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(8/4) Hutchinson: Versatility is the key to Jets' D


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Versatility is the key to Jets' D

Friday, August 04, 2006

BY DAVE HUTCHINSON

Star-Ledger Staff

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- Linebacker Matt Chatham, who played on the Patriots' three Super Bowl teams, says the secret to the suc cess of the Jets' new 3-4 defense, which was imported from New England, isn't simply that it's a 3-4 scheme.

Chatham said the key to the defense is that it can morph into a 4-3, 5-2 or any other alignment coach Eric Mangini dreams up. At times, the Patriots have been known to play all sorts of fronts, including a one-man defensive line, two linebackers and eight defensive backs.

Whatever works is the mantra in New England.

"I think anytime you have a defense or an offense where you can be versatile, it's always going to beat one that's not," said Chatham, who played six seasons in New England before signing with the Jets as an unrestricted free agent.

"I think the key isn't so much that it's a 3-4 or 4-3, it's just that you're trying to get 11 guys who can do more than one thing. If you have too many guys that are just in a tunnel, it really narrows what you can do."

There are major questions about whether or not the Jets have the right personnel to play a 3-4 defense and two of their best defensive players don't seem suited for the scheme.

New nose tackle Dewayne Robertson is just 310 pounds and not exactly the immovable object that nose tackles must be in the middle of that defense. Small but quick Pro Bowl inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma is built to play in a 4-3 alignment, where he doesn't have to two-gap and fight off blockers every play.

Defensive end Shaun Ellis, a former Pro Bowler, admits he's not a big fan of the defense.

Nonetheless, the Jets will press on, and Chatham believes that with this defense, games are won from Monday through Saturday, not on Sundays.

"I think the one thing you overlook is how much teams are taxed during the week (preparing for the defense)," Chatham said. "Teams are confused so much during the game as they are in the amount of preparation you force on teams.

"You force them to have to do so much during the week that they can't work on a lot of the basic things they work on during a normal week. When you get out there during the game, sure, it's all that additional communication. But overall, (the defense) puts a lot of pressure on a team in a lot of facets."

Players seem to like all of the different fronts and packages in the defense. It's a radical change from last season's 4-3.

"It's a good defense, a proven defense," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "Once we get the techniques down, it'll be a great thing."

The Jets, whose defense was on the field for long stretches last season, have a solid group of linebackers, including Eric Barton, Victor Hobson, rookie Anthony Schlegel, defensive end/linebacker Bryan Thomas, Chatham and Vilma.

But they appear to lack the beef up front, especially at nose tackle, to play the scheme. Behind Robertson, backup Sione Pouha, who is out with a knee injury, weighs only 303 pounds.

And they have no big-time pass rusher now that John Abraham (Falcons) is gone. Ellis and Thomas are being counted on to fill that void.

Vilma, though, remains the key. He's a sideline-to-sideline playmaker. But the 3-4 is more struc tured and there are questions as to whether he can be as effective in this defense. He has watched film of Patriots inside linebacker Tedy Bruschi to learn how to play the position.

"For me, it's a challenge," said Vilma, entering his third season. "I like to take it as a personal chal lenge to go out there and excel in this system as well or whatever system we do run. Then, there's noth ing I can't do. I want to prove it to myself."

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Defensive end Shaun Ellis, a former Pro Bowler, admits he's not a big fan of the defense.

"It's a good defense, a proven defense," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "Once we get the techniques down, it'll be a great thing."

The article seems to contradict itself here regarding Ellis - which is it Shaun?

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The article seems to contradict itself here regarding Ellis - which is it Shaun?

umm...he doesn't enjoy playing in the system, but that doesn't mean he has to think the system sucks. it can be a good system and he can still not like it.

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