Sabo's Sessions, Ashtyn Davis
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Ashtyn Davis and the New York Jets defense come up short against Cam Newton‘s read-option on Monday Night Football.

Sabo's Sessions

Cam Newton did not run wild on Monday Night Football. Finishing with just 16 yards on 10 carries, it’s not as though the big quarterback bowled over New York Jets defenders.

What Newton did do, however, was take advantage of a couple of key situations with the zone-read, including the New England Patriots’ first touchdown of the night in their 30-27 victory at MetLife Stadium.

The play was set up by a 33-yard Jakobi Meyers reception. New York played Cover 1 against a Pats’ play-action that featured just a two-man route.


Meyers’ bench route beat Pierre Desir. Marcus Maye, who played the single-high spot, turned his attention to the other receiver, thus freeing up Meyers for the big-gainer.

Jets, Patriots

For the most part, since making the change several weeks ago, Maye is back to his natural free position while Ashtyn Davis is giving it a go at strong. Instead of his rigorous free safety-strong safety looks, Gregg Williams is interchanging the two positons a ton more.

The read-option touchdown features Maye as the drop-down guy and Davis as the high safety.

Situation

  • First-and-goal from the opponents’ 5-yard line
  • 3:41 remaining in the first quarter
  • Offensive personnel: 11 personnel, trips (3×1), TE flex
  • Defensive personnel: Nickel, 2-4-5, goal-line single-high, SS on No. 3 weapon

Jets, Patriots

Perhaps it’s Maye’s experience and tackling ability that makes Williams place him at strong safety in certain run situations. Davis is smaller and a lot quicker, which makes this look sensical in this spot.

Bryce Huff‘s role

Young Bryce Huff is the edge defender on the boundary side (up top). How he plays it is the first key.

Newton will be reading No. 47 on the play. If Huff crashes hard, Newton will pull the ball and take it around the edge. If Huff plays it responsibly, Newton will hand it off to the running back between the tackles.

Jets, Patriots

Upon the snap, Huff crashes a bit but remains slightly responsible in anticipation of the keep.

Jets, Patriots

The Jets haven’t seen this level of edge responsibility in quite some time—despite the touchdown here. Huff’s responsibility is apparent, which is something that is tough to come by in today’s NFL with the quarterbacks running wild.

Depending on what Williams asked of his edge players in this game, Huff’s actions can be labeled as adequate. Perhaps he crashed just a bit too hard initially, but his positioning forces Newton to take a wider angle, allowing other defenders to rally.

Some defensive coordinators will use a scrape-exchange against the read-option. That would showcase the free edge player (Huff) crashing immediately en route to the running back, while the second-level linebacker (Harvey Langi) scrapes in anticipation of manning up the quarterback outside.

Considering Langi is blitzing the A-gap, there’s no scrape-exchange here. Huff is responsible for Newton.

Jets, Patriots

Next, we turn our attention to Davis and the pursuit.

Ashtyn Davis’s finish

Davis’s part of the play features play-recognition and athleticism. Unfortunately, it also features poor technique and aggression.

There’s no reason Davis and the defense cannot stop Newton here. Like Josh Allen, Newton is not the average quarterback running the football. He’s a big man whose power feels similar to that of a traditional fullback at times (when thinking about this non-physical league).

Jets, Patriots

At this point, the defense should have Newton dead to rights. Davis must finish the play to make that happen.

Davis earns points for recognition, speed and pursuit. He nearly takes too shallow of an angle initially, but his inside-out path works. It’s just his finish on the tackle that lacks technique.

A brief hesitation costs Davis.

Jets, Patriots

Davis needs to contend with Huff a bit, but that’s why aggression was required. Don’t float too shallow and ensure that your angle comes from more of a 45-degree route with Huff chasing from the side.

Jets, Patriots

At this point, Davis needs to breakdown, sink his hips, get his head across and explode. He should be looking to stick that right shoulder pad into Newton’s target (the midsection) and take him to the sideline with his momentum.

Instead, he takes himself out of the play thanks to Newton’s engagement with Huff. Davis has no other option than to dive for a desperation attempt.

Jets, Patriots

Notice where Davis’s head is. It’s on the wrong side. Ensuring that his head is across the ball-carrier would help sway momentum in the defense’s favor, but that brief hesitation and non-aggression when finishing allows Newton’s power to take over.

The other important part is Davis’s legs. At this point, there’s no power to the tackle. He was forced to dive on the tackle instead of sinking the hips and finishing with his lower-body.

Davis is still incredibly raw as a football player. His attitude is spot on and his athleticism is off the charts. But the kid’s overall technique is lacking.

It’ll only come with more reps and excellent coaching. He’s a project, for sure, but one who can pay dividends depending on his internal drive.

Ashtyn Davis, Bryce Huff and the New York Jets defense get an “almost” grade on this play. A “job well done” would have been dished out if Huff doesn’t take that extra step to the inside and Davis finishes the correct way.


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