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Monday, December 6, 2010
Jets blitz effectiveness is huge stat key

By John Parolin

In 2009, the New York Jets defense was a dynamic and unpredictable unit, blitzing on over half of the dropbacks against them. The results were strong, as the Jets defense allowed just one 300-yard passer in 2009, and held 11 of the 16 quarterbacks they faced to passer ratings under 70.

But a year later, teams have started to figure out the Jets defense. While the Jets are still blitzing on a higher percentage of dropbacks than everyone but the Saints (47.2 pct), they’ve been more conservative with their defensive play calling, and that (plus a year’s worth of game film) has helped opposing quarterbacks in 2010.

Their opponent Monday night is the only passer who topped 300 yards against the Jets last season. Tom Brady threw for 310 yards in the New England Patriots’ 31-14 victory in Week 11 at Gillette Stadium.

Tom Brady
Brady
However, Brady has struggled against defensive back pressure this season. His 69.5 passer rating when opponents send a defensive back ranks seventh-worst in the NFL, and that weakness was his Achilles heel in New England’s Week 2 loss at the Meadowlands.

Brady faced secondary pressure on 19 of his 37 dropbacks against the Jets, including Antonio Cromartie’s third-quarter interception that was the turning point of the game. The Jets scored 18 unanswered points after the Cromartie pick, and Brady finished 10-18 for 151 yards, an interception, and a sack against defensive back blitzes in the 28-14 loss.

The Jets happen to be one of the most prolific teams in the NFL at blitzing defensive backs, particularly on third down. Last season on third down, the Jets sent defensive backs after the quarterback on 85 of 168 dropbacks, easily the highest percentage in the NFL (50.6).

This season, the Jets have been even more aggressive, sending defensive backs on 79 of 136 third-down dropbacks through the first 11 games (58.1). However, the predictability of secondary pressure is making it easier for offenses to anticipate the rush.

In Week 1, the Jets sent defensive backs on third down for 9 of Joe Flacco’s 15 dropbacks, and Flacco was 6-9 for 88 yards with all 6 completions resulting in first downs. Flacco’s success came from keeping his throws short--Flacco averaged 8.5 air yards per pass against the secondary blitz, while opposing quarterbacks averaged 11.7 air yards per attempt against defensive back blitzes in the 9 Jets victories this season.