IRVING, Texas – It's natural to associate the Jets with top-notch defense, given how long they've been among the best in the league in that category.
This season is no different, with Todd Bowles presiding over the No. 5 defense in the league. Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are back in the fold and headline the group, but there are other, lesser-known playmakers on the unit that I want to take a look at.
On top of that, Saturday will serve as the third-straight season the Cowboys have had to square off against one of the most dangerous – and yet unheralded – receivers in the game. Limiting him will play a big role in how much work this Dallas offense has to do.
Nemesis: Brandon Marshall, WR
Physically, Marshall is as tough as they come. He is not afraid to try and bully the defender with his size. He will line up anywhere in the formation to go get the ball, and his routes are run at all levels. Has surprising initial quickness for a player his size, and when he is running at full speed, he is covering some ground.
He gets separation two ways – both with power and speed. Can get across the field or up it with ease. Plays with body control and balance. Can start-stop all while changing direction – he doesn't have to come to a complete stop in order to make moves. He is outstanding at playing the ball in the air, and his leaping ability is one of his best traits. When he sees the ball, he is going to get it.
He plays with courage, and he can hold onto the ball and take a hit when in traffic. You can see it's a sense of pride with him in the way he catches the ball in traffic. He has natural hands and is able to make the extended catch. Big catch radius -- can really snatch the ball no matter where it is thrown. Hard guy to bring down in the open field. Gets north-south in a hurry.
Marshall's mindset is to score every time he catches the ball. He is a red zone weapon due to his physical size and nature. For a big man, he's good in small areas. He knows how to find space and work himself open. He has a flair for the dramatic, and he will punish defenders as a blocker. Complete wide receiver in all areas.
Weapon: Muhammad Wilkerson, DE
Wilkerson is an ideal player in the Jets' 3-4 scheme. He is more than just a two-gap defensive end. You can see the flexibility to line up at several different spots to cause problems. Plays with nice short area quickness and a burst. Can accelerate down the line in the running game to make a play or work the twist in the passing game.
He is always moving toward the ball. Plays with lateral quickness. He's very good at changing directions – he doesn't just stay in one spot. Can be difficult to handle when he is on the move. Outstanding body control and power. Good hand use with the ability to shed. When he gets his hands on the blocker, he can cause problems. He plays with upper body strength, and he is able to strike and explode into the blocker. He will anchor down at the point of attack and can be a hard guy to move off the spot.
A big key to Wilkerson's game is consistency. He doesn't have those snaps where he is up and down. He can create turnovers when he gets in position. He has that type of reach in the pocket where quarterbacks have to be aware. There is some bend and finish to his game. Good key and diagnose. Plays with instincts both run and pass. Can play into blocks and get off. Doesn't stay blocked long. Have to account for him on each play because if not – he can be that disruptive.
Under the Radar: Buster Skrine, CB
When you talk about the cornerbacks on this Jets roster the names Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are the ones that are front and center. Buster Skrine is a corner they got from the Cleveland Browns that lined up opposite Joe Haden and wasn't a bad player.
Skrine is the Jets' nickel corner, and with the way he plays, he could easily be a starter on many clubs around the league. He is both mentally and physically tough. He shows good speed and acceleration. He is able to catch up if the receiver gets separation on him. Plays with an extended burst and range. Very reactionary. Nice lateral quickness and body control. He will react to the receiver's route, then he is able to drive on the ball to make the play. There are some explosive traits to his game.
He is at his best when he can play as a press man corner. Outstanding athletic ability. He's a shorter corner, but he has good leaping ability. Big time speed and quick feet for the position. Good hip flexibility and change of direction. Good closing speed. He gets to the line quickly on run support.
Skrine is physical for his size. He will be able to match Cole Beasley's quickness out of the slot and will not be afraid to deal with the size and power of Dez Bryant if he plays inside. Teams try and take advantage of him because of who he is paired with in Revis and Cromartie but, he handles the situation well.