New York Jets: Breaking down 3 confirmed head coaching candidates (part 2)

In the first part of the New York Jets’ confirmed coaching target breakdowns, I highlighted some of the top offensive coordinators reportedly being targeted for the job. This time, here are the three rumored defensive coordinator candidates and what they bring to the table.

Matt Eberflus, Indianapolis Colts Defensive Coordinator

Matt Eberflus is a rising coaching candidate in the league, and for good reason. The well-traveled coach began his coaching career as a student assistant at Toledo in 1992, he then spent eight years coaching at Toledo, holding the positions of graduate assistant, recruiting coordinator, outside linebackers coach, and defensive backs coach. Due to his success at Toledo, Eberflus was named defensive coordinator of Missouri in 2001, where he coached until 2008. He then signed on for two seasons as the linebackers coach of the Browns before he entered into the most crucial years in his coaching development. From 2011 to 2015, Eberflus coached under Rod Marinelli, super bowl champion coach. Marinelli taught Eberflus the Tampa 2 style defense, which has proved to be his staying power since then. Marinelli mentored Eberflus and developed him into a disciple, which led to him ultimately landing his current gig.

Eberflus was initially brought on to the Colts staff by the short-lived coach, Josh McDaniels. When he decided to return to New England and Frank Reich was hired, the team looked to Marinelli for his advisement on someone who could instill the Tampa 2 defense in Indy, and he let them know that guy was already on the staff. So, Eberflus kept his job, and in the time since, he has become an esteemed coach. The Indy defense has become a top one in all of football, but the way Eberflus has gotten the most out of his players is the true shining piece of his resume. Darius Leonard was not supposed to be a star in this league, he was out for most of his rookie camp, and he was a little known second-rounder. Now, Leonard is one of the best linebackers in football. The team also acquired Deforest Buckner this offseason, and he has had a monster season in the defense.

Eberflus’ only indictment is that he may not be that CEO type coach rumored to be the target. Eberflus does not have experience as a head coach, and just like most coordinators, there is no hardcore proof he could have success. Still, Eberflus is well connected in the league and could likely build a good staff and be a good leader. Eberflus is a true wildcard candidate; depending on his staff, he could be a solid hire.

Brandon Staley, Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinator

A year ago, Brandon Staley was a rather unknown coach, now, he has a shot to be a head coach rather quickly. Staley has bounced around the college ranks, starting in 2006 at Northern Illinois. From there, Staley went to various schools including, St. Thomas, Hutchinson Community, and Tennessee. Then, Staley got his shot as a D3 defensive coordinator at John Carrol University. From there, he went to James Madison and back to John Carrol. Then, he drew the eye of Vic Fangio and had been on his staff in both Chicago and Denver before getting his shot as a defensive coordinator this season in Los Angeles.

Brandon Staley succeeded esteemed defensive coordinator Wade Phillips after his retirement last season. He inherited a defense with two of the best players in the NFL, Jalen Ramsey, and Aaron Donald. Donald brings a ferocious ability to get into the backfield unmatched by anyone in the league. Ramsey is one of the best lockdown corners in the game and didn’t have a single game this season where he allowed more than 20 yards. Despite that, the talent they had was present in both Phillip’s time and Staley’s. So, in analyzing their defensive jump from the middle of the league to first, that makes what Staley was able to do all the more impressive.

Staley has earned quite a reputation quickly. He has drawn comparisons to the man that hired him, Sean McVay, and been labeled as the defensive carbon copy. Staley would be the younger, more flashier hire than Eberflus, but both are unproven. Staley has not been in the league long, meaning his staff hires could leave something to be desired. Staley is a bold choice, but the Jets have gone the successful defensive coordinator route once in the past 8 years, and it didn’t bode well, will they make the same choice again?

Robert Saleh, San Francisco 49ers Defensive Coordinator

Robert Saleh is a football guy. The former college tight end began his coaching career in 2002 with Michigan State. He then coached at Central Michigan and Georgia before going to the pros. Then, in 2005, Saleh was hired as an intern with the Texans, and he climbed through the ranks to the position of assistant linebackers coach before heading to Seattle. In Seattle, Saleh got to learn under Pete Carroll and coach on a Super Bowl championship-winning staff. Saleh coached there until receiving a shot to coach the linebackers in Jacksonville, where they had a large amount of success in his time there. His success across the board drew enough attention from Kyle Shanahan to earn him the defensive coordinator job in 2017. Since then, Saleh has become a household name.

Last season, the San Francisco 49ers went to the Super Bowl behind one of the most talented defensive lines I have seen in the past decade. Their defense was ranked in the top tier of the league overall, and although they were unable to pull off a win in the big game, they still showed major growth in 2019. This set them up as one of the most heavily feared defenses heading into this season, but when Nick Bosa, Dee Ford, Richard Sherman, Javon Kinlaw, and Kwon Alexander are among the big names who missed multiple games, if not the entire season. The team was banged up but still managed to finish as a top defenses again, taking only a small step back.

