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New York Jets: Zone Troubles

Jim Rogash

The Jets have a problem in coverage. That problem is they aren't very good at covering receivers. This makes playing man to man difficult. Bad cover guys left one on one usually lose.

The solution to the problem isn't as simple as it might seem. The other option is to play zone coverage. Playing zone effectively requires skills. The players have to be aware. Sometimes you'll have two players in your zone. You also need to communicate. You need to know how your teammates will react to a given situation. A pair of New England touchdowns from last week illustrate the zone issues the Jets have defensively.


The Jets are showing blitz here, but they're dropping eight into coverage. Five guys will be underneath while three will be deep. Only three will actually rush. Here the Jets are hoping the Patriots either have extra guys in to block against a blitz or that Tom Brady will see the front and bring extra guys to block. Then you have maybe three receivers against eight defenders.


It doesn't happen, but the Jets still have this covered pretty well. Shane Vereen is heading up the field, but Antonio Allen should be there to pick him up.


The problem is Allen doesn't see Vereen. Vereen runs right past him while Allen is focused on an underneath receiver. It's a wide open touchdown because Allen lacks the vision to be able to play effectively in zone coverage.

Now let's look at Danny Amendola's touchdown.


It's a third and goal from the 19 so the Jets need only defend the goal line here. They play what appears to be quarters coverage, four men deep. They also have four defenders in underneath zones.


A couple of different things are going to happen here. Amendola is going to stop in front of the zone at the 16 yard line. Allen moves forward on him. Again, this is not a display of a player who has a great feel for his responsibility. Allowing a completion and tackling Amendola at the 16 is fine. It holds the Pats to a field goal.

Rob Gronkowski is also going to take his route to the middle of the field, and Dawan Landry is going to leave his zone to follow Gronkowski.


Amendola turns his route up the field and is able to get behind Allen because Allen was moving forward, in the wrong direction. Gronkowski has carried Landry with him in the blue circle, leaving the red circle open. That's Landry's zone. Now that Amendola is behind Allen, there is nothing but daylight between him and the end zone. Since the Jets have only rushed three, Brady can slide into a better throwing lane and deliver a pass to Amendola for a score.

There are three things to take away from this.

A. Three man rushes should be used sparingly.  Just think about it. You have five offensive lineman. Rush three. Two guys can be double teamed, and only one pass rusher has a one on one. Rush four. Only one can be double teamed while three have a one on one. It's tough even for great pass rushers to split a double team. What puts the odds more in your favor? Having one out of one guy beat his man , or having one out of three beat his man?

B. Antonio Allen has certain skills, but he probably isn't an every down player in today's NFL. He isn't a particularly strong man to man defender, and he certainly lacks the instincts to play zone.

C. Playing zone requires certain skills. It also requires all players to be on the same page. Landry probably could have passed off Gronkowski there. He had two linebackers in front of Gronkowski's window to obstruct the passing lane, and Calvin Pryor was there to take him off. The Jets don't really have the necessary tools to be an effective zone team.