The Packers have excelled in certain key areas that may present problems for the Jets
The New York Jets come into Lambeau Field scenting blood.
They’ve won two straight games since the return of their starting quarterback. Meanwhile, the Packers are still trying to figure themselves out after a grueling trip to London that resulted in a loss to the underdog Giants.
If the Packers are tired at all, they have only themselves to blame: they chose to forgo the option for an automatic bye. However, their assumption that Lambeau Field will be enough of a homefield advantage to offset the tiredness could very well be accurate. After all, Aaron Rodgers is 88-20-1 in his career at home with a 244:39 TD:INT ratio.
The Packers have been disappointing so far this season. Still, they are a formidable foe that presents some matchup issues for the Jets. Here are three of the Jets’ biggest disadvantages against the Packers that they will need to overcome to emerge victorious.
Jets offensive line vs. Packers defensive line
The Jets’ offensive line clearly received a jolt with the return of Duane Brown last week, leading to Laken Tomlinson‘s most decent game so far and allowing Alijah Vera-Tucker to seal off the right side. However, the Dolphins’ defensive line is not nearly as deadly as the Packers’.
The pressure starts up the middle with Kenny Clark. Clark is tied for the fifth-most pressures among interior defensive linemen with 17. His 12.7% pressure rate is third among all IDL (incidentally, Quinnen Williams leads all IDL at 13.8%). He also has two sacks.
Dean Lowry, another Packers interior lineman who’s taken 72 pass-rushing snaps, is eighth with an 11.1% pressure rate.
From the edge, Rashan Gary has established himself as one of the most dominant edge rushers in the NFL. He ranks fifth with a 16% pressure rate and is tied for seventh with five sacks. Preston Smith is 17th with a 13.7% pressure mark (71st percentile among edge rushers) and has also contributed 3.5 sacks.
The Jets’ current tackles, Brown and Vera-Tucker, have each played only one game this season at their respective tackle positions. Brown allowed one pressure and no sacks on 24 pass-blocking snaps this past week for a 4.2% pressure rate, which would be in the 74th percentile among tackles if qualified. Vera-Tucker pitched a shutout last week after allowing three pressures on 41 snaps at left tackle against the Steelers, a 7.3% rate that is higher than the league average for tackles of 5.5%. His overall rate at tackle of 4.6% is above average, though.
Brown and Vera-Tucker will each face their steepest test yet. Pittsburgh’s Alex Highsmith is good, but he’s no Rashan Gary in terms of the pressure he puts on a tackle and a quarterback.
Gary has lined up at left outside linebacker (the edge rusher in a 3-4 defense) on 67% of his snaps this season, meaning he’s primarily Vera-Tucker’s assignment. However, he’s spent the other third of the time at right edge, so Brown will face him at times, as well. Preston Smith’s snap counts are basically the inverse of Gary’s, meaning that he’ll be Brown’s primary assignment with a sprinkling of AVT.
Kenny Clark, perhaps the toughest assignment for the Jets’ offensive line, will draw a combination of the team’s interior line. Laken Tomlinson has allowed a 6.5% pressure rate this season, which is in the 12th percentile among guards, and his 17 pressures allowed are tied for the third-most. Nate Herbig has allowed a 4.6% pressure rate over the last two games, which is only slightly below average for guards.
Connor McGovern has been the most successful pass blocker of the Jets’ interior linemen, ranking 11th among centers with a 2.6% pressure rate allowed. He’s been charged with six pressures and one sack allowed.
This pass rush is more formidable than any the Jets have faced this season, including Myles Garrett and Jadaveon Clowney. The ability across the board can seriously hamper the Jets’ offensive plans. However, featuring a run-first offense may be the way to go this week: the Packers rank 30th in the NFL in rush defense DVOA, allowing 126.4 rush yards per game (12th-most) on a 4.8 yards-per-carry clip (tied for 10th-worst). Success on the ground will help neutralize the Packers’ pass rush, as it did against Miami last week.
Jets’ middle-of-the-field defense vs. Packers’ pass-catchers
The Packers have been successful over the middle of the field this season. Per Next Gen Stats, they’re sixth in total yards (476), eighth in completions (40), and second in passer rating (129.7).
Meanwhile, the middle of the field has been an area of struggle for the Jets’ defense. They’ve permitted the eighth-most yards (471), 14th-most completions (34), and the third-worst passer rating (126.3) despite defending against the 19th-most attempts in the middle of the field.
This is a clear mismatch. The Jets’ linebackers, especially C.J. Mosley, struggle in coverage. Mosley has allowed 17 out of 24 targets to be caught for 187 yards, the 12th-most among linebackers. Mosley permits 1.07 yards per cover snap, which is in the 35th percentile among linebackers. Kwon Alexander has also had his tough moments in coverage, allowing 1.03 yards per cover snap (46th percentile).
In addition, the Jets’ safeties have struggled in coverage. Lamarcus Joyner is allowing 0.56 yards per cover snap, in the 38th percentile among safeties but much improved after a strong game against Pittsburgh and a nondescript game vs. Miami. In the Jets’ Cover-3 heavy scheme, Joyner is often playing the deep middle, and his play will be crucial in stopping the Packers’ success in the middle of the field.
Surprisingly, Jordan Whitehead is at the league average with 0.48 yards allowed per cover snap, but he’s had his misses, too. The Jets will likely use Whitehead closer to the box to try to stop the run, but he will be important for their coverage, as well.
Aaron Jones vs. Jets tacklers
The bete noire of the New York Jets’ defense this season has been tackling. At linebacker, Kwon Alexander has been surprisingly surehanded this season, missing just 6.9% of tackles (73rd percentile among linebackers) after posting a 17.8% rate for his career prior to 2022. The Jets need to hope that continues. C.J. Mosley is also above average with an 8.5% miss rate (59th percentile).
It’s in the secondary where the tackling has been suspect. Jordan Whitehead ranks 54th out of 65 qualified safeties (17th percentile) with a 20.6% missed tackle rate. Lamarcus Joyner is 45th at 15.4%. Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed have miss rates of 13.4% and 13.0%, respectively, above the cornerback average of 12.3%.
The Jets did not bring in much run defense help this season beyond drafting Jermaine Johnson, and Johnson has been surehanded at the point of attack, not missing a single tackle. The real help they thought they’d get is from the two corners and Whitehead at safety. The fact that all three have been more of a liability than not with tackling does not bode well for the team’s run defense.
Despite all this, the Jets are right in the middle of the pack (16th) in permitting 114.4 rush yards per game. Their yards-per-carry against average is terrific at 4.0, sixth-best in the NFL.
However, they struggled mightily against a back like Nick Chubb, especially at the end of the game when they knew the rush was coming. Chubb had eight missed tackles forced for a 0.40 average per touch against the Jets. For reference, Michael Carter led the league with 0.30 missed tackles forced per touch last season.
Aaron Jones is another Chubb-like back. He ranks eighth among backs with 3.98 yards after contact per attempt and averages 0.327 missed tackles forced per rush. The Jets need to be surehanded with their tackling after a week in which Raheem Mostert had 85 yards after contact (4.72 per attempt) against them.
A back like Jones, who is averaging 6.4 yards per attempt, can wreck the game for the Jets. When they get their hands on him, they need to wrap up. The team is likely without Jermaine Johnson this week due to an ankle injury, and the lack of his edge-setting will make that tackling even more important. This is a significant mismatch for the Jets.