Robert Saleh is that CEO type of coach Joe Douglas should target. Saleh is the middle ground of Staley and Eberflus. He has the connections of Eberflus and the youth of Staley. Saleh brings juice and energy to the defense. One rumored connection is with Mike McDaniel, a rising offensive mind in San Francisco, who some believe could follow him as an OC wherever he choses to go. He is so intense that he runs the stadium stairs in order to get mentally prepared before games. Saleh is a fantastic coach and near the top of my board for prospective coaches. Saleh is a hot commodity, though, and there is a hometown connection with the Lions that could prove to be too much for the Jets to overcome.

New York Jets: Three stars from Sunday’s win at Los Angeles

The New York Jets pulled off the unthinkable on Sunday, topping the Los Angeles Rams in a shocking road upset.

New York Jets fans received the most purgatorial Christmas gift on Sunday afternoon.

For the first time in 357 days, the Jets (1-13) were on the right side of the scoreboard, topping the Los Angeles Rams in a shocking upset out west on Sunday evening by a 23-20 final. Neville Hewitt was among the Jets’ stars with 10 tackles, while Jamison Crowder had a team-best 66 yards through the air. New York defenders had three sacks on the evening, playing a part in dealing a brutal blow to the Rams’ (9-5) chances to win the NFC West. The Jets will also avoid landing in 16-game infamy, a fate that still belongs to only the 2008 Detroit Lions and 2017 Cleveland Browns.

ESM looks back on the win and dispenses some game balls from a big victory…

3rd Star: RB Frank Gore

23 carries, 59 yards, 1 TD, 1 reception, 6 yards

Much has been made about the Jets continue to insist on providing Gore a retirement tour of sorts while younger backs sit behind him. But he made the most of his opportunities in Los Angeles and earned some of the biggest touches in Sunday’s victory. Gore helped set the pace with a one-yard score on the Jets’ first drive of the second half and later caught the six-yard pass just before the two-minute warning of the fourth quarter that allowed Jets fans to start celebrating…the ones that wanted to, anyway.

2nd Star: DL Quinnen Williams

4 tackles, 1 sack

Even with an elusive win, it’ll take Jets fans a lot of football therapy to fully remove the demons of 2020 from their mindset. But the season could likely go down as the year that gave rise to the justification of Quinnen Williams at the third overall slot in his draft. Williams continued his breakout on the Los Angeles stage, invading the Rams backfield numerous times and picking up his team-best seventh sack of the season. It’s unclear whether Williams will get to finish his sophomore season, as he missed the finishing touches in the locker room with a concussion. If his season is indeed over, its relative brevity shouldn’t take away the progress Williams has made and the opinions he has changed.

1st Star: RB Ty Johnson

6 receptions 39 yards, 1 TD, 3 carries 16 yards

Johnson is one of those names that have stuck behind Gore’s final days as a feature back, even as he became the first Jets rusher in 26 calendar months to reach triple-digits in yardage in a single game. But he’s making the most of his chances and more or less one of the greatest examples and cases against tanking: the former sixth-round pick from Detroit is potentially creating a longer career for himself, whether it’s in New York or elsewhere. Johnson was one of Darnold’s favorite targets during Sunday’s action, tying with Crowder and Robert Woods for a game-high six receptions. One of his first accounted for a touchdown on the Jets’ opening drive that foreshadowed the magic ahead.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

Aaron Donald has kind words for New York Jets, Sam Darnold

On the cusp of Los Angeles Rams history, Aaron Donald made it clear he’s not taking the New York Jets’ visit lightly.

The holiday season is often meant to be one of glad tidings of comfort and joy. One of the NFL’s most fearsome defenders is fully on board with that concept.

With the holidays come the NFL’s most crucial games, as the calendar inches closer toward the postseason. Aaron Donald’s Los Angeles Rams (9-4) have three such contests remaining. Though their playoff prescience is mostly assured, they’re engaged in a brutal battle for the NFC title with the Seattle Seahawks, a battle that could shift an NFC playoff game from Lumen Field to the Rams’ palatial home of SoFi Stadium.

While the Rams have looked strong at the perfect time, having won three in a row and dismantling the New England Patriots on a national stage last week, they were unable to gain separation from the Seahawks, who crushed the woebegone New York Jets by a 40-3 final last weekend at home. Little more needs to be said about how wayward the Jets’ season has become, but things certainly have a chance to get uglier this weekend. The winless Jets (0-13) will return to the west coast this Sunday to round out their interconference slate in Inglewood (4:05 p.m. ET, Fox). 

