New York Jets: Can They Beat Another Finesse Team?

TOJ on if the New York Jets can handle another finesse team

Michael Lomdbardi of NFL.com recently referred to the Philadelphia Eagles as a “nickel” team. The basic premise behind it was that they are built to spread the field and force you into a track meet. They want to play with three and four receivers on the field on offense and three and four corners on the field on defense. In this way they are one-dimensional, ultimately being both a finesse and soft team.

Lombardi referenced the New Orleans Saints as an example of a team who was originally constructed as a “nickel” team but wised up to add a physical dimension to their game. The Saints can now line up and run a smash mouth offense with Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory, or Mark Ingram. They don’t have to get gimmicky or throw the football on 3rd and 1. They can go north and south to beat opponents at the line of scrimmage. On the other side of the football, they focused on building their front seven and play an aggressive physical brand on defense.

Philadelphia remains in the “nickel” mode. Running back LeSean McCoy has racked up impressive yardage totals thanks to his big play ability but Philadelphia is still overly reliant on their passing game and spread formations. They aren’t consistent in short yardage situations or around the goal-line (see Ronnie Brown’s bizarre run/pass against San Francisco earlier in the year). When it gets to the fourth quarter, they can’t put teams away because they lack a power running game that wears you down, hence their struggles all season in that portion of the game.

On defense they have struggled all season stopping the run and have missed an inordinate amount of tackles. Similar to their offense, they can’t close games out because they wear down late. Their defensive line has a dangerous pass rush but doesn’t always get a push in the running game. The linebackers have been a mess all season and their secondary, despite having big names at corner, have been beat for big plays all season.

Rex Ryan’s first ever game as a head coach for the New York Jets was against the Houston Texans. His pre-game speech emphasized that the Texans were a finesse team who the Jets could simply out-physical to a victory. He was absolutely right, as the Jets rolled 24-7 that day. Earlier in the year, LaDainian Tomlinson gave fiery pre-game speeches before games against San Diego and Buffalo, echoing the same sentiment: “this team isn’t as physical as us, we can impose our will on them.” This Jets team plays extremely confident when they are going against finesse or “nickel” units.

There is no question that Philadelphia’s speed on offense could cause the Jets problems. That being said, the Jets should be able run the ball down Philadelphia’s throat all game long to help keep that offense off the field. This is the type of game where Shonn Greene gets 25 carries and LaDainian Tomlinson chips in another 10. In the passing game, it is when Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller should be breaking tackles and pulling balls down in traffic.

When it does get to Philadelphia being on offense, expect Rex Ryan to be blitz heavy as Mike Vick as struggled with the blitz in his face all year. With the blitzing, look for agressive man to man coverage on the outside from Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin are dangerous outside the hashes but they don’t want any part of a physical game. They both have racked up dropped passes and fumbles all season. Cromartie in particular might give up a big play or two but he should also be able to make Vick pay for consistently throwing into traffic.

Philadelphia is a dangerous opponent. Everybody is familiar with the talent from top to bottom on their roster. Beyond that Philadelphia is a notoriously hostile environment. Yet, the Eagles ultimately are the type of a “finesse” team that the Jets have had their way with in previous years. This is the week to take pride in the Ground and Pound identity and run Philadelphia into the ground.

2-2 Is Not Time For New York Jets To Panic

Rex Ryan is right. It is time to return to the Ground and Pound, to smashing mouths and putting hats on people. Even if just to rev up a team that for the past two weeks has not only lost games, but has been beaten up emotionally and physically. Despite falling to 2-2 after getting knocked around in Oakland and Baltimore, the Jets still have time to get where they want to go. Ryan is toning down the Super Bowl talk for now and that’s a good thing. The Jets are not looking like a club that is headed for Indianapolis these days. However it only early October. Nobody gets awarded a ticket punched for the big dance yet anyway.

The “Ground and Pound” was the essential label the 2009 Jets carried with them in their luggage every week. Thomas Jones was the hammer. Shonn Greene the closer. With All Pro bodyguards Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, Damien Woody and D’Brickshaw Ferguson all paving the way. Jones is a Chief though now. Faneca and Woody are now retired and Mangold has been out for two weeks. With news of the “return” the obvious concern will be as to whether or not the Jets are daydreaming when they say they want THIS foundation on offense again, minus THAT personnel.

The Jets have replaced Woody with the struggling Wayne Hunter at RT.  Rookie Colin Baxter has done his best to cover up the loss of Mangold while the always maligned Vlad Ducasse has been shifting places with Matt Slauson up front. It hasn’t worked out well. Shonn Greene has had no room to run and LaDainian Tomlinson, when he’s not catching screen passes has not found a hole yet either. Let’s not even talk about what has gone on when Sanchez has gone back to throw.

The solution? Ryan’s calls for using less three WR sets that have featured the star trio of Burress, Holmes and Mason, but have rendered little production. By adding more skill position blocking types with the names of Mulligan, Baker and Conner, jersey sales may not flourish, but the Jets may start plowing space.

Even if a bigger return to the ground (in 2009 the Jets ran the ball 61 percent of the time. This year the Jets have THROWN it 62 percent of the time) fails to move the chains all game, it still may be the wise move. Just defining a personality on offense at all, could cure a group that is stuck between running plays with too many wideouts in the formation, and passing plays that attempt to show the growth of Mark Sanchez off despite the inability to protect him.

The Jets are currently 30th in the NFL in rushing. Yet by going back to grinding it out, Gang Green can still reestablish control over two key broad concepts that have been lost. First, that they are the more physical team. One that won’t beat itself (Baltimore score 21 defensive points thanks to turnovers by Sanchez) by handing teams touchdowns. Second, that the defense will again be asked to carry the primary responsibility for field position and scoreboard maintenance. After all, there would be little need to improve upon a 22.9 points per game average in 2010  if the Defense can return to their under 19 points per game average of 2010.

Then there is the AFC. A conference without a powerhouse club dominating both sides of the ball. Sure there are five 3-1 teams, but break them all down and you’ll notice that all have their own issues and potential firestorms awaiting them as well.

The Pats are second in the NFL in scoring but 20th in points allowed. With some health concerns to key players like LB Jerod Mayo, expected out a month, and big Albert Haynesworth who has already missed two games.

The Ravens brutalized the Jets offense but QB Joe Flacco and his top accomplice RB Ray Rice had minimal affect on the party. If there is to be a playoff rematch in January, the Jets by then could be months along with the resurgent Ground and Pound.. If so, then expect the 10-9 type of grind it out game that both teams endured last season instead of the wild 34-17 one they just played.

The Texans and Chargers are 3-1 but they are, well, the Texans and Chargers. One franchise trying to rid itself of the tag of dramatic fourth quarter chokers. The other coached by Norv Turner, who always seems to turn promising team outlooks into crushing season ending defeats in January.

The Bills and Titans are both off to exciting and surprising starts but are newbies to the upper crust. The Bills can light it up on offense and comeback from way down to do it. The Titans are 1st in the NFL in allowing just 14 points per game. This duo will have to prove over a longer period than just four games.

As Joe Namath noted last week, it is dangerous for teams to rest on their laurels and maybe these Jets did. to a degree. Regardless, Namath and other detractors better not discount the importance of achievment. The experience and success that two consecutive month long road runs to the AFC title game, will do wonders in keeping the club focused on seeing the big picture, through this early season storm.

The past two games have given the Jets and those who die hard with them an understandable reason for concern. With a talented roster, a conference with no complete and fully healthy team, and Ryan who has too much belief in his team to quit, it’s a situation that doesn’t call for widespread panic just yet either