New York Jets and the New England Patriots. 9-2. Rival cities. One team is coached by a loud mouth who speaks his mind, while the other is coached by a reserved strategist who doesn't speak. Both teams feature magazine models at quarterback. One team features nobodies on both sides of the ball, the other features stars. Each team is built to succeed. But how are they built? Let's look at the top players on both sides of the ball.
QB - Tom Brady, 6th round draft pick by the Patriots
RB1 - BenJarvus Green-Ellis, UDFA pick-up by the Patriots
RB2 - Danny Woodhead, UDFA pick-up by the Jets, then by the Patriots
WR1 - Deion Branch, 2nd round draft pick by the Patriots, reacquired for a 4th round draft pick
TE1 - Rob Gronkowski, 2nd round draft pick by the Patriots
TE2 - Aaron Hernandez, 4th round draft pick by the Patriots
LT - Matt Light, 2nd round draft pick by the Patriots
LG - Logan Mankins, 1st round draft pick by the Patriots
C - Dan Koppen, 5th round draft pick by the Patriots
RT - Sebastian Vollmer, 2nd round draft pick by the Patriots
What can we get? The Patriots love to spend high draft picks on their offensive line. It's clear that the offensive line is the most valued piece of the Patriots offense- and that includes blocking tight ends. The Patriots are willing to spend top picks each year to secure a strong offensive line because the line will set up the run, but will also protect the quarterback and allow the offense to function. The running back position is the least "valued" position on offense because the Patriots believe that anyone can run the ball, as long as they have ball security and a strong offensive line.
QB - Mark Sanchez, 1st round pick by the Jets
RB1 - LaDainian Tomlinson, 1st round pick by the Chargers, picked up by the Jets
RB2 - Shonn Greene, 3rd round pick by the Jets
TE1 - Dustin Keller, 1st round pick by the Jets
LT - D'Brickashaw Ferguson, 1st round pick by the Jets
LG - Matt Slauson, 6th round pick by the Jets
C - Nick Mangold, 1st round pick by the Jets
RG - Brandon Moore, UDFA by the Jets
What do the Jets show? Star power all around. While only Deion Branch was drafted out of the Patriots running backs and wide receivers, three out of the four of the Jets were drafted in the first round- and Greene was a third round pick. Only one UDFA is featured on the Jets offensive line, which features three first round picks. While the Patriots put a premium on the offensive line, the Jets one up the Patriots in terms of offensive line's draft status. The Patriots will take offensive linemen in the 2nd round- the Jets take them in the 1st. Oddly enough, both teams feature UDFA at right guard.
The Jets have done everything they could to load their offense with talent. There's a first round pick at every position- sometimes multiple first rounders- except for offensive guard. The Jets have molded their offense around the players on their roster, allowing the offense to play to each player's strengths. If a player in injured, however, there has to be different plays for each player. Tomlinson will catch the ball. Greene will not. Edwards and Holmes play entirely different games from the rest of the receivers on the depth chart.
On the other hand, the Patriots have gone for an interchangeable offense. No piece is irreplaceable. Instead of loading up on top talent on offense, the Patriots have focused on getting players who can fit into the offense, regardless of the cost. Kevin Faulk goes down? Up comes Danny Woodhead. No Wes Welker? Julian Edelman should step up in a similar role. No Randy Moss? Well, Brandon Tate can run the out route (and can drop the ball just as well!). The Patriots have a model for their offense- it's up to the team to acquire players to fit that mold.
Let's look at the defense after the jump!
DE - Ron Brace, 2nd round pick by the Patriots
NT - Vince Wilfork, 1st round pick by the Patriots
DE - Brandon Deaderick, 7th round pick by the Patriots
OLB - Jermaine Cunningham, 2nd round pick by the Patriots
ILB - Jerod Mayo, 1st round pick by the Patriots
CB - Devin McCourty, 1st round pick by the Patriots
SS - Pat Chung, 2nd round pick by the Patriots
FS - Brandon Meriweather, 1st round pick by the Patriots
There's a lot of home grown talent on the Patriots defense. In fact, only Ninkovich and Arrington were not drafted by the Patriots- and they're not even the first choices at those positions. It could be (weakly) argued that Tully Banta-Cain (7th round pick) and Darius Butler (2nd round pick) could/should be starters at those positions. Also, this does not include Ty Warren (1st round pick) and Leigh Bodden (UDFA by the Browns, then Lions, then Patriots). Add in James Sanders (4th round pick) and there's a defense that's all picked by the front office.
The Patriots like to draft players who can fit into this defense instead of grafting together a defense from players off other teams. None of the top players on the defense were traded for and were all either picked up in free agency or drafted. This defense is hand selected.
DE - Shaun Ellis, 1st round pick by the Jets
NT - Sione Pouha, 3rd round pick by the Jets
DE - Mike DeVito, UDFA pick-up by the Jets
OLB - Bryan Thomas, 1st round pick by the Jets
ILB - David Harris, 2nd round pick by the Jets
CB - Darrelle Revis, 1st round pick by the Jets
CB - Antonio Cromartie, 1st round pick by the Chargers, acquired by the Jets for a 2nd or 3rd round pick
FS - Brodney Pool, 2nd round pick by the Browns, picked up by the Jets
Once again, it seems like the Jets are stacked with first round talent on defense. In addition to featuring three undrafted free agents, the Jets have 5 first round picks on defense, 2 second round picks and a third round pick. That's some top talent. It's interesting to see where the Jets have placed their top talent. They have invested top draft picks, or taken players who were top picks, at the pass rushing positions and at the pass defending positions. The players who sit in the middle of the field (nose tackle, inside linebackers, safeties) are lower draft picks, but are still impressive players.
The Jets defense features a threat at almost every single position, where the Patriots have clear weaknesses on their defense at defensive end. It's obvious how the Jets are much better on defense and it's the caliber of player on defense. Their defensive line may not be better than the Patriots. However, their #2 corner is better than the Patriots' #2 corner. Both of their outside linebackers are superior to any of the Patriots outside linebackers. Bart Scott is a much more complete defender, especially in coverage, than Brandon Spikes and much better at run defense than Gary Guyton.
The Jets have 13 former first round picks as offensive and defensive starters. The Patriots have 5. The Jets have formed their team around the players they have and focus on developing schemes to best utilize the talent of the players on the roster. In comparison, the Patriots form their team and players around the schemes in place and train players to thrive in the system. Yes, the system has changed over the years. Regardless, the Patriots have striven to find players to fit into the system instead of trying to acquire the top available talent and building a plan around whoever signs on the roster.
Which method is better? A system will always beat out individual talent on the long term scale. The Patriots are built to succeed for a long period of time, while the Jets are built to bring the power for only a year or two. Still, for that year or two, the Jets may be stronger than the Patriots. It's clear the Jets have more individual talent on the starter's roster than the Patriots have individual talent. The Patriots are hoping that their scheme can overcome any discrepancy in talent.
Can the scheme beat the individual players? Let's hope it can on Monday.