It's the time of the week to get ready for the upcoming Jets-Cardinals game on Monday Night Football. This post will examine the Cardinals defense and what are the best ways to attack it. After that we'll address the players on this defense that are threats to thwart the Jets offense.
Defensive Rankings: (Per ESPN NFL Stats)
Total Defense: 10th
Pass Defense: 5th (210 yards allowed per game)
Rush Defense: 24th (118 yards allowed per game)
Offensive Game Plan: Run the ball
You're going to read/hear this a ton this week, but out of all the opportunities the Jets have, they need to begin with simply running the football. This Cardinals defense is giving up an average of 4 yards per carry and the only games which they have held their opponent under that total are the losses to the Rams (1.8 YPC on 28 attempts) and the Patriots (3.4 YPC on 31 attempts; the Pats running game was highly effective in this game). Last week the Jets actually began running the ball somewhat efficiently, until they got behind the Steelers and had to abandon the run game, finishing with 17 carries for 72 yards (4.2 YPC). They have also had success running against the Bengals (30 for 152/ 5.1 YPC) and Bills (36 for 123/ 3.4YPC). While the Jets certainly have built themselves as a team who will predominantly throw the football, they still have to use the run game to find success. The running game also sets up some of the key opportunities in the passing game for the Jets. In this game plan, the Jets need to use Matt Forte and Bilal Powell efficiently, i.e. use Powell more and give Forte a more than occasional breather.
Opportunity: Quincy Enunwa Corner Slot
Enunwa is going to be up against Tyrann Mathieu in what looks to be a seriously good battle. Cardinals had originally signed Tyvon Branch to play their slot CB role, but he has been placed on IR with a groin injury. The Cardinals had been expected to move Mathieu into the slot but have had to do it sooner, and it has been a slow start for the Honey Badger, who is returning from an ACL injury. Mathieu will line up against the slot receiver with a bit of a cushion and will then follow them to the inner portion of the field. If the receiver cuts for a short pass (out/dig/comeback) he'll close in on them for a chance to jump the pass or secure the tackle. He tends to cover the middle of the field, passing the receiver off to the corner on the outside. Enunwa will have plenty of opportunities to be open on the corner route and it should be one of the early reads Ryan Fitzpatrick should look for.
LBs Chandler Jones and Markus Golden
This weeks threats consist of a familiar foe and a new one, but a ferocious duo. They are threats on both running and passing plays, with a combined 10 sacks and 6 Tackles for loss apiece. Chandler Jones has 6 career sacks against the Jets, and has the ability to line up inside and outside. He is incredibly quick and powerful off the snap, and the Cardinals locker room is believing he can be a 20 sack guy. He has been their best offseason acquisition. He has continued to look the part as a legitimate pass rusher.
Markus Golden was a second round draft pick back in 2015 for the Cardinals. As a rookie, Golden tallied 21 total tackles and 4 sacks, and this year he has been one of the most explosive players on the Cardinals defense. He has already surpassed his sack total with 6 on the year, and continually shows his effectiveness as a blitzer. He can line up inside or outside and he gets in the backfield quickly with great speed rushes. While he is quite powerful at 6'3 and 260, he isn't going to maul the offensive line man to get to the RB or QB. It's a lot of shedding blockers and using his quickness and athleticism to make big plays on defense. The second year LB out of Missouri looks like he can become a legitimate pass rushing threat, and has the potential to cause many problems for the Jets O-Line this week.
It's good that the Jets are getting Brian Winters back (Never thought I'd say that) as he and the rest of the offensive line are going to have their work cut out for them against this Cardinals' pass rush. If the Jets can neutralize those threats and effectively run the ball, the Jets have a good shot at getting the season back on track.