W2W4: New England Patriots vs New York Jets

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When the Jets Pass the Ball:

Oct 18, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall (15) carries the ball past Washington Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland (26) in the second half against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won 34-20. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

New York had planned on another season of Geno Smith at quarterback until a locker room incident resulting in Smith being sidelined with a broken jaw ended that plan. What a blessing that turned out to be for the Jets. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick gave the position the steady hand and calming veteran presence that has not been seen in the green and white jerseys since the Chad Pennington era.

The Jets passing offense has been wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Count me as a non-believer who has been converted by Marshall in 2015. After he shot his way out of his third franchise after an injury-plagued 2014, it seemed as if Marshall in New York was a powder keg waiting to explode into a locker room mess. Instead, he has embraced his role as a veteran leader under head coach Todd Bowles and been the team MVP through six weeks.

Beyond Marshall, the Jets passing attack is nearly non-existent. Bilal Powell–out injured this week–was the only tight end or back making even a minor impact in the passing game. Eric Decker remains a one-trick pony pulling down big money for minimal production. The third wide receiver position has been shared by Quincy Enunwa (suspended), Jeremy Kerley (invisible), and Devin Smith (getting up to speed/developmental project). None have made the impact the Jets would need to keep up with the New England offense.

Another overlooked aspect of New York’s success passing the ball is the offensive line. The veteran unit has stayed remarkably healthy and have been the best in the NFL in protecting their quarterback. Fitzpatrick helps by getting rid of the ball, and the Jets schedule has helped. Washington, Indianapolis, Miami and Cleveland have struggled to rush the passer against anyone they have played in 2015.

Oct 18, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Donte Moncrief (10) cannot catch a pass against New England Patriots free safety Devin McCourty (32) in the second half during the NFL game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

On defense, the Patriots have quietly been very productive with their pass defense. In Net Passing Yards per Attempt, New England is fifth in the NFL behind Denver, the Jets, Carolina, and Green Bay. While New England may be 9th in the NFL in total passing yards allowed, the Net Yards per Attempt shows how amazingly productive the Patriots have been with Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan starting at cornerback.

Credit also needs to go to the New England safeties. Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon and even rookie Jordan Richards have been doing yeoman’s work in 2015 in the secondary. McCourty has been a hybrid cornerback at times in man coverage while Chung lined up much of the game in Indianapolis against T.Y. Hilton to neutralize his speed and quickness with power.

The pass rush has been key in New England containing opposing passing offenses. Chandler Jones has been a beast and Jabaal Sheard has added a bookend rusher. The loss of Sheard due to injury puts further pressure on veteran Rob Ninkovich and rookie Geneo Grissom may be counted on to add some rush this week as a sub. Dominique Easley has provided inside push while Jamie Collins has become the NFL’s premier blitzing inside linebacker.

The Patriots will likely continue to use their three safety look against the Jets base offense and switch to the three cornerback look when the Jets have a third wide receiver on the field. If Malcolm Butler and the secondary can contain Brandon Marshall, they may have a hard time staying with the Patriots offense on Sunday.


Next: When the Patriots Run the Ball