We have learned the past two weeks that the New England Patriots offense is far from unstoppable. Pittsburgh and the Giants have both effectively flummoxed Tom Brady in a similar way the New York Jets did in the playoffs last year. In their earlier meeting this season, the Jets defense did some good things but overall had a weak showing, particularly against the run. Since the loss, the unit has steadily improved and appeared to hit their stride last Sunday in Buffalo.
What is it going to take for the defense to continue rolling this week against the suddenly fading Patriots?
The Jets don’t have the personnel to rush the passer the same way Pittsburgh and the Giants do. However, they do have a better secondary which will allow them to send extra blitzers to compensate for their lack of elite pass rushers. The formula to slowing down New England’s offense is to beat up their wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and keep their tight ends double teamed as frequently as possible. New England can run the ball so the Jets can’t overreact to the degree they did earlier in the season to stopping the pass. They spent a good portion of that game with 6 to 8 defensive backs on the field, which allowed BenJarvus-Green Ellis to have a career day.
As a defense, the Jets spend a higher than usual amount of time in the nickel. It makes sense to have 5 or 6 defensive backs on the field for big chunks of the game, especially with how well Kyle Wilson has been playing and with their inconsistencies in replacing Bryan Thomas at outside linebacker. However, Rex Ryan needs to have confidence in his unit’s ability to stop the pass while still keeping enough defensive lineman and linebackers on the field to keep the run in check.
The Jets will receive a nice boost by getting Mike DeVito back in the line-up, who is a big part of their run defense. In DeVito’s absence, the rest of the Jets defensive line rotation has received experience and steadily began to improve. Muhammad Wilkerson is quietly putting together a very good rookie year and Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, and Martin Tevaseu are all solid rotation players. The defensive line, David Harris, Bart Scott, and Calvin Pace need to set the edge and not let the thoroughly average running back combination of Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead eat up clock.
In the secondary, the Jets are built to play an aggressive man to man style against New England’s wide receivers. Darrelle Revis is Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie has been much better as of late and Kyle Wilson is playing the best football of his career. Wes Welker hurt the Jets on one play in their previous meeting thanks to Eric Smith getting over the top late. Look for more Brodney Pool in passing situations, and for him along with the rest of the Jets safeties to take turns doubling Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
Tom Brady isn’t standing behind an elite offensive line anymore and we know that if you get him uncomfortable in the pocket, his accuracy begins to drop substantially. The Jets sacked him 4 times earlier this season, Pittsburgh sacked him 3 times, and the Giants brought him down twice but were constantly putting pressure in his face, forcing him into three turnovers.
It seems that the Jets are meeting New England at the perfect time. The Patriots are known for their offense, which is trending downward. The Jets are known for their defense, which is trending upward. New England has to come into the Jets stadium in prime-time in what should be an electric atmosphere. There are no excuses, as Rex Ryan has a chance to show the whole country his prized defense is back, in a big way.