A few feet below the ground at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center today, Jets head coach Rex Ryan buried a football from the Green and White's frustrating 45-3 loss to the New England Patriots. As a cleansing measure, it's a way for the Jets to get over a difficult defeat, but it's also perhaps a subtle reminder about where they want the football to be during games when they employ the Ground and Pound philosophy.
"From here on out I think that's our goal," left guard Matt Slauson said. "Just ground and pound as much as we can and once teams start loading up the box, then we'll throw it over their heads."
The Jets enter Sunday's matchup with the Dolphins as the NFL's No. 4 rushing offense, averaging 148 yards per game. LaDainian Tomlinson, Shonn Greene and Brad Smith combined for 29 carries and 146 yards in Miami in Week 3, and they'll likely be charged with the duty of running the ball even more and just as effectively at New Meadowlands Stadium. It will be a challenge against a Dolphins defense that is ninth in the NFL in rush defense.
"They're a very good front seven, I'd say probably one of the best we've faced all year," fullback Tony Richardson said. "Obviously they're ranked No. 4 in total defense. They do a good job of making a point of stopping the run. Obviously any time the weather starts to change and the wind starts swirling and things of that nature, you want to be able to pound the football, so that's definitely something we'll try to lean on this week."
With linebackers like Karlos Dansby and Cameron Wake, the Dolphins have held opponents to less than 100 yards rushing per game. The Jets showed last week in that loss to the Patriots, however, that even when a game is going badly, they can still run the ball. The Green & White rushed 31 times for 152 yards in Foxboro, but were unable to get into the end zone, something Tomlinson was able to do in Miami earlier this year. The increased production from NT Paul Soliai (23 tackles and a sack) will make that job much more difficult, according to Jets center Nick Mangold.
"They're doing a fantastic job up front," Mangold said. "Their D-line is doing a heck of a job. You look at Paul and the way that he's playing nose tackle, he's playing at a crazy high level right now. He's using good leverage, he's using the right techniques, he's been tossing some people around. It's going to be a pretty big challenge up front."
In the blustery, chilly conditions during Wednesday's practice, the Jets prepared for a tough game that will surely come this weekend. Wake has garnered a lot of attention from the Jets in this short week since the Monday night game. Wake, a Penn State product and former CFL star, has 12 sacks this season to go along with 44 tackles and two forced fumbles. Jets tight end Ben Hartsock knows full well that it will be his and the rest of the offensive front's job to contain Wake.
"He's a guy who is tremendous athletically, and just explosive is the best adjective to describe him," Hartsock said. "He's so quick and abrupt and powerful with his moves and that reflects the success he's had with sacks this year."
Even with those dangerous defenders, the Jets have a solid offensive line and two running backs who know how to keep the chains moving. Tomlinson has rushed 176 times for 788 yards (4.5 average) and Greene has 153 carries for 639 yards (4.2).
If those two figures aren't good enough, Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer can throw in Smith as a great change of pace. Out of the Seminole and on ends-around, he's rushed 28 times for 218 yards (7.8 average). With all three viable weapons, Greene and the Jets believe that they know what type of defense to expect from the Dolphins and are prepared for a battle at the line of scrimmage.
"I think every game is going to be a physical matchup," Greene said. "Their front seven is very active. Their 3-4 scheme, those guys do a great job with it. They like to run-blitz a lot. I expect them to be very active, so it's going to be physical."