ReFo: Jets @ Titans, Week 4
This one was over early, with the Titans jumping out to a quick 17-3 lead, eventually pulling away from the Jets for a dominating 38-13 win, with both teams receiving strong play along the defensive line. As expected, the difference in the game came from play at the most important position, quarterback, where New York’s struggled and Tennessee’s excelled.
Now the Jets sit at .500, with a tough slate of games ahead, while the Titans move to 3-1, though their road may be even more difficult with their next three against Kansas City, Seattle, and San Francisco. After that stretch, they may find themselves in the same boat as the Jets, particularly if the injury to their QB is a severe one.
So who stood out? Let’s take a look.
New York – Three Performances of Note
Last week saw Geno Smith pick up his highest grade of the year in an impressive win against the Bills. This week, the rookie gave his best Mark Sanchez impression in a comedy of errors, resulting in a grade of -4.3. As with Sanchez, it starts with the turnovers, of which Smith had four on the day, the first coming on the second offensive snap of the game. Ultimately that play set the tone for the day, as Smith forced a throw to Stephen Hill that, even if it hadn’t been intercepted, left his receiver out to dry; Hill left the game after he was crushed by safety Michael Griffin on the play. That was one of three particularly terrible throws on the day for the quarterback, who was lucky that the worst of the three wasn’t picked (5:05, Q3).
As bad as they were, those passes weren’t even Smith’s lowest moments of the day; that distinction belongs to his pair of fumbles early in the second and fourth quarters, both of which were textbook examples of how not to secure the ball. The first came as he scrambled for a first down, only to fail to tuck the ball, which was easily knocked out by Zach Brown. On the second, he inexplicably attempted to switch hands with the ball behind his back as Karl Klug was bearing down on him. Shockingly, this maneuver resulted in a Titan touchdown. There were additional examples of poor decision making on the part of the rookie, but these plays should suffice in illustrating his day to forget.
While the jury is still out on Smith – and may be for quite a while –and fellow rookie Dee Milliner, one Jets rookie already looks like a future star. That player is Sheldon Richardson, who has now graded at +8.3 on the year, third among all 3-4 DEs, behind only J.J. Watt and Cam Jordan, in large part because of his fantastic work in the run game. Only two players at his position – and six defensive linemen in the league – have made a stop on a higher percentage of run plays than the first-round draft pick. Against the Titans, Richardson showed out in the run game as usual with three stops, but also led the way rushing the passer, picking up three hurries. His bull rush, which put Andy Levitre on the ground with 52 seconds to go in the first half was a thing of beauty, and something the Jets are certainly looking forward to seeing more of in the coming weeks.
Dreadful Day for Ducasse
Unfortunately for the Jets, Geno Smith’s performance was arguably not even the team’s worst of the game. Vladamir Ducasse (-5.3) did very little to help out his QB with a horrible day in pass protection, the main culprit in the team allowing pressure on over 52% of passing plays. A multitude of Tennessee defenders took advantage of the LG, collectively beating Ducasse for six hurries and a hit. Admittedly, he did do some solid work in the run game, but it was few and far between when compared to the pressure, while two penalties, a false start and hold, did little to help his cause.
Tennessee – Three Performances of Note
A tough break for the Titans and their quarterback, who was in the process of following up what many proclaimed a breakout game with another gem when he went down with an injury early in the third quarter. While he was in the game, Jake Locker (+1.9) was great, completing 18-of-24 passes for 149 yards and three TDs. Take away the drop and throw away, and his Accuracy Percentage was a phenomenal 82.6%. It should be said that most of his work was done with short fields, thanks to Jets turnovers, and in the short passing game, as his 6.2 YPA attests; only six of his 23 aimed passes went beyond 10 yards. However, his two best passes of the day came on downfield throws, one a perfectly placed back shoulder throw for a touchdown late in the first half.
It really is unfortunate for the team, which is looking like a legitimate playoff threat in the relatively open AFC, particularly given the fact the hit that injured Locker didn’t appear to be particularly vicious. We’ll see if Ryan Fitzpatrick can hold it together in the coming weeks. He had his ups and downs against the Titans, but certainly ended on a high note with a 77-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
What a start to the season for Alterraun Verner (+4.2). Our highest graded cornerback through four weeks has now been targeted 23 times on the season, but allowed just eight catches for 118 yards with four interceptions and four PDs. Against Smith and the Jets, Verner didn’t allow a catch on four balls thrown into his primary coverage, coming away with a pair of impressive interception, the second of which he was able to wrestle away from Santonio Holmes (1:37, Q2). He also added a fumble recovery for good measure. Though he and Griffin combined to allow a first down, when Jeremy Kerley got between the pair in cover two, future Titan opponents would be advised to look elsewhere when Verner is in coverage; quarterbacks have a rating of 12.9 when throwing his way.
Controlling the LOS
While Verner held things down on the backend of the Tennessee defense, the interior combination of Karl Klug and Jurrell Casey helped the team win the battle of the trenches. Neither player was spectacular in run defense, but they more than made up for rushing the passer, as the two combined for two sacks, three hits, and four hurries. Casey got in the backfield more often, with six of the duo’s nine pressures, with his best pressure, not surprisingly, coming against Ducasse. He made the guard look silly at 3:54 of the first, when he blew by to the inside for a hurry. Klug, however, had the most impactful play, forcing a fumble and scoring on his sack.
With the way these two are playing, not many teams boast a better interior pass rush; Klug and Casey are both in the top 20 among defensive tackles in our Pass Rushing Productivity rating, with Casey coming in at number three. Don’t sleep on Mike Martin either, as he comes in sixth in PRP among DTs, though he had a somewhat forgettable game in fairly limited action on Sunday.
-Geno Smith was responsible for two sacks on the day, both plays in which he failed to get rid of the ball. Despite being pressured on more than half of his dropbacks, Smith had over 3.1 seconds to throw on average, the third-highest time among all QBs this week (pending the Monday night game).
-After a quick start, Chris Johnson fell off quickly. He gained just 21 yards on 15 carries.
–Kellen Winslow (+1.3) had a strong day, catching six passes for 73 yards, a strong 2.28 Yards per Route Run.
PFF Game Ball
Alterraun Verner gets the nod for his two-interception day. He grabbed the momentum with his early pick and the Titans never looked back.
Follow John on Twitter: @John_Maney