Breaking Down the Jets vs the Patriots
After months of hype and building of expectations, the season got off to a poor start with an offensive no-show by the New York Jets resulting in a loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Things do not get any easier as the Jets will now welcome in the defending AFC East champion New England Patriots.
Jets Offense vs. Patriots Defense
The Patriots defense had been written off by so many people this year. They were too thin and inexperienced in the secondary. They had no outstanding pass rushers. The injury to DE Ty Warren and last years trade of DE Richard Seymour decimated the defensive line beyond repair. Yet last week the defense completely shut down the Cincinnati Bengals offense for the first two quarters of the game and essentially put the game away with a pick six of QB Carson Palmer to go ahead 24-0 in the 2nd quarter of the game. The Patriots still remain very strong up the gut with big NT Vince Wilfork and ILB Jerrod Mayo. Those two are a big reason why New England had such a strong run defense against teams that like to run draw plays such as the Bengals and the Jets. The other players on the defensive line are capable veterans in a well coached system. The big question mark for New England comes from the secondary. The secondary is young and athletic, but what is the real secondary of the team? Is it the group that was very effective against the Bengals or the group that gave up big pass plays in the second half? While everyone says those Bengals scores mean nothing because the game was out of hand, anyone that has watched Bill Belichick coach the Patriots knows that there is no such thing as easing up on the pedal. He is a coach that, up 49-0, would take a timeout for the chance to score 50 with less than 2 minutes left in the game. He probably was not happy with what the passing game ended up accomplishing even in a blowout game. Teams will test rookie Devin McCourty and 2nd year pro Darius Butler this season in the passing game. Butler had two picks versus Sanchez and the Jets last year, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
It would be impossible for the Jets to play any worse offensively than they did last week. The team failed in almost every aspect of the game. They failed to score when given a short field. They failed to pick up first downs. The failed to hold onto the football. Most importantly they failed to win the game. The problems began with QB Mark Sanchez who looked more like a rookie than at any point in his actual rookie season. Sanchez looked like he did not trust himself to make any throws unless they were only 3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. While it is true that Sanchez needs to be conscientious of the interception he can not fear it so much that he won't throw the football. He will need more help from his offensive line than he received last week. The line was bad, particularly in pass protection, which allowed the Ravens to rush only 3 or 4 players and then double the Jets wideouts. Both tackles have to do a better job and if LG Matt Slauson has another rocky game this week stories about how the Jets made a mistake cutting Alan Faneca will pick up even more steam. The Jets will also need more from RB Shonn Greene whose fumbling problems once again took center stage. His second fumble caused the team to essentially bench him for the remainder of the game. He handled the situation well and sounds eager to redeem himself. RB LaDainian Tomlinson played well last week and is always motivated to play New England. His bad feelings towards the Patriots go back many years and should provide added incentives to play well.
If the Jets offense, which was also bad in the preseason, fails to produce for a second week a huge red flag will go up. For now the fans can just rationalize that it was just the first week of the year and a lot of teams are not ready in week 1. But if they no show in week 2 there will not be any excuses. The Jets have to establish the run this week keep Tom Brady off the field. New England poses a terrible defensive matchup for the team so the less time Brady has the ball the better. The Jets can not afford to do what they did last week and go three and out and rely on the defense to keep it close. They have to pick up first downs and move the chains. Their best chance to do that is to establish Greene and Tomlinson and hope that the run also helps set up the pass. The team also has to find a third wide receiver to take the pressure off Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. Whether it is Brad Smith or David Clowney someone else has to be on the field. When you play a team that is filled with some spare part type players and youth the best chance to win is to find ways to spread the defense out and force players into making one of one plays. Force a Gerard Warren or Gary Guyton to make the stop on Tomlinson, but don't bunch up the field to where you are allowing three and four players to converge on Tomlinson. If the Jets allow that to happen they won't have a chance of exploiting any weaknesses this defense may have. .
