The game between the Jets and the Falcons last night ended with the Jets on top by a 30-22 score. A last minute drive by the Falcons to potentially send the game into overtime was stopped on a Jets fumble recovery. This was a textbook example of why the scores of preseason games are meaningless. Last night we actually saw two games. In the first game the Jets starters squared off against the Falcons starters. For the first quarter of the game the Falcons starters had their way with the Jets starters, rolling up a quick 14-0 lead. The Falcons first team offense dominated the Jets first team defense. The Falcons first team defense shut out the Jets first team offense and never let the Jets cross midfield.
Then out came Matt Ryan, out came much of the Falcons' first team offense and defense, and the game changed. From that point on the Jets dominated. Over the last 45 minutes of the game the score was Jets 30, Bengals 8. So if you didn't see the game and only judged by the scoreboard, it looked like the Jets did reasonably well last night, squeaking out a close victory against the Falcons. But if you actually watched the game you would know the Jets were thoroughly dominated by the Falcons when the starters were on the field for both sides, and the Jets thoroughly dominated the Falcons when the starters came off the field. As a fan it's nice to see the depth players do well, but there is no doubt if you had to choose which unit you hoped would be dominating last night, it wouldn't be the scrubs.
So who saw their stock rise and who saw their stock fall last night? Let's take a look.
Bryce Petty looked lost last week against the Lions. This week, not so much. Petty led the Jets on multiple scoring drives. He showed off a strong and for the most part accurate arm. He didn't look like the moment was too big for him. 12-19, 168 yards, one touchdown, zero turnovers and a 109 passer rating are very nice numbers. Petty didn't really go through many progressions, mostly staring down and throwing to his primary target. He threw what should have been an interception in the end zone when it looked like Petty never saw the defender. For the most part Chan Gailey gave him simple reads. Nonetheless, Petty looked like a different quarterback tonight. One of the best plays of the night for Petty came on his touchdown pass, where he looked at his primary target in the end zone, didn't like what he saw, looked at his running back check down, didn't like that, then came back to his first read for a touchdown. Very nice. Petty still has much to learn, but this performance was a big step forward, and should be encouraging for Jets fans.
Chris Ivory gave a typically strong running performance, highlighted by a 33 yard touchdown run in which he showed more burst and pure speed than he is usually given credit for. Ivory also caught all three of his targets in the passing game and looked more comfortable catching the ball than we're used to seeing from him. A very nice game for Ivory.
Brandon Marshall did exactly what the Jets hired him to do. He was a big, strong target for Fitzpatrick, using his strength and positioning effectively to catch four out of five targets for 62 yards.
In limited action Kerley showed why he is still the Jets' best option behind Marshall and Decker, running crisp routes, creating separation and catching both passes thrown his way for 38 yards.
The Pass Protection
The offensive line gave up three sacks, but when the first team line was in there the offense had time to throw the ball and Fitzpatrick was rarely pressured.
Williams dominated at the point of attack, recording 1.5 sacks, a safety, and a tackle for loss. Williams was quick, strong, and very active, looking every bit like the best player in the draft many said he was.
Babin recorded 1.5 sacks in limited action. Nice job bringing the pressure.
Lattimore made an extraordinary play in coverage, undercutting the route, then fully extending to scoop a low pass up and return it a long way on a nifty interception. He looked like a tight end out there with his hands and his running after the catch. The rest of his night was marred by some penalties, but the interception alone earns him a mention here.
It's not what he'll earn his paychecks for, as it was the kind of play that might happen once every few years if you're lucky, but any time you return a fumble for a touchdown you get to be in the up column.
I thought Williams did a nice job in coverage and gave up very little. The Falcons seemed to pick on whomever was opposite Williams.
Arenas was sure handed in punt returns and was better at returning than anyone the Jets have tried back there recently. He also made a couple of nice plays on defense, including a great tackle just short of the goal line to save a touchdown.
A nice job by Quigley tonight, pinning the Falcons inside the 20 yard line repeatedly and averaging 53 yards per punt.
Fitzpatrick led a Jets offense that stalled in Jets territory repeatedly, and couldn't put any points on the board until the Falcons started substituting the scrubs in. Fitzpatrick showed a lack of arm strength and a tendency to limit the offense to short, safe throws. It was not a particularly impressive performance by Fitzpatrick.
Stacy showed smooth and sure handed skills in the passing game, but looked sluggish and unimpressive running the ball.
Todd Bowles' Defense
For the second straight game, when the starters were out there, the vaunted first team defense looked lost. The tackling improved, but there were more blown assignments, and the Falcons moved the ball quickly and effortlessly. At no time did the first team defense look remotely close to dominance. For the first game where game planning supposedly went into effect, the first team defense prepared by Bowles was disappointing to say the least.
Purdum failed to wrap up and missed the tackle that sprung Devin Hester loose on his long punt return to set up Atlanta's second touchdown.
Cromartie gave up a couple of receptions early, including the touchdown catch when he appeared to have trouble sifting through traffic and left his man wide open for the score.
A sequence where Walls was called for pass interference, then called for holding on the very next play, while being torched over the top, saved only by the receiver failing to keep his feet in, typified a less than stellar outing by Walls.
McDougle was repeatedly targeted in the second half, and rarely made the Falcons pay. He was beaten badly on a long pass to Falcons wide receiver Bernard Reedy, and only saved from giving up a touchdown on the play by an errant throw by the quarterback.
Given an opportunity to seize the slot position for himself the past two weeks, Enunwa has produced a great deal of not much. Other than a big body, it's difficult to see what the Jets coaching staff sees in Enunwa.
The Jets appear intent on giving Powell every opportunity to make the team as a kick returner. That opportunity might be slipping away. Powell returned three kicks from deep in the end zone. He failed to return any of them as far as the twenty yard line, meaning he would have done much better for himself and the Jets if he had simply taken a knee each time.
Williams seems like the longest of long shots to make this team, but he was active and effective in limited duty late in the game.