The Jets had a spotty day in coverage in their loss to the Browns. In the first half, they held Tyrod Taylor to one of the lowest yards per attempt rates of the past decade, which they deserve some credit for, but they were bailed out by some awful throws by Taylor. Then, Baker Mayfield came in for his NFL debut, and absolutely torched the Jets in zone defense. Let’s take a look at who was at fault.
- The coverage numbers include only legitimate targets into the general area of a receiver/defender; throws in which a defender in coverage was directly involved the outcome. Throwaways and deflections at the line are excluded.
- The stats for each individual are that of the quarterback’s passing numbers when targeting the individual’s matchup. A player could receive coverage credit even if a teammate finished the play. For example, in Week 1 last season when Tyrod Taylor threw an interception targeting a tight end running into Jamal Adams’ zone, Juston Burris ended up with the interception, but I credited that pick to Adams since I deemed he made the primary play in coverage to cause the pick.
- Penalties and pass breakups counted are only those accumulated in coverage. Penalties/PBs picked up on blitzes, or penalties tackling another player’s responsibility, are not included.
- “Burns mitigated by opponent miscue,” or “miscues” (M) are included in charting to attempt to knock defenders who benefited from an egregious error by the offense (drop, horrible throw) and give perspective to the validity of their raw stats. A defender can still register an interception or incompletion to his credit on a miscued play.
First, here’s a look at each targeted player’s total numbers in coverage against Cleveland.
Next, here’s a breakdown of the Jets in coverage broken down by player matchup and coverage type. Keep in mind receivers who saw targets lined up both outside and in the slot are listed twice.
Some takeaways from the numbers:
- Baker Mayfield ate up the Jets’ zone coverage, as you can see on the far right of the second chart. Targeting defenders in zone, the Browns completed 11 of 13 passes for 118 yards, and picked up 6 first downs on those 13 targets. Comparably, Jets defenders in zone coverage allowed only 6 first downs on 29 targets in Week 1, and only 3 first downs on 9 targets in Week 2. Mayfield really spread the ball around and picked on reserves and mismatches all throughout the second half, demonstrated by the spread of the damage in the charts above.
- The defense is starting to really miss Marcus Maye. When he returns, I think he’ll provide a big upgrade in the back end, helping to prevent some of the intermediate production the Jets have been allowing in the middle of the field. He should also allow the Jets to feel more comfortable with Jamal Adams in the box, since they’ve been exposed deep without Adams back there. Having Maye back will finally allow the Jets to have this entire defense together the way they envisioned it. Doug Middleton is a solid backup but has been a weakness. He’s second on the team in first downs allowed (5) even though he’s sixth in targets (8), and has allowed 2 of the 3 passing touchdowns the defense has yielded.
- As you can see in the first chart up top, Morris Claiborne and Trumaine Johnson lucked out with a combined 3 offensive miscues, including one big one we’ll check out later. In spite of those, and the penalties, I do think both had strong games otherwise. Claiborne had some tight downfield coverage while Johnson blew up a few screen plays with physical play at the line. On the whole, though, both need to start being more consistent.
The most worrying play in coverage on the night was actually an incomplete pass that was broken up by the Jets’ highest-paid player. Johnson’s ability to prevent deep bombs through physical play at the line has been one of my favorite parts of his game coming over from Los Angeles, but here, he plays off and is toast for a 75-yard touchdown. Fortunately, Taylor underthrows it.
Johnson does break up the pass, and I think he deserves credit for that. Quarterbacks are not always going to throw these passes in stride. In fact, more often than not, quarterbacks are going to give beaten defensive backs a shot to redeem themselves. The good corners are able to recoup the damage and take full advantage of the opportunity presented to them. Johnson does that here, so credit to him. However, if reps like that become routine, he’s going to pay sooner or later.
This was Johnson’s best play of the night. The defense is in disarray as the ball is snapped, but Johnson does a great job recovering and gives strong pursuit to hold this screen to only 3 yards. If you watched the Browns try to defend the Jets’ screens in this game, you know this play is not as easy as it looks. Good effort and recovery off the initial block attempt.
Morris Claiborne was bailed out in the second half as Antonio Callaway dropped a beautifully thrown Mayfield pass on a should-be 25-yard gain, and he also had a holding call that wiped out a stop on a two-point conversion. However, he was very clean otherwise, and I thought he earned it. This right here (bottom of screen) is effective press coverage. One good jab at the shoulder and both the quarterback and receiver are thrown off.
Here’s an impressive pass breakup by Claiborne (top) again matching up with Callaway. It’s not the best route and looks like a possible miscommunication on what should’ve happened here, but either way Claiborne never over-commits, stays disciplined, and breaks at the perfect time. When he’s clicking, Claiborne has technical ability that is top-notch at the position.
Baker Mayfield obliterated the Jets in the second half time and time again on throws just like this one below. Receivers simply sat down in the middle of the field between the linebackers and safeties and there was no answer. This is a money throw from Mayfield to David Njoku. Middleton could have broke on this faster but Lee needs to carry this route having no other responsibilities nearby. His biggest coverage hiccup this year so far, in my view.
This next play is from earlier in the same drive as the play above. Same issue. Jarvis Landry just sits right in between the dropping Jordan Jenkins and Darron Lee and Mayfield finds it easily. I pinned this one on Jenkins.
Those were Mayfield’s first two throws. The next play sets up the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. Same exact issue. Four-man rush. Zone across the board. Receiver sits down in the soft spot for easy pickup. Middleton has got to break on these plays before they happen. He is almost always breaking once the ball is already out.
There was one other completion just like the three above, so that’s four big pickups in the same exact fashion in about half of the game. Poor adjustments on the part of both the players and coaches there.
You saw Jenkins drop into coverage and find himself exploited a couple clips above. It wasn’t the only time the Browns beat an outside linebacker for a first down. Here, Frankie Luvu (left outside linebacker, top of screen) drops into coverage on premier receiving back Duke Johnson. He actually has pretty solid coverage here, but once Mayfield turns this into a scramble drill, Johnson pulls the rug on Luvu, selling him deep and coming back towards the quarterback. He buys himself plenty of space towards the sideline for Mayfield to complete this magical play.
Finally, Parry Nickerson had problems against Jarvis Landry in his first extended playing time as he replaced the injured Buster Skrine. Here, Landry gets physical at the top of the route, and Nickerson makes a poor attempt at undercutting the route and playing the ball.
Nickerson also allowed a 16-yard catch on 2nd & 18 that led to a field goal, and should have allowed a 15+ yard first down if Landry held on to a wide open uncontested catch. He added a holding call that was declined. Rough matchup for the rookie to face in his first extended action, but it’s a good learning experience. Skrine should hold on to the starting role for now, but hopefully Nickerson can see some situational reps and improve off of this performance.
For all of the Jets’ mishaps in this game, I want to give credit to Baker Mayfield for playing lights out football straight off the bench in his first action.
Here is how I have the Jets stacking up to this point of the year.
How have you felt about the Jets in coverage to this point?
This poll is closed
OK with it
Not terrible but could be and must be better
It’s been much worse than the numbers indicate
A boatload of garbage