FLORHAM PARK, NJ - Life in the NFL, it's a different challenge every week. Last week the Jets defense was focused on pushing Eli Manning off his spot and out of the pocket, if you give Manning time to sit comfortably in the pocket, scan the field and step into his throws more often than not he will beat you. This week the challenge is just the opposite, keep Marcus Mariota inside the pocket and force him to make throws into tight windows because he's most dangerous when he's on the move.
"I mean we've played against some elusive guys at the quarterbacks already this year, but it really just comes down to precise rush lanes," Muhammad Wilkerson said. "Making sure we got guys in front of him and closing the pocket down on him."
Last week the Jaguars found out firsthand what happens when you allow Mariota to escape the pocket without a wall of defenders waiting for him as he broke off an 87 yard touchdown run.
"The pocket started to come down on him. We had a pretty good protection, not real solid but it was tightening down," Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said. "I think he saw a big hole. I think, obviously, the initial (thought) was get the first down and then when he came out of there we had three receivers on the play, that from their routes, took off with him. All three of them had an effect on the outcome of the play, some of them 60 yards downfield - Kendall Wright knocking somebody down, the last lone guy that could have made the play, Kendall knocked him down. And it was great to see the effort by a bunch of guys based on the situation we're in here, to play with that kind of effort and spring him for a walk-in touchdown."
Mariota isn't running an offensive system quite like he was at Oregon but they are using some of the same concepts and designs that play to his skill set. The Titans will run a lot of spread, three-four receiver sets and all the receivers know that if they don't get open and they see their rookie quarterback take off they have to immediately turn into extra blockers downfield. Which is exactly why the defensive front has to do what Wilkerson said, stay in their lanes and keep Mariota contained in front of them, because once he turns into a runner and makes it past the line of scrimmage it's awfully hard for the defensive backs in coverage to recognize he's already taking off and get away from the receives blocking to track him down and tackle him.
"The same play we're talking about, that one he got last week, they (Jaguars) were playing man. Guys running with their backs turned, they don't see him until it's too late," Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. "As a matter of fact, they were in a six-man rush and he broke contain and he was out of the gate. So, that's something we're definitely stressing this week, stay where you're supposed to be and make sure your guys stay in their lanes."
In other words, stay disciplined. You can't be any less aggressive when facing a quarterback like Mariota but you have to stick to your assignment and stay in your lane because as soon as one guy goes out of his lane it starts a domino effect of other players having to cover up for him.
"No, you never slow down as a rusher just because he's a running quarterback," Wilkerson said. "Like I said, we just got to have precise rush lanes and be smart as we rush him."
So, what's the best way to stop Mariota?
"Don't let him run (laughing)," Todd Bowles said. "No, it scares you because he's such a good runner and he's got speed. Anytime you get a scrambling quarterback, the minute you get out of a lane you know you don't have four guys up front that are fast enough to catch him (so) it's a problem."
Chris Nimbley is the Editor-in-Chief of JetsInsider.com/NYJScout.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@cnimbley), or via email (email@example.com)