Where is the Pass Rush?
Florham Park, N.J.- Ever since the Jets traded away John Abraham they have struggled to effectively pressure opposing quarterbacks and this year is no different. The Jets only have one defender with a positive pass-rushing grade (according to ProFootballFocus.com) and it’s highly unlikely you’ll guess right if you try (answer soon to come and bound to shock/disgust you).
Rex Ryan was hoping his four man fronts, involving some combination of Sione Po’uha, Kenrick Ellis, Mike DeVito, Muhammad Wilkerson and the rookie Quinton Coples, would be able to get pressure on their own, but no such luck and the linebackers haven’t been any better either.
The Jets snatched Aaron Maybin from the Bills trash heap last year and he made Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum look smart for their decision to give him another shot as Maybin finished the season as the Jets most efficient pass rusher with six sacks, two QB hits, 16 QB hurries and four forced fumbles and he did that in just 13 games. It was a promising sign that maybe the former first round draft pick wasn’t such a bust after, but now all that promise seems to have dwindled like Rex Ryan’s waistline. Through the first five games Maybin has played in 61 snaps and has only two tackles and two QB hurries. Not quite the results the Jets were hoping for and if you put on the game tapes it’s easy to understand why he isn’t getting more snaps, he just hasn’t been able to make anything happen.
The rest of the linebacking core has been just as bad, but you knew that would be the case. No one should have expected the big three of underperforming linebackers, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott and David Harris, to rush the passer. That’s not Harris and/or Scott’s game and it may have been something Pace did quite well in Arizona but for whatever reason he just hasn’t been able to get it going with any type of consistency during his time here.
Maybin seems to have lost some of his explosiveness and those other three linebackers lost whatever explosiveness they had a year or four ago. The linebacking core plays old and slow and Pace, Harris and Scott have combined for a total of 18 missed tackles so far this season (Pace two, Harris seven and Scott nine), which is exactly half of the total missed tackles (36) by the Jets defense this year (LaRon Landry has the fourth most with six missed tackles, Kyle Wilson three, Lankster and Coples two and five others with one).
If you can’t rush the passer and you can’t tackle, well then your defense is going to give up too many points. It’s simple mathematics. Only five teams have more missed tackles, three of those teams only have one win, the other two, the Bengals (39 MTs 3-2 record) and the Falcons (40 MTs and 5-0) have been able to win despite all the missed tackles because of their offensive talent and a pass rush and solid coverage on defense.
Meanwhile as the Jets offense continues to struggle so does the defense. They are currently tied with the Patriots for the 20th best overall defense in the league and 30th overall in sacks with just a pathetic total of five. Five total sacks through five games, only the Raiders and Jaguars have more to be embarrassed about, both with three (Bears, Bengals and Packers tied for the most with 18).
For a more in depth look at the Jets lack of a pass rush, let’s go over ProFootballFocus.com’s grades for the Jets defense and individual players in pass rushing. Collectively the Jets have earned the fifth worst grade in pass rushing with a grade of -18.1. Only the Jaguars (-21.9), Steelers (-23.4), Saints (-25.0) and Raiders (-25.8) graded out worse than the Jets. For perspective, the top five grades in pass rush went to Seahawks (+43.1), Dolphins (+17.8), Rams (+17.5), Eagles (+16.5) and the Bengals (+9.9). Maybe knowing only 15 teams have a positive grade in pass rushing will make Jets fans feel a little better, until the remember the Jets are -18.1 from having a 0.0 grade.
Fifth worst grade for a pass rush, sixth worst in missed tackles, seventh worst in QB hurries (37), 18th overall in QB hits (13) and 30th in total sacks with five, that’s an amazing recipe for an awful defense.
Only two Jet defenders have earned really bad grades in pass rushing, Pace with -3.3 and Maybin -3.1 (last year Maybin graded at +3.8, Po’uha was the only other player to finish with a positive pass rush grade of +1.9). Wilkerson has a -1.7 grade this year, though it’s important to note that he has been doubled a lot. Bryan Thomas -1.5, DeVito -1.4, Po’uha -1.1 and Josh Mauga -1.0 are the only others to earn a grade of -1.0 or worse.
Coples has a -0.9 grade, but he still needs to see the field more before he can turn that number around and the same goes for the other rookie Demario Davis with a grade of -0.7 but that’s just on 27 total snaps and 12 rushes. Davis isn’t exactly a pass rushing linebacker, but with the way this defense is playing it could definitely use a dose of speed and youth and playing Coples, Davis and, maybe activating and playing Ricky Sapp and Marcus Dowtin to see what they can offer, can help this defense improve and generate some sort of pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Only one player on the entire Jets defense has a positive grade for pass rushing and if you didn’t go look it up yourself when it was mentioned earlier, you probably still haven’t guessed the right answer. It’s not Garrett McIntyre (a popular guess on Twitter earlier), but it is Josh Bush.
Yes, Josh Bush, that Josh Bush. The rookie safety from Wake Forest is the only Jet defender with a positive pass rushing grade. Don’t get too excited thinking he’s some sort of secret weapon, his grade is only +0.4 and according to ProFootballFocus.com that’s from only two snaps, one running play and one passing play where Bush earned a QB hurry and with that one play he’s the most efficient pass rusher the Jets have. Yikes!
No one was under any illusions that the Jets were having success rushing the passer, but highlighting the fact that Josh Bush is the highest graded pass rusher really illuminates the Jets problem better than anything else can.
Week six of the season has already started so the Jets will have to continue to rely on the players that are currently on this roster to play better and get this pass rush turned around, but it’s apparent some of the players Ryan is counting on just don’t have the ability to do what he’s asking. The only viable option at this point is to, inject some youth and speed into this defense and see if they can help turn this anemic pass rush around, because in all seriousness it’s their only hope.