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Thread: Scouting Report for Dan Leberfeld

  1. #1
    All League
    Join Date
    Apr 2003

    Gotta figure Gates vs. MCGraw is the toughest of matchups-

    Dan Leberfeld
    Five keys for the Jets in San Diego

    Jan 07, 2005

    If the Jets are to be successful in their Wild Card showdown with the Chargers Saturday, they must focus on the following five keys:

    1) Dealing with the 3-4 effectively

    The Jets offensive line has to get it’s act together, especially left tackle Jason Fabini, who has allowed four sacks and been flagged for the same number of false starts the last two weeks.

    And Fabini will be facing a formidable challenge against Chargers right outside linebacker Steve Foley, who had 10 sacks this season. Chargers defensive coordinator Wade Phillips compares him to former Buffalo Bill Bryce Paup.

    It will be a big challenge for the Jets front five dealing with the Chargers 3-4 front. The Jets line has struggled against this defensive configuration in games against Pittsburgh and New England late in the season.

    Protecting the quarterback can be quite a challenge against this tricky scheme.

    “The 3-4 presents many problems in pass protection, identifying where the linebackers are,” said Jets running back Lamont Jordan.
    “The biggest challenge is the perimeter,” said Jets center Kevin Mawae. “You have a lot of athletic guys on the perimeter, the speed rushers. The challenge is maintaining the width of the pocket, and giving Chad (Pennington) somewhere to step up into the pocket and get rid of the ball. Obviously if you can get rid of the ball, it helps out.”

    In the first Jets-Chargers game, the line did a great job, allowing no sacks.

    But remember, this was just the second game for the Chargers under new defensive coordinator Phillips. They were still learning. Now they are a lot more comfortable.

    And not only is pass protection tough against this front seven, but running the ball can be a chore. The Chargers are ranked third against the run.

    “They are going to have two [linebackers] wide, and definitely force things back inside to the inside guys,” said Jets linebacker Sam Cowart, who played for Phillips in Buffalo.

    And the inside guys are very tough to deal with, starting with the Chargers' 348-pound nose tackle Jamal Williams. He has emerged this year with the installation of the 3-4 defense.

    “He was an average 4-3 defensive tackle, but has turned into a dominant 3-4 nose tackle,” said one NFL scout.

    Mawae will have his hands full, especially since Williams outweighs No. 68 by 68 pounds.

    “He is playing really well right now,” said Mawae. “He is playing a lot better than the week we played them. He is a key to their front. It will be a challenge for me and the guards to contain him. He is a strong guy who does a good job taking on double teams.”

    Not only does Williams make a lot of plays, but he also does good freeing up the team’s inside linebackers – Donnie Edwards and Randall Godfrey – to make a lot of tackles.

    2) Containing LaDainian Tomlinson

    The Jets defense faces quite a challenge attempting to handle LaDainian Tomlinson, arguably the best running back in the game.

    After struggling earlier in the year with a groin injury, he’s now healthy. He led the NFL in touchdowns in 18.

    “If we don’t stop LT, it is will be a long day,” said Jets cornerback David Barrett.

    One of Tomlinson’s strengths is his amazing acceleration. He’s like a sports car who goes from 0 to 60 in a flash. And once he’s in space, he’s one of the most difficult open-field runners in the league to tackle. The Jets found out in first game when he took a short screen 59 yards.

    350-pound left guard Toniu Fonoti is a force in the running game.

    “Once he gets his hands on you, you are done,” said one scout.

    So a key match-up in this game will be Fonoti against Jets defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson.

    Robertson played well in the first matchup. He was second on the team in tackles with five, and caused a Tomlinson fumble in the backfield.

    3) Containing Antonio Gates

    The Jets should be able to handle the Chargers non-descript receiving corps following a rough outing in St. Louis against the “Greatest Show on Turf.”

    Aside from Tomlinson, Gang Green must be aware of the dangerous Gates.
    “I don’t think [the Chargers wide receivers] are the caliber of Tory Holt and Isaac Bruce,” said Barrett.
    Gates emerged this year as the second best tightend in football behind the Kansas City Chiefs' Tony Gonzalez. The former Kent State basketball star led the Chargers in receptions with 81 and also hauled in 13 touchdowns catches.

