The Jaguars have one of the worst statistical run defenses in football. The Chiefs did little to try and exploit it last week, running only 12 times. Part of this was due to them playing from behind. The Jets are going to test Jacksonville's new 4-3 base defense much more up front.
Jacksonville hopes its strength will come from up the middle and tackles John Henderson and Terrance Knighton. Henderson is a multi time Pro Bowler. Knighton is a rookie space eater. He's been pretty good defending the run, although he's less likely to beat his man and penetrate. He's more of a Sione Pouha type. Atiyyah Ellison will rotate in with them, a guy who doesn't do anything poorly but also doesn't do anything particularly well.
Derrick Harvey will line up at one end. He weighs in at 281 pounds, big for a 4-3 end. His play against the run seems to have improved a bit with the move to the 4-3. On the other side, the Jaguars will play a pair of smallish ends, Quentin Groves, a small speedy guy who is something of a liability in the run game and Bryan Smith, an even smaller player. They are in there to provide the pass rush. Jacksonville hopes the Jets run away from them, which they might if they are lined up against D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and Gang Green is best running it right.
Daryl Smith is Jacksonville's best linebacker against the run. Smith does everything well. For my money, he's one of the most overlooked players in football. He's had success at both middle and outside linebacker during his career. He'll start outside on the weak side. Justin Durant, who starts in the middle does a decent job against the run. Jacksonville wants the tackles to keep him clean. Strong side backer Clint Ingram is the weakest defending the run. I would expect the Jets to target him.
As always, Jacksonville will probably stick 8 in the box against the rookie quarterback, but neither safety Reggie Nelson nor Gerald Alexander has provided Jacksonville much in run support this year, which is stark considering how much their 3-4 base struggled against the run until they switched their scheme last week.
What are the keys? Knighton played nose in the 3-4 so he'll likely line up against Nick Mangold. Mangold has to control him on his own. The idea for any nose tackle is to occupy a pair of blockers. Nick has been great controlling his assignments to this point against more decorated linemen. The strength at the center position springs the run game because the Jets have an extra blocker who does not need to dedicate himself to blocking the nose. The Jets will. Knighton lined up on the left side against the Chiefs. If he does again, that will leave Brandon Moore, Damien Woody, and Tony Richardson to take on an end and linebacker. This looks like it could be a favorable matchup for the Jets.