Thursday, July 23, 2009

Different Faces, Same Philosophy

July 24, 2009
By Anthony Tripicchio

For the Jets, change means more of the same.

Rex Ryan is the new head coach, making his much awaited debut as top gun on the sidelines. If you see similarities in tactical defense to his predecessor, Eric Mangini, it is because Ryan will also utilize the 3-4 scheme.

Granted, the two coaches have their differences.

Ryan has a reputation as an aggressive coach who will blitz as often as he breathes and will certainly abandon Mangini's cryptic way with the media. Beat reporters, at times, were tempted to resort to waterboarding in order to pry information from Mangenius.

Despite their contrasting personalities, each of their defensive ideologies were inspired by masterminds who came before them. Ryan had his father, Buddy Ryan, who was the first to employ the vaunted 46 defense. Mangini gleaned from Bill Belichick the intricacies of a base 3-4 alignment.

Both men understand the value of a chameleon like defensive attack. Confuse the opposing offense with varying looks.

While Mangini believes in deception up until the snap, Ryan will throw his front on the field and challenge the offense to beat it. If you have the personnel, Ryan's method can be effective as he proved in Baltimore.

General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and the Jets, armed with the rewards of a defensive spending spree, anticipate that Ryan will have all the tools necessary for his 3-4 to dominate.

Former Ravens Bart Scott, Jim Leonhard, and Marques Douglas are asked to infuse the vicious nature of their old defense to their new digs at the Meadowlands.

Head coaching changes are often accompanied by subordinate staff overhauls. Although Ryan takes the helm, the Jets retained offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and special teams' coach Mike Westhoff. The only major change is the hiring of Mike Pettine as defensive coordinator and demotion of Bob Sutton to linebackers coach.

Ryan has heaped high praise on Pettine and one would expect nothing less as the former Baltimore outside linebackers coach was his choice.

"Mike is a rising star in this league," Ryan said. "We're fortunate that we were able to get him on our staff and he's my right hand man."

Just as Tannenbaum wanted a head coach to fit the Jets' 3-4 personnel, Ryan searched for a defensive coordinator who mirrored his own approach. He did not have to look far for Pettine who spent seven years in Baltimore assisting the defense.

Brian Schottenheimer returns with a somewhat unenviable group on the offensive end. Schottenheimer, who fell short in his own candidacy for the head coaching job, lost notables Brett Favre, Laveranues Coles, and Chris Baker.

Much of Schottenheimer's time will be attributed to acclimating rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to the system. Accustomed to turnover at the position, 2009 will mark the third consecutive year the Jets will open the season with a different starting quarterback.

Without the necessary playmakers in the passing game as Schottenheimer attempts to develop Sanchez and Kellen Clemens, the Jets are expected to restrict their offense from some of the gunslinging that Brett Favre is revered for.

Many would argue, however, that the playbook was never opened up for much of a downfield passing game last year anyway and, therefore, the offense will not be so dramatically limited in comparison.

Schottenheimer's offense is dependent upon its rushing with the AFC's leading rusher Thomas Jones, the explosive Leon Washington, and powerful rookie Shonn Greene.

Running behind a steady offensive line and aiming to keep turnovers to a minimum, Schottenheimer would love to get 35-40 carries combined in each game out of his three horses in the backfield.

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