New York Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams committed a terrible no-huddle mistake in the team’s 30-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
One mistake can change an entire game. Gregg Williams knows it. After all, this is a defensive mind who’s been in this league since he cut his chops with the Houston Oilers in the early 1990s under then-defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.
From that standpoint, football hasn’t changed. Scoring may be up, but that simply means defensive mistakes can be magnified, and a perfect example comes from the New York Jets’ most recent loss, a 30-10 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in New Jersey.
Midway through the first quarter, Cards running back Chase Edmonds opened the scoring with a 29-yard scamper to the house. Although, upon first glance, it looked like the Jets were simply beat, so much more goes into the play.
Let’s back it up a play.
Arizona’s second-and-7 on the previous play featured a Kyler Murray completion to Andy Isabella for six yards.
The personnel includes Frankie Luvu on the edge, the only spot he should ever play. At 236 pounds, the man is a light, play-in-space edge player—something the Jets severely lack as a team (and have since John Abraham).
- EDGE: Bryce Huff
- DT: Henry Anderson
- DT: Steve McLendon
- EDGE: Frankie Luvu
- LB: Neville Hewitt
- LB: Avery Williamson
The four-man front nickel properly places everybody where they should be, including Luvu on the edge:
Part of the problem this defense has faced for years is the inability to feature an athletic-enough edge while employing far-too-many interior defensive linemen.
When Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison were employed, Mike Maccagnan drafted Leonard Williams. Obviously, unless Todd Bowles played a heavy four-man front, not all four guys can get on the field at once.
It led to a failed Bowles experiment featuring a 300-pound Richardson hilariously trying to play outside linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.
Four years later, with Williams, Henry Anderson and Steve McLendon employed, Maccagnan drafted Quinnen Williams. It was deja vu all over again.
Gregg Williams tried to find ways to cover up for his unit’s edge weakness by using guys like Anderson and Kyle Phillips outside, but it always led to issues. Three-hundred-plus pound players aren’t quick enough to thrive outside in today’s NFL—one that consistently challenges athletic abilities via the quarterback’s involvement in the designed run game.
The example above is one that has been a rare one for the organization as of late: two natural edge players (in today’s NFL) out there at the same time. While the look is ideal in most regards, the team isn’t used to it, and it comes back to bite them a player later.
How Gregg Williams handles the next play is the issue.
Needing just one yard for the first down, Murray and the Cards go no-huddle. Now, Gregg Williams is in a tough spot on third-and-1. He doesn’t have the right personnel out there. McLendon works, but he’d rather have Foley Fatukasi or Quinnen Williams in there instead of Anderson.
The best personnel would feature one more defensive tackle in place of one of the two edges (Luvu or Huff). This way, the Jets can play an odd-nickel front instead of an even look.
But as much as Gregg Williams wants to shift to an odd look on third-and-1, he just cannot do it with this personnel on the field. Who slides inside to take on an interior defensive line role?
Bryce Huff is about 250 pounds. Neville Hewitt or Avery Williamson cannot take on that role. And Frankie Luvu, at 236 pounds, is the worst candidate, yet that’s exactly who slides inside to take on a 3 or 4i-technique look.
Yes, the odd look with a true nose tackle is by far the better run-defense call. But not with a 236-pound edge player inside.
Watch the confusion as the play is called and Arizona gets to the line. Luvu’s head looks left and right, sort of in a confused state. (On the left side, Huff is also a bit confused.)
The play itself is not much better. Former Jet Kelvin Beachum helps move the light Luvu about five yards, completely destroying the integrity of the defense.
Nobody can blame Luvu here. He’s simply overmatched by a much bigger man. Gregg Williams must take the fall.
Knowing the personnel that’s out on the field means certain fronts can’t be called. As much as any defensive play-caller would want to go with the odd look against short yardage, he needs to stick with even and opt for the lesser of two evils: giving up the first down instead of wrecking defensive integrity, which increases the likelihood of a huge play.
An even front that included two light-playing edge players doesn’t translate into an odd 3-3-5 look. If the Cards didn’t go no-huddle, the Jets would have had the opportunity to swap Luvu for a bigger player like Quinnen Williams. That didn’t happen yet the play-caller still went with the odd look.
Put one in the negative column for Gregg Williams. This sort of personnel mistake cannot happen.