Battle Of New York: Jets Rushing Offense vs. Giants Rushing Defense

A breakdown of the Jets rushing attack versus the Giants rushing defense, with commentary from TJ Rosenthal, Kristine Reese, and Rob Celletti

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.

New York Jets Need Shonn Greene Now More Than Ever

TOJ on the importance of Shonn Greene continuing to assert himself as a true lead back down the stretch

Shonn Greene still has not truly asserted himself as a full time lead back for the New York Jets, yet he is slowly moving in that direction. His continued movement in that direction will go a long way to determining whether or not this football team will make the playoffs.

Greene has taken slack for not being durable but so far he has missed only 3 quarters of football this season and is currently playing effectively through a rib injury. LaDainian Tomlinson is banged up with knee issues and Joe McKnight has a hyperextended elbow. Rookie running back Bilal Powell didn’t look ready to be a contributor when he received a chance earlier in the year. Without question, it is looking like the Jets are going to need Greene to carry the load like the lead back they talked him up to be all off-season.

Against Washington, he finished with 88 yards on 22 carries with 3 touchdowns and also added 3 receptions for 26 yards, including a huge third down conversion late in the game. Greene has quietly improved substantially as a receiver, pulling in 23 catches so far this year.

This past Sunday was the fifth time in six games that he averaged at least four yards per carry as he continued a career trend of improving as it gets deeper in the season. We all know the Jets offense thrives when they are working off a power rushing attack. It will be Greene who has to answer that call with 18-22 carries each week now with Tomlinson and McKnight’s health being a question mark.

A strong finish will go a long way to the Jets deciding to commit to Greene long term as their number one back, instead of exploring other options via free agency or the draft. Greene is carrying both his future with the team and their playoff hopes in these next four games.

New York Jets: How To Distribute The Carries

How should the New York Jets distribute the workload between Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight

The New York Jets are going to need their running game to lead the way on offense if they have hopes of making a playoff run. Despite not having a true lead back (no, I am not giving Shonn Greene that status yet), they do have enough between their top three runners to put together a quality rushing attack. The key is going to be getting the most out of Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight’s skill set.

Greene is coming off a solid game against Buffalo, where he averaged 6 yards per carry. However, he is admittedly still suffering from a rib injury and looked in pain for most of the game. He only had 13 carries against the Bills. Tomlinson is returning after missing the past two games with a knee injury and should be fresh for the stretch run. Joe McKnight has gradually been becoming a bigger part of the offense and averaged 6 yards per touch against Buffalo.

If the Jets are smart, they will keep Greene in the 12-15 carry range. The rib injury isn’t going to get better with each passing week and he showed he could be effective with that amount of touches last week. Tomlinson can spell him for a few series each half, handle short yardage duties, and be the primary third down back. McKnight should be getting at least 8-10 touches as a runner and receiver. He should be the guy catching most of the screen passes and has the ability to line up out wide. On the Jets outside handoffs and tosses, he should also be the first option.

Between their three running backs, the Jets should be able to hand the ball off 30-35 times a game to keep their offense balanced and set up their play action passing attack.

New York Jets Ground and Pound Should Lead Way Against Bills

The New York Jets rushing attack needs to carry them to a victory against Buffalo

Over the past few years, the New York Jets have destroyed the Buffalo Bills with their rushing attack. Even though Buffalo is improved in 2011, it doesn’t mean they haven’t struggled stopping the running game. The Bills have allowed at least 100 yards rushing in every game this season up until last week, where they were facing the pathetic Washington Redskins. Overall, they don’t have a strong defense but have been able to thrive off turnovers and creating points from them. Their high powered offense is truly what has led the way to the Bills early success.

Enter the Jets, who have been improving their running game and have a quarterback, who despite improving is still prone to a few erratic interceptions here or there. It shouldn’t take a genius to compose the blueprint for a victory this Sunday: run the football and don’t turn the football over, by limiting the number of pass attempts. The ground it out game-plan, will keep Ryan Fitzpatrick and Fred Jackson off the field, where they can’t rack up another 30 point performance.

This is the type of game where Shonn Greene’s 20-25 carries needs to be supported by another 12-15 from the LaDainian Tomlinson/Joe McKnight combination. The Jets should be relentless with their rushing attack, as they have the talent on the offensive line and at running back to dominate the Bills front seven. Mark Sanchez can take his shots, but they should be few and far between and built to take advantage of Buffalo overreacting to the Jets commitment to the run by stuffing the box. If the Jets offense is running the way they should, you can bet Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller will be able to get wide open down the field off play action.

