Jets At Jaguars Preview

Michael Nania studies the tape ahead of the Jets' trip to Jacksonville
Michael Nania
Fri, September 13, 5:45 AM EDT

Last Game

Jets – lost 0-33 vs. Patriots

What happened?

One week after coming to back to life against the Cowboys, the Jets came crashing down to Earth in ugly fashion. Sam Darnold turned the ball over five times and posted a 3.6 passer rating, worst in Jets history by a quarterback to attempt at least 30 passes in a game.

Regardless of how the rest of this season pans out for Darnold or the Jets, what went down on Monday, October 21st will never cease to amaze. The fact that the Jets could look so drastically different in back-to-back home games will always be mind-boggling.

A lot of Jets who came up big against the Cowboys were exposed by Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Robby Anderson was one of the most notable examples. After grabbing five passes for 125 yards and a touchdown, Anderson caught one of eight targets for 10 yards against New England. Jamison Crowder picked up only 25 yards after picking up 197 over his first two games with Darnold.

On a short week as they hit the road to take on a solid Jaguars team, the Jets need to regroup quickly.

Jaguars – won 27-17 @ Bengals

Jacksonville went into Cincinnati and took care of business, shaking off a rocky to start to take a two-score victory over a winless team.

The Jags offense got off to a slow start. Jacksonville trailed 7-6 going into halftime, and 10-9 going into the fourth quarter. Then, things finally started picking up. D.J. Chark picked up a 20-yard run, Gardner Minshew hit Chris Conley for 46 yards, and Keelan Cole grabbed a two-yard reception from Minshew for the go-ahead touchdown.

Then, the defense took over. Cincinnati drove into the red zone on the ensuing drive, but Myles Jack stopped the bleeding with an interception of Andy Dalton. On the Bengals’ next drive, Yannick Ngakoue iced the game with a pick-six.

Doug Marrone’s Jaguars are now 3-0 against teams that currently have a losing record, and 0-4 against teams that currently have a winning record. That split bodes well for their chances against the 1-5 Jets.

State of the Division

Jets – 1-5, 3rd AFC East, 14th AFC

Following their Monday night loss to the Patriots, it is all but guaranteed that the Jets will fail to win the AFC East for the 17th consecutive season (they last won it in 2002).

Sitting eight spots and three wins away from the AFC’s sixth seed, the playoffs are but a pipe dream for the Jets at this point. But the schedule ahead of them does present a realistic opportunity to make a miraculous run. Each of the Jets’ next seven games are against teams that currently do not have a winning record.

The 2015 Chiefs and the 2018 Colts are the most recent teams to bounce back from a 1-5 start to make the playoffs. Kansas City finished on a ten-game winning streak, while the Colts finished 9-1. Both teams went on to win a playoff game. Jets fans can look to those two squads for hope.

Jaguars – 3-4, 3rd AFC South, 8th AFC

The Jaguars find themselves positioned squarely in the middle of the AFC South race. They sit 1.5 games behind the 4-2 Colts for the AFC South lead, with the 4-3 Texans positioned between the pair in second place. Houston also is the current owner of the AFC’s second wild card spot.

With both of their games against Indianapolis yet to come, the Jaguars still have a great chance to make a play for the AFC South title. Jacksonville lost a 13-12 nail-biter to the Texans back in Week 2, but they will get another shot at Deshaun Watson’s team in a Week 9 battle that will take place in London.

Statistical strengths

Jets – Run defense

With Sam Darnold coming off of a brutal game, run defense is once again the lone facet that New York can rely upon.

The Jets have allowed 3.3 yards per rush attempt this season, which ranks as the second-fewest in the league. They also rank fourth in rush defense EPA (estimated points added) and fifth in rush defense DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average).

Give a lot of credit to Jamal Adams for his role in Gang Green’s elite run defense. Adams has five run tackles for a loss, most among safeties. As a team, the Jets have averaged 4.8 run tackles for a loss per game, second-best in the league behind only the Falcons (5.0).

Jaguars – Pass defense

While they no longer have their star cornerback in Jalen Ramsey, the Jaguars have still held up as one of the better pass defenses in the NFL.

Jacksonville ranks ninth in pass defense DVOA, 10th in pass defense EPA, and 11th in opponent passer rating (87.4).

The Jaguars pass rush has done a tremendous job helping out the secondary. Jacksonville ranks seventh in the league with a 7.7 percent sack rate. Their 28.9 percent pressure rate ranks sixth-best in the league.

