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Jets have third-down advantage

by: Keith Kidd

posted: Friday, September 7, 2007 | Print Entry

filed under: New York Jets, New England Patriots, Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, Brad Smith, Laveranues Coles, Jerricho Cotchery, Chad Pennington, Tory James, Brandon Meriweather, Randall Gay, Rodney Harrison, Richard Seymour

After looking deeper into the New England Patriots and the New York Jets game on Sunday, I noticed that one of the more interesting aspects will be how each team handles third-down personnel groupings. This is an aspect where the Jets actually have a slight edge.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick wrote the book on situational football as far as creating individual mismatches against the various personnel groupings used in multiple spread-offensive formations, but Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer did a great job last season of using a short, controlled passing attack to set up the run. The run wasn't very effective last year, but the addition of RB Thomas Jones during the offseason should help New York run the ball against the Patriots and give the Jets more balance on offense.

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Coles

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Jones

The key for the Patriots will be how they matchup on the perimeter in their sub-defensive packages on third down, because the Jets can cause a lot of problems for New England on the back end with their multiple-spread packages. And it doesn't help that New England will be without SS Rodney Harrison. Even though Harrison has lost a step in coverage his experience making communication calls is critical and his absence will hinder this secondary when it comes to proper calls and adjustments.

Look for Schottenheimer to spread the field with his multiple groupings by detaching RB Leon Washington, backup receiver Brad Smith, and starting wideouts Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery out in the formation to create a four-wide look that will isolate backup corners Tory James and Randall Gay or backup safety Brandon Meriweather in one-on-one situations. Belichick does not normally ask his players to do something they can't, but based on the number of matchups created by this two-by-two look Pennington will be able to come to the line and identify the one that is most favorable for the Jets.

The other key element on third down will be how the Patriots decide to attack Jets' QB Chad Pennington in the pocket. The loss of RDE Richard Seymour is obviously a big one, but New England still has a number of weapons that can attack the pocket and the Patriots do a great job of moving defenders around to confuse protection calls and adjustments. That will make it difficult for Pennington and the offense to know where the extra blitzer is coming from.

It will be up to Pennington to do a solid job of identifying the middle linebacker and getting the Jets in the right protections against the Patriots zone-blitz schemes. He is a smart, savvy player who manages the game well, and for the Jets to have a chance in this game Pennington and the offensive line must play perfectly. If they do, they can win on third down and possibly win the game.

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