Jets vs. Titans: Takeaways from New York's 38-13 Loss to Tennessee
Any talk of the New York Jets being surprise playoff contenders will certainly die out after this week's debacle, as they dropped their second game of the seasons thanks to an incredible amount of penalties, turnovers and miscues.
Quarterback Geno Smith was at his worst, and the defense was simply not dominant enough to keep the score in check. There were a few bright spots, but this was a huge step back for a team that was so promising a week ago.
Here are some takeaways from Sunday's loss to the Titans.
Geno Smith Is Still a Rookie
Geno Smith has been committing turnovers all season long, but he has at least been able to show resiliency and make enough positive plays to counter the negatives.
This game, however, the sheer amount and timing of turnovers was too much for Smith and the Jets to overcome.
Working against Smith was the fact that he was without Stephen Hill for nearly the entire game (who left with a head injury) and that his pass protection was less than stellar, but that does not excuse his fumbles and careless turnovers.
The good news is that he did show some resiliency by leading a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. If nothing else, the Jets can take solace in the fact that they did not quit.
Smith is a talented player who can develop into a quality starter, but this game was a stern reminder that the Jets will not contend as long as he continues to turn the ball over.
Penalties Are Still a Problem
Even after last week's 20-penalty debacle, it was at least feasible that the Jets were just on the wrong side of a few calls for a week.
However, after tacking on another 10 penalties to their total, the Jets clearly have a penalty problem, with most of them coming from false starts on the offensive line.
The good news is that penalties are a simple problem to fix—all it takes is a little concentration not to jump before the snap. The bad news is, whatever the Jets are doing to keep the penalty total down is not working.
This is an issue the Jets must address before it becomes an overwhelming distraction and starts to take a mental toll on the players.
Bilal Powell Is a Starter
Despite the bad loss, it was not all bad for the Jets on the offensive side of the ball. Bilal Powell was the Jets' best player on offense, taking 14 carries for 66 yards (a 4.7 average). He also caught three passes for another 42 yards.
Clearly, the Jets did not view Powell as a starting running back before the season started—if they did, they never would have traded for Chris Ivory. Now, there are plenty of teams that would love to have Powell as their top runner.
Powell is known for his versatility in pass protection and catching the ball, but he is a much more talented runner than given credit for. He does not have great speed, but he has tremendous lateral agility that allows him to squeak out extra yards.
If Powell continues to be as useful as he was this week, look for his role to continue to grow.
Offensive Line Takes a Step Back
Headed into this game, the Jets' offensive line was considered to be one of the team's strengths. However, it allowed the Titans' defensive front to get the better of it, particularly in the passing game.
Geno Smith was sacked five times and was hurried on several throws that were interceptions or near-interceptions. There was one particular play in the end zone in which all five offensive linemen were beat at once, almost costing the team a safety.
The weak link of the line was Vladimir Ducasse, who committed more penalties and was the culprit on a crucial sack early in the game. Since owning Vince Wilfork two weeks ago, Ducasse may be on the verge of losing his job to third-round rookie Brian Winters.
To be fair, pass protection is much more difficult when playing catch-up, and the protection should improve next week, but the offensive line was not at its best when Smith needed his protection the most.
The Run Defense Remains Stout
The Jets defense was not nearly as stout as usual, but it did bring the same dominant run defense that has shut down every stud running back it has faced so far this season.
The Jets held the Titans to 78 yards, with 17 of them coming from Jake Locker scrambles. Chris Johnson was a complete non-factor, getting just 21 yards on 15 carries.
This was one of the few areas of the game where the Jets did not take a step back. The fact that they were able to bottle up yet another dynamic running back in Chris Johnson in a game that got way out of hand shows that this run defense will be dominant all season long.
Too Many Big Plays
The biggest difference between this week's defense and the defense over the first three weeks is how many big plays it let up in the passing game.
The Jets' pass rush was simply not nearly as effective as it was a week ago, despite having some good matchups against Tennessee's offensive line. As a result, both Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick were able to pick apart a Jets secondary that has underperformed so far through four games this year.
The Jets were also victimized by simple jump balls. Darrin Walls put up an uninspired fight against Justin Hunter in the end zone at the end of the first half, and Antonio Cromartie was unable to catch up to an underthrown pass by Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The incessant amount of turnovers certainly did not make things easy on the Jets defense, but it was picked apart too easily in one-on-one situations.
Receiver Depth Is Still a Problem
With Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes suffering more injuries in this game, depth at the receiver position will once again be an issue for this team, just as it was a year ago.
The Jets' game plan was clearly affected after Stephen Hill went down on the first drive of the game, as the Titans were able to give more attention to Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley.
Meanwhile, Clyde Gates and Ben Obomanu were hardly effective filling in, combining for just four catches. Training camp hero Ryan Spadola was not even deemed trustworthy enough to get a single target.
The Jets had better hope their receiving corps can return to full health sooner rather than later, or they may start to see the same problems turn up that plagued them last season.
After last week's victory to get the team to a winning record, there was some talk of the Jets being quiet playoff contenders; some of the 2009 magic was starting to show.
Now, rather than being one step closer to shocking the world and getting to the postseason, the Jets proved that they are much further from being true contenders than their fans may want to believe.
As a whole, the Jets have a solid amount of talent to work with on both sides of the ball. However, at the end of the day, they will only go as far as Smith will take them.
If Smith starts to improve and tones down the turnovers, perhaps the Jets can get on a roll and be in the playoff picture in a few months. Until then, however, they are assumed to be in full rebuilding mode with no definite answer at the all-important quarterback position.