The New York Jets will host the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday in a game that is a lot closer than most people think
September always arrives, as long as it takes. Week 1 is finally upon us all.
Nonetheless, when comparing New York and Baltimore talent-wise on paper (and solely on paper, because one can’t know how Robert Saleh‘s new-shaped squad will look), the two teams are not all that far apart.
Undeniably, the Ravens have the more firmly established core. Baltimore is a winning franchise that has known how to be successful since the beginning of this century. The Jets, on the other hand, have had some troubles (to put it lightly).
But when comparing the talent level on both teams, the Jets are closer to the Ravens than most people think.
Offensively, the Ravens’ top three wide receivers are Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, and James Proche II. Arguably, none of those guys would start in New York.
On defense, the Jets’ defensive line is way ahead of what the Ravens have (even though, in Baltimore, it’s the scheme that’s responsible for creating most of the pressure).
However, football is a game with a myriad of facets. And in most of those facets, the Ravens are ahead of the Jets.
Considering last season’s game film, Baltimore’s players know and do their job better than New York’s.
The Ravens’ stability and overall team awareness are what make them the favorites for next Sunday’s game.
Still, if the Jets can win these four matchups listed below, they have a chance to upset Baltimore at home.
1. Jets DL vs. Ravens run game
This is one of the hottest topics among Jets fans who are interested in schematics: the Jets’ DL approach.
New York might be the only team in the league without a true 0 or 1-tech on the roster, i.e., a heavier lineman that can line up in front of the center or on either one of his shoulders.
Solomon Thomas, a guy who’s been a 3-tech his entire career, is taking the role of the “heavier” defensive lineman on the squad.
Still, that’s all part of Robert Saleh’s plan, who said in the offseason that he would like to have “a bunch of 3-techs that fire off the ball and create knock-back” when asked about the Jets’ lack of run stuffers.
#Jets HC Robert Saleh doesn’t like labels like ‘run stuffer’ to address someone on his DL, ‘we want a bunch of 3-techs that fire off the ball & create knock back’ + highlighted DT Jonathan Marshall (@jonathanmarsh40) as a guy who will get opps: 🎥 @nyjets #TakeFlight #JetsCamp pic.twitter.com/PghzrtNHYQ
— Paul Andrew Esden Jr (@BoyGreen25) August 3, 2022
In the Jets’ 4-3 attacking scheme, speed and explosiveness are kings. It’s what allows those linemen to penetrate gaps and either tackle the ball carrier for a loss or redirect him away from his original running path.
That does not come without side effects.
Last season, the Jets had the 29th-ranked run defense in the league, allowing 138.3 yards per game.
This happened mostly because New York’s linemen would blindly attack, and opposing offenses would fool them with trap and other gap-run concepts, using the Jets’ aggression against them.
In the end, opposing OL were often spotted in the second level on the Jets’ defense, giving linebackers no chance.
#Jets run defense in a nutshell:
– 2 DL penetrate the backfield and Foley almost touches Tua BEFORE the handoff;
– Trap run call – dolphins have 2 OL on 2nd level murdering Jets LBs;
– 13 yd gain stopped by Ashtyn Davis (last man). pic.twitter.com/NWFPRPuyQl
— Vitor (@VitorPaivaM) November 22, 2021
However, the Jets’ DL wasn’t as talented as it is now.
Foley Fatukasi, a starter last season, was allowed to leave in free agency since he isn’t a fit for the scheme (as good as he is as a true 0/1-tech). It’s easy to spot that: No player on the 2022 Jets has a similar skillset to Foley.
This season, the Jets have ten explosive guys that can invade the backfield from multiple spots up front, finally giving Saleh what he always wanted.
Against the Ravens, if the Jets are going to remain true to their game, they must be extremely explosive. Being late against this Ravens offense – which loves to run powers and counters, pulling offensive linemen to the second level – will be deadly.
And all of that is not even accounting for Lamar Jackson’s running skills.
Playing No. 8 without containing on the outside is simply impossible. New York’s defensive ends will have to be more responsible. As for the interior DL, if all they do is attack, they must do it fast.
