Archive for January, 2011

Preparing for the Colts Defense

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

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.”

SECRET SERVICE: The Jets o-line will be well-aware of Colt speedsters Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis Saturday. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

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.

Attacking Peyton Manning

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Certainly a defense can attack Peyton Manning. But will that do anything to stop him? Probably not. Fear not Jets faithful, as many teams have failed to contain the half-man/half-machine that is the 4x-MVP. On the other hand, teams have succeeded at slowing down Manning, but it takes efforts from both sides of the ball.

Rex Ryan may have a personal score to settle with Manning, but this year’s supporting cast gives him the best chance to do so. His QB rating of 91.9 is his lowest since 2002-03 season (88.8) and lower than his career average (94.9). His interception total (17) might not be as unsightly as brother Eli’s 25, but is his highest total since 2002-03 (19).

Injuries to some of Manning’s favorite targets (Austin Collie, Dallas Clark) have forced younger to step up in their absence. While they have developed from their time with Manning, it is still a point of attack.

“Experience, I think is still your best teacher. Those guys have been thrown into the fire and it’s Tamme’s [first year of playing] and White is a rookie.” Manning said Tuesday.

Despite a depleted receiving corps, Manning managed to complete 450 completions, throw for 4,700 yards and recorded his sixth season with 30+ TD passes. More than ever, the kudos goes to quarterback that’s the most feared home-run hitters in the league.

With the Colts three-headed backfield, the running game has been effective enough for Manning to utilize his deadly play-action fake.

“We have a little bit more consistency with our running game. Dominic Rhodes has been a nice addition. Donald Brown has [become] better through the season. We’ve  had Joseph Addai back the past two weeks, so that certainly helps,” Manning said.

So how do the Jets stop a quarterback who has put together a Hall-of-Fame career pulling apart defenses? Control the ball on offense. Remember that Mark Sanchez that went the first five games without turning the ball over? The Jets need that Sanchez to show up Saturday.

The Jets pass rush will be just one of the many things the Jets must have working if they want to stop Peyton Manning. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Forget the Sanchez that heroically heaved the ball to Santonio Holmes for three straight weeks. Say hello to the dink and dunker. Sights like LaDanian Tomlinson getting the ball in the flats and Dustin Keller across the middle should be regular happenings. Runs from Shonn Greene to wear down a very fast Colts defense.

Against a fast and aggressive Cover 2 defense like the Colts, bubble screens and check downs in the middle of the field can pick up chunks of yards and keep the clock moving. Anything to keep Manning off the field.

“It could be Dustin, it could be LT or Braylon [Edwards]. Nothing different than any other week. [The Colts] do such a good job in the back end that you have to be patient, spread it around and not just focus on one guy,” Sanchez said.

Stopping Manning when he has the ball is a bit more difficult. With a thin defensive secondary, don’t be surprised when the Colts spread the field and try to find a hole. In the loss to the Patriots, that’s what Tom Brady was able to execute to near-perfection.

To combat this attack the Jets pass rush needs to be present, especially up the middle. The combination of Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito has been admirable in stopping the run, but pressure must be created up the gut. Sending either Bart Scott or David Harris to disrupt Manning’s timing and getting in his face may force a quick decision. With former o-line anchor, retired center Jeff Saturday, gone the middle can be exposed.

During the Colts three-game losing streak (against New England, San Diego and Dallas) Manning threw 12 interceptions, 4 interceptions returned for touchdowns and 22 passes defended. Jason Taylor’s long arms have served him mightily over the years at swatting QB’s balls down at the line.

All three teams feature an above-average pass rush and a secondary that took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves.

The Jets big name players (see Revis, Darrelle and Cromartie, Antonio) must show their superior skills. Role players (see Coleman, Drew and Wilson, Kyle) must stick to their assignments and not allow themselves to be picked on like in game’s past.

The motivation of avenging last year’s AFC Championship loss in the same building may be enough for the Jets to stop Manning. But if they don’t, they wouldn’t be the first to try.