilson had an unusual (by Seahawks, standards) amount of time to throw the ball. Williams puts the swim-move on ‘em and it’s goodnight ladies and gentleman. For those of you counting at home (although these are images, not GIFs), the time Wilson had in the pocket was under 2.3 seconds before Williams was barreling down his neck.
Wilkerson is a two-headed monster, who’s capable of swallowing up the ball carrier behind the line or sending the quarterback into next week. Again, last week was a bit of an anomaly for him; it’s been a slow start to the season (which can be said for this entire lineup).
He did, however, wrack up 3 tackles, 2 behind the line, 4 hurries and a lone quarterback hit. Last year saw him fight to 12 sacks, including 23 hits, and an astounding 45 hurries. Although David DeCastro has had his fair of struggles thus far, it’s going to be the biggest challenge of the year- so he better strap on his hard hat and be ready to fight.
Although he’s listed as an outside linebacker, it’s safe to say Sheldon Richardson is a natural 7-tech; his bread-and-butter lie in the pass rush, as he more times than not gets what he’s targeted towards. He’s graded positively throughout his first 3 games of the season (he missed the opener), and has been improving each and every contest.
Last week saw him force 4 hurries, a hit, 2 tackles and 1 behind the line. Needless to say his impact is felt each and every time he steps onto the field, even if he doesn’t record the sack. Take a look at below on what was an attempted and failed quick chop of Richardson.
He’s too much of an athlete for his weight, and you can definitely see his nimbleness, even when chugging towards the quarterback. Todd Haley has to be aware of Richardson’s ability to avoid a would-be blocker, as he easily sheds the strongest of tackles. Alejandro Villanueva better have his head on a swivel all day long.
Opposite Richardson is Jordan Jenkins, who was a third round selection in this year’s 2016 draft out of Georgia. Given it’ll only be his 3rd NFL game (again, he missed the first two contests of the year), the Jets will be looking for him to hold his own and avoid getting blown up. He’s been mediocre at best over his two first games, as he’s still learning the ropes. Would be wise for the Steelers to point Le’Veon in his direction, as opposed to Sheldon’s, although we may be short staffed at RT.
The middle is protected by Erin Henderson and David Harris. Let’s begin with Henderson. His run defense has always been his strong suit, as he struggles immensely in coverage. That being said, he seems to be struggling a bit more against the run to start the 2016 campaign- could simply be a by-product of the line’s lack of domination he’s become so used to seeing. He has almost as many missed tackles as he does recorded tackles, and has registered only 1 tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
David Harris, on the other hand, is usually decent in coverage and struggles in the run game. Conversely, through 4 games this year it seems he’s playing better against the run than his pass covering abilities. These New York Jets are all over the place, this year. He’s missed an astounding 5 tackles already, which is not something you want to see from one of your middle linebackers.
It should be a good day for Steelers receivers in the shallow regions of the field (Jesse James), as attacking Henderson and Harris should be a concern for the Jets.
The secondary is where a lot of the negative attention has been directed. Let’s start with their most polarizing figure, Darrelle Revis. Now, if we were talking between the years of 2009-2011, I’d be praising him and declaring half of the field unable to be thrown at.
But, the year is unfortunately 2016 for Revis, and it seems like his best days are far behind him. Although he’s slightly improved in each game since his opener against the Cincinnati Bengals, the improvement is still far from good.
It’s the splash plays he’s giving up for the first time in his career, as each game he’s been given a one-way ticket on an express heading deep. Taking a look at the game against the Buffalo Bills, he was targeted 5 times and allowed 2 receptions (which may not seem like much) for 90 yards and a score.
Take a look above at the touchdown; Marquise Goodwin simply ran a 9 up the sideline. Revis never pays much attention to the receiver, and keeps his eyes on Tyrod Taylor. That may have worked before, but that shipped has long since sailed. Only 2 receptions you could live with, but when one goes for an 84 yard play, heads start to turn. Pair that with an allowed touchdown, and you have a recipe for disaster.
However, Revis was a no-go in practice because of a mild hamstring strain, so he may not suit up on Sunday. That may bring in Marcus Williams, who followed the pattern set before him on Sunday against Seattle by allowing 3 receptions on all 3 targets for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Buster Skrine hasn’t played much better, who allowed 5 receptions on all 5 targets last week for 61 yards and a touchdown- ultimately allowing a quarterback rating of 157.1 when being thrown at! Historically Skrine hasn’t been great throughout his career, so it’s not much of a shock when looking at his numbers.
At the strong safety position is Calvin Pryor who also struggled mightily against the pass last week; he allowed 4 receptions on 5 targets for 52 yards. Although he’s usually offering up run-support, it’s never good to see your entire secondary get shredded the way they are right now.
Wrapping up the secondary is Marcus Gilchrist, who you can say has been struggling the least after 4 games (which isn’t an ode to his positive playing, but simply a reflection of this secondary). That being said, we again see the possibility of splash plays – he allowed only 1 reception on the lone target of the day for 37 yards.
If Ben Roethlisberger is given time in the pocket against this defensive line, he could potentially produce yet another 5 touchdown display. Momentum is everything in sports, and this matchup seems like it’s on a crash course towards touchdown-ville for the good guys.
Lachlan Edwards has punted 12 balls thus far, averaging 43.7 yards with a long of 54. Six of those were inside the 20-yard line, with 7 being returned. Conversely, opponents have punted 15 balls for an average of 42.5 yards with a long of 58. Of those 15, 8 were within the 20-yard line and 3 were returned- those 3 returns went for an average of 7.7 yards.