The New York Jets have had a lot of ups and downs this season all over the field, but one of the few constants has been their strong run defense. The Jets rank 2nd in the NFL in rush yards allowed and 1st in yards per carry, and they have shut down a variety of talented running backs. Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison and Sheldon Richardson form arguably the best defensive line in football, and they have been the key to the Jets’ defensive success.
Inside linebackers David Harris and Demario Davis have both had excellent seasons as well, and they are the Jets’ two leading tacklers. Supported by outside linebackers Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples, as well as strong safety Dawan Landry, the Jets have made life very difficult for opposing offenses on the ground. Their defensive line does an incredible job of controlling the line of scrimmage, closing gaps and getting penetration, while the linebackers are excellent in pursuit and are fundamentally sound tacklers.
The Jets actually had one of their worst performances of the season against the run during last week’s win over the Oakland Raiders, and they want to redeem themselves Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. The Panthers have the league’s 9th ranked rushing attack, with DeAngelo Williams, Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton all contributing. There is also a competition between the Jets and Panthers’ defenses, as Carolina leads the league in rush yards allowed per game and ranks 4th in yards per carry.
That means that rush yards will be hard to come by in this game, and both sets of run defenses will have a chance to prove they are the best in the NFL. It should be noted that that the Jets have only allowed 42 yards more than the Panthers this season despite facing 68 more rushing attempts. The Jets’ 3.1 YPA allowed is historically good, and it is a very strong indication that the Jets are the best run defense in the league.
They will need to play like it on Sunday, because the Jets badly need a win. Winning on the road against the Panthers is a very tough thing to do, but the Panthers are an offense that is based on running the ball. If the Jets can take that away and keep the game low scoring, it could give the Jets’ offense a chance to win the game. Unfortunately, a strong run defense is not something that can win games by itself, but it is the Jets’ greatest strength, and it can be the foundation for an upset of the Panthers.