With all the attention that the Tim Tebow and Mark Sanchez circus has been receiving, it’s doing the Jets a favor by covering up other problems on the team. Sanchez wasn’t the only reason the Jets didn’t make the playoffs in 2011. In 2009 and 2010, the Jets were able to cover up Sanchez’s shortcomings with a strong running game and shutdown defense. In 2011, Sanchez was exposed when the running game and defense weren’t there to support him.
During the first two seasons of the Rex Ryan era, his defense was statistically one of the best in the NFL. They were near the top of the league in scoring and run defense, allowing him to send all sorts of blitzes in passing situations. In 2011, they gave up over 22 points per game, which ranked 20th in the league.
The disappointing part of the defense was against the run. The Jets gave up 111 yards per game last season. In 2010, they were third in the league giving up 90 yards on the ground. If teams can run on the Jets, they will be unable to bring the blitzes that give opposing quarterbacks nightmares.
Take week 9 against Buffalo last year for example. Buffalo came in 5-2 with arguably the hottest running back in the NFL, Fred Jackson. The Jets held him to 82 yards rushing, which includes a 26-yard run on the game’s first play and a 23-yard run late in the fourth quarter when the game was out of hand. In-between those two runs they only allowed Jackson to gain 33 yards. The Jets set themselves up to confuse Ryan Fitzpatrick all day. They picked him off twice and he only had 10 completions through the first 54 minutes of the game.
Unfortunately, that kind of performance was the exception instead of the norm. Part of the problem is stopping the run, but maybe the bigger problem is the need to blitz in order to rush the passer. If Aaron Maybin is going to be the pass-rush threat for the Jets, don’t expect the blitzing to stop.
Maybin led the Jets with 6 sacks last season. This is the same Aaron Maybin that couldn’t get on the field as a special teams player on a 4-12 Bills team in 2010. David Harris and Bart Scott were the next leading sackers from the inside linebacker position.
In the off-season, the Jets have done more to cope with the lack of pass-rush instead of fixing the problem. The key free agent pickup was LaRon Landry to help a secondary that will need to stop the passing game. They didn’t sign any pass-rushers and passed on Melvin Ingram in the draft.
The Patriots have been the standard for the AFC East over the last 11 years. If the Jets look to their New York big brother, the Giants have shown the blueprint on how to stop Tom Brady: a dominant four-man rush. Brady will carve up the Jets if they bring four and he will burn them if the Jets do nothing but blitz.
While the quarterbacks will get most of the attention, the defense has to be the stable unit of the team. We’ve seen how Tebow can halt a passing game. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for Rex Ryan to see if he could do it on defense too.
About the Author
Written by Andy Lipari
I'm Andy, I'm from the Rochester area in New York and I just graduated from SUNY Brockport with a degree in Journalism. I've been writing for a few years now and I'm looking to start a career in sports journalism.