No one can shut down Randy Moss completely, and no one knows that better than Rex Ryan. That said, the New York Jets have two corners who, over the course of three games against the New England Patriots, have done a very good job in containing Randy Moss's productivity as an "X" wide receiver. Most of this work has been accomplished by Darrelle Revis, who helped the Jets' defense hold Randy Moss to a total of 9 receptions, 68 yards, and 1 TD, in two games against New England during the 2009 season. It should be noted that Jets' free-safety Kerry Rhodes was in coverage on Moss's only touchdown against the Jets last year. Kerry Rhodes is now with the Arizona Cardinals.
Not sayin'...just sayin'.
In this year's 28-14, Week #2 win over the Patriots, corners Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, whose coverage was rolled to Randy Moss after Revis re-aggravated a hamstring injury, combined to limit Moss to 2 receptions, 38 yards and 1 touchdown, a score that required Moss to make what might very well be the catch of the season. Randy Moss did not have a reception in the second half of that game, and two of the deep balls intended for Moss were intercepted in coverage. One pass was intercepted by Cromartie. The other was initially defended by Cromartie, with the tipped ball being intercepted by free-safety Brodney Pool.
No NFL defense has a complete answer for Randy Moss, but at the end of the day, the New York Jets probably have the best answer.
There are certain very important things that have to happen before Randy Moss can do the kind of damage that causes NFL defensive coordinators episodes of fitful sleep. Some of these things are tasks that have proved challenging for the Minnesota Vikings of late. For Randy Moss to catch the football in the kind of single "press" coverage presented by Revis and Cromartie, the Vikings' pass-protection scheme must provide Brett Favre with sufficient time to deliver the football accurately. Against Rex Ryan's relentless and highly fluid blitz packages, this will not be easy. Analysts on ESPN and NFL Network have been breaking down the Vikings' pass-protection issues ever since the 14-10 Week #2 loss to the Miami Dolphins, and it is not at all clear that those issues will have been resolved, when the Vikings face the New York Jets this Monday night. This situation only becomes more complicated for the Vikings, with the return of Darrelle Revis and Calvin Pace to Rex Ryan's defense. If the Jets are able to get sufficient pressure with just "3+1", then it will be a long night of chaos for Brett Favre, and a long night of frustration for the Vikings receiving corps.
For those who would suggest that an enhanced focus on running Adrian Peterson
is the comprehensive solution to this problem, the point is well taken that the Vikings will probably employ that approach, although it should be noted that the New York Jets have actually allowed fewer rushing yards per game (74.8) than the Minnesota Vikings. And while it has been accomplished by the tandem of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, the fact remains that the Jets have also rushed for more yardage per game (167.8) than the Vikings.
The Vikings are not the only team adding a big play wide receiver to their roster. The New York Jets have added Santonio Holmes, who, while splitting the duties with Hines Ward, racked up 1248 receiving yards (just behind Randy Moss and Reggie Wayne), and 5 TDs, with the Pittsburg Steelers in 2009. Braylon Edwards will still be the #1 wide receiver, and Holmes addition allows the Jets to line up with Jerrico Cotchery as the #3 WR in a "spread" formation, possibly with LaDainian Tomlinson or Brad Smith in the "slot". Holmes' addition to the Jets WR depth chart comes as we learned today that Vikings' rookie corner Chris Cook will not be active in Monday night's contest, due to a newly torn meniscus in his left knee.
While New York Jets 2nd-year QB Mark Sanchez is not among the NFL leaders in passing yardage, he has thus far thrown for 8 TDs with 0 INTs. The passing yardage numbers are somewhat deceptive, since the Jets also play the best field-position game in the NFL. The Jets' offense has the second best average starting field position (Jets' 34.67 yard line), and their defense has the best (opponents' 24.14 yard line). The Jets' +8 turnover differential (the Vikings are -3) clearly has a lot to do with this. The O vs. D yardage differential of 10.53 essentially represents one less first down the Jets need to gain, per drive, than their opponents do. Think about it.
Sorry, I don't make predictions...unless Paul Allen gets me to do it on the radio.