As we enter the final week of the first quarter of the 2012 NFL season, we still aren’t necessarily sure who this New York Jets team is just yet. For a team striving to be built primarily through strong defense and a ground and pound offensive philosophy, the 2012 Jets have been anything but that. New York currently ranks 21st in overall defense this season, a ranking that could certainly grow worse with the loss of the team’s best overall player, CB Darrelle Revis. Offensively, the Jets rank 22nd overall, but are 29th in rushing yards per carry, with an abysmal average of 3.3. Shockingly, however, New York’s offense ranks just outside of the top ten in points scored, standing at 11th overall, only one spot behind Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, with 81 total points.
Translation? All is not lost for New York just yet, despite countless fans and media members declaring them dead without Revis lurking in the defensive secondary. For a team ranking in the bottom tier in defense and rushing offense, New York still stands at 2-1 and first in the AFC East. However, it is no secret that this team needs vast improvements in most aspects of the game, otherwise they will in fact suffer the complete landslide that everyone seems to be waiting for.
How can the Jets get back into that upper tier of teams without Revis? It begins with a few things. First, the Jets need to begin to limit Shonn Greene’s touches. By now, it is no secret that Greene is not the feature back New York thought he was going to turn into. Averaging an extremely disappointing 3.1 YPC this season, Greene has been arguably the most boring running back in the NFL this year. His lack of ability to make defenders miss and break tackles is noticeable to even the most fair weather fans. It is time Tony Sparano begins to divide his workload amongst the other backs on the Jets roster, namely Bilal Powell, who averaged 4.5 YPC last week in Miami, and (you guess it) Tim Tebow. Rex Ryan will also need to prove how great of a defensive mind he really is. Without Revis eliminating a player from opposing offenses, Ryan is going to need to show what made him such a successful defensive coordinator during his days in Baltimore. He will need to be very creative both schematically and personnel wise in order for this defense to assert itself as one of the league’s best again.
This week is sure to be a daunting test for each area of improvement for the Jets. Will New York be able to make the necessary adjustments in all phases of the game to overcome the powerhouse that is the San Francisco 49ers? Find out how it all will shake out in this week’s New York Jets Fact Or False.
Quinton Coples will register his 1st NFL sack. Fact. As good as San Francisco’s offensive line is in the running game, they have struggled so far in protecting quarterback Alex Smith this season. Smith has been sacked 10 times through the first three games this year. While Green Bay, Detroit, and Minnesota certainly have better pass rushes than the Jets, don’t be surprised to see New York’s first round selection get himself his first career sack this Sunday.
Although he has seen limited reps in his first few games, Rex Ryan proclaimed today that he expects the rookie out of North Carolina to take on a heavier workload this week. Coples has been an absolute mismatch when he’s been lined up on the inside on passing downs due to his superior athleticism against interior lineman. He has also been tremendous on the few stunts that he has run, often playing with excellent agility and leverage. Expect Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine to get creative with their blitzes and stunts this week to confuse an offensive line that has struggled in pass protection this season. That could very well leave the door open for Coples to get to Smith for his first, of what could be many, NFL sacks.
Mark Sanchez will finish with a higher passer rating than Alex Smith. False. This is not to say that Sanchez will not play good. However in terms of passing efficiency, there have been very few who have done it better than Smith over the past year. This season alone, Smith ranks 7th in passer rating among all starting quarterbacks in the NFL with a rating of 102.7, that includes 5 touchdowns to just 1 interceptions and a completion percentage of 69.6.
Sanchez on the other hand ranks last in the league in terms of completion percentage, having completed just 50.5% of his passes with passer rating of 78.3. Of course, Sanchez has been hindered by the Jets’ lack of running ability as well as a very inexperienced group of receivers.
This is not to say that this unit will not get it together and outperform Smith and the 49ers’ passing attack this Sunday, however, the primary X-Factor in this is the absence of Darrelle Revis. Without Revis in the secondary, opposing teams are completing over 70% of their passes against New York. When facing a team like San Francisco, whose entire passing game is built on efficiency and a lack of mistakes, it will be very difficult for Sanchez to outperform his counterpart.
Frank Gore will rush for 100+ yards. Fact. Over the course of his first three games, Gore has run for 264 yards on just 45 carries, for an excellent average of 5.9 YPC. Although he has surpassed the century mark just once this season, he has yet to be given a heavy workload, with a season high of 17 carries in week 2 against Detroit.
This week, however, expect San Francisco to put the Jets 22nd ranked defense to the test. Based on the success that CJ Spiller and Reggie Bush experienced against this defense, the 49ers would be wise to give Gore the ball early and often. While New York is much better suited to defend backs like Gore, rather than Spiller or Bush, do not be surprised to see the former Miami Hurricane get anywhere from 20-25 carries, taking him over the 100 yard mark for the second time this season.
The Jets will not surpass 100 yards rushing as a team. False. Yes, the Jets have struggled to run the ball this season, but as addressed above, that is a heavy result of the inabilities of Shonn Greene. To think that New York is going to abandon its ground and pound philosophy after just three games under Sparano is utter blasphemy. New York’s inability to run the ball is undoubtedly keeping Sparano up at night, surely enough to devise a very clever game plan against one of the league’s top defenses.
Sparano and co. are likely wise enough to realize that they will struggle to pound the ball against this defense in jumbo packages. Expect New York to come out in various spread formations, and actually look to pass early to open up the running game. If Sanchez can be efficient and prove to be able to stretch the field in the first few offensive drives, San Francisco will have no choice but to unload the box, giving New York ample space to run the ball. The Jets should divide the workload amongst an abundance of ball carriers who will all collectively gain over 100 yards.
At least 4 different players will carry the ball for the Jets. Fact. As touched on above, Shonn Greene’s days as a 20-25 carry back are seemingly over. It is time for the Jets to divide his carries amongst Powell, Tebow, and possibly the newly acquired Jonathan Grimes. While Greene will likely still get around 10-12 carries this Sunday, look for Powell to cut into that load the most with about 15-17 carries. Tebow will likely chip in out of the Wildcat with somewhere around 5-7 carries, and New York would be foolish not to give the ball to the speedy Grimes, or the recently “traded” Joe McKnight a few times to attempt a home run play.
While the Shanahan approach of playing an abundance of Running Backs is not necessarily a popular one in this league, Greene has left the Jets with no choice. In order for this offense to get on track, they need to be able to run the ball, and in order to be able to run the ball, the Jets need to divide the workload, plain and simple.