What to Watch for as Pads Come on in Florham park

While the Sam Darnold watch continues, there’s still plenty of other action going on at 1 Jets drive where several players have been standing out without any pads, but that changes today.  It’s a fan day out in Florham Park, so what might you want to keep an eye out for?  Here’s a few tips….

  • Nathan Shepherd (97) has been one of the best players on the field through the first two days.  If the small school product is able to continue to play at that level, Jets fans should be extremely excited.
  • Some of the young cornerbacks on the roster such as Jeremy Clark (34), Parry Nickerson (43) and Derrick Jones (31) have had some impressive moments early on.  If one or two of them were to emerge as quality contributors in the secondary, Todd Bowles would be thrilled.
  • Trenton Cannon (40) has seen plenty of work early on and has speed to burn.  If he can progress as a punt returner, he has a very real shot to stick.  Thomas Rawls (30) and Isaiah Crowell (20) have also impressed, so seeing how they do when the hitting starts will be very interesting.  Bilal Powell (29) just keeps doing his thing.
  • Spencer Long was one of the standouts on day 2 as noted here and his presence should offer a tremendous upgrade over the departed Wesley Johnson.  Getting a chance to see him go head to head with the likes of Steve McLendon and Mike Pennel in the middle of the scrum could tell us a lot.
  • With no timetable on Sam Darnold’s signing, Teddy Bridgewater has to keep getting better.  Day two was better than day one.  Hopefully we see the same thing from day two to day three.
  • A few sleepers who have stood out thus far and hope to keep flashing: WR Charles Johnson (88), tight end Neal Sterling (85), OLB Obum Gwachum (57).

For those of you attending, have a great time, and hopefully today is the start of the Summer of Sam.

For more camp updates, check out our training camp page right here.

Is Skrine Better in the Slot and Mac Safety Obsessed? Dispelling Three Jets Myths

As great as the internet can be for much of the time (especially if you avoid politics), it can be equally hilarious, and not in a good way, when mob mentality creeps up on you.

In sports, we see it all the time.  An opinion on a team or player is repeated so many times, that the opinion morphs in to a widely accepted fact about said team or player, and the New York Jets are no different.  In taking a look around the Jets twitter universe and the best Jets fan forum on the web here at JetNation.com, a few myths seem to get regurgitated over the course of the season, and sometimes for several years.

Luckily, we’re here to do our own little bit of myth busting.

Myth #1: Mike Maccagnan is obsessed with safeties

When the Jets used their first and second round draft picks on safeties Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye last year, it appears some Jets fans were under the impression that there would be no need to ever add another safety to the roster.  With that being the case, we see no shortage of “Maccagnan is obsessed with safeties” reactions when one is added, as was the case yesterday when news got out that the Jets would reportedly be signing undrafted free agent safety Brandon Bryant.

Reality:

Mike Maccagnan works hand in hand with Todd Bowles, a former safety who relies heavily on defensive sets that deploy three safeties simultaneously.  This means it’s likely that Maccagnan will look to carry four or five safeties when the season starts.  In addition, at this point in the season, rosters aren’t limited to 53 as they are during the regular season, but instead at 90 players.  With that being the case, it makes sense for the Jets to add a few “camp bodies” at the position as the team will look to rest starters and audition back-ups when pre-season games start.  Currently, the Jets have seven on board, the same exact number as the New England Patriots, whose head coach/GM knows a thing or two about assembling a roster.  Also within their own division, the Buffalo Bills are carrying just one fewer safety with six, and the Dolphins have five listed on their roster.  The Maccagnan “obsession” with safeties is a perfect example of repeating a lie so many times that it becomes “true”.

Myth #2: Buster Skrine is much better off in the slot than on the boundary

For much of his time with the Jets, cornerback Buster Skrine has spent far more time playing on the outside than anticipated when he was signed to play the slot three seasons ago.  Many envision Skrine as a slot corner who has been miscast on the outside.

