Why the New York Jets Offensive Line Must Communicate Well vs. Arizona Cardinals

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Why the New York Jets Offensive Line Must Communicate Well vs. Arizona Cardinals
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The New York Jets have an opportunity to capitalize on a weak opponent this week when they host the 4-7 Arizona Cardinals.

While the Cardinals may not be a good team on paper, their defense is one of the best units in the league both on paper and on the field.

They do it with a rather aggressive approach. Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton comes from the Dick LeBeau school of defense, meaning he loves to send exotic blitzes at the quarterback.

The Jets will have to find a way to handle a bevy of blitzes, and they'll have to do it well. While Mark Sanchez has played well against the blitz (rather I should say, not much better or worse than against a four-man rush), he has not played well with pressure in his face.

The Cardinals are especially sound with their third-down blitzes. They don't always get the sack, but they almost always disrupt the timing element of the passing game and force incompletions.

The Buffalo Bills and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick learned that the hard way. Fitzpatrick went 3-for-12 passing for 37 yards (3.1 YPA) and a 39.9 passer rating against the Cardinals blitz. 

On 3rd-and-6, the Cardinals showed blitz with six defenders in the box. They did not have a safety deep, opening themselves up to a deep pass, with the idea being to either sack Fitzpatrick or force him to throw it so quickly that he couldn't get it deep.

Turns out they, and every team in the NFL, had no reason to respect Fitzpatrick's ability to throw deep.

Fitzpatrick took a shot anyway by throwing to wide receiver Donald Jones.

Jones was covered pretty tightly by Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, but given another split-second in the pocket and another foot to step into his throw, Fitzpatrick might have hit this pass for a big gain.

Instead, they missed and the Bills punted.

It's more than just scheme, though. Inside linebacker Daryl Washington leads the Cardinals with nine sacks, which is the most for any inside linebacker in the NFL right now.

They move him all over the field to maximize his talents, but he is often seen teaming up with fellow inside linebacker Paris Lenon.

That tactic works even against talented offensive lines, as we saw on Monday Night Football back in Week 8 against the 49ers

The two inside linebackers execute a stunt right up the middle, confusing the interior offensive linemen as to who has whom as they try to pick it up.

In this case, the linemen are unsuccessful in doing so, and Washington and Lenon give chase to 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, with Washington eventually logging one of two sacks on the day.

How does that apply to the Jets?

The interior offensive line has been a topic of discussion this week, particularly due to offensive line coach David DeGuglielmo's outburst at the media in which he pointed the finger to people "above [him]" when asked about the decision to platoon guards Matt Slauson and Vlad Ducasse.

He was also very vocal about his thoughts on the struggles of the offensive line, saying that he doesn't think they are to blame for the problems in pass protection and in the running game.

The fact is, opposing defenses don't see it the same way. They are blitzing Sanchez on 37.5 percent of his dropbacks, which says just as much about Sanchez's struggles against the blitz as it does the offensive line's struggles picking up the blitz.

The Jets were trying to mount a comeback from down 23-17 against the Houston Texans and were facing 2nd-and-10 with 2:21 remaining in the game. The Texans defense, under coordinator Wade Phillips, run a similarly aggressive style to the one the Cardinals employ.

Here, we see them run an overload blitz on the offense's left, sending cornerback Brice McCain and linebacker Bradie James, with outside linebacker Brooks Reed looping up the middle.

McCain came completely unblocked, and Jets center Nick Mangold let James through while helping left guard Matt Slauson pick up the hard-charging Reed.

It was all for naught, as McCain and James have what's commonly referred to as a "meeting at the quarterback" and bring Sanchez down.

The very next play was an interception, ending the Jets bid at a comeback.

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Mark Sanchez has been sacked 14 out of 26 times when being blitzed, and with 142 blitzes against him, he's brought down on nearly 10 percent of opponent's blitzes.

This is a huge coaching point for the Cardinals this week, and should also be in the forefront of the Jets game-plan.

Without crystal-clear communication along the offensive line, the Jets could be in for a long day.

 

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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