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A Look Back at Jets Preseason Game One

Things are not always as they seem

NFL: AUG 08 Preseason - Jets at Giants Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The first thing to remember about this game is that it is a preseason game. Any good coach is smart enough to realize that a game like this can do wonders for a team if used correctly unlike Rex Ryan when he put Mark Sanchez back into the game in the 4th quarter to win a contest (with a 3rd string offensive line) only to get his QB injured.

If anyone has ever worked in the restaurant industry, you may have opened a new restaurant. Before they open to the public they have what management calls a “soft opening” or as the wait staff deems it “Hell Night.” Basically the restaurant is open to “invited guests” (who are usually friends and family of the wait staff). They are given cards telling them what to order. It is all free. The management wants to stress out the wait staff, giving them almost impossible tasks and backing up the kitchen. This exposes every problem that might happen so management can fix the problems before they open to the public.

You can do the same thing in football, putting stress on your team by putting them in situations that show what each player can do on their own, without the help of a scheming a defensive blitz or stunt to help them. This will uncover flaws in the technique and athletic ability of each player. It is a teaching tool that allows a coordinator and his staff to show (on film) mistakes and the ways to correct them It might also show a coordinator that he needs someone else to replace a player.

The Jets have a lot of new players, and ALL players are new to Adam Gase and Gregg Williams. They need to find out fast what they have. What are these players’ ceilings and floors? How tough are they mentally and physically? Who they can count on when times are bleak, when you need to make a play? It has been said erroneously that adversity builds character. In actuality adversity shows your true character.

When we watch the tape of this game it is important to remember this is a new defense and offense for all of these players, but it is especially tough on the rookies. Their heads have been swimming since they signed with the Jets and are probably playing vastly different defenses or offenses than what they played in college with completely different verbiage. It would be akin to handing you a book of French and telling you to learn French in a month (if you don’t already speak French).

Not everything is as it seems

When you watch a game you might think certain players have done great or poorly, but even coaches will usually withhold judgement until they watch the tape. The sideline view for a coach or a person watching on TV is not always the best vantage point, yet it is the only one we have. So let’s go over the play of a few of Thursday night’s participants and see how they really did through the eyes of replay.

Blake Cashman #53

Cashman is a guy I highlighted back in March as a player who I thought would be a great later round draft pick out of Minnesota. The kid is tough with good speed, and he is smart. He worked his way to becoming a team captain in college. He has just superior character, but can he play in the pro game? Cashman I thought had a decent night with a few glitches along with some good plays.

On this first clip Cashman is out of position. He is suppose to cover the fullback Elijhaa Penny who has split out wide. Parry Nickerson is playing the slot receiver and screams for Cashman to get out to his man. The ball is snapped before Cashman can get into position so he is in poor tackling position.

Cashman never gets the chance to break down into quality tackling position and overruns the play. Nickerson actually reads the play very quickly, comes off his man and gains outside leverage as to not allow the runner free access down the sideline, pushing him back inside towards tackling help. Cashman doesn’t even slow the receiver down as he cuts back inside him for a 1st down. This is where a first game rookie can make a mistake by not understand his assignments. This is going to happen to rookies. Cashman has been playing more of a WLB in practicem and here he is in Mosley’s MLB spot. He has probably very few reps there. It’s a learning tool for Cashman, probably a mistake he will never make in the future.

Here again Cashman is playing in the Mosley MLB spot where he is unfamiliar with the nuances of the position. Prior to the snap on this 3rd and 10 play you can see the Jets defense is “playing the sticks” with 4 players standing on the 1st down line. This is further verified as at the snap no one moves from their base position.

This is pure zone coverage where Cashman has the middle intermediate zone from the hash to the numbers on or about the 44 yard line. His job is to stay in the passing lane over the middle to prevent a pass gaining a 1st down just behind him. Yet he is a rookie; a smart kid who thinks he can do more than what is asked of him. He watches the QB’s eyes and as the QB looks towards the TE #82 Scott Simonson, Cashman drifts in coverage. He takes a few choppy steps towards Simonsonm and the QB rockets a pass straight behind the area where Cashman vacated. It wasn’t much of a drift, and Cashman almost made it back to deflect the pass. It was still a mistake. I can hear Gregg Williams screaming about it in a film session. Cashman will see on tape that Derrick Jones had secure coverage on Simonson so there was no need to drift. Again he will learn from this mistake.