Reality: Skrine hasn’t played much better in one spot than the other.  It shows up regularly on film, and is confirmed by the folks at Pro Football Focus, who say that when targeted on the outside, Skrine allowed opposing QB’s to complete 61% of their passes.  In the slot, the number jumps to 65%.  In terms of snaps per reception, the numbers are nearly identical.  Skrine allows a reception every 9.2 coverage snaps from the slot, and every 9.4 snaps on the boundary.

Side Note: We rarely see players show significant improvement this late in their career, but last season, under new defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson, Skrine struggled with consistency, but his better games were some of his best as a pro. That earned him a career-best grade from PFF at -0.2, a grade that falls in to their “average” range of -1.0 to 1.0.  It was the first time in his career that Skrine didn’t finish the season with a below average grade, so hopefully better things to come after another season of working with Wilson.

Myth #3: The Offensive Line is a disaster

Because the Jets offensive line was so bad last season, there are a good number of fans who expect the same thing this year as there was little turnover for the group.  Starters Kelvin Beachum, James Carpenter, Brian Winters and Brandon Shell are all returning.  Spencer Long is the lone newcomer to the group.

Reality: There are definitely some questions surrounding this offensive line, but the situation isn’t as dire as some presume.  As the old saying goes, “you’re only as strong as your weakest link”, and the weakest link on the Jets’ 2017 offensive line was center Wesley Johnson, who has moved on to Detroit.  His replacement, Spencer Long, is one of the better pass blocking centers in the league and is better suited for a zone scheme than Johnson was.  A huge upgrade at center and a (presumably) healthy Brian Winters won’t give the Jets a dominant group, but they should be far better many fans fear.

So just a few facts to dispel some myths, Jets fans.  And remember, when you hear something repeated time and again, take a second to check the facts before joining the herd.

 

 

 

 

 

New Jets Center Should go Long way in Improving Offense

In an off-season that has included the addition of quarterbacks Sam Darnold and Teddy Bridgewater , cornerback Trumaine Johnson and inside linebacker Avery Williamson, it’s hard to believe that one of the team’s most important acquisitions could be a middle-of-the-pack offensive lineman, but that’s exactly the spot the Jets find themselves in.

After playing the 2017 season with the NFL’s worst center in Wesley Johnson according to ProFootballFocus rankings, an upgrade had to be made.

Free agents Weston Richburg and Ryan Jensen topped the list of options for the Jets as free agency kicked off.  However, Richburg’s price tag and concussion history made him a less than ideal option, and Jensen was likely a poor fit for what is expected to be a zone-heavy blocking scheme.  That left Long as one of the better options on the table, and he was signed to a team-friendly 4-year $27 million deal.  The deal is market value, but should Long disappoint, the Jets would be able to cut ties with him after this season with no cap implications.

Should the deal work out as well as the Jets hope, Long’s presence will be critical in upgrading what was an embarrassingly porous offensive line last season, and taking a look at Long, he passes the eyeball test.

Long will sometimes give ground in pass protection but does a much better job than Johnson of dropping anchor and holding up against opposing defenders.  Just look at his PFF numbers from 2017 as an example.  Prior to his injury, Long played 397 snaps, surrendering 1 sack, 2 hits and 2 hurries on the quarterback.  In comparison, Wesley Johnson played a total 937 snaps, allowing 2 sacks, 6 hits and 15 hurries.  That’s a more than four times as much pressure allowed, despite playing roughly 2 1/2 times the number of snaps.

In fact, Long graded out as the 11th best pass blocking center in the NFL.  Ranking just outside the top 10 as a pass blocker may not be great, but it’s better than most, and infinitely better than Johnson.

If you were to combine Long’s 2017 snap total (397) with his 2016 snap count (804), you would have a total of 1,201 snaps, and even then, the total number of pressures allowed would be 18, or 5 fewer than Johnson allowed last year alone.

In the run game, Long moves much better than Johnson which will be critical for a zone scheme, and also shows itself as an asset in the screen game.

Just how much the Jets O-line will improve remains to be seen, but bringing in Long to solidify the center position was one of the most necessary steps the Jets took this off-season.  There will be concerns as to whether or not long can last a full season, however.  He missed 9 games last year with a quad injury, and was sidelined for 7 games over the course of the two previous seasons.

