In two seasons under Rex Ryan, the Jets’ motto has been “Ground and Pound”.
So far this season, they haven’t done much of either.
Examine the Jets’ statistics through the first three games of the season, and you’ll see that a team which traditionally focuses on running the ball effectively and shutting down the opposing team’s run game has had trouble in both areas.
The Jets have rushed for just 82 yards a game so far this season, which ranks 25th in the league, and on the other side of the ball, their normally stout run defense has allowed 136.7 yards per game on the ground. That number gives them the second-worst run defense in the NFL, which is unexpected under Jets coach Rex Ryan.
“Oh my gosh. We have to get it fixed, I know that,” Ryan said yesterday on a conference call with Baltimore media. “We’re 31st in the League in run defense. That’s a first time ever (for me). There is no question, it was brutal.
“There are bumps in the road for every team. Baltimore fixed there’s (after losing to Tennessee two weeks ago). We have to try to fix ours this week, albeit against a great opponent.”
A large factor in the poor defensive numbers so far this season was last week’s performance in Oakland, when the Jets allowed running back Darren McFadden rush for 171 yards, including a 70-yard TD run. Overall, the Raiders dominated the proud Jets run defense that day, putting up 234 rushing yards on the afternoon.
The Ravens see the inflated statistics that the Jets have recorded defensively this season, but they say they aren’t reading too much into them. Head coach John Harbaugh called the bloated rushing numbers “an aberration” and said his team will prepare for Sunday night’s game knowing what the Jets have done defensively under Ryan the last two years, when they ranked in the top-five in rush defense.
Still, running back Ray Rice admitted that he watched the tape of McFadden’s performance last week and will go into this weekend’s contest hoping to replicate that stat line.
“Obviously, you take from it, you see what they did,” Rice said. “As a running back, you sort of lick your chops when a guy goes for 170 yards. But at the same time, we’re playing the Jets, so we know they’re going to come in here amped up ready to play.”
Offensively, while the Jets have relied heavily on their own running game in previous years, they’re having less success in that area this season, and focusing more on moving the ball through the air.
In two of the Jets’ three games so far, third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez has thrown 44 passes, far more than the 31 attempts he averaged per game last year. Sanchez has twice topped 335 yards passing, and has been needed to lead a couple of comeback efforts late in games.
Ryan was asked yesterday why the Jets have had trouble getting their ground attack started this season.
“First off, I think you have to run the ball,” Ryan said with a laugh. “You look at our attempts, it’s not close to where we have been the last couple of years, but your opponent has a lot to do with that as well. We’ve been down in a couple of games this year, so that kind of dictates that we’ll have to throw the ball more than we have done in the past.”
Again, despite what the Ravens see from the Jets on tape thus far this season, they’re going to enter Sunday’s game expecting to see primarily the same opponent they’ve witnessed in previous years. They expect the run defense to be tough, and the guys on the Ravens’ defensive front know they need to shut down running backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson.
“They haven’t been real consistent running the ball so far this season, but the quarterback has carried them,” linebacker Jarret Johnson said. “The main thing is, they’re going to come out and run it, you just can’t let them get started. They’ve got two very capable backs and a good front, so you don’t want to let them get started.”