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Numbers behind NY Jets defense’s Herbert domination are insane

Sauce Gardner, NY Jets, Defense, Coverage
Sauce Gardner, New York Jets, Getty Images

MetLife Stadium is a pit of despair not only for New York Jets fans, but opposing elite quarterbacks, too

Let’s just ignore the final score for a moment and focus solely on what the New York Jets defense pulled off on Monday Night Football. For the fourth consecutive time this season, the Jets successfully made an opposing elite quarterback look terrible at MetLife Stadium.

  • Justin Herbert: 65.4 passer rating (His worst of 2023)
  • Jalen Hurts: 59.5 (Worst)
  • Patrick Mahomes: 63.6 (2nd-worst)
  • Josh Allen: 62.7 (Worst)

The average passer rating between the four is 62.8. For perspective, Jets legend Matt Simms had a 61.4 passer rating during his iconic stint with the team.

So, yeah, the Jets defense has essentially made Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, Patrick Mahomes, and Josh Allen look like Matt Simms.

New York’s performance against Herbert may have been the best of the four, as not only was this Herbert’s worst game of the season, but it may have been the worst of his four-year NFL career.

Herbert finished the game completing 16 of 30 passes for 136 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions, also taking five sacks for 29 yards. Here are a few notes on where this performance stands in Herbert’s career:

  • 136 passing yards: Career-low (31 yards behind closest game)
  • 107 net passing yards: Career-low (43 yards behind closest game)
  • 5 sacks taken: Tied career-high
  • 53% completion rate: 4th-worst of career
  • 4.5 yards per attempt: 3rd-worst of career
  • 65.4 passer rating: 2nd-worst of career
  • 16 completions: 2nd-fewest of career
  • 0 passing touchdowns: Only fifth time of career
  • 32.4% success rate (percentage of plays generating positive EPA): 3rd-worst of career

Simply put… wow. That may have been the worst game of Justin Herbert’s career, and yet, it’s just another day at the office for the Jets defense. They are making it look easy at this point. The schedule-makers challenged the Jets with an absolute gauntlet of opposing flamethrowers at the quarterback position and the Jets have responded by making each of them look just as bad as Zach Wilson, if not worse than him.

While Robert Saleh‘s “embarrassed” comments seemed slightly melodramatic at the time, the Jets have gone out and validated his words. They’re not just holding up or surviving against these elite passers – they’re dominating them.

Numerous Jets defenders deserve credit for their roles in the Monday night beatdown of Herbert. It all starts with a pass rush that pressured Herbert on 54% of his dropbacks, per NFL Next Gen Stats, which is the highest rate of Herbert’s career. For reference, Zach Wilson was pressured on 43% of his dropbacks in this game.

Many pass rushers came out to the party. Bryce Huff had another great game with seven pressures. Quinnen Williams followed him with six (if you’re one of those people still criticizing him for a lack of sacks, just pipe down). John Franklin-Myers and Jermaine Johnson led the way, with Franklin-Myers getting eight pressures and Johnson leading the team with a career-high of nine. It’s Johnson’s fourth consecutive standout performance as he continues to stack them up and build toward a breakout second season.

Writing about Johnson earlier this week, I labeled him as the most important variable for the Jets defense in 2023. This was based on the fact that, over the first seven games of the season, the Jets’ overall pass rush was elite when Johnson played well but only “good” when he was struggling. Through Week 4, Johnson was averaging 1.3 pressures per game, and the Jets were 11th in pressure rate as a team. But from Weeks 5-8, Johnson averaged 4.7 pressures per game, and the Jets led the NFL in pressure rate over that span.

This game served as further evidence that the Jets arguably have the best pass rush in football when Johnson is playing at a high level. With a thriving Johnson, there are just too many high-level weapons on this defensive front for opposing offenses to handle.

Even the backups were stellar. Solomon Thomas contributed three pressures on just seven pass-rush snaps while Will McDonald had two on six pass-rush snaps. The depth is what puts this pass rush over the top. Even when the Jets’ best rushers are off the field, you still have to deal with well-rested backups who are rotating in and providing efficient production.

The most impressive aspect of the pass rush’s performance is that they pulled it off with very little help from the blitz. Jeff Ulbrich sent only four blitzes on an 11% blitz rate, both the second-lowest marks of the season for a Jets team that already came into the game ranked 30th in blitz rate at 19.6%. As we discussed in our game preview, it made sense for the Jets to utilize an extremely low blitz rate against Herbert considering his strong numbers against the blitz, and Ulbrich did just that. It worked to perfection.

If you can create immense pressure without blitzing, it’s a sign that your pass rushers are legitimately elite at winning their one-on-one battles and creating pressure on their own. The Jets have so many flat-out winners in this front seven.

Creating pressure without blitzing is a recipe for success, as it allows you to leave more reinforcements in coverage. And when you are allocating extra reinforcements to a secondary that is already as good as the Jets’ secondary, it becomes extremely difficult to throw the football downfield.

That brings us to the Jets’ defensive backs, who had a marvelous game in coverage. It all revolved around a cornerback trio that put together a signature performance under the prime-time lights. When throwing a pass with either Sauce Gardner, D.J. Reed, or Michael Carter II as the nearest defender in coverage, Herbert completed 6-of-11 passes for 36 yards. That’s 3.3 yards per attempt.

Both the cornerbacks and the safeties deserve credit for helping the Jets continue their dominance in the deep part of the field.

Entering the game, the Jets had allowed the fewest deep completions (3) and the lowest passer rating on deep passes (4.8) of any team in the NFL. Meanwhile, Herbert was ranked second in deep pass attempts per game (5.0). It was a favorable matchup for the Jets since they were prepared to take away Herbert’s strength – and they took advantage. They covered so well that they scared Herbert out of even trying to test them deep, as he only attempted one deep pass all game (which fell incomplete).

Underneath, the linebackers did a nice job of quieting Austin Ekeler, who finished with two receptions for 23 yards. It’s his second-lowest receiving yardage total of the season and his fifth-lowest over his past 24 games.

While there are a lot of mysteries surrounding this frustrating Jets football team, one thing is for certain: This defense is elite, and they show it no matter who they’re up against.

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christian herzeca
christian herzeca
7 months ago

my thoughts after the bolts game?

jets should focus on next year. tell AR not to rush, get healthy without compromise.

try to recoup draft picks with trades before next draft. draft two OL, in first three picks.

have woody say something that sounds stupid, but actually is right…like 2024 or bust. because 2023 is busted, so 2024 is bust at JD and Saleh’s peril

Matt Galemmo
7 months ago

Oops, meant to reply to Jets71

Last edited 7 months ago by Matt Galemmo
7 months ago

Honestly, it’s sad they are wasting this defense. I know you never plan for the QB to go down like that but I’m looking around the AFC and thinking a lot of these teams aren’t what we thought they were, a healthy Rogers would change the picture for sure.

I’m going to nit-pick a bit here, I do wish their safeties were better tacklers. We hammer Whitehead but Adams’ angles and missed tackles are glaring.

Matt Galemmo
7 months ago
Reply to  Jets71

Two years ago: Quincy’s angles and missed tackles are glaring. 

I arched my eyebrows when Aikman mentioned Saleh mentioning Adams reminds him of Quincy. That would be nice.

7 months ago
Reply to  Matt Galemmo

I picked up on that too, and I had the same reaction you did. I am hoping that is what happens.