Coach's big decision: Protecting the CBs

September, 15, 2012
9/15/12
8:00
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For only the third time in 50 games as the Jets' coach, Rex Ryan has a game plan that doesn't include CB Darrelle Revis.

Revis (concussion) won't play Sunday against the Steelers, a huge loss that will force Ryan and his staff to make adjustments. The No. 1 priority is to protect a suddenly ordinary secondary from the Steelers' trio of wideouts, Mike Wallace, Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders. And don't forget about former Jets WR Jerricho Cotchery and TE Heath Miller, a couple of possession-type targets.

Does Ryan protect his cornerbacks by taking the aggressive approach, blitzing Ben Roethlisberger, or does he employ a coverage-based plan? If you play the pressure game, it leaves your corners in man-to-man coverage, exposed, if the heat doesn't get to Big Ben. That wouldn't be a wise move, considering the No. 3 and No. 4 corners are Ellis Lankster and Isaiah Trufant, respectively, neither of whom has much experience.

It would pain Ryan to do this, but he may have to play more zone than usual. It would be the safe, conservative route, minimizing big plays. If not, he can leave Antonio Cromartie singled up against a receiver, rolling a safety toward No. 2 corner Kyle Wilson. Problem is, the Steelers like to roll out three-receiver packages. In the opener, they used at least three receivers on 57 plays, second-highest in the league.

S Eric Smith is expected to return from a hip injury, so the Jets can defend with their 'Big Nickel' package -- three safeties. But does anybody honestly think that will work the entire game? No way.

Hey, maybe they'll put RB Joe McKnight at corner; he has worked there in the past in practice. Ryan and right-hand man Mike Pettine are good in crisis-management situations. In 2008, as Ravens assistants, they nearly made it to the Super Bowl with a depleted supply of corners. They lost in the AFC Championship Game.

To the Steelers.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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