Jacobs-Ward tandem presents big problem

The Jets defense isn't quite sure what to expect this weekend from the Giants backfield.

Brandon Jacobs, the man who was assumed to have been handed the starting running back baton from Tiki Barber, was injured on his sixth rush of the season and hasn't played since. What seemed to be a devastating blow to the Giants offense has, thus far, looked like a blessing in disguise as his replacement, Derrick Ward, has done a nice job in his absence.

Ward's 353 rushing yards are good enough for ninth best in the league. Not too shabby for a guy who saw just thirty-five carries the previous three seasons. However, Jacobs returns to action this Sunday and Head Coach Tom Coughlin has said that the pair will likely share the load. An interesting scenario for the Jets defense considering the tandem's contrasting approach toward running the ball.

"You have to know each guys running style," Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis said of the differing challenges each back presents. "Jacobs is a downhill guy with power. Once he gets into the open field he can make guys miss. Ward has power and speed. We have to gang tackle, play the correct run defense and stop the run."

Yielding 112.5 yards per game, the Jets defense currently ranks 16th in the league against the run. Given the versatility of the Giants backfield, Eric Mangini echoed Ellis's sentiments as he has added increased importance on his defensive preparation for both men.

"You need to understand the way that back is going to run the ball," Mangini said of facing the Giants dual threat backfield. "Each back may run the same play, but they don't run the same play the same way. The read may be the same, but one guy may be looking to bounce the ball outside. Another guy may be looking to cut the ball back."

At 1-3, the Jets enter this weekend's rivalry matchup in desperate need of win to salvage any playoff hopes.

Needless to say, the Jets offensive line will have their hands full with the Giants red-hot defensive front.

However, the team's ability to effectively adapt to the varying abilities of Jacobs and Ward will play a crucial role in curbing a Giants running game that has averaged nearly 100 yards per game without their featured ball-carrier.

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