Video Analysis: The Safeties Role In The Jets Defense

All Jets fans remember the 99 yard touchdown catch made by Giant’s wide receiver Victor Cruz which may have very well sunk the Jets 2011 playoff hopes.  With the safety position being a concern video analysis of the Cruz play helps in understanding specific defensive formations along with the safeties responsibilities and what the Jets will be looking for when addressing this position.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFTJwKw5Trs

The Giants were in an obvious passing situation so the Jets put in their dime defensive personnel (2 safeties, 4 cornerbacks). The Giants came out in a 3-by-1 look which means 3 receivers to one side 1 receiver to the other.

The Jets showed, cover 1 man-free, which is a defensive formation Rex Ryan likes to run because it allows for bringing pressure. One safety, Brodney Pool (#22), is in the deep middle of the field and is responsible to cover sideline to sideline not allowing any receiver to get over top of him. The cornerbacks are man to man on the receivers and another player will be responsible for covering the running back.

Looking at either video before the ball is snapped shows the cover 1 alignment, so what are the options and how do the safeties play a role?  Pool is the deep safety but the other safety, Eric Smith (#33), is free to do a variety of things. He could blitz and a linebacker could cover the running back, he could cover the running back allowing the Jets to use the front five to rush the passer, one of the cornerbacks could blitz and Smith would pick up the vacated receiver, he could drop back deep covering half the field while Pool moves to cover the other half or Smith could play zone coverage in the middle of the field underneath Pool while a linebacker covers the running back, better known as cover 1 robber.

Eli Manning (#10) realizes the coverage as soon as he sees the defense and assumes blitz. Notice the running back Ahmad Bradshaw (#44) stays in to pass protect and never going out on a route. Just before the play begins Smith backs out and Pool moves to his right providing over the top support for Darrelle Revis (#24) covering Hakeem Nicks (#88).

The Jets do not send the blitz instead they drop out of cover 1 and into a different coverage, cover 2, two deep safeties responsible for half the field each providing over the top support to the man coverage underneath, known as cover 2 man under. Linebacker Josh Mauga (#53) spies Bradshaw, so now all potential receivers are covered with 2 safeties deep.

Manning originally looks at Nicks but realizes he is now covered high and low, if you watch Revis he forces Nicks to the outside and trails him underneath knowing he has Pool to help up the field. Donald Strickland (#30) presses tight end Travis Beckum (#47) pushing him outside where he now has help from Smith.  Once Manning realizes the defense is now cover 2 man under he looks towards the three receiver side where he hits Victor Cruz (#80), covered by Kyle Wilson (#20), on an out-route after Ramses Barden (#13) cleared Antonio Cromartie (#31).  While both Wilson and Cromartie miss-tackle Cruz it was up to Smith to save the touchdown but he moved to far towards the middle of the field putting him out of position to make the stop.

The Patriots often run the same 3-by-1 formation as the Giants but with 2 wide receivers and 2 tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez).  Since the personnel has two tight ends it is not always possible to play a pass based dime defense since the run is more probably.  The Jets would more likely have their nickel package on the field meaning one less cornerback. 

If the Patriots come out in a 3-by-1 formation the corners will cover the wide receivers and Gronkowski would be the single receiver in the Nicks location, so a corner will cover him. If Hernandez is where Beckum lined up a safety or linebacker would have to cover him man to man if the defense were cover 1 man free.  Eric Smith on Aaron Hernandez is a mismatch that Tom Brady would exploit all game long so a better man coverage safety would have to take Hernandez forcing Smith to play deep zone.

So what does all this mean and what will the the Jets be looking for in a safety?  They will want the ‘tweener type’ safety, a player that can cover man-to-man and has ball skills like a cornerback.  He’ll have to be a good tackler with excellent range while in zone coverage not only to breakup/intercept passes but to chase down receivers after the catch.  Versatile players that are interchangeable and can succeed in the various situational roles safeties have, whether in coverage, supporting the run or going after the quarterback.

Hopefully the Jets can find safeties which fit their defensive strategies and avoid season changing big pass plays like the one Cruz made against the Jets.

