Quinnen Williams, Marcus Maye, and Brian Poole are among the defensive studs from the Jets’ shutout loss in Miami.
Although the Jets were thoroughly dominated by the Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium, there were actually a handful of important positives to take away from the game on the defensive side of the ball.
Let’s dig into a few key advanced metrics on the Jets defense’s performance against Miami, beginning with some negatives before getting into the positives.
Inside linebacker duo had a rough day in coverage
The pair of Neville Hewitt and Avery Williamson allowed 10-of-11 passing in its direction for 123 yards and six conversions. Hewitt allowed 2-of-3 passing for 28 yards, one touchdown, and one first down. Williamson yielded 8-of-8 passing for 79 yards and four first downs.
When evaluating the cover numbers of linebackers, completion percentage is not an important piece of the pie since linebackers have no chance of stopping many of the “targets” they are tagged with – checkdowns, screens, etc. What is most important is the prevention of conversions, which Hewitt and Williamson failed to do with a first down or touchdown allowed on 54.5% of targets.
Williamson also had a facemask penalty and recorded just one run stuff for two yards or less over 22 snaps against the run. He certainly does not look like the player he was prior to his ACL injury.
Jordan Jenkins is slumping
Jenkins posted only one pressure over 13 pass-rush snaps against the Dolphins and now has just seven over 87 rushes on the season, a rate of 8.0% that ranks 63rd out of 89 qualified edge defenders (30th percentile). Since posting three pressures in Week 1, Jenkins has a measly four pressures on 74 pass-rush snaps over his past five games (5.4% rate).
Brian Poole is heating up
Back in the state where he both grew up and starred with the Gators, Poole snagged an interception and allowed only one first down in coverage (2-of-3 passing for 20 yards) over 26 snaps in coverage.
Poole’s coverage has been lockdown-quality over the past three weeks. Since the Week 4 game against Denver, Poole has allowed 6-of-10 passing in his direction for 60 yards (6.0 per target), two first downs (20.0% rate), no touchdowns, and two interceptions (37.5 passer rating).
On the season, Poole has allowed a passer rating of 57.0, which ranks sixth-best out of 98 qualified cornerbacks (95th percentile).
Marcus Maye returns to deep safety role and shines
After losing Jamal Adams, Gregg Williams decided to give Marcus Maye a chance to fill Adams’ shoes. That experiment started off extremely promisingly in Week 1, but Maye was mediocre in the role over the ensuing four games.
Williams placed Maye back in his natural role as a deep man against Miami. Here is a comparison of Maye’s utilization in Week 6 versus his first five games.
The versatility was thrown out the window as Maye was primarily used in the role where he is at his best. Playing 82.1% of his snaps manning the deep part of the field, Maye lined up deep even more often than he generally did in the 2019 season.
Maye played great back at his familiar position, snagging a miraculous interception off of a Fitzpatrick deep shot and otherwise allowing only one catch for a seven-yard first down over 32 coverage snaps.
Here is where things get interesting. Maye did not necessarily just switch places with Bradley McDougald, who was the primary free safety up until this past game. McDougald still played deep quite often in Miami, lining up deep on 53.6% of his snaps, which is not too big of a drop-off from his 70.2% rate over the first five games.
The reason: Williams played Maye and McDougald together in quite a few Cover 2 looks.
Playing a Cover 2 defense would be the perfect way to test the waters with Maye and Ashtyn Davis together. Figuring out whether the two are compatible is a major question mark for the team to answer by the end of this season. Joe Douglas has a tough decision coming up with Maye’s contract situation, as Maye is one of the team’s few good players, but his skill-set clashes with Davis’, who also thrives downfield. Seeing them play together would provide valuable information for the front office as they decide whether both can be part of the long-term plan.
Going forward, it would be wise to maintain the same type of utilization at safety that was deployed in the Miami game, but with Davis in McDougald’s role. Obviously, the question mark here is whether Williams is interested in entering evaluation mode considering he probably won’t be around next year.
Nevertheless, it was refreshing to see Maye get back to thriving at the position where is most comfortable. Maye was one of the best pure free safeties in football last year, and his first game at the position this year was a successful one.