C.J. Mosley, Ashtyn Davis and the New York Jets defense come up empty early vs. the Miami Dolphins,
Each NFL offense is granted around 60 plays per game. So, an offense typically gets an average of 60 plays, while special teams usually account for 20 additional plays in total (both teams combined).
That amounts to about 140 plays per game and a feeling of what should be impending doom whenever one play isn’t executed properly.
As the old coaching saying goes, “I can live with physical mistakes as long as the preparedness is on point,” (I’m paraphrasing, of course), each football play is precious in its own right—no matter the game, season or record of the two teams involved.
This past Sunday, the New York Jets fell to their bitter AFC East rivals, the Miami Dolphins, 24-17, at MetLife Stadium.
For the most part, the game showcased a hard-fought 7-7 scoreboard. In reality, however, the reason why the game remained close had a lot to do with Tua Tagovailoa’s inability to capitalize on the Jets’ defensive mistakes.
Since Week 1, when Sam Darnold and the Carolina Panthers fooled many Jets fans into thinking their defense was solid, Robert Saleh‘s unit has featured lackadaisical team and individual mistakes aplenty.
This time around, one play set the game’s tone and provided a glimpse into both the in-between-the-ears and fundamental mistakes that continuously occur.
The Jets defense fails miserably in a big third-and-4 spot early
Miami faced a critical third-and-4 situation at the Jets’ 6-yard line after needing just nine plays to get down there on the game’s opening drive. Interestingly, the Dolphins needed to get to the 2-yard line for a first down.
Showing a 3×1 pre-snap look, the Jets appeared to be in a Cover 1 with a four-man rush in front.
What happens next results in a thing that happens entirely too often for this defense: The Jets aren’t ready when the ball is snapped.
Changing things way too late
MIKE C.J. Mosley appears to change something late pre-snap as a result of the running back motioning to the boundary (left) side. The reasons for this are many, yet we’ll never truly know.
Most commonly, if a back motions out wide and leaves the offense in an empty look, there’s oftentimes an automatic call. Defensive coordinators love to send heat at the quarterback when there isn’t a possibility of a sixth player in pass protection (although Patrick Laird late-releases on this play).
Watch Mosley’s reaction to the motion, and then watch his teammates’ reaction to Mosley:
Michael Carter II (in the slot on the field side), Elijah Riley (originally lined up on the motion man on the boundary side), Quincy Williams (the WILL linebacker), and Ashtyn Davis (the single-high safety) all have to react late to the call.
It forces Carter to blitz from a slot look off the edge, in spite of the fact that he doesn’t have enough time to creep up to the line of scrimmage and time it right. It also forces Quincy Williams to widen out to the motioning player. And last but not least, Riley and Davis are forced to rotate.
Naturally, it leaves the No. 2 weapon on the field side wide open at the goal line:
You just can’t do that. You just cannot change things so late in the motion, in the flow of the pre-snap action.
There’s a chance that Carter was set to blitz the entire time, but it doesn’t appear that’s the case, thanks to his pre-snap positioning. But even if Mosley didn’t change things drastically pre-snap, there’s no excuse for leaving the No. 2 weapon on the field side so wide open.
If that’s not enough, the Jets still had a chance to stop the play cold and force a field goal attempt.
Fortunately, Tua’s first read directed him to his left, the boundary side (the defense’s right). This allowed Davis to get over in time to at least make it a close call on the wide-open slot man.
Tagovailoa eventually finds the flat to the right and it’s a matter of the ball-carrier, Patrick Laird, taking on Davis and Mosley.
The second defensive problem comes when both of those defenders are asked to take the proper angle and break down when tackling.
Second-year safety Ashtyn Davis has to range over like a madman (not his fault) thanks to the late pre-snap alteration. This adds to the out-of-control nature of his tackle attempt, but it shouldn’t cover him here.
Davis fails to break down efficiently enough. He also doesn’t sink his hips enough or take the appropriate angle when trying to make the tackle.
Notice how his body weight flies right past Laird. This is because his angle wasn’t flat enough—as a 45-degree marker would allow his body weight to go through the ball carrier if his head is across.
Then, Mosley overpursues Laird, which allows him to cut it upfield to set the Dolphins up with a first-and-goal from the 2-yard line.
There’s no question that contact from a Miami player hurt Davis’s attempt, but there wasn’t even a semblance of a breakdown. Plus, the angle just doesn’t get it done here.
When the sideline is involved, defenders should use it to their advantage. Pursuit from an inside-out trek while making sure the ball carrier cannot cut it back.
Then, once ready to make the tackle, break down, sink the hips, get the head up, and explode while getting the head across and leading with the inside shoulder (it would be the right shoulder here). This way, the defender’s momentum moves through the ball carrier instead of around him.
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The Jets are struggling from a myriad of perspectives defensively right now. Most notably, many of their players are not honing in on their individual responsibilities.
This leads to hero ball and too much freelancing, and one player that the Dolphins picked on from the outset was undrafted rookie Isiah Dunn.
Considering that struggle, the last thing the New York Jets defense needs right now is pre-snap breakdowns and poor tackling fundamentals.
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