I always tune into the Jets press conferences with a sense of trepidation. Despite the team being a respectable 1-2 after facing three difficult matchups, the answers to press questions from the coaching staff have started to grate. The bravado which was so welcome last season has started to wear thin and the slogans have started to grate.
No press conference fills me with more dread than when Jeff Ulbrich steps to the microphone. Dealing with the press as a player and dealing with the press as a coach require two different skill sets. As I’m no 49’er fan I don’t know how Jeff dealt with questions while he was playing in San Francisco between 2000-2009, but I know that he often says something that grabs attention for all the wrong reasons when he speaks as a coach.
Yesterday was no different. While speaking to the media he was asked about his rotation policy and Quinnen Williams not being on the field in critical situations. Through three weeks of the season, Williams is averaging being on the field for around 63% of all defensive snaps.
That probably doesn’t sound too bad but if you look at the best players at defensive tackle across the league you’ll see guys like Aaron Donald at around 90% of all defensive snaps, Chris Jones around 74% on average but he was in for 80% against the Colts. Jeffery Simmons often plays 80%+ of snaps. The norm around the league is if you have a talent like Quinnen you keep him on the field as much as you possibly can.
Here’s what Ulbrich had to say about Quinnen:
“There are these critical moments in games, and ‘Why’s Quinnen not out there?’ and you look to the side and he’s gasping for air”
Now Ulbrich went on to say that a lot of it is based on him playing at a high-intensity level and it is the job of the coaching staff to get him on the field in as many critical conditions as possible. But that simple start of the quote made the rounds, people said he threw his player under the bus, he wasn’t taking accountability etc etc. I have two issues with what he said.
First of all, if Quinnen’s conditioning isn’t where you need it to be, then that’s on the coaching staff. You are there to put these guys in the best possible position to perform and if you’re looking around and you want him in and you think he’s not available to you, then you have failed to get him to a place that you need him to be at.
Second of all, I think it’s absolute rubbish. Michael Nania made a great point about the performance of Quinnen when he has been allowed to play more than 70% of defensive snaps, and I say allowed rather than able because I think that’s what it comes down to.
(These games are vs. DEN, MIA, and LV)— Michael Nania (@Michael_Nania) September 29, 2022
Do you guys realize how insanely dominant those numbers are? Here are the 17-game paces and where they'd rank among DT in 2021
- 96 pressures (1st)
- 14 sacks (2nd)
- 34 QB hits (1st)
- 57 run stops (1st)
HE CAN HANDLE BIG REPS https://t.co/2tE1X78X0l
But this isn’t just about Quinnen Williams or the defensive rotation, this is about the sum of the parts that the Jets are getting and that sum doesn’t add up.
According to Football Outsiders, the Jets have the 32nd-ranked defense in terms of DVOA. Just a reminder for everyone, “DVOA measures a team’s efficiency by comparing success on every single play to a league average based on situation and opponent”.
The Jets are allowing an absurd 51.28% of third downs to be completed and our 1.7 sacks on average per game rank 26th in the league. Seth Walder posted the below graph this week and that ties directly into the Quinnen Williams play time argument. Here we have a player who not only gets doubled at a high click, but a player who wins while being doubled.
We’ve heard a lot recently about winning on third down, the Jets aren’t doing it. We’ve now had three games in a row with miscommunication that led to big plays. The Jets have 29 missed tackles through three games, averaging nearly 10 missed tackles per game is a good way to get beaten more often than not.
One aspect of the Jet's defensive system that is becoming clear and obvious is its rigidity. Every defensive coordinator in the league has a system they prefer, but many of the best coordinators are flexible enough to adapt to difference offenses. I haven’t really seen that with Jeff Ulbrich. Teams often know what we’re running, we don’t disguise very well and when we do it’s often easy to decipher post snap.
This isn’t all doom and gloom, the Jets have a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball. We have two outside corners who are both playing at a pro-bowl level and the talent is there on the defensive line, we just need to use it properly.
We’re a young team, we’re an inexperienced team, we hear this a lot. At some point, you need to turn the corner, and if you don’t then someone has to answer for it. The first person to usually go is the coordinator, and when that coordinator is coaching the 32nd-ranked unit in the NFL, it’s usually justified.