Jets Set To Host Safety Reggie Nelson

According to Jenny Vrentas of The Star-Ledger free agent safety Reggie Nelson will be visiting the Jets on Friday:

Free-agent safety Reggie Nelson is visiting the Jets Friday.

Nelson, formerly of the Bengals, would be an excellent fit for the safety-needy Jets because of his cover skills.

Nelson would be a welcome addition as the safety market has dwindled.  Former Jet Brodney Pool has signed with the Dallas Cowboys and Brandon Meriweather canceled a visit  to the team opting to sign with the Washington Redskins earlier in the day.

 

Jets Salary Cap Analysis: Free Agency

Now is a good time to take a look at the Jets salary cap position before entering free agency.  All incentives and raises are over while the cap is set at $120.6 million, so a clear understanding of the team’s finances is available for analysis.  Numbers are sometimes rounded and/or approximated just to keep things simple.  As always the figures come from Jason at NYJetscap.com and I would like to thank him for answering questions. 

Recently D’Brickashaw Ferguson  and Mark Sanchez restructured their contracts to create $13.6 million in much needed salary cap space.  The NFL is allowing most teams additional cap space of $1.6 million in connection with violations by the Cowboys and Redskins during the uncapped 2010 season.  Currently the Jets are $16 million under the cap before starting free agency, but how much can the team actually spend on free agents?  We’ll have to look at some known cost and possible moves to get this number. 

The Jets just resigned Sione Pouha, while contract details have not been released, a good estimate should be around $4 million in 2012.  The team has also tendered Aaron Maybin at $1.26 million.  These moves will decrease the cap by about $4.5 million, so $11.5 million is left. 

You will have to keep the incoming rookies cost in mind.  Obviously the draft class will not count anytime soon but should be included in our overall budget.  Their cap charge will be around $2.5 million, so you have about $9 million to spend resigning former Jets and other team’s free agents. 

Marquice Cole and Jamaal Westerman were restricted free agents but have not been tendered.  Since they were undrafted the lowest tender, right of first refusal, would have been $1.26 million and included in the salary cap when made.  The Jets will let the market set their value before choosing to resign one or both of these players. 

Here’s a list of former unrestricted Jets which should be considered for resigning:

  • Nick Folk
  • Jim Leonhard
  • Brodney Pool
  • Donald Strickland
  • Bryan Thomas
  • Robert Turner

It is possible these players will fall under the NFL’s ‘minimum salary benefit rule’, which means the cap charge is less than their actual salary.  A player under this rule will most likely count $605,000 resulting in a cap increase of $215,000 per signing.  Thomas and Turner would be strong candidates for this type of maneuver since they are coming off an injury and Leonhard as well because he will not be available to start the season.  There may not be much of a market for these players so it is possible they will accept the minimum salary necessary to take advantage of this rule.  

The Jets could sign free agents at quarterback, linebacker, safety, wide receiver, running back, tight end or offensive line.  There is no way of knowing who they will sign or exact costs but right now you have a budget of around $9 million which may not be enough to get players you need.

Some likely salary cap reducing moves the Jets can make:

  • Under the new CBA teams are allowed a 2012 salary cap exemption of $1.5 million. They can take this money and spread it out into one or parts of 2014-17 caps.
  • Eric Smith is going to be cut or restructured, no matter which option Smith takes, the Jets will save approximately $1.5 million.  
  • Converting Antonio Cromartie’s 2012 roster bonus of $3 million into signing bonuses prorating it over the life of his contract adds $1 million to 2012-14, but results in a $2 million reduction for 2012.

Total additional savings: $5 million.

Mike DeVito might be approached for a restructuring, he is set to make $3.1 million in 2012 and none of it is guaranteed.  The Jets may ask him to lower his salary to $2.1 million in return the team will fully guarantee the contract.  Why would DeVito take a reduction, because he is getting something in return, a fully guaranteed salary.   After an injury filled 2011 season he may decide a guaranteed contract will be protection from release for cap reasons or declining play. 

Now a contract where you can make a ‘Ferguson type’ maneuver is Santonio Holmes.  Hopefully Holmes can become a team player and cutting him won’t be an issue but the more money you move in his contract the harder it becomes to release him. Holmes is signed through 2015 and has a guaranteed base salary of $7.75 million in 2012.  Reducing his base salary by $4 million prorating it over the contract adds $1 million to 2012-15 caps and crates 2012 savings of $3 million.  Even after this contract change it will still be possible to release Holmes in 2014 if necessary.  Of course the team could prorate more or less depending upon need but Holmes’ contract is most likely to be used for relief after all the other moves have been made.  

