One of the things we’ve learned this preseason about the Dolphins and Jets is just how polar opposite their offensive philosophies will be. The Jets will feature a return to the ball-control ground and pound, including using Tim Tebow in a variety of Wildcat and short yardage situations, while the Dolphins are going with the no huddle and trying to play fast.
The question is which philosophy is the right one to take down the Patriots? Everyone knows that the division has gone through New England for the last decade so if you’re not specifically trying to take down the Pats you’re not really trying.
There’s no question that the Pats pass defense has been a weak link over the past few seasons. Though the Dolphins don’t feature an elite quarterback at the moment, and have a collection of, in the words of Jeff Ireland, “a lot of 3, 4, and 5 receivers” but no clear 1’s or 2’s, there have been quite a few no-name offenses including back up quarterbacks who have thrown all over the Pats D, just look no further than Dan Orlovsky and the Colts last season.
But there’s also no secret that the Pats have gotten away from their run stuffing 3-4 base defense personnel. They will still use the 3-4 as they did on the fly against Tebow the first time they saw him in 2011, but there’s a clear lack of run stoppers like Richard Seymour and Ty Warren on the roster now. Could the Pats transition to more of a nickel-front base expose them to teams who want to run it down their throat?
In my view both teams have flawed lines of thinking. Even though the Dolphins lack talent, let’s say they’re able to execute the no-huddle and put up yardage. Even then I have doubts they’ll be able to keep up with Brady and the Pats many talented weapons. It’s like asking for a shootout with the most heavily armed guy on the block. Or bringing a hand gun to a machine gun fight.
As for the Jets it appears that for them to beat the Patriots things will need to go exactly according to their game plan. They can’t get behind. They can’t turn the ball over. And they’ll have to dominate at the line of scrimmage and put up five-yard carries at will. Are Shaun Green and Bilal Powell the kind of backs who are ready to carry the load like that? I’m not sure.
Tebow can be a valuable threat inside the 10-yard line, and provide some Wildcat runs of his own, but again those things are predicated on A) Mark Sanchez getting them inside the 10-yard line, and B) the Pats forgetting how they shut down Tebow for 7 of 8 quarters in 2011.
And we didn’t even mention the Jets lack of depth at wide receiver. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that I love Rex Ryan as the coach of the Jets and I hope he remains there for a long time because I enjoy what he brings to the rivalry. But from a personnel stand point it’s hard not to think that since Rex took over there’s been a steady decline in talent for the Jets. They’ll need to see a good chunk of their young guys emerge this year or time could be running out on the Tannenbaum-Ryan regime.
If anyone is on the right track offensively to face the Patriots I have to go with the Bills. While they aren’t exactly loaded at wide receiver or tight end their quick passing game and the presence of Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller give them a number of ways to not only move the ball but also control the clock.
As someone who has studied the Patriots defense closely I know the quick-passing game is the thing that can kill them, since they’re fond of the bend-don’t-break style. Of course then it comes down to a matter of consistent extended execution, which is the biggest hurdle, but Ryan Fitzpatrick could be just the quarterback to pull it off.
The Patriots defense should be better this year. Well, let’s put it this way, it will be hard for them to give up much more yardage than they did last year. The other teams in the AFC East will need bold game plans, fearless play-calling, and flawless execution for not one, but both games against the mighty Pats if they want a shot at the division, regardless of what their offensive strategy will be.