A sight for sore eyesPhoto: Rich Schultz /Getty Images
Oh, goodness me. So much to talk about. Let’s just start with the obvious. It’s good to have football back. I am also a lucky man in that my wife is a huge fan. Sunday “plans” no longer need to be discussed for the next few months. We’ve got pigskin on the calendar.
Yes, the New York Jets are also undefeated. And while I’ve got plenty of thoughts on Geno and the like, yesterday’s game left me with one glaringly apparent takeaway. Jets fans should be very, very pleased Rex Ryan is spending his time back in the defensive meeting rooms.
If you want to boil down one of my primary reasons for optimism, beyond simply “defense,” the word I’d select is “pressure.” I’m not looking at the stat sheet. I gazed at it briefly. Three sacks and an interception don’t scream dominance. The 65 rush yards yielded to Doug Martin and crew? Yes, impressive. But, for anyone who’s been a Jets fan, this game was as much about feel as it was about the numbers. The defense felt different. Most noticeably, they made Freeman feel uncomfortable.
Now, you could argue poor coaching, a sloppy team and a crappy plan contributed a great deal. I wouldn’t disagree. However, again, this was an eye test. The first few years of the Ryan era, it was Rex-in-effect at its optimal levels. Dominant defenses that seemed to constantly put the opposing offense on its heels. Blitzes from everywhere. Scheme changes. A defensive mind at work coupled with way-above-average personnel. The results were stunning.
Not coincidentally, the last few seasons were a different story. Few things bothered me more than what seemed like a complete lack of pressure…on a frighteningly consistent basis. Opposing quarterbacks sitting in the pocket completely undisturbed and unconcerned. FOR. EVER. Signal callers breaking contain and lopping off large chunks of scramble yardage time and again. Last year was arguably the worst. Guess when Rex was spending his most time with the offense in their meetings and film rooms?
Now, Rex is back where he is best. Sitting with the defense. Making the calls. Scheming. Let’s put aside whether he’s a defensive coordinator or a head coach. That debate is not for today. What is clear is that the product on the field looks, feels and (through one game) is producing much differently. The Jets were getting penetration on Sunday. Blitz packages were getting there…or at least closer. Schemes were changing. Guys were dropping. You didn’t know who was coming. It WAS causing confusion. It all resulted in a quarterback who wasn’t at ease. The results showed.
It was as simple as this. I found myself yelling “get him, get him” countless times in those three hours yesterday. In past seasons, the Jets defense seldom were within shouting distance to elicit such a reaction. Too many times the Jets were still a step away Sunday afternoon. But one step is a huge leap. And there were successes too. My perception of the pressure was not mine alone either. The folks at Bucs site Pewter Report referred to Freeman being “under pressure all day long” (and gave the Bucs O-line a failing grade). Bucs Nation referenced that he was “under duress the entire ball game.” It was not a mirage.
Perhaps the Bucs o-line really is that bad. Maybe this performance was only fool’s gold. We will find out soon enough (Foxboro Thursday?). I know one thing. The pressure did return. It was glooorious to see. I just hope it stays around. If it does, the Jets have a chance to be competitive throughout this season. And that’s all a real Jets fan can ask for in 2013.