The New York Jets’ run defense had another great performance in their 27-20 win against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. They’ve played great the first two weeks. Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin ran for only 65 yards on 24 carries in Week 1, and New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley gained only 40 yards on 16 carries in Week 2.
On Sunday, the Jets were able to limit the damage of the Bills’ running back duo from Orchard Park, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, who combined for 81 yards on 17 carries. Spiller did leave the game with a knee injury, so he only had 10 carries. Jackson’s numbers are inflated because he had trouble finding running room in the Jets’ defense outside of a tackle-breaking 59-yard run.
The key to why the Jets’ run defense is performing at an elite level is because of pressure. Jets head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman have been mixing and matching the defense’s blitzing schemes this season to try to prevent opposing running backs from finding holes in their front seven. This has worked really well as they rank sixth in opposing rushing yards allowed per game, 79.7.
As well, the Jets made the smart move to draft defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson in the first round of the 2013 Draft. Richardson is 6-foot-3 and weighs 294 pounds. He has been great this season, totaling 16 tackles and one and a half sacks. Offensive linemen sometimes struggle to stop him from getting pressure on the quarterback or tackling the running back.
Another reason why the run defense is much better than last season is due to the progression of defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and linebacker Quinton Coples. Both of them are at least 6-foot-4 and 290 pounds. Wilkerson is in his third season and Coples is in his second season.
Wilkerson has three sacks thus far, and he is on pace to shatter his five sack total from last season. He has done a great job of dominating offensive lineman en route to pressuring the quarterback and tackling the running back. He must have watched a lot of film in the offseason because he appears to do a great job of anticipating the offensive play calling.
Coples played his first game on Sunday after missing the first two weeks recovering from surgery on his fractured right ankle. He was on a snap count, and Ryan had him play linebacker and defensive end, where he played last season. Similar to Wilkerson, he appeared to be able to read the offensive play calling better than last season.
With Coples back, opposing running backs are going to have trouble finding running room against the Jets’ run defense on a weekly basis. The Jets will face running back Chris Johnson and the Tennessee Titans in Week 4.