With both the Jets’ pass rush and their pass protection widely regarded as weak, our anticipation would be that the types of sacks given up by the Jets would be of a higher quality than those they racked up on defense. We should expect the offense to have given up more two-second sacks and clean beats and for fewer coverage sacks to pad the total.
If that’s what we find, then we can surmise that the Jets’ were able to create or deny sacks by game planning since they lacked the ability to create more quality pressure than they surrendered. For example, we already know that they were near the top in blitz rate.
Alternatively, if the numbers end up closer than expected, then perhaps that illustrates that either the pass rush or pass protection (or both) weren’t as bad as perceived.
Once again, we re-watched all of the 37 sacks given up by the Jets - and timed them on the same basis as before - to see if there were any interesting patterns.
Is giving up 37 sacks bad?
There’s strong evidence that those teams that limited the number of sacks they gave up in 2018 benefited strongly from that factor. Of the top 10 teams in terms of lowest sack count, eight made the postseason. The Jets’ 37 sacks was the 13th lowest total in the league which is a positive sign and a foundation they should look to build upon.
Being a team that doesn’t limit sack counts doesn’t necessarily rule you out from being a playoff team though. The two teams who gave up the most sacks - Houston and Dallas - both also made the postseason. Seattle, another playoff team, also gave up the eighth-highest total.
What stands out about each of these teams is that they have an athletic quarterback who likes to scramble around to try to extend plays and avoid pressure, so they’re doing things differently from those teams that just get rid of the ball as quickly as possible most of the time.
We previously noted that the Jets had six sacks on defense negated by penalties. They weren’t bailed out nearly as often on offense as they only had two sacks negated.
Against the clock
As with the previous study, we’re using the stopwatch to see when a sack was recorded - or when there was a pressure that ultimately led to a sack. We previously observed that most sacks are closer to three seconds, so we’re highlighting any two-second sacks or four-second sacks.
Let’s start with four-second sacks. When we looked at defensive sacks, we counted five four-second sacks, but also identified three other sacks we’d also classify as coverage sacks. Surprisingly, on offense, the numbers weren’t much different to this, as the Jets gave up four four-second sacks but had another four plays we’d classify as coverage sacks.
It’s worth pointing out that none of those four four-second sacks came before week 12 though - two with Josh McCown in and two in the last game of the year. That probably speaks to Darnold’s ability to elude late pressure and eagerness to evacuate the pocket and get rid of the ball or scramble for positive yardage.
In terms of those so-called two-second sacks where the pressure gets to the quarterback almost immediately, there was a bigger difference. The Jets had 14 of those on defense (36%), but gave up 19 on offense (52%). Again, though, there was a late-season improvement, with 13 in the first nine games, but only six in the last seven.
Since we were only trying to clock sacks to the nearest one second, anything under 2.5 seconds would count as a two-second sack. However, when timing these, it was apparent that there was several sacks given up by the Jets actually timed at less than two seconds, as opposed to only one Jets sack of under two seconds on defense. That suggests that the difference between the totals doesn’t do justice to the discrepancy between clean beats given up and actually achieved.
The main culprits
Another thing that was apparent when reviewing the sacks was that there were multiple sacks (six to be exact) where two players got beaten. In fact, had only one player got beaten on any of these plays, the quarterback likely would have been able to escape the sack:
In terms of who got beaten for the sack, Brian Winters, Spencer Long and Brandon Shell got beaten for five each. Kelvin Beachum gave up three and James Carpenter just two. Backs and tight ends were responsible for three between them and Brent Qvale gave up one. (Note: Some sacks had more than one player responsible).
From the above list, one of the sacks given up by Beachum, both, two of Long’s and both of Carpenter’s came via a stunt rather than a one-on-one move.
In terms of sacks where the initial pressure led to someone else cleaning up, there were seven of these. Long was responsible for the initial pressure on one, while Beachum and Winters were responsible for three each.
You’re free to draw your own conclusions from this data, which is obviously not as reliable as an all-encompassing study that would take into account every sack recorded by every NFL team.
However, what was blatantly apparent from compiling the numbers is that the Jets lack the ability to get to the quarterback quickly which many of their opponents did possess. For example, all three sacks recorded by the Texans were two-second sacks, as were five of the seven recorded by Miami over the two games.
The Jets find themselves in a position whereby they have the cap space to get into the mix for any edge rusher that hits the open market but also find themselves in a spot where there’s a good chance a top edge prospect will fall to them in the draft. It’s been too long since they had an elite edge defender, so they must ensure they address this position.
As for the offensive line, the numbers don’t reflect particularly well on Winters, who needs to improve his consistency to justify his contract - although, in his defense, he wasn’t helped by some of the center play to his left. The numbers also continue to suggest that the Jets missed James Carpenter more than you might believe.
Carpenter might not be a good fit for Frank Pollack’s offensive line, but this does highlight how much of a downgrade his replacements were. The offensive line unit as a whole therefore definitely needs upgrades. Especially since, worryingly, they might be even worse at run blocking than they are at pass protection.