New York Jets: Jeff Cumberland
"We’re deep and talented at the tight end spot," offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said last week. "That’s going to be an impressive position for the New York Jets for years to come."
As we noted on the night of the draft, this won't be an easy transition for Amaro, who came from a system at Texas Tech that's dramatically different than the one he's trying to master with the Jets. Amaro described the Tech offense as "simple," -- a no-huddle, spread attack that doesn't have a high volume of plays. Using a math analogy, it was on the level of addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. The Jets are using calculus.
Which explains why Amaro struggled in last week's minicamp. He got some work with the first team, mostly in the three-receiver package, but he looked lost at times. Simply put, he needs to clean up all aspects of his game.
Mornhinweg said Amaro, a pass-catching machine in college, needs to make a "host" of adjustments to get comfortable in a pro-style system. The Jets' version of the West Coast offense is predicated on timing and precision, and Amaro's routes were sloppy. If a pass receiver is off by a step or two, it throws the entire play out of sync. Specifically, he has to polish the top of his routes. Because he didn't play much traditional tight end at Tech, he also needs a refresher course on the in-line position, mostly with footwork and releases.
This has to be a humbling process for Amaro, who boasted on the first day of rookie camp that his goal is to become the next Tony Gonzalez. A tap on the brakes is in order.
2. Young ball hawks: Turnovers are always a good news-bad news story in practice. The good news is that the secondary, which produced very few big plays last season, came up big. In addition to Pryor and Milliner, rookie CB Dexter McDougle made a big play, intercepting Vick in a 7-on-7 drill. (Vick seemed upset; there might have been a miscommunication with WR Jeremy Kerley). Afterward, Rex Ryan praised McDougle as one of the standouts in minicamp. This will be the youngest secondary of the Ryan era. The upside is the improved team speed on the back end; the downside is the lack of experience, which will inevitably lead to mental errors.
3. Another Hill to climb: WR Stephen Hill, who could be fighting for his roster spot, finished with a terrific practice. This was a positive offseason for Hill, who needed a jolt after a second straight disappointing season. He worked with the starting base offense, with David Nelson replacing him in some three-receiver packages. Nelson, too, looked sharp, hauling in two completions from Smith. Unlike past years, the Jets actually have some depth at receiver. It'll be interesting to see which players separate from the pack in training camp.
4. Dawan is da man: Veteran S Dawan Landry became the forgotten man in recent weeks, especially with Pryor and Antonio Allen working exclusively with the first team. After practice, Ryan tossed a bouquet to Landry, mentioning him as one of the standouts in minicamp. Ryan also revealed that Landry won an "Iron Jet" award for his exploits in the conditioning program, noting that he reported to the offseason program in superior condition. Funny how that works; they draft a safety in the first round and the aging incumbent shows up looking better than ever.
5. Attendance report: LB David Harris (hamstring tightness) and TE Jeff Cumberland (undisclosed) sat out. As expected, RB Chris Ivory (ankle) didn't participate. With Chris Johnson (knee) also out, Bilal Powell and Alex Green had busy days.
6. Have a nice summer: The offseason program is over. The team won't be together again until training camp. Reporting day is July 23 in Cortland, New York.
2. Is Eric Decker worth the money? The Jets, no longer big spenders in free agency, made an exception for Decker, giving him a five-year, $36 million contract. For that kind of loot, they expect him to be more than a nice No. 2 wide receiver. This could be culture shock for Decker, who goes from Peyton Manning to Smith/Vick. Then again, he caught passes from Tim Tebow in 2011, so he should be prepared for anything.
4. Is Calvin Pryor as good as Rex Ryan thinks? Ryan always gushes about his rookies, but he's positively smitten with his first-round pick. He already has compared Pryor to one of the most notorious safeties in history, the hard-hitting Jack Tatum. It will be interesting to see how Ryan juggles Pryor, Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen in the safety rotation -- if there is a rotation. We're talking about three players with similar skill sets -- i.e. strong safety-types.
5. Is it Milliner time? Taking Smith out of the equation, the most improved player on the team has to be cornerback Dee Milliner. If not, the defense will have problems because it's counting on him as the No. 1 cornerback. Milliner has to be the rock in the post-Cromartie/post-Revis era. Last year's top pick, who missed the 2013 off-season because of a shoulder injury, saved a poor rookie year with a strong finish. Now he needs to build on that. Just being on the field, as opposed to rehabbing an injury, will help immensely.
