Blessuan Austin and Marcus Maye had promising season debuts, but there were a lot of highly concerning issues with the Jets defense on Sunday.
The edge rush was eerily silent
After yet another offseason of choosing not to make a big-time investment at the EDGE position, the Jets are looking as weak as ever at the position.
In Buffalo, the Jets’ edge rushers (Tarell Basham, Jordan Jenkins, Jordan Willis, Kyle Phillips) combined for zero sacks and one quarterback hit over 78 pass rush snaps. That’s a sack or hit on 1.3% of pass rush snaps, a rate better than only the Panthers (0 for 50) among the league’s 32 edge groups in Week 1. The league average edge rusher picked up a sack or hit on 3.9% of pass rush snaps in the league’s opening week – triple the Jets’ average.
There isn’t a surefire solution available for the Jets until they can prioritize this position in the offseason, but to maximize their current situation, they should promote Bryce Huff and/or John Franklin-Myers to the active roster, who each have shown plenty of pressure-producing potential.
Blessuan Austin showed up, but still has things to work on
As I broke down here, Austin’s play was one of the lone bright spots for the Jets defense in Buffalo.
Austin was tagged with allowing 12 yards on three receptions over 52 snaps in coverage. That’s an average of just 0.23 yards per cover snap, which ranked ninth-best among 90 qualified cornerbacks (20+ coverage snaps) in Week 1.
In addition, Austin was highly active against the run, ranking second among cornerbacks with three run stops (tackles in the run game that constitute a poor result for the offense) and leading the position with a run defense grade of 92.3 at Pro Football Focus.
Missed tackles were a problem, however, as Austin tied for the positional lead with three. That total isn’t quite as bad as it might seem given that Austin tied for fourth at the position with eight total tackles, but it’s still a problem that needs to be cleaned up. Two of those whiffs were in the passing game, carrying over his weakness with finishing in the passing game from last year. Austin ranked at the 7th percentile among cornerbacks with a 19.0% miss rate against the pass in 2019 (17 tackles, 4 missed).
Nevertheless, Austin (who turned 24 in July) is easily the most promising under-25 player on the defense right now. He looked rejuvenated and highly motivated in his first appearance since being benched by Gregg Williams at halftime against the Steelers in Week 16 of last season. With just seven career starts under his belt, he still has plenty of room to grow, and yet, he already looks capable of establishing himself as a long-term starter on the outside.
Pierre Desir, Nate Hairston were burnt to a crisp
The Bills never failed when going after Desir or Hairston. When targeting one of the two, Josh Allen was 7-of-7 for 76 yards for two touchdowns and five first downs. Desir allowed 4-of-4 passing for 43 yards, two scores, and two firsts, while Hairston allowed 3-of-3 passing for 33 yards and three firsts.
In addition, Desir committed two penalties to move the chains on throws his way (one hold, one pass interference) while Hairston committed one (pass interference).
That’s 10 conversions on 10 throws in the direction of the outside cornerbacks. Absolutely brutal.
Placing Arthur Maulet (who played 0 defensive snaps on Sunday) back in the starting lineup would be wise. Maulet allowed the lowest passer rating among the Jets’ outside cornerbacks last year (83.9) in the first extended action of his career. Desir (102.6) and Hairston (116.6) have each yielded a much higher career passer rating.
Missed tackles are a major problem
The Jets were knocked with 16 missed tackles against the Bills, most in the NFL in Week 1.
This was a unit-wide epidemic, as 10 different players were tagged with at least one whiff.
Folorunso Fatukasi (2 tackles, 2 misses), Tarell Basham (2 tackles, 2 misses), and Harvey Langi (6 tackles, 3 misses) were the worst offenders. As mentioned earlier, Austin (8 tackles, 3 misses) needs to clean up this facet of his game.
Bradley McDougald was the team’s best tackler, converting nine finishes without a miss.
Marcus Maye was absolutely fantastic
There is one man on the Jets roster who nobody can question was tremendous on Sunday. That’s Marcus Maye.
In his first game taking over the strong safety role that Jamal Adams starred in, Maye was every bit as omnipresent as Adams often was. Some of the numbers he put up are downright staggering, even rewriting the history books.