Improved play by DT Jason Ferguson (72) and DE Bryan Thomas (99) are big reasons the Jets defensive line has been so successful this year. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
- Last year, opposing teams constantly ran on the Jets. The Jets could not stop the run and were ranked 28th in the NFL, giving up 143.4 yards a game. More aggressive and faster, the Jets have improved to ninth against the run this year, giving up 104 yards a game.
Defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson’s aggressive schemes are designed for the Jets to cause teams to lose yardage.
“I think what we do to stop the run is that we get more people to the ball,” Henderson said. “We do that and plug up the middle and make the ball go outside-or as I tell them try not to let the ball go where it is designed to go. So, if it is designed to go inside, make it go outside and if it is designed to go outside, make it go inside.”
At this point last season, the Jets had allowed five 100-yard rushers through 10 games and eight the entire season.
This year, they did not allow a 100-yard rusher until week 7 when Corey Dillon rushed for 100+ yards. Willis McGahee of the Bills is the only other running back to rush for 100 or more yards on the Jets this year. Two weeks ago, the Jets held Ravens RB Jamal Lewis to just 71 yards.
With three former first-round draft picks starting on the d-line, they have lived up to the expectations set by Henderson, defensive line coach Denny Marcin and Head Coach Herman Edwards.
Marcin talked about how the Jets have been able to stop the run.
“A lot has to do with the schemes and believing in what they can do,” Marcin said. “We place a big emphasis on the run.”
DE Shaun Ellis remains consistent with 41 tackles and 3.5 sacks this year. Despite the Jets struggling through a 6-10 season in 2003, Ellis was named to his first Pro Bowl after recording 12.5 sacks and 109 tackles.
Ellis talked about the difference between last year and this year.
“We are stopping the run,” Ellis said. “We are not giving up a lot of explosive plays as we have in the past. We’re not missing tackles. Overall, it is an overall team effort. Guys want to do the right thing and want to do well on defense.”
Ellis was quick to give credit to Marcin, who is in his first year as Jets d-line coach after spending the previous seven with the Giants.
“Denny gives us great info about the run, what the opposing team likes to do so we got a head-start,” Ellis said.
DT Dewayne Robertson had added pressure last year as the fourth overall pick in the NFL draft and had a tough time adjusting to the NFL. Robertson was thrown into the starting lineup after Josh Evans was suspended for the majority of the season. While Robertson did not have a terrible year, finishing with 69 tackles and 1.5 sacks, fans and coaches expected more out of him. Robertson came back this year lighter, more confident and mature and it has shown on the field as he has 40 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
“Last year I just came in and listened to the veterans and tried to take the knowledge from just learning the game and just learning what not to do and what to do and when to do it,” Robertson said. “This year is my second year, I am a lot more confident.”
Edwards has seen Robertson mature.
“I just think he is used to playing in the NFL and he has the awareness of what people are going to try to do to him,” Edwards said. “I think if you look back, (you will see that) all good players evaluate themselves. Coaches evaluate players all the time, but at the end of the day, players with great pride and who feel they want to be one of the better players in the League, they look at themselves. They look at themselves and say ‘how can I improve?’ I think Dewayne has done that. He has looked at himself very objectively and he wants to be a better player and one of the better players in the League.”
Also occupying the middle is DT Jason Ferguson. Ferguson keeps the team loose on and off the field and is a tough player on the field. Ferguson has 3.5 sacks this year, one shy of his career high. Ferguson talked about the key to stopping the run this year.
“A lot of hats on the ball, everybody gets to the ball,” Ferguson said. “Trusting one another is a key to the defense. Being aggressive, but trusting that guy is going to have his gap and this guy is going to have his gap so that is the biggest thing this year.”
Due to injuries and off-the-field problems, DE John Abraham played in just seven games last year. In the off-season, Abraham turned his life around and is having one of his best years, leading the NFL with 9.5 sacks. Abraham continues to move up the Jets All-Time Sack list and is tied with Marty Lyons for 43 sacks. Abraham is nicknamed “The Predator” because of his tremendous speed. Abraham talked about how far he has come from last year.
“My insight and just looking within myself as a person and as a man,” Abraham said. “I think before I was letting other people support me, even though I was having the money. There were a lot of things in my life that I needed to control, and now I control stuff myself and handle myself on and off the field the way I want to be seen. I don’t let other people drag me into things I don’t want to do.”
Abraham enjoys playing in Henderson’s defense.
“You have more responsibility, but if you do your job quickly, the responsibility is pretty much off,” Abraham said. “If I’m blitzing and I’m getting there quick everybody’s having a good time and we don’t’ have to worry about it so much. We are doing more to get into the backfield now, rather than giving up two or three yards and we’re trying to get negative two or three years.”
Henderson talked about his defensive ends.
“I don’t know if there are too many guys in the League that have the quality of ends that I have,” Henderson said. “I have one that is physical and powerful (Shaun Ellis) and I have one that is quick and fast (John Abraham). They are both pretty good learners and they are both athletic. I got the best of both worlds.”
Aggressive, faster, cohesive, confident, and mature, the Jets defensive linemen should continue to stop the run while racking up sacks and hopefully leading the Jets into the playoffs.