Position: Tight end
Current personnel: Jeff Cumberland (signed through 2016), Zach Sudfeld (2015), Chris Pantale (2015).
Projected starter: Cumberland.
Departures: Kellen Winslow (free agent), Konrad Reuland (free agent).
Top salary-cap charge: Cumberland, $1.9 million.
Scouting report: Re-signing Cumberland was a good move, but they're not finished. Cumberland will give you 600 to 700 snaps a year, occasionally demonstrating the ability to penetrate a deep seam, but he's not the kind of tight end that can be flexed out. In fact, he caught only four passes last season when split out wide to the left or right, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Sudfeld shows some promise as a receiver, but he's still considered a project. Without a doubt, the Jets need to add more talent and more bodies. There's a reason why Marty Mornhinweg didn't use too many two-tight end packages last season.
The Last TE drafted: Hard to believe, but they haven't drafted a tight end since Dustin Keller (first round) in 2008.
Potential targets: The Jets have hosted the top five tight ends in the draft -- Eric Ebron (North Carolina), Jace Amaro (Texas A&M), Troy Niklas (Notre Dame), Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington) and C.J. Fiedorowicz (Iowa). You don't have to be a detective to figure out what's going on here. The Jets will draft a tight end, maybe two. In the unlikely event that Ebron falls to the Jets at 18, it would be hard to pass. "He's that good," ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay said. McShay said Ebron "has holes in his game" (some dropped passes, disinterested blocker), but he added that his pass-catching prowess is hard to ignore. Amaro and Seferian-Jenkins are projected as second-rounders. They're both big, athletic targets. Amaro set an NCAA record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end (1,352). ASJ dominated in the red zone. His character needs to be checked out; he has a DUI arrest on his record. Fiedorowicz is a traditional 'Y' -- an in-line blocker, as is Niklas. A late-round possibility is Ted Bosler (Indiana).
Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 10
A: $6+ million AAV (annual average value), 3+ years guaranteed money
B: $2 million-$6 million AAV, 2 years or fewer guaranteed money
C: $2 million or less AAV, 2 years or fewer guaranteed money
D: Minimum salary, 1 year contract
A former college wide receiver, Cumberland has filled out his frame enough to become a move tight end who can be flexed out and detached from the line of scrimmage. He has good straight-line speed to stretch the seam and extend the field vertically. He is a work in progress as a blocker who can be a useful No. 2 tight end who can improve the passing attack in the red zone with his good catch radius. He's not an ideal starter, but he also won't be a detriment to an offense. An improving player.
Only two free agents are worthy of a C, according to Polian -- kicker Nick Folk and right tackle Austin Howard. The Jets overpaid for Folk, per the rating system, and they could be on the verge of doing the same for Howard. Polian's take on Folk, who received the franchise tag ($3.6 million):
After clinging to his job for each of his first three seasons in New York, Folk broke out with the best season of his career in 2013. He showed exceptional accuracy and leg strength, hitting a 54-yard field goal during the season. A starting-level kicker who has connected on over 80 percent of his career kicks.
Polian on Howard, who will land a deal in the coming days (whether it's with the Jets or another team) that will pay him twice as much as the 'C' grade:
Howard made strides during the 2013 regular season, improving as a full-time starter for the Jets as a right tackle. He has a massive frame and wingspan, as he entered the NFL at nearly 350 pounds (he has since trimmed down). Howard can struggle with quickness from opposing edge rushers but is sufficient as a space player and can be a starting right tackle. He should continue to improve.
» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South
Key free agents: RT Austin Howard, PK Nick Folk (franchise player), TE Jeff Cumberland, LB Calvin Pace, RG Willie Colon, S Ed Reed.
Where they stand: The Jets are trying to re-sign Howard before he hits the open market. He's not a household name, but he's a massive blocker with surprising athleticism. Howard has two years of starting experience and he's only getting better. They've expressed an interest in re-signing Cumberland and Pace, although it's unclear if deals will get done by Tuesday. Pace produced a career-high 10 sacks last season, playing for the minimum salary, but he's 33 -- and the Jets won't throw significant money at a player that old. The Jets are rebuilding at tight end, so Cumberland's role is undefined, which could affect negotiations. Colon and Reed are fallback options. In Reed's case, way, way back. Colon is recovering from biceps surgery and won't be healthy until the spring.
