Sunday, October 4, 2009
Jets at Saints Preview
New York Jets at New Orleans Saints.
4:05 EDT, CBS
In a clash of 3-0 teams, the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints will battle in the Superdome. Both teams have had impressive starts to the season, but the Jets haven’t faced an offense like New Orleans, and the Saints haven’t faced a defense like Rex Ryan’s band of lunatics. Both teams sit in first place with the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons sitting just one game back of each team.
When the Jets have the ball…
In an ideal situation, the Jets would do exactly what they said they would do before the season started. Mark Sanchez would hand the ball off to Thomas Jones and Leon Washington who would run the ball behind the Jets’ highly touted offensive line, controlling time of possession, moving the ball down the field, and keeping Drew Brees off the field.
Of course, it hasn’t been nearly that easy so far, as both Thomas Jones and Leon Washington have found tough sledding so far in the early season. Outside of the 2nd half against Houston, the team ranked last in the NFL in run defense, the running game has not been very productive. The Saints have been much better on defense both against the run and the pass this year, but Detroit, Philadelphia (in Kevin Kolb’s first start), and Buffalo haven’t tested them a whole lot.
Former Jet Jonathan Vilma leads the Saints’ defense, which was pretty bad last year, but has been effective in the early going. The Jets should try to run the ball more than New Orleans’s first three opponents. The offensive line has not generated the push that it should, but the Saints front seven is likely softer than New England and Tennessee’s.
Against the pass, the Saints are built to be a big play defense. They are built around getting leads on teams, and then forcing them to throw and making big plays on defense. In three games, the Saints have 6 sacks, 7 interceptions, and 2 fumble recoveries.
The Jets can’t really afford to get behind in this game because Sanchez has never really been forced to throw the ball a lot from behind. Darren Sharper and company have to be licking their chops at the opportunity to go against another rookie QB. Sanchez has not played like a rookie so far, but there’s bound to be a bump in the road sometime, probably soon, and his ball security issues could come back to the forefront.
If the Jets can run the football, and get some points on the board early, there’s no reason they can’t stay in this game for a while. Washington is probably going to get the ball a lot, both in the passing and the running game. If the Jets expect to win, Washington needs to make some big plays, and Jones needs to do better than 14 carries for 20 yards. Brian Schottenheimer needs to be creative and keep the Saints off-balance and take what should be a raucous crowd the likes of which Sanchez has never seen before out of the game a little bit.
When the Saints have the ball…
The Saints have scored a touchdown on the first possession of each of their last three games. This shouldn’t be surprising, considering the Saints are on a record-setting scoring pace through the first three games.
Drew Brees continued his torrid pace from last season in the first two games. Last week, it was the Pierre Thomas show, as he put up over 100 yards and 2 touchdowns in the second half. The Jets have had a good run defense ever since the arrival of Kris Jenkins, and Thomas and Reggie Bush will have their hands full with the Jets’ defensive front 7.
The question for the Jets is can their defense stop Brees, and more specifically, stop all the weapons he has to throw to. Darrelle Revis can only cover one guy. Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Lance Moore, Reggie Bush, and Jeremy Shockey are all very capable options in the passing game. Shockey and Bush will be essential dump-off options when the Jets blitz. Brees is known to have an extremely quick release, so look for those two to be constant options.
Henderson and Colston are scary in their own right. Colston is a huge target at 6’5”, and since arriving to the NFL from Hofstra, he has been a super-productive receiver. Henderson may be the bigger problem for the Jets. Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman will be heavily relied upon, and the jury is still out on both players. Henderson is a deep ball receiver with elite speed who could be primed for a big play or two.
The question for the Jets is can they afford to blitz as much as usual. Without Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland again, they should give Lowery and Coleman some more safety help. If they do, that limits the blitz packages available. If they don’t, they risk giving up big plays if the blitz doesn’t get there.
While in many cases, the dominant defense should shut down the dominant offense, the Jets’ injuries may haunt them against Brees. The pass rush has been very good all year, but the sack numbers haven’t been there. That’s not likely to change this week, and Brees is good enough to make a few plays against the Jets’ backup corners.
The Saints seem to have the edge in most intangible elements in this game. Mark Sanchez has never faced a dome crowd like he will face against the Saints. Somewhat similarly to Rex Ryan two weeks ago, the Saints player and coaches are trying to rile up a fan base that hasn’t seen a home game since week one. Scott Fujita said about his fans, “They can be drunk and loud. That’s what I would suggest.”
Not to mention, the Saints are coming off a few fairly easy wins against teams not known for their physicality. The Jets are coming off a win over Tennessee, one of the more physical teams in the league, right after a huge win against New England. If the Jets’ defense is tired, Brees will pick them apart.
This is not looking good on paper for the Jets. I won’t be shocked if they won, but let’s be honest. The Saints probably have the hottest quarterback in the NFL and he is surrounded by weapons and facing a defense that isn’t at full strength. The Jets can certainly win this game if they set the tone early, running the football and setting up manageable third downs both on offense and defense. Unfortunately, I think the odds are stacked against the Jets, and they drop this game.