These thoughts are not taken to be definitive. They really more are impressions that I had upon rewatching the Bengals game on NFL gamepass's "coaches film" view which presents all plays in two successive views: a top "all 22" view which allows one to see coverage off the ball, and an endzone view that gives a perfect shot of line play. There also is no sound. One of the first things to say about watching a game like this is that you are taken out of the drama of it. Because the announcers aren't there, or even the game graphics, the plays just play, one after another. You just keep seeing Xes and Os. If the Jets are down 21 points it doesn't really impact your view. This can be both a plus and a minus. Game situation does matter. But it also allows one to just focus on performances in isolation.
I went into the review with some biases and floating theories I wanted to check out, so I was going to really watch only a few players. I might after watching a play a couple of times pull back and check out other players or schemes, but it was mostly just them. Some of the things I wanted to see was if Winters was as bad as fans were saying he was - several on the site were calling for his benching. I also wanted to see if Coples was really as inept as he had seemed all season, and if so why. In the TV feed we can have a skewed view as we see a couple of dramatic moments at important times, but we don't see 90% of the other play. We can project things. I'm not saying that my view here is the right one, but I will say that after watching the game this way I really felt I had learned something, it changed my opinion. It also felt like I don't want to rewatch a Jet game in any other way.
So onto the impressions and conclusions
Powell Blew the Game
This is a strong statement, but I'm going on something that John B said in commentary. It was not fated that the Jets would be blown out by the Bengals, though perhaps percentages suggested a 7 point win. It is more that games have momentum, and that early success and/or failure can simply snowball. This game snowballed, and part of the reason really was Powell - at least that is how it felt on replay.
You can see Powell there, number 29. He had dove into the line to offer support for pass blocking were it actually isn't needed. You can also see the blitz coming around the left side. Powell at the snap of the ball immediately took steps forward putting himself out of the play. The pressure produces a sack.
The worst thing about this play is that the Jets kept in BOTH running backs to seriously protect Geno. It was 3rd and 7 on the first drive. Kerley (you can see him up there, 11 in the upper corner) is about to break across behind the LBer and will be relatively open, but the Jets can't keep a pocket. One can't guess what such a play did for the Jet psyche, but surely if you can't protect your QB in max protect you are going to have doubts growing.
But Powell does it again...
It's 3rd and 8, the Jets trying to get something going down 14. Powell right at the snap of the ball runs forward to double team Mangold's man leaving Geno completely unprotected from the blitz on the right side. Mangold did not need this double, Powell just dove in. Sack again, and pretty much ball game over (in retrospect). The tone of the game was set. The Bengals are breaking off big plays, the Jets can't even protect their QB. Perhaps hyperbole on the Powell full responsibility, maybe the Bengals saw this tendency in film and exploited it, but the pair of plays was game turning.
Note: The starting Jet RBs could be rated the worst pass blocking running back pair in the league (Cleavland has some bad ones too). PFF Pass Blocking Efficiency based in sacks, hurries and hits given up, rates Powell as the 51st (worst) pass blocking back, and Bohanon as the 57th out of 60 backs.
Also of note: a good example of how off PFF scout-like grades can be (which are very different than their stats like those above), Powell was given a positive grade as pass blocker (+0.1) despite the fact that these two plays were so damaging. Simply because he was out of position he was not marked down.
It Wasn't Just Cromartie, it was the Safeties
As much as the Powell missed protection were a big part of the game story so were the two Cromartie 53 yard bombs he gave up to Green. Below you can see that the safety (it is Allen) way out of position and already giving chase to a lost cause. Allen bites hard, with several forward steps due to a faked sweep.
This was the last play of the 1st quarter. It, combined with the offensive inefficiency of the Jets really set the table. A lot has been made of Cromartie this year who has had problems with deep give ups, and there has been the suggestion that he is hurting (hip), but the fact is that our safeties are very poor pass defenders. Not only that, as much as we are so proud of our run defense, it very much may be the case that our run defense numbers are coming from aggressive safety play, biting on run fakes just like this one. A poor pass defender like Allen who is already jumping at run fakes puts a great deal of stress on our corners. Corner/safety chemistry is a big deal in pass coverage, and swapping out our safeties for poor coverage guys has had its price. This is a prime example.
Wilson at Safety
There were some among the early detractors of Wilson that just wanted to put him at safety to solve our safety coverage woes. The thinking was: Hey, he isn't great at covering (can't turn his head around, etc) let him keep everything in front of him. Well, safety play isn't that easy, here is Wilson at safety to prove it. We have the exact same play run in the 3rd quarter, Green on Cromartie. This time instead of Allen biting on a run, Wilson is there, staying back. But he doesn't have a sensitivity to being the last man on defense, and he doesn't recognize Green's speed. He probably is not used to making this help over-the-top read and he takes a bad angle and can provide no support as Green blast open and free. Another 53 yard strike that puts the game out of reach:
So there we have 106 yards of passing offense on two plays in part because we don't have proper safety combination, in one case because of an over-committed, run-first safety, in the other because of inexperience.
