Memo to Jets, Don't Fight the Last War, Fight the Next One

Steve Balestrieri
May 19, 2012 at 04:54pm ET

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The New York Jets signed another free agent safety with former Dolphin Yeremiah Bell coming on board, having already signed LaRon Landry away from the Redskins. The only question now is, “Is the way they’re planning on defending the Patriots TEs is by bringing safeties up into the box in the manner of a 46 defense?”

If you are Tom Brady and Bill Belichick the answer is “I certainly hope so.” But the problem is the Jets are fighting the last war so to speak by borrowing game plans from teams who were successful at shutting down the Patriots offense (New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers) by bringing big physical safeties in the box and jamming the receivers at the line and daring the Patriots to throw deep.

It worked because, Deion Branch isn’t really a deep threat and Chad Ochocinco never got in synch with the offense. Which left the team with Tiquan Underwood, this season, the Patriots offense has evolved bringing in Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney, Donte’ Stallworth amongst its free agents. Bringing safeties into the box against the Patriots of 2013 with their speed to the outside is basically singling up some DB for utter disaster. The proof is in the pudding, why would the Patriots bring in three FBs into camp unless they plan on utilizing them for pass blocking duty.

As Ian Rappoport of NFL Network says in a column on Saturday morning, Bell was hardly stellar against the Patriots TEs with the Dolphins Gronkowski and Hernandez combined for 24 catches for 303 yards in two games but the Dolphins problems in the secondary were deeper than just the safeties.

So the Jets are bringing in big, physical safeties with limited coverage skills to combat the Patriots tight ends? They will need to upgrade their pass rush and get not good but great play from their CBs because, although this would have and did work last year, when the Patriots go to a 3 0r 4 wide look, it is going to be vastly different than last year. In the 46 defense, the SS moves to cover the 3rd WR. That leaves them vulnerable to the short pass underneath as well as no over the top help. The Jets linebackers were a poor lot in coverage last season overall and their plan has to be being physical and jamming them underneath.

The Patriots under Belichick continue to evolve and they aren’t game planning on last year’s games, but next year. The Patriots scored 67 points on the Jets defense in two games last season. Rex Ryan had to change something if he wants to challenge New England for the division. But this move doesn’t make sense, banking on two physical safeties who’ve both have had issues staying healthy are a recipe for disaster against the 2013 version of the New England Patriots.