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Jets Respectful of Eli and His Receivers

Posted Dec 21, 2011

In a league that has undergone a transition to passing-obsessed, the Giants are ahead of the curve. Statistically, they are the most lopsided offense in the NFL with 77.6 percent of their total yards coming through the air.

On Saturday, the Jets focus will be on QB Eli Manning, the man who generates more than three quarters of the Giants' eighth-ranked total offense.

“In the year of the quarterback, he’s quietly had a career year,” said defensive coordinator Mike Pettine. “The key for him is that his receiving corps has done a nice job. They’ve had their share of drops, but at the same time he’s put balls in some tight places and they’ve made plays for him.”

Few offenses could survive without a running game, but Manning makes it work. He is averaging 299 passing yards per game, behind only the Saints' Drew Brees and the Patriots' Tom Brady. Unlike last week’s problematic opposing quarterback, Manning is a pure pocket passer. He may have a different skill set of QB Michael Vick, but that doesn’t make him easier to stop.

The Jets have plenty of experience defending pocket passers, playing Brady and the Patriots twice every season. Pettine said the key is pressure. Without frequently reaching the quarterback, the defense could be in for a disappointing Christmas.

“If you allow the game to become that, you’re going to get lit up,” he said. “It’s cliché, but you’ve got to get him to move in the pocket, maybe get in his lanes. But we have to get in there.”

Easier said than done. The Giants have allowed only 24 sacks this season, second-best in the NFC and fifth overall. The number speaks to Manning’s improvement and his ability to make quick decisions. He has cut his interception total from 25 in 2010 to 15 this year with two games remaining.

Making matters more difficult for the Jets are the stable of young wide receivers the Giants boast. Victor Cruz (85.3) and Hakeem Nicks (84.3) rank fifth and sixth in the league in receiving yards per game. The group demands attention and respect and is one that the Jets have focused on all week.

“They’ve always had great receivers,” said CB Darrelle Revis. “Victor has proven himself and is making plays. The guy is a [1,194-]yard receiver this year. He’s in the mix. Hakeem makes plays, and [Mario] Manningham does as well."

Fortunately, the Jets are built to stop an aerial attack. They rank as the seventh-best passing defense in the league and have the fourth-best opponents' completion percentage. Revis and Antonio Cromartie figure to be busy once again as the pass-dependent G-Men will attempt to solve the Jets secondary. Many teams have tried, few have succeeded.

“We just need to play football at the high level that we need to,” said Cromartie. “There’s nothing they can do that can dictate what we do. We have to dictate what they’re going to do.”

From all indications, the Giants are playing right into the hands of the Jets and their dominant corners. Today Cruz fed the beast by telling reporters that teams “aren’t that scared” of Revis anymore.

“He’s got to earn his money this year,” said Cruz. “Teams aren’t really backing down. I feel like we’re going to do the same thing. Until he physically stops us, we’re going to throw the ball on him.”

“If that’s where they want to go with the football," said Pettine, "I welcome them.”

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