FLORHAM PARK, NJ – For the last three years the game plan against the New England Patriots has been relatively simple: play All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis heads up with All-Pro receiver Randy Moss and let everyone else fall in place.
This time around, however, the 9-2 Patriots are without Moss. Instead, they have compiled a bevy of playmakers to compliment their cornerstone quarterback, Tom Brady.
Certainly Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Petitine are letting out a sigh of relief with not having to deal with number 81, but this new Patriots offense might prove to be more problematic than in past games.
“We have a lot of flexibility in our system,” Ryan said Friday. “Whether we lock our guys inside, outside, we’ll do what’s in the best interest of the team.”
The question everyone is asking is ‘who will Revis cover?’. While Ryan doesn’t want to tip his hand in the chess match leading up to the game, all signs have been pointing to Revis covering speedy slot receiver Wes Welker (65 receptions, 9.1 yards per receptions, 6 TDs).
“The guy is very dangerous. Most teams double him in the slot. He’s dangerous,” Revis said when asked to describe Welker.
However, Revis has little to no experience in the slot and Welker usually does his damage 5-10 yards away from the line of scrimmage. We may see the physical Revis jam Welker at the line before passing him along to a linebacker who will look to lay big hits on the pint-sized receiver.
Another scenario that Ryan has hinted at is using either Revis or the long-armed Antonio Cromartie to cover the Patriots two-headed monster at the tight end position. Aaron Hernandez (6 receptions, 101 yards against NYJ) and Ron Gronkowski (6 TD receptions) are match-up nightmares for opposing linebackers and defensive backs alike. With the Jets struggling against the better pass-catching tight ends in the league, this seems like a probable move for Ryan and company.
But then there is still Deion Branch, a favorite target for Brady over the years, who is coming off the best game as a re-newed Patriot (3 receptions, 113 yards, 2 TDs).
Also Danny Woodhead, who’s pass-catching abilities have been utilized to the fullest by the Patriots, will be looking to show what the Jets have been missing since he was waived on 9/14/10. Certainly his speed and elusiveness will demand the attention of a defensive back rather than a slower linebacker.
There has been communication problems amongst the defense, which has attributed to some the Jets defensive problems. While Ryan and Petitine would ideally love to deploy an intricate defensive game plan to confuse the Patriots offense, sometimes less is more.
“We can’t worry about cooking up these exotic game plans. Let’s just be who we are and rely on the fact that our personnel can not only match up with their personnel, but can win one-on-one battles,” Damien Woody said, who feels the same about the offense as well.
An obvious plus for the Jets is they will have all hands on deck for this mega-game. Cornerbacks Marquice Cole (hamstring) and Dwight Lowery (concussion) have been limited in practice but fully expect to be ready come Monday.
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