Two games that could (should) have been won. A 17-14 Playoff loss in 2009, and a 27-21 regular season match up in 2011. What went wrong, defensively speaking, in those two games? The common answer for both games is a less-than-physical defensive back not playing up to his status as a first round draft pick.
Antonio Cromartie, who instead of tackling or hitting you, prefers to gently caress your shoulder or gracefully embrace your waist and get you to run away towards an unsuspecting sideline, stood idly by as Shonn Greene ran past him to the end zone. Antoine Cason, coincidentally another DB with the same initials, was shoved aside by Plaxico Burress, who ran wide open into the end zone for an easy touchdown catch. Twice. The third was a back shoulder fade.
Surely, these glaring failures were only an overwhelming majority of the problems on defense and not the whole problem, right? So for now we'll look at the rest of the defense and figure out how they can improve for this season's match up. The easy part has already been done by outside powers, as Plaxico Burress is no longer a Jet. However, their running game now includes Tim Tebow and Rex Ryan wants to have a "ground and pound" offense. Since the Jets have historically been a troubling match up in recent years, and are a possible hurdle the Chargers will have to clear to make it to the playoffs, let's see what went wrong the last time these two teams met. Refresh your memory with last year's game log and grading here:
A few things to notice up there:
Weak Defensive Line
Jacques Cesaire, Vaughn Martin and Travis LaBoy were almost stumps in the first half, and in the second half they weren't much better. As bad as they played rushing the QB, they were worse defending the run! On 31 rushing plays, the Jets averaged 5.2 yards per carry. That's unacceptable for a team focused on defending the ground game.
Vaughn Martin has presumably improved since last year, and Antonio Garay was having an off day. The biggest improvement needs to come from the rest of the defensive line. Force runs to go to the edge by clogging the middle. The front seven is athletic enough to contain the outside running lanes. Jarret Johnson should help the run defense greatly, assuming he can play 90% as well as he has the last few years. There is just so much room for improvement.
To help you visualize, here are two examples below and look at the run blocking and the rush:
Third downs were a problem all last year, and this game was no exception, with the Jets converting on 62% of them. The pass rush is what prevents third down conversions. Shaun Phillips was the only player getting real pressure, with two sacks and a hit. No one else hit Sanchez on pass plays. That needs to change this year and hopefully it will with two talented rookies in Melvin Ingram and Kendall Reyes.
There were twelve blitzes called in this game and you would never have known it by looking at the stats. Re-watching this game, there were too many times I saw the interior lineman just stood up at the line of scrimmage, getting no pressure on Sanchez (example below).
There were also many failed blitzes. One of those examples is below.
So what do we take from this? Will the Chargers have what it takes to win this year? Will the pass rush of 2007 (or at least 2010) return? Can the front seven do a better job against the run? There are new pieces in place all over the field. Melvin Ingram, Kendall Reyes, Jarret Johnson, Aubrayo Franklin, Jonas Mouton and Atari Bigby. Which of these will have the biggest impact against the run? The Pass? Clearly, we have questions to be answered. The next 16 games will answer these questions and hopefully give us 2 or 3 more games to reflect on past mistakes. Norv Turner and AJ Smith have to defend their management and coaching of this team, and it starts with the Defense, and their ability to perform better than this ...