The New York Jets are having some major struggles in the secondary this season, and their cornerbacks were exposed badly in their 37-14 loss to the Buffalo Bills last week. Dee Milliner struggled all game once again, and Antonio Cromartie was beat deep for a touchdown as well. The Jets rank just 23rd in the NFL in pass defense, and their failure in that area has cost them several games.
This week, the New York Jets are on the road against the Baltimore Ravens in a game that carries massive playoff implications for both teams. At 5-5, the Jets have a little more wiggle room than the 4-6 Ravens, but a loss would still put the Jets in a very difficult spot. The Jets need their defense to keep the game low scoring in order to have a chance to win, and that means they must improve their pass defense.
The key for the Jets this week will be their coverage of Ravens third year receiver Torrey Smith. Smith is a burner, and Cromartie and Milliner have both struggled to cover deep threats all season. Smith has 46 catches for 785 yards and 3 TDs, and he is averaging 17.1 yards per catch, tying him for 7th in the league. The Ravens’ pass game depends heavily on Smith, as he leads the team with 92 targets, which is twice as many as anyone else on the team.
Cromartie will draw the main responsibility of covering Smith, and he will need to make sure that he keeps Smith in front of him. The two players are of similar size, speed and talent level, so this should be a very good matchup. However, Cromartie has had some huge struggles this season after making the Pro Bowl last year. He has had some issues defending the deep ball, and the Ravens will undoubtedly take several shots to Smith down the field.
This is where the newly signed Ed Reed could come into play. Reed had almost no impact on the game last week, and the Jets need to alter their schemes this week to maximize his abilities. Reed is at his best when he can roam the deep middle part of the field, reading the quarterback’s eyes and jumping passes. Rex Ryan needs to give Reed this freedom, as it will provide Cromartie and Milliner with help over the top and could force an interception or two. Joe Flacco’s 13 interceptions are 5th most in the league, so the Jets need to try take advantage of the opportunity to force some turnovers.
If the Jets don’t start figuring out how to defend the pass better, particularly the deep ball, they will be eliminated from playoff contention in short order. The Jets are outstanding against the run, and they shouldn’t have any problems this week either. That means that if the Jets can take away Smith and the deep pass, the Ravens will have very few options offensively. There is huge pressure on Cromartie to step up this week, and his performance is the key to the game.