Calais Campbell has driven Jacksonville’s pass rush, leading interior defenders with 36 pressures. Rookie edge defender Josh Allen has also impressed, tying for 24th at his position with 23 pressures.

Statistical weaknesses

Jets – Passing attack

It seemed that Sam Darnold had gotten the Jets passing game back on track against Dallas, but everything was turned on its head against New England. Now, fans are left wondering which version of Darnold is the one they will see for the foreseeable future – the one that shredded the Cowboys, or the one that looked like Luke Falk against the Patriots?

The passing numbers this team has put up are anemic. The Jets are averaging 142.2 per game, 40.7 yards per game fewer than the 31st-ranked Redskins. They have averaged 4.1 net yards per pass attempt (pass yardage minus sack yardage), worst in the league and 0.7 yards behind the 31st-ranked Dolphins. That disparity is about equal to the difference between the 5th-ranked Packers and 16th-ranked Buccaneers.

Jaguars – Run defense

Jacksonville has struggled to stop the run, which could give the struggling Jets rushing attack an opportunity to get going.

The Jaguars have allowed 4.8 yards per rush attempt, 25th in the league. They are 25th in run defense EPA and 27th in run defense DVOA.

Defensive coordinator Todd Wash’s unit was much better against the Bengals in Week 7, allowing a measly 33 rushing yards on 20 attempts (1.7 yards per attempt). However, Cincinnati is the worst rushing offense in the league by numerous metrics. Le’Veon Bell will provide a greater test – but the Jets offensive line has been easily manhandled in the run game.

Keep an eye on this matchup. Will Bell break out against an iffy run defense? Or will the Jaguars keep up their momentum by dominating yet another bad run-blocking offensive line?

Matchup of the Game: D.J. Chark vs. Jets secondary

D.J. Chark has emerged into one of the most dangerous receivers in football. He enters Week 8 tied for third in receiving touchdowns (5) and fourth in receiving yards (581).

Chark’s ability to make big plays with regularity is the reason he has been such a productive weapon for Jacksonville in 2019. He is ranked just 40th in receptions per game (4.7), but is sixth in receiving yards per game (83.0). How does he do it? Well, Chark has averaged an absurdly good 12.1 yards per target. Chark, Chris Godwin, Stefon Diggs, and Amari Cooper are the only wide receivers who have over 500 receiving yards and are averaging 12.0-plus yards per target.

What makes Chark’s efficiency so impressive is that he has been able to combine explosiveness with consistency. Many players are able to catch for a high yards per reception average, but most of the time, those players sacrifice their catch rate (percentage of targets caught) as they grab more productive receptions. Since their targets are generally more difficult catch opportunities down the field, they haul in a much lower portion of passes thrown in their direction, even if their average completed catch is highly productive.

That is not the case with Chark. He ranks eighth in yards per reception, with an extremely impressive mark of 17.6, but he also boasts an uber-reliable catch rate of 68.8 percent. If he can maintain his current pace, Chark would become just the second player to post 1000-plus yards and 10-plus receiving touchdowns while averaging 17.0-plus yards per reception and posting a catch rate of 65.0-plus (since targets were first tracked in 1992). Jordy Nelson is the only man to have done it, getting it done for the Packers back in 2011.

The Jets secondary is going to have their handful with Chark, and it’s anybody’s guess as to which cornerback will be handling him. Chark generally lines up on the right side. The Jets’ left corner this season has primarily been Trumaine Johnson, but he has been absolutely terrible. Nate Hairston had taken over the spot earlier in the season and played well, but he was phased out as he battled injuries. It seems Hairston is getting back to full health, as he played five snaps against the Patriots last week.

This would be the perfect time for the Jets to get Hairston back out there as the starting left corner. The third-year man was impressive in the time he was out there, even showcasing some good reps against Odell Beckham. His athleticism and fluidity could make him the perfect matchup to stop Chark from going off.

If the Jets put the slow, washed-up Johnson on Chark, the results are almost guaranteed to be disastrous. It’s time for Gregg Williams to bench him and roll with Hairston for the rest of the season.

Make sure to look out for who gets the start at cornerback alongside Darryl Roberts (another player that Chark could torch). If it is Johnson, Chark is likely in for a humongous game. If it is Hairston, the Jets just might slow him down, and in turn, have a chance to pull off the road upset.

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