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Beware of the Screen

This year I am going to preview games differently. Instead of doing four technical posts on matchups, I'm going to take a more free form approach discussing key points in the game. Matt Birch writes similar posts so  instead of touching on the same ground, I will look to do something different. I'll still touch on technical matchups, but we'll go into greater detail in other areas.

The Jets led the league in multiple defensive categories. They were the worst defense in the league in one pressing area, though, defending screen passes. Opponents averaged over 10 yards per screen. This hardly comes as a surprise. There are many areas where Rex Ryan's scheme makes a defense better. It does, however, make it vulnerable to the screen.

The idea of most screens is to allow rushers to go by while linemen scurry to the direction the screen pass will go. The quarterback lofts the ball over the pass rushers, who are caught up field and taken out of the play. When a team blitzes as the Jets do often, more rushers get caught up the field, and the blockers have less defenders downfield to handle.

There are ways an attacking defense can mitigate its problems with screens. The pass rush can get into a quarterback's face, force a bad throw, or swat it down. The defenders can get off blocks and make sure they tackle soundly. Even so, this gives a blitzing defense problems. The Jets are good just about everywhere else. It's the price they pay. The non pass rushers can at least create traffic and force the ball carrier to slow, giving pass rushers a chance to recover and get to the carrier.

This could become problematic when facing a team with a dangerous pass catcher out of the backfield. The Ravens have one, local product Ray Rice. He had 78 catches for 702 yards last year. He is very dangerous in space. I'd imagine we will see the Ravens try to work screen passes into their game plan to try and get the Jets to reconsider attacking as frequently as they normally do and perhaps slow down the pass rush.