Commentary

Jets set to run roughshod over Bills

Sure as a Rex Super Bowl guarantee, Gang Green will try to ground, and pound, Buffalo

Updated: November 3, 2011, 9:49 AM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Each season, you can count on a few things from the New York Jets:

Rex Ryan will make a Super Bowl guarantee. Someone will call out the New England Patriots. An off-the-field controversy will surface.

And the Jets will run the Buffalo Bills into submission.

LaDainian Tomlinson
Kevin Hoffman/US PresswireLaDainian Tomlinson ran over, around and through the Bills in Buffalo last season.

In the previous four meetings, the Jets rushed for a mind-blowing 1,116 yards, an average of 279 per game -- 22 percent of their rushing total over the previous two seasons.

And they don't intend to let up Sunday when they meet at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"We feel like nothing's going to change," left guard Matt Slauson said Wednesday. "We're confident we can run against anyone."

That's interesting, because until their last game, against the San Diego Chargers, the Jets' running game deserved milk-carton status. They were outrushed in the first six games before producing a season-high 162 yards in the 27-21 win over the Chargers.

But they do have that four-game history against the Bills, which includes four 100-yard rushers -- Thomas Jones, Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight, who will have an expanded role Sunday.

So, yeah, the Jets are expecting another monster day on the ground.

"I hope so," tight end Dustin Keller said. "There's no reason why we can't."

The Bills (5-2) added some bite to their toothless run defense, signing former Green Bay Packers linebacker Nick Barnett and drafting lineman Marcell Dareus with the third overall pick. But it's still a weakness, as they're allowing 4.9 yards per carry. They miss nose tackle Kyle Williams, who's expected to miss his third straight game with a foot injury.

"We feel like we have a better chance to play run defense this year," Bills coach Chan Gailey said, "but we'll find out Sunday."

In the first meeting last season, the Jets gashed the Bills with misdirection plays -- about eight to 10 successful runs, according to Slauson. Tomlinson delivered a vintage performance, circa 2006, rushing for 133 yards and two touchdowns.

Obviously, the Bills will be prepared for misdirection, meaning it's up to the Jets to counter. Then again, why mess with a good thing?

Against the Chargers, the Jets threw a changeup, using fewer zone-schemed runs than they had in previous weeks. They went man-to-man, a north-south approach that featured double-team blocking. Clearly, that seemed to energize their dormant rushing attack.

Center Nick Mangold also is getting healthier, and that, too, has helped. He missed Weeks 3 and 4 because of a high-ankle sprain, and now -- after the bye -- he's close to 100 percent. He practiced on a Wednesday for the first time since the injury.

Few things hurt a team's pride more than being unable to stop another team from running the ball, which means the revitalized Bills -- tied with the New England Patriots atop the AFC East -- will be extra juiced for this weekend.

"We know they're champing at the bit to stop our running game," Slauson said, "but we're not scared or worried or anything."

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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