Redemption. That is all.
1. Defend the Outlet -
Week 1: Reggie Bush, 9 receptions, 56 yards, 1 touchdown
Week 2: Ryan Mathews, 7 receptions, 62 yards; Mike Tolbert, 8 receptions, 73 yards
Week 3: Fred Jackson, 5 receptions, 87 yards
Week 4: Darren McFadden, 4 receptions, 48 yards; Michael Bush, 4 receptions, 55 yards
That's a sad list of the outlet receivers for opposing quarterbacks thus far in the season. These running backs have been able to wreak havoc on the defense and pick up easy first downs to move the chains. This week, the Patriots will be facing LaDainian Tomlinson, one of the best running backs of the past decade. He doesn't have tread left in the running game, but he remains a huge threat as a receiver out of the backfield. Tomlinson is #2 on the Jets in receiving yards, with 200 yards on 13 receptions, which means that he could be looking at anywhere from 3 or more passing attempts in the game. Mark Sanchez has only been able to move the chains with quick, short passes, so eliminating Tomlinson will take away one of the Jets' priority targets on offense.
This whole season, Jerod Mayo and the other linebackers have been sitting too deep in the middle of the field and have been surrendering easy outlet passes. They haven't been just five or seven yards deep and away from the outlet receiver, but they've been ten or fifteen yards deep. That distance is too far to stop opposing quarterbacks from making the easy pass. The Patriots must designate a defensive player, like Pat Chung or Dane Fletcher, to shadow the outlet receiver if they want to take away one of Sanchez's favorite target.
2. Watch the Tight End -
Week 1: Anthony Fasano, 5 receptions, 82 yards
Week 4: Kevin Boss, 4 receptions, 78 yards
Dustin Keller is the Jets' #1 receiver, but he's not without a weakness. According to Pro Football Focus, 14 of Keller's 18 receptions have taken place in the middle of the field, and 10 of those receptions have taken place within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. Keller's find a space in the zone between the two linebackers, or between the linebackers and the safeties, and making the play. In order to counter Keller, the Patriots must not only hit Keller at the line, but they must treat him like they treated Antonio Gates. Keller deserves man coverage, just like the outlet receiver. A player like Rob Ninkovich or Andre Carter should chip Keller at the line before a next level player, like Sergio Brown or Josh Barrett, takes control and sticks Keller like glue.
Of course, the Patriots saw more success in a zone look against the Raiders, so they must find a way to mix defensive looks and vary whether they put a linebacker or a defensive back on the outlet and the tight end.
3. Create Pressure - The Patriots have struggled to generate consistent pressure in recent weeks, but it's imperative that they get at Mark Sanchez in the pocket. Sanchez is far from an elite quarterback, but when he throws under pressure, he only completes 30.3% of his passes for 108 yards (3.3 ypa). When he's not pressured, he hits 62.3% of his passes for 897 yards (7.9 ypa). With the current state of the Patriots' defense, they can't afford not to pressure Sanchez.
In order to generate pressure, the Patriots defensive backs have two options: the physical defensive backs (Ras-I Dowling, Pat Chung, Kyle Arrington) must jam their receivers at the line, while the more finesse corners (Devin McCourty, Leigh Bodden) must play at a mid-depth to prevent quick throws to the receivers. The defensive front six (assuming the Patriots are playing with five defensive backs) must mix up their looks. The Ravens were lining up six defenders at the line and only sending five into the backfield.
The strategy was that the Jets didn't know which pass rusher wasn't crashing the house.As a result, they couldn't prepare to defend the rush and players were left unblocked. The defensive player who didn't rush the quarterback played the middle zone to prevent a throw in the middle of the field. The pass rusher who was picked up by the running back had to make the decision of whether the running back was a blocker or an outlet receiver and decide whether to keep attacking or follow the outlet player.
4. Protect Brady - This is a throwback to the playoffs. Tom Brady saw ghosts and was shaky the rest of the game. The offensive line must keep the Jets defensive front from generating pressure and hitting Brady. The Patriots should keep a running back in the field at all times because the Jets love to blitz with their defensive backs. Whatever happens, the Patriots must keep Brady clean.
5. Don't Rely on Welker - Wes Welker will most likely draw Darelle Revis in coverage. As a result, Welker will most likely be limited as a pass option for Brady. If he's not open, the Patriots must find an alternative player to involve in the offense. Rob Gronkowski could be a target up the seam, but he was needed in the run blocking game against the Raiders. Deion Branch and Chad Ochocinco have been quiet the past couple of weeks. If Aaron Hernandez plays, the offense will have the benefit of an additional star receiver and targets will open up down the field. If he cannot play, the offense must utilize the run game to gain yards. Brady cannot afford to turn the ball over by forcing it to a covered receiver. Instead, they should run the ball and take the safe yards. This will be the weakest Rex Ryan Jets defense they've faced (which means they're still a top defense, but they're not as good as they have been). Brady and the offense must take advantage of this opportunity and spread the ball and diversify the play calling.