If the injuries are a thing of the past, the improvement to the O-line should be immediately evident and beneficial.

 

 

 

Rapoport: Jets to Sign Center Spencer Long

Continuing to fill some of the gaping holes on their roster, the Jets have reportedly come to terms with Redskins free agent center Spencer Long.

Long will step in and take over for Wesley Johnson who struggled throughout all of last season and was mentioned as a potential target here by JetNation.com.

Here is a thread in our forums with more information about how Spencer Long fits into the Jets zone block plans

Dropoff in Production Could Make Carpenter cap Casualty

Before the start of the 2017 season, even entertaining the possibility of the Jets considering parting ways with left guard James Carpenter would have been laughable.  A free agent addition from the Seattle Seahawks, Carpenter played at a Pro-Bowl level over the course of his first two seasons in Green and White, but 2017 was a much different story.

Week in and week out there were massive struggles along the offensive line for Gang Green, and more often than not the struggles came right up the middle.  Carpenter, center Wesley Johnson and right guard Brian Winters were beaten regularly throughout the season.  This, after the trio played at a much higher level in 2016.

Johnson was never viewed as anything more than an average starter (if that) when the season started, and Winters was coming off a career year.  Unfortunately, Carpenter and Johnson regressed tremendously (though Carpenter had much farther to fall) and Winters, we would eventually learn, was playing with a torn abdominal muscle since week two.

The struggles up front led to the recent firing of offensive line coach Steve Marshallbut will it end at Marshall, or will Carpenter be next?

The lineman said himself after coming to the Jets that his previous struggles in Seattle were due largely in part to their zone blocking scheme, and his outstanding play in 2015 and 2016 gave his claims legitimacy.  With the Jets expected to elevate quarterbacks coach Jeremy Bates to offensive coordinator, there may be more zone-heavy run schemes implemented.  Could that spell the end for Carpenter?

Due to make $6.8 million next season, the Jets could recoup $4.7 million of that if Carpenter were to be let go, according to overthecap.com.

 

 

Parting Ways With O-Line Coach was Right Move for Bowles, Jets

While some fans questioned the wisdom of the recent firing of offensive coordinator John Morton, That shouldn’t be the case with offensive line coach Steve Marshall who was also reportedly let go today by Todd Bowles and company.

A 10-year coaching veteran, Marshall has spent each of the past three seasons working with the Jets O-line but the regression that fans saw this season was absolutely a fireable offense.

The team’s offense struggled to run the ball effectively for much of the season and the primary culprits for those struggles were James Carpenter, Wesley Johnson and Brian Winters, the heart of the team’s O-line.  Winters gets somewhat of a pass as we learned after the season that he’d played all year with a torn abdominal muscle, but Carpenter’s regression was a tough pill to swallow.

With Marshall out of the picture, the Jets are now in the market for a quarterbacks coach to replace the promoted Jeremy Bates and an offensive line coach to step in for Marshall.

 

Jets vs Chiefs Week 13 Preview

Who: NY Jets (4-7) vs Kansas City Chiefs (6-5)

When: Sunday at 1 pm

Where: Metlife Stadium

Point Spread: Jets +3

After getting off to one of the leagues hottest starts a 5-1, the Kansas City Chiefs have slumped to a 6-5 record and look to get things back on track against the equally slumping Jets.  Key match ups?  Here are  a few to keep an eye on.

WR Robby Anderson vs CB Darrelle Revis:  Having signed with the Chiefs just a couple of weeks ago, Revis makes his debut against the Jets and this is a head to head battle that the Jets should be hoping for.  How often and in what role Revis is used remains to be seen, but if Josh McCown sees Revis line up against Anderson, he should be thinking deep ball all day.  It’s been quite some time since Revis played well against legitimate vertical threats, which Anderson has clearly become.

Jamal Adams and Darron Lee vs Travis Kelce: Playing as poorly as they are, the Chiefs may stick to what has worked best for them in the past and look to target tight end Travis Kelce.  Lee and Adams are likely to draw that assignment for much of the day and Kelce will be a nice barometer for the two as one of the league’s more accurate passers in Alex Smith will be under center.