Between Ferguson, Sanchez, Cromartie and Holmes contract changes the Jets have moved about $5.4 million into 2013 but didn’t touch Bart Scott, Calvin Pace or Wayne Hunter’s contracts, all likely to be cut in 2013, and you eliminated Eric Smith’s salary that year as well.  These reductions total $22.65 million, so the team can absorb the additional increase in salary.   

Depending upon need the Jets will have $9 million – $18 million to spend on free agents without damaging their finances in future years.

 

 

Slim Pickings at Safety

Safety is a position that requires major improvements for the Jets this off season.  The underwhelming starter Eric Smith, currently still with the team, was often seen chasing tight ends down the field and seemed to lack the speed necessary to cover a large area.  While unrestricted free agent former starter Jim Leonhard had suffered season ending injuries in the past two years and will not be healthy enough for the beginning of next season.  Reserve Brodney Pool, also an unrestricted free agent, had a mediocre performance last year and the safeties as a whole needed to be upgraded.

Heading into free agency at least one player will have to be picked up by the team.  Big names safeties like Tyvon Branch, Michael Griffin, Dashon Goldson and Thomas DeCoud were all set to become unrestricted free agents on March 13.  Even though they may have been outside the budget the Jets could have ‘kicked the tires’ at least on some of them.  With Branch, Griffin and Goldson being franchised and DeCoud resigned this has put an end to any hope of acquiring them.  Seems the Jets will have to look at lower tier players like Reggie Nelson, Tom Zbikowski, the often injured may not be available to start the season LaRon Landry and former Jet Dwight Lowery in free agency.

It is also possible to improve the position in the upcoming draft but the overall talent level at safety is considered to be weak.  Mark Barron from Alabama is the consensus number one safety available in the 2012 draft and while some feel he could fall to the Jets at their second round pick #47 there is a good chance he’ll be gone by then.  Unfortunately Barron had recent surgery and could not participate in the NFL combine or do any workouts for teams.  He is hoping to be able to run and perform drills at a workout later in March.  The question remains, do you reach for Barron with your first round pick #16 cause of need, potentially giving up another player?

It sure looks like the Jets will pick up a safety in free agency and draft another.  They could also resign Leonhard, having him available later in the year, and Pool as well as use Smith in a diminished role.  This major upgrade at safety most likely won’t happen but hopefully they can put pieces in place for an improvement over last year.

Why The Jets Should Keep Eric Smith

Well it’s time to take out the ‘punching bag’, Eric Smith, for some more jabs.  Smith did not exactly inspire most Jets fans with his play this past season.  Visions of him trying to chase down tight ends every week are still etched in our memories, but before you just toss poor Eric to the curb, there are some things to consider.

Three safeties are currently on the Jets’ roster Eric Smith, Gerald Alexander and Tracy Wilson.  Former Jets, now unrestricted free agents, starter Jim Leonhard and backup Brodney Pool may be resigned.  Leonhard suffered a season ending knee injury and will not be ready for opening day.  If the team does not bring him back they could sign a free agent safety like Reggie Nelson instead.

The Jets will address their position needs in the upcoming 2012 draft.  A player like Mark Barron from Alabama or other top prospects at safety will be picked by the team.

So there you go, Jim Leonhard or Reggie Nelson, Brodney Pool, Gerald Alexander, Tracy Wilson and the 2012 safety draft pick.  You can just dump Eric Smith and his salary, but this creates some problems.  Alexander has played in eight games over the last two seasons, with ten total tackles, while Wilson, a rookie last year, was brought up from the practice squad and saw limited action in five games.   Would you trust these guys to even contribute much less be an emergency starter?  If the Jets got Mark Barron in the draft there are no guarantees, like with all rookies, he can just step in right away.

