Part two of our series breaking down the Christmas Eve match-up between the New York Jets and New York Giants, looks at the Jets passing game versus the Giants passing defense, with featured commentary from TJ Rosenthal, Kristine Reese, Rob Celletti, and yours truly.
New York Jets Passing Yards Per Game – 201.9 (21st in the NFL)
New York Giants Passing Yards Allowed Per Game – 257.5 (29th in the NFL)
TJ Rosenthal: Can the Jets avoid the never ending sack? That’s the key part to this equation. They couldn’t against the Eagles, and the Giants can be just as fierce if not more, depending on who is healthy for them up front that week. The Jets WR’s line up against better CB’s in practice. The problem is, the Jets offensive line gets to block the Jets meandering defensive line in practice too. Jason Pierre Paul frightens us. Paul combined with the notion of him lining up in the same zip code as Wayne Hunter terrifies us. If the Jets can block , they’ll be efficient through the air at best. That can be enough, if Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson can help lead the way, and Sanchez avoids major gaffes deep in Jets territory.
Kristine Reese: The Giants secondary has been riddled with injuries all season but that isn’t the only reason they find themselves ranked 29th in the league. Opponents are averaging 257.5 passing yards per game against the GMen and the unit has given up a total of 25 passing touchdowns (near the bottom of the league).
Holmes, Plax and Keller could be in for a nice day against these corners, especially Prince Amukamara, who has struggled recently with missed assignments, blown coverage and even has some of his teammates claiming he isn’t ready for “prime time.” If the Jets can pick on Prince and catch him making a mistake, they could break off for a big play.
To be fair, Prince’s problems aren’t only his; he has simply become the poster boy for the problems of the entire unit.
Truthfully, I’m less concerned about how the Giants secondary will effect the passing game and much more concerned about the effect the Giants pass rush will have (specifically, Jason Pierre Paul and Justin Tuck; it appears Osi Umenyiora may miss the game) on Sanchez. We have seen the offensive line struggle in pass protection against a heavy rush and last week was a reminder.
This battle between the O Line and the D Line is the most significant match-up of the football game. I firmly believe that if the offensive line can win the battle and allow Sanchez the time to make the throws, he can deliver the ball to the play-makers and capitalize.
Rob Celletti: Jets fans, we’ve read this book before, haven’t we? It seems like every other week, the Jets face an opponent where media and fans alike look at the matchup and think: “Wow, the Jets should really be able to throw the ball this week.” The harsh reality, of course, is that they haven’t. My Twitter feed must be famous at this point for the in-game pleas for Brian Schottenheimer to open up the offense and allow Mark Sanchez to throw the ball down the field. It hasn’t happened. Instead, the Jets, with their wealth of playmakers, limit themselves mostly to passes that travel no more than 9 yards in the air. It’s maddening to watch
What will make this trend more even more insane will be if/when it inevitably continues this week against a Giants secondary that is utterly pathetic when it comes to stopping the aerial attack. Big Blue’s coverage unit is rife with players who are just not very good: Aaron Ross, the biggest mouth in New York not named Rex Ryan Antrel Rolle, and not-quite-ready-for-prime-time Prince Amukamara. Couple that with regular miscommunications and breakdowns, and you have a secondary that gives up an awful lot of big plays – even to guys named Rex Grossman.
But really, the more important issue won’t be what’s happening down the field, but in the trenches. The Giants’ pass rush is, as usual, no joke. It has 37 sacks, led by breakout star Jason Pierre-Paul, who has been nothing short of phenomenal this year (and Giant fans haven’t let us forget, with the excessive and obnoxious “You down with JPP?!” Tweets…we get it). The Jets absolutely must help Wayne Hunter, who was embarrassed last week by Jason Babin in Philadelphia. The rest of the line needs to step up and play the way it’s capable of. If Mark Sanchez is given time, Brian Schottenheimer has to let him throw the ball down the field, particularly to Dustin Keller and Plaxico Burress, who’s going to be itching to get after his former team. If Sanchez is upright and given clear throwing lanes, there will be open receivers there for him.
Joe Caporoso: This entire match-up is about slowing down the Giants pass rush because if Mark Sanchez has time, the Giants secondary is awful. They simply can’t match-up with Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Dustin Keller. If Jason Pierre-Paul is anywhere near Wayne Hunter, there better an extra tight or running back there to help him out. Beyond that, the Jets must protect Sanchez through an effective rushing attack, well-time play action passing, and by moving him out of the pocket.