New York Jets: Analyzing the Patriots’ Week 7 Opponent

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Oct 18, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Chris Ivory (33) carries the ball against the Washington Redskins during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Ivory, Running Back

Chris Ivory, the de facto number three running back in New Orleans, stuck in a committee with Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas, the guy who couldn’t stay on the field in 2011 for the Saints, the guy who was traded to the Jets for a fourth-round pick  in the 2013 draft, who signed a paltry three-year contract for $10 million…is the NFL’s number four leading rusher in the 2015 season so far, with 470 rush yards. 

Ivory’s averaging 115.0 yards per game, which is good for first place in the league in that category.  He’s less than fifty yards away from Matt Forte’s spot at the top of the rushing yards totals. Did I mention Chris Ivory has only played four games this season?  He didn’t play against Philadelphia in Week 3 with a quad injury, and the Jets had their bye in Week 5.

Perhaps a coincidence, or perhaps not, Philadelphia is the only team that’s beaten the Jets this year.

And before you assume that the offensive line we’ve been raving about so far has been the key to Ivory’s success, they’re fairly middle-of-the-road in run blocking (Football Outsiders has the Jets run blocking as 11th in the NFL).  Forget smash and dash, Chris Ivory is all smash – a whopping 233 of his 460 rushing yards have come after initial contact.

Read that again: literally 50% of the man’s yardage has come after contact.  Or, as Bill Belichick describes him:

“He’s always been effective, in my opinion, and it’s going well and they keep feeding him.  I’d say he’s a guy who gets stronger as the game goes on…He’s hard to tackle in the first quarter.  He’s hard to tackle in the fourth quarter.”


Who Can Stop Him?

Well, as the Patriots get set to face one of the league’s best running backs this year, let’s check in and see how New England’s run defense is looking.

*throws up everywhere*

But they’re ranked 14th overall in rushing yards allowed!  They’ve only allowed 573 yards on the ground all season!  Cleveland’s allowed almost a thousand already!  Grab a beer and chill out, man!

Problem is, the Patriots rushing defense is 30th in the entire league in yards per carry.  Opponents are rushing against the Pats without fear and averaging 4.9 yards a carry.  For comparison purposes, Jacksonville is allowing 3.4.  The Giants, who have allowed almost an identical 561 rushing yards, are holding their opponents to 3.7 yards per carry.

This is a serious problem.

A solid power running game is the gift that keeps on giving – as Matt Chatham of the outstanding Football By Football notes, stacking the box with safeties and base-defense linebackers against New York with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker on the outsides is an Anthony Bourdain recipe for, as Bourdain might phrase it “Total absolute f**king disgraceful disaster”.

The only way I see this working out well for New England’s defense is playing more three-linebacker sets than they have lately. 

Whether it’s Jerod Mayo logging more time, or new addition Jonathan Bostic filling the third-linebacker role, assuming Dont’a Hightower plays, or even Patrick Chung’s new-ish safety/linebacker hybrid role that takes advantage of his run-stuffing and lets McCourty and Harmon defend the deep throws, the front-seven is in for their biggest test of the season so far.

Next: Next Up: There’s a New Sheriff In Town