Dissecting Crucial Matchups in New York's Week 5 Matchup with San Diego

Maurice Moton@@MoeMotonFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2014

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 28:   Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets reacts during their game against the Detroit Lions at MetLife Stadium on September 28, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Ron Antonelli/Getty Images)
Ron Antonelli/Getty Images

After a disappointing strikeout to the NFC North, the New York Jets (1-3) begin the second quarter of the season against the San Diego Chargers (3-1) amid another tough three-game stretch.

This week, the Jets must find a way to keep the red-hot hand of quarterback Philip Rivers from burning the defense as he’s done in the past three weeks—throwing for nine touchdowns without an interception.

Gang Green must look deeper than the obvious plan of getting the ball into the hands of their best playmakers, Eric Decker and Chris Ivory. Here are some notable matchups.

Jace Amaro vs. Donald Butler

Last week, rookie tight end Amaro led the Jets receiving corps in receptions with five. He ended the game on a strong note with four catches in the fourth quarter as the offense scrambled to put together touchdown drives.

Geno Smith should continue working on continuity with his young tight end to establish another reliable pass-catcher the Jets desperately need at this point. As a big target with good hands, Amaro could develop into a viable red-zone threat—an area where New York continues to struggle tremendously.

Jets Receiving Corps
PlayerReceptionsYardsTouchdowns
Eric Decker142042
Jeremy Kerley161441
Jace Amaro111250
Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com

Jacksonville Jaguars rookie quarterback Blake Bortles used tight end Clay Harbor to generate rhythm on offense last week against the Chargers. Butler wasn’t able to provide coverage on Harbor. The tight end caught all eight passes thrown his way for 69 yards.

Jeremy Kerley vs. Shareece Wright

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 22: Wide receiver Jeremy Kerley #11 of the New York Jets runs after a catch as cornerback Isaiah Frey #31 of the Chicago Bears defends during a game at MetLife Stadium on September 22, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
Al Bello/Getty Images

Aside from the Chicago Bears' Monday Night Football game, Kerley’s impact on the Jets offense has been marginal thus far. 

He led the team in vital receiving categories for two years but clearly lacks the talent of a No. 1 option in an offense. However, in certain situations Kerley can be effective. He benefits from intermediate pass routes with space to run after the catch.

Geno must learn to throw on a projection to lead speed receivers into open space. Throwing accurately on quick slants and crossing routes causes defensive coordinators nightmares when defending passes underneath coverage.

Chargers fourth-year cornerback Wright isn’t as aggressive at jumping routes like fellow defensive backs Brandon Flowers and Eric Weddle. The threat of an interception when throwing his way is minimal. If Kerley gets separation, he can certainly rack up YAC with accurate passing from Smith.

Muhammad Wilkerson/Sheldon Richardson vs. King Dunlap/D.J. Fluker

Gang Green currently lead the league in sacks with 14. Wilkerson and Richardson account for five and provide constant pocket pressure from week to week. Dunlap and Fluker have succeeded in keeping Rivers off the ground, only allowing five sacks in the first four games.

Wilkerson and Richardson may not be able to put the Chargers’ veteran quarterback on the ground, but they must be successful in disrupting the rhythm with his receivers. River's ball distribution makes it difficult to key-in on one or two playmakers.

Philip River's Pass Distribution
PlayerReceptionsYardsTouchdowns
Keenan Allen222440
Eddie Royal172364
Antonio Gates172153
Donald Brown12720
Malcom Floyd91872
Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com

Despite coach Rex Ryan’s confidence in Dee Milliner playing in San Diego, per ProFootballTalk, the pass defense remains dicey. The Chargers’ signal-caller is throwing with 70 percent accuracy, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com, and leaves very little margin for error.

To prevent a breakout game from any of San Diego’s receivers, the pressure on Rivers must start in the pocket. Collapsing the pocket will force Rivers to throw the ball before the offense can set up in its desired routes and shorten his progression reads.

Darrin Walls vs. Eddie Royal

Sep 28, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal (11) carries to ball to score a touchdown as Jacksonville Jaguars free safety Winston Guy (22) defends during the second quarter at Qualcomm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Rot
USA TODAY Sports

Last week, Detroit Lions wide receiver Golden Tate gashed Wallsrunning shorter routes and accumulating YAC after most of his receptions. It became apparent in the first quarter that Calvin Johnson wasn’t 100 percent, but the Jets struggled with defending a smaller, faster receiver underneath.

Royal burned the Jaguars for five receptions, 105 yards and two touchdowns in Week 4. Both touchdowns were caught on deep routes, but the receiver’s speed should put Walls on notice. The Chargers’ slot receiver has four touchdowns in the last two games and proves to be a considerable threat underneath and over the top.

Matthew Stafford caught safety Calvin Pryor peeking into the backfield too long and threw an accurate deep ball to Jeremy Ross for a touchdown last week. Again, Gang Green’s pass defense is still shaky despite not giving up a lot of yards. River’s accuracy and Royal’s speed can make the ordeal disastrous for New York—if defenders aren’t disciplined on their assignments.

Time of Possession

Much of the onus will be placed on the Jets defense to fluster Rivers in order to leave San Diego with a win. Either an aggressive defensive line or an opportunistic pass coverage will be the key to creating turnovers. The Chargers don’t have a rushing attack to extend time of possession. The offense depends on River's accuracy to keep drives alive.

If Rivers struggles, don’t expect running back Donald Brown to bail him outdelivering 100 yards on the ground. A few plays from Geno and a heavy dose of Ivory early and late tilts the time of possessionand the game—in the Jets’ favor.

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