One popular theory about the Jets' struggles to generate a pass rush is that the league has caught up with the blitz packages the team runs. It sounds great on paper, but it doesn't really flow logically. Rex Ryan didn't just run this defense for one year in New York. He also ran it for four in Baltimore. Every year the unit was in the top five in the league. Are we really to believe that teams have cracked the code in the sixth year?
Let me give a further example of why this is difficult to believe. The Ravens still run largely the same defense as Ryan did when he left. If there was a schematic issue, the whole league would be caught up to them, right? Let me give you an example of why this isn't the case.
The Steelers are as familiar with the Baltimore/New York defense as any team. They played the Ravens twice and the Jets once this year. In the first meeting with Baltimore, they allowed either pressure, a hit, or a sack on 52.1% of their dropbacks. In the second meeting, they allowed it on 34.1% of dropbacks. Against the Jets, they allowed it on 19.1%. If it was all about scheme, there would not be this kind of disparity.
The numbers do not tell the whole story either. Having watched these games, most of the pressure the Jets generated was because the coverage held and forced Ben Roethlisberger to hold the ball longer than usual. The Ravens got to Pittsburgh's quarterbacks quickly.
I see two big issues with the Jets. The first is execution. The big pass rushers, Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor, consistently lose their assignments on passing plays. They aren't alone, though. Defensive backs are taking bad and tentative routes to the quarterback on blitzes. It's frustrating to see things so anemic. Anecdotally, the calls seem more predictable than they were a year ago. Last season we saw things like Kris Jenkins walking around before the snap. I saw more disguise. I remember plays where the Jets would overload the left side then drop those guys and blitz a few guys to the right, which worked because the blocking was sliding left. These fronts look much more predictable. When the Jets overload left, you can bet they are coming from the left side. Is this because Mike Pettine has taken a more active role? I don't know, but I have to disagree with the popular sentiment that Rex Ryan should be hands off with the defense so he looks like more like the head coach of the whole team. Part of the reason the team was so successful was his hands on ways with the defense.
I think saying the league has caught up with the defense makes for an easy story line for writers, but reality is probably more complex.