Florham Park, NJ – The Jets run defense has slipped the last few weeks. After dominating the league as the top unit in football, Gang Green has given up 150 and 125 yards on the ground in their last two games. Now the Panthers—this week’s opponent—have taken the top spot. But has the run defense actually been that bad?

Against the Dolphins the Jets gave up 125 yards, but only for an average of 3.5 YPC. To put that in perspective, both Maurice Jones-Drew and Peyton Hillis are averaging 3.5 YPC this season. Jones-Drew is having a very disappointing season, and Hillis was signed off the street when the Giants were desperate for running back depth.

Despite dropping in the rankings, Muhammad Wilkerson and the Jets have still been a top run defense

There are only three teams this season averaging 3.5 YPC or less: the Steelers, Jaguars and Ravens. Last year there was only one: the Arizona Cardinals. In fact, the Jets lead the league allowing only 3.1 YPC. The Browns are second in the league allowing 3.5 YPC.

The Dolphins were able to rack up 125 yards because they had the ball long enough for 36 carries. The Jets played soft coverage to avoid giving up the big play, and that allowed the Dolphins to convert on 44 percent of their third downs and stay on the field for almost 25 of the first 30 minutes. The best third-down conversion rate in the league is Denver at 48 percent, while the Dolphins rank 22nd with a 35 percent mark.

This past week the Jets gave up 150 yards to the Raiders. 62 of those came on one run by Marcel Reece. The Raiders only managed that same 3.5 YPC for the rest of their carries. That number is with Matt McGloin scampering for 20 yards on just two carries.

This Sunday the Jets go up against the Panthers. They are ninth in the league in rushing with 129.2 yards per game, but they are middle of the pack for YPC with an average of 4.2. And that is factoring in Cam Newton’s numbers, which are 495 yards on 5.6 YPC.

These are the Panthers numbers over the last four games if you remove Cam Newton’s impact: 41 yards (2.56 YPC), 85 (4.0), 95 (3.1), 80 (4.7). That was against the 31st, 23rd, 9th, and 17th ranked run defenses, respectively.

Granted, it isn’t fair to completely remove Newton from the equation. After all, those runs do help the Panthers move the ball down the field. The point is the Jets shouldn’t have much trouble stopping straight up run plays.

But how will the Jets fair against Newton? The Jets have only had three games against a mobile quarterback. The two games against the Bills, and the game last week against the Raiders…even if that was only for one series.

In the first matchup against the Bills the Jets allowed EJ Manuel to run for 40 yards at 6.7 YPC. But in their second matchup Manuel was held to only 9 yards at 1.3 YPC. In his one series Terrelle Pryor ran for only 4 yards at 1.3 YPC.

This season Manuel has run for 149 yards at 3.5 YPC (16.5 yards per game average). So even he isn’t the best comparison to Newton, and as was stated, Pryor was only in the game for one series.

So, while the run defense does not seem to have regressed, this week will be a unique challenge. They have shown an ability to shut down running quarterbacks, but they have not had a challenge like Newton.
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