The New York Jets entered 2013 with quite a few questions about a pass rush that was one of the worst in the NFL last season. This offseason, they drafted Sheldon Richardson and signed Antwan Barnes to help address that problem. They received immediate dividends on that investment in Week 1, when each player recorded a sack (technically Richardson split his with Calvin Pace).
The Jets recorded three total sacks against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and they put quite a bit of pressure on Josh Freeman throughout the game. They will need to ramp up the pass rush even more for tonight’s contest with the New England Patriots. If the Jets want to win this game they are going to have to do it with defense, and there is no better way for them to be effective defensively than pressuring Tom Brady.
The Patriots only surrendered two sacks in their season opener, and Brady was able to engineer yet another game winning drive without getting hit very often. The Jets have to be different in this game if they want to win. Their front seven was absolutely dominant against the Bucs, and they have the ability to repeat that performance.
Everything begins with defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, who is one of the elite 3-4 ends in the NFL. Wilkerson will need to get penetration and draw double teams, freeing up the outside linebackers and any blitzers to have a clear path to Brady. Richardson and nose tackles Kenrick Ellis and Damon Harrison also need to control the point of attack. If the three down lineman can occupy the offensive linemen, then blitzing linebackers and safeties will be able to make an impact.
Brady will be without several of his top receiving options, and the Jets have more than enough talent in the secondary to shut down the receivers he does have at his disposal. If they can blanket the receivers, the rush will have an extra second to get to Brady, which is all they need. When Brady has time he will tear a defense apart, and the Jets can’t allow him to have a clear view of the field.
When the Jets have beaten the Patriots under Rex Ryan it has been when they have been able to create pressure, especially with blitz packages. Expect Ryan give the Patriots many different fronts and personnel packages, and he will disguise blitzes and keep Brady guessing. Ryan is excellent at this part of the game, and he will be able to put the Jets in position to get after Brady.
With a strong pass rush, the Jets have a chance to shut down New England’s high powered offense. This is their best bet to win the game, and expect them to go all out in their attempt to get after Brady.