Per Quincy's newspaper, the aptly named Patriot Ledger:
“They want to run the ball,” the Patriots’ defensive lineman said Thursday. “They want to be able to be a physical football team. They want to be able to control the clock. They want to be able to make plays and most of their plays come on the run.Vince Wilfork is no fool, he knows that the Jets and their coach can be baited and he's inviting them to try and clash with the Patriots defense where they are strongest. Even more wily when you consider that their secondary has been trash much of the season.
“They ran the ball against the Colts (in a 35-9 romp of Indianapolis last Sunday), I don’t know how many times, but it was a lot and you can just tell that’s the way they want to play. So, defensively, we have to be up for that challenge.
“We’re not going to run from anyone. We know what it’s going to be. Shonn Greene, he’s a helluva back, and their offensive line’s big, they’re physical, that’s how they want to play. We have to be able to match that and we’ve been doing a good job of that, but we have to continue to get better individually, raise our level of play, and you go from there.”
There's an interesting conundrum for the Jets offense as they head into this weekend's matchup with the Patriots; the Jets want to run the ball well against the Patriots, but the one area where the Patriots are rife for exposure is in their defensive backfield. More specifically at the safety spot as Greg Bedard of the Boston Globe told Corey and me yesterday on the podcast.
The Jets best shot at exploiting that hole in their defense is with two core deployments of personnel and then a third for good measure, but to lesser effect. Here's where:
The Slot -- The Jets need to emphasize using receivers in the slot to challenge Patriots nickel backs or "star" safeties who come down to play the spot. This means that Keller/Cumberland and Jeremy Kerley specifically should spend much of their time during the game out of that position. The Patriots rank a league worst 32nd in defending a third receiver and if the Jets don't exploit that, they're doing themselves a huge disservice.
Running Backs on Passing Routes -- The Patriots are giving up 59.4 yards per game against running backs as receivers. They've got some big bodies who are doing a great job shutting down the run and sealing the edge, but as Jets fans know all too well, those large lumbering bodies in the front seven generally have trouble against the pass. Shonn Greene doesn't often see passes as a running back, but the times he does he's actually quite effective in that role. The Jets should try and work as many screens or check-down routes for Shonn Greene; much as Alex Smith and Frank Gore did last night against the Rams. Maybe more importantly, this also explains why Joe McKnight is doing everything he can to play Sunday ... because the team knows he'd be a key figure in the passing game if he could play.
In-Line Tight Ends -- The Patriots are slightly better against tight ends, but still aren't shutting them down. For the same reason that running backs give 3-4/4-3 hybrid teams so much trouble due to their size, the same holds true for the tight ends, especially when you factor in the notion that the safety valve for that issue with the front seven - the Patriots safeties - are terrible in coverage. The Jets should plan to line up Jeff Cumberland and Dustin Keller tight against the formation when Kerley is also occupying the slot (or in their trips sets they like so much) and use their speed on vertical routes to stretch the safeties deep. Expect to see Cumberland knifing into the secondary, Keller running more crossing style routes, and when Reuland plays, running patterns to the flats.