Part one of our series breaking down the Christmas Eve match-up between the New York Jets and New York Giants, looks at the Jets rushing attack versus the Giants rushing defense, with featured commentary from TJ Rosenthal, Kristine Reese, Rob Celletti, and yours truly —
New York Jets Rushing Yards Per Game – 104.1 (21st in NFL)
New York Giants Rushing Yards Allowed Per Game – 127.6 (22nd in NFL)
TJ Rosenthal: The Giants are 22nd in the NFL against the run at 127.6 per game. Big Blue’s current LB’s are not of the Lawrence Taylor and Carl Banks mold. The Jets though, went away from this similar advantage in Philadelphia and wound up out of the game by halftime down 28-3. The matchup between these units gives the Jets room to maneuver, but how committed the Jets will be to the ground attack this time around, is the bigger question.
Kristine Reese: The traditionally stout Giants run defense has faltered a bit this season and opponents are averaging 127.6 yards per game against them on 4.5 yards per carry. They are currently ranked 22nd after ranking in the top 10 last season (hmm that sounds familiar).
When the Jets offense isn’t playing from behind and forced to throw, they have run the ball well. One thing we know for sure is that it they will continue to try to run and the ball, so long as Greene and Tomlinson are both healthy. Ground and Pound is paramount to the entire offensive plan as they look to balance the attack, control the clock, keep Eli off the field, take pressure off Sanchez and relieve the offensive line from constant pass protection. (And yes, I realize that is a long list).
The Giants rush defense has mostly suffered from inconsistency, so there is no telling what effort the running game might face come Saturday. The Giants weakness is so clearly their secondary -they likely know it – and they may do their best to force the ball into Sanchez hands. Regardless, the running effort has to stay consistent.
Rob Celletti: For all of the hemming and hawing about the play of Mark Sanchez, the Jets’ offense has struggled in an area that it hasn’t in Rex Ryan’s previous two seasons: running the football. Shonn Greene has only recently shown signs that he can be the lead back in a NFL offense, and he does usually improve as the weather turns cold. But there has been very little consistency for the Jets on the ground this season. Injuries and a lack of depth have also hurt Gang Green.The Giants are difficult to read when it comes to stopping the run. Despite major injuries to the front seven, they still have a seemingly countless number of playmakers. However, it is a defensive line that’s built to rush the passer with speed, and the Jets should be able to exploit that by running between the tackles.
With the exception of last Sunday’s debacle in Philadelphia, the Jets’ ground game has been steadily improving through the second half of the season, with impressive performances against formidable defensive units in Washington and Kansas City. As long as the Jets’ defense doesn’t let the game get out of hand early, I’d expect a heavy workload for Greene. And don’t sleep on Mark Sanchez when the Jets are in the red zone: he has 5 rushing touchdowns of his own.
Joe Caporoso: I have been critical of the New York Jets linebackers all season, but if you want to see a linebacker group that is truly struggling look the at the New York Giants and their collection of castoffs at linebacker. We know their defensive line can get after the quarterback but stopping the run isn’t their area of expertise. Basically what I am saying is the opportunity is there for the Jets to run the football if they commit to it. Outside of the last week’s hiccup (okay it was a big hiccup) Shonn Greene and the running game have been surging. The Jets are at their best when their running backs combine for 25-35 carries and I expect that to be the case on Saturday.