Florham Park, N.J.– It’s no secret that one of the Jets biggest weaknesses on defense is defending running backs on screen passes. With the Jets being such a heavy blitzing team they often find themselves exposed in the flat and a quick explosive back can pray on this weakness and break off chunks of yardage at a time.
On Sunday the Jets face one of the best running backs in the league when it comes to executing the screen play and in fact Maurice Jones-Drew is really the Jaguars only dangerous weapon on offense. Sure tight-end Marcedes Lewis is a more than solid tight-end and the Jets other biggest weakness on defense is covering quality tight-ends, but the Jaguars have no receivers that scare you so the Jets can key on Lewis in the passing game (maybe even having Revis or Cromartie cover Lewis) with relative ease and that’s assuming Lewis even plays as he sat out of practice today.
According to Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union Lewis, “strained his right calf” in the game against the Titans on Sunday and Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio said on his radio show that, “Lewis would be a question mark for the week.”
With the Jaguars cutting long time starter David Garrard just days before the season began they are left with career backup Luke McCown starting for them at quarterback, until rookie Blaine Gabbert is ready to take the helm. This is not good news for the Jaguars chances this Sunday.
Yes the Jets let Tony Romo rack up what felt like miles worth of yards, but McCown hardly possesses the same skill level of passing as Romo so for the Jaguars to have success moving the ball up and down the field they are going to need their little bowling ball, Jones-Drew to have a big game.
Last week against the Titans, Jones-Drew ran for 97 yards on 24 carries (4.0 yards a carry), but he was also on a bit of a pitch count, or run count if you will. After having offseason knee surgery the Jaguars don’t want to push Jones-Drew too far and cause him to have a setback, but if they plan on winning this game they have to know they will need to ride on the shoulders of their best player.
When Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio was asked if there were any concerns about Jones-Drew’s knee he said, “No, he’s running well and he’s probably as conditioned as he’s been since when he first got here. He’s really done a remarkable job of conditioning his body and getting himself ready to be our bell cow and carry the load for us.”
Rex Ryan also knows the Jaguars will have to lean on Jones-Drew and he also knows just how dangerous Jones-Drew can be from two years ago when he helped the Jaguars pull off a victory against the Jets. Ryan said, “Maurice Jones-Drew is a great back, so we better be ready to go or we’ll get embarrassed again.”
“For me, really I just try to run as hard as I can every play or every time I touch the ball or any time I’m blocking I try to do everything as hard as I can. So obviously there’s some situations where I got to run people over, there’s some situations where I got to shake people or I got to dive for the first down.” Jones-Drew said of his particular running style, “Here we just try to play as hard as we can and that’s how I was raised, leave everything you can on the field on every play and that’s kind of how we’ve been playing here of late and that’s good to see.”
But as hard as he plays every game, he knows he has his hands full against this Jets defense and he is well aware of every little change that has been made to this Jets defense over the past two years.
“It doesn’t help that they drafted these two big rookies (Kenrick Ellis and Muhammad Wilkerson) in there to stop the run… They do a great job of stopping the run. Obviously David Harris, two more years in the league giving him so much more experience. When we played I think he was a rookie, maybe a second year guy, still a little young, now he understands the game.” Jones-Drew said, “Obviously he got the big contract and he deserves that, they add Cromartie who definitely allows them to stack the box more and be able to take care of the outside. So we have some problems we have to deal with.
“Not only that, Bart Scott we always have to deal with him as well and then I think Calvin Pace was out last year too. So he’s coming back in, I mean there’s a lot of things we have to deal with and that’s what we’re working on now. They present so many different matchup problems for us, Leonhard does a great job of getting everybody set, all those different blitzes that they bring. Everything they do gives us some type of problem.”
“I have a different type of competitive edge this week, going against another trash-talker in Bart Scott.” Jones-Drew said, “So that’s going to be, that might be a little more physical.”
When he was asked to clarify if the trash-talking is serious or just good-spirited fun Jones Drew said, “No (it’s not serious), football is a physical sport so that’s just a part of the game. Bart does a great job fitting the run game. When he blitzes, he blitzes with intent to knock the running back over and hurt the quarterback. That’s how you play defense. He plays defense the way I was taught to play, so I respect him a ton. For him, as we see it, as he goes, that defense goes. He brings that fire, that Bart, that tenacity, that physicalness to the defense.”
As for what types of quotables Scott has in response to Jones-Drew’s trash-talking comment, Scott wasn’t in the locker room today. So be sure to check for his response tomorrow, because you know he’s got something entertaining to say about that.
Jones-Drew had a lot of fun with the writers on the conference call today, but in order to make sure they can win the game on Sunday the Jets have to focus on making Jones-Drew miserable instead of his letting him be his usual happy-go-lucky self and that means not only stopping him while running the ball, but stopping him when he catches the ball in the open field as well.
And obviously that’s a whole lot easier said than done.
Other than Logan Payne (wrist) and Rob Turner (leg), David Harris was the only Jet to not participate fully in practice according to Ryan. Harris hurt his toe, but is fully expected to play on Sunday.
Also in roster news, the Jets waived safety Andrew Sendejo just a week after signing him after the Cowboys released him, but after clearing waivers the Jets re-signed Sendejo to the practice squad. The Jets also cut linebacker Matthias Berning from the practice squad and activated WR Patrick Turner to the 53-man roster and added TE Josh Baker to the practice squad.
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