Rookie safety Jamal Adams will likely have his hands full today in facing Travis Kelce.

RT Brandon Shell vs OLB Justin Houston: Shell has faced some of the league’s elite pass rushers in his short career and held his own more times than not.  Houston poses his biggest challenge since he faced Raiders linebacker Khalil Mack.  If Shell can’t limit Houston’s production, it’s going to be difficult for Josh McCown to find any rhythm in the pocket.

RB Bilal Powell vs ILB Reggie Ragland: More of a run stuffer than a coverage defender, second-year linebacker Reggie Ragland will be tasked with doing a lot of dirty work up front.  However, it the Jets can find a way to match him up one-on-one with Bilal Powell (or any of their backs for that matter), it could give McCown an outlet to offset the Kansas City pass rush.

DT Chris Jones vs RG Brian Winters and C Wesley Johnson: The Jets’ struggles in the middle of their O-line this season have been well documented and  Jones represents another match-up that could slow things down up front for the Jets offense.  If they’re ever going to get their running game on track this season, they’ll have to start preventing almost immediate penetration from the likes of Jones who is having a solid season along the Chiefs defensive line.

Any thoughts or comments of your own?  Log in here and share on our forums.

The Good, bad and Ugly…Jets PFF Ratings

There’s no denying that Pro Football Focus has their share of critics and believers in regards to just how much weight their player analysis should carry, but it’s fair to say that at the very least, they can give fans an idea as to how well a player is performing.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of their current grades on Gang Green.  A few of the best and a few of the worst among players with a minimum of 250 snaps.

The Best:

DL Leonard Williams (84.1)- Williams may not be lighting up the stat sheet with impact plays, but he’s played as well as could be expected as he’s been nursing a wrist injury for the majority of the season, limiting his hand work.  As he seems to be fully recovered, he’s logged 14 quarterback pressures over his past four games.

LB Demario Davis (81.4)- Acquired by Mike Maccagnan in exchange for former wasted first round pick Calvin Pryor, Davis has looked like one of Gang Green’s best players for much of the season and his PFF grade backs up what our eyes are telling us.

DL Steve McClendon (81.4)- Underrated and underappreciated by far too many fans, McCleondon does a lot of the dirty work up front for this defense and has improved significantly since last season, one in which he was a solid performer.  McCleondon’s success has been discussed many times over on JetNation radio and his performance is accurately reflected by PFF.

CB Morris Claiborne (80.1)- The biggest concern regarding Claiborne coming in to this season was his health, and while he’s been nursing a minor foot injury, Claiborne has  missed just one start this season.  Per PFF, Claiborne is one of only a handful of cornerbacks who has yet to allow a touchdown this season.

DL Muhammad Wilkerson (79)- The first head-scratcher on the list, Wilkerson has been invisible for much of the season with the exception of a few games but is still somehow grading out at a more than respectable level.  The biggest concern on his mind has to be how the Jets front office views him as they can cut ties with the lineman and save $17 million in cap space next season.

WR Robby Anderson (78.9), DL Kony Ealy (78.7), S Marcus Maye (77.9), QB Josh McCown (77.4), RB Matt Forte (76.3)

The Worst:

C Wesley Johnson (32.0)- This should come as no surprise to anyone who has been watching Gang Green this season as Johnson has been little more than a punching bag for opposing defenders all season.  Failing to upgrade or bring in a young player to compete with Johnson was a major oversight by GM Mike Maccagnan as we discussed here.

LG James Carpenter (37.4)- Easily the most surprising name on this list as Carpenter had been a fantastic signing by the Jets in his first two seasons.  Carpenter’s struggles, paired with Johnson, have been a major reason for the team’s inability to hold on to leads late in games.

RG Brian Winters (40.3)- Are we noticing a theme here?  The three players who make up the interior of the Jets’ offensive line are the three worst rated players by PFF.  The Jets’ inability to create space for their running backs all season along with many of the sacks taken by Josh McCown confirm that the grades are right in line with what we’re seeing on the field.

