These three defenses are equipped to cause problems for the New York Jets offense
Matchups are everything in the game of football. It’s never as simple as merely comparing the raw talent level of two squads. A given team could be tailor-made to clobber one team but perfectly constructed to be destroyed by another.
Let’s continue our deep dive into some of the best and worst matchups for the New York Jets on their 2022 schedule. We recently looked at three of the best matchups for the Jets offense. Today, I’d like to focus on a few particularly difficult matchups for the Jets offense. Later on, we’ll get into their best/worst defensive matchups.
Chicago Bears’ coverage vs. TEs and RBs
In our last breakdown, we identified the Baltimore Ravens defense as an exploitable mismatch for the Jets offense due to Baltimore’s inability to cover tight ends and running backs. The Bears defense is the opposite.
Chicago wasn’t good at too many things on the defensive side of the ball last season, ranking 22nd with 23.9 points allowed per game, but one thing they were really good at was covering TEs and RBs. That could spell trouble for a New York offense that figures to throw a lot of passes to those two positions.
The Bears allowed the second-fewest receiving yards per game to TEs (34.2) and the third-fewest receiving YPG to RBs (27.2). Their combined total of 61.4 receiving YPG allowed to TEs and RBs was the best mark of any team in football.
Second-team All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith was the driving force behind Chicago’s success in this area. Smith allowed only 7.9 yards per reception on passes completed into his coverage, which tied for seventh-best out of 66 qualified linebackers.
With Smith returning and set to possibly continue improving as he is still 25 years old, the Bears have a good chance of replicating their success at covering TEs and RBs in 2022.
The Bears also made some additions this offseason that should help them sustain their success in this area. Free agent pickup Nicholas Morrow was one of the NFL’s best linebackers in coverage when he last played in 2020. Chicago also drafted Penn State safety Jaquan Brisker in the second round.
If Chicago is able to silence C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, Breece Hall, and Michael Carter in the passing game, things could get surprisingly difficult for the New York offense in this winnable November home game.
As a member of the Vikings, Conklin faced the Bears twice last year and his two worst statistical outputs of the season, catching 1 pass for 7 yards in the first meeting and 2 passes for 6 yards in the next. Uzomah caught 2 passes for 4 yards in his lone matchup against the Bears.
Pittsburgh Steelers’ pass-rush
The Steelers defense was not as dominant as usual in 2021, ranking 20th in scoring defense with 23.4 points allowed per game. Major struggles against the run were the primary reason for that, as Pittsburgh ranked dead-last with 5.0 yards allowed per carry. New York’s offense must exploit this.
With that being said, Pittsburgh’s pass-rush remained fantastic, and that helped their defense stay afloat despite the abhorrent numbers against the run. The Steelers led the NFL with 55 sacks (3.2 per game) while tying for the seventh-highest pressure percentage at 26.1%.
Zach Wilson is a quarterback who should be expected to crumble under the pressure until he proves otherwise. He had a gruesome completion percentage of 29.3% when pressured in 2021. As you would expect, that was the NFL’s worst mark among qualified quarterbacks.
Even when you adjust for the high number of drops that he dealt with, Wilson’s adjusted completion percentage when pressured was still only 45.7%, which was also the worst in the NFL.
Additionally, Wilson is prone to taking more sacks than he needs to. He took the third-most sacks of any quarterback in the NFL last season (44) despite missing four games. According to Pro Football Focus’s tracking, Wilson deserved at least some of the blame for 17 of those sacks, which was the most of any QB in the league.
The sack-prone Wilson against the sack-collecting Steelers defense is a nightmarish matchup for New York – for now, at least. Hopefully, by the time the Jets play the Steelers in Week 4, Wilson will have shown substantial year-two progress with his performance under pressure. But if he is having the same issues, this will be an ugly afternoon.
Green Bay Packers’ tackling
One aspect of the Packers defense was featured in our last article among the biggest mismatches that the Jets offense can exploit. That aspect was their porous run defense, which can be pounded by a Jets offense that is constructed to run the ball effectively.
However, one of the Green Bay defense’s greatest strengths is a perfect counter to one of the Jets offense’s greatest strengths.
The Packers are phenomenal at finishing tackles. According to PFF, the Packers’ defenders combined for a missed tackle rate of 9.6% last season, the third-lowest rate of any defense in the NFL (league average: 11.7%).
Green Bay is bringing back nearly all of its key defenders, so that number figures to remain in the same ballpark this year.
New York’s offensive scheme relies heavily on its playmakers to make plays after the catch. Guys like Elijah Moore, Garrett Wilson, Braxton Berrios, C.J. Uzomah, Breece Hall, and Michael Carter will be expected to create long gains by making men miss and using their speed with the ball in their hands.
If the Packers defense enjoys an exceptionally consistent day of tackling against New York, the explosiveness of the Jets offense will be kept to a minimum. New York figures to rely on after-the-catch explosiveness more so than downfield explosiveness to create big plays in the passing game. Take away New York’s YAC and you should take away their ability to hit home runs.
This Green Bay defense will be a very interesting matchup for the Jets offense. On one hand, the Packers run defense is ripe for the picking against New York’s stout offensive line and electric backfield. On the other hand, the Packers are ready to neutralize the most notable strength of the Jets passing game.
The Jets run game must be dominant for New York to stay in this game on the road. At the same time, the Jets’ offensive playmakers need to play at their absolute highest level against this strong-tackling defense. If the Jets can do those two things, they’ll have a shot.
You mentioned it briefly, this all comes down to the run game. If the Jets can run the ball like they expect, then none of these things will be a problem. The Pitt pass rush, Bears ability to cover, and the Packer tackling will be afterthoughts. This offense needs two things: run the ball, and complete a series of passes, it’s about rhythm. LaFleur said it in one of his breakdowns, “if #1 is there just take the throw.” Too many times last year Zach got off #1 to look for something better then when he came back to #1 it was too late. He just needs to complete passes and keep the rhythm. I know it’s not that easy but he should be able to be better. We will see.