What to expect: With an anticipated $30 million in cap space, the Jets could be aggressive buyers if they so choose. They need a wide receiver (or two), a tight end and a veteran quarterback to push Geno Smith. There aren't any true No. 1 receivers on the market, so they'd better be careful not to overpay for the second-rate talent. Emmanuel Sanders and Golden Tate could be on the radar. They're likely to have interest in QBs Josh McCown and Michael Vick, who'd be ideal because he already knows Marty Mornhinweg's system from their days together in Philadelphia. If they strike out with free agents, the Jets could retain former starter Mark Sanchez, contingent on his health and a massive pay cut. The Jets could have 12 draft choices (counting possible compensatory picks), so they don't have to overpay to fix every need in free agency.
1. Austin Howard, right tackle -- The Jets are trying to sign him to a long-term extension before March 11. He figures to land a deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 million to $6 million a year. ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan tweeted that Howard could get $7 million per year if he hits the open market.
3. Calvin Pace, linebacker -- There's mutual interest, but they can't re-sign him until free agency starts unless he agrees to another minimum-salary deal, per CBA rules. The reason is because the Jets received a minimum-salary cap benefit last season with Pace. However, in theory, the two sides can have a more lucrative agreement in place that could be quickly signed March 11.
4. Nick Folk, kicker -- By rule, he falls into the same category as Pace. After four consecutive one-year contracts, Folk deserves a long-term deal after a career year. Talks are ongoing.
5. Leger Douzable, defensive end -- He was an important backup last season, contributing 228 defensive snaps. The Jets would like to have him back, but they probably won't go much higher than a minimum salary.
6. Ellis Lankster, special teams -- The Jets want him back because he's a core special-teamer. Lankster may look around to see if there's a team willing to give him a shot at cornerback.
7. Willie Colon, guard -- His surgically repaired biceps will be ready for training camp, but it may not be with the Jets, who will consider in-house options and explore the free-agent market. Colon looks like a fallback.
8. Josh Mauga, linebacker -- He missed most of the last two seasons with injuries, but he's only 26 and the Jets are thin at inside linebacker. There's a chance he could return on a one-year deal.
9. Aaron Berry, cornerback -- He's coming off ACL surgery, never a good thing for a corner, but he flashed some potential before getting hurt. He could be a post-draft option.
10. Vladimir Ducasse, guard -- The former second-round pick has some talent, but he wasn't able to put it all together under three different line coaches. He's unlikely to return.
11. Ed Reed, safety -- Rex Ryan would take him back, but it's a long shot. He's not an every-down player anymore. He could be an emergency pickup down the road.
12. Josh Cribbs, kick returner -- He provided a brief spark last season, but he's coming off surgery for a torn pectoral muscle, and he'll be 31.
13. David Garrard, quarterback -- He was a good mentor for Geno Smith, but he's 36 with a bad knee. The Jets will look for a younger, more viable backup.
14. Lex Hilliard, fullback -- He's coming off shoulder surgery, but there's a chance he could be back. Tommy Bohanon didn't light it up.
15. Darius Reynaud, running back -- He had a late-season cup of coffee with the Jets. He's unlikely to return.
16. Kellen Winslow, tight end -- He will hit the market -- that's free agent, not Boston.
1. Backs to the wall: This comes as a bit of a surprise, but I hear the New York Jets are exploring free-agent running backs -- namely Donald Brown (Indianapolis Colts) and Ben Tate (Houston Texans). Obviously, their greatest needs are wide receiver and tight end, with running back thought to be a secure position with Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell. But general manager John Idzik is a big believer in competition and depth. It also could mean that the troubled Mike Goodson is on thin ice. The bad boy from last offseason has legal issues, a surgically repaired knee and an upcoming $650,000 roster bonus. Why would the Jets pay that for a player in Goodson's situation? Both Brown and Tate have above-average running skills and they can catch the ball, a much-needed skill in the Jets' backfield.
2. Money to burn: When free agency opens March 11, the Jets should have at least $22 million in salary-cap space (not counting the anticipated veteran purge), but that doesn't mean they'll be spending like Kim Kardashian in a designer clothing store. Idzik still believes in building through the draft. "The draft is your lifeline," he said. "Free agency is phone-a-friend." That said, the Jets are expected to use the phone a few times. The feeling in the organization is they will sign a No. 2 wide receiver, a tight end (if they lose Jeff Cumberland), a veteran backup quarterback, a running back and a kicker (if they lose Nick Folk). They're optimistic about their chances of re-signing tackle Austin Howard. Yes, they have a fairly lengthy shopping list, but I don't see them breaking the bank for anyone with an $8-million-a-year-type deal. They will use the draft to find a potential No. 1 receiver and a pass-catching tight end, along with plugging some holes on defense.
