New York Jets vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Report Card Grades for Each Jets Unit

Aidan MackieSenior Analyst IAugust 17, 2014

New York Jets vs. Cincinnati Bengals: Report Card Grades for Each Jets Unit

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    USA TODAY Sports

    It wasn't pretty, but the New York Jets remained undefeated this preseason, as they beat the Cincinnati Bengals by a score of 25-17 at Paul Brown Stadium. 

    The Jets first-team defense was largely dominated by Cincinnati early, as Andy Dalton and the Bengals' offense put 17 points on their first three drives. 

    However, New York bounced back after the Bengals' starting unit departed the game, racking up 22 consecutive points to claim the victory. 

    It was a bad day for the Jets' starting defense to say the least, but the backups played admirably, and the offense did a nice job of moving the ball on a consistent basis. 

    Although it's just the preseason, Saturday's contest gave us a better understanding of where the Jets' strengths and weaknesses lie. 

    With that said, here are grades for each of Gang Green's positional units. 


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    Tony Tribble/Associated Press

    It was a mixed bag for Geno Smith yet again on Saturday. 

    Smith was certainly efficient, as he completed 10-of-13 passes for 98 yards, but he struggled to move the ball downfield against the Bengals' starting defense. 

    The second-year man also threw an ugly interception, which was probably the result of a miscommunication between him and receiver David Nelson. 

    But Smith rebounded in a big way against Cincinnati's backups. Following a Bengal turnover, Smith capped off a brilliant nine-play possession with a one-yard touchdown run.

    In all, it was a decent day for Smith.  

    Michael Vick was also solid in limited playing time. Although two of his drives were halted by stupid penalties, Vick still managed to lead New York to a go-ahead score in the third quarter. Vick once again used his legs to make plays, and he did a nice job finding Clyde Gates on a screen pass that resulted in a 17-yard score. 

    Tajh Boyd was horrendous in the fourth quarter, though. Boyd, who has been disappointing in this training camp, completed just one pass on five attempts and failed to pick up a single first down. 

    At this point, the Clemson product might be fighting for a lost cause. 

    Grade: B-

Running Back

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    Even without Chris Ivory, New York's running backs were terrific against a solid Bengals defense. 

    Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell did a great job of finding holes throughout the first half, and they were the key components to a brilliant touchdown drive late in the second quarter. 

    Johnson ended the day as the game's top rusher, as he managed a fantastic 63 yards on just 10 rushes. Powell carried the rock only four times, but he made the most of his limited chances, rushing for 41 yards and a touchdown. 

    Along with Ivory, Powell and Johnson have the capability of being one of the game's most dangerous backfield tandems, as their strengths perfectly complement one another. 

    Daryl Richardson didn't do much on the ground in the second half, as he ran for just 23 yards on seven carries. However, Richardson caught a screen pass and took it 26 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown.

    Grade: A

Wide Receiver and Tight End

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    New York's top wideout, Eric Decker, and its starting tight end, Jeff Cumberland, were both on the sidelines for Saturday's game. 

    However, the receiver corps still put together a pretty solid performance. 

    12 different wideouts managed to catch a pass, including rookie Jace Amaro (two receptions, 24 yards) and training camp darling Greg Salas (two receptions, 31 yards). 

    The group mainly avoided drops, which have plagued the Jets offense in recent seasons. If these receivers can prevent silly mistakes, they have a chance to really surprise some people. 

    One of the highlights of the game was a spectacular leaping catch by Stephen Hill. Although it was Hill's only catch of the contest, it was a superb play, and it showed just what he is capable of when he is focused. 

    If he can continue to make plays like that, he could lock down New York's No. 2 wideout job by Week 1. 

    Grade: B

Offensive Line

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    Peter Morgan/Associated Press

    The offensive line was inconsistent early in the game, as it would follow up a terrific drive with an awful one.

    This inconsistency isn't surprising, as youngsters Dalton Freeman, Oday Aboushi and Dakota Dozier got the start.

    However, the unit was mostly successful against a good Bengals' defensive front. They managed to open up lanes for the running backs, while keeping Geno Smith and the rest of New York's signal-callers upright.

    In fact, the offensive line didn't concede a single sack all game. However, the unit was awful in one area: penalties. From unnecessary roughness to holding, it seems like every player on the line was guilty of committing at least one significant penalty. 

    Yes, the referees were quick to their pockets. Nonetheless, the unit cannot afford to play this sloppy during the regular season, as its play prevented the offense from moving the ball, which in turn consistently set up the Bengals in good field position.