There appears to be some swag returning to the Ground portion of the Jets “Ground and Pound,” which is good timing because the cold weather is here and the formula for this team’s success is built around confidence, running the football, and smashmouth defense.

New York Jets: What Is A Reasonable Offensive Gameplan?

What is a reasonable offensive game plan for the New York Jets to put together this Sunday?

The big talk of the week for the New York Jets is the return of the “Ground and Pound.” It is a sensible move to pull back the passing offense, which has created too many turnovers and moved the Jets away from a successful identity. However, there needs to be some type of happy medium in the offensive game-plan. The running game needs to set up the passing game, hence there still needs to be an existence of some type of passing game. Mark Sanchez does need to throw more than 12 passes on Sunday.

Ideally, he will throw roughly 25 times, which is the number he has averaged in his three career victories over New England. You would like to see Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight (who needs to be involved on offense) combine for about 32-35 carries. That type of consistency in the running game will open up play action attempts down the field, even if the runs are only going for 2-3 yards a pop. When Sanchez does go play action he should find favorable match-ups for Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Dustin Keller.

The Jets also need to expand their screen game. A good way to get Sanchez’s confidence going early is to set up a few screens for Tomlinson and McKnight, along with their receivers. Let him get a few completions under his belt and get into the rhythm of the game before pushing the football down the field. One other comment on the passing game, where is the back shoulder fade to Plaxico Burres down the sideline? In single coverage, that pass is an indefensible way to gain a quick 15 yards. It needs to be worked into the Jets playbook.

In the running game, the Jets need to press the edges and consider giving the Wildcat a few snaps. Jeremy Kerley can be a weapon in the open field, especially if he is working in tandem with McKnight.

Brian Schottenheimer receives his share of criticism but he has come up with a few clutch game-plans in his day. Most notably, playoff victories over Cincinnati and New England in previous years. He needs to come up with another one on Sunday.

Final Thoughts On Jets/Raiders

Game MVP – LaDainian Tomlinson, who ripped apart the Oakland defense as a receiver out of the backfield. For the second year in a row he is off to a very strong start.

Game Goat – Antonio Cromartie…the feast or famine act is growing old very quickly.

Play of the Game – Cromartie’s muffed kick is where the game went down the toilet. Fortunately, I can’t find a YouTube video link of it because I don’t want to see it again.

Trending Up

  • LaDainian Tomlinson – The Jets most consistent playmaker on offense through three weeks.
  • Plaxico Burress – He is still a match-up nightmare when given the chance.
  • Derrick Mason – Finished with 6 receptions and a handful of huge third down conversions.
  • Colin Baxter – Held his own in his first NFL start.

Trending Down

  • Wayne Hunter – A weekly regular in this category.
  • Antonio Cromartie – A lung injury could keep him out this week.
  • Santonio Holmes – Not necessarily on him but Jets must do a better job of getting #10 involved.
  • Bart Scott/ Calvin Pace/Bryan Thomas/David Harris – Not a pretty week for the Jets highly touted LBs.

1. I said before this game that the only way the Jets would lose is if they laid a complete egg. They found a way to do that in spectacular fashion for a key stretch of the game that put them in too big of a hole to climb out of. Penalties, turnovers, and missed tackles equal losses. It happens in the NFL. Too many people are making broad proclamations about the implications of this game as I will get into later today.

2. Jamaal Westerman is not an answer as a pass rusher. This team has to stop procrastinating each off-season when it comes to adding a player who can get after the quarterback.

3. Look for more Joe McKnight on kick return, especially if Antonio Cromartie will be nursing an injury. If Cromartie can’t play on defense, Kyle Wilson will likely get the start. He will get quite the chance for redemption after his rough season opener against the Baltimore Ravens in 2010.

TJ reviews his top five from the game

NFL Week 3 highlights

Shonn Greene In The Crosshairs

We spent a good chunk of the off-season hearing the hype about Shonn Greene becoming the lead back for the New York Jets. Many writers, including myself, were excited about the prospect and carry the belief that Greene has the ability to be a true lead back if given the appropriate amount of carries.  A strong finish to last year and a good pre-season seemed to fuel that belief.

