FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Let’s face it. When you think about the Indianapolis Colts, defense isn’t the first thought that pops in your mind. Perhaps the opposing defense getting picked apart by a certain cerebral quarterback, but not the Colts actual defense.
But as Rex Ryan and the Jets offense prepare to face the Colts in a rematch of the 2009 AFC Championship game, they most certainly are thinking defense (just when they’re not thinking about Peyton Manning).
“When you play a team like the Colts, it’s hard to simulate the type of speed they have on defense,” Ryan said. “One of the things we are doing is [Shawn] Crable and [Jamaal] Westerman are doing a great job of playing [Dwight] Freeney and [Robert] Mathis. We line them up off-sides and still jumping the count to try and simulate the geto-ff that hose two man have in speed.”
The tandem defensive ends anchor a Colts defense that epitomizes speed and constant pressure. The endless motor of Freeney and Mathis is so great, the Jets scout team must cheat to re-create their game speed. “We try to give them a quality look. I’ve been working a lot of timing out the cadence and getting a jump on the snap, incorporating a spin move a bit,” said outside linebacker Shawn Crable. “[Freeney] has a nice spin move and Mathis has those long arms. What we try to do is give the offensive line a competitive look so they can be prepared for the speed and the tempo.”
That unfair advantage that the Jets are implementing with Crable and Westerman lining up offsides will be the best sort of the preparation the offensive line will get until kick-off. Left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson has battled against the All-Pro Freeney a few times in his career. Hopefully that, coupled with Crable’s imitation will be enough to slow down Freeney’s motor.
“Watching my film-study, I know that he’s still that talented player and he’s still that savvy veteran that can cause a lot of problems in this league,” Ferguson said. “Whether they’re a big or small guy, or a fast or slow guy, [they] can still be a problem and I think he defines that. Know that, it’s just important that we can continue to go out there, understand what he can do well, and try to stop him.”
The offensive line, usually a mainstay for the Jets, has been banged up in recent weeks but will welcome back veteran right tackle Damien Woody back from a knee injury that caused him to miss three games. All season long the Jets have faced some of the premier pass-rushers in the league and have answered the call, going back to Mario Williams to James Harrison and Lamar Woodley to Julius Peppers.
“Our offensive line has responded to the challenges all season long,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “[Freeny and Mathis] play so hard, they need to take some breaks and when they do, we’ll be well-aware that they’re not in the game”.
While the tandem may be superb at rushing the passer, the speed of the front line also aids in stopping the run. Over the course of their last three games the Colts have given up an anemic average of 70 yards rushing. Those were games that featured some of the best running backs in the league with Maurice Jones-Drew, Darren McFadden and Chris Johnson.
“They’re moving a lot up-front, meaning the line is slanting and angling, so they’re creating piles,” Schottenheimer said. “It makes it harder for people to get up to the linebackers. Mix that with the fact that it’s a heavy eight-man box on most first and second-downs and it makes it hard to run.”
It has been dually noted that Rex hasn’t had much luck against Peyton Manning and that, for him, this game is personal. In conjunction with that last statement, he has fared much better against the Colts defense either, with his lone win coming in a game where Jim Caldwell pulled his starters at halftime.
More than anyone, Rex knows that speed kills. He’s hoping this week that the Jets find a way to kill the speed.