ILB Darron Lee (43.1)- Lee’s rating is more of a reflection of how bad he was early on this season when he looked like the same overmatched, undersized player who was pushed around by opposing defenses last season.  However, Lee’s rating was in the low 30’s just a few weeks ago and his recent surge has sent his overall grade ticking in the right direction.  Lee picked up his third sack of the season last week after picking up only two all of last season.

CB Buster Skrine (45.5)- No surprise at all here.  Skrine has turned in three strong performances all season.  Aside from that, he’s been an outright disaster.  These final five games will likely be Skrine’s last as a Jet.

OL Brent Qvale (47.3), TE Eric Tomlinson (49), RT Brandon Shell (56.1)

So take it for what you will.  Is it gospel or just a guide?

Thoughts on PFF’s ratings of your own?  Log on to our forums and share.

 

 

 

After QB, O-Line Should be Front and Center of Mac’s Mistakes

In taking a step back and looking at how the 2017 season has worked out for the New York Jets on a move-by-move basis, the vast majority of key decisions made by GM Mike Maccagnan have worked out as well as, and in many cases, even better than anyone expected.

  • He used one of John Idzik’s many wasted draft picks (Calvin Pryor) and turned it in to DeMario Davis, who is playing at a pro bowl level.
  • Darron Lee has shed the “bust” label as he continues to improve and make plays (53 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles).
  • Morris Claiborne has played at a high level and is yet to surrender a passing touchdown this season
  • After struggling with a wrist injury earlier this season, Leonard Williams is back to harassing opposing quarterbacks.
  • Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye appear to be locks to settle down the secondary for years to come.
  • Robby Anderson is establishing himself as one of the top deep threats in the NFL.
  • Jordan Jenkins may be underappreciated by the casual fan, but anyone paying attention can see that he’s turning in to a quality starter.
  • Snagging a second-round pick and Jermaine Kearse in exchange for Sheldon Richardson looks to be a coup.
  • Rookie running back Elijah McGuire has looked like a very good back in limited reps despite atrocious run blocking up front…and that’s where it all goes wrong for Maccagnan.

Despite having enough talent to hang with some of the top teams in the NFL, the Jets have been unable to put anyone away due to their inability to run valuable minutes off the clock with any semblance of a ground game.  To illustrate just how little faith Todd Bowles and John Morton have in their run blocking, look no further than the Jets opting to throw the ball three times from the one-yard line against the Panthers this Sunday.

Poor play by the O-line isn’t the only issue, but the salaries attached to some of those under-performing players will make it difficult to move on from them after this season.

LT Kelvin Beachum: 

Beachum has been adequate at left tackle this season and in all honesty, he has played at about the level you would expect a player at his position based on his salary (16th in per-year guarantees).

The issue with Beachum is related more to what it would cost to move on from him if the Jets had any interest in drafting a left tackle this season.  If the Jets were to cut ties with Beachum after the season to upgrade, they would be looking at $7 million in dead money.  One alternative would be to draft a left tackle and move Beachum to the right side, but with Brandon Shell coming along on that side, would they want to halt his growth?

LG James Carpenter:

Carpenter’s struggles may be the most surprising development of the season.  Previously viewed as the Jets best lineman, Carpenter has seen his play plummet this season.  Cutting or trading Carpenter would be far more manageable than Beachum, coming with a negligible hit of just over $2 million.  Mere pennies for a team projected to have up to $90 million in cap space this off-season.  After playing at a very high level in each of his first two seasons with the Jets, pro football focus has Carpenter rated at a shockingly low 37.4 this season, placing him 71st out of 77.

C Wesley Johnson:

More good salary news here for the Jets as Johnson, arguably the worst center in the NFL, is playing on just a one-year deal.  Still, Maccagnan’s failure to draft a center to compete with Johnson was irresponsible at the very least.  The best thing that could happen to the Jets would be to upgrade at center this off-season and find that the abysmal play of Carpenter and right guard Brian Winters is due in part to knowing they have a gaping hole on the line between them in Johnson and trying to over-compensate.

RG Brian Winters:

Winters’ deal is the one that looks worse than any other on offense at the moment and being that it was just signed this off-season, parting ways any time soon will be virtually impossible.