3. QB quest: The Jets met with at least two quarterbacks, LSU's Zach Mettenberger and Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo. The 6-5 Mettenberger, in the final stages of knee-surgery rehab, is an interesting prospect. Idzik, who scouted him in person during the season, is looking to add a developmental quarterback at some point in the draft. Mettenberger could be just that in the late rounds. I see the Jets going to training camp with Geno Smith, Matt Simms, a new veteran backup and a rookie.
4. Off the Mark: If the Jets decide they want to retain Mark Sanchez (unlikely), they will try to get him to swallow a massive pay cut. The amount of their proposal will tell Sanchez just how much they really want him. If they try to slash his base pay from $9 million to $1 million, it would be insulting, a strong indication he'd have no chance to unseat Smith. If they offer in the $3 million-to-$5 million range, with a chance to make more money with incentives, it would show they consider him a viable starting option.
4a. Butt fumble revisited: Former longtime GM and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian believes Sanchez has been unfairly stigmatized by the "butt fumble." "Unequivocally, the butt fumble wasn't his fault," Polian told me. "It's been played ad infinitum. The guard (Brandon Moore) got driven into him. Perception is often times reality, and that's what people think. If you ask the average person what they think of Mark Sanchez, they'd say the butt fumble. It wasn't his fault."
5. Legal tampering: The combine is the place where agents and teams meet to discuss free-agent deals. Technically, it's not allowed, but no one says anything. Curiously, a number of agents told me that teams are reluctant this year to discuss specific dollar amounts. It's likely that teams, concerned about having their offers shopped around, are waiting for the March 8-11 exclusive negotiating period to get serious.
6. Seen around Indy: Former Jets colleagues Mike Tannenbaum and Eric Mangini lunched together. Despite the awkward parting in 2009 (actually, Woody Johnson was the driving force behind Mangini's ouster), Tannenbaum and Mangini have remained close friends. Mangini, named last week as the tight-ends coach of the San Francisco 49ers, is working his way up the ladder on the offensive side of the ball. If he makes it to coordinator some day, he'll have the rare offensive/defensive coordinator on his résumé.
6a. Seen around Indy II: Rex Ryan and twin brother, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, took a break from the combine to eat at a local Hooters restaurant. Naturally, they ended up on Twitter, posing in a picture with a group of Hooters' waitresses.
7. Give that man a pair of ear plugs: Former Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine's experience in a circus-type environment (the Jets, 2009-2012) should serve him well in his new job as the Cleveland Browns' coach. He got the job after 23 people turned it down (only a slight exaggeration), saw the two men that hired him get whacked (Joe Banner and Mike Lombardi) and was hit Friday with the news that the Browns reportedly came close to hiring San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh before turning to him. Pettine called the Harbaugh story "noise -- and my goal is to quiet the noise." He recently held a staff meeting in which he used a Power Point presentation to underscore the challenge before them -- two playoff appearances, one playoff win and 141 coaches since 1991. Said Pettine: "To turn around a franchise, you have to be extraordinary." Here's wishing him luck; he'll need it.
8. Best and worst: I thought Michael Sam handled himself extremely well Saturday in his first news conference since sharing he is gay. Facing perhaps the largest news conference in combine history, Sam was confident, yet not cocky, projecting the image of a young man who just wants to play football. On the other side of the news-conference spectrum was Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, who fumbled his way through a Q & A that focused on the bullying scandal. He was all over the place, accepting responsibility in one breath but pleading ignorance in the next. How they fired longtime trainer Kevin O'Neill, portrayed in a negative light in the Wells report, was a low-class move. The Dolphins flew him to the combine and then fired him, two days before he was to receive an award in Indianapolis as the league's top trainer. He didn't attend the ceremony, but received a standing ovation when his prepared remarks were read to the crowd.
9. Respect for JC: It was interesting to hear offensive linemen talk about South Carolina's Jadeveon Clowney, the possible No. 1 overall pick. Said Michigan tackle Michael Schofield: "I played a series against Clowney, and that was probably the hardest series of my life." Other linemen echoed similar sentiments. The Houston Texans, picking first, have a tough choice. They need a quarterback, but Clowney is the best talent in the draft.
