New York Jets need their leaders to take full advantage of ideal matchups
If the New York Jets are going to take care of business at home against a 3-8 Chicago Bears team, they must be sure to maximize the advantages that lie in their favor.
Here are two big mismatches the Jets must exploit.
Jets EDGE Carl Lawson vs. Bears LT Braxton Jones
Carl Lawson has a sack in three of his past four games and is up to 5.0 sacks (6 total) through 10 games. However, his overall pass-rushing consistency has dipped recently. Lawson has 7 pressures in his past 5 games (1.4 per game) after collecting 19 pressures in his first 5 games (3.8 per game).
Despite the decline in pressures, Lawson still provides plenty of hidden impact on a weekly basis. He is tremendous at opening his teammates on stunts and has drawn some key penalties. Plus, even when Lawson doesn’t win, he creates havoc that has a positive ripple effect. Lawson is rarely stonewalled and usually gets deep into the backfield, which opens up space for his teammates to operate regardless of whether he wins his own rep.
Still, though, Lawson is capable of being more dominant than he’s looked. The Jets need Lawson to make more plays of his own.
This is the perfect week for him to get back on track.
Lawson (who plays all of his snaps on the right side of the defensive line, opposite the left tackle) will draw a matchup against the Bears’ rookie left tackle, Braxton Jones. The fifth-round pick out of Southern Utah has allowed 30 pressures this season, which ranks as the second-most in the NFL among left tackles.
Between Jones’s struggles and the ball-holding tendencies of Bears quarterback Justin Fields, Lawson is set up for a game-wrecking performance.
Fields is an incredibly promising young talent who has shown immense progress this season, but he still has a ways to go. One of the primary weaknesses that persist in Fields’s game is his propensity for holding the football too long. For opposing pass rushers, there is no quarterback in the NFL who is more enticing to face.
Fields is the most sack-prone quarterback in the NFL. He has taken a league-high 40 sacks (3.6 per game) and this is largely due to the fact that he averages 3.44 seconds from snap to throw, which is the highest mark of any qualified quarterback.
There is no doubt that Fields’s open-field running ability will be an immense challenge for the Jets. But when it comes to the pass-rush, the Jets should be licking their chops.
Against a quarterback who gives pass-rushers an eternity to get home and a left tackle who has allowed the second-most pressures at his position, it’s time for Lawson to feast.
Get Started: Learn More About Becoming A Jet X Member
Jets QB Mike White vs. Bears linebackers
Chicago’s porous defense is an ideal opponent for Mike White in his first start of the season. The Bears have allowed the sixth-most points per game this season (24.9).
More important than the Bears’ overall defensive struggles is how well White matches up against them. Their weaknesses coincide with White’s strengths. White should be able to play his preferred brand of football against this defense.
Chicago’s linebackers are weak in coverage. On the year, they have allowed 454 yards on just 49 throws in their direction. That’s an average of 9.3 yards per target, ranking second-worst in the NFL among all linebacker units.
Those numbers are excluding Roquan Smith, the star linebacker whom Chicago traded to Baltimore after Week 8. This group is ripe for the picking without him.
Smith’s absence has been immediately felt in Chicago. Following Smith’s exit, the Bears have been one of the NFL’s worst teams against short passes.
Since Week 9, Chicago’s defense has allowed a 126.8 opposing passer rating on throws that traveled 0-to-9 yards downfield, ranking third-worst in the NFL over that span.
That’s largely an indictment of the linebackers. Over three games since Smith was traded, the Bears’ linebackers have allowed 19-of-23 passes in their direction to be completed for 237 yards, 1 touchdown, and 0 interceptions (124.1 passer rating and 10.3 yards per target).
This is music to White’s ears. As a game manager who gets the ball out quickly, White loves to throw short passes. In particular, White has enjoyed a large percentage of his short-game success when targeting linebackers.
Back in White’s 405-yard explosion against the Bengals last season, the linebackers were his primary victims. When targeting Cincinnati’s linebackers, White went 24-of-28 for 283 yards.
White is set up to have a big day in the short-and-quick passing game against this exploitable Bears linebacker unit. If White eagerly seeks out mismatches with his running backs and tight ends, he should enjoy plenty of success.