2. Jets pass defense vs. Lamar Jackson
Another highly discussed topic among Jets fans is this defense’s (lack of) coverage creativity.
The 2021 Jets played spot-drop zone on first and second down and ran some sort of man pressure on third. That was the plan most of the time.
Against the Baltimore Ravens, though, doing that would be ill-advised.
First, using the Jets’ preferred coverages against Lamar (Cover 3, 6, and quarters) is an invitation for trouble. Jackson wants to throw the ball in between the hashes. That is where he excels. And that’s where the space is at on those coverages if played under their traditional responsibilities.
Second, playing man pressure on Lamar on third down can only be done with elite responsibility from the guys up front. If Jackson escapes, with defensive backs having their backs turned to play man, that will be all she wrote.
So, what should the Jets do?
First and foremost, if the Jets can create pressure with the four-man rush, everything becomes easier – especially on third down.
For this game, New York’s flat defenders must drop to their zones giving the flat to Jackson. And the deep third and fourth cornerbacks must line up with inside leverage.
That’s the way to force No. 8 to throw the ball outside the numbers.
He might succeed, yes, but it will be a lot harder.
As for the man pressure looks… Well, the Jets can’t and shouldn’t abandon them.
But it will be on the defensive line to not allow Jackson to escape. Outside rushers have to keep him in the pocket on third down until interior pressure arrives. And the Jets might have a chance.
3. Jets IOL vs Ravens stunts
For years now, the Jets have not been able to properly handle DL stunts, going back to Todd Bowles’ days.
That is due to two main reasons: coaching and lack of continuity on the OL.
However, the Jets are now keeping three of the five starters from last season. The two newcomers are veterans Duane Brown and Laken Tomlinson, who have played in this scheme before and have been reliable players throughout their careers.
Nonetheless, one of the strengths of this Ravens defense is their front-7. Justin Houston, David Ojabo, and Odafe Oweh are all talented pass rushers, while Calais Campbell and Justin Madubuike are a solid duo inside.
Sure, Wink Martindale is gone now, but he’s not taking his exotic looks away with him. Current Ravens defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald is a “Ravens” guy himself, coaching in Baltimore from 2015-2020, under Martindale, before leaving for Michigan to handle the defensive coordinator role.
It is safe to say that the Jets will still face different pressure looks all game long.
On the outside, I believe that Brown and George Fant will be able to handle their duties just fine.
However, on the interior, it will be up to Alijah Vera-Tucker playing a new spot, Connor McGovern (who is far from perfect), and Laken Tomlinson to communicate well and give Joe Flacco time against pressure.
Flacco himself will also be a big help, considering his experience against Baltimore’s defense.
Related Article: Why Joe Flacco is the right QB for NY Jets to defeat Ravens
4. Jets receivers vs. Ravens man coverage
I couldn’t end this article without going back to one of the most important keys for the Jets this season: the pass catchers’ ability to separate against man coverage.
It was one of the team’s main struggles last season and one of the main reasons why it was hard to crucify Zach Wilson after his slow start.
Still, they have to do it on game time.
Week 1’s task couldn’t be more challenging.
The Baltimore Ravens not only have good cornerbacks but good cornerbacks who have lived in man coverage through their entire careers.
Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey, and Kyle Fuller are all very good football players that know how to cover man-to-man.
Jets receivers will have to find a way to get open against them.
It’s not all on the players. I also want to see Mike LaFleur use even more stack looks than he usually does, forcing Baltimore’s DBs to think before covering.
Honestly, this might be a game where Elijah Moore puts the entire league on notice, especially if he matches up with Peters often. Moore’s route running and Joe Flacco’s non-hesitant ways might be a good combo to beat Peters’s aggressive, often-guessing, man coverage.
- Joe Flacco will have a great game and lead the Jets to a win
- Elijah Moore will have a touchdown and 100+ yards
- Ahmad Gardner won’t be tested
- Mark Andrews will be the Jets defense’s nightmare early on
- Lamar Jackson will have his ways on the ground, accounting for more than 70 rushing yards
- Jets OL will be the key for the upset win, allowing only one sack