Three to Focus on – Chargers @ Jets, Week 7

| October 21, 2011

The New York Jets are coming off of a Monday Night Football victory that they desperately needed, yet all the questions that existed heading in to that game  are still being asked going into this one. Defensively, the Jets aren’t playing as well as they have since Rex Ryan has taken over, but the unit still appears to be good enough to take them where they want to go – if not exclusively for just how plain good Darrelle Revis is. For all the praise you could give Revis, however, the Jets’ offense is nowhere close to being given any such acclaim. On a positive note, this will be the first time LaDainian Tomlinson faces his former team, so maybe he can finally bring even a fraction of a spark to an offense that is in desperate need to find some productivity.

On the other hand, you the San Diego Chargers who are flying somewhat under-the-radar for a team that has traditionally been a hot topic during the first quarter of the season. The beginning of the last few seasons have become infamous for uninspiring starts, while this season a 4-1 start has ironically led them to be largely ignored. If the Chargers are able to beat the Jets, it will be good for their best start to a season since Phillip Rivers was playing his junior season at NC State University.

Here are three things to keep your eye on in this game:

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1) Darrelle Revis vs. Vincent Jackson

It’s tough for me to watch Darrelle Revis and not think that I am truly watching history in the making. In an NFL where defenses are increasingly handicapped by rules that spur rookie quarterbacks to throw for consecutive 400-yard-games, you have Revis who honestly looks like he could play the position with his hands tied behind his back. After largely being avoided during his first five games (targeted 14 times in his first five games), he was targeted 14 times Monday night which really only served to be more visual evidence of just how good he is. On those 14 targets, Revis only allowed five completions for 60 yards and added two interceptions, pushing his quarterback rating against to a paltry 4.9, which is the best mark in the NFL by far. Vincent Jackson (+5.8 pass grade) will be the newest test for the Jets’ corner, and it should prove to be a fun matchup to watch. Jackson has caught 23 passes on 35 targets for a catch of 65.7%, a mark that is twice as good as the 32.1% completion rate that Revis is allowing. Irresistible force meet immovable object, who will win?

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2) Ryan Mathews vs. Jets’ Rushing Defense

Much has been made about the Jets’ porous run defense, and one of the players who may be salivating at the mouth is Chargers running back Ryan Mathews. What is most impressive about Mathews’ fifth-ranked +10.1 grade is that it has been accomplished while wrestling for the majority of the Chargers’ offensive snaps. While Mike Tolbert received the majority of the snaps during the first two weeks of the season, the following three weeks Mathews has averaged 20 more snaps a game than Tolbert. He has been showing tremendous flashes behind a sometimes spotty blocking effort up front, and has been rising in PFF’s signature Elusive Rating which measures how hard a running back is to bring down independent of his blocking. He has forced 15 missed tackles and currently ranks tenth of all running backs in terms of Elusive Rating. What the Jets will need is an improved effort and performance by run defense as a whole, but particularly Muhammad Wilkerson (-1.6 run defense) and David Harris (-2.7 run defense) as they have been the weak links given that Sione Pouha (+3.3 run defense) and Mike Devitio (+5.3 run defense) have been doing their parts on defense. Improvements from Eric Smith (-2.2 run defense) and Jim Leonhard (-1.7 run defense) would also help prevent some of the bigger plays, as Leonhard’s bottom-tenth-ranked five missed tackles won’t be the best recipe for stopping the elusive Mathews.

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LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Former Team

You know that feeling when you’re really desperate that you’re willing to consider any potentially good outcome no matter how improbable it might be? Right now the Jets are really desperate, as their offense is the worst in the league, with 35.1% of their drives ending in three-and-outs. I imagine the Jets highly improbable hope at this point is that Tomlinson rediscovers his former self motivated by playing his former team – if only for a day. As Rex Ryan has already said, “It’s going to be special for [Tomlinson]. He’s going to be ready.” Though his bottom ten rushing average of 3.3 yards per carry, and his middle-of-the-pack Elusive Rating at 32.0, doesn’t necessarily suggest he is about to breakout – it wasn’t that long ago that LT was LT. Maybe he’ll remember that when sees the blue and yellow he used to wear, when his little finger roll touchdown dance was something he did multiple times a game,l not a season.

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