Possibly the closest Super Bowl matchup in history also poses the question: how much does it mean when certain aspects of an NFL team improve dramatically in the second half of the season?
08 Oct 2012
by Andy Benoit
One of the best kept secrets in football is that the Jets do not have any good pass rushers. They have a bunch of solid front-seven players who have decent strength and decent speed, but no exceptionally explosive elements to their game. (Calvin Pace, anyone?) They were hoping the addition of Quinton Coples would change this, but so far, the first-round rookie has looked like the epitome of what was described two sentences ago. Rex Ryan’s fast, multidimensional blitz packages have camouflaged New York’s languid pass-rush. But will Ryan feel comfortable calling those blitzes now that he doesn’t have Darrelle Revis shutting down half the field?
It may not matter Monday night; defenses can’t seem to get to Matt Schaub anyway. The Texans are too fine-tuned in their rolling pockets and bootlegs for most pass-rushing concepts to work. Your best bet is to play coverage against this team. Keeping extra defenders on the back half of the field decreases the amount of ground players have to cover in running with Houston’s receivers and tight ends on misdirection crossing routes.
Zone-stretches and play-action off those zone stretches aren’t the only things Houston is doing well these days. This offense gets tremendous mileage out of tight-split bunches from trips formations. Houston usually puts two tight ends in these three-receiver bunches and has everyone run short hitch and hook routes in different directions. This lifts the second level of the defense, creating easy eight-yard completions for Schaub. All the more reason to play coverage-heavy concepts, as blitzes can’t work against this type of call.
Would it be that bad if the Jets just waved the white flag now? We’re talking about what might be the NFL’s worst offense facing what might be the NFL’s best defense. The Jets have no staple run game. Even their usually formidable front five, including center Nick Mangold, has been poor on the ground at times this season. With Santonio Holmes out for the year, they have no receivers who can beat man coverage. Overseeing all this is a quarterback with inconsistent accuracy and frequent bouts of pocket jitters. The immediate future couldn’t look more hopeless in New York. (Perhaps that means Tebow time? The Broncos put him in last year once they realized their receivers couldn’t beat man coverage. The Jets might as well say a prayer and hope they can win by being unconventional.)
Against the Titans last week, Houston’s secondary proved it is capable of winning with man-to-man coverage across the board. Star cornerback Johnathan Joseph wasn’t challenged, and former first-round corner Kareem Jackson had an outstanding pass breakup and a pick-six the two times he was challenged. Houston’s man coverage was played with just one safety roaming free over the top, which meant Wade Phillips had an extra pass-rusher at his disposal. Not that Phillips needed it. Edge rushers Connor Barwin and Brooks Reed have been just as energetic as they were last season, and J.J. Watt has come alive on passing downs, with 7.5 sacks through four games.
We could get more elaborate in the X and O breakdown of this matchup, but what’s the point? The talent discrepancy is so great that whatever Houston does should work.
21 comments, Last at 10 Oct 2012, 6:31pm by Karl Cuba