Actually I thought Cashman had a pretty solid day overall considering he is a rookie in his first professional game and playing a position he had few reps in during practice. He seemed to be all over the field. Even though he play a little over half the snaps (55%) he appeared to have played more. Here he is in better position and makes a good play.

The ILB (Cashman and Hewitt) are set in their run fits and playing zone coverage in a passing situation. This is a pistol formation so once the RB #28 Paul Perkins passes the QB the defense knows it is a pass play. Cashman gets back in his zone and is in great position. He is in the passing lane (like he should have been in earlier) which prevents the pass to #13 Reggie White, Jr. so the QB drops off the pass to the RB Perkins. Cashman comes up to make a violent tackle on Perkins. He holds him while Frankie Luvu peels back from his rush to force a fumble with a crushing blow. This is team defense

Neville Hewitt recovers the ball which is good for him because I believe he had a tough day. You can see him on this play (at the snap) race out into the slant lane once he knows it is a pass. He neglected to do this earlier (I will show you later.) and probably got screamed at. Again, it’s the first preseason game and a new defense. Plus Hewitt is playing in Williamson’s spot who probably got 90% of the reps in practice.

I like Cashman, and I believe he has the makings of a star on defense. He reminds me a little of Joe Schobert who was a 4th round pick out of Wisconsin by the Browns. Gregg Williams turned him from a seldom used rookie in 2016 to a Pro-Bowl ILB in 2017, the year that Williams arrived. They are both smart and instinctive players who are of very high character and give you all they got when they step on the field.

Chandler Catanzaro #7

I do not propose to know anything about kicking (technique wise) in the NFL. When I played football everyone was kicking the ball straight ahead with the toe of the foot. Kickers used to have a special shoe with a square toe like below.

Not until Pete Gogolak in 1964 did field goal kickers use the “soccer style” method of kicking. He was in the old AFL with the Bills and was so successful he was poached from the Bills to the NFL by the Giants who offered him more money.

I can see why the Jets did not re-sign Jason Myers. He kicked three years for Jacksonville who were so impressed with his 81.0% on field goals and his 86.4% on extra points they let him go to the Jets.

He had a career year with the Jets so Seattle signed him to a $15.45 million contract with $5.5 million is fully guaranteed at signing and $7 million guaranteed for injury. If on the roster on the 5th day of the 2020 waiver period $1.5 million of his 2020 salary will become fully guaranteed. That is quite a bit for a guy who has been average at best except for 1 year, but John Schneider is a genius so it must be right (I can never find the sarcasm font).

The Jets showed good restraint on Myers but then signed Chandler Catanzaro to a $1.8 million one year contract with a $500,000 signing bonus. Catanzaro has kicked for 6 years and last year in Tampa was 73.3% on field goals and 85.2% on extra points. Only Macc would give a $500,00 signing bonus to a kicker coming off those numbers. Thanks Macc.

This is what you get for that signing bonus..

This is a straight on, under 40 yard kick which is usually made at over a 90% rate by NFL kickers. I heard that there may have had problems with the holder, but he has probably had the same holder all training camp. I don’t understand how there can be a problem. He is the only kicker in camp.

The other problem is it is hard to tell an owner the team gave a half a million dollars to a guy a month or so ago, and now you want to tell him adios. That means the kicker made $500,000 to go through OTAs and a couple weeks of training camp.

Matt Bryant would be the best option probably, but I don’t really know. Bryant is a great kicker but is 44 years old and had injury problems last year. How much longer can he keep going? There is also Nick Rose, Matt McCrane, Kai Forbath as options, but how much of an upgrade is that? Kickers are the most mercurial non playing football players there are. Chris Boswell of the Steelers was near perfect two years ago (35 of 38 92.1%), and last year he was horrible and benched (13 for 20 65%) after getting a big contract.