Los Angeles would almost have every right to take the Jets lightly, especially with New York now missing six defensive starters from their opening day lineup after linebacker Jordan Jenkins was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

But Donald isn’t buying the idea of an easy Los Angeles victory. The interior pursuer of quarterbacks spoke highly of the opponent in his weekly statements and also had friendly words for his Sunday prey.

“Obviously, they’re not playing how they want to play, but I think he’s a good quarterback,” Donald said of Darnold, Peter Botte of the New York Post. “He’s really mobile. He can move, make things happen with his feet, and get out of trouble. It looks like he’s strong. I’ve seen a couple times when it looked like he was about to get sacked, but he was able to break out and make something happen. He’s a solid quarterback, so we’ve been studying that and understanding that plays aren’t going to come easy. We’ve got to earn them. We’ve just got to do our job. He’s a good quarterback. They’ve got some good players around him, young players.”

A Sunday sack of Darnold could set history for the second consecutive weekend. Donald is three sacks away from tying Leonard Little for the most in Rams history (87.5). Darnold was previously the victim of a Jamal Adams sack in Seattle that made his former teammate the NFL’s single-season sack leader amongst defensive backs.

A native of Orange County’s Huntington Beach, Darnold is ready to make his return to Los Angeles, where he entered the national spotlight as the star thrower for the University of Southern California Trojans. He reciprocated Donald’s praise in his own availability.

“Aaron Donald is a good player,” Darnold said, per Botte. “He definitely pops out on tape, especially it seems like whenever a play needs to be made, he is always there making it. So it will be fun playing against him.”

As the Jets seek some form of momentum and any good feeling to take from this lost season. Some members of the team feel like they can take a lesson or two from Donald, one of the premier defenders and scariest backfield invaders in the NFL.

“When you watch this guy get doubl- teamed almost every snap, and the five snaps he gets singled up, he wins,” Gase said of Donald, per team reporter Eric Allen. “I’m sure every D-tackle is trying to get to that point, especially guys that have similar skill sets of length, quickness, strength, things like that, they’re like, ‘Hey, I want to be like that guy.'”

“You look at their front, their front is very disruptive, with their games, especially on third down, so we have to do a good job up there up front and then the back end, they have really good players there too and they do a good of disguising coverages and mixing it up that way,” Darnold said of the Rams defense as a whole, per Max Goodman of SI.com. “We’ve got our work cut out for us, but we are excited for the opportunity.”

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags 

New York Giants: Keys to victory against the Rams in Week Four

New York Giants, Daniel Jones

The New York Giants will head to Los Angeles to face off against the Rams in Week Four. Both teams are coming off of disappointing losses in Week Three. The Giants were blown out by the 49ers, falling to 0-3 on the season and the Rams lost a close one with the Bills, falling to 2-1.

The Giants desperately need to win in Week Three to turn their season around. If the Giants want to take down the Rams, they need to limit their turnovers, slow down Aaron Donald, and play a bend-don’t-break defense in Week Four.

Limit The Turnovers

Second-year quarterback Daniel Jones has a turnover problem. Through three games, Jones has turned the ball over six times in three games. The Rams’ defense has forced five turnovers in the last two games. The Giants will not win this game if they turn the ball over multiple times. The turnovers have crippled the Giants’ offense through three games and have directly turned into opposing points.

Slow Down Aaron Donald

The best defensive player in the NFL has been wreaking havoc through the first three weeks of the 2020 NFL season. Aaron Donald has not lost a step. Donald has been a First-Team All-Pro in each of the last five seasons. Donald is maintaining that elite-level of play in 2020, leading the NFL with 20 pressures generated this season (via Pro Football Focus).

The Giants’ offensive line has struggled tremendously in 2020. Quarterback Daniel Jones has been pressured on 41.5% of his dropbacks in 2020, according to PFF. This is the third-highest rate in the NFL.

Starting center Nick Gates has struggled this season while making a position switch. Now, he will face his toughest opponent yet. Aaron Donald has three sacks through three games in 2020. New York’s offensive line needs to step up in Week Four and prevent Aaron Donald from wrecking this game.

Do Not Break On Defense

The Giants’ defense could not get off the field on third down against the 49ers in Week Three. New York plays a bend-don’t-break defense. But, in Week Three, that defense broke more often than it should have.

The Giants’ defense forced the 49ers’ offense into 11 third-down situations. Technically, the 49ers ran plays on 12 third downs, but the last third down was the final play of the game when the 49ers took a knee to seal the win. So, actually, the 49ers converted 8 of their 11 third-down attempts. Additionally, the 49ers scored 6 points on 4th down, making 2 of 3 field-goal attempts. The 49ers did not punt once in Week Three.

This is not sustainable. The Giants cannot win games if they allow opposing offenses to convert over 70% of their third-down attempts. Against Sean McVay’s high-flying offense in Week Four, the Giants’ defense needs to get off the field on third down,