10. Johnny Football speaks: Clearly, Johnny Manziel's mission at the combine was to shatter his image as a rock star-party boy quarterback. Asked to describe the difference between Johnny Football and Johnny Manziel, the former Texas A & M star shifted into third person. "Johnny Manziel is a guy ... I’m from a small town of Kerrville, Texas, 20,000 people. People make me out to be a big Hollywood guy, (I'm) really just still a small-town kid" -- who jets off to Vegas to party with the rich and famous.
The NFL is expected to raise the salary cap to about $130 million, ESPN Insider Adam Schefter reported Thursday -- about $4 million higher than projected. The cap was $123 million last year.
Nothing is official yet, but it looks like the additional $4 million will give the Jets about $24 million in cap space. That would be enough to re-sign potential free agents (right tackle Austin Howard, kicker Nick Folk and tight end Jeff Cumberland are the top priorities) and be active in the free-agent market.
Obviously, they will gain more flexibility when they start dumping veterans. They would create an additional $26 million by releasing Santonio Holmes, Mark Sanchez and Antonio Cromartie.
The Jets are being applauded in some circles for having only $48,958 in "dead" money on this year's cap, one of the lowest totals in the league, but that figure is deceiving. If they cut the aforementioned three veterans, they'd get hit with $12.8 million in dead money, barring June 1 designations.
The New York Jets' most experienced tight ends, Jeff Cumberland and Kellen (Boston Market) Winslow, are headed to free agency. Winslow won't be back. Behind them, the Jets have Zach Sudfeld and Konrad Reuland, coming off major knee surgery. In other words, it's time to send up an S.O.S. signal.
Projected offseason plan: They need two immediate contributors. In an ideal world, it would be a pass-catching tight end and a thumper at the point of attack. Geno Smith needs a reliable target, especially in the red zone.
Free agency: Assuming Jimmy Graham (New Orleans Saints) lands the franchise tag, it's a thin market with no impact receivers. Jermichael Finley (Green Bay Packers) is young and talented, but he's a risk, coming off spinal-fusion surgery. Maybe the Jets can approach him with a one-year, prove-it contract. Another top receiver is Dennis Pitta (Baltimore Ravens), but he missed most of last season with a hip injury. The Jets had a high draft grade on former first-round pick Brandon Pettigrew (Detroit Lions) when he came out in 2009, but his receiving numbers have fallen off. He was used last season mostly as a blocker; he'd certainly add some punch at the line of scrimmage, but he won't threaten the seam as a receiver. Former first-rounder Jermaine Gresham (Cincinnati Bengals) might be a thought if he's released. All things considered, the best value might be Cumberland, a decent two-way tight end. If they can retain him for $2 million-to-$3 million a year, and add a threat in the draft, they'd be OK at the position.
Draft: It's not a deep crop. You're talking about five or six draftable tight ends. The consensus top choice if Eric Ebron (North Carolina), a 6-4 pass catcher who could come off the board in the middle of the first round. He'd be hard to pass up with the 18th pick. He averaged nearly 16 yards per reception last season, and he can move around the formation, creating matchup advantages. Jace Amaro (Texas Tech) was a pass-catching machine, catching 106 passes for 1,352 yards last season. At 6-5, he has terrific size. The knock on him is that he's a one-year wonder. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. has Amaro going to the New England Patriots at No. 29. Figures, right?
Part of planning is evaluating what you have. Toward that end, we've ranked the top 25 players on the New York Jets' roster -- based on performance, potential, positional value and salary-cap status. Here's 16 to 20:
16. Dawan Landry, safety, (cap charge: $1.8 million): If Landry were a pitcher in baseball, he'd be described as an innings eater. He played a lot of football last season (98 percent of the defensive snaps), but he didn't make many big plays. Still, he has value because of his intangibles, namely his ability to quarterback the secondary.
17. Calvin Pace, outside linebacker, (cap charge: Free agent): This will be an interesting negotiation. Pace is coming off a 10-sack season, a career high, but he's 33 years old. You can bet he'll be looking for a lot more than the $1 million he made last season on a one-year deal. The Jets are thin at the position, helping Pace's leverage.
18. Bilal Powell, running back, (cap charge: $1.5 million): He qualified for an esclator, increasing his cap number in the final year of his rookie contract. Powell doesn't have star potential, but he proved last season he can be a solid complementary back. He finished with 969 yards from scrimmage.
19. Jeff Cumberland, tight end, (cap charge: Free agent): He has made considerable improvement since breaking into the league as an undrafted wide receiver. The question is, what is Cumberland's ceiling? If another team sees him as a legitimate No. 1 tight end, the Jets probably will lose him.
