Solving Rex Ryan’s Complicated Blitz Schemes Will Be Biggest Challenge to Patriots


Solving Rex Ryan's Complicated Blitz Schemes Will Be Biggest Challenge to Patriots The Jets' ruthless pass rush wouldn’t be so effective if it were easy to contain, but there are things the Patriots can do to contain it.

During the week of preparation, the Patriots have to study situational tendencies — how many guys the Jets like to blitz on down and distance, who they like to keep in coverage and where they like to attack. They overload one side a lot, so that is sometimes a tipping-off point for a quarterback like Tom Brady, who has seen it all at this point.

It's not always about initial identification, though. The Jets like to run some delayed blitzes and zone blitzes. On a delayed blitz, they'll send the first rush of players — say, five of them — before one or two others rush a second later. That’s a great way to attack the blockers who have already sold out to take on their initial assignments, and it leaves the second wave of players a better opportunity to run toward the quarterback.

A zone blitz is the opposite, when — for instance — seven players initially rush toward the line of scrimmage before some of them back off into coverage, which works best when it happens out of the quarterback's sight lines. This can hurt a quarterback who thinks an underneath route is open and then throws an interception when he doesn’t see the pass rusher back off.

Communication is of the utmost importance, and crowd noise can be an issue. Brady has to make his reads and relay them to the offensive line and running backs. Each call will filter out away from the spotted ball, and every blocker has to be on the exact same page to make sure the Jets don’t get any free rushers into the backfield.

The Jets are great at disguising their blitzes, and they obviously spent time this offseason self-scouting their own tendencies. This could make it more difficult for a Week 2 matchup, as opposed to a game later in the season when the Patriots will have more game film to study. Because the Patriots have to expect to get beat on some blitzes this weekend, they've got to make sure they've got some safety blankets who can bail out Brady on quick dump-offs.

Typically, a good screen game is a great way to offset blitz-heavy teams, but Jets head coach Rex Ryan is famous for killing that theory. When the Jets blitz, they almost always send one guy into the backfield to level the running back, taking him and the screen option completely out of play.

Deeper into New York's defense, the Jets' secondary is tough to beat, particularly all-world cornerback Darrelle Revis, who will likely eliminate Randy Moss on Sunday. But cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson can be had, and they were out of sorts all night against the Ravens. Cromartie has been an elite cornerback throughout his time in the NFL, and he's not used to getting picked on this much. If the Patriots can get in his head early, Cromartie could get frustrated and morph back into the penalty machine that killed the Jets' defense Monday.

On the other side, the Jets' offense, at best, is a work in progress. Give credit to an excellent Ravens defense, but the Jets' offensive performance in Week 1 was embarrassing. More than anything, the Patriots know they've got to stop the New York running game, which drives that whole operation. If the Pats can limit running backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson, they can basically start the timer on a Mark Sanchez mistake through the air.

Sanchez, who threw four picks in New England last season, gets a lot of confidence throws from the coaching staff — three-step drops to quick slants over the middle to get the second-year quarterback a chance to feel good and get into a rhythm. Also, with Leon Washington out of the mix, the Jets' screen game has been scaled back, so Sanchez doesn’t have as much of that to fall back on. They'll run some stuff to Tomlinson, but they probably won't do it with Greene.

The Jets' passing options are a mixed bunch. They’ll almost certainly try some deep passes to Braylon Edwards, who sometimes catches the ball like he's got 10 thumbs. Edwards will spread the field and make some plays, but he's inconsistent and, maybe, a little mentally soft when he struggles.

Wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery is an excellent route runner who is a good possession receiver. He won't wow anyone athletically, but he's always an asset to the offense.

Tight end Dustin Keller is a very good receiver who is similar to Pats tight end Aaron Hernandez but doesn’t have the same type of shake. Keller, though, is a below-average blocker, and the Jets won't run behind him. When he is on the field, the Patriots will have a good idea of how to attack the line of scrimmage.

There are also some issues at left guard, where Matt Slauson has taken over for Alan Faneca, who was released in the offseason. When the Jets run the ball, it will almost certainly be to the right side behind center Nick Mangold, right guard Brandon Moore and right tackle Damien Woody.

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