I say let’s give him another two weeks to figure it out, but your guess is as good as mine. If they got rid of him tomorrow I wouldn’t shed a tear.

Parry Nickerson

Nickerson was ready to be run out of town on a rail because of his play on Thursday night and reporters’ assessments from training camp. Yet I will tell you not to jump the gun on Parry because we need DB’s in the worst way and I don’t always believe what the print media think they see. I will trust my own eyes and Gregg Williams, thank you.

I can tell you right now the rancor of Nickerson was misplaced and outright wrong in most cases. Nickerson actually played fairly well. There are a few plays that are hard to decipher what the defense was doing (because of mistakes), but I think for the most part Nickeson played well. On this play here Nickerson is playing outside shoulder technique in off man coverage.

This is an RPO the offense is running, and Nickerson is pushing the receiver inside because he has ILB helping on the slant. Neville Hewitt #46 takes the fake and steps up into the hole. He jumps the gun and leaves his passing lane wide open. If Hewitt was to be in his coverage zone this completion never happens. You saw earlier on a play later in the game Hewitt raced over into the passing lane at the snap because Gregg Williams probably gave him an earful. Hewitt is playing in Avery Williamson’s spot and probably got very few reps there during the week. He will learn.

Nickerson has great closing speed so if Hewitt had done his job Nickerson would have been the receiver’s hip pocket all the way downfield. Anytime you see a CB playing off coverage, in the slot and using outside shoulder technique; the slant is not his responsibility. It can’t be. No CB in the history of the NFL can cover a slant pattern from that coverage technique; which by the way is called by the defensive formation. If the offense is running option routes you would expect the receiver to run a slant so the defense is daring the offense to run this play. This is the kind of pass that Luke Kuechly would intercept and take back to the house. It can be a trap coverage if played correctly.

This next clip during the same series is much easier to see. This is a straight zone coverage, and Nickerson has the flat including the back out of the backfield. This is where Avery Williamson is a liability to the defense. Williamson is a great two down thumper, but in coverage he is brutal. Williamson’s zone is between the hash and the numbers about 13-15 yards downfield; around the Jets 40 yard line.

This is a play action pass, and Williamson takes the bait hook, line and sinker. He exacerbates the problem by taking his time to get back into his zone which is left wide open. Williamson makes the mistake of not reading his keys. Your keys will tell you what to do. None of the offensive linemen are firing off the ball which should scream “pass play” if you are reading your keys. You should be dropping into your zone. Instead he “cheats” by looking into the backfield then stepping up into a run fit. Now all his momentum is going forward which he has to stop and retreat back into the passing lane. By then it is too late. You can see the other ILB reads it perfectly and drops into his zone. The QB just has to wait for the WR to get into that vacant zone and deliver the ball.

An ILB usually has man coverage responsibilities (depending on the defense called) on the RB but also has zone (passing lanes) responsibilities if the RB stays in to block. The ILB will cover the RB on wheel routes and check downs, but the majority of his coverage responsibilities are in zone. He has a lot of area to cover, and that is why speed is so important when you are scouting a LB, even ILB’s.

This is the perfect play to run against a vanilla zone coverage as the RB in the flat holds Nickerson in stasis as Cody Latimer gets across the field with depth.

Nickerson plays this actually very well. He even gets a jam on the outside receiver, although he misses the tackle on the dive. He has his eyes on the QB and is in position between two potential receivers. Because he is so close he is assumed to be the player beaten in coverage but that was not the case.

This next play is hard to decipher because someone did the wrong thing, or everyone was not on the same page. Hewitt blitzes the QB, and Cashman takes the fake on the RPO fake and unnecessarily presses the hole. This leaves the entire middle intermediate zone barren from coverage.

