It certainly was not a stellar day on Sunday for the Jets defense or the pass rush. Their one sack of the day did come on a rather important third down in the fourth quarter, though.
When we break down pass rushing statistics, we tend to treat them all as equal. That isn’t really the case, though. There are some situations where it is easier to rush the passer than others.
Through the first two weeks of 2022, 22% of all sacks recorded have been on third or fourth and long (7 yards or more needed to convert). These plays only account for 13% of total passing attempts, however.
The Jets have a defense that likes to get aggressive with third down blitzes. They did not, however, blitz on this third down.
Their alignment is worth noting. One of the benefits of blitzing is that it gives pass rushers one on one matchups. On any given play, a normal pass rush will have four guys trying to get after the quarterback. Since there are five offensive linemen, somebody has to be double teamed.
When the defense sends a fifth rusher, it creates one on ones across the board. The offense can leave a sixth guy in, but that player gets taken out of the passing game as an option.
The Jets frequently use a third and long alignment that tries to get the best of all worlds. You can see it below.
The line line up three of their four defensive linemen to the left of the offensive formation. Carl Lawson is wide outside the left tackle. John Franklin-Myers is on the outside shoulder of the left guard. Quinnen Williams on on the left shoulder of the center. Then on the other side of the formation Jacob Martin is wide outside the right tackle.
Based on the way they are aligned, each can really only be blocked by one lineman. The right guard won’t be in position to help out on any of these rushers. With this alignment, the Jets have created one on ones across the board and eliminated any chance Cleveland has of double teaming unless they leave in an extra blocker.
This speaks to why third and long situations are so difficult for the offense and so advantageous for pass rushes. You really could only run an alignment like this on a passing down.
On plays where there is the threat of a run, every gap (space between two linemen) needs to be accounted for.
You can see on this play, there is only one player, CJ Mosley, who would be in position to defend the two gaps to either side of the right guard. A two gap run assignment would be almost impossible for a linebacker to capably execute.
Since this is third and long, though, the Jets don’t have to worry about the run.
They can get after the quarterback. You still have to win the one on ones, but the situation creates more favorable matchups which the Jets exploit.