Eric Smith is not a starting NFL safety over the rigors of a sixteen game schedule.  He is good in situational defenses and can play special teams.  Lack of depth hurt the Jets last year and if a safety or two goes down to injury a former starter, now backup, has the experience necessary to play the position.  Smith has also been in playoff games, who can forget the hit he laid on Wes Welker causing pieces of Welker’s helmet go flying.

What about cutting him and saving money under the salary cap?  Smith will have to renegotiate his contract and lower his 2012 number. If he agrees to a one year deal worth $765,000 the Jets charge will only be $605,000 cause of certain NFL salary rules.  So are you willing to throw away a very capable backup who knows the defense for $215,000 at most in cap savings?

The Jets want to avoid too much turnover at one position in a given year.  Due to his experience keeping Eric Smith will bring a level of stability during this period of transition at safety.  Once other players develop they can move away from him but if the price is right Smith does have value to the team in 2012.

 

Rex Ryan Talks To The Media – 12/26/11

Opening Statement…

Obviously, we watched the tape and we gave up too many big plays on defense and obviously, to the Giants credit, we never got any big plays on offense. We controlled the ball by time of possession. I think we had 97 offensive plays, gradable plays. Generally, you win the game when that happens. You make a team go eight three-and-outs for the game. Eli (Manning) was nine-of-27. We would’ve signed up for all of those things, but at the end of the day, they made some big plays, obviously the 99-yard pass really killed us, took momentum out of it. It was a third-down play with two minutes left. That was really a momentum changer. It’s just a frustrating thing. You try to make things happen. That’s kind of when you get in trouble. That certainly added maybe to some of our failures. But you’ve got to give credit to the Giants. They played a great game. They played a better game than us and they deserved to win. Going forward, what I talked to the players about today, I talked about there’s hope and possibilities. Obviously, the game against Miami is critical when you look at all of the factors involved and the most difficult thing (we need) to happen, I think, is for us to beat the Dolphins. The Dolphins are playing extremely well, doing a great job on defense. Mike Nolan’s doing a great job down there, has those guys really playing. Offensively, they’re moving the ball well. I don’t know the health issues of Reggie Bush, but clearly he’s had a great year, 1,000 yards rushing. But we look at that, of all the scenarios, that might be the biggest one, the toughest thing. You’d hate to have everything fall into place and us not take care of our own business. So, that’s where our focus is. I think when the guys come back on Wednesday, we’ll be dialed in, everything will be behind us and we still have an opportunity there to make the playoffs, albeit not near as good as it would’ve been had we have beaten the Giants.

On whether he still believed the Jets were forced to throw the ball even though they only trailed the Giants for one score most of the game and whether he was happy with how the game was called…

Well, I think it’s easy to go back and look, and even after the game when I had saw that we had thrown it 59 times or whatever it was, obviously we don’t want to be that kind of team. And I said before that we were not built for that, meaning we need to run the ball more. At the time, you’re down what we were. I think the best way I should’ve said it, having been a playcaller myself for 10 years as a defensive coach, I look at it, the toughest offenses to face are the ones that are balanced. Any time you get to where a team has to throw that many times, very few teams, probably with the exception of New England and maybe Green Bay, but I still think they run it a bunch, maybe Indianapolis, those are about the only teams that can win consistently if you’ve got to throw that much. For us, when I said that we’re not built that way, I don’t really think a whole lot of teams are built that way and certainly not us. I’d much prefer to be more balanced.

On his level of confidence in Brian Schottenheimer and Mark Sanchez…

I have a huge amount of confidence in both guys. There’s no doubt. I’ve stated over and over my feelings about Mark Sanchez. And I’ve said it before, no quarterback’s going to look great when that’s all you do and you fall behind and things like that, but it wasn’t Mark’s best day by any stretch of the imagination, but we know he’s done it. And he’s been doing it. We have great confidence in him and I have great confidence in him. And as far as Brian Schottenheimer’s concerned, we’ll just keep working side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder and we’re trying to find a way to beat Miami. I have confidence in him. I have confidence in all of our coaches. It’s just that we have to find a way to get it done.

On injury updates…

I think Brodney (Pool), he was cleared medically, so he’s fine. He had some headaches during the game, but he stayed in there and passed all of the concussion tests, all those type of things that they have you do. Mark (Sanchez) took some hits, but he’s fine. But this time of year, you get a lot of bumps and bruises and things. Eric Smith with a knee injury is still fighting through that. There are guys beat up. I think we’ll play. I think all of us will play.

