How should Sanchez handle Ravens?
Each week, Chad Pennington breaks down a dynamic NFL playmaker or scheme, devises a game plan and discusses a strategy for success. This week, Pennington looks into how Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez should approach the Ravens’ defense. Meanwhile, former defensive standout John Lynch breaks down how the Patriots can contain Raiders running back Darren McFadden.
Bill Parcells had a saying that he would tell me from time to time: Be mentally aggressive, but physically relaxed.
As I think about the challenge facing Mark Sanchez in Week 4, this piece of wisdom from an old ball coach fits perfectly. My assignment this week involves the game plan for Mark Sanchez and the Jets’ offense against the storied defense of the Baltimore Ravens.
You’ve probably heard the statement: there are two types of pressure — pressure you receive and pressure you apply. As an offense, it is really easy to be mesmerized by the Ravens’ defense. As you watch film, you see the pass-rush ability of Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and the defensive line as well as the instinctive plays made by Ed Reed. And no, I’m not forgetting the intensity and leadership of Ray Lewis. Everybody focuses on his intensity and game-day theatrics, but I admire his knowledge, preparation and love of the game. Most of his career, the linebacker has been the leader for the Ravens. Period. Name another team as successful as the Ravens where its bonafide leader is not the quarterback. I can’t think of one. He has leadership qualities that quarterbacks normally display and that’s extremely rare.
If Sanchez and the Jets want to beat the Ravens, the Jets offense must fight pressure with pressure. As a quarterback, there is a fine line when trying to be aggressive. Being overly aggressive can cause a quarterback to force the ball into double coverage or make errant, ill-advised throws. This normally happens when his mental aggression transforms into physical aggression. A quarterback then becomes tense, trigger-happy and mistake-prone. There will be opportunities for big plays during the course of this game. Don’t force the big play. When the opportunity presents itself, make it happen.
I have experienced this feeling myself against this same defense. During the 2008 playoffs, our Dolphins team faced the Ravens for the second time. As the quarterback, I was determined to play aggressive and make big plays. I forgot to stay "mentally aggressive and physically relaxed." End result: four interceptions and a quick exit out of the playoffs.
Pass protection is first when attacking the Ravens. This defense has always been known for pressuring the quarterback. Sanchez and his offense must be locked into identifying multiple fronts. This recognition is key for the offensive line, running backs and wide receivers. Teams who protect well have all 11 offensive players working together. Baltimore will try to create one-on-one matchups for Suggs and Ngata. An offensive lineman who has to deal with one of these Pro Bowlers must know where his help is. Does it come from another lineman? Is the running back supposed to help me? Or am I on my own? There is no doubt that this task is for a full 60 minutes!
Secondly, Mark Sanchez must identify the location of Ed Reed every play. Reed is a ball hawk and will leave his defensive responsibility to make a big play. He relies on his film study and his instincts. In the new TV series, "A Football Life," Tom Brady is watching Ravens’ film with Bill Belichick. Tom looks at Belichick and says he needs to know where Ed Reed is at all times. He’s unpredictable. Don’t assume anything with this guy.
Unfortunately, I know this fact all too well! In that same 2008 playoff game, Reed had two of my four interceptions. His second interception was because of my poor assumption. While playing a deep safety in Cover 2 on the right side of the field, he completely left his responsibility and intercepted me on the left side of the field. Thanks Ed!
Because of their pass-rushing ability and Reed’s unpredictability, an offense cannot afford to get behind. When the Ravens defense plays with a 10-point lead or more, watch out! The pass rush becomes ridiculous, and Ed Reed is all over the place! In the Jets’ loss last week to the Raiders, within a 42-second span at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarters, the Raiders scored two touchdowns. The Jets went from being tied at 17, to being down two scores. Not good news for the quarterback. Sanchez was then operating from a huge disadvantage. At that point, you have no threat of a running game and the defense is coming to kill the quarterback. Period.
But let’s look at the Ravens’ loss to the Tennessee Titans in Week 2. Titans’ quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was extremely efficient — something that will definitely be a key for Sanchez. Hasselbeck was a ridiculous 30-for-42 for 358 yards and a touchdown. The Titans controlled the time of possession and won the field-position battle. Most importantly, there were big plays in the passing game. Hasselbeck completed three passes of more than 30 yards.
Sanchez will have some opportunities to hit some balls down the field. He HAS to complete them. It’s a must. When you face a good defense, there will be limited opportunities for big plays. But when one arises, hit it! If you don’t, it’s going to be a long day.
The Jets offense can present matchup problems for the Ravens. The speed of Santonio Holmes, versatility of Dustin Keller and size of Plaxico Burress can be an advantage. Don’t forget about savvy vet Derek Mason. He knows this Ravens’ team. Its guaranteed he’ll have some tricks up his sleeve. The dark horse matchup for the Jets is LaDainian Tomlinson. LT is still a beast in the passing game. Creating matchups for Tomlinson with motion and formations will put added pressure on the Ravens. The Jets must use "routes on the move" where LT can catch the ball running and turn short routes into big gains.
Mark, trust the words of Coach Parcells. Be mentally aggressive, but physically relaxed.