Despite that, week one of the 2011 season was reminiscent of the early portions of the 2010 season. It was Greene not making much of an impact, while LaDainian Tomlinson was finding a way to consistently come up with big plays in a similar number of snaps. It is too early to rush to any judgment on Greene for this season. Yet, he needs to show a little punch this week against the Jacksonville Jaguars

I am aware the Jaguars have a tough run defense and the Jets gameplan will likely be more pass centric for the second week in a row. However, Greene needs to break through and at least get to the second level a few times. He will receive more than 10 carries this week, but he needs to   do more with those carries. Let’s not even worry about him ripping off the long run, how about a few 8-12 yard runs to get some confidence going?

Nobody is expecting to Greene to register a 22 carry, 150 yard performance against Jacksonville, but if he can give the Jets a solid 15 carries for 70 yards it would be a step in the right direction.

Jets vs. Cowboys: Grade Report

Quarterback (B) – Outside of two ugly turnovers, Mark Sanchez put together a strong performance. The game manager title is clearly a thing of the past, as he went 26/44 for 335 yards and two touchdowns. His confidence is fully there and considering the weapons around him, a big statistical year is a real possibility. The turnovers must be eliminated as they both came in killer spots. However, it was nice to see how well he distributed the football among his top targets and didn’t hesitate to push the ball down the field.

Running Back (C+) – LaDainian Tomlinson gets an “A” while Shonn Greene settles in somewhere around a “D.” Neither Greene (10 carries, 26 yards) or Tomlinson (5 carries, 16 yards) did much running the ball but Tomlinson was key in the receiving game, finishing with 6 receptions for 73 yards, leading the team in both categories. The Jets are going to need more from their running game, Greene in particular, moving forward.

Wide Receiver (A) – The playmakers did what they were paid to do. Santonio Holmes turned in a solid 6 reception, 70 yard performance, while Plaxico Burress stole the show in the second half with 4 receptions for 72 yards and a beautiful touchdown catch. Burress looks capable of having a much bigger year than many (including myself) projected. Derrick Mason had 3 receptions for 19 yards, and dropped a potential touchdown pass. Jeremy Kerley only played one offensive snap.

Tight End – (A) – Dustin Keller remains a reliable safety valve for Mark Sanchez and posted 6 receptions for 51 yards, along with the team’s first touchdown of the season. The offense finally demonstrated the use of a two tight end look as a passing threat, by getting Jeff Cumberland involved on a 33 yard reception.

Offensive line – (D) – It wasn’t a pretty night up front, as Mark Sanchez was sacked 4 times and there was no push in the running game. Wayne Hunter was repeatedly beaten by DeMarcus Ware in his first game as team’s new starting right tackle. Hey…at least he won’t face anyone better than Ware the rest of the year.

Defensive Line – (A) – They were solid against the run, as usual. Mike DeVito also had one of the biggest plays of the night by forcing a crucial Tony Romo fumble on a sack. He finished with 3 tackles. Muhammad Wilkerson was quiet in his NFL debut with 1 tackle.

Linebackers – (B+) – Bart Scott had a big night with 8 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 tackles for a loss. Calvin Pace also had a sack. The group still struggled defending the screen pass at times and part of Jason Witten’s big night goes on them. However, on the whole it was a productive night.

Secondary – (C) – It is going to be a long season for Antonio Cromartie if he keeps up at this pace. He was beat by Dez Bryant on a jumpball for a touchdown and then by Miles Austin on a deep touchdown, where he let him pull the ball away from him, which is unacceptable. Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard continued to struggle in pass coverage. Darrelle Revis was beat by Dez Bryant on an early deep ball down the sideline but shut him down after that and then came up with an enormous interception that set up the game winning field. You know the saying, “you come at the King, you best not miss.”

Special Teams – (A+) – The deciding factor in this game…outside of Tony Romo being a choke artist….was the Jets special teams. Nick Folk was money on the game winning 50 yard field goal. Joe McKnight blocked a punt in the 4th quarter that Isaiah Trufant took back to the house. TJ Conley was solid all night at punter as well.

