The Houston Texans sold out early to stop the Jets' rush game in Week 1 and veteran RT Damien Woody expects to see more of the same on Sunday against the Patriots.
"I expect the same type of formula. I expect people to really stack up against us. Sanchez is an inexperienced guy, so I still expect people to stack up against us on the run game because that's a strength of our offense," Woody said. "We have some very talented running backs with a very good line unit, so that's going to be the first thing that people try to shut down is the running game and try to make him beat us."
Loading the box, the Texans had success containing the Jets' land attack in the first quarter of play. Running seven times in the opening stanza, the Jets totaled 11 yards, and their longest carry — an 8-yard gain from Leon Washington — originated from the "Seminole" formation (the Jets' version of the Wildcat).
"We talked about it the night before. We knew that it just wasn't going to happen immediately on opening day on the road," Woody said. "We knew it was going to be tough sledding early on, but the thing about it is you just have to be persistent."
The Jets averaged just 2.7 yards on their first 15 rush attempts in opening a 10-0 lead at the half. But they never got discouraged and kept pushing the rock uphill until they reached the summit. The fourth-quarter walk downhill was smooth, though, as the Texans relented and surrendered two huge runs to Thomas Jones, a 38-yard TD and a 39-yarder to help seal the deal.
"We were persistent — 42 rushing attempts. That's what you have to do," said Woody. "When you control the ball and run the ball the way we did, eventually those runs are going to spring loose and that's exactly what happened. We just kept pounding and pounding and pounding, and the next thing you know TJ breaks one for 40 yards and he breaks another one at the end of the game. That's how you end up with 190 yards rushing in the game."
Woody, who was a member of New England's 2001 and '03 championship teams, and the Jets will face a revamped Patriots defense at the Meadowlands. While folks at home might recognize a few names, there are a lot of new faces who will get more playing time than ever Sunday.
"It's like a changing of the guard a little bit," Woody said. "A lot of the staples that they had on their defense are no longer there and they have a lot of young, new guys. They're in transition, but they still have a lot of good players. Their defense has kind of shifted into a different look."
The mainstays that have departed include DE Richard Seymour, traded to Oakland, LB Mike Vrabel, shipped to the Chiefs in April, and S Rodney Harrison and LB Tedy Bruschi, who both retired.
"Those guys are great players. I think the one thing you took away is the leadership. You can't replace guys like that, especially on the leadership front. Like I said, they're in transition," Woody said. "I think their defense is catered more around their second-year linebacker, Jerod Mayo. He is a heck of a player and he's hurt."
With Mayo out of action due to a knee injury, the Pats will likely to turn to second-year player Gary Guyton to help fill the void in the middle.
"They still have a lot of formidable players like Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork," said the 31-year-old Woody. "It's a big transition on defense, but any team coached by Bill Belichick, he's going to get those things fixed and they're going to be ready to play on Sunday."
The Patriots' defensive front was far from dominant on Monday night. Playing against an inexperienced Buffalo line featuring three starters who had never played a down in the NFL, the Pats were ordinary in giving up 90 yards rushing (4.7 yards per carry) and appearing susceptible to screens.
"Young guys came in and they did a heck of a job against them up front," Woody said of the B-Lo line. "I definitely like our chances, but that's not to say it's going to be easy or a cakewalk. They have a lot of good players over there, especially in the front seven. We're just going to go about our business. We're not worried about them. We're worried about us and taking care of our business and our game plan and playing our type of football on Sunday."
And Jets football is "Ground & Pound." The Pats may attempt to take away the ground game, but the Green & White are going to be dogged in their approach.
"Our philosophy is we want to set the tone early, control the ball early, control the line of scrimmage early, get after them and wear them down," Woody said. "And when it's time to throw the ball, we want to get explosive plays in the passing game. That only happens when you loosen them up and they're going to be geared to shut down that running game. So it's going to be paramount to get that running game going."