How do you slow down the NFL's top offense? Make them one-dimensional.
"We have to stop the run," Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams said. "I think that's where we have to start off as a defense."
Last week, the Jets held the Broncos to 2.4 yards per carry, but this week is a more challenging test against the Saints' fourth-ranked rushing attack. Head coach Todd Bowles referred to Saints running backs Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara as the league's best one-two punch as they rank sixth and seventh respectively in scrimmage yards.
"We've definitely faced a lot of good running teams this year, but this is going to be another one of those challenging rushing offenses that we're going to have to play against," Williams said. "Having two running backs is definitely going to be able to keep them fresh and keep them running the ball. That's something we're going to have to establish quickly in the beginning of the game — that we can stop the run."
Throughout the season, the Jets have faced three of the league's top 10 backs in Kareem Hunt, LeSean McCoy and Leonard Fournette, who averaged 50.3 yards in their last three games against the Green & White defense. However, the unit hasn't faced a duo as effective as Ingram and Kamara, who average 5.1 and 7.0 yards per carry on the ground.
"The way they use them creates the problem," Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers said. "Ingram is really running the ball downhill. Then you look at Kamara coming in, he might be in the slot, at tailback, at No. 2 and motioning to empty. But then they might be in there running the same plays. The thing is that the offense creates a problem with the personnel groupings. You have about 15 personnel groupings."
Ingram and Kamara round out their résumés as effective receivers. They rank third and second on the team in receptions with 42 and 62. Despite the Saints' revived ground game, their aerial attack is still one of the most efficient units as they average 265 yards per game, which ranks fifth in the league.
At 38 years old, quarterback Drew Brees ranks fifth in the league with 3,569 yards and he's completing a league-best 71.7% of his passes. However, that number creeps up to 77% in the fourth quarter as Brees has a 114 passer rating in the final stanza, which is third in the NFL. Williams said the signal caller is doing a great job of calling plays at the line of scrimmage pre-snap and the defense wants to disrupt his timing.
"We're going to have to close the pocket on him because he's one of those guys that if he has a lane and has good vision in the middle of the pocket, his efficiency is really high," Williams said. "So we're going to try to collapse the pocket on him and cloud his vision a little bit to make him flustered and uncomfortable in the pocket as much as possible. Most quarterbacks, the more you affect them, the less effective they are."