Jets bringing Ground, Pound to Motown
After going pass-heavy in loss to Packers, Gang Green is getting back to basics
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Of all the foul-ups, bleeps and blunders from last week's shutout loss to the Green Bay Packers, the most disturbing development for the New York Jets was their approach on offense.
They behaved like a West Coast passing team, and they wound up getting pushed around by an injury-plagued defense that had no business pushing them around.
That stops now. The mantra this week, the message sent down from the head coach's office, is simple: Let's not forget who we are.
Translation: Ground and Pound.
"This is what we're packing to Detroit," right tackle Damien Woody told ESPNNewYork.com. "We're packing our running game and we're packing our defense. Everything else is an accessory. We plan on playing big-boy football. That's what I like to call it."
Facing the Detroit Lions, the not-so-proud owners of the NFL's 27th-ranked run defense, the Jets want to turn Motown into Mow Down. They want to get back to being the 2009 Jets, with the big, bad running game that no one wanted to face.
Rex Ryan prides himself on having the most physical team in the league, but the Jets' offense has strayed from that mentality in recent weeks. That's why, from heated team meetings on Monday to intense practices Wednesday and Thursday, the emphasis was on rediscovering their smash-mouth roots.
"It's staying true to who we are," Woody said. "Obviously, you look at the stats, and you look at the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent. If there's a weakness, we're going to try to exploit it. That's what we plan on doing."
Consider that a message to the Lions, who, in spite of their ability to make big plays on defense, can't stop the run. They're helpless. They can't stop a nose from running. They're allowing 4.9 yards per carry, including 6.1 on first downs. If the Jets can't figure out a way to exploit that, they might as well surrender their Ground and Pound membership cards.
The Jets need a reawakening on offense. They've lost their way a bit, having gone three straight games with more passing than running plays, unprecedented in the Ryan era. Against the Packers, coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called 41 passing plays and 27 running plays -- in windy conditions, no less. In a close game.
How is that possible? Schottenheimer made sure to use the Wildcat package for a few plays, even managed to dial up a reverse that fooled no one, but yet Shonn Greene -- the most physical running back in the stadium -- got the ball only six times.
Five Things To Watch
1. The $70 million sophomores. The Lions' Matthew Stafford ($48 million guaranteed) and the Jets' Mark Sanchez ($28 million) were the first and fifth overall selections in the 2009 draft. Stafford has better arm, Sanchez has better athleticism and intangibles. Stafford is coming off one of his best games (four TD passes), Sanchez his worst of the season (two interceptions). Which sophomore will shine?
2. The Hands Team. It's redemption day for the Jets' pass catchers, who dropped six passes last week -- including three by Jerricho Cotchery and two by Santonio Holmes. Who could've imagined a drop list that didn't include Braylon Edwards? The Jets like their matchups on the outside, and they will try to attack the Lions' man-to-man coverage with deep play-action passes.
3. A Man Named Suh. The Jets have been talking up rookie DT Ndamukong Suh (6½ sacks) like he's Mean Joe Greene. Suh is a stud, but the Jets can exploit his inexperience with trap plays and misdirection runs. You might see the 'ol "Swerve" play a few times. RG Brandon Moore, strong and crafty, will be matched against Suh most of the game.
4. Revis Island vs. Megatron. It will be the battle of the nicknames between CB Darrelle Revis and Lions WR Calvin Johnson. Nine years from now, when the next all-decade team is named, you're liable to see Revis and Johnson on the list. The Lions' other receiver, Nate Burleson, said they plan to have some "fun" if the Jets play their usual Cover-1 look -- man-to-man with a single high safety.
5. Not the Same 'Ol Lions. The Lions are an exciting team, filled with playmakers, that plays well at home (2-1, 38 ppg). They've come a long way from the 0-16 version from 2008. The Jets have to be patient. The Lions will make big plays, but they'll also surrender a bunch. It's important for the Jets to maintain their poise -- and not try any dumb fake punts.
-- Rich Cimini
"I don't know why they stopped running the ball," said former Washington Redskins executive Vinny Cerrato, an analyst for 1050 ESPN New York. "I didn't even recognize that offense."
Perhaps it's no coincidence that Ryan has spent more time than usual in Schottenheimer's office as they prepare for the Lions.
"I've had more conversations this week with Schotty than normal," Ryan told ESPNNewYork.com. "I'm not making any of the play calls. We're just going over things. Schotty is a great play-caller, but I'm giving him the defensive perspective, what defenses are trying to do to us."
The Jets are at their best when they play offense like they play defense -- tough-minded, physical, aggressively, with a chip on their shoulder. A strong running game makes it easier on Mark Sanchez, who has improved as a play-action passer.
Problem is, they have all these so-called weapons in the passing game (when they're not dropping the ball), and Schottenheimer is calling plays like he feels obligated to make sure everyone gets their fair share -- a notion he flat-out refutes.
This is where Ryan must step in. He's the head coach, and he runs the show. If he feels the Jets need to run the ball more often, he should tell that to his play caller. Ryan can't stand up in front of the media after a game, like he did last Sunday, and say, "I would've liked to have seen our balance be a little more run than pass."
That's an unnecessary second guess, unfair to Schottenheimer, who made it clear he has no problems at all with the way he called the Green Bay game.
On Sunday, the Jets are going to run -- and run hard. They smell opportunity.
Under coach Jim Schwartz and coordinator Gunther Cunningham, the Lions employ an aggressive, attacking defense that produces sacks, turnovers and tackles behind the line. But at the same time, their eight-man front is vulnerable to seams. If a runner can get to the second level, he can go a long way.
If the Jets want to continue the trend, they will have to neutralize rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, a demolition crew. The Jets' linemen were almost in awe as they watched a tape of Suh blowing up the Chicago Bears' right tackle on a goal-line play in the season opener. Right guard Brandon Moore, perhaps the Jets' most consistent lineman, draws the Suh assignment.
"He's really, really impressive," line coach Bill Callahan said of Suh, whom he recruited and coached at Nebraska.
The Jets aren't intimidated. They expect to run over you. They're packing for a Mow Down in Motown.
AFC TITLE GAME: STEELERS 24, JETS 19
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