Friday, September 23, 2011

Jets' first-down defense sets the tone

The New York Jets’ defense thrives on putting its opponent in a hole early and following up with creativity, and the Oakland Raiders have taken notice.

“I know that the Jets, after two games in the NFL are the number one team in the league in first-down production on defense, and I think the opponents are averaging about 3.84 yards per play on first down,” Raiders offensive coordinator Al Saunders told the Oakland media Friday.

“When you do that, and you follow it up with maybe not an effective second down, you get yourself in third-down-and-long situations, and against any football team, offensively you would say you want to be in a normal manageable third down situation.”

Being in favorable second- and third-down situations allows the Jets to play on their toes rather than their heels. They can force the opposing offense’s hand, putting them in a passing situation. It’s at that point Jets’ coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine like to dial up the pressure, trusting their elite cornerback tandem of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie to do their thing in man-to-man coverage.

“The longer the distance goes on third down the more freedom they have in substituting personnel groups and doing creative things on defense,” Saunders said. “That probably gives you more problems than normal down and distances do, so it’s really important for us to play well on first down.”

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