20. Santonio Holmes, wide receiver, (cap charge: $10.75 million): You can't be the 20th-best player on the team and have a huge cap number, which is why his days with the Jets are numbered. After two disappointing, injury-plagued seasons, Holmes is a certain cap casualty. He was terrific in 2010, but it has been all downhill since then.
21. Mark Sanchez, quarterback
22. Antonio Allen, safety
23. Nick Folk, placekicker
24. Willie Colon, guard
25. Stephen Hill, wide receiver
10. The push heard 'round the world: The Jets' 30-27 overtime win against the New England Patriots in Week 7 ended with a controversy, sparking a back-and-forth between Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick. The Patriots' Chris Jones was called for an unprecedented pushing penalty while attempting to block a 56-yard field goal, setting up Nick Folk's eventual game winner from 42 yards. Jones pushed a teammate into the line of scrimmage -- a no-no. Belichick questioned the call and, after reviewing the film, accused the Jets of using the same illegal technique on an earlier field goal. Ryan fired back, insisting his team did nothing wrong. In fact, it did. The league eventually said a penalty should have been called on the Jets, but it was too late. They had their stunning upset.
8. The Wildcat strikes: One year after the Tim Tebow debacle, the Jets finally figured out how to run the Wildcat -- and throw a pass out of the formation. Bilal Powell's 30-yard completion to Jeff Cumberland was one of the key plays in the season-ending win against the Miami Dolphins. Even though it was a meaningless game for the Jets, they were loose, but confident, wrecking the Dolphins' playoff hopes with an attitude best exemplied by Powell's pass. The day was capped by the postgame announcement that Ryan would return as coach.
6. Geno's 19th interception and a seat on the bench: The low point of Smith's up and down season came in Week 13, when he was intercepted by Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe late in the second quarter. Ryan had seen enough of his rookie and pulled him at halftime, losing patience after five bad games in a row. The media and fans were screaming for Matt Simms, but Ryan stuck with Smith the following week and he was rewarded. Smith rallied in the final four games, providing optimism for 2014. His QBR over that stretch (78.9) was second to Peyton Manning.
Clearly, Geno Smith wasn't the only problem on offense. This was an across-the-board breakdown. You had that sense watching the game the first time, but a review of the tape reveals the scope of the problems. Let us count the ways:
LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, RT Austin Howard and LG Brian Winters each allowed a sack. Winters, a third-round pick, continues to be a liability, especially in pass protection. That Rex Ryan has stuck with Winters this long shows what he thinks of Vladimir Ducasse. The offensive line wasn't the only culprit. The running backs, too, had issues with pass protection, as Bilal Powell (two pressures), Chris Ivory (one) and Tommy Bohanon (one) failed to sustain blocks.
At times, the Jets were exploited because of bad matchups. On the first sack, the Ravens rushed six and, somehow, TE Jeff Cumberland ended up blocking OLB Elvis Dumervil. That's hardly an ideal situation. Dumervil forced the pocket to change, allowing blitzing LB Daryl Smith to blow past Winters for the sack. Howard also had problems with Dumervil, allowing a key pressure on the second sack (Ferguson was beat by Pernell McPhee) and surrendering the third sack by himself on the final play of the game.
2. The dropsies: After the game, Ryan bemoaned the dropped passes. Frankly, I thought he was reaching, perhaps trying to protect his rookie quarterback. There were two blatant drops (David Nelson and Santonio Holmes), but there were three other catchable balls that hit the turf (Cumberland, Kellen Winslow and Stephen Hill). Maybe Ryan was counting those as drops; defensive-minded coaches are tough graders when it comes to offense.
The Jets' receivers have a hard time getting open against press coverage, so they can't afford to drop the ball when they do get open. It's hard to believe, but the wideouts had only three receptions in this game (13 targets). When does that ever happen in the NFL? Until Greg Salas' 30-yard reception with under six minutes left in the game, Smith had as many catches as the leading wide receiver, for crying out loud.
3. Put Smith on the move: Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg needs to get Smith outside the pocket more often. He called only two designed rollouts, resulting in 18- and 12-yard completions. Mornhinweg should've dialed up a few more. A moving pocket serves two purposes: The quarterback can avoid the rush and it cuts the field in half, reducing his reads.
