The Jets' offense will engage in a kind of game within a game when it faces the Giants' defense on Sunday, a unit that is unpredictable by design and function.
"They do so many different things," offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said on Thursday. "They just do a whole bunch of stuff. They have a large menu, like the Cheesecake Factory."
That "bunch of stuff' is the brainchild of the Giants' defensive coordinator Wink Martindale who has his players blitzing at a rate of 45.8% of plays (second in the NFL) and playing man coverage 43.5% of the time (third in the league). That presents opportunity and challenges for the Jets offensive line, WRs and perhaps most importantly QB Zach Wilson, who could find players like Garrett Wilson in tantalizing one-on-one coverage.
"I love man coverage, I think we all do," said TE Tyler Conklin, the team's second-leading receiver with 20 catches for 227 yards (11.4 per) said. "You love the opportunity to be able to go out there and be against somebody man on man and you like to think that you are the one that can win the match up, but the cool thing about it is we got to do a lot of different things, right?
"Because when you got man coverage, they are obviously going to be bringing people and adding people for pressuring us, which can lead to having to win quick and make sure you are good with your timing and what not to give you a chance if you are taking forever to win it doesn't really matter, so timing and getting on the same page this week in practice to be big, along with beating man coverage."
The Jets (3-3) will be the "away" team for the early afternoon game on Sunday against a Giants club (2-5) that will return to the road next week against the Raiders. The Giants have allowed only 10.5 points per game in their last two (fewest in the NFL since Week 6), losing to Buffalo by 5 points, 14-9, before defeating Washington last week, 14-7. The Jets have strung together a couple of wins after losing a close game to defending AFC champion Kansas City and have a defense that is tops in the league in shutting down the opposition in the second half.
"I think they started off the year doing crazy stuff.," C Connor McGovern said "They calmed down a little bit, but they're playing really well the last couple of weeks. Still bringing a ton of pressure, but still a little bit more condensed. You never know. You could blitz, he [Martindale] went all out, 20-something in the preseason. Preseason games don't technically matter, but that's still a lot of zero pressure, so with him you just never know."
The Giants' defense has produced 11 sacks so far this season, led by DE Kayvon Thibodeaux (5.5) and DT Dexter Lawrence (2). Also of note, safety Jason Pinnock, a former Jets player, has chipped in with 1 sack, has a PD and a 102-yard interception return for a TD.
"All those guys on the inside are so dynamic, they're huge, they're powerful, great pass rushers," Hackett said. "For any quarterback, you want to protect the depth of the pocket. When your best guys are on the interior, it can cause havoc in there. It's going to be a great challenge for our interior four.
"Thibodeaux is a great edge rusher, a young player. When he turns it on and rolls, he's a dynamic pass rusher. We have to know where he is all the time."
McGovern knows the O-line is going to be challenged by Leonard Williams, another former Jet, and Lawrence on the inside. The left side of the Jets' line, composed of LT Mekhi Becton and LG Laken Tomlinson, has been steady while the right side has been in tumult after injuries to Alijah Vera-Tucker (Achilles tendon tear) and rookie Joe Tippmann (quad).
Referring to Lawrence, McGovern said: "He's big, he's quick, he's powerful, he's strong. So, you really got to play at the good pad level when you're going against a guy of his size [6-4, 342] and ability. He's a really good player."
In the preseason, Wilson came on after Aaron Rodgers completed 5-of-8 passes in a couple of series. In the face of the Giants' rush, Wilson completed 11-of-18 passes for 107 yards. But that was then.
"It's a great challenge," Hackett said about Wilson. "He had to face them during the preseason, now he's going to see more experimentation. But it allows us to take everything we do, all the different protections and runs we have and learn the nuts and bolts about why we do each thing. It gives him better understanding. If he sees something different that triggers something in his head then it's 'I probably don't want to do that.' "
Hackett added: "For us, we have to concentrate on how we handle things. We don't know what we're going to see. I think that's what's special about how they operate."