Jets vs. Patriots: Drawing Up a Game Plan for New England
My, how the times have changed in just seven days.
The New England Patriots need a win here perhaps more than they've needed a win in some time—well, at least since three weeks ago against the Buffalo Bills.
There are some basic principles the Patriots should follow if they want to get the win. Here are just a couple of them.
Runs to the Outside
One of the primary reasons the Jets have struggled against the run is their lack of speed at linebacker.
The defensive line hasn't helped them by getting blocked down on some long gains on the ground, but getting some runs to the outsides could be a good way to expose that lack of speed at the second level. That's precisely what happened on these three runs by Texans running back Arian Foster.
The Jets did better to bottle up Foster later in the game, but the weakness has clearly been exposed.
The Patriots have had some success running the ball both outside and inside. One of the advantages has been that they catch opposing defenses off-guard and get the ball snapped before the defense is set, as we see in the first example in the video below.
Both offensive tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer rank in the top 16 tackles, both overall and specifically, in run-blocking according to ProFootballFocus.com.
As seen in the above video, they also get some great run-blocking from tight end Rob Gronkowski, who ranks first in the NFL in run-blocking according to ProFootballFocus.com and has done it on 214 of his 465 snaps.
On the flip side, Jets linebackers Bart Scott and David Harris both rank outside the top 32 in run defense at inside linebacker according to PFF; Bart barely makes the cut in the top 32 overall inside linebackers.
If the offensive line is able to get a good push on the defensive front, the linebackers can be had at the second level. There could be more than a few big running plays in order this week.
Shut Down the Running Game
The Patriots' strength on defense is in its front seven. They may not be an elite (or even very good) group of pass-rushers (though Chandler Jones obviously sticks out), but they are one of the league's best against the run.
PATRIOTS RUN D STATS VS JETS RUN O STATS
INCLUDE RUNS +4 YDS, 0 OR < YDS
That will serve them well against a Jets offense that loves to run the ball, and is at its most successful when doing so. The Patriots always like to take away what an opponent likes to do most, forcing the opponent to beat them outside of their comfort zone, and for the Jets, that is the running game.
The yardage numbers tell part of the story—the Jets rank 23rd with 3.8 YPA on the ground, while the Patriots rank third on defense with 3.4 YPA allowed—but there remains much more to tell.
As good as the Patriots run defense has been overall, they have been the best in the league in power run situations according to FootballOutsiders.com, and also first in open-field tackling. They are one of only two teams in the NFL (along with the Houston Texans) that have yet to allow a single running play of 20 or more yards.
The Patriots are also one of the league's best at defending runs up the middle according to FootballOutsiders, and the Jets run it straight up the gut a full nine percent more than the league average.
They have a great instinctive linebacker in Brandon Spikes, who has made several big plays in run defense with his keen ability to sniff out running plays and shoot gaps for tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
The injury report is not kind to the Jets this week, either. Running backs Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell both left Sunday's win over the Colts with injuries, which leaves only Shonn Greene and undrafted rookie Jonathan Grimes on the depth chart.
That has even left some in the media wondering if Tim Tebow could be a part of the rotation at running back this week.
But something tells me, if the Patriots are this stifling against real NFL running backs like Marshawn Lynch, Willis McGahee and others, they will probably have success against Tebow, who has natural running ability but has never taken a handoff in the NFL.
Primarily, though, the Patriots will be looking to shut down the run to keep the pressure on Mark Sanchez to keep pace with Tom Brady. Judging by the results of last week, that plan may or may not work, but with one of the best quarterbacks in the league on their side, it's a chance the Patriots are willing to take.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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