The key to Sunday’s game can be found on the ground.
The Tamba Bay Buccaneers currently rank 31’st in the NFL at defending the running game.
The New York Jets are gaining an average of 168 yards a game on the ground, tops in the league.
You don’t need to be an ESPN anaylst to see that discrepancy. Heading into Sunday’s tilt with the Buccs, the Jets ‘ ability to run the rock is without question the most important factor in Gang Green inching over .500 for the first time since week five of the 2009 season. With two solid corners on the outside in Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber, Tampa will clearly look to stack the box to prevent a Jets’ running attack led by Thomas Jones.
Will the Jets be able to run the ball consistently and take advantage of a suspect defense? The question was posed to head coach Rex Ryan this afternoon, and as always, the Head Man liked his group’s chances of taking advantage of the type of defense Tampa will most likely decide to play.
“The good thing about it is if you want to put them (the defenders) all up there, if we can break a tackle or two, then we’re making some big gains, not just four or five-yarders,” he said. “You might hit us in the backfield one or two times, but we might pop something on you, too. I like our chances. I think our offensive line is doing a great job blocking and I like the way we block on the perimeter. ”
Indeed, the offensive line will be a huge factor in Sunday’s matchup. While Tampa’s defense has been putrid against the run, the Jets will be without quarterback Mark Sanchez due to a knee injury. Kellen Clemens is a suitable backup quarterback, but there’s a reason he was beaten out for the job in training camp. He’s not going to be lighting up any secondaries any time soon, so it will be huge for the line to not only keep him upright, but allow the running game to be successful and take some of the pressure off the backup signal caller.
“If they are doing a good job against the run and they’re singling our guys on the outside then obviously we’ll look at that,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. ” I know we have more runs than anybody in the National Football League. I don’t think that will change this week, But I don’t think that guarantees we’re going to run it 43 times, whatever we ran it last week. It all depends on the game, the style of the game and how the game is going.”
If the Jets are able to run the football, they’ll have the potential for a breakout game even without Sanchez in the lineup. We’ll know in just a few short days how they plan to attack the defense of Tampa Bay, and whether or not a steady diet of the running game is the recipe for success.
Cornerback Dwight Lowery (ankle) was limited in practice today after being a full-go on Wednesday, while guard Alan Faneca (illness) was sent home for the day, but is expected to play. Robert Turner (knee) and Sanchez (knee) did not practice, while Shaun Ellis was limited with a knee injury.
The team returns to practice Friday for a late-afternoon workout beginning at 11:50 AM. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.