FOXBORO MA - DECEMBER 06: Wes Welker #83 (R) and Deion Branch #84 of the New England Patriots celebrate after Welker scored a touchdown in the third quarter against the New York Jets at Gillette Stadium on December 6 2010 in Foxboro Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
I talked a bit yesterday about why I think the Jets should use Darrelle Revis on Wes Welker this Sunday. I talked then about the individual matchup. Now I would like to talk about using this matchup in the larger contest of the overall scheme.
Part of the reason I think Revis should be on Welker is that the Jets really would have no other way to handle Welker. Antonio Cromartie wouldn't be a very good idea. It's tough to jam the slot receiver because he starts off the line, which is what Cromartie usually needs to do to find success. Cro's lateral movement is not good either, and Welker makes his living going across the field.
Drew Coleman would be a mismatch for Welker. Sure, the Jets could try and give Coleman help with a bracket, but that would use up another man covering Welker. That is a man who could not help against a New England tight end.
The way the Jets have found success this season is using Revis and Cromartie to take away the other team's top two options. Usually the third best receiver on the other team spends most of his time lining up in the slot against Drew Coleman.The Pats are different, though. New England's best receiver lines up in the slot. I don't see the wisdom in the Jets using their third best corner against the best receiver on the Pats just because it where that corner usually lines up.
Cromartie is capable of limiting Branch's effectiveness. It will be important to consistently play Cro close to the line and have him jam the smaller Branch to keep him from getting off the line. He didn't do a good job of that in the first meeting. The Pats have watched the tape of the Wild Card game and saw that the Colts had success against Cromartie on slants by Pierre Garcon when Cro was playing off coverage and allowed Garcon to get inside. The Colts didn't find success doing much else aside from the long touchdown where inside help from Brodney Pool. was late. Thus the Jets should have Antonio play up to prevent Branch from getting inside easily.
If they can effectively cover these top two options with two men, it gives the Jets a chance to do more covering the New England tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, the next two biggest parts of the passing game. Gang Green does not match up as well here, but the Jets can mix and match. They can play Eric Smith low with help deep. They can use Brodney Pool in man more often than the Pats have seen in the past. They can bracket the tight ends. One thing GGN readers have suggested which I agree with completely is using Kyle Wilson to try and combat the tight ends. It's easy to forget, but Wilson's best play of an otherwise disappointing rookie season might have been the second half of Week 2 when the Jets found success moving him inside to play the tight ends.
There's less need for deception when the Jets can cover the receivers. That frees the Jets to mix things up a bit where they do not match up as strongly.
One thing I would like to note is that I do not expect the Jets to use any coverage 100% of the time. Even last year when Darrelle Revis was locking on to other teams' best receivers more than any corner in the league, he did not do so on 30% of the snaps. A defense does have to mix things up from time to time. There will be times where Revis will cover Branch. Cromartie might even take one of the tight ends when they split wide. I think the best guidelines, though, would be to have Revis on Welker and Cromartie on Branch. Not doing that creates a mismatch on Welker. It wastes Cromartie's talents since you can't put him on any tight end other than one lining up wide. He's too bad of a tackler in case there is a run. He would have to cover a lesser receiver. Help on Welker probably wouldn't work well but might be necessary to slow him down, but it would limit how the Jets could cover the tight ends since another guy would be occupied helping on Wes, creating another mismatch.
I think using the best corner on the roster (and maybe the planet) on Welker is the right way to go.