The once vaunted Rex Ryan led New York Jets defense is currently ranked 28th against the run and is giving up 25 points per game, both lows under Ryan’s tenor. Oh, and their pass rush…. oh wait they don’t have a pass rush. They have recorded a total of three sacks and their leader in sacks is…wait for it… Garrett McIntyre with two sacks.
No knock on McIntyre who has played well, but the Jets defense has not lived up to Ryan’s hype. He said in the preseason this is the best group of players he has had in New York. So far, it is not showing on the field.
The Jets offense is a problem of its own, but they have shown some flashes of hope. Shonn Greene is off to a terrible start, but Ryan still says he will be receiving the bulk of the carries. The Jets will have to dig deep if they want to defeat the 49ers on Sunday, especially without their all-pro, Darrelle Revis.
Let’s go over what the Jets must do to be successful against the 49ers.
1) Pass Rush
Without Revis in the lineup the Jets will need a pass rush more than ever. Ryan has chosen to go with mostly the conventional pass rush this season (4 or less) and it hasn’t worked out to well. He only rushed 5+ players eight times against the Dolphins. The only linemen with a sack is NT Sione Pouha, so the d-ends need a wake-up call.
San Francisco is 2nd in the league in using a two tight end and two running back formations, so the Jets will need to send more than four rushers to get to Smith. The 49ers also have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Ryan will have to go back to the drawing board and come up with some exotic blitz schemes where he sends a lot of pass rushers. Watch for Calvin Pace, Aaron Maybin, and McIntyre to be on a blitzing frenzy this game.
Player to watch: Calvin Pace
2) Run Defense
If the Jets cannot stop the 49ers run game, they will lose this game. San Francisco is averaging 141 rush yards per game, with Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter leading the way. The Jets defense will have to play the way they did against the Steelers when they held them to only 88 yards rushing.
Expect Ryan to go to his 4-3 look and use Quinton Coples and Kendrick Ellis a lot more. Coples and Ellis are both great run defenders, so the 49ers should expect a heavy dose of these two along with Pouha and Muhammad Wilkerson.
Player to watch: Quinton Coples
The Jets offensive line has played well this season only giving up three sacks, but they will have their toughest test of the season going against Aldon Smith and the 49ers pass rush. Austin Howard will show whether he is for real or not this game. Vladimir Ducasse replaced Matt Slauson against Miami last week; whoever plays this week will have a tough task in stopping Justin Smith.
The tight ends have been the biggest issue blocking for the Jets, so expect the running back to stay in the back field to help protect Sanchez.
Player to watch: Austin Howard
4) Special Teams
Special teams could save the Jets in this game, depending on how they play. Obviously the offense will have to put up some points and the defense will have to stop the 49ers, but special teams will be the x-factor. The Jets are going to need good field position against the 49ers defense because it will be extremely difficult to move the ball.
So, if the Jets get some big run backs or can block a punt or a field goal it might win them the game. Also look for Tim Tebow to possibly run another fake punt.
Player to Watch: Jeremy Kerley
With Revis out, the 49ers will be looking to attack the Jets corners, especially Kyle Wilson. Wilson will be tested for sure this game when he is covering either Mario Manningham or Michael Crabtree. Antonio Cromartie has been beaten multiple times down the field this season. Last week Hartline beat him for a big 41 yard catch and Mike Wallace the week before beat him for a big touchdown.
The 49ers will try to send Randy Moss deep and it will mostly likely be Cromartie covering him, so he will have to watch out for those long passes down the field. Ellis Lankster will probably be the 3rd string corner back, but expect the Jets to give him some help with either a safety or linebacker.
Ryan will be aggressive in the pass rush this game, so the corners will be in a difficult situation. Joe McKnight will be playing a lot more corner for the Jets as Ryan has decided to bring him over to the defensive side. McKnight probably won’t see too much time in coverage against the 49ers, but expect to see him rushing the quarterback.
Player to watch: Kyle Wilson
6) Tight ends
If Mark Sanchez is going to have a good game, he will need his tight ends to control the middle of the field. Dustin Keller will be back and that should make Sanchez very happy. Keller has been his security blanket and biggest threat in coverage, next to Santonio Holmes. With Stephen Hill out with a hamstring injury, the Jets will be relying on their tight ends more than ever. Holmes will be in double coverage all day leaving Keller and Cumberland in one on one coverage. Sanchez will be testing the 49ers linebacker in coverage to keep them honest.
Player to Watch- Dustin Keller