3TFO: Jets @ Rams, Week 11
It’s been a case of ‘same story, different year’ for the Jets. A solid defense and a decent running game have been undermined by their offensive struggles through the air. And whatever excuse you want to use for it, the problem doesn’t appear to be going away on its own anytime soon. New York is now tied for last in the AFC East, and that isn’t likely to change without some consistency on offense. After putting up 48 points against Buffalo in Week 1, the Jets then failed to score more than 10 points in five of their ensuing eight games.
Though they didn’t win last week, the Rams forced a tie away from home against one of the NFL’s better teams. With a couple of key offensive players back from injury, they made San Francisco’s stout defense look rather ordinary. But one solid performance does not grant a playoff berth, and like the Jets, the Rams are on the outside looking in. Every game left on St. Louis’ schedule is winnable though, and a few more big games could see the Rams start to challenge for a wild card spot. Let’s look at some of the factors that could very well derail someone’s season for good.
In for a Long Day
If you’ve read our piece earlier this week on the struggles of Mark Sanchez, then it certainly won’t surprise you that he has the worst accuracy percentage under pressure of any quarterback. And while D’Brickashaw Ferguson has yet to surrender a sack this season, the story’s a bit different on the other side where right tackle Austin Howard has had his struggles in pass protection. His Pass Blocking Efficiency of 91.5 is good for 62nd out of 69 tackles and the 15 times he’s let a defender hit or sack Sanchez is fourth most. He’ll have his hands full with Chris Long rushing the passer exclusively from the defensive left. Though Long has only five sacks to his name this year, the 48 total pressures that he’s notched is second among defensive ends. Long has the potential to put up huge numbers — he’s recorded seven or more pressures four times this season.
The Amendola Factor
After four weeks off with a dislocated collarbone, Danny Amendola could be forgiven for having a little rust to shake off last week. Amendola hit the ground running in San Francisco though, catching 11 of 12 balls thrown his way, and was robbed of another for 80 yards in overtime. The offense (and Sam Bradford in particular) is much more potent with Amendola in the lineup. He leads the Rams with 497 receiving yards despite missing three full games. The fifth-year wide reciever does most of his damage from the slot, where he has lined up on nearly three quarters of his passing snaps, and his 2.50 yards per route run there is sixth among the 45 qualifying receivers.
The loss of a player of the caliber of Darrelle Revis would cripple many defenses. Even with Revis out of the lineup, the Jets have given up the fifth-fewest passing yards. Much of that is on the sudden improvement of Antonio Cromartie. He’s given up a reception just once in every 14.7 coverage snaps and has allowed just 0.97 yards per coverage snaps — both figures are just behind Revis’ numbers in 2011. On the other side, Kyle Wilson hasn’t had quite the same year. He’s given up more yards than Cromartie despite spending 17 less snaps in coverage. The Jets run a number of defenders in the slot, but Wilson’s 44 snaps is the most of any Jet corner, if he is charged with covering Amendola all day then expect a busy outing for the Rams’ returning receiver.
Jets Run Defense vs. Steven Jackson
It’s been a rough go of it for the Jets’ run defense this year. Comfortably in the Top 15 in run defense every year from 2008 to 2011, New York has given up the fourth-most yardage in 2012. In spite of this, Muhammed Wilkerson leads all defensive linemen with 28 stops in the run game. This gives him the third-highest Run Stop Percentage (11.3%) for 3-4 ends. But his teammate Mike Devito isn’t far off with a run stop percentage of 7.9 (ninth highest). The pair has missed just one tackle all year, and with a linebacker troupe that’s prone to missing tackles, it will be up to Devito and Wilkerson to make plays at the line.
Even though he’s fresh off his first 100-yard game of the season, Steven Jackson has had a largely disappointing 2012 campaign. Last week’s game marks just the second time that Jackson surpassed 60 yards this year. At this time a year ago, Jackson had already tallied three 100-yard games. His career may be starting to wind down as he approaches his 30th birthday next summer, as he’s on pace for significantly fewer yards, touchdowns, yards per carry, and missed tackles than in 2011. To spell Jackson, the Rams will likely mix in a heavy dose of seventh-round rookie Daryl Richardson. While Jackson is their bruising back, Richardson is the big play guy. Of Richardson’s 393 rushing yards, 42.0% have come on runs longer than 15 yards, the fourth-highest rate in the league.