New York Jets: Pass Defense Faces Biggest Challenge Yet

By Greg Sulik
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Jets are coming off one of their most embarrassing losses in recent memory, as the Cincinnati Bengals demolished them by a score of 49-9. Andy Dalton threw for 325 yards and 5 touchdowns, and the Jets’ 15th ranked pass defense was completely exposed.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints are coming to town this week, and their passing attack ranks 3rd in the NFL. The Saints have dangerous players all over the field, including Marques Colston, Jimmy Graham and Darren Sproles. This is the biggest challenge the Jets’ pass defense has faced this season, and they need to improve in a hurry.

Rex Ryan said following the Cincinnati loss that Brees would throw for 700 yards if the Jets played like that against the Saints, and he’s right. If Dalton and the Bengals could tear the Jets’ secondary apart so easily, one can only imagine what Brees will do to them. Antonio Cromartie has struggled this season, Dee Milliner has been a disaster and the Jets don’t have anyone who can match up with Graham.

The Saints also have some insights on how the Jets will attack them, because Ryan’s brother, Rob Ryan, is the defensive coordinator for the Saints. He will surely be answering any and all questions that Brees and the offense have on how to pick apart the Jets’ blitz heavy defense. The Jets are going to need be careful with how they approach this game, and they should make sure they disguise their defenses on every snap.

In fact, the Jets may be best served using the approach they take to defend Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. When you blitz Brady, he simply fires quick, short passes to his slot receivers and tight ends, who pick up 10-15 yards at time until the Pats are in the endzone. The Jets have countered this in recent seasons by using max cover schemes against Brady, dropping 7 or 8 players back in coverage and taking away all of Brady’s throwing options.

This is the best approach to take against Brees as well. Obviously Brees is not a running threat, and the Saints don’t hand it to their backs very often either. The Jets have the league’s top ranked run defense anyway, so all their attention should be on improving against the pass. If the Jets get too aggressive in coming after Brees, he will simply dump it off to Sproles or Graham for easy completions.

Using max cover schemes allows the Jets to double team Graham, which is an unfortunate necessity of playing the Saints. They can also chip Sproles at the line of scrimmage and try to knock him off his routes. Cromartie will match up with Colston, and he has the talent keep Colston in check. Colston is not the fastest receiver, which plays to Cromartie’s strengths, especially while he continues to deal with his hip injury.

Even with these adjustments, the Jets are still going to be fighting an uphill battle. The pass defense is not going to shut down the Saints, because they are simply too good. However, if they can limit the damage and keep the score under control, Geno Smith and the offense will have a chance to win the game. The Jets’ pass defense is the key to this game, and it is time they rise to the challenge.

Greg Sulik is a New York Jets writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google

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