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What should we expect from Todd Bowles’ defense in Year Two? Pt. II

Let’s take a look at the numbers from Bowles’ time in New York.

Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Now that we’ve covered Todd Bowles’ time as defensive coordinator in Arizona, it’s time to take a look at what he did during his first two years as head coach of the New York Jets.

This will be the final step in gathering our numbers before we average everything out in hope of getting an idea of what to expect from Bowles’ defense in 2020.

Year One with the New York Jets (2015)

Fresh off his Assistant Coach of the Year award, Bowles was named head coach of the New York Jets in January of 2015. He took over for the ousted Rex Ryan and inherited a pretty good defense. It wasn’t anything like what he took over in Arizona, but the Jets were certainly a respectable defensive unit in 2014.

The Jets finished out 2014 as the sixth-best defense in terms of yards allowed (327.2 ypg) and the 24th-best defense in terms of points allowed (24 ppg). Ryan’s defense allowed 234.1 yards through the air (14th) and 93.1 yards on the ground (5th). But the defense seriously lacked in the turnover department as it finished dead last in the league with just 13 on the season.

In terms of DVOA, the unit ranked 21st in terms of overall DVOA (3.5%) and was 22nd in terms of weighted DVOA (2.6%). The pass defense was rated as the 24th-best pass defense in the league (15.8%), while the run defense was 11th (-12.7%).

Bowles came in and automatically improved the defense in Year One just like he did in Arizona. Per Michael Nania of Gang Green Nation, Bowles was heavily involved when it came to the philosophy of the defense as well as game planning for opponents from week to week. His involvement with playcalling duties isn’t as clear, but the thought is that he was involved in that area, as well. Therefore, he was likely responsible for a lot of the end results.

The total defense finished out 2015 as the fourth-best defense in terms of yards allowed (318.6 ypg) and spiked from 24th to 9th in terms of points allowed (19.6 ppg). The pass defense went from 14th to 13th (235.2 pypg) and the run defense improved from eighth-best to second-best (83.4 rypg). Bowles’ defense boasted 30 takeaways in 2015, which give them the third-best mark in the league.

The Jets’ defense enjoyed a top-five finish (5th) in DVOA (-13.8%) and carried the sixth-best weighted DVOA (-12.2%). The pass defense finished as the ninth-best unit (-1.1%), while the run defense was the top-rated unit in the league (-33.3%).

What are the end results from Year One?

  • The total defense jumped from sixth-best to fourth-best which represented a 3% decrease in total yards allowed (327.2 to 318.6). Even though the pass defense jumped one spot (14th to 13th), passing yards allowed per game increased by .04% (234.1 pypg to 235.2 pypg). That wasn’t the case with the run defense though, as the Bucs jumped seven spots (8th to 1st) in the rankings and allowed 10% less rushing yards (93.1 to 83.4) in 2015.
  • Points allowed decreased 18.3% (24 to 19.6) as the team went from 24th-best to ninth-best in the rankings. Turnovers increased 57% (13 to 30) as the Bucs rose from 32nd to 3rd in the rankings.
  • DVOA-wise, the defense climbed from 21st-overall to fifth-overall (3.5% to -13.8%) in terms of overall DVOA, while the weighted defense ranking rose as well, from 22nd to 6th, due to a 569% increase (2.6% to -12.2%). The pass defense increased 107% (15.8% to -1.1%) in terms of efficiency, which amounted to a 15-spot increase in rankings (24th to 9th). The run defense also improved dramatically, boasting a 162% increase in efficiency and a 10-spot jump in rankings (11th to 1st).

Year Two with the New York Jets (2016)

There wasn’t nearly the same amount of attrition/roster turnover in Year Two with the Jets like there was in Year Two with the Cardinals.

Bowles lost cornerback Dee Milliner before the season began, but he wasn’t a contributor in 2015. He also lost starting safeties Calvin Pryor (one game) and Marcus Gilchrist (3 games), but as far as any other injuries to major contributors, there were none to be found.

The Jets’ defense dropped seven spots (4th to 11th) in terms of overall defense, which marked a 7% increase in yards allowed (318.6 ypg to 342.4 ypg). The secondary allowed 3% more yards through the air (235.2 pypg to 243.6 pypg), representing a four-spot drop rankings-wise (13th to 17th). The run defense wasn’t as good in 2016, either. Opponents were able to run for 16% more yards (83.4 to 98.8) and the run defense fell from 2nd to 11th as a result.

Points per game allowed increased dramatically. The Jets went from allowing the ninth-fewest points per game to allowing the 28th-most (19.6 to 25.6), which was good for a 23% increase in points allowed. Turnovers decreased dramatically, falling from 30 in 2015 to 14 in 2016, representing a 53% decrease in numbers and a 26-spot drop (3rd to 29th) rankings-wise.

It didn’t get any better in terms of DVOA, either. The Jets’ overall defensive DVOA dropped from fifth-overall to 21st-overall (-13.8% to 3.7%). That’s good for a 127% decrease in efficiency and a 16-spot decrease rankings-wise. When it comes to weighted defense, the unit dropped from 6th to 19th due to a 107% decrease in the metric (-12.2% to 0.9%). The pass defense efficiency plummeted from 9th to 31st (-1.1% to 28.9%) after the secondary registered a 2,727% decrease in efficiency. The run defense held strong, however, and maintained the No. 1 ranking from the year prior. However, the total efficiency decreased 16% (-33.3% to -28.1%).

What are the end results?

  • The overall defense dropped seven spots (4th to 11th) and allowed 7% more yards in 2016. The pass defense allowed 3% more yards, which caused the secondary to drop from 13th to 17th. The Jets allowed 16% more yards on the ground, too, which saw them fall nine spots (2nd to 11th) as a result.
  • Points per game rose 23% and dropped the Jets 19 spots (9th to 28th), while turnovers dropped 53% and forced the Jets from fielding the third-most turnovers in 2015 to the 29th-fewest in 2016.
  • And of course, the overall defensive DVOA suffered, too. The 127% decrease in overall efficiency caused a 16-spot fall in the rankings. The weighted defense didn’t fare much better, suffering a 107% decrease in the metric and a 13-spot fall in the rankings. The pass defense dropped off an amazing 2,727% in efficiency and even though the run defense was still the top run defense in terms of ranking, it still saw a 16% decrease in efficiency.

So now that we have another headache from all the digits, what does all this say about Bowles’ second year in New York?

I’m not an expert on the Jets, so I can’t point to what went wrong in Year Two, but there’s definitely room to be concerned if you pay attention to the Bucs.

Bowles didn’t lose any major contributors in 2015. The offense did fall off a cliff and left the defense in bad spots throughout the year, but it looks as if Bowles couldn’t work the same magic he did in Arizona with the Jets’ 2016 roster. His two trademark areas in Arizona - points allowed per game and turnovers - suffered dramatic setbacks in his second year as head coach.

Maybe that’s why the defense did so poorly the second time around. Perhaps the added responsibilities as head coach created a void between Bowles and the defense that didn’t exist in Arizona. Based off of what Nania said, that doesn’t seem likely, but it’s certainly something worth considering.

In terms of raw stats, the situation didn’t look as nearly dire as it did in terms of advanced metrics, but if you watched the Jets in 2016, it’s easy to see that they were not good on either side of the football.

But hey, the good news is we now have our set of base numbers to figure out what this all means for the Bucs’ defense in 2020. Be sure to check back in over the coming days for the final piece of the puzzle!

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