Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO – The Jets are playing very good defense this season. The qualifier? They aren’t doing it against very good offenses.

Through five games the Jets are 4-1 with the lone loss to the Eagles, a 24-17 loss in Week 3 in which Philly was buoyed by a special teams touchdown from punt returner Darren Sproles.

That Philly loss, ironically, was when the Jets were at their best against the pass, holding Sam Bradford to 50 percent completions (14 for 28) and just 118 passing yards.

Still, we all know the Eagles offense isn’t playing at the level Chip Kelly has in mind so limiting the Eagles is no great accomplishment. Neither was stopping the combo of Josh McCown and Johnny Manziel in Week 1, the porous Colts offense led by Andrew Luck in Week 2, the Dolphins and Ryan Tannehill in London when Joe Philbin was a dead man walking and Kirk Cousins and the Skins last Sunday.

The Jets, of course, can only play the offense in front of them. I’m not discrediting what they’ve done as much as pointing out that, Sunday in Foxboro, they will see an offense that’s operating at a high level. This will be the game where we find out just how authentic a threat the Jets really are in the division.

The talent of the Jets defensive front-seven is authentic. Defensive linemen Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Leonard Williams; linebackers Quinton Coples, Calvin Pace and David Harris are part of a front that head coach Todd Bowles lets loose in blitz after blitz.  

“I don’t think anybody’s blitzed more than Coach Bowles the last couple years,” said Bill Belichick. “They bring plenty of pressure. It’s a different scheme, but they bring a lot of pressure.”

And the Jets don’t just bring five guys. They’ll bring six, seven or even eight.

“You’ve got to block all of them,” said Belichick. “You can’t target, give help when you have five, six guys to worry about, plus they’re bringing [Calvin] Pace off the edge or [David] Harris up the middle or [Demario] Davis off the edge. You’ve got to block them. You’ve only got so many guys. They force you into a lot of one-on-one situations, but then they also overload blitz. They bring everybody and peel with the guys that release so they always have one more than you have so you’ve got to deal with that, too.”

According to Pro Football Focus, the Jets have blitzed on 98 of 220 pass plays (44.5 percent). The league average is 30 percent. After blitzing 72 percent of the snaps vs. Miami, they blitzed just 19 percent last week against the Skins.

The results when they blitz? Quarterbacks have gone 39 for 88 for 474 yards with four scrambles and five sacks. The completion percentage is 44.3 percent and the passer rating against is 52.9.

But, as we were noting earlier, they haven’t gone after a quarterback with the skill or experience of Tom Brady.

Blitzing Brady is inviting a dicing.

His numbers when extra attackers join the rush: 30 for 47 for 395 yards, 6 touchdowns, one pick and four sacks and a passer-rating of 121.0. That’s actually a rating five points higher than when he’s not blitzed.

Brady’s skill at diagnosing blitzes prior to the snap and finding where the defense will be light is the reason teams have to be judicious. The ball comes out too quickly to allow anyone from the pass rush to get home and he puts his short-route receivers in position to catch-and-run.

I asked Brady on Wednesday if took it as a personal affront when teams blitz him.

“They’re always going to find a way to put pressure on the quarterback,” said Brady. “Every team tries to devise a different scheme to do that. I don’t think there are a lot of teams that say, ‘Let’s give this guy a lot of time to figure out and sort things out.’ You always want to try and get pressure on the QB to make him throw the ball before he really wants to throw it. Probably through the first five games of this year each of the teams we’ve played have tried different things.”

Brady doesn’t think the Jets will shrink from blitzing him, though.

“I think they’re a team that will do what they do,” he said. “They want to be aggressive, they don’t want to be dictated to they want to see if you can block them. They have a lot of good rushers, a lot of first-round picks there on the defensive line, a lot of big powerful guys that try to get to the quarterback. They’re really well-coached. Pepper (Johnson) coaches that D-line and that’s what they do.”

The front and back ends of the defense have to work in harmony for blitzes to work. If a defense wants to blitz, it’s often going to ask its defensive backs to play press coverage so there isn’t an easy bailout throw for the quarterback.

If those players can’t play press and win 1-on-1, they are going to find themselves losing contact and getting victimized for big plays. That’s the risk in the risk-reward. The reward? Picks.

“They’re gonna try to get home and force us into making errant throws and throw it to (Antonio) Cromartie and (Darrelle) Revis and (Marcus) Gilchrist like a lot of other quarterbacks have done this year,” said Brady.

That’s the chess match Sunday in Foxboro. The Jets are the ones with something to prove.