Originally written on Turn On The Jets  |  Last updated 11/4/14
On a day that saw the New York Jets earn what might be the most impressive win of the 2013 season, it was no surprise that the defensive put together what may be its best all-around performance of the season. With the monumental task of stopping Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints’ high-powered offense looming (albeit not inside the comfort of their dome), this Jets defense appeared unfazed. Brees was harassed from start to finish in this Week 9 matchup at MetLife Stadium, and despite only finishing with two sacks, the Saints’ superstar QB was clearly rattled on his way to a 52.4 QB rating–his second worst rating of the 2013 season. According to Pro Football Focus, the Jets were able to create pressure on 36 percent of Brees’ drop backs, resulting in just 72 yards on 6-of-17 passing and a 29.2 QBR. Overall, Brees finished 30 of 51 for 382 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Muhammed Wilkerson continued to provide the same dominant Pro Bowl-level performance that fans have come to expect from the former first round draft pick, while fellow first-rounder Sheldon Richardson revved up his game as a pass rusher. UDFA Damon Harrison and former third round pick, Kenrick Ellis, also flashed when given the opportunity–although their snaps were limited against the Saints’ pass-happy offense. The Jets’ defense also continued its dominance against the run, holding New Orleans to just 41 total yards on 13 carries (3.2 ypc). Here’s a closer look at the solid effort against the run, this situation with the Jets leading 3-0 early in the game. The Jets line up in their base defense with Kenrick Ellis playing the NT position on first-and-10 late in the first quarter. The Jets get a good jump off the snap and read the run to the strong side. Ellis (circled in yellow) drives Saints’ center Brian de la Puenta into the backfield and Quinton Coples (98) does the same to RT Zach Strief as he secures the edge. Wilkerson’s pressure eliminates any chance of a cutback, leaving Saints’ RB, Mark Ingram, in a very bad spot. Things don’t get an better for the Saints offense, as Coples, Ellis and Richardson all converge on Ingram, leaving him with no escape. Ellis and Richardson take Ingram down, limiting the Saints to a minimal gain on this first down play. Now lets get to the grades:  Muhammed Wilkerson: 68 Snaps (92%)  1 Solo Tackle 1 Sack 1 Tackle For Loss 2 QB Hits What can you say about this guy that hasn’t been said already? He’s established himself as the best player on this team, looks like he’s a man playing amongst boys, and one can even argue that he’s having a better season than Pro Bowl defensive lineman, J.J. Watt, through nine weeks. The leader of the defensive line was active as ever Sunday at MetLife as he created pressure from every position on the defensive line, despite receiving the constant attention from the Saints’ blockers. Not only did Wilkerson record his eighth sack of the season (pictured below), but he also came very close to grabbing his second interception in as many weeks. Wilkerson is playing the three-technique lined on the outside shoulder of Saints’ guard, Ben Grubbs on this first-and-20 play late in the third quarter. Wilkerson, who gets a good jump off the snap, is basically staring at a double team. While LT Charles Brown is protecting for a non-existent edge rusher, he’s in position to provide Grubbs help with the Pro Bowl bound defensive lineman. Wilkerson shoots the “B gap” (gap between the tackle and guard) on his way to get to Brees. Grubbs clearly isn’t prepared to hold off Wilkerson one-on-one, and despite being in position, Brown fails to provide help.  The combination of Wilkerson and the confusion on the Saints’ offensive line results in Grubbs (circled in red) falling flat on his face and Wilkerson (circled in yellow) hammering Brees for his eighth sack of the season (as well as giving MetLife fans a topical sack dance). Grade: A Sheldon Richardson: 65 Snaps (88%)  4 Total Tackles (2 Solo) 1 QB Hit  As I’ve noted, Richardson’s ability to create pressure in the pocket has left something to be desired in recent weeks, as he’s basically been a non-factor in passing situations. And early in this one, it looked as if Rex Ryan was in agreement as the defensive signal caller gave Leger Douzable some of the rookies snaps inside. That didn’t last long, though, as Rex quickly went back to the 2013 first round draft pick–which immediately paid dividends. Richardson was more active on the defensive line than we’ve seen lately. He wasn’t neutralized as consistently by one-on-one blocks, showed more physicality, and was also much more active with his hands. It’s clearly a great sign for the development of the rookie defensive lineman, who projects to be very good all-around on the defensive lineman as he matures. While he was much more active on Sunday, Richardson’s increased impact was also a result of an improved pass rush on the outside from Quinton Coples and Calvin Pace, dominant play inside from Harrison and Wilkerson, and a much needed boost in physicality from the defensive backs. Those factors, combined with a more active approach against the pass from Richardson, led to one of his most impressive games of the season (even if it didn’t exactly translate in the stat line). Grade: A Damon Harrison: 26 Snaps (35%)  3 Total Tackles  Big Dame saw his snaps decrease this week as a result of the Jets defending the  Saints’ pass-heavy offense. No matter though, as Harrison continued to dominate at the nose tackle position with his normal routine of clogging lanes and stuffing the run, while also showing off his improved skills as a pass rusher. Despite his limited time on the field, Harrison found ways to impact the game, including creating pressure up the middle on Brees’ first interception. Grade: B Leger Douzable: 15 Snaps (20%) Douzable started off the season as a terrific rotational player on the defensive line. While he’s continued to play well, he hasn’t been an impactful as he was earlier in the year. Ryan appeared to use Douzable as a replacement for Richardson early on, but that experiment was quickly halted as Douzable struggled to create any pressure. Grade: C- Kenrick Ellis: 14 Snaps (19%) One Tackle It’s looking like Kenrick Ellis will never get a real chance to make an impact on this team as long as Harrison continues at this pace. But give Ellis credit, whenever given the opportunity, he provides quality play from the NT position. Problem is, he’s not getting real chances. In fact, Ryan appears to be subbing Ellis for entire series early in games, then completely going away from the former third round pick in favor of Harrison–despite some pretty impressive play, specifically on Sunday. He’s a gap-clogging, run-stuffing, beast, simply because of his enormous frame and aggressive style. And for a Rex Ryan defense, that’s exactly what you want. But, he’s stuck behind a better player, so right now, his only opportunities to prove his worth will continue to come in a limited role. Grade: B
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