Jets Defense vs. Patriots Offense
Does anything really need to be written about the New England offense anymore? It starts and ends with QB Tom Brady who just received a huge contract extension and looked very sharp in week 1. Brady is an outstanding talent, even after his 2008 injury, that finds the matchup he wants early in the count and attacks it. He is one of the few players at the position that are able to make use of every weapon on the field and is always capable of engineering the comeback drive at the end of the game. The passing game flows primarily through WR's Randy Moss and Wes Welker who pose tremendous matchup problems for every team in the NFL. Moss remains one of the most well respected deep threats in the game while Welker is the best slot receiver in the league. The Pats also have a collection of tight ends that will force the defense into making decisions on who to cover. Rookies Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski both made an impact in last weeks game. The Jets may have caught a break when the Patriots traded away RB Laurence Maroney last week, as he always seemed to save his good games for the Jets, but the Patriots are a passing team and he does not figure into that part of the offense. The offensive line may be a cause for concern due to injuries and contractual problems, but Brady has always covered for his line causing them to receive praise that they probably never deserved. Brady's release is the fastest in the NFL which is why he never gets touched. RB Fred Taylor will get most of the ball carries while Kevin Faulk remains and excellent third down back whose contributions are always forgotten. The Patriots, who will use four backs, will do their best to rotate guys to keep them fresh and all will be used to help pick up the blitz to give Brady some etra time.
Defensively the Jets were a mixed bag last week. The front 7, even with the loss of NT Kris Jenkins played tremendous football. They dominated the line of scrimmage, pressured the QB, and constantly kept RB Ray Rice in check. On the other hand you had a secondary that was completely exposed by the Baltimore Ravens and a defense that racked up penalty after penalty after penalty. DE Shaun Ellis and LB Bryan Thomas both played outstanding football games. They set the tone early for what proved to be a very physical football game in the trenches. The primary problems were in the secondary where CB Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson were routinely torched by the Raven receivers. The Jets were high on what Cromartie physically brought to the table, but after watching him play last week they have to at least be thinking they miscalculated what he can do. A rookie like Wilson being beat is one thing, but it is another for a veteran like Cromartie, at times, to look like he did not belong on a field with professionals. He has a lot to prove this week. The Jets are hoping to get a boost from the return of Brodney Pool, who missed week 1 with an injury. Pool's injury forced Eric Smith into action and Smith's coverage skills are not a strong point in his game. They need the secondary help this week and need Pool healthy to aid in covering the Patriot players.
The last time these two teams met the Patriots schooled the Jets defense with Welker leading the way with over 190 receiving yards. New England was really the team that laid the blueprint for attacking the defense which was to stay away from Darrelle Revis and target the second a third receivers over and over again. While they may target Randy Moss as a way to test Revis early, Brady is too smart to waste too much time trying to do that rather than using his other targets to win the game. The Jets have to find a way to contain Welker and whatever tight end the Patriots decide to feature in the passing game while at the same time generating enough of a pass rush to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket. The Jets can not afford to be sending Jim Leonhard or Pool in on blitzes leaving the corners to fend for themselves. This is a game where the Jets are going to need all the help they can get in coverage and have to rely on their prime pass rushers to make an impact. The most important players this week will be Jason Taylor, Ellis, and Thomas. Taylor and Ellis have both had good success against this team in the past and Thomas played so well last week that fans can hope that he will play with the same energy he played with back in 2006. If those three players can get in Brady's face without elaborate blitz schemes the Jets defense has a chance to contain the Patriots offense and keep them off the scoreboard this week. If Brady gets to keep his jersey clean and stand upright all day they are going to put 30 points up on the scoreboard and that is a number the Jets offense can't match.
Kick and punt returner Brandon Tate has explosive abilities. He returned one for a score last week and looked good in that role in a few attempts last season. K Stephen Gostowski may possibly be the best kicker in the NFL. He has a great leg and is usually very accurate. New England believes that they have solved their punting problems by drafting Zoltan Mesko in the fifth round of the draft. He only had one punt last week but did not have a great preseason. Coverage units were bad for the Pats in 2009, but they did play very well last week.
