The pass rush
Prior to the game, I mentioned the pass rush as a facet of the Jets defense I would be keeping an eye on. While the run defense was solid in the preseason opener against the Giants, the pass rush was relatively quiet. Against the Falcons, I was hoping to see the Jets do a better job generating pressure on the quarterback.
My wish was granted. The Jets defense brought the heat on Atlanta’s quarterbacks, notching five sacks and a whopping total of 14 quarterback hits.
Tarell Basham led the way with three quarterback hits. The other 11 were all notched by 11 different individual players.
Two other players stood out to me; Quinnen Williams and Bronson Kaufusi. Williams, the third pick in this year’s draft, showcased his dominant potential with a handful of overpowering rushes. Kaufusi was very active in the Falcons backfield, collecting two pass deflections and sack.
Sam Darnold’s offense
For the second consecutive week, the Sam Darnold/Adam Gase offense marched straight down the field for an opening-drive touchdown. This time, it was an eight-play, 66-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard rushing score from Ty Montgomery.
Darnold was on point in this one. His awareness in the pocket was phenomenal, and his decision-making sublime. His timing on a few throws was impeccable, perhaps most notably on a 21-yard back shoulder throw to Robby Anderson.
Preseason production should always be taken with a grain of salt, but Jets fans have every right to be stoked about how easily Sam Darnold and the first-team offense have put up points thus far.
The offensive line
The Jets’ first-team offense was without four starters against the Falcons. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum was the only member of the starting group on the field. He was joined by left guard Alex Lewis, center Jonotthan Harrison, right guard Tom Compton, and right tackle Chuma Edoga.
Regardless, the offensive line did a pretty good job across all levels of the depth chart. The Jets only yielded one quarterback knockdown all game, which was a sack on Darnold allowed by Edoga.
So far, the offensive line depth looks respectable for the Jets. If it continues, they could be in position to have some comfortable security should one of their starters go down.
Avery Williamson’s injury
Teams enter each preseason with plenty of goals they would like to accomplish, but there is one mission that always has been and always will be at the top of the list for every team – staying healthy.
Unfortunately for the Jets, they took a big hit on the injury front in their win over Atlanta. Starting inside linebacker Avery Williamson left the game in the second quarter following an inadvertent collision with teammate Tevaughn Campbell. While he walked off on his own power, it was revealed the following day that Williamson had suffered a torn ACL and his season was over.
The Jets will miss Williamson’s stout run defense and superb blitzing ability. The spotlight shifts to rookie Blake Cashman. The rookie out of Minnesota has generated a lot of hype this offseason, but now he is set to shoulder a much different level of responsibility than he was initially expected to. Whether or not he is up to the task will be a major X-factor for the Jets defense this season.
The defensive backfield (again)
It was another rough outing for the Jets defensive backfield. After getting torched by the Giants in their season opener, the Jets defense was again picked apart, this time by the Falcons receiving core.
Atlanta did not post flashy passing numbers in the game (6.5 yards per attempt, 71.7 passer rating), but the Jets benefited a lot from Falcons receivers frequently dropping very easy catch opportunities. Most of the time, Jets corners were beat to the football. Atlanta simply did not convert.
This position continues to be a question mark for the Jets. However, I was impressed with one player at this spot – Alex Brown. One of Joe Douglas’ first pickups as the new GM of the Jets, Brown was waived by Douglas’ former team, the Eagles. Against the Falcons, I liked what I saw from Brown. He laid a couple of big hits underneath and covered well throughout the game, limiting targets in his direction. Especially given his status as a Douglas pickup, it seems Brown has gained some separation in the cornerback battle.
Kicking continues to be a pressing issue for Gang Green.
A week after Chandler Catanzaro missed two extra points (leading to his retirement), his replacement came out and had an eerily similar performance.
In his Jets return/season debut, Talyor Bertolet missed two out of his three extra point attempts, though he did make a 49-yard field goal.
As the only kicker on the roster, Bertolet had a chance to put a stranglehold on the starting job with a perfect outing against Atlanta. Instead, Douglas and the Jets will probably have to get right back out on the market in search of another kicker to add into the fray.
Over the next couple of weeks, players with starting experience such as Dan Bailey and Cody Parkey (who played for Adam Gase in 2017) could shake free. Veteran star Matt Bryant remains on the market.
The Jets need to get this position figured out quickly. Four missed extra points in two preseason games is not an inspiring place to be at the kicker position going into the year. Hopefully, for the sake of their playoff hopes, Douglas and the Jets can find a kicker they can trust.