Mike Lombardo's interview with Leberfeld

Here an an interview Charger insider Mike Lombardo conducted with Dan Leberfeld over the last couple of days -

Michael Lombardo: Both the Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos failed to stop Philip Rivers, who has the second-most passing yards in the AFC (594) and a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 6:1. What will the Jets do to knock Rivers out of his comfort zone? Will they bring heavy pressure or drop extra players into coverage?

Dan Leberfeld: The Jets play a tricky 3-4 defense and could send anyone, from anywhere, at anytime. That is how they will attempt to throw him off this game, by attempting to confuse him. But the fact that Rivers faces a very good 3-4 defense in practice every day, it will be tough to confuse him too much.

The two players the Chargers need to worry about the most in the Jets' front-seven are two key offseason additions - OLB Calvin Pace and NT Kris Jenkins. Pace, the former Arizona Cardinal, has been worth every dime of the huge contract they gave him this offseason. He has made a ton of plays in the first couple of games and gives the Jets the big-play 3-4 linebacker they were missing the last two years.

Something else they were missing the last two years was a huge, athletic 3-4 nose tackle. The addition of Jenkins in a trade with the Panthers filled that void. He is exactly what you are looking for in a 3-4 nose tackle. He's 6-foot-4, 359 pounds and very athletic for his size. He dominated New England's Pro Bowl center Dan Koppen last week. And when you have that strong, powerful, quick nose tackle in the middle of the 3-4 defense, like the Bolts do in Jamal Williams, it's the key to the defense.

ML: Brett Favre has historically struggled against 3-4 defenses. Is that a trend you expect to continue on Sunday? Or he is getting increasingly comfortable in Brian Schottenheimer's offense?

QB Brett Favre
Chris McGrath/Getty

DL: He is getting more comfortable in the offense, but he's probably only comfortable with 50 percent of it at this point. He arrived on Aug. 4, which is real late for a starting quarterback on a new club.

Remember, Favre initially only wanted to be traded to a team that played a West Coast offense, since he was in that system for the last 16 years. That is why his camp brought up Minnesota so much, and also Tampa Bay was in the mix. But when it didn't look like deals with those teams were going to happen, the Jets convinced Favre he could be successful in their system, which is very similar to San Diego's. Remember Brian Schottenheimer came from the Chargers' coaching staff.

Making matters even more difficult for Favre is the first three teams on the Jets' schedule all play the 3-4 scheme, something he didn't see much in the NFC. And when you don't see the 3-4 a lot, it can be baffling, especially when it's played on a high level. Favre had a lot of trouble with New England's 3-4 last week, and San Diego's should be a major challenge for him also, especially since the Chargers have more talent in the secondary than New England. If the Chargers' front-seven can confuse Favre, he could be pick-prone against Antonio Cromartie, Quentin Jammer and company.

ML: The Chargers couldn't find a way to stop Brandon Marshall in Week 2, as he set a Broncos record with 18 receptions. From the outside looking in, it appears Jericho Cotchery has a similar skill-set. Do you expect the Jets to ride Cotchery until the Chargers prove they can stop him? Or is a more diverse attack in order?

DL: I think Cotchery is very good (Philip Rivers will tell you that from their days at NC State), but he's not on Marshall's level. In my opinion, Marshall is the most talented receiver in the League right now. Plus, Marshall is 6-foot-4, 230 pounds, and Cotchery is much smaller. And Cotchery isn't particulary fast, either. Cotchery is a good solid football player, but he doesn't have exotic size and speed like Marshall.

Considering Laveranues Coles is struggling getting on the same page with Favre after Coles missed all of training camp with a hamstring injury, he isn't the big-time threat you are used to seeing at this juncture. And what New England did last week was take Cotchery out of the game. The guy to worry about is second-year wide receiver Chansi Stuckey. He had touchdown catches in the first two games and already has great chemistry with Favre. When Coles was out in camp, Stuckey got Coles' reps and took advantage of them. Favre loves throwing to the kid, who is very quick in and out of his breaks and has great hands.

Another guy the Chargers have to worry about is rookie tight end Dustin Keller, who runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash and could be a mismatch against their linebackers.

C Jeremy Newberry
Doug Pensinger/Getty

ML: Kris Jenkins has been a huge addition to New York's run defense, which ranks No. 6 in the NFL. What do you expect from his matchup with veteran stand-in Jeremy Newberry?

DL: Starting centers have issues with Jenkins, so can you imagine the challenge for a backup? Jenkins looks like he's back to his Pro Bowl form from a few years ago in Carolina. In his down years, he was usually held back by conditioning issues. There were rumors that he was around 400 pounds at times in Carolina. Obviously, at that kind of weight, he isn't the player he can be.

When the Jets traded for him, they gave him a new contract loaded with conditioning clauses. After a whole offseason in the Jets' strength program, Jenkins is in the best shape he's been in a long time. He's a "svelte" 6-4, 359 pounds. He won his matchup with New England's talented center Dan Koppen last week. Koppen was raving about him after the game, as was Bill Belichick.

Jenkins isn't just a big body. He's a very good athlete for his size and also has amazing strength. He can bench press more than 500 pounds. Newberry is going to have one of the biggest challenges of his career.

ML: Darren Sproles ignited San Diego's comeback last week with a 103-yard kickoff return. How do you like his odds of a repeat against the Jets? How do you rate New York's kick coverage overall and who are the top players to watch on those units?

RB Darren Sproles
Doug Pensinger/Getty

DL: The Jets coverage units are led by Wallace Wright, a third-year player who was a backup receiver at North Carolina but a heck of a special teams player there, and now with the Jets. He should get Pro Bowl consideration this season.

Honestly, the Jets' special teams have been a little bit of disappointment thus far. As I'm sure Charger fans know by now, the team waived its punter on Tuesday, Ben Graham, and signed former Ball State standout and St. Louis Rams draft pick Reggie Hodges. He will have quite a stage to make his Jets debut.

The Jets' field goal kicking has been an issue, too. Mike Nugent pulled a muscle attempting a short field goal in Miami (that was no good) and he is out of the lineup. He was replaced by journeyman Jay Feely, who missed his first attempt from 31-yards last week.

On top of that, the Jets' kickoffs haven't been very good, no matter who has handled them. And now the kickers will have a new holder in Hodges to get used to. So perhaps the stage is set for Sproles to do some damage.

ML: The Chargers have opened the season with a disappointing 0-2 record. The Jets are 1-1; however, with a loss, they risk falling two games behind the New England Patriots, who play a rebuilding Miami Dolphins squad. Who needs this game more: The Chargers or the Jets?

DL: Clearly the Chargers after the two devastating losses. If the Chargers lose this game, their season could really start to head south. The Jets have a lot of new players, aside from Favre, and a lot of people figured that September could be rough for them. They have Arizona at home next week and then a bye week. If the Jets can get to the bye at 2-2, they could go on a roll after the two weeks of bye-week practices, a chance for the coaches to teach and fix what is wrong.

Obviously, the Jets don't want to lose the game and fall further behind New England and Buffalo, but the Chargers need this game more.

Jets Insider Top Stories