The 2-5 New York Giants “host” the refreshed 3-3 New York Jets on Sunday. The Giants defeated the Washington Commanders, 14-7, in Week 7, while the Jets spent their week recuperating after a 20-14 upset over the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 6.
The upset was sparked by the vaunted Jets’ defense. Head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich forced four turnovers and harassed Philadelphi quarterback Jalen Hurts all game. The star quarterback threw three interceptions, including one in the final two minutes that resulted in an 8-yard touchdown run by Breece Hall.
Philadelphia was able to exploit vulnerabilities in Ulbrich’s Cover-4 defensive structure, but stout defense on early downs forced the Eagles into uncomfortable third-down situations. [See defensive coverages in the BBV Glossary]
The Jets were without their top two cornerbacks in Sauce Gardner and D.J. Reed in Week 6. Both were in the concussion protocol and should be back Sunday as each practiced in full on Wednesday. The Jets' defense is explosive, with physical athletes across the board, but their defensive statistics don’t necessarily indicate one of the top units in the league.
Still, I would argue that they are certainly up there.
The Jets rank 13th in points allowed per game, surrendering 19.8; they’re 24th in yards per game, allowing 351.8, just behind the New York Giants at 351.4. The Jets have allowed 135.2 rushing yards per game, which ranks 26th in the league; the Giants are 27th, with a 137.3 average.
The Jets blitz at only an 18.3% rate, which ranks 31st in the league. The Giants are now third in blitz rate with a 41.6% clip. Despite the low blitz rate, the Jets pressure the quarterback at a 28.5% rate; that ranks third in the NFL - this is a scary statistic. The Jets also have the fourth-best red zone touchdown percentage in the NFL (36.8%).
Edge defender Bryce Huff ranks seventh in the NFL in pressures with 34. Edge John Franklin-Myers ranks 23rd with 26. Quinnen Williams - who will be a major problem for the Giants in this game - has 25 pressures. Defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, who has 13 pressures, leads the team with three sacks. Huff has 2.5, and both Williams and Jermain Johnson have two. Johnson - an impressive young player - has 14 pressures.
The Jets lead the league in hurry percentage, with a 14.2% hurry rate; the next closest team is at 11.6% (Falcons and Lions). The Jets force the sixth-lowest yards per attempt, which is - in part - due to their two-high shells and off-leverage system that forces throws underneath when compounded with their ability to get after quarterbacks.
They have the fifth-best interception percentage (3.7% of passes). The Jets allow 4.4 yards per carry on the ground but have only surrendered two touchdowns.
The Jets master rotating their personnel and giving opposing offenses different looks that are based on the skill sets of their players. Safety Jordan Whitehead has three interceptions on the season - all three were in Week 1 against Josh Allen and the Bills. Whitehead also leads the team with six passes defended.
Tony Adams is coming off his best game of the season against Philadelphia. He played 70 snaps and came away with the interception at the end of the game.
Quinnen’s older brother Quincy Williams leads the team in tackles at linebacker with 60. Williams also has five passes defended. Former Baltimore Ravens linebacker CJ Mosley has 59 tackles and looked excellent on film against the Eagles.
I went through the Jets’ Week 6 tape against the Eagles, and I was very impressed with Jeff Ulbrich’s gameplan to pressure Jalen Hurts and force him to extend plays, while also manipulating the protection of one of the best offensive line units in this decade. Let’s dive into it.
Jets vs. Eagles
Unfortunately, defeating the Eagles has proven to be a difficult task for the Giants in recent memory. With injuries on the backend of their defense, and Zach Wilson starting at quarterback, the Jets were able to pull off the victory.
This is the Eagles' first third down (third-and-8), and it’s converted for 10 yards to wide receiver A.J. Brown. Still, I love what Ulbrich does in this play. The Jets align Quinnen Williams (95) as a 1-technique with Jermain Johnson (11) standing up over the B-Gap on the same side with a wide rusher.
At the snap, Tony Adams (22) comes on the blitz with Johnson dropping out of the look to wall off Dallas Goedert (88). CJ Mosley (57) attacks the right guard with Quincy Williams (56) slithering around his outside hip. Both tackles had to respect both wide rushers, and running back Kenneth Gainwell (15) did well to pick up Williams. The Eagles pick up the blitz, and the pass is completed - easy peasy.
However, on the next third down (third-and-7), the Jets dial up a similar look; Williams and Johnson flip to the other side, opposite Gainwell. We see the Eagles’ offensive line communicating the protection. Ulbrich changes the blitz from the look, and Johnson rushes with Mosley dropping underneath Goedert.
The Eagles slide to the blitz, but Quinnen Williams releases toward the interior with the wide rusher (Will McDonald, No. 99) looping tightly into the A-Gap. Lane Johnson (65) saw McDondald’s path and stepped inside to take Jermain Johnson, but no one accounts for Michael Carter II (30) since it was a five-man protection.
The cornerback should have sacked Jalen Hurts (1), who made a ridiculously impressive play to extend the drive. Still, devising a free rusher against any quarterback early in a game is a good way to rattle his cage. Plus, the Jets now saw how the Eagles slid toward Williams and Johnson - noted.
