Florham Park, N.J.- The Jets have all sorts of problems that need to get worked out if they hope to be as good as they think they can be, but their two biggest problems, by far, revolve around the running game.
The league may have changed into a more pass oriented league than ever before, but being able to run the ball consistently as well as stop the other team from running the ball are still two of the biggest factors separating winning teams from losing teams. Right now the Jets have been atrocious in the run game on both sides of the ball. Rex Ryan and his coaching staff knows this and for yesterday’s practice they decided they needed to do something different to put an emphasis on the running game on both sides of the ball.
“(At) Practice yesterday, we went into it thinking, ‘alright this is going to be a nosebleed Wednesday,’ and that’s exactly what it was. Even though it was a Thursday technically, it was a nosebleed Wednesday, meaning that it’s the first day of the work week where you’re preparing for the other team.” Rex Ryan said, “But we put in an extra period and this was one of our coaches ideas and I thought it was a great one.
“It was one of those things I talked about, I challenged the staff to come up with things that we think will help our team. So each guy has a card and I look at those things, you get a lot of great information off of those things. One of those things was to have a little period, maybe about an eight minute period where it’s just base runs versus your defense. It’s ones-versus-ones and it’s your base power box running game against the defense and we lined up, we played all the fronts, so this week they’re (Texans) a big under team, they’ll play odd, do different things but we put our guys out there and just put the ball down and said, ‘let’s have at it.’ It was all runs, there was one play-action pass in there and everyone knows it’s coming and I challenged our guys to really compete against each other.”
On offense the Jets rushing attack ranks 24th in the league, 107 attempts for 346 yards for a lousy 3.2 yard per carry and 86.5 per game, hardly numbers that would imply a ground and pound philosophy. On defense the Jets rank second to last in stopping the run allowing 691 yards through the first four games and an average of 4.9 per carry and 172.8 yards a game. It’s actually astounding to look at these stats and think the Jets are somehow 2-2. If you can’t run the ball and you can’t stop the run, you’re bound to lose many games. Something had to change and Ryan said this idea for the extra practice session came from offensive line coach Dave DeGulielmo. An extra focus on the run game and teammates competing full speed against each other during an added session was this week’s new wrinkle to get the most of the players on both sides of the ball.
“The only way you get better is when you go full speed on each other and that’s what we got back to and that’s what we did. It was really an outstanding period to the point where I was like, ‘oh man, is that it?’ You know the period was over and you were like, ‘golly, I wish we could keep it going.’ So that was really good, that was a little different thing we did and then just the focus and guys really competing against each other knowing that that’s what we have to do to get better.” Ryan said, “Even the guys on the other side of the ball, it’s the same thing. If you’re not working hard, you’re not going to get better. So it’s a win-win situation when you put that type of emphasis on it and we certainly did. It wasn’t about taking care of each other, you’re taking care of each other by competing at 100 percent level against each other and I thought we did a great job of that yesterday.”
The only thing missing from this extra practice was live tackling. “No it was not live tackling, that was the only thing that was not live about it.” Ryan said, “I mean you had guys splitting double teams, going to the ground on double teams, a lot of that stuff but it was not live tackling.” With the injuries problems the Jets have and the newer rules about limiting full contact practices in season it’s understandable why there was no live tackling, but the intensity definitely increased according to Ryan and that’s exactly what he was looking for.
The biggest reason the defense has struggled to stop the run has been the exceptionally bad tackling. There have been many straight up whiffs by defenders, but as Ryan points out bad tackling isn’t always just about missing the tackle, it’s also about bad positioning.
“We do tackling circuits, we’re incorporating different things. Part of the tackling starts with getting your body in position to make the tackle and a lot of it believe it or not is getting off blocks.” Ryan said, “If you’re stuck on blocks and not using proper technique to get off the blocks, for instance and this makes sense, it’s much harder to make a tackle with one arm than it is two. Okay, so I have to get my body in position to where I clear the block and not just what we call walking off the block.
“If I just go to shed a block and I just walk off it a lot of times you got a guy that’s still on you, if I can clear myself of that than obviously that’s the first step and I have to defeat the block first and then make the tackle. I think some of that is we say it’s a missed tackle, which it is, but I think us getting off blocks will help us tackle better.”
And of course, he’s right. Go ahead, go back and watch the game films. There have been a number of weak tackling attempts, but most of the time the problem has been defenders struggling to release from blocks or taking bad angles or guesses and just ending up way out of position. Most of it is basic, simple technique issues that shouldn’t be happening at this point in the season and it’s the same on the offense. One missed blocked here, a missed assignment over there and all of a sudden the running lane slams shut on the back as he tries to squeeze through.
If these problems continue Ryan will be forced to admit to himself that he just doesn’t have the players to accomplish what he wants to in the run game, for now he’s going to continue little tweaks to get the most he can out of both of these struggling units and having them square off against each other and fight it out is exactly what both sides needed.
“Obviously this week there’s a big emphasis on those two areas we thought we have to improve drastically, is our run defense and being able to run the football, so it worked out perfect where both sides could help each other out.”
“I can give you guys what we’re assuming is going to happen today on the practice field, guys that will not practice; Stephen Hill (hamstring), Sione Po’uha (low back), Dustin Keller (hamstring), Bart Scott (toe), John Conner (hamstring), Bryan Thomas (hamstring) and LaRon Landry (rest/heel), this is what we do with him as you guys know. He’ll go through individual and then that’s it like he always does, it’s not a new injury but that’s his deal. Joe McKnight with an illness, so Joe has been sent home. Guys that will be limited in practice, Eric Smith (hip/knee), Aaron Berry with ribs, I don’t know what happened it wasn’t like he got hit but as he was doing a drill yesterday he was having a tough time. When you get one of those little things, muscle deals or whatever, sometimes you can’t breath but we’ll see he should be limited today.”
On what Hill and Keller missing practice means to their chances of playing Monday night, Ryan said, “Well I mean normally I would say yes because you have that extra day and things, but the fact that they’re out again we’ll see how it goes. I know their making improvements, they’re making strides and hopefully as we get going hopefully they will be able to go, but again the fact now that they’re out another day of practice, isn’t good, but I know for a fact that those guys are getting better.”
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