The Jets would get no cap relief while taking on a $7 million cap hit if Winters were to be let go.  It’s hard to fault Maccagnan for paying a player who looked to have turned the corner after three poor pro seasons transitioning from small school offensive tackle to NFL guard.

Right guard Brian Winters has struggled in his fifth pro season.

Even still, would the Jets be that much worse off if they’d let Winters walk and allowed Dakota Dozier to audition for the spot?  That’s something we’ll never know, but what we do know is that between Winters and Beachum, the Jets would take on $14 million in dead money if they looked to upgrade both spots.  As mentioned with Carpenter, the Jets will likely hope that improved play from the center spot will turn things around for both Carpenter and Winters.

Brandon Shell:

It hasn’t always been pretty, but Shell has held his own in pass protection against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL at times, but his run blocking leaves quite a bit to be desired.  Shell hasn’t displayed the nastiness you’d like to see out of a right tackle and they may ultimately be his undoing, but for his current level of play, age and price tag, this extended look is well worth it as he may become the team’s right tackle for years to come after being chosen in the fifth round of last season’s draft.

As is often the case with the Jets, their biggest need this off-season will be quarterback, but the O-line is a close second.  How Maccagnan navigates the current deals in place in an effort to import better talent be a story line worth keeping an eye on.

*All salary data per overthecap.com

 

 

 

 

 

JetNation 8/22 Tuesday Tidbits

A few notes, thoughts and links to previous articles on Gang Green to pass along:

  • A previously unforeseen camp battle for the starting center job has emerged according to head coach Todd Bowles between incumbent Wesley Johnson and free agent addition Jonotthan Harrison.  Should Harrison win the job, Johnson would become a valuable back-up on the O-line, but given the way the Jets made every effort to cut costs this off-season, would Mike Maccagnan be so bold to let him go?  Johnson’s contract is structured in such a way that all of is $2,746,000 salary would be a cap savings with no hit.  Cutting Johnson would be a foolish move, but that didn’t stop Gang Green from dumping Eric Decker.
  • Cornerback Juston Burris has looked good throughout camp and in each of the team’s two pre-season games, but keep an eye on him when matched up against receivers with elite speed.  Burris has been burned consistently when matched up against Robby Anderson at Florham Park.
Bryce Petty has outplayed Christian Hackenberg through two preseason games.
  • Through two games, Bryce Petty has clearly outplayed Christian Hackenberg, but critics are quick to remind us that it shouldn’t be taken too seriously given the fact that Petty’s performance has come against second and third-string defensive players. A valid point.  However, what should that say about Hackenberg, who completed roughly 40% of his passes against second and third stringers last pre-season?
  • If Dexter McDougle continues to outplay Buster Skrine, it’s time for Todd Bowles to stop playing guys based on salary and/or draft slot, and give McDougle the nod.
  • Little is known about Jets D-lineman Claude Pelon who played sparingly as a USC transfer due to injuries and depth along the D-line, but the undrafted free agent who spent last year on IR appears to be climbing the depth chart.  After some late reps against the Titans, Pelon got some first team run against the Lions.
  • Unlikley that it’ll carry over in to the regular season, but lost in all the hysteria of Christian Hackenberg’s outing last week against the Lions, left guard James Carpenter had a handful of plays where we saw him walked back in to the pocket much more than we’ve come to expect.  Something worth keeping an eye on.
  • Doug Middleton’s injury opens the door for another safety to step up and steal a roster spot.  He’s been quiet and missed some time in camp, but Shamarko Thomas looked solid against the Lions.
  • According to Todd Bowles, there are still three spots on the O-line up for grabs (LT,C,RT).  It’s unlikely, but if those jobs were to be won by Ben Ijalana, Jonotthan Harrison and Brent Qvale respectively, it wouldn’t bode well for Mike Maccagnan, who signed Kelvin Beachum to big money, re-signed Wesley Johnson, and drafted Brandon Shell, the three players who will have lost those competitions.  Of course Maccagnan would also have acquired the starters in that scenario, but two of the three (Ijalana, Qvale) would be holdovers from the previous regime.