Coaching – (B) – They didn’t come out ready to play and at times seemed a step behind Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan. Yet, this is a resilient, scrappy team that finds ways to win games and a big part of that comes from Rex Ryan. Also, stand up and take a bow Mike Westhoff for continuing to put together excellent special teams units. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine deserves credit for his call late in the game that help set up the Revis interception, which did a good job of masking zone coverage as man.

New York Jets Passing Offense Has Chance To Be Special

It may have only been the pre-season and it may have been against the Cincinnati Bengals, who should have an over/under of about 4 wins this year. Yet, it was hard to watch the New York Jets passing offense in action and not think about just dangerous it could be this year.

Considering the following: it was pouring out, it was Plaxico Burress’ first game back in over two years, and Derrick Mason was sidelined with an injury. However, Mark Sanchez still racked up over 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half.

If healthy, you are going to have a difficult time finding a team with a better top five receiving options than Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason, Dustin Keller, and LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield. Holmes and Burress both have the ability to abuse single coverage, Mason is a savvy veteran who can work effectively both on the outside and in the slot. How many team’s number three corners are going to be able to handle him one on one? Not many. Keller is a walking mismatch, as linebackers are frequently too slow to cover him and safeties are too small and finally Tomlinson is only one of the better receiving running backs in NFL history.

Beyond those top five, you still have rookie Jeremy Kerley who has looked electric in camp, tight end Jeff Cumberland who is having a terrific pre-season, and running back Joe McKnight who caught a touchdown pass last night.

Obviously, how productive the passing offense will be ultimately falls on Mark Sanchez’s shoulder. Yet, the third year quarterback has looked poised and confident so far this pre-season and has been terrific off the play action. If he takes the same sized leap forward this year, that he look last year, he will be able to utilize all of the previously mentioned weapons.

Let’s not ever forget the Ground and Pound, but the pieces are in place for the switch to be seamlessly flipped into a wide open passing attack.

Ground and Pound? Looking at the Jets Running Back Situation

Just four days into training camp,  Rex Ryan and his Jets have fired off their usual array of verbal salvos: They’ve already uttered Super Bowl guarantees and boasts about how this is “the best roster” in Ryan’s tenure.  But one surprising talking point has been in regards to the Jets’ offense, and how they plan on placing more of the burden on Mark Sanchez and the passing game.

While this is something that many Jets fans have been clamoring for (myself included), it’s also something that may give them reason to pause.

For two seasons, the Jets have not only survived, but thrived on their “ground and pound” philosophy, particularly in the cold-weather months at the business end of the season.  But perhaps the Jets’ shift to a more passing-oriented offense is a function of the Jets’ personnel in the backfield, which is far from a sure thing.

Everyone is ready to jump on the Shonn Greene bandwagon, but the only person that really matters in that equation is Greene himself.  His first two seasons with the Jets have been inconsistent; flashes of brilliance one week, absolutely nothing the next.  His game logs prove that point pretty well, so the question remains: can Greene shoulder the load over the course of an entire 17 week season, plus playoffs?

Greene is the de facto number-one because LaDainian Tomlinson is a year older.  After a fantastic start to 2010, Tomlinson’s production predictably dipped as the season wore on, though he remained a valuable option in spots and was an important safety valve for Sanchez as a receiver out of the backfield, especially on 3rd down.  This will be the 32-year old’s only role in 2011, and rightfully so.

Beyond Greene and Tomlinson are nothing but question marks.  Joe McKnight could barely handle training camp last season, forcing the Jets to put him at the mercy of Mike Westhoff on special teams.  Rex even toyed around with the idea that McKnight could play cornerback.  Aside from his monster performance in the meaningless Week 17 game vs. the hapless Bills, McKnight has shown the Jets absolutely nothing that should make them comfortable about him as their third-best running back.  If Greene or Tomlinson is injured, can McKnight fill either player’s void effectively enough?

Beyond McKnight is Bilal Powell, who thus far in camp has yet to really challenge McKnight for the third spot on the depth chart.  It’s early, but how much can the Jets realistically expect out of the rookie?

The Jets’ shift to a more passing-oriented offense is both exciting and nerve-wracking.  Plaxico Burress has already tweaked an ankle, Jerricho Cotchery waits in limbo, and we all know Brian Schottenheimer’s playbook often leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the passing game.  The Jets are still going to need a strong running game, probably one that ranks in the top 10 of the league, in order to get where they want to go this season.  Time (and injuries) will tell if that’s a realistic goal.