The Jets special teams were outstanding against the Ravens. P Steve Weatherford had what may have been the best game of his career doing an excellent job of pinning the opposition deep in their own territory. He will be needed to have that kind of game in week 2. Jim Leonhard had a strong game returning punts. He lacks that breakaway speed in the open field to make a major impact, but does a good enough job of following his blockers to make decent gains. If there is one worry it is that K Nick Folk did not seem to get huge distance on his kickoffs last week and if Tate proves to be the real deal it could put the Jets in a bad position.
If there is one game Bill Belichick had circled on his calendar when the schedule was released it was likely this game. He can not like the fact that the Jets became the offseason “in” pick. He hates the fact that his team finally lost in NY after years of sticking to the fans and the owner of the team. He got some revenge for that last year when his team crushed the Jets in Foxboro, but seeing the Jets advance to the AFC championships while his team got booed out of its own building in round 1 of the playoffs had to get under his skin. This is the kind of game that Belichick does not just want to win, but wants to win big. He wants his team to make a statement here that there is no doubt which team is better on the field. There is nothing he wants more than to make this team open a new stadium with an 0-2 record and in the process making the Jets coach and young QB look lost during the game.
The staff did a bad job for the opening week as the Jets clearly were not as prepared as the Ravens nor did the players look like they had been worked hard enough to be physically ready to start the season. The penalties were inexcusable and the offensive play calling left much to be desired. It will be interesting to see how Rex Ryan prepares the team for this game. One thing that was not picked up on in the media was the fact that Ryan seems to be back to his “defensive coordinator” mentality and has left the offense completely in the hands of Brian Schottenheimer. Ryan mainly talked about the defensive shortcomings after the loss and went on to say he didn't know Shonn Greene was benched. Ryan has to be the head coach of the team if they want to win. He has to show an interest in the other side of the football and explain to the young QB what the expectations are. If Ryan is only watching the defense with a critical eye and the offense simply as a casual observer the Jets may have a harder time this season than anyone thought. We should get a better idea after this game as to how the Jets coaching setup is shaking out.
If the Jets want to win this game they have to come out fast and have a good start. The crowd can make a real difference in a game like this and the home crowd is going to quickly grow disenchanted with the team if they begin the game by going 3 and out or allowing Brady to drive the length of the field for a score. The Jets let the crowd down when Greene fumbled the football and the Ravens drove for a score and they never showed the same energy that as there early in the game. They will have that energy at the start, but a bad start will quickly take the crowd out of the game. That will help the Patriots passing game immensely.
Brady has already stated that he feels they are much more prepared for the Jets this time around because they now have a better idea of how the Ryan defense is run with the Jets personnel. This should be the week Ryan should debut any new wrinkles he has worked on this offseason and hope to catch New England off guard. With four new players expected to see significant time on defense there are different things the Jets can do defensively that may catch Brady somewhat off guard.
Everyone is talking about the Jets this week, but this is also a big one for New England. Though they are the defending division winner they have been written off by many followers of the league and that has to irk New England. In the last 4 years this has become a very even series after years of domination by New England. The Patriots know a loss here is going to be taken as a sign that the balance of power has really shifted and that the Baltimore Ravens were just that good. Winning here puts New England in the drivers seat for the rest of the year.
The NFL can be very strange. If Shonn Greene doesn't fumble the ball away and the Jets won last weeks game 9-3 they would be heavy favorites here. Instead they lost 10-9 and it has now been written that the Jets season is teetering on the brink of disaster. In either case the Jets offense would have looked awful and the defense pretty good, yet that loss means so much in the eyes of many people. New England, on the other hand, wins an easy game and every possible flaw they had going into the season has now disappeared. Maybe both cases turn out to be true, but to base it off one regular season game is not a very good way of analyzing a team.
Some people are painting this game as a “must win” for the Jets, but that really is not the case. Nobody wants to open the season 0-2, especially with back to back home games, but a good team can overcome two losses to start the season. What the Jets must do this week is look competent on offense, put points on the board, and look better in the secondary. If the team fails to do those things and they lost this game it's a problem. If they do those things and lose a competitive game it will hurt, but the Jets will have proved enough to make a case that they can save the season the following week in Miami. That said, the Jets have an excellent chance this week to win the game.
Jets 20 Patriots 17