Nickerson is playing the inside shoulder on the play. If he knows that Hewitt is blitzing he should be another half step to the inside to force the receiver outside and not allow the slant. So either Nickerson played poor position, or Hewitt blitzed on his own. Gregg Williams will allow his players leeway to change the defense when the feel it is necessary, and with Hewitt being the senior player (Cashman is a rookie.) he would have that power. The receiver Shepherd does take a fake step outside then back inside which causes Nickerson to open outside leaving the inside vulnerable to the slant.

If this defense is played as it was originally called then this TD is on Nickerson for playing poor position and allowing the slant which would be totally uncovered. There could have been a change in the defense that wasn’t communicated well, or someone did the wrong thing. It doesn’t make sense to blitz a ILB on a play leaving the middle wide open and still have your single high safety so deep. That would be a very high risk defense with little to gain for such a huge gamble Or maybe the point was to put players in difficult situations on purpose to see what they have. Only Gregg Williams knows for sure.

Other than the last play (which is still a question mark) Nickerson played fairly well for the most part. In the next clip you will see Nickerson in great coverage so let’s not throw dirt on the kid yet The Jets are in need of secondary help so we will have to keep a keen eye on Nickerson in the next few games; if he makes it that far.

Jachai Polite

Polite has been a polarizing prospect since it seems the moment he was drafted. He has some definite tools to be successful but is lacking in other areas for him to be a true standout performer. Also hurting his cause is a lack of a mentor, a JJ Watt or Von Miller he can watch in practice and learn from. Also just being in a new city, culture, climate and professional atmosphere will take some getting used to. Polite was born and raised in Daytona Beach, Florida and went to the University of Florida.

The best hope for Polite is if defensive line coach Andre Carter takes him under his wing and teaches Polite how to play on the edge and gets him in the weight room to increase his strength. Carter is a former 7th overall pick in the draft way back in 2001 and played in 184 games amassing 80.5 sacks.

There are two clips together on Polite in this last GIF, the first coming with a little less than 10 minutes left in the game. This is a stunt that you can see the right defensive tackle at the snap goes directly at the guard tackle gap. Polite on the play is supposed to loop around left and cut off the defensive tackle’s butt to race to the QB by the gap created by the stunt.

Somehow Polite doesn’t make it around the DT on the stunt and just ends up floating around the line of scrimmage. Polite looked hesitant like he didn’t know what he was supposed to do. In the bottom portion of the screen you can see Parry Nickerson in off coverage and easily maintains blanket coverage on #13 Reggie White, Jr. while Alex Wesley #80 is wide open in the flat. This is a corner blitz along with the Polite stunt so the coverage on the receiver should have been by #23 safety Godwin Igwebuike, but he has been in camp less than a week and may not have known the play call.

In the 2nd play of the GIF Polite is uncovered with an open lane to the QB but is picked up by #28 Paul Perkins who makes a block to keep Polite away from the QB long enough to make the throw. With a full head of steam like Polite had you might expect a better effort, but Perkins plays it well. A counter move by Polite would have been nice.

At the bottom of the screen Parry Nickerson is in of coverage and is glued to #5 WR Da’Mari Scott also #35 Tevaughn Campbell is stride for stride with WR Wesley on his out route. Sadly Dee Delaney #42 gets burned on a poorly run out and up by TJ Jones. Delaney gets turned around on a throw that should have been a pick if played even halfway well.

This is all a learning experience as this team will undoubtedly be evolving over the next few weeks. There is some talent in the starting offense and defense (many did not play), but the depth, especially in the secondary is questionable. Many will learn from this game while other will not, they will not be with us long.

It will be interesting to see how Joe Douglas views this game and what (if any) changes he tries to make to the roster. The injuries seemed to be held to only a few as we wait word on the injury to Brian Winters. Hopefully it is not something severe or of the lingering type.

Maybe these clips will assuage your fear about the Jets and not increase your anguish pertaining to our roster. This was a game that used a lot of rookies and second year men in primary positions for extended periods of time. The result was meaningless, but the experience was priceless.

We all saw a game we will want to and probably easily forget yet these rookies will remember every play they had for years and year. Hopefully they learned from them.

What do you think?