Sunday’s game with the Ravens isn’t the first time that Gates coach Robert Saleh has had to prepare for Mar Jackson.
On December 1, 2019, Saleh faced Jackson and the Ravens as the 49ers defensive coordinator. It was a match between two of the best teams in the NFL.
San Francisco was entering the game 10-1 and Baltimore was 9-2. The Ravens entered the game after winning seven consecutive games and scoring more than 40 points in their previous three games. Jackson was going to go on to win MVP that season, and he was rolling when the 49ers came to town.
We watched the game, the Ravens win 20-17, to see if there’s anything to be learned about how Saleh and the 49ers handled Jackson and the Ravens that day and what lessons can be applied to the Jets this week.
The game is played in a driving rainstorm that limited the passing two teams’ matches. However, the 49ers did a good job keeping Baltimore in check. They held the Ravens to the fewest passing yards (20), the second-lowest passing yards (105) and the third-lowest total yards (287) from that regular season.
Jackson finished a 101-yard lunge and touchdown on 16 buggies. He went 14 of 23 passes for 105 yards and touchdowns. And he also had confusion, the first time he lost that season.
Here are some of the points from the game that shaped what happens in the first week:
1. The Cornerbacks are playing a big role in the running showdown with Jackson.
The crows did a great job in this game to get Jackson out of the way. Once there, it’s like running backwards, and the wide receivers and narrow ends should put in good blocks. In the 2019 game, Jackson had the most success when his defensive appearance failed to beat those blocks. You usually think of linebackers interfering with a running game, but the Ravens will create a mismatch with the outside databases through their lineups. It will be interesting to see if Jets Rookie Cornerback Sauce Gardner can handle this type of task. We know he can cover up, but can he be a powerhouse in the running game, too?
2. The planes must keep the crows out of the third and short order.
In the match against the 49ers, Jackson ran for third four times, converting on three of those occasions (although he flopped after being picked up in one game). It is almost impossible to defend him in the third and short position. He did a great job of freezing defenders with a fake game and then taking it around the goalkeeper. Instead, the crows will create a running force for him with the runes appearing as lead blockers.
Nick Bossa was fierce in this game, but the crows sometimes took advantage of his aggressiveness. He was flying and hitting the reverse that looked like he got the delivery from Jackson. Jackson then pulls the ball out and runs around the edge. The Jets will find it hard to stop Jackson at the short three. The best thing they can do is keep him third and tall and force a pass.
3. Don’t miss Jackson if you get a bullet behind the line of scrimmage.
In the game-winning campaign against the Niners, the Ravens had a third and a decisive one. Jackson kept it, and 49ers linebacker Marcel Harris (who is now on the Jets) had Jackson in the background. But Harris let Jackson out of his grasp, allowing the soon-to-be MVP to capture the first time. Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Olbrich will create positions for the Gates defenders to play. They should do this play and not give Jackson a second chance.
4. We will find out if the planes can cover the narrow ends.
Mark Andrews is one of the best tight ends in the game. The Ravens also recruited Isaiah Likely in the fourth round this year, and he impressed in training camp. Baltimore has moved away from using tight ends as much as it did in 2019, but expects to return in 2022. In 2019, 49 players struggled to stop Andrews and Hayden Hurst, who combined three catches each. Each of them had a hit with the game-winning lead in the fourth quarter. Andrews also caught a dip in the first quarter. Jordan Whitehead, Michael Carter II, CJ Mosley, Quincy Williams and Con Alexander will all have their matches covered.
5. On clear passes, the Jets’ defensive runners need to be disciplined in their fast passing lanes.
If you’re out of control, Jackson can scramble and make you pay. Saleh’s defense is all about getting ahead and putting pressure on the centre-back, but this is one week when they need to control the rush of passes and make sure they don’t get past him. Keep it up front or it will go away.
Since it’s Week 1, there’s no way to know exactly what the 2022 Ravens movie will look like. The offense over the past two years has not been as strong as it was in 2019. The offensive line has deteriorated at the time, so this offense may not be as strong as it was. But the Ravens look like they’re trying to get back to what offensive coordinator Greg Roman created with Jackson in his first full year as a rookie. They have taken steps to tackle the offensive line and have crafted two narrow ends. The wide receiver continues to be a weak point for the Ravens, although they have done nothing to improve that position this season.
This jet-setting rivalry will be all about stopping Jackson. Saleh tied him and the 49ers to a passing game in 2019, but he still ran for 101 yards and converted some third defeats with his legs.
Valid also does not have Nick Bossa, Fred Warner and DeForest Buckner this time. This will be a major test of the Jets defense. We’ll quickly find out if they’re up to par.
What a difference the year makes
The Jets’ roster has undergone a facelift this season. Here’s a comparison of the 2021 Opening Day Beginners against the Panthers versus what we expect the Sunday Beginners to be against the Ravens. There are five rookies from last year, one playing in a different position and of course Wilson is injured. In defense, there are four novice players. Here is the comparison:
2021: Zach Wilson
Expected 2022: Joe Flacco
2021: Stephen Coleman
Expected 2022: Michael Carter
2021: Corey Davis
Expected 2022: Cory Davis
2021: Elijah Moore
Expected 2022: Elijah Mor
2021: Tryvon Wesco
Expected 2022: CJ Ozuma
2021: Ryan Griffin
Predicted 2022: Tyler Conklin
2021: Macky Picton
Expected 2022: Duane Brown
2021: Elijah Vera Tucker
Expected 2022: Lacon Tomlinson
2021: Conor McGovern
Expected 2022: Conor McGovern
The right guard
2021: Greg Van Rooten
Expected 2022: Elijah Vera Tucker
2021: Georges Fant
Expected 2022: George Fant
2021: Bryce Huff
Expected 2022: Carl Lawson
2021: Quinn Williams
Expected 2022: Quinn Williams
2021: Floronso Fatocassi
Predicted 2022: Sheldon Rankins
2021: John Franklin Myers
Expected 2022: John Franklin Myers
2021: CJ Mosley
Expected 2022: CJ Mosley
2021: Jimmyn Sherwood
Expected 2022: Quincy Williams
2021: Nasir al-Din’s Whisper
Expected in 2022: Kwon Alexander
2021: Bryce Hall
Expected 2022: Gardner Sauce
2021: Branden Echols
Expected 2022: DJ Red
2021: LaMarcus Joyner
Predicted 2022: LaMarcus Joyner
2021: Marcus May
Expected 2022: Jordan Whitehead