    Grade: C+

Defensive Line

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    With the exception of Damon 'Snacks' Harrison, the starting defensive line was mostly disappointing against the Bengals.

    Cincinnati's offensive line, though missing tackle Andre Smith, managed to get good push throughout the first quarter, and Andy Dalton was given plenty of time in the pocket. 

    With a weak secondary that can be easily exposed, the Jets' defensive line needs to put pressure on the quarterback or else signal-callers will have field days. 

    Once Dalton left the field, though, it was a whole different ball game. New York sacked Cincinati's backups, Matt Scott and Tyler Wilson, a combined five times and never allowed the pair to get comfortable in the pocket. 

    Backup defensive linemen Leger Douzable and Tevita Finau are two huge reasons for the turnaround, as they dominated Cincinnati's reserves. The Bengals also failed to ever get a consistent running game going, and that can be largely credited to the monster performances of Douzable and Finau.

    Grade: B


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    The linebacker corps is largely in the same boat as the defensive line. 

    The starters were subpar, as they failed to get any kind of pressure on Dalton, and they often missed tackles that resulted in big gains. 

    However, the backups played lights out throughout the final 40 minutes. 

    Garrett McIntyre, Nick Bellore and Ik Enemkpali were among the standouts. Together, they combined for eight tackles, three quarterback hits, 1.5 sacks and a blocked punt. 

    Enemkpali, a fifth-round selection this offseason, is making it hard for New York to cut him, as he makes big plays every time he takes the field.

    This group has a lot of potential, and if the backups can string together performances like they did tonight, the cast could emerge as one of the team's strongest units. 

    Grade: B+


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    The secondary is far and away the Jets' weakest positional unit. 

    Andy Dalton, A.J. Green and Co. made mincemeat out of the Jets' starting secondary, as they moved down the field at will. Although Dee Milliner and Dimitri Patterson, the team's projected starting cornerbacks, were out of the game with injuries, it still was a truly horrendous performance. 

    Slot corner Kyle Wilson was burned several times, and converted safety Antonio Allen showed little ability to play cornerback.

    The unit slightly improved when Dalton hit the sidelines, but that was more of a result of Matt Scott's futility and a decent pass rush than any uptick in play from the back end.

    Calvin Pryor, the team's first-round rookie, made a big impact when he finally hit the field, though. He registered several bone-crushing hits and made his presence known. He's played in only one professional game, but he may already be Gang Green's best defensive back. 

    Grade: D-

Special Teams

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    Tom Uhlman/Associated Press

    The return game was once again a disappointment, as Jacoby Ford and Jeremy Kerley could get nothing going on both punts and kickoffs.

    With a sometimes-stagnant offense, New York needs a returner with big-play capability. Hopefully, Ford can be that man. 

    Nick Folk nailed his only field goal try from 40 yards out, and Ryan Quigley bounced back from a rough preseason opener to average 51 yards a punt on three attempts. 

    Folk and Quigley form a solid, and reliable, kicking tandem. 

    Grade: B


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    Tom Uhlman/Associated Press

    Rex Ryan was as blitz-happy as ever, especially against Cincinnati's backup quarterbacks. Ryan knows that he must get pressure on the quarterback to avoid the secondary being exploited. 

    Ryan's tactics were solid throughout, although he sometimes needs to recognize the situation before sending the house at the quarterback. 

    On the offensive side of the ball, Marty Mornhinweg's game plan and play-calling was above average. Some drives, especially early in the game, were pretty vanilla, but the offensive coordinator opened things up later to greater success. If Mornhinweg can avoid getting conservative early in games, Gang Green's offense could drastically improve in his second season. 

    However, the penalties are simply unacceptable and need to be squarely blamed on the coaching staff. Although you expect teams to be sloppy in the preseason, seven personal fouls is incomprehensible.

    Ryan needs to get a grip on his team's intensity before it ends up costing him. 

    Grade: C

Final Grades

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    Tom Uhlman/Associated Press
    Positional UnitOverall Grade
    QB B-
    RB A
    WR/TE B
    OL C+
    DL B
    LB B+
    Secondary D-
    Special Teams B

    Cumulative Grade: B-

    The Jets may have got the victory, but the Bengals undoubtedly looked like the better team on Saturday. The secondary is more than just a question mark, now. It's a huge worry. The defensive front, along with Geno Smith and the offense, need to pick up their games to a whole new level if New York's going to have a shot in a crowded AFC.