The Tweaking of the Jets Defense
Florham Park, N.J.- Rex Ryan is an admittedly stubborn man, but not so stubborn that he refused to recognize that his normal approach to trying to stop Peyton Manning simply wasn’t good enough.
As a football coach, Ryan is known for his consistent flow of complex blitzes, but Manning normally identifies and dissects blitzing defenses with the precision of a surgeon, so Ryan knew he had to do something different.
“I’m a stubborn guy, but I’m not that stubborn.” Ryan said after Saturday night’s win, “I wasn’t going to take the same kind of butt-kicking that I normally take from him so we definitely mixed our coverages, played it more straight up. (We) mixed in some loaded zones and different things like that, very rarely we came after him.”
When reading into that comment, one part sticks out, “I wasn’t going to take the same kind of butt-kicking that I normally take from him so we definitely mixed our coverages.”
You think that same thought process might apply to this Sunday’s game plan?
Ryan has hardly been shy about the fact that he was badly out coached on that horrific Monday night and after seeing the drastic deviations from his typical style of coverages last week, there’s little doubt that we can expect to see new wrinkles this weekend as well.
“As far as he (Bill Belichick) knows, we’re not going to change a bit.” Ryan joked, “We’re going to take the Colts game plan and just go with it (smiling).”
Obviously he was being facetious, the Colts offense is a completely different style from the Patriots so defensively the schemes will have to be adjusted accordingly, the question is will it work?
It may not be as simple as just transferring game plans from week to week, but at least Jets fans now know Ryan is willing and able to tweak his defense according to his opponent. After the shellacking the Jets received on their last trip to New England, Ryan will once again be forced to accept the fact that he needs to alter his game plan.
Manning excels against blitzing defenses so Ryan decided to switch up his trademark game plan and back off, dropping more players into coverage and at times confusing the NFL’s valedictorian quarterback. Because of the game plan, Manning was held under control for the majority of the game and aside from the touchdown pass to Garcon, the Colts really struggled to have successful drives.
The Jets continually dared the Colts to run and Manning recognized this to his advantage at times, but he fell right into Ryan’s trap.
The Jets were willing to let the Colts gain some yards on the ground because that meant Manning wasn’t beating them through the air, but when it came time to clamp down and get a stop the Jets did just that. This part of the game plan you can expect to stay the same, don’t be surprised to see the Jets daring Brady to run the ball early to keep the ball out of his hands.
Early in the season the Jets defense was repeatedly victimized on third-downs, on Sunday they held the normally prolific Colts offense to complete only 6 of their 13 third-down attempts. If the Jets hope to win again this week they will have to continue their third-down success.
Of course it helps that the Colts didn’t have their full arsenal of weapons, but what also helped was having Darrelle Revis render Reggie Wayne insignificant.
“The play of Darrelle Revis (was great). Quite honestly, he’s the best player in football.” Ryan said yesterday, “That is what you saw out there. Hold Reggie Wayne, who led the league in catches, I think he had 111 catches, to one catch for one yard. That tells you how good Darrelle Revis is. I know he’s probably not going to win the Defensive Player of the Year award, but the impact he has is amazing. We were able to do some coverages during the game where we actually played man-coverage strictly on his side regardless of who the receiver was and roll their coverage away from it. You only do that if you have Darrelle Revis.”
When Revis was asked how he feels about Ryan’s declaration that he is the best player in football a bewildered Revis said, ”What? Is that what he said (laughing)?
“Well, thanks Rex for the quote (laughing), I thank Rex for respecting me that high. I do strive to try to be the best at what I do, if he feels that way, he feels that way.”
He most certainly does feel that way.
“He’s an amazing once-in-a-life-time player and we took advantage of him. The (game) this week will be the same deal because when people see (Revis) over there, they don’t even throw to him.” Ryan said, “They realize that that guy isn’t open. I don’t care who the receiver is, he is not going to be open. We know that and we’ll try to take advantage of it again this week.”
Of course Ryan isn’t the only member of the Jets organization that feel that way about Revis. When Dwight Lowery was asked about just how great a player Revis is, he was speechless, at first.
“It’s like… he makes it so coaches have to game plan for him and players have to game plan for him.” Lowery said, “As an individual in a team sport, especially football, when you have to game plan for one player, when there’s 11 total players on the field, that’s huge. It changes everything so he impacts the game before the game even starts.”
There’s no questioning the impact the mere presence of Revis has on opposing offenses, but unlike last week, this game won’t have the easy solution of just sticking Revis on one guy to take him out. With Manning missing two of his top targets, shutting down Wayne completely limited what the Colts could do, the Patriots don’t have that same problem.
Last time Revis matched up mostly on Wes Welker, but Brady has no problems looking to one of his other options if Revis has his man locked up. This week Revis says he isn’t sure who he will be matching up against yet, but don’t be surprised if he moves around a lot and Ryan switches the matchup depending on the formations.
David Harris wouldn’t bite when he was asked about the difference in preparing for Manning and Brady saying, “I’d say their equal (smiling).” But he was willing to explain what makes Brady so dangerous, “He’s (Brady) a smart quarterback and he spreads the ball around to all of his receivers and backs out of the backfield and they don’t have that one go-to-guy anymore, so you have to defend the whole field and I think that’s what makes it so tough.”
Still the players feel as confident as their coach that this Jets team matches up well with the Patriots.
“Yeah I think we match up against them very well.” Revis said, “We just have to find a good game plan for this week.”
One reason for the boost in confidence is the fact that the team lost Jim Leonhard just days before the last game and while none of the players will use that as an excuse, they believe the defense is in a much better place right now and much of the credit for this must go to the Jets safeties who have been asked to fill Leonhard’s shoes, specifically Eric Smith.
“O man, he’s great. He’s stepped up his game a lot this year. I believe (him) being another quarterback back there for us, with Jim Leonhard, I put those two in the same boat.” Revis said, “Jim is not here now and Eric is taking that load to be a quarterback back there and step up a lot with his communication and trying to be a leader.”
With the Patriots multitude of weapons, especially their two dangerous tight ends, the Jets are going to need great coverage from more than just Revis, the safeties will have to really elevate their game, but Ryan is focused on making sure he has his players lined up in the proper coverages.
This week will provide a look at a much different Jet defense than the last time these two teams played. It will also look different from last week, as the Jets have to focus on covering more of the field. Ryan has the confidence that he can draw up the perfect game plan and his players believe in him as well, but despite what Ryan said yesterday, football games aren’t won on the chalkboard, they are won on the field.
“We just got to show up.” Harris said when asked about what the difference will be this week as opposed to the last game, “The Patriots had our number that day, they did everything right. They made plays and we didn’t that’s the bottom line.”
On Sunday, the Jets will look to reverse the results from the last game and whether it’s about execution or just being more physical and simply wanting it more, they plan to complete their mission. It’s anybody’s guess as to exactly what tweaks we will see this week, but unless they are drastic enough to confuse Brady, the Jets defense could be in for another long day.
Will it work? That’s anybody’s guess, but on Sunday we will have our answer, either in the form of the ending of the Jets season or a second straight trip to the AFC Championship.