Inside the matchup: Patriots at Jets

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.


The Patriots will be traveling to New York to face old and hated rival Jets in what will be a primetime clash on Thanksgiving. The last time the two met, the Patriots were victorious, 29-26. Not much has changed offensively for the Jets since then, who are still a ball control offense under coordinator Tony Sparano.

Sparano relies on a power running game with running back Shonn Greene and most recently, second-year man Bilal Powell. Powell complemented Greene’s 18 carries last week with 11 of his own in a 27-13 win.


During that game, we saw the Jets utilize 11 (one back, one tight end), 21 (two backs, one tight end) and two forms of 12 personnel: one back, two tight ends and one back, one tight end and an eligible offensive lineman. The popular and controversial Tim Tebow also got onto the field, running the ball once with the usual quarterback power run concept. These typically come in between the 30 to 40 yard lines.

Per usual, they ran various forms of run concepts that come from the base NFL package, which include toss, draw, lead, counter and toss. When they weren’t running the ball, they were relying on mesh (two shallow crossers), dig-option, all-outs, double slants and slant-flat concepts in the passing game from three- and five-step dropbacks with quarterback Mark Sanchez.


New York’s defense hasn’t lived up to expectations this year, still struggling to defend the run. They’re giving up an abysmal 141.9 yards rushing per game, which ranks 30th in the NFL. A big reason why is the lack of speed in between the hashes. Linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott are having issues playing the run at times, particularly when they’re asked to serve as two-gap defenders because of the Jets’ double 3-techniques front.


The double 3-techniques front is only one of the multiple fronts that the Jets use. They have also spent time in four man fronts this year, relying on the 3-techniques along with the Under and Over fronts.

When they turn to their old 3-4 front, they use a variety of techniques with the defensive ends, most notably standout Muhammad Wilkerson at several techniques. Nose tackle Sione Pouha is typically a 0 (head up on center) or 1 (outside shoulder of center) technique.

Deep into the secondary, the Jets are still playing a variety of coverages, which includes but is not limited to Cover 0, Cover 1, Cover 3, Cover 4 and Quarter-Quarter-Half.

They will rotate and double rotate their safeties at times when playing these coverages, so it will be interesting if they get caught out of position. It was an issue a couple of times against the St. Louis Rams and on other occasions in previous weeks.


Mark Sanchez deep passing: Believe it or not, Mark Sanchez is top 15 in percentage of pass attempts deep. Nearly 20 percent of Sanchez’s throws have come deep, which puts him 14th in the league per Advanced Football Stats. Some of these have come off of play action passing, nailing post patterns in the middle of the field while others have come outside the numbers with wheel routes by running backs and fake flanker screens.

Jets run defense: As noted, the Jets give up an abundance of rushing yards and there are three things to note here: the Jets’ slow linebackers and nose tackle Sione Pouha and the Patriots’ horizontal running game.


The slow linebackers of the Jets, namely Scott and Harris, have had some issues moving laterally and defending the run. They are simply not quick enough to get to the outsides and that could be a problem if or when the Patriots look to attack the edges with stretch runs like they’ve done in years past.

Pouha has stood out in the past for his intense run defense but when he’s operating as a 0-technique, two-gap tackle, he can be vulnerable. Rex Ryan teaches his nose tackles to mirror the movement of the center when two-gapping and at times, Pouha has been misled by centers, consequently leaving backside A-gap running lanes uncovered.

Jets run offense: New York’s running game is not pretty. There’s no hiding it but they will rely on it in short yardage situations to move the chains and manage the down and distance for Sanchez, who throws a lot of three-step drops. The Patriots have to make sure the Jets are forced into the long third downs in order to pressure Sanchez into winning the game on his own, which he most likely won’t do.

LaRon Landry deep: Since his days at LSU, Landry has had a reputation for sometimes being undisciplined, which the reason I will forever point him out as a potential target for offenses. The deep passing game against Landry can be successful when he’s in the middle of the field, where you put him in a bind with two vertical routes. Force him to pick one — odds are, you’ll have at least one big play.

Patriots’ pass rush vs. Jets three-step drops: The Jets’ receivers have had problems getting open underneath at times and their three-step passing game has suffered. Sanchez has had issues getting the ball out of his hands in these situations and has taken sacks as a result. The Patriots have to continue this trend, getting physical with the slot receivers who are going to be running option routes (pivots) and force Sanchez to hold on to the ball.

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.

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