During the bye week we're presenting midseason reports on the three phases of the Jets attack. Today: Defense:
The 12th Man, a common football phrase that traces its origin back to 1922 and Texas A&M, is usually used to describe the fans and their impact on the game. But Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine says star cornerback Darrelle Revis allows him to call a game like he has a bonus defender.
"We do a good job as far coming up with coverage concepts that are different each week that allow Darrelle to take advantage of his ability," said Pettine on "Inside the Jets." "For me as a coordinator, you almost feel like you have a 12th defender."
Entering the Week 8 bye, the Jets are tied for the NFL lead with 16 takeaways. Revis, who had zero interceptions in 2010, has seen more action on his Island in 2011 and leads the way with four INTs.
Three of Revis' four picks have been huge momentum changers as he set up Nick Folk's game-winner over the Cowboys in Week 1, jump-started a flat team in Week 5 by equaling a team record with a 100-yard return for a score against the 'Fins, and flipped the game with his Week 6 fourth-quarter pick of Chargers QB Philip Rivers.
You wonder why Jets opponents even bother to throw to No. 24's side of the field.
Funneling Foes to 'the Island'
"Sometimes we set it up that way. We'll overload coverage so dramatically away from him that a lot of times a quarterback has no choice," said Pettine. "A quarterback's normal read will be he'll read the weak safety, he goes to the middle of the field, and you'll work your split end side, and that's Revis."
The Jets will at times employ Cover-2 Man (man coverage with over-the-top safety help, allowing bracketed coverage) to the field and then leave Revis in Cover-Zero (no safety help) to the boundary.
"Do I throw to a guy who is doubled or do I throw to a guy who is being covered by Revis? So we set that up from a scheme standpoint, but not just give teams a steady diet of where that's all that they're getting," Pettine said.
Secondary smarts across the board allow the Green & White to be adaptable on the back end by mixing up coverages. With the Chargers up, 21-17, early in the fourth quarter Sunday, the visitors were driving when the Jets threw a curve at Rivers.
"It was a coverage concept we've been working on for a while," said the defensive coordinator, in his third season at the helm. "It was a third-and-intermediate type thing where they were expecting man coverage and trying to run a quick route. It was a slant and we were basically lined up as if we were playing man, and then everybody basically just zoned out over top of their player.
"We were fortunate that when [Vincent Jackson] broke inside Darrelle, I think he thought he had him beat," Pettine said. "Cro came off his player and was sitting in that window, and that's how the ball probably ended up to the back shoulder and it deflected through to Darrelle."
D's Youth Being Heard From
Then with the Jets ahead, Revis' apprentice helped seal away the team's fourth win.
"Inside we talk about the slot. Kyle Wilson is very quietly having an exceptional year," Pettine said. "It was great to see Sunday that he finally kind of broke through with that first interception. He made a heck of a play, undercutting that crossing route.
"That was a huge play for us in the game, but all he does is show up and work and study tape. He's a guy who kind of attached himself to Revis in the offseason, who isn't a bad guy to want to learn from, and it's paid off."
The youth movement is well under way along the defensive line. Pettine considers rookie DE Muhammad Wilkerson "ahead of the learning curve" and he's very high on former Cowboys DE Marcus Dixon. The rotation also includes rookie Kenrick Ellis, a rookie who saw the field the last two games, Ropati Pitoitua and Martin Tevaseu.
"The ability to have a rotation there, to roll guys through, I think has been very beneficial for us," Pettine said.
The Jets, who are tied for sixth in sacks with 18, rank just 26th against the rush. The middle is strong with NT Sione Pouha and DT Mike DeVito on the line and David "Hitman" Harris and Bart Scott at ILB. Teams have had success with some perimeter runs as the Jets have yielded 126.9 yards per game on the ground and the "D" lost one of its mainstays in OLB Bryan Thomas to an Achilles injury.
"To me it's a work in progress as far as the edges, but I think Sunday showed we're going to be able to get it done. To credit the guys inside, I think a lot of the balls end up getting bounced outside because we've been getting so stout inside," said Pettine. "Mike DeVito is having a career season and fortunately we should be able to get him back after the bye week."
"Chance to Be Special"
Pettine and the defensive staff are pleased with the production they're getting out of both veteran OLB Calvin Pace and newcomer Aaron Maybin — the two are tied for the team lead with three sacks apiece. Josh Mauga has been cross-trained on both the inside and outside, and he could possibly take over the full-time role at OLB.
This defense, which ranked ninth overall after seven games, has a unit that possesses a lot of swagger. And rightfully so, considering they've got a super man out there on his Island. Revis is playing the best football of his career and that only figures to help this talented group down the stretch.
"We definitely got younger on defense and are looking forward to take advantage of it. Coming out of the bye week, we'll be that much better," Pettine said. "I have a real high ceiling for this group. I think we have a chance to be special down the stretch."