    “They are going to try to hit him up the seam, and they are going to try to hit him on some double moves,” said Barrett, who bit on a double move last week on a Holt touchdown.

    According to one NFL personnel man, a big reason for Gates success this year is the five-yard chuck rule that is being strictly enforced. The 6-4, 260 pound Gates, who was a power forward for the Golden Flashes, is very good at positioning himself in front of defensive backs to make catches. The DB's have a tough time getting around him, especially since they are paranoid about getting a flag.

    Jets safety Jon McGraw did the best job of any defender against Gates this year in Week 2, limiting him to four catches for 39 yards. McGraw actually intercepted a third quarter pass intended for Gates.

    But keep in mind, Gates dropped a couple of passes in that game, and after that encounter got on a major roll.

    “They are taking advantage of Gates athleticism and getting him into open space,” said McGraw. “He is a very good one-on-one receiver.”

    And McGraw’s ability to handle him one-on-one is a major key to this game. But remember, McGraw is battling an abdominal strain, and is only playing about 20-25 plays a week, so the Jets will have to find another player, perhaps Eric Barton to handle Gates as well.

    If the Jets can contain Gates, it will go a long way to helping them win this game.

    4) Pennington bringing his A-Game

    Just like his offensive line, Jets quarterback Pennington has struggled against 3-4 defenses.

    His two worst games this year came against this front – in contests against Pittsburgh and New England. He had a quarterback rating of 33.6 against the Steelers and 68.3 in the Patriots game.

    In this defense, there are four linebackers, and Pennington seems to have trouble reading their drops. In both games, he threw interceptions to linebackers. This could be problematic against San Diego, a team featuring perhaps the best coverage linebacker in football, Donnie Edwards. He had five picks this year, returning one for a touchdown against Tampa Bay.

    Pennington’s tendency to throw many of his passes over the short middle could be problematic against the Chargers fast, athletic linebackers.

    “It plays more into the linebackers’ hands,” said Chargers outside linebacker Ben Leber. “It might take a little more pressure off the corners and safeties.”

    If Pennington can deal with the linebackers effectively, he should be able to do some damage against those cornerbacks and safeties. The Chargers finished the regular season ranked 31st against the pass.
    While this is a little misleading since they had some big leads on teams forcing them into passing modes, this secondary is still considered young and suspect to big plays.

    If the Jets can establish a running game, like they did in Week 2, this secondary displayed a tendency to bite on play-action.

    Both of Pennington’s touchdown passes came on perfectly executed play-action fakes. First he hit fullback Jerald Sowell in the third quarter, and then Chris Baker in the final stanza.

    Pennington had one of his best games in Week 2, finishing 22-of-29 for 258 yards with a quarterback rating of 125.4.

    However, it’s tough to imagine him repeating that performance against a Chargers defense that has improve since then, and a Jets passing offense that has regressed.

    But if he can come close to that performance, the Jets have a great chance at winning.

    5) Winning the field position battle

    With two good defenses squaring off, this could turn into a field position game, and this could favor the Chargers.

    This reason the Chargers have an advantage in his department is their punter. While the Jets' Toby Gowin was one of the worst punters in the AFC this year, the Chargers Mike Scifres was perhaps the best with a 43.4 average.

    “He is the best punter I’ve ever had and maybe as good as I’ve ever seen,” said Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer.

    The Chargers also have an edge in the return game with kick returner Tim Dwight and punt returner Eric Parker. Dwight returned a kick for a touchdown against the Jets in the first matchup.

    So Gowin needs to step up this week, as do the Jets returners this week. Rookie Jerricho Cotchery gave a boost to the kick return game last week, taking one back all the way against the Rams. The Jets need another good performance from him.

  2. #2
    Hall Of Fame
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    The linebacker on the side that Gates lines up should be smoking him right on the line so that he can't get off the ball quick. If they can stop him from getting downfield and into his pattern they have a shot at containing him. (And by smoking I don't mean a namby pamby too hand push, a good shot to stop him in his tracks.)


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