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One Last Look Backward as the Jets Move Ahead

With the 2012 season just about ready to begin I wanted to take one last look at 2011 and see some areas of weakness and areas where maybe the Jets can build for the future. What I wanted to do was take a look at our drive logs and see where the team must improve. Unfortunately I don’t have a great deal of time to put these numbers in context the way I normally would, but we’ll make some assumptions about the team in discussing their performance.

Quality of Turnover- We all know turnovers are never good, but there are situations where it is easier to handle than others. For example if you throw an interception off a snap on the 50 yard line on a ball that travels to the 40 or 30 yard line its not the end of the world. There was no guarantee that the drive would end in points anyway and you have now given the defense a fighting chance to prevent a score. As we’ll see when discussing the defense the Jets only allow points on 27% of all drives that begin in their own territory, so while you may be losing an opportunity to score the net effect is probably small.

But when you turn the ball over deep inside enemy territory you now are taking points off the board. It is at least a 3 point, if not a 7 point swing. Do it on your own side and it’s a 3 point or 7 point swing simply because you are giving points to the other team. Nothing was worse for the Jets last season than turning the ball over on drives that began deep in their own territory. They turned the ball over on a whopping 28% of their drives that began inside their own 10 yard line and also 28% of the time on drives that began inside the opponents 30. In the case of the latter that is at least 3 points per turnover. Of the turnovers on drives inside the 10, 5 of their 7 turnovers gave the team the ball inside Jets territory. The following chart shows the Jets propensity to turn the ball over by starting drive position

Improve drive efficiency- In playing a battle of field position the Jets were big losers last season. Similar to the prior category it seems as if the Jets freeze up when there is more pressure to do something positive. While nobody expects you to score a TD off a 90 yard drive, they do expect you to pick up first downs. Likewise if you get a ball at the 50 you are expected to get scoring opportunities off the drive. The Jets median drive inside the 10 was 3 plays for 5 yards. Their average was to run under 5 plays for less than 26 yards per drive. When you couple that with a poor punter you get a defense being put on their heels far too often. In contrast the Jets opponents last year, against a good Jets defense, had a median of 9 and an average of 27 yards per drive. That is one team helping flip field position and another not doing it. Similarly around midfield the Jets failed to take advantage of field position and move the chains to get into scoring position.  Here is the average yards per drive for our offense and those allowed by the Jets defense to help put it in context.

Considering the Jets play an average set of defenses over 16 games whereas their opponents are all measured against a strong defense, this is an area where the Jets have to perform better, specifically deep in their own territory and in the midfield areas.  On the bright side you can see how much better the Jets are once they get inside the opponents 40 at moving the football. It’s something that they need to keep strong at this season.

Increase Scoring Chances- Obviously this ties into the yardage problems and turnovers. Again well use our defense as a baseline and look at scoring chances per drive. In order to take into account the turnovers we’ll adjust the stats to take drives that end in turnovers and safeties out of the equation and calculate scoring opportunities on the remaining drives.

Again I am taking the approach that our offense should do at least as well as the opponents who played our defense. In some cases they do, but there are still too many good field position spots, particularly from the Jets 40 to their opponents 40, where the same size is larger, where the team is faltering. What is also interesting to note is that all the scoring on drives that began inside the 10 ended in touchdown with no field goals. I guess that plays to the momentum aspect of the game.

Bigger Plays- Big plays score touchdowns and while we all know that was not a strong point of the team last season, but we can dig a bit deeper into the numbers and see that the grind it out method that they sometimes follow was not leading to touchdowns, but instead stalled drives. Of drives that began in the Jets territory the average touchdown drive was 8.25 plays averaging 8.5 yards per play. The FG drives averaged 9.3 plays per drive with the per play average dropping to only 5.5 yards.  Both sets averaged a start around the 25 yard line so there was not a big discrepancy  in yardage potential that would lead to those differences. You need bigger plays here and there to ease the burden on an offense to keep drives from stalling.

Avoid Slow Starts- This is something I often allude to and the stats do seem to back up the claims for the defense. Last year it was not so much the Jets opening drive that was bad, but in actuality it was the second drive of the game that was a killer on the defense. It’s really inexplicable.  Of the 16 second game drives last season the Jets allowed 4 touchdowns and 6 field goals in 16 chances. Now 2 of the field goals were given away by the offense but still the numbers are high. Lets compare with the rest of the game:

The PPB and YPP results are adjusted to remove the drives played on the short field inside opponents territory, to better compare the numbers. It’s really a strange phenomenon. The Jets just seem to get beat up early on in these games. They cant get off the field and the opponents put up points. When you have an offense that has issues it only puts an added burden on the team to push which leads to mistakes from Sanchez and company. What is scary is that this still seems to be an issue in the preseason and it absolutely can not occur once the regular season begins.

Outside of those first and second drives of a game it’s hard to fault the defense for much last season. You would need a quality sample of teams to determine if the scoring chances they were allowing on their side of the field were normal or not. My assumption is that they performed well and our offense performed poorly but perhaps both were average.  If that is the case they could use some tweaking in giving up those long scoring drives every now and then. Their TD conversion rates off the deep turnover I have to believe were exceptional. They faced 24 drives that began on their half of the field and only 5 resulted in a touchdown, one of which began on the 1 yard line. So essentially it was 4 touchdowns on half a field. They allowed 16 field goals of which 2 were 50+ yard field goals which are high difficulty kicks. That’s pretty good.

The Jets offense last season in similar spots converted touchdowns over 40% of the time, basically double what the Jets defense allowed. Maybe the Jets offense was highly efficient, especially if you take turnovers out of the equation, but I have to think these numbers were excellent for the defense. Its something they need to maintain this year while improving on those early game failures to pick up the slack for the offense until they can find their way.

On a side note I tried a new board format for comments. We'll see how this works out and if it gets rid of some of the issues with the prior script I used. If it works great, and if not well go back to the old one....

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