X's & O's thought: Load up on DL?

October, 19, 2013
10/19/13
3:00
PM ET
The Jets don't lead the league in rushing yards or attempts, but head coach Rex Ryan has long admired the ground-and-pound offensive philosophy. New York ran the football 32 times against the Patriots back in Week 2 and may look to do more of the same this Sunday.

As was evident last week when the Patriots dedicated resources to shutting down Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, Bill Belichick is at his best when he is able to take away an opponent's best weapon.

In the case of the Jets, who are rolling with the tide of ups-and-downs from rookie quarterback Geno Smith, their dedication to rushing the football is arguably the strength of their offense.

Neblett
Neblett
Now, the Patriots can't force the Jets to abandon the run entirely, but they can do their best to control the ground game early on. One thought on a way to load the box up and defend against the run would be to utilize an additional defensive tackle, perhaps Andre Neblett, in an end formation.

With Jerod Mayo out for the year, the Patriots may be able to utilize Rob Ninkovich as a strongside linebacker near the line of scrimmage, opening a spot along the line. As was witnessed on Thursday night by the Seahawks, an oversized defensive end (Red Bryant stands at 300-plus pounds) can be a boon to a team's run defense.

So while the Patriots could opt for a simple plug-and-play method to fill Mayo's void (perhaps Dane Fletcher or Jamie Collins would get a start), one wrinkle that may serve the team well to stop the run would be to use a four-man defensive line that includes two traditional defensive tackles, one traditional defensive end and one more defensive tackle aligning in an end's stance.

If the Patriots can force Smith to have to beat them with his arm, the Jets may turn the football over as a result, just as they did four times in Week 2.
Field Yates has previous experience interning with the New England Patriots on both their coaching and scouting staffs. A graduate of Wesleyan University (CT), he is a regular contributor to ESPN Boston's Patriots coverage and ESPN Insider.

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