Jets D-Line Dominates Texans
The Jets' defensive performance in their 24-7 victory of the Houston Texans in week one can be summed up with a single play: when defensive tackle Kris Jenkins used one arm to literally throw the Texans center out of his way as he barrelled towards quarterback Matt Schaub. This was no simple push or shove; it was a man-handling.
Big Jenks tossed the 6'4" 299 lb Chris Myers aside and pressured Schaub into throwing an incompletion before thumbing the QB and sending him to the turf for good measure. With this type of force manning the trenches for the Jets' defense, this may not be the only time we see an offense fail to score on the J-E-T-S.
Jenkins was banged up early in the preseason with a calf injury, but has recovered and is expected to be a key (if not the key) member of the defense. Questions loomed before week one, however, with defensive end Shaun Ellis suspended by the league for off-the-field conduct. Combined with linebacker Calvin Pace's suspension, there was a lot of slack to pick up in a crucial game. Enter New York native and long-time Jets fan Mike DeVito, an undrafted free agent who has spent the past two seasons on the roster as a backup.
DeVito made the most of his opportunity, making his biggest impact midway through the second quarter with the Jets up 3-0, but the Texans driving. As Steve Slaton took a screen pass and motored inside the Jets 20 (a rare occurrence, as this was the only time the Texans offense would get that deep in Jets territory), he was hit and fumbled the ball directly up in the air. The 25-year-old DeVito, who had hustled all the way back in pursuit of Slaton, extended his arms and snagged the pop-up, shifting the momentum back in the Jets' favor. Not bad for a guy who was on the injury report all week as "questionable" with a hamstring injury.
Alongside Jenkins and DeVito in Rex Ryan's 3-4 defense was Marques Douglas, another former Baltimore Raven who arrived this season in the Big Apple. Pressuring the quarterback, stuffing the run and taking on double-teams that enhanced the effectiveness of the linebacking core, this unit set the tone for the game early on and played a pivotal role in the dominating defensive performance.
Stats-wise, the Jets held the Texans to 38 rushing yards and 166 passing yards while accumulating two sacks, eight hits on the QB, one interception, and one forced fumble and recovery. Impressive stats against an offense that was third in the league last year and features Andre Johnson, one of the best receivers in the league, and Steve Slaton, a second-year stick of dynamite with the skills to take over a game. But even the scoreboard and the box score can't tell the whole story of just how effective of a performance this was.
According to the box score, Jenkins only had one tackle. What is doesn't say is that on David Harris' sack, Jenkins took on two Texans, enabling Harris to hit the gap and get a free shot at Schaub.
What the box score doesn't show is that these behemoths are able to line up in a three-point stance or upright like a linebacker, enabling the coaching staff to throw various looks at an offense and letting confusion reign.
Most of all, a stat line can't describe how much the Jets bullied and threw the Texans O-line around, stifled them at almost every turn and even turned the crowd against them. All without a Pro Bowler who returns next week.
The play calling must get a good amount of credit as well, because the formations, personnel, and blitzes kept changing, leaving Houston off balance. Without the depth and versatility of the players executing those plays, though, the play calling would not have been possible.
At times, Vernon Gholston, Marques Murrell, Bryan Thomas, or Jamaal Westerman could be found on the line, and Houston didn't know who was going to rush and who was going to drop back into coverage. The personnel packages and the blitz disguises were a huge key in the D-Line's success. These factors combine to give the Jets endless possibilities and the ability to devise unique game plans for their competition.
The linebackers and secondary aided and abetted the D-Line as well. Solid coverage, especially by Darrelle Revis, who blanketed Andre Johnson all game, allowed the line extra time to get in Schaub's face. A defense really is only as good as the sum of it's parts. If one aspect of a defense is lacking, a good offense will find a way to exploit it.
You can't give credit to the defensive line without giving credit to the rest of the defense. Likewise, you can't praise the defense without showing some love to the big guys up front who make it possible.
The week one performance really ramps up expectations for those outside the Jets locker room. Rex Ryan had been preaching to everyone who would listen that the Jets are going to be an elite defense and a team that is going to play hard, tough, physical football. That is exactly what New York did this past Sunday. And if you don't believe me, ask the Texans.
The New England Patriots provide a more difficult test in week two, as they have a quarterback seemingly unfazed by anything and just as many offensive weapons. The D-line getting pressure is going to be pivotal in helping New York pull off a second consecutive upset, because Brady plus time equals points.
On Monday Night, the Buffalo Bills hit Brady six times, sacking him once and getting a good amount of pressure. Expect Rex Ryan to use that film to break down the Patriots flaws and have his defense licking its chops. One must assume, though, that the Patriots have something to prove after a near-disastrous start to the season, and will use the same game film to devise a plan that fits their strengths.
Tom Brady may have shaken off the rust in week one, but Shaun Ellis should provide a nice boost, and as evidenced by their coach, the Jets don't lack swagger. We'll have to wait and see how it plays out, but I do know one thing...I don't envy Patriots center Dan Koppen.