The New York Jets run defense has been fantastic this season, but they will be in for a difficult matchup this week against the Oakland Raiders.
The New York Jets defense has shocked many this season as, despite countless injuries at crucial positions, the unit has still managed to excel. In particular, the team’s run defense has been elite.
The Jets currently rank first in the NFL in average rushing yards allowed per game surrendering just 79.1 yards on the ground each week. Opponents are averaging just 3.0 yards per attempt which ranks substantially better than any other NFL team as well.
On top of that, the team’s run defense has somehow managed to get better even as injuries have piled up.
In their last three games, the Jets have allowed an averaged of just 42.3 rushing yards per game. That’s nearly a full 20 yards better than the next-best team over that same timeframe, the Indianapolis Colts.
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And over that same stretch of games, the Jets have allowed just 2.1 yards per carry which is nearly a full yard better than the Los Angeles Rams who ranked second with 3.0 yards per carry allowed over their past three games.
The Jets run defense is elite, and this has happened with the likes of Folorunso Fatukasi, Kyle Phillips, and Steve McLendon dominating the defensive line. And with countless injuries at linebacker, players like James Burgess and Brandon Copeland (playing out of position) have stepped up.
Credit obviously needs to go to defensive coordinator Gregg Williams who has done a phenomenal job with his unit this season. But even despite their success, the Jets will face a tough task this week against the Oakland Raiders and their impressive ground game.
The Raiders have experienced a bit of a resurgence this season and currently sit at 6-4 right in the thick of the AFC playoff race. And much of their success has come courtesy of a revived rushing game.
That rushing attack is led by rookie running back Josh Jacobs who has rushed his way to a stellar 923 yards and seven touchdowns on 191 rushing for a fantastic 4.8 yards per carry. And in his last three games, Jacobs is averaging a phenomenal 101 yards per contest.
A far cry from the 42.3 rushing yards per game the Jets defense is allowing to entire teams, let alone individual running backs.
Jacobs has been helped by a much-improved offensive line that features prized free-agent signing Trent Brown, All-Pro center Rodney Hudson, and the controversial Richie Incognito who is enjoying a career renaissance in Oakland.
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The Raiders’ offensive line may very well have two or three representatives in the Pro Bowl this season. Combine that with a very impressive young running back and this should be one of the Jets’ biggest tests in quite some time.
Back in Week 7, the Jets did manage to hold Ezekiel Elliott to 3.8 yards per carry, but he still topped 100 on the day. Since then, the only running back to even reach 70 has been Leonard Fournette who rushed for 76 yards on 19 carries back in Week 8.
But 66 of those yards came on one play.
This will likely be the Jets’ biggest test since the Cowboys game and it will be interesting to see how the likes of Fatukasi, McLendon, and Burgess fair against the increased competition. While C.J. Mosley is still sidelined, the return of Neville Hewitt has at least helped add some depth at linebacker.
Jacobs will be difficult to stop and gaining penetration against this offensive line should prove challenging. But if there’s one defense who could limit the Raiders ground game, it’s the Jets.