Posted by ESPN.com’s Pat Yasinskas
Five nuggets of knowledge about this weekend’s games:
To blitz or not to blitz. I respect the heck out of what Rex Ryan has done with the Jets defense. But I find it ironic that a lot of people just assume the best way to stop Drew Brees and the New Orleans offense is to blitz as frequently as the Jets have been. That actually may be a formula for disaster because Brees isn’t like other quarterbacks. He’s actually better under pressure, mostly because he can identify it so well and react to it. While it might make sense to pressure another quarterback, blitzing Brees might make him do things like check off and throw to Marques Colston in single coverage.
Saints come marching in. Amid all the talk about the New Orleans offense going against the New York defense, the flip side has kind of gotten lost. Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez has played well, but the Saints will come after him. The Saints have forced mistakes by young quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Kevin Kolb in recent weeks. They’re going to keep doing that and, before we realize it, the Saints are going to be ready to challenge some experienced quarterbacks. That’s why they’re shaping up as a very dangerous team.
Johnson starts. I see nothing wrong with the Bucs starting Josh Johnson at quarterback against the Redskins. This team needs a spark that Byron Leftwich wasn’t providing. Maybe the Bucs will hit on something with Johnson and maybe not. There’s nothing to lose here because the expectations on the Bucs are minimal and the pressure on the Redskins is huge. In a worst-case scenario, Johnson plays like the late-round pick he was and the Bucs move on to first-round pick Josh Freeman in a couple of weeks. In a best-case scenario, Johnson plays well and the Bucs can continue to let Freeman sit.
Stick with the plan. I think the largest problem with the Bucs is their defense. They spent the whole offseason talking about how they were going away from the Tampa Two scheme and we’ve seen them revert back to it at times in the last two weeks. That’s not going to help in the big picture. When you start a rebuilding project, you stick with it. It’s accepted that it might be ugly in the short term. But you can’t worry about the short term.
Enjoy the bye. Carolina and Atlanta have byes this weekend. If I’m Atlanta coach Mike Smith, I’m telling my team to relax, enjoy the weekend and come back ready to practice on Monday. If I’m Carolina coach John Fox, I’m sitting in my office watching film of the early days with the Panthers and doing my best to remember what a Fox-coached football team is supposed to look like ... before it's too late.