Killing disadvantageous matchups is what Bill Belichick does best
The Son of Satan comes to MetLife Stadium this week.
Well, not really, but The Hoodie is close enough.
Bill Belichick is notorious for exploiting matchups to his team’s advantage. His 1990 Super Bowl gameplan as defensive coordinator for the Giants against the Bills is in the Hall of Fame, preceding him, due to his masterful plan to punish the Bills’ Hall of Fame receiving corps. Last season, he guided rookie quarterback Mac Jones to the playoffs; considering Jones’s level of play thus far this season, that seems like more of a miracle than ever.
Considering Belichick’s genius, it’s critical for the New York Jets to fully take advantage of any matchups that favor them. The Patriots have beaten two bad teams this season and a third that was playing their backup quarterback. In their four losses, they’ve looked like a legitimately bad football team, closer to a Top-10 draft pick than a playoff push. The Jets need to make them look more like that team than the one that beat the Lions 29-0 three weeks ago.
Here are three matchups that the Jets need to exploit in order to defeat their nemesis.
Jets’ running game vs. Patriots’ run defense
The Patriots’ defense is ranked ninth in overall DVOA, but as with the previous two weeks, there’s a stark split: they’re fifth in passing defense DVOA and 28th in rush defense DVOA. That should dictate the gameplan, which feeds into what the Jets like to do best: run the football.
Additionally, the Patriots may be without their valuable defensive tackle, Christian Barmore, who is their key run-stopper. Barmore’s 11.1% run-stop rate ranks eighth-best out of 87 qualified interior defenders (min. 70 run-defense snaps). He did not play Monday night and did not practice Wednesday due to a knee injury.
If Barmore cannot go, this skews the matchup even more heavily in favor of the Jets. The Patriots already have the lowest stuff rate (10%) of any defense in the NFL with Barmore.
Obviously, the loss of Breece Hall removes a tremendous threat from the Jets’ backfield, which currently ranks 11th in offensive rush DVOA. However, Michael Carter and James Robinson form a capable duo in the backfield.
Carter was in the 58th percentile among backs in DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement, tracking the player’s value above a replacement-level player) last season despite playing behind a makeshift offensive line for much of the year. He also managed to post a 51% Success Rate (50th percentile) behind that line. Though he’s been struggling more this season, his opportunities have been more limited since Breece Hall took over the primary backfield duties.
Robinson, meanwhile, was seventh among all backs in DYAR and sixth in DVOA last season behind a Jaguars offensive line that ranked 23rd in the NFL, per Sharp Football Analysis (tracked based on Sports Info Solutions’ Points Above Average metric).
The Jets still have a good one-two punch in the backfield, even if it’s not near the level that it was previously.
A bigger question, perhaps, is how the offensive line will perform without its best run-blocker, Alijah Vera-Tucker. It seemed that the Jets couldn’t get anything going on the ground against Denver once Hall and Vera-Tucker left the game. This Patriots’ run defense is significantly worse than Denver’s by DVOA, but it remains to be seen if the Jets can continue their dominance on the ground.
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Jets’ RBs out of the backfield vs. Patriots’ flat defenders
This may seem related to the first one, but it’s a category unto itself.
New England’s defense is the third-worst in the NFL in covering running backs with a DVOA of 34.7%. Although the Patriots have allowed just 26 catches out of the backfield, those have been pretty destructive. Those catches have yielded 265 yards, an average of 10.2 yards per pass that is the second-highest among all NFL defenses. The Patriots also allow 7.8 yards per attempt on passes to RBs, the highest number in the NFL.
It appears that the Patriots may be lucky that teams haven’t attempted many checkdowns or screen passes to running backs against them since they’re pretty poor in defending it.
Once again, without Breece Hall, the Jets will definitely be missing the possible explosive element of their running backs in the receiving game. However, Carter is a solid receiving option out of the backfield, as he has 20 receptions for 151 yards (7.6 YPR) this season. He showed last week that he can turn upfield and outrun a linebacker to gain extra yards after the catch.
Robinson had 49 receptions for 344 yards and 3 touchdowns out of the backfield in 2020, showing that he can be a complementary piece in the passing game, as well.
The Jets attempted many screen passes last week, including several to running backs. This would be a good week to continue that trend.
Jets’ edge rushers vs. Patriots’ tackles
This has more to do with the Patriots’ tackles than the Jets’ edge rushers. While Carl Lawson (10.9%) and John Franklin-Myers (10.8%) are both middle-of-the-pack when it comes to pressure rate, Isaiah Wynn (7.2%) and Trent Brown (5.7%) are above the league-average pressure rate for tackles (5.3%). In particular, Franklin-Myers, Jermaine Johnson (assuming he plays), and Bryce Huff can go to work against Wynn on the right side of the offensive line.
Huff is the Jets’ best pure pass rusher right now in limited snaps. His still-high 18.8% pressure rate (12 pressures on 64 snaps) will have the Jets licking their chops on passing downs.
Next Article: Grading every Zach Wilson throw vs. Denver Broncos
Possible bonus: Quinnen Williams vs. Patriots’ backup center James Ferentz
With Patriots’ center David Andrews currently in concussion protocol following a dirty hit from ex-Jet Mike Pennel on Monday night, it is up in the air who will play center for New England against the Jets.
If Andrews can’t go, his backup is James Ferentz. The Jets have fond memories of Ferentz, who was trounced by Folurunso Fatukasi in their late-2020 meeting. Officially, Ferentz had three pressures allowed in 89 pass-blocking snaps that season, which would just about hit the NFL average. However, the stats belie what the Jets’ DT did to him that day.
2020 Fatukasi was no 2022 Quinnen Williams. The Jets’ DT is having a breakout year, leading all interior defensive linemen with 29 pressures and a 15.1% pressure rate that is almost twice the league average for DTs. He’s also tied for the league lead among IDL with five sacks.
However, Andrews would be a challenge for Williams. His 2.5% pressure rate is in the 69th percentile for centers, and he’s been charged with just one sack.
While Quinnen often lines up over the guard’s outside shoulder in a 3-technique, he also plays 2i, in which he is positioned over the guard’s inside shoulder. In that case, the center would be part of a possible double-team or be responsible for picking up Williams on a stunt. Quinnen also occasionally plays the 1-tech on the center’s shoulder.
If Andrews cannot go, you can count on the Jets lining Williams up against Ferentz.