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Monday night offered a chance to get an up-close look at the New York Jets in their hard-hitting clash against the Baltimore Ravens. The Jets, 10-9 losers, host the New England Patriots on Sunday.
Here are some quick-hit thoughts on the Jets -- who were penalized a whopping 14 times for 125 yards -- and how they apply to next week's game from a Patriots perspective:
|While the Jets had trouble moving the ball, their defense showed it can still stuff the run, as Baltimore's Willis McGahee found out.|
If the Jets can't run, they're in trouble. The Ravens are one of the toughest defenses in the NFL to run against, and when the Jets had that aspect of their offense taken away from them, they were paralyzed. Second-year running back Shonn Greene also had ball-security issues (two fumbles, one lost, one dropped pass). The Patriots had success against the Bengals with a 4-2-5 nickel package that featured bigs up front in Vince Wilfork, Ron Brace, Myron Pryor and Mike Wright. By playing the bigger defensive linemen, the Patriots were sturdy enough against the run but also had help on the back end against the pass. Look for the same package in Week 2, with the Patriots treating tight end Dustin Keller like a receiver.
Sanchez remains a big question mark. Second-year Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez finished 10-of-21 for 74 yards and couldn't lead the offense to a touchdown despite the Jets' defense producing three turnovers -- one deep in Ravens territory. The jump from rookie to Year 2 usually produces significant progress, but Sanchez took a step backward in his first game. The Jets were 1-of-11 on third down. The Patriots' game plan figures to be simple: Take away the run and see whether Sanchez has what it takes to beat them.
Attacking defense plays on the edge. The Jets' defense, which lost nose tackle Kris Jenkins to a knee injury on the second series, looks as ferocious as last season's unit, which battered Tom Brady in a Week 2 New York win. The Jets were one of the heaviest-blitzing teams in the league last season and should be again this season, with the potential to control a game by speeding up a quarterback's decision-making process and forcing him into mistakes. However, the Jets' aggressiveness against the Ravens often left defensive backs in one-on-one matchups down the field, and those defensive backs were flagged for several costly penalties, with rookie Kyle Wilson exposed as not being ready for prime time. If Brady has time in the pocket -- a big if against an aggressive defense like the Jets' -- look for him to target Wilson and Antonio Cromartie. Screen plays also are likely to be introduced into the mix as a way of slowing the Jets' attacking ways.
Tough to run inside on the Jets. Even with the loss of the massive Jenkins on the interior of the defense, the Jets were tough against the run up the middle. The Ravens' best success seemed to come on runs to the outside, but even that was tough sledding. Baltimore finished with 35 rushes for just 49 yards (1.4-yard average. One way the Patriots might combat this is with wide receiver screen plays, which often are an extension of the running game and force defensive backs to tackle in space. Still, the Jets tackled well against the Ravens.
Special teams are an extension of the defense. Just as the Jets' defense can control a game with its turnover-driven approach, so too can their special teams units. Punter Steve Weatherford had four of his six punts inside the 20, and punt returner Jim Leonard is a playmaker who helped shift field position against the Ravens. The Patriots got off to a strong start on special teams against the Bengals, but the challenge is a bigger one against the Jets.
As with the Patriots, left guard might be an issue. The Jets released veteran Alan Faneca in the offseason and replaced him with Matt Slauson, and that's the soft spot on the offensive line. Slauson was bulldozed by Haloti Ngata in the fourth quarter as Sanchez was sacked on a crucial third down. The Patriots created pass-rush opportunities for their big offensive linemen against the Bengals, and they figure to again target that area to create more favorable matchups against the Jets' line.
Tomlinson still going strong. Signed to be a change-of-pace option behind Green, veteran running back LaDainian Tomlinson was the Jets' best offensive player (11 carries, 62 yards; 2 catches, 16 yards). Identifying which running back is in the game, and knowing the contrasts of their styles, will be an important part of the Patriots' defensive plan.
Smith and the pistol. Given the Jets' struggles in the conventional offense, they sometimes turn to receiver Brad Smith as a quarterback with the pistol offense. They did it against the Ravens in the first half with limited success, but somewhat similar to the Dolphins and the Wildcat, future opponents must prepare for the changeup.
Mike Reiss covers the Patriots for ESPN Boston. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.