Coples the Bust
Coples was my key on Defense. I watched him on every play. I will say though that from the endzone view I felt I got a pretty good sense of how the line played in general on a day with very few pressures. I focused on Coples because like many fans I just have the impression he isn't suited for OLBer, he just doesn't move like one. Not only is there the limitation of no help in coverage with him out there, he isn't the kind of athlete that can thrive there as a pass rusher. Watching the entire game from the endzone view I have to say it was pretty clear to me. It isn't whether his hand is up or down. It is that he is lining up so wide. From the way he attacks - he basically runs straight into the offensive player and kind of bull-rushes - there is almost zero chance of him actually affecting the QB if the OLman just stays in front of him. Here is a shot of how wide he is in comparison to Richardson on a typical line up (he was on both the right and left sides all game). You can also see his typical engagement with the offense.
He simply cannot attack the QB from that position on the field. He doesn't have the speed to get around the corner, nor the technique to fight off or go by the OLman. He just runs into his guy over and over again, pushing him. He is, in my opinion, an interior defensive linemen, unfortunately a position we are stocked in. Incidentally play after play Richardson was the stud in this game. He was the one Jet finishing every play, pushing and torquing. He really popped off the screen, despite not racking up stats. Honestly, I'd love to see Richardson at the edge were I think his quickness would pose problems, and Coples inside, even though Richardson is thriving on the inside. We simply would get more out of Coples who is being wasted on the edge --- I will say that Coples did look pretty good against the run overall, something there was some concern about.
As a tangent on this Coples theme there was one defensive set up that I really liked. It actually failed in that it produced a touchdown on a very nice throw, but it did feature only a 3 man rush of Coples, Wilkerson and Richarson...and Wilson playing zone LBer in what looks like a 6 DB set (Wilson is on the 10 next to the two ILBers)
With Coples playing more deep into the line, Wilkerson, Coples and Richardson pretty much crush the pocket of 5 blockers and Richardson almost gets there (nearest bottom). It's anecdotal, but it makes me wish for more of CWR on the inside on pass rushing downs.
Winters was Terrible
I also wanted to see if Winters played as bad as fans were saying he was, so he was my key on every offensive down. In short, nope. I think that some may have been skewed in their perception by Brandon Thompson putting a few dynamic pressures on Winters in the 4th quarter when the game was already out of hand - incidentally on some of these Winters ran Thompson out past the QB, nicely, after Thompson got the crease. It is true that Winters had Mangold help much of the game, but I did not see someone who was overmatched when one-on-one most of the time or was so bad he needed to be benched as some have been saying. He struggled a couple of times on stunts and in OL chain communication. He did not finish pull plays strong, though it looks like they would like him to be a pulling guard, he got out there nicely. In the run game he had several plus moments, and quite often, man on man, he stood his own nicely. I saw a player that had potential and should be out there, at least in this one viewing. This of course is all about a question of degree - I just felt that after hearing so many complaints when I finally sat down and watched him play after play I wasn't discouraged at all.
One play where he was beat, a play that turned into a sack by his man Thompson, stood out. It stood out because though he was beat it only became a sack because Ferguson was shoved off balance himself, and Thompson split the two of them. Ferguson had a pretty poor game I thought:
If Brick was upright he would have picked up Thompson, the play didn't go exclusively to Winters.
I'd also like to bring up a point that someone in the threads mentioned, that moving from college left tackle to pro guard may very well involve a steep learning curve so there should be patience. Read what the Jet's own Willie Colon said about the move from pro tackle to pro guard that happened with the Steelers, it isn't that simple:
"They moved me to left guard now. I am learning that," said Colon. "That is a challenge for me. As a tackle you are used to just being an athlete, left on an island. But as a guard I am between the tackle and (Maurkice) Pouncey, the verbiage and how to work with those guys I am learning. When you are in the middle things happen faster. When I am at tackle I have the whole side of the sideline to work with. At guard I am in a box where I have to work faster and react faster. I have to be more aware of calls. On the flip side I get to get after people."
We should expect growing pains and with 2013 being more about 2014 from what I saw it looks like this is exactly what Winters was mostly struggling with, the quickness of decisions "in a box" and not having the sideline to work with. He was not physically over-matched. I thought he played pretty well during most of the game.
Odds and Ends
Other things that struck me from the new coaches view were:
-- while I have been super disappointed with everything I saw from Milliner this year, from the TV feed, in the All 22 feed I came away more hopeful, even though he was benched. What concerned me from the TV feed was that I never saw the dynamism physically that would qualify him as a top CB. From the All 22 I saw a fast, smooth athlete who was just having trouble finishing out the defense (admittedly the most important part). It made me more hopeful for him then I had been before.
-- the Jet receivers did not appear to be open very frequently. Geno was looking into a net of defenders often.
-- as mentioned, Richardson was easily the most enjoyable player to watch. He just has something extra on each and every play.
Again, these are not taken to be definitive, just sharing my experience of rewatching the game on NFL gamepass coaches film, which is altogether awesome - food for thought observations. If you are into details the coaches film it might very well be worth the price. Usually it is pretty painful to watch a bad game like this in rewind, but this was actually very enjoyable, it makes it clinical which is sometimes all you can hope for in bad games like this.