Everything seems to be falling into place for a big New England Patriots’ victory in Week 3 of the 2019 NFL season. The Patriots enter this contest having won their first two games by a combined tally of 76-3. Newly acquired wide receiver Antonio Brown seems to be on the same page with Tom Brady. The Patriots’ defense has not allowed a touchdown since the AFC Championship Game. Adding to this level of confidence is the fact that the New York Jets are coming to town. A team down to their third string quarterback, missing starters on both sides of the ball, and sporting an 0-2 record.
Put this together and you have the Patriots favored by over twenty points on Sunday.
Yet if there is a potential area where the Jets could pose some problems for New England, it might be when the Patriots have the football. Despite their two-straight losses, the Jets have shown an ability to get after opposing passers. They knocked Josh Allen around a bit in Week 1, and they harassed Baker Mayfield early and often on Monday night. Even playing with some backups and reserves, the Jets’ pass rush has been impressive at times, and it is due to a combination of scheme and individual effort.
Winning One on Ones
We will get to the scheme component in a minute, as Gregg Williams has dialed up some stunt and blitz packages that are definitely going to be on Brady’s radar this week, but some of their pressure has been due to pure individual effort. Henry Anderson might be getting a lot of attention right now, but really it has come from a number of different players.
Let’s look at these successive plays against Allen and the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. The first play comes on a 1st and 10 early in the first quarter. Allen (#17) aligns in the shotgun and the Jets respond with a package using three down linemen, and three linebackers:
Anderson (#96) aligns in a wide alignment outside the right tackle, while nose tackle Steve McClendon (#99) puts himself in the A-Gap between the right guard and the center. Leonard Williams (#92) is in the B-Gap, between the left guard and the left tackle. Linebacker Jordan Jenkins (#48) is in a two-point stance, outside the tight end.
New York does not blitz on this play, as they rush Jenkins off the edge with the three down linemen. But watch the push Williams gets against left guard Quinton Spain (#67):
Williams does not get home, but he flushes Allen to the QB’s right. That’s when Anderson is able to peel off the right tackle and force the quarterback to throw this away in the general direction of Zay Jones. The push on the interior flushes the quarterback into the path of oncoming danger, and seeing a guard driven back into the lap of the QB is reminiscent of one of the Miami Dolphins’ two sacks last Sunday.
Now let’s watch the very next snap. On this play the Jets again rush just four, out of an alignment that puts both Jenkins and Anderson on the line with each defender in a two-point stance. What you should pay attention to here is the pass rushing plan from Jenkins, who uses upper body strength to beat left tackle Dion Dawkins (#73):
Jenkins is able to get into Dawkins and lock out his arms initially, and then stacks and sheds him almost effortlessly to get to Allen. The hit on the QB knocks the ball out, and the Jets recover.
Turning to Week 2 against the Cleveland Browns, we can talk about Basham. Pressed into action due to injuries, he has impressed so far in 2019, as relayed to me by Connor Rogers on the most recent episode of The Scho Show. Here the Browns face a 1st and 10 in Jets’ territory early in the second quarter, and they put Mayfield (#6) in the shotgun:
Similar to the previous example, New York has both Anderson and Basham (#93) in a two-point stance on each edge. They rush just four here, but Basham has a great pass rushing plan for this play. He keeps his hands active, counters the movement of the left tackle well, and employs a late rip with his left arm to help him run the arc to Mayfield:
Now, the QB could do a better job at getting the ball out of his hands on this play, but Basham approaches this rep with a great plan of attack, and he executes it very well to get the sack.
Gregg Williams is perhaps most known - schematically - for aligning his free safety as a punt returner. But while that might garner the most attention on your Twitter timeline, his ability to scheme pressure using stunts and blitzes is what is going to keep Dante Scarnecchia up nights this week. Over the past two weeks, Williams has shown a willingness to move defenders around up front and create some pressure using stunts and blitzes.
Here is the first example, from Week 1. Buffalo faces and 15 in their own territory and line up with Allen in the shotgun. The Jets have some substitutes in the game, including Bronson Kaufusi (#91) and first-round selection Quinnen Williams (#93). Here is how the defense aligns:
Basham is on the right edge of the defense in a two-point stance, and Kaufusi is also upright.
The Jets show Allen a bit of a twist, literally and figuratively:
Basham rushes off the edge, but L. Williams drops into underneath coverage. On the opposite side the Jets employ a tackle-end stunt (“TEX”) with Kaufusi attacking inside while Q. Williams loops behind him to the outside. Watch as Allen gets baited into thinking he can escape to the outside of Kaufusi, before Q. Williams shuts the door:
Allen manages to escape and turn this into a four-yard gain, but 42-year old Brady might not have that club in his bag anymore. The offensive line will need to do a good job at passing off stunts like this, and Brady will need to be smarter in how he handles the pocket. Probably a safe assumption.
Next up, Coach Williams gets a bit more exotic. With just over a minute remaining in the first half back in Week 1, the Bills face a 2nd and 10 near midfield. Allen aligns in the shotgun, and the Jets show the second-year quarterback this defensive front:
Using 2-4-5 personnel the Jets get into a four-man defensive front, with Jenkins and Harvey Langi (#44) on the edge. Linebackers C.J. Mosley (#57) and Neville Hewitt (#46) are in the box, as well as safety Jamal Adams (#33) who is lurking. At this point Allen cannot know who is coming or going, but with Adams shaded to the running back, and not covering the tight end, there is at least a risk the safety is blitzing.
Here is what G. Williams dials up:
You could term this a Will/Safety/Nose stunt, as nose tackle L. Williams, aligned in the B-Gap between the left tackle and left guard, loops to the opposite A-Gap. As he vacates that side of the formation, both Hewitt and Adams blitz. With Jenkins rushing off the edge, that creates three different one-on-ones: Jenkins on the LT, Adams on the running back, and Hewitt on the LG.
Hewitt wins his:
The linebacker employs a speed rushing move on Spain, getting past him quickly with a juke and getting to Allen. The QB is forced to make a quick throw under pressure that falls incomplete.
Allen would throw an interception on the next snap.
Finally, another example of G. Williams dialing up a twist, this time against the Browns on Monday night. On this play late in the first half the Jets get pressure with a three-man rush plus a spy on this design:
This is a weak end/nose stunt, with the nose tackle and one defensive end slanting to their right, as Kaufusi loops around behind them to the opposite edge. Hewitt is employed as a spy on this play. It gets the job done:
Mayfield sees the initial slants from Basham and L. Williams and tries to escape to the edge, but that is when Kaufusi arrives on his loop. That forces the QB back to his left, and he briefly escapes the pocket and attempts a downfield throw. That attempt comes just as the cavalry arrives, and the pass is batted down for an incompletion.
Again, things are in place for the Patriots to have a huge day against the Jets on Sunday. But if there is a potential Achilles’ Heel for New England this weekend, it might be the matchup between their offensive line - and potentially two reserve offensive tackles - against this groups of Jets’ pass rushers and what Gregg Williams can scheme together from his defense.