New York Jets vs Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL AFC Championship game.

Dan’s Look at the Front Seven – Part 1 Dan Leberfeld

The Jets run defense wasn’t very good in Pittsburgh. So what was the problem? Dan has a theory. He is a look at the Front Seven.

Before I breakdown the Front Seven, I want to get into a big picture issue.

There was a run for about eight yards off right tackle by Rashad Mendenhall in the first half.

On this play, the Jets had 36-year-old Jason Taylor, 35-year-old Trevor Pryce and 33-year-old Shaun Ellis on the field at the same time. This is too much age in the front seven at the same time, especially considering Pryce and Taylor are average against the run. On top of age, Pryce is playing with a bad hip and Ellis a bum knee. This is a young man’s game.

I have no issue with Ellis, but to have the three on them out there at the same time is a recipe for disaster against the run. Pryce is often a one-trick pony now. He guesses a gap, and hope it works out, and if it doesn’t he’s often out of the play, and that is what happened on this play. Pryce jumped into a gap into the backfield, and took himself out of the play.

Two other issues aside from age in the Front Seven against Pittsburgh’s rushing attack, and it has to do with the nose tackle position. Sione Pouha did have six tackles, but he also had some issues against the run. He’s playing with a bad cack, and it’s clearly impacting his play. Imagine playing nose tackle with a bad back. And by the way, did you know he will be 32 on February 3?

And while I like rookie Martin Tevaseau as a prospect, and he did have a terrific camp, but it’s a little risky to have him make his NFL DEBUT against the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game. He had no tackles.

Now let’s get into more detail about the Front Seven.

David Harris led the Jets with nine tackles. He had a really nice play on the first series. Ben Roethlisberger ran a bootleg to the right side, and threw to a wide open Hines Ward, and it looked like it was going a long way. But Harris dived at Ward’s feet, and made a shoe-string tackle, limited the play to seven yards.

But this was one of the few nice plays on this drive. It took up 9:06 and ended with a Mendenhall touchdown.

The Jets issues against the run picked up where they left off on the second drive. On the first play on that possession, Rashad Mendenhall ran for 11 yards off left guard. He ran by Pouha on this play.

Later in this possession, on third-and-one, the underrated DeVito stopped Isaac Redman for no gain. Harris and Bart Scott also contributed to this stop.

On fourth-and-one, Bryan Thomas intercepted a short pass over the middle to Mendenhall.

On the next Pittsburgh possession, Redman had a run on the left side for a gain of 13. He ran by Pouha on this play (and Eric Smith missed a tackle).

On this same possession, on a second-and-ten, Mendenhall had a gain of 35 off right tackle. This was another one of those plays were Ellis and Pryce were on the defensive line together. Taylor was in the field also. All three were taken out of the play. Ellis was on the ground. The other two got locked up.  This combo was a bad idea. Harris missed a tackle on this play, and Calvin Pace got to far up field, taking himself out of the play.

It was the run defense that lost this game more than anything else.  We will examine the Front Seven more tomorrow in Part II.