Florham Park, N.J.– “Obviously, we’re not going anywhere if we can’t play better defense than that.” Rex Ryan said immediately following the Jets loss to Chicago.
That’s about as big of an understatement as simply saying this has been an atypical season of football, especially for the Jets organization.
After the offense struggled to put any points on the board for a couple of weeks, they finally showed some life in Pittsburgh and exploded for a huge game in Chicago, the fact that they did it against two of the league’s best defenses makes it that much more impressive.
The problem is as soon as the offense took off the defense imploded, which just about sums up this Jets season to a tee.
All year long the Jets failed to play an all-around great game (the Buffalo game being the single exception), either the offense played great and defense was terrible, or the offense was shockingly unproductive and the defense played amazing and some games the Jets were bailed out or hurt on special teams.
The Jets were able to coast by on their unbalanced play early in the season against inferior competition, but they will need to put together three straight complete games from every part of the team if they have any chance of reaching their desired goal of the Super Bowl.
With the offense finally seeming like it’s found a rhythm, it’s the defense that needs to get their act together. After dominating opposing team’s passing attack last season with their exotic blitz schemes, teams have learned how to effectively game plan against the blitzes allowing the quarterbacks to pick out the matchup they like best and exploit the holes in the Jets defense.
There are three major gapping holes in the Jets defense right now, with many other cracks branching off from them for teams to game plan to take advantage of. Those holes are; little to no pass rush with the front four, lousy coverage from the third, fourth corners and safeties and there is nothing stopping teams from repeatedly picking the Jets defense apart with underneath routes over the middle.
The front four has been unable to apply any pressure on the quarterback without extra blitz help and even when that comes teams are prepared for it and run specific plays designed to beat the blitzes. The more time the quarterback has the easier it becomes for him to dance around until a receiver breaks off his route and beats a cornerback making for an easy completion.
Darrelle Revis is playing at his typical elite level and Antonio Cromartie has had a overall solid year, but quarterbacks are deciding to go after the likes of Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery. Both those players have played well at times and have contributed with extremely big plays, but they are both giving up too many big plays as well. They need to focus on fundamentals like making sure their head is turned around to play the ball so they don’t look so lost when the quarterback drops a deep bomb to the receiver standing right next to them.
Of course the underneath routes and anything in the middle of the field has been the defense’s achilles heel all season long. At times it seems like the Jets are just openly daring teams to pass over the middle and teams have been more than happy to do just that. Another problem that has been consistently killing the Jets is too often teams are taking advantage of not just mismatches, but matchups that the Jets have zero chance of winning. Jason Taylor, David Harris, Calvin Pace or Bart Scott can not be expected to cover the opposing teams running backs deep down the field, yet for some reason we keep seeing the Jets try and get burnt by doing so.
Today Ryan said the focus for the defense is getting back to fundamentals, fix the little things and everything will fall into place is what Ryan is thinking.
“Even in the meetings I asked (Mike) Pettine, ‘hey let me run the base meeting today,’ and so I just wanted to talk about things.” Ryan said today, “How we do things and our way and all that kind of stuff, just because sometimes when you get going along so much and the practices are cut down a little bit, the thing that you should lean on the most you get away from. That’s your technique, the alignment, they become big issues and that’s what we have to dial in and I challenged all the players this week to get better. Individually get better, set out to get better individually.”
Unless these holes get fixed the Jets have no chance of going into New England and getting a win, in fact just shutting down the Chiefs or the Colts might prove to be too difficult a task.
The talent and ability is clearly there, but they just can’t afford to play anywhere near as bad as they did on Sunday, because ultimately Ryan is right, no team not just the Jets, can possibly hope to get anywhere in the playoffs playing this poor defensively.
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