In the pocket, Smith was 7-for-18, 97 yards and two interceptions. Interestingly, he was a better pocket passer earlier in the season, managing a 59-percent completion rate and a healthy 7.5 yards per attempt over the first 10 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Of course, he did have only seven touchdowns and 16 interceptions from the pocket in the first 10 games.
Not keeping up with the Jones: Ryan is way too protective of Ed Reed, who played a key role in Jacoby Jones's 66-yard touchdown reception. Ryan said Reed is third on the blame list, but other than rookie CB Dee Milliner, who else is there? As Ryan said, the Jets were in "quarters" coverage -- four across in the secondary. Milliner, who accepted responsibility, actually had decent coverage. Reed was too shallow. When he saw Jones angling into his quarter of the field, Reed turned and ran, perhaps remembering his former teammate, Joe Flacco, was capable of throwing it over his head.
Reed, resembling an ancient Willie Mays losing a fly ball in the sun in the 1973 World Series, lost track of the ball in the winds and inadvertantly cut off Milliner, freeing Jones. Flacco's throw traveled 60 yards in the air and hit Jones in stride -- another embarrassing moment for the Jets' beleaguered secondary. Reed may have saved a touchdown earlier in the game, jarring the ball loose from Jones, but he was brought here to help the deep-ball issues -- and that hasn't happened.
Conservative defense: Ryan didn't blitz Flacco a whole lot, perhaps knowing he struggled against standard pressure -- a minus-4 touchdown/interception differential before Sunday, according to ESPN Stats. But he ripped apart the Jets' standard pressure. He was 14-for-18 for 249 yards and touchdown when facing four or fewer pass rushers.
Here's another sobering stat for the Jets: Flacco was 2-for-3 for 126 yards and a touchdown on passes longer than 30 yards. Before Sunday, he was 4-of-17 with an interception on those throws this season. Well, at least the Jets solved Flacco's long-ball problems.
Shades of Alosi: On Jones's 37-yard punt return in the third quarter, the Jets' sideline was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct because it interfered with an official. Actually, at the start of the run, there were four assistant coaches and four players standing in the white area on the boundary -- off limits. Most of them moved back by the time Jones turned up the sideline, but two coaches inched closer and were practically on the field of play. One was special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica and the other coach (the guy who got in the way of the official) was defensive-line coach Karl Dunbar. The coaches were protesting what they felt was an illegal block on Troy Davis. None of this would've happened if Ellis Lankster hadn't missed a tackle at the start of the run.
Smith has 16 interceptions, the same number Mark Sanchez had in his first 10 rookie starts. Smith added to his total in Sunday's 37-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills, perhaps jeopardizing his job. A breakdown of his three interceptions, each one with its own story:
2. Third quarter, second-and-13, Jets' 17-yard line: Smith may have been confused by a disguised coverage. Cornerback Nickell Robey went in motion with receiver Stephen Hill, usually a tip-off that it's man-to-man coverage -- except the Bills dropped into a zone. It looked like deep thirds, with Byrd -- yes, him again -- in the middle. Smith looked for receiver Santonio Holmes on an 18-yard in-cut. This time, Byrd read Smith's eyes and abandoned his deep middle, sprinting toward Holmes. Smith, under no pressure, threw it a split-second too late, giving Byrd the time he needed to make the interception. This, too, was on Smith. You can't blame a lack of pass protection.
3. Third quarter, second-and-10, Jets' 36-yard line: This was the most damaging of the three because it was a pick-six for safety Da'Norris Searcy. It was a bad throw by Smith, but I'm going to give some credit to the defense here. This play highlighted the chess match between Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. The Bills had seven at the line of scrimmage, showing blitz. It looked like an overloaded blitz to Smith's left, which had been successful early in the game. Mornhinweg had the perfect call, a quick-screen left to Holmes -- or so it seemed. As it turned out, the Bills rushed only four, with three on the line -- including Searcy -- dropping into coverage. The Bills acted like they knew the call. Searcy read it perfectly, positioning himself in the throwing lane between Smith and Holmes. No one bit on the play fake to running back Bilal Powell. Searcy made a terrific catch and took it to the house.
End of story. Make that stories. It's always plural with Smith.
Tale of two games: In the first meeting, the Jets protected Smith like the queen's jewels -- no sacks and only two hits. In this game, it was four sacks and eight hits. The offensive line, with the exception of left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, did a poor job. The Bills brought the heat, sending five or more rushers on 16 of 27 dropbacks by Smith, according to ESPN Stats & Information. On those plays, Smith was only 4-for-12, including two interceptions and four sacks. Clearly, Pettine wasn't worried about Smith beating the blitz. Unlike the previous meeting, the Bills' secondary was intact and they smothered the Jets' wideouts in man-to-man.