On Schottenheimer’s overall performance this season…

Well, I think, one the biggest things going into the season, we talked about was red zone and I don’t know if we’re the first in the league but we’re one of the best in red zone efficiency. Obviously, that was a point of emphasis in the offseason. Statistically, that’s going to be what it’s going to be, but there have been some teams that I have been on where the numbers aren’t great but you look at the wins. I think that’s the huge thing when you evaluate coaches, is just look at the teams that are winning. I think that’s the biggest thing. I am really proud of the way we’ve gotten much better in the red zone. Obviously we need to get down there more. I guess if you are evaluating Brian (Schottenheimer), I think the season, number one, is not over and the fact that we’ve won eight games, we obviously need to win this ninth game to try and get in the playoffs. The thing I think when you look at coaching, what you’re emphasizing, and in the offseason we emphasized that red zone offense and I think we’ve done a great job there. I can say this, I don’t think anyone works as hard as Brian Schottenheimer, and really everyone on that staff, that offensive staff, they do as good a job as I’ve ever seen, they work as hard as anybody. Sometimes the results are there, numbers-wise, sometimes they’re not.

On how disappointing it is to have win and get help to make it to the postseason…

Well, you’re disappointed because you wish it was like last year, where you go into that last game with a little breathing room because you know you’re already in but obviously we haven’t earned that right yet, and so we have to do it the hard way. Absolutely we hope that luck is with us, but we can only affect the game that we are playing and that is where our entire focus needs to be.

On whether he feels changes are necessary for the offense to be more successful…

Again, we’ve won eight games, obviously we were hoping to win more than that, but you know the numbers sometimes can be real misleading at times. (As far as making) changes and all that stuff, I thought we did an excellent job in the offseason of putting together what I think is an excellent football team, with a lot of talent. Have we had the results that we were hoping for? No, but again the season is not over. We will look at everything at the end of the season, but right now we are competing for it, we have a chance and we just have to find a way to get it done this week

On if he talked to Schottenheimer at halftime about running the ball more…

First off, I think it might be a little misleading because at (the) half, the two-minute drive, we had 11 straight passes trying to set up that field goal, which we did a good job of, but we did have 11 straight pass attempts there.  That can kind of messed with it statistically, a little bit.  I thought we ran the ball effectively.  Sometimes when the score gets to what it is, you have to throw a little more than you want.  It’s easy to look back after the game at the facts and say, ‘Well we were running the ball well.  We should’ve run it more.’  That’s the way it is, sometimes.

On what he has seen from Sanchez lately to think that he has improved this season…

I think some of it, it might be hard to evaluate and say, “Well, he definitely improved in this area.”  I don’t know if that was the case.  I know the Giants put a tremendous amount of pressure on him.  They did an outstanding job in mixing some of their coverages and different things like that.  I think you have to give credit.  As far as evaluating him, I always like to evaluate guys on wins and losses, and I think that’s the way a coach should be evaluated, as well.  Obviously, we never did a good enough job against the Giants.  The Giants did a better job than we did and that’s why they won the game.

On why the offense has been so inconsistent this year…

I think, sometimes, we’re quick to overlook the obvious, and that’s the opponent.   I think you have to give credit.  When you look at the Eagles and the Giants, both those teams did a tremendous job of rushing the passer in the game.  Going into it, they were some of the best pass-rushing groups in the league and they proved it against us.  They were putting pressure on us and I think sometimes that makes it difficult.  Obviously, not as much in the Giants game, but in the Eagles game, you fall down 28-0, nobody is going to look good in that situation.

On if he thinks Miami will be more motivated this week with the chance to play spoiler…

Yes, you want to play spoiler and all that, certainly there is no doubt you want to win games, regardless.  When you have a chance, maybe your season hasn’t gone as long as you have hoped, because everybody has the goal of getting into the playoffs, but you still want to play that spoiler role.  When you look at them, they’re playing really well right now, so this is going to be a difficult game, a big challenge for us.

