Colts Key Matchup: Scott vs Vilma

Greg Talmage explains how the Jets are using inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma in their defense this year since they installed a 3-4 scheme. Find out if it's been a good fit for him, and how it results in a key matchup for Colts offensive lineman Jake Scott.

New York Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini came to New York via Bill Belichick and the New England system, where he served as defensive coordinator in 2005. One of Mangini's first actions as the head coach of the Jets was to start implementing a 3-4 defense similar to what he used in New England. This is still very much a work in progress. The Jets actually run more of a hybrid 3-4/4-3, which allows them to switch back and forth between the formations depending on the situation. They are not a 100% full-time 3-4 defense. What will we see more of this weekend?

Given the fact that the NFL is a copycat league and the past success of 3-4 defenses against Indianapolis like San Diego and Pittsburgh last year and New England in years past, I'm willing to bet Mangini will show plenty of 3-4 fronts Sunday. The one player I want to focus on in the Jets 3-4 formation and his matchup this week is Jets eft inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma.

In his first two seasons, Vilma excelled as a middle linebacker in the Jets base 4-3 defense. He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2004 and made the Pro Bowl last season. Being an inside linebacker in a 3-4, however, is a lot different. In the 4-3 scheme, the middle linebacker is protected by two defensive tackles in front of him and the aim is to keep him free of blockers and able to run sideline to sideline in pursuit of the ball. But in a 3-4, there is only one defensive tackle (nose tackle) in front of him, and if the opposing team's center is able to handle the NT without interior help it permits the guards to be uncovered and the inside linebackers will have to take on blockers more often. The transition for Vilma has not been easy.

After he struggled in the 3-4 against New England in Week 2, said this about Vilma's performance, "A quiet J-Vil performed the way many feared he would in the 3-4: Interior linemen could more easily get to the second tier and obstruct Vilma as he flew to the ball. On all four of the Pats' runs of 10-plus yards, Vilma was walled off by either [right guard Steve] Neal or [center Dan] Koppen." Until Vilma gets comfortable in the 3-4, the potential for bigger runs between the tackles will exist for opposing offenses.

It will be the responsibility of Colts right guard Jake Scott to get to the second level and create these running lanes by blocking Vilma. Fortunately, athleticism is Jake Scott's greatest asset. So he will need to use it to get off the snap well and to the second level quickly. Now getting a hand on the speedy Vilma is easier said than done. If Vilma is slow to react while reading what is going on in front of him, this will allow Scott that extra second to get into Vilma.

Jake Scott's play strength is still his biggest weakness. He will sometimes just get manhandled at the point of attack. This is really important when dealing with an attacking Vilma, who shows good blitz instincts. He knows how to find the open gap, explode through it and close on the QB.

I usually don't breakdown the same Colt player's matchup in back-to-back weeks, but Vilma is such a vital part of what the Jets do on defense. But that fact, and the intrigue of the whole 3-4/4-3 hybrid they are working on implementing and how Vilma is adjusting, made this matchup too good to pass up.

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