Working through #Jets tape, and DC Jeff Ulbrich deserves a ton of praise for his gameplan vs. PHI— Nick Falato (@nickfalato) October 25, 2023
Seen this a few times; Quinnen Williams as 1T w/ Jermain Johnson as stand-up "LB"
QW engaged Kelce and this set up an OVERLOAD to the opposite side (4v2) in 5-man protection… pic.twitter.com/8ob9Ohbl1O
This is the Eagles second drive, a third-and-8. Philadelphia man-blocks with only five in protection; this was done deliberately by Nick Sirianni to entice the blitz, which the Jets send full throttle toward the right side of the offense. This played right into the hands of Philadelphia, but Jermaine Johnson, who wasn’t tasked to blitz, did an elite job recognizing the concept and reacting to the tight end screen.
Johnson met Goedert at the catch point, popped the ball up in the air, and Quinnen Williams came away with an interception. An incredible individual effort by Johnson. On the previous two pressures that were similar, Ulbrich had the non-blitzer (Johnson/Mosley) sink underneath to wall off the tight end; this is one reason why, but Johnson’s awareness was the catalyst to this play for the Jets defense.
Let’s fast forward a little bit to 2:32 left in the fourth quarter. The Jets gain the numbers advantage as Williams crosses Jason Kelce’s (62) face with a twist on the opposite side that allows Adams a free shot at Jalen Hurts. However, Hurts found Goedert for a quick catch before taking the sack, although, he did take the hit.
With only two minutes left in the game, with the Eagles up by two, Philadelphia decided to throw near midfield on third-and-9. The Jets have an overload look to the offense’s left with Williams/Johnson to their right. The Eagles slide to the left, but Mosley, Quincy Williams, and Adams all drop into zone coverage using a Cover-3 look, not Cover-4.
Johnson and Quinnen Williams twist, Hurts looks uncomfortable in the pocket, and throws the football directly to Adams for an interception that set up the Breece Hall go-ahead touchdown with less than two minutes left.
I love stuff like this; we saw, through these plays, a cat-and-mouse game between the Eagles and Jets with alignment, blitzing, pressure, offensive sliding, and quick outlet passes to Dallas Goedert. The Jets baited this throw on third-and-9, had two defenders close on Goedert, and came away with an interception that allowed them to pull off the upset. Beautiful job by Saleh and Ulbrich.
We see how both the defenders focusing on Goedert constrict space to the inside and outside with eyes on Hurts. Once Quincy Williams passes Goedert into the curl/flat, he quickly turns, Goedert flipped to the inside, and Adams was waiting for the pass the entire time.
The Giants run a lot of quick game-passing concepts to Wan’Dale Robinson, so they must be aware of the Jets’ trickery. Tis’ Halloween season, and the Jets’ defense isn’t benevolent with treats.
Giants game plan
First, they have to establish the run. I know, we say this every week, but the Jets’ defense has its issues stopping the run. However, they’re stout up front, so execution with angles and anticipating the path of the Jets’ defenders at the snap is paramount when running power or counter.
The Jets stuffed counter several times through the season but gave up two explosive runs on the year when it was run. However, against the 4-3 WIDE teams like the 49ers, the Giants abandoned their counter-rushing attack and used more of a WHAM double TRAP run play that helped the Giants score with Matt Breida in Week 3.
If the Giants can pull this run off early in the game, it may slow down the aggressive penetrating nature of the Jets. Establishing the run should help the Giants with their play-action passing attack as well.
The New York Giants carved Washington’s base personnel package from their 12 personnel; the Jets will likely match the Giants’ 12 personnel with nickel 3-3-5 or 4-2-5. Still, the Giants can find success with their quick passing attack out of 12 personnel, especially from six-plus man protection with Daniel Bellinger assisting with this Jets’ defensive line.
The Giants have taken advantage of PALMS/Cover-4 [PALMS/Cover 4 explained] teams this season. Not as much as we’d like to see, but the explosive play to Jalin Hyatt in Week 2 was a variation of Cover-4 where the safety bit on Darren Waller’s deep horizontal cross. With proper protection, the Giants can hopefully try to entice that deep fourth safety once again:
The Eagles just missed AJ Brown (11) on this deep shot where the safety bit on DeVonta Smith’s (6) cross. The Giants have to run this from a condensed formation with either Darius Slayton or Hyatt as the lone wide receiver to the field side with more than five in the protection. That receiver, like Brown, has to release outward toward the top of the numbers; once he’s eaten into the cushion of the defender near the top of the numbers, he breaks back to the inside on a skinny angle.
This is a way for the Giants to generate an explosive play against a Cover-4 defense, albeit the Giants don’t have AJ Brown, and the Jets will have Sauce Gardner and DJ Reed back healthy.
The Giants must also be wary of the Jets goalline defense and their propensity to create open gaps for their linebackers through alignment:
The Eagles aligned in a double-Y, tight WR, look with a 4i-shade to the open side (non-TE side). The 4i-shade forces a double team with the closed side (tight ends’ side) The closed side aggressively crashes inward. To account for the 4i-shade, the Eagles pull the backside tackle to kick out the unblocked defender; the pull led to an open A-Gap with Soloman Thomas (96) occupying Kelce.
The shotgun run look on the goalline was a reason that led the Jets to construct their defense in this manner. I would limit shotgun runs near the goaline from a heavy look, for the Jets did this same thing to Boston Scott earlier in the game.
These are not the Jets of old. This is a well coached team with a talented defense from top to bottom. They defeated the Eagles without their top two cornerbacks, and they had a week of rest. Still, the Giants can win this football game if they do two things: force Zach Wilson to make mistakes; don’t make mistakes on offense.
The Giants have some momentum, and some of their starters may be returning. However, the Jets have a better roster than the Giants, but, if the Giants execute on offense and pressure Wilson like they did Sam Howell, then the Giants can win their third game of the season. But that’s still a big if.