"There is going to be a lot of pressure on our secondary this week to win the game," said Jets safety Jon McGraw.
While the Jets secondary has improved, they are still extremely vulnerable to big plays when the team doesn't generate a pass rush. That was clear in the New England game. The Jets secondary lacks speed, so when they are left on an island too long, they have trouble holding up.
If Rams quarterback Mark Bulger is given too much time this Sunday, he could destroy the Jets secondary. With his five fast targets, along with running back Marshall Faulk, who is an outstanding receiver out of the backfield, it's essential that Shaun Ellis and company get to Bulger, early and often.
But blitzing too much might not be the way to go. The Jets tried doing that against New England on Sunday, and it didn't work out well.
"I didn't want to see [Tom Brady] standing in the pocket delivering the ball," said Jets defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson. "You can't let a pocket passer sit in the pocket and deliver the ball."
Bulger is a pocket passer similar to Brady. Like Brady, he's fearless, and will stay in the pocket until the last second, attempting to find an open receiver. He has little regard for his own body.
In the Jets first match-up against New England. Henderson hardly blitzed at all, but in the second match-up he called for a lot blitzes. A big reason for this change in philosophy is that, unlike the first New England game, Henderson was playing without his best pass rusher - John Abraham.
But Jets should be able to get a great natural pass rush against a Rams offensive line that has been ravaged by injuries.
The Rams lost two important starters on the offensive line for the season in training camp, and it's had a very negative impact- right tackle Kyle Turley and center Dave Wohlabaugh. They also lost guard Scott Tercero, for the season, who started some games for them this year. The Rams have used four different left guards including former Jets Tom Nutten and former Cardinal Chris Dishman. It's anybody's guess who will start against the Jets at left guard. Right guard Adam Timmerman continues to play despite two injured shoulders that will require surgery in the offseason. Timmerman's play has definitely been affected by the injuries.
With the Turley injury, right tackle has been a huge problem for the Rams. His replacement, Grant Williams, is now hurt, so free agent Blaine Saiapia is now attempting to handle the job. Ellis should be able to dominate Saiapia . . .
Teams continue to target Jets nickel back Terrell Buckley, now in his 13th years, but Henderson is very loyal to him. Henderson prefers to go with the experienced Buckley, instead of rookie Derrick Strait, who was inactive last week . . .
When asked about what why he played so poorly against New England on Sunday, Chad Pennington said, "Go back and take a look at your notes from the Pittsburgh game. It's déjà vu."
Pennington seems to struggle against good 3-4 defenses.
In Sunday's game, Pennington threw two interceptions and in Pittsburgh he threw three.
While Pennington deserves some blame for the Jets poor offensive performance against New England, he isn't alone. His line didn't play well, and Jerald Sowell and Santana Moss had dropped passes.
"We were taking turns on offense making mistakes," said Pennington. "When I started playing well, some other people are making mistakes."
After the Pittsburgh game, Pennington bounced back with a strong performance against Seattle. He should be able to rebound again, playing a St. Louis defense that isn't very good. Two weeks ago they gave up 402 yards to Arizona, no exactly an offensive juggernaut.
The Rams talented defensive coordinator Lovie Smith left for the Chicago Bears in the off-season, and Rams coach Mike Martz says it has taken time for players to adapt to new defensive coordinator Larry Marmie's system.
Injuries in the secondary have also been a big problem. Safety Aeneas Williams, the leader of the secondary, is out for the year with a neck injury . . .
The Sowell drop was a turning point of the New England game. It was in the middle of the second quarter, and the Patriots were up 3-0. The Jets had a 3rd-and-7 at their own 49. Pennington hit Sowell in stride on a crossing route in Patriots territory with plenty of room to run, and the fullback dropped the ball. He could have advanced the ball to the 30-35 yard line. But instead the Jets punted, and the Patriots proceeded to march down the field and score on a touchdown grab by tight end Daniel Graham . . .
Henderson said that on both New England touchdown passes the Jets were playing zone. On the Graham touchdown, one reason he was wide open is that both Eric Barton and Jon Vilma bit on a play-action fake . . .
The Jets didn't do a very good job covering tight ends in this game. Chris Fauria and Graham combined for five catches for 74 yards. One reason for these struggles is that they didn't use safety Jon McGraw enough in this game. He played just 10 plays. McGraw has done the best job of any Jet covering tight ends this season. . . .
On Monday, Henderson told his defensive players to not answer specific questions about what happened against New England. He said he would handle that.
"I'm standup guy," said Henderson. "If I make a bad call and put a kid in a bad situation, I'm going to standup to that. I felt I did."
"Both touchdowns," said Henderson. "Knowing they were going to throw the ball, I should have played more man, but I chose to play zone. You have to put your guys in a situation to win. I'm kicking myself a little bit."
The Patriots are clearly in Pennington's head. The quarterback has thrown 10 interceptions in the last three meetings with New England. "Sometimes they say it's mental," said Patriot safety Rodney Harrison. "I don't know why he struggles, but it's good he struggles." . . .
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