The New York Jets have the second-ranked defense in the league. Heading into Monday night’s match-up against the Atlanta Falcons, you’d think that the Jets have the upper hand against the 1-3 Falcons offense.
The Jets have faced below average offenses so far this season — Tampa Bay (31-overall), New England (11-overall), Buffalo Bills (16-overall), Tennessee Titans (29-overall). Their opponents have featured receivers such as Kenbrell Thompkins, Kelley Washington, and Justin Hunter — hardly household names. On Monday, the Jets will face the seventh-ranked offense of the Atlanta Falcons which features a flurry of offensive fire-power: Julio Jones, Roddy White, Tony Gonzalez and Matt Ryan. And while the Jets defense has been impressive so far this season, they are, frankly, out-matched against a superior Falcons offense that has passed for over 1,300 yards, and scored 9-touchdowns.
Antonio Cromartie has taken over from Darrelle Revis as the Jets shut-down cornerback, and has performed well. However, outside of Cromartie, the Jets’ defensive backs have struggled. They drafted Dee Milliner, the standout cornerback from the University of Alabama, with their first round draft pick in 2013, but he is yet to live up to his billing. He has suffered from a variety of injuries (Achilles, Hip, Hamstring), and was benched in week two. Since then, the Jets have auditioned Kyle Wilson and Darrin Walls opposite Cromartie, and both have produced similar and less than satisfying results. Kyle Wilson has faired better of the two — he has given up 7 receptions on 19 targets. However, he has struggled with penalties — he gave up four consecutive against the Buffalo Bills in week three. The Jets started Walls last week against the Tennessee Titans, but he struggled mightily — he gave up 5 receptions on 8 targets including a touchdown.
On Monday, Cromartie will be matched up against Julio Jones — a fairly even battle. However, that still leaves Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. Due to an ailing ankle, White hasn’t been himself this season; nevertheless, he is still a huge threat. Tony Gonzalez has been nothing short of uncoverable — he caught 12 passes for 149 yards and 2 touchdowns in last week’s loss to New England.
Rex Ryan is a master of defensive schemes, and he will have to dig deep into his playbook to slow down the Falcons offense. The Jets’ defensive front will have to put pressure on Matt Ryan, according to ProFootballFocus Ryan has a QB rating of 59.1, a 1:3 TD-INT ratio and has been sacked 7 times when under pressure. But due to the fact that Ryan is a smart QB with a myriad of weapons and knows how to exploit the hole left by a blitz, his statistics dramatically improve when he’s under extra pressure.
The only way for the Jets to stop the Falcons high powered offense is to get to Matt Ryan. If the Jets don’t put pressure on Matt Ryan, he will exploit the Jets through the air; outside of Antonio Cromartie the Jets don’t have the talent to match the Falcons man-for-man.
It’s time to live up your reputation defense. Your team is counting on you.