I had the opportunity to ask John B of Gang Green Nation five questions about Sunday's game. He's extremely knowledgeable and I'd like to thank him for his time!
1. Who will be the most important Jets weapon on offense?
I guess the cliched answer would be Mark Sanchez. In three of New York's five losses, the defense gave up less than 10 points, but New York lost because of an anemic passing attack. The Jets have an excellent run game and defense. If they get an adequate game out of Sanchez, they will be in just about any contest.
Last week the Jets ran the ball at will on the Colts. They pushed around Indy's undersized front to the point where the Colts were stacking eight or nine in the box and still couldn't stop the run. The Jets didn't really need to throw it to find success in the second half. That will not be the case this week. The Pats are bigger and have guys more stout against the run. If they really want to take away the run by putting eight or nine up, they will. The Jets need more out of the passing game to keep this from happening.
If you're looking for another guy, it's Dustin Keller. He had a huge game in Week 2 and was I thought underutilized in Week 13. I think he causes matchup problems for the Pats. I think he's more athletic than the linebackers New England will put out there. If they put a safety on him, that safety can't help on Braylon Edwards deep. If they put Devin McCourty on Edwards, Santonio Holmes will have a big edge running underneath on the other corner. If they put an additional defensive back on the field to cover Keller, the Jets would love that since it gives their offensive line a big edge in the run game. I think the Jets really need to build their passing game off Keller this week. When they have done that this year, they have had much success.
Read the rest after the jump!
2. Have the Jets improved at safety since Week 13?
I think they have. Entering that game, Brodney Pool was playing free safety, and Eric Smith was playing strong safety. Pool had been something of a bust replacing Kerry Rhodes. Smith is stout against the run but not athletic enough to take on a fast tight end all the way down the field. An injury to Smith forced the Jets to move corner Dwight Lowery to safety. Many Jets fans had been calling for the move for years. Lowery is at his best playing zone, diagnosing things in front of him, and jumping routes. Lowery played free safety. Pool moved to strong safety, where his play has taken off. He has been much more of a force playing near the line. He made three open field tackles on third down against the Colts. He has also been a much stronger man to man cover man than either Smith or Jim Leonhard.
Leonhard was good against the run, but his small stature made him something of a liability in coverage against big tight ends. Pool has provided the Jets everything Jim did against the run and is better against the pass. The Jets signed him to replace Rhodes, but his skill set makes him a better replacement for Leonhard. I think part of Pool's struggles early were because he and Jim did the same things well so they kind of made each other redundant. Lowery's play deep is a better compliment to Pool.
3. Are there any serious injuries that might hurt the Jets?
Damien Woody is out. His backup, Wayne Hunter, started three games near the end of the regular season and was excellent. He shut down Julius Peppers and played well against Lamarr Woodley. Rex Ryan has called him the best backup tackle in football. I think the Jets will get good play out of him, but I'm not going to pretend losing Woody is anything less than a loss. Damien played like one of the top ten tackles in the game this year in my opinion.
Brad Smith is also questionable with a groin injury. He was a terrific kickoff return man. Antonio Cromartie is extremely athletic and had a huge game in Smith's place against the Colts. I think the Jets would miss Brad more as a Wildcat quarterback. They run a lot of traditional options out of the package, which Smith had a lot of experience running in college. This is opposed to the zone read heavy package a lot of teams run. Even if the Jets find a replacement, they'll have to scale back the package if Brad isn't in there.
Mark Sanchez is nursing a shoulder injury. I'm not sure we'll really know the extent until the season ends, but he was terrific against the Bears and had a good second half against the Colts with it. I'm not sure how big of a factor it will be. If he gets hit hard there, it might be something to watch.
4. How can the Patriots best slow down Mark Sanchez?
It's a great question. I think a lot of Sanchez's play is out of New England's hands. I have seen him face complicated attacks, take hits and make big plays in some games. I have seen him struggle while his protection has kept him clean in others. He's your typicial inexperienced quarterback still growing in the league.
The Jets have tried to get him into the flow with a lot of simple passes early in games. We see slants and bootlegs. I would probably tell my defenders to gamble and jump everything short to force the Jets to adjust and perhaps rattle Sanchez. There have been times where he has carried a slow start for the rest of the game. This kind of approach has its gambles. It leaves you vulnerable to the deep ball as the Jets have receivers who can get open long. Sanchez also loves to pump fake (almost to a fault) so an overly aggressive defender can run himself out of position. To shut him down, though, I think you want him trying a lot of tough passes. Green Bay had a great deal of success with this approach.
5. What is the biggest strength and weakness of the Jets defense?
The biggest strength is the interior run defense. They have a lot of guys capable of consistently winning matchups up front. They have Mike Devito and Sione Pouha on the defensive line and Bart Scott and David Harris at linebacker. It's very tough to run it up the middle on these guys.
I think the biggest weakness is the inconsistency of the pass rush. There are talented guys there, and they have had games living in the opposing backfield. They have also had games where they have barely gotten to the quarterback.
Thanks John B for answering the questions!