Wednesday, December 25, 2013
Jets grinding it out with a vengeance
By Matt Ehalt
FLORHAM PARK,N.J. -- Ground and pound is back in the New York Jets' dictionary.
The Jets' rushing attack is clicking on all cylinders as they have averaged 171.7 rushing yards per game the past three weeks, and have rushed for at least 150 yards in each game. They set their season-high Sunday against Cleveland with 208 yards in their 24-13 win.
"As far as running the ball, I think the guys are doing a great job. Our backs are hitting it, and our offensive line just seems to be progressing a little bit," Jets coach Rex Ryan said Monday. "Obviously, now we’ve had a whole season together, and I think guys know each other, and it seems like we’re really hitting our stride right now."
The Jets have rushed the ball well all season, as they are sixth in the NFL with 133.6 rushing yards per game, but the past three games has been their best three-game stretch this season. The 208 yards vs. Cleveland are the most the Jets have rushed for since Oct. 14, 2012.
Making those totals more impressive is each of those defenses ranked in the top 10 in the NFL when the teams clashed. Carolina ranked first entering the game, Cleveland was eighth, and Oakland ranked 10th. All three of those rush defenses still rank in the top half of the NFL.
"As offensive lineman, we take a lot of pride in that," Jets right tackle Austin Howard said of the success against top rush defenses. "We take a lot of pride in honestly, running the ball on whoever. Whenever we can get a game with high running yardage, as well as a game where we can say we gave up few sacks, if not zero sacks, we take a lot of pride in that. That's always been our emphasis up front."
Jets right guard Willie Colon credited center Nick Mangold for putting the team in the right spot at the line, and said there has been a higher level of execution. Howard complimented the work of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell during that stretch. Ivory has rushed for at least 66 yards in each of the three games, including 109 against Cleveland, and Powell has been solid.
Quarterback Geno Smith has also helped out, as he's rushed for at least 44 yards in each of the three games. It's no surprise that he and the team have played better these past three weeks as the running game has dominated. The Jets went 2-1 in those games.
"The offensive line has been playing great. They’ve pretty much have been all season, but as of late they’ve really picked it up," Smith said Monday. "Chris and Bilal have done a tremendous job in the run game, and I commend them for it, because it makes my job a lot easier when those guys are running the way that they are. It really helps our offense out and keeps it to manageable third downs and it keeps us on pace."