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Jets’ defensive concerns mount after 2 defenders play poorly vs. Bengals

Jeff Ulbrich, New York Jets, Ashtyn Davis, John Franklin-Myers
Jeff Ulbrich, New York Jets, Getty Images

Two starting New York Jets defenders struggle vs. Bengals

The New York Jets earned a rejuvenating 34-31 win over the Bengals on Halloween afternoon—but it took a handful of small miracles for it to happen. Cincinnati owned an 11-point lead with under five minutes left in the ballgame. Some Mike White heroics, a timely Shaq Lawson interception, and a questionable penalty call were needed for New York to steal the victory.

All of that is to say this: the Jets were nowhere near perfect in this game. There are plenty of areas in which they struggled and must improve going forward.

Most of the team’s issues came on the defensive side of the ball. The offense was a well-oiled machine, racking up 511 yards, 34 points, and 32 first downs in an absolute clinic of efficiency.

But Jeff Ulbrich‘s defense did not have its best day, yielding 31 points. While 10 of those points were scored off of three Jets turnovers that gave Cincinnati excellent field position, the Bengals still forged three touchdown drives of 70-plus yards.

Two starters played a big role in the defense’s shaky day.

Ashtyn Davis

Starting his second consecutive game at free safety for the Jets, Ashtyn Davis had a nightmare of an outing.

Davis was credited with allowing 5-of-5 passes in his direction to be completed for 110 yards, four first downs, and a touchdown. That does not even include a 54-yard bomb to Tee Higgins in which Davis and Marcus Maye seemed to both be at fault (PFF credited the catch to Maye).

Altogether, if you take Davis’ coverage stat-line and add in the 54-yarder to Higgins, he was responsible for 164 yards and six conversions in coverage. That made up 63.3% of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow’s passing yards and 50.0% of Burrow’s total conversions in this game.

One player simply cannot be responsible for such a large chunk of an opposing quarterback’s production – especially when that player is a free safety, the last line of defense.

In addition, Davis was credited with two missed tackles while making only three tackles. That gives him an abysmal missed tackle rate of 40.0%.

Davis may still have some rust to shake off, as he missed the entire offseason and preseason while recovering from foot surgery, but the simple fact of the matter is that the Jets need more from their 2020 third-round pick.

John Franklin-Myers

In Week 5, John Franklin-Myers played up to his usual standards in his first game after signing a four-year, $55 million extension. He recorded four pressures and two run-stops against Atlanta.

Franklin-Myers has gone into a mini-slump since then.

Against Cincinnati, Franklin-Myers had only one pressure over a team-high 33 pass-rush snaps, giving him a lowly pressure rate of 3.0%. It was his second consecutive game with only one pressure after posting the same total over 28 pass-rush snaps against New England in Week 7.

Additionally, Franklin-Myers had zero run stops against the Bengals and just one against the Patriots.

Franklin-Myers’ lack of productivity as the team’s most-used pass rusher played a large role in allowing Joe Burrow to enjoy a mostly stress-free afternoon. Burrow was pressured on only 27.0% of his dropbacks, ranking eighth-lowest out of 31 qualified quarterbacks in Week 8.

It’s not as if Franklin-Myers had good reps that flew under the radar, either. Pro Football Focus credited him with just one pass-rush win in the game. He was consistently locked up by Bengals right tackle Riley Reiff.

Two quiet games do not sink a pass rusher’s season—this is a position where players are considered elite for getting 10 sacks in 16 games, which is approximately one every two games—but the Jets need Franklin-Myers to end this slump before it turns into a real problem.

For now, Franklin-Myers’ production on the season is still great. He ranks 11th among edge rushers with 3.3 pressures per game from the left side of the defensive line. But if he allows this stretch of futility to draw out, the critics will begin crawling out of the woodworks with questions about his contract.

On Thursday, Franklin-Myers will take on Colts right tackle Braden Smith, an accomplished fourth-year starter who just gave up one pressure over 60 snaps in protection against the Titans last week. He ranked as PFF’s seventh-best right tackle in 2020.

A big game in the prime-time spotlight against a top-tier opponent would be the perfect way for Franklin-Myers to put a swift end to his short cold streak.

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2 years ago

Honestly, Davis hasn’t shown much of anything since joining the team. I had very high hopes for him with his speed and athleticism but is hasn’t translated into good play on the field. JFM is a bit concerning, every player has a couple of slumps here and there but to basically be a non-factor has me worried. He needs a bounce back game. Not part of the focus of this article but I almost fell off my couch in cardiac shock when I saw Zuniga get a sack and actually made a couple of other plays. Is he improving? Haven’t heard much about him, what do you guys know?