Rex Ryan spoke today about the lack of production from the pass rush this year.
"It's a lot of different things but certainly you have to give opponents credit doing a good job keeping you off the passer, but the sack number is alarming, we've only had 17 so obviously that's not anywhere close to where we want to be."
I think it's important to differentiate process from results. The Jets aren't getting to the quarterback, but they do have the seventh ranked pass defense in the league. The coverage has been excellent. It's not like the lack of a pass rush is crippling this team. There are many, many, many other reasons this is a bad team right now.
At the same time, those numbers would be better with a good pass rush. That leaves the question as to why it is so anemic.
There is no simple answer, but all season I have been left pondering what I see as a disconnect between the front office and the coaching staff. In the last two years, the Jets have used high Draft picks on three defensive linemen, Muhammad Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, and Quinton Coples. This was a heavy investment in top athletic ability. Yet the Jets are primarily operating out of a 3-4 defense.
Running a 3-4 makes it more difficult for linemen to make plays. The reason is obvious. You have three defensive linemen against five offensive linemen. The defensive linemen have to fight through double teams. There aren't many one on one matchups. The 3-4 is a defense that favors linebackers. The job of the defensive linemen is really to tie up the offensive linemen so that the linebackers have favorable matchups. In some 3-4 systems, that is the only job of defensive linemen. In other systems, defensive linemen are told to try and penetrate. Ultimately, though, the nature of three against five makes their life more difficult.
A 4-3 defense features the playmaking ability of defensive linemen. It is four against five. That means three of your guys have a one on one. You are playing the odds that one of them can win that matchup.
The Jets have invested heavily in the defensive line, but they aren't really running a scheme that allows the defensive line to make plays. Rex Ryan has many times stated he builds his defense around the talent he has, but that has not seemed to be the case here.
Part of the problem is the young guys haven't gotten a chance to get many game reps. Ryan has stuck with older players like Calvin Pace. With the season probably lost, the last five games give him a chance to get Ellis and Coples on the field more to get them experience and give them a chance to hone their terrific athletic ability.
The Jets do run 4-3 fronts, but given what they have done recently in the Draft, they probably should become an exclusive 4-3 defense. They invested in the line. Now it is time to put those players in a position to succeed. Yes, a 4-3 requires faster linebackers. There are only three instead of four so they need to be faster and be able to cover more ground. Wasn't that the entire point of drafting Demario Davis?