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Jets vs. Chargers: The Gates Dilemma

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Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Antonio Gates has been a household name among NFL fans for a decade. While the five-time All Pro is no longer in his peak form, he is still an effective receiver. Good tight ends are difficult matchups because there are not many linebackers or safeties who are great covering one on one. The Jets have a little bit of an extra dilemma when they face Gates.

Yesterday we discussed the linebackers not being physical enough in coverage. I have seen some folks critical of the defensive calls, namely leaving that much open space in the middle of the field and that much ground for a relatively slow group of linebackers to cover.

It does seem to me like the Jets are rolling their linebackers away from the middle of the field relatively frequently. I can't tell you whether my interpretation is correct without being in team meetings, but it seems to me this is the coaching staff figuring it needs to provide the corners extra help.

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Above are two more examples where the Jets moved their linebackers away from the middle of the field. One of the ideas is these guys clog the passing lanes on outside receivers and make the window tighter.

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Above here is something the Jets have shown in the first four weeks on a semi-regular basis. Quinton Coples lines up outside at cornerback and tries to use his strength to jam the receiver before passing him off to Antonio Allen.

This seems to be a sign the coaching staff feels a need to protect its corners. This is an area where the lack of talent at the position comes into play. It isn't just about when somebody completes a pass.  When the talent isn't there, you have to dedicate extra resources. These resources can't be utilized somewhere else, taking big guys who could clog the passing game away from the middle of the field.

This is where things might get dicey for the Jets. Keenan Allen would be difficult a matchup for the starting cornerbacks alone even with help on the outside, but more than three out of every four Gates targets this season have been to either the short middle or intermediate middle, which are more exposed when this becomes a habit.

David Harris was beaten one on one for a touchdown Sunday. Gates is a difficult matchup for him. Gates was toasting one on one coverage a few weeks back in his three touchdown outburst against the Seahawks.

The last time the Jets and Chargers played at the end of 2012 I got the idea the Jets made it a point to try and take Gates away.

There were instances where a linebacker would jam him and then a safety would pick him up.

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This approach can't really be used a ton. Just consider the math. You start with 11 defensive players. Two on Gates cuts you to 9. You want a deep safety. That's 8. Add in 4 pass rushers, and you're down to 4 to play the other 4 eligible receivers. When this game took place, the Jets had Antonio Cromartie at corner, and San Diego's receiving corps didn't look so hot. In this game it is difficult to love any Jets corner one on one against Keenan Allen.

I assume the Jets will look to use Dawan Landry a bunch against Gates. Gates lines up in the slot over 60% of the time, and Landry actually has only one less snap in the slot than Kyle Wilson this year. I am not loving that matchup for the Jets.

The Jets are probably going to be challenged like this against offenses with good tight ends. Defenses that can stretch them out horizontally with quality both outside and inside could be problems. I think to slow down San Diego I'll have to go with the old standby of the defense bringing consistent pressure.