On if he was disappointed in the offensive line not being able to protect Sanchez more on Saturday…

I think, sometimes, you target the line when there is pressure.  Sometimes, there are more things involved.  There is blitz pickup, tight ends involved, running backs involved (and) all those different types of things.  When teams are able to just tee off on you and you’re playing from behind, you can look at the stats throughout the league, that when you’re trailing in the fourth quarter, that’s when you get more sacks, you get more turnovers and all that kind of stuff.  That kind of played out on Saturday.  That’s kind of how it played out.

On the Giants running the ball better in the second half…

They made a couple of big runs on us.  I don’t want to not give them credit because I thought they ran the ball hard, (but) we kind of blew a couple of assignments on a couple of their big runs.  Really, the last one at the end of the game, we were just trying to create something there.  We pulled the safety out, brought him over to the open side (and) were trying to force a turnover.  We thought the only way to win the game was a turnover.  You’re down by six points and they’re in field goal range, you try to do whatever you can to disrupt them and they popped the big run on us there for a touchdown.  (Brandon) Jacobs had a big run there on the outside.  He broke our contain, our force player, he was outside of that and those are things that we have to get corrected, but to his credit, he made a big run.

On if there is anything he has been disappointed in offensively…

Definitely, I think producing more big plays down the field.  I think that has to be an area of concern.  In the past, we’ve been able to hit some big plays in the passing game and we haven’t been able to do that this year like we’ve done in the past.  I think that’s the big thing, offensively.  It’s hard to drive the ball 15 plays to go down and score.  It’s easier if you can get some chunk plays.  Look at the Giants.  They lacked consistency, but they hit a couple of big plays on us, four big plays on us.  I think that’s kind of been a thing, a common theme, that’s kind of missing from our offense this year.  Then, consistency on defense in putting teams away, I think, is an area that we have to get better at.

On if he thinks they have the personnel to make plays down the field on offense…

I definitely think we have the personnel.  I don’t think there is any doubt, but you have to give opponents credit. Sometimes, they’ve had a great pass rush, a blitz or whatever, and different kinds of coverages to prevent you from throwing it down the field as much.  We still have to try to find ways to get it done.  If there is one area that I can point to, I think that’s the area.

On if he has any response to Brandon Jacobs’ post-game remarks…

No, to me, I talked about that after the game and I said it was a private conversation that we had and I really have nothing else to add to it.

On if he regrets what he said last week leading up to the game because it might have fired the Giants up…

I think the day I walked in here, when I came in, I felt that I didn’t want to be the little brother or whatever.  That’s who I am, so do I regret it?  No.   Did it work out?  Nope, it never worked out, but I’m never going to say I regret anything that I believe in my heart.  I’ve always said, from day one, I’m going to be true to myself and when I leave this job 10 or 15 years from now, I’m going to be true to myself.  Maybe it’s not the traditional way of doing things or whatever, but for me, this is who I am.  This is how I believe and I made the statements.  Like I said before, I’ll stand by everything I said.  Did it work out?  No, and I’ll be the first one to say it never worked out.  I’m responsible for that and, obviously, the Giants were the better team that day, without question.  I deserve the criticism that I take for it.  I definitely deserve it.

Jets Sign Safety Brodney Pool

Adam Schefter reported on twitter that the New York Jets didn’t waste any time replacing Safety Kerry Rhodes.  They signed former Cleveland Brown, Brodney Pool.

Jets reached agreement on a one-year, $1.3 million deal with former Browns S Brodney Pool.

Pool, who is 25 years old, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft.  He has had a history of concussions so this move is not without risk.  In  December ESPN.com wrote:

Pool has started 10 games this season and 49 since the Browns selected him in the second round of the 2005 draft out of Oklahoma. In Sunday’s 16-7 loss, Pool was injured early in the second half. He walked off the field, was escorted to the locker room and did not return to the sideline.

Pool’s situation has many of his teammates concerned about his health — and their own. With concussions a hot topic in the league, players are learning more about the dangers of head injuries and their lasting effects.

The Jets have done a good job of filling needs this off season despite being limited when it comes to unrestricted free agents.  NFL.com ran an article that says the NY Jets were the biggest winner so far because of their moves freeing up salary (Jones, Rhodes) and adding talent (Cromartie).

Tell us what you think about the signing of Brodney Pool in our New York Jets forum.