This was a particularly rough day for rookie left guard Brian Winters, who allowed one sack, one hit and one pressure, by my count. He was beaten badly by defensive tackle Kyle Williams on a strip-sack in the second quarter, arguably the biggest defensive play of the game. Winters also missed a block on a goal-line shovel pass that should've been an easy touchdown. Right guard Willie Colon (one sack, one pressure) had an off day, as did right tackle Austin Howard (two QB hits). Howard allowed the crushing hit on the fourth play of the game, the one where defensive tackle Marcell Dareus blasted Smith.
Pettine used some of the stuff he learned from Rex Ryan. In the second quarter, Byrd was unblocked on an overload blitz -- four players rushing from one side, only one on the other. This was straight from the Ryan handbook. In the third quarter, Pettine dialed up the same blitz. This time, the Jets blocked it up, with Powell picking up the blitzing safety. Ah, but another problem developed. They would've had a first down, but Hill dropped Smith's pass. That's what happens when you're struggling on offense. If it's not one thing, it's another.
Deep thoughts: The problems continued for the defense on long passes. Three completions proved costly.
On the 34-yard touchdown to T.J. Graham, Ryan gambled and lost. He sent Ed Reed on a safety blitz for the first time, leaving "zero" coverage on the back end -- no deep safety. Graham adjusted to an underthrown pass that caught in the wind, beating cornerback Dee Milliner. Ryan, fiercely protective of Milliner, said the rookie was in "great position" to make a play, but committed a technical faux pas -- a zone turn instead of a man turn. As a result, he lost sight of the receiver.
In the third quarter, Milliner was beat for 40 yards by Graham in a man-to-man situation. Milliner missed his jam at the line, giving Graham a free release. Dawan Landry, not Reed, was the deep safety, but he was nowhere close to the play. On Marquise Goodwin's 43-yard touchdown, cornerback Antonio Cromartie played it properly, according to Ryan. It was "bail" coverage. Cromartie bailed at the line, creating the cushion, but he couldn't keep up with Goodwin, who has world-class speed. The Jets rushed five, but EJ Manuel delivered the ball in less than three seconds. Reed, in the deep middle, arrived late from the opposite hash.
Odds and ends: The pass rush was nowhere to be found. The Jets had only one sack; in their Week 3 meeting they sacked Manuel eight times. ... Smith actually completed three of his first four passes, meaning he went 5-for-19 after that. ... Curious play calling by Mornhinweg in the third quarter. After closing to within 20-7, they went three-and-out with three straight passes. ... Funny moment in the third quarter. The Jets tried a pick play with Holmes and Nelson, and they both ended up falling down. ... Even thought it was garbage time, the Bills didn't go soft against quarterback Matt Simms. They continued to send five-man rushes. Why not? The Jets' receiving corps doesn't scare anybody.
Receiver Santonio Holmes (foot/hamstring) was limited on Wednesday but appears on track to return after missing the past five games with his hamstring issue.
Tight end Jeff Cumberland (concussion) and safety Antonio Allen (concussion) both had full practices, while tight end Kellen Winslow (knee) was limited. Winslow is eligible to play in his first game since being suspended for four games for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Receiver Jeremy Kerley (elbow) did not practice, but he's expected to be out for several weeks.
For the Bills, receivers Steve Johnson (groin) and Robert Woods (ankle) did not practice.
Here's the full report:
Did not practice
DE Leger Douzable (illness)
WR Jeremy Kerley (elbow)
LB Garrett McIntyre (knee)
DT Kenrick Ellis (back)
RB Alex Green (hamstring)
WR Stephen Hill (foot/knee)
WR Santonio Holmes (foot/hamstring)
TE Kellen Winslow (knee)
S Antonio Allen (concussion)
G Willie Colon (calf)
WR Josh Cribbs (knee)
CB Antonio Cromartie (hip)
TE Jeff Cumberland (concussion)
RB Chris Ivory (knee)
LB Calvin Pace (hip)
WR Greg Salas (knee)
TE Zach Sudfeld (knee)
CB Darrin Walls (shoulder)
Did not practice
WR Stevie Johnson (groin)
S Da'Norris Searcy (hamstring)
DT Kyle Williams (Achilles)
WR Robert Woods (ankle)