ReFo: JAX @ NYJ, Preseason Wk 2
This was a battle of young, maligned QBs with the Jaguars visiting the Jets. Both first team offenses looked good early on, perhaps surprisingly, though the Jets quickly pulled away once Blaine Gabbert left with an injury. With New York playing their starting QB three quarters in this one, it wasn’t your typical second preseason game. And while the game didn’t end up being terribly competitive, there were definitely some notable performances (albeit more bad than good) to take a look at.
Jacksonville – Three Performances of Note
With a -3.5 grade, it wasn’t the debut you’d like to see from rookie safety John Cyprien in his first preseason action. Two penalties in coverage – illegal contact and pass interference – didn’t help, but he also looked lost at times. For instance, on Mark Sanchez’s first touchdown pass (12:08, 1Q), he followed a hard bite on a play action fake by getting completely turned around and losing his man on a corner route. This left the deep safety with just too much ground to cover, allowing Sanchez an easy throw to his wide open tight end.
A performance like this isn’t unexpected for a rookie in his first game action at a tough position, but if the Jaguars are expecting to rely on him early and often once the regular season hits, they better hope he learns fast. Cyprien’s progress will be interesting to follow over the last few weeks of the preseason.
The Jaguars just named Blaine Gabbert as starting quarterback, despite his preseason-ending thumb injury, and it’s easy to see why after watching this game. Jacksonville started the game going up-tempo and no-huddle, as Gabbert lead the first team offense to points on his first two series. His play wasn’t spectacular, with the Jags making it pretty easy for him, using a variety of screens and roll outs – more than a third of his aimed passes were thrown behind the line of scrimmage and he was barely forced to deviate from his first read. Nevertheless, he was decisive and moved the ball while avoiding costly mistakes, something his competition couldn’t do.
Once Chad Henne entered the game, the Jaguars’ offense slowed down considerably. His -2.5 grade speaks for itself, as he only managed to complete half of his aimed passes and ended with an awful 3.3 YPA. Perhaps the only good thing about Henne’s play was that it was significantly better than that of rookie Matt Scott, who was outrageously bad in his short stint. His first three throws (all coming on consecutive plays) resulted in three pass defenses, and he was lucky all three weren’t intercepted. For an example, just look at 14:00 of the fourth quarter – Scott appears to decide pre-snap where he’s going with the ball and doesn’t even bother to read the coverage on the play. Not good for a rookie trying to make an NFL roster.
Speed on Offense
With additions such as Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson, it’s clear the Jaguars are trying to increase their overall versatility and speed at the skill positions. This was on display on their first offensive play when Gabbert hit Sanders for a 35-yard gain on a go route up the seam. Sanders finished with only one other catch, and wasn’t used on punt returns – surprising given how dynamic he was in that role in college. On the other hand, used in a pretty traditional HB role, Robinson was fairly ineffective with just a 2.6 yard average on 11 carries, though he did show a nice burst on a couple of outside runs. They were playing a pretty tough run defense, but he’s still probably better off in a hybrid, third down back role.
Jacksonville is seemingly now one of many teams to add more fast-paced, no huddle elements to their offense– they’re probably looking at the success of teams like New England in getting more plays and limiting the defense’s ability to substitute and disguise. They’ll definitely be an interesting team to watch going forward with these rookie additions, especially with the development of incumbent WR Justin Blackmon, who added 53 yards on four catches, 33 of which came after the catch.
New York – Three Performances of Note
The Other DE
I was excited to get a look at Muhammad Wilkerson, but it was his teammate Sheldon Richardson (+4.6, +5.5 run defense) who stole the show. The rookie defensive end finished with the highest grade of the game, and was all of the disruptive force he was at Missouri that saw him picked in the top-15. As his grade indicates, he failed to register a QB as a pass rusher – there wasn’t much pressure from either first team front – but was dominant against the run. His four stops were a game-high, and even on plays when he didn’t make the tackle, whether forcing cuts or squeezing the point of attack, the Jaguars couldn’t really stop him.
Along with Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, the Jets have some good young talent in the front seven, which we’ll be watching closely.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the same level of play from New York’s other first rounder, Dee Milliner. While watching the game, I made a note that it seemed the Jags were picking on the rookie during their first couple of drives. He allowed a catch on all six targets – three of them coming against Justin Blackmon – for an average of 15.7 yards. On most of them, Milliner was in decent position to limit any YAC, but for a top-10 pick, you’d like to see him get his hands on the ball as he did a week ago. His -3.3 grade didn’t all come in coverage, however, as he struggled to disengage from the Jaguars’ receivers in screen and run defense. Let’s see if he can get back to form in next weeks ‘dress rehearsal’ preseason game.
Second Year WR
He didn’t see much playing time or targets, but it was nevertheless a memorable display from Stephen Hill, though not a good one. Targeted twice in 19 pass routes, Hill (-1.5) caught one for 11 yards, but dropped the other to kill a drive. The drop was particularly bad as it was a relatively simple speed out on a third-and-two in the red zone. With the Jets already thin at WR the team needs Hill to bounce back from a rookie season in which he graded at -6.5. In his defense, the QB situation is less than ideal, but he has to do more when he does receive catchable passes.
-Watch out for Jags punter Ken Parrish, whose +4.0 grade was a league-high this week.
– Jacksonville used play action on 50% of Gabbert’s passing attempts, compared to just 27% for Henne.
–Chris Ivory had a pretty quiet Jets debut, gaining just 13 yards on six carries.
PFF Game Ball
Sheldon Richardson gets this one with this dominance against the run.