On Thursday the Jets turned in one of the ugliest run defense performances in recent memory as the Colts rushed for 260 yards on 30 attempts, an unbelievable 8.7 average.
There are a few reasons for this output. You can probably guess the number one reason. The Jets got totally dominated up front.
Take this 34 yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Look at how this play starts.
Now let’s go a little bit into the future, and you can see three offensive linemen reach CJ Mosley.
You can talk all you want about scheme. Nothing is going to work when your defensive line allows this many blockers to hit the second level simultaneously.
On this play look how far Sheldon Rankins gets moved.
This is the type of hole you or I could run through.
Now once we get past how thoroughly the Jets were dominated in the trenches, there were some clever things the Colts did to help their run game.
Take this play.
Now as you might know, the current Jets defensive system emphasizes speed at the linebacker position. That means you likely have smaller players who aren’t adept at shedding blocks. In a system like this the defensive line needs to protect them by preventing blockers from hitting the second level of the defense.
On this play Foley Fatukasi is sliding inside, and Quinnen Williams is head up with guard Quenton Nelson. The objective is for one of these players to draw a double team from the center and prevent them from getting to the linebackers.
However, the Colts pull both guards and a tight end at the snap. Neither Williams nor Fatukasi is able to tie these linemen up because they are on the move.
They both move up the field to the place they were expecting the guards to be. They were supposed to tie up those guards who were supposed to be in those spots. Because of this, they are exposed to trap blocks from the pulling tight end and guard respectively.
And because neither guard needed help, the center is able to go to the second level and get unimpeded to Jarrad Davis to throw the key block on the play.
The Colts also utilized motion effectively.
Here Nyheim Hines motions from the slot and take the handoff.
Hines is the type of player who shows how traditional position designations are quickly becoming irrelevant in the NFL. He is nominally listed as a running back. Normally a player like this lining up in the slot and going in motion would raise alarms. However, Hines frequently lines up as a receiver so the motion might not be any big deal at first glance.
Sharrod Neasman goes outside to try to prevent Hines from getting the edge and forcing him to cut it back inside.
This puts him right into a block.
Meanwhile Shaq Lawson and Mosley just aren’t fast enough to chase down Hines who is already at full speed as he gets the ball.
On this last play we will take a look at other ways motion can manipulate the run defense.
As far as I can tell from watching over and over, the gap assignments for the linebackers and safeties were as follows. Mosley (red) has runs between the left tackles and left guard. Davis (yellow) is responsible for the gap between the center and the left guard. Neasman (orange) is responsible for the gap between the right guard and the right tackle.
Michael Carter II likely has Hines in man coverage.
Hines again motions.
Now instead of Carter following Hines across the field, the defense can also change assignments. Neasman can pick up Hines in coverage. Carter will replace Mosley’s assignment, and both linebackers can bump over to fill the next gap in the sequence. Mosley takes Davis’ old gap. Davis takes Neasman’s.
After the snap, however, both Davis and Mosley go to the gap between the center and the left guard. This is Davis’ former assignment and Mosley’s current assignment.
The run goes to the gap between the right guard and the right tackle, which is not filled by Davis. Instead there is a hole.
To cap everything off, Ashtyn Davis, who is supposed to be the last line of defense, takes a horrible angle to the ball and leaves nothing but daylight between Jonathan Taylor and the end zone.
Of course there are two sides to every story. The Colts are paid to execute. They have a talented offensive line. You frequently hear about how offenses utilize motion to assist execution in the ways we saw here.
Still, these numbers were ugly for the Jets. They were pushed around up front, and their awareness was lacking too frequently. This is not the type of effort you ever want to see again as a fan.