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Inside the matchup: Jets at Patriots

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  October 20, 2012 03:00 PM

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We are very happy to have Alen Dumonjic, an x's and o's football junkie who blogs for The Score, back for another season to give us his insight on the intricacies of the game.

INSIDE THE JETS' OFFENSE

It was difficult to fathom that the Jets offense was going to be more vanilla in 2012 than they were during the turbulent times it was led by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, but that is the case. Tony Sparano, who came over from the rival Dolphins during the off-season, coordinates the 20th-ranked scoring offense that also ranks 29th in total yardage. It's an offense that lacks any kind of rhythm and is plagued by unimaginative schemes -- much more unimaginative than Schottenheimer's ever was, at least -- that are reminiscent of Sparano's Miami days.

Sparano's philosophy of choice is a ground-and-pound running game -- which ranks 15th with 111 yards per game -- that looks to manage down and distance while protecting the quarterback from making questionable decisions. Much of this comes from the 11 (1 back, 1 tight end), 12 (1 back, 2 tight ends) and 21 (2 backs, 1 tight end) personnel groupings, which are charged with executing base NFL run concepts such as 'Power', 'Lead' and 'Toss'. Sparano has also introduced the "Bone" formation, featuring two backs and a tight end or one back and two tight ends along with the running back in the backfield.

When not running with traditional running backs, Sparano turns to 'Wildcat' formations that feature the likes of wide receiver Jeremy Kerley running the ball. There's also the popular Tim Tebow, who is much more of a spectator this year than he was in Denver but still has a role on the field. When not protecting punters on special teams, Tebow comes into the game to run the ball in the 'zone-read' and 'quarterback power' concepts in short yardage situations.

Then there's the highly criticized Mark Sanchez, who has yet to develop into the elite passer that the Jets envisioned when they traded up to select him in the 2009 draft. Sanchez is completing just under half of his total passes for the year and has a 70.9 quarterback rating.

He has not received much help from his teammates, however, as his primary targets have been lost to injury (Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill) and that has affected his play. Keller and Hill will be suiting up against the Patriots this week and are expected to be running many of the preferred short routes and concepts that Tony Sparano likes to call, such as slants, sticks, outs and snag routes, from 1x1, 2x2 and 3x2 sets.

INSIDE THE JETS' DEFENSE

There were big hopes for the defense going into the season for the Jets after adding a stud defensive lineman (Quinton Coples in the first round), a more dynamic safety (LaRon Landry) and incorporating more four-man fronts but much like the offense, it hasn't quite worked out because of injuries and a very slow team.

They lost their top player when cornerback Darelle Revis went out with a season-ending knee injury, and can't stop the run. As a matter of fact, the Jets rank 28th in run defense, allowing 150 yards per game and 4.7 yards per carry. A big reason for this is they are struggling to move laterally due to lack of foot speed and missing far too many tackles.

Against the pass, the Jets rank sixth because of their inability to stop the run. Despite this, they are still using multiple pressure packages and sub-packages that consist of nickel, dime personnel and even seven defensive backs at times, which is no surprise with head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine.

Further, sticking with the defensive backfield, the Jets are still playing multiple coverages, most notably Cover 0, Cover 1 (Man-Free), Cover 3 and Cover 6 (Cover 2 and 4 blend).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

Jets deep shots - The Jets are going to take some deep shots with Hill and possibly Keller. They are more than likely going to come in two ways: double moves and play action. Sparano has built in out-and-up routes that are used as an extension of the constant speed-outs and square-ins that he likes to call. This type of double move is used outside of the numbers and in the middle of the field. Furthermore, the Jets still use play action because Sanchez has success when on the move, so it should come as no surprise if they try to take a shot deep from it. It also wouldn't surprise me if the Jets tried to take a deep shot from the "Bone" formation (3 backfield set) to a single receiver depending on if they can get the Patriots to load the box.

Jets running game - Simply put: the Jets have to run the ball well to have a chance in this game (unless the defense forces turnovers). They can't rely on their passing game to carry them to a win, especially with the way it's been playing, so the Patriots have to buckle their chinstraps and start banging helmets. As always in run defense, Brandon Spikes and the defensive linemen will be key.

Tim Tebow - Whether he's on special teams or in shotgun, Tebow will be someone to keep an eye on because the Jets appear to be trying new things with him. Tebow usually plays in goal-line situations as well as between the 40 yard lines, where the Jets have the least risk involved to take chances.

Dustin Keller - The tight end is a favorite target of Sanchez and the Jets want to throw in the middle of the field, so Keller may often be looked to, especially if they can't run the ball and have to rely on the passing game.

Patriots no-huddle - The no-huddle approach has had success and could once again be a factor for the Patriots when they face the Jets. As noted, New York likes to go to its sub-packages, which is an ideal situation for the Patriots to speed up the pace of the game and attack the Jets defenders in the passing game, namely cornerback Kyle Wilson, and run the ball.

Patriots running game - The goal going into this game for the Patriots should be to run the ball as often as possible with as much success as possible. It makes the job easier for Tom Brady, who would spend less time deciphering the Jets coverages, and the offensive linemen and it minimizes the chances of a turnover. If the Patriots do run the ball successfully and choose to throw play action off of it, it wouldn't surprise me if they target the talented but undisciplined LaRon Landry in the middle of the field.

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For more interesting football reading, check out Alen's blog posts at The Score, and The Sideline View. Follow Alen on Twitter at @Dumonjic_Alen, or send him feedback via email.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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