Sep 29, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) scores a touchdown in the first half against the New England Patriots at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
Monday night, the Jets open the second quarter of the season at the Georgia Dome against the Atlanta Falcons. The Jets come into the game with a 2-2 record, while the Falcons will certainly be feeling a sense of urgency as they sport a 1-3 record.
As we take a look at this game to see where the key matchups are, we run into two of them that have the potential to give the Jets absolute headaches. The first one is TE Tony Gonzalez.
I am sure Rex Ryan wishes that Tony Gonzalez had stayed retired, because he is playing like a guy that could go on for several more seasons. In what was supposed to be his final season, Tony posted 93 receptions for 930 yards and eight touchdowns. So far in 2013, Tony has posted 23 receptions for 242 yards and three touchdowns.
His coming out party for 2013 was last week against the New England Patriots, with 12 receptions for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Gonzalez creates matchup problems down the field with size and speed. He is tough to stay with down the field because he is fast, and can out-muscle just about anybody in this league for the football.
Tony Gonzalez is tough wherever he goes. If he goes over the middle, he finds the soft spot in the defense, sits and waits for the pass from Matt Ryan. Lining him up in the slot is tough because a linebacker has to, but can’t stay with him. On the outside, Gonzalez is a matchup headache as well, because a cornerback can stay with his speed, but not the physicality. A linebacker can try to be physical, but can’t stay with his speed.
So, what do you do? How can the Jets minimize him as much as possible?
Well, you have to hit him. You have to hit him hard, you have to hit him on every pass route that he runs. We all know the rules, you can do whatever you like to any receiver within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Yet, after watching the game against the Patriots, I was amazed at how Gonzalez was able to get off the line with a free release. The Patriots never laid a glove on this guy.
I take that back. On one of his two touchdown passes, Gonzalez had a guy draped all over him. But, it was a DEFENSIVE BACK. It was a guy half the size of Tony. It’s a good concept, but how is a guy that is half the size of Tony Gonzalez going to knock him around?
This will be on David Harris and company. The linebackers. They have to make Tony Gonzalez regret going out for a pass, each and every time he tries. It’s not easy, but take advantage of the five yards that you can hit him. Make him hear footsteps, and you will have a fighting chance.
Sep 22, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (11) catches a pass as Miami Dolphins free safety Reshad Jones (20) defends in the second half at Sun Life Stadium. Miami won 27-23. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports
Now, what about this guy? There still is Roddy White, but he is not playing at full strength. Julio Jones has been the man of the hour. So far, he has recorded 33 receptions for 481 yards and two touchdowns. 481 yards is an average of over 120 yards per game! Talk about deadly!
At 6’3″, he is a big problem for any average cornerback in this league. He can make the play over the top of any 5’11” defensive back. He’s fast and he has terrific hands.
He also is pretty good at getting off of the press coverage. If you, as a defensive back, don’t get on this guy, and fast, he will slap your hands away and be off down the field to catch a bomb from Matty Ice. When he gets that first step, he is gone. After watching the Pats game, I saw similar things against him. Nobody did much more than laying an occasional hand on this guy. Nobody physically interrupted his pass routes.
This will be on the shoulders of one Antonio Cromartie. At 6’2″, he can compete with Julio in the height department. What he must do is be physical from the snap. Not just jockeying with his hands, because Julio breaks from that easily. Cro must physically knock him off of his routes. He is strong enough to make a difference. Then, he can use his body to keep Jones out of the play.
It will be tough, but these things have to happen or it will be a long night in Hotlanta.