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Steelers-Jets play of the week: Wildcat Fake Jet Sweep Power

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Steelers RT Marcus Gilbert vs. Jets DE Muhammad Wilkerson

MATCHUP: Who says 3-4 defensive ends can't be disruptive? Probably people who have never watched Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson is a J.J. Watt-type defensive end who can create havoc (against the Falcons, he had a sack, a forced fumble, two tackles for losses and seven stops). He moves all over the place, which will force the Steelers' offensive line to account for him at all times.


STEELERS OL: The unit has played fairly well if you take out left tackle Mike Adams — and that's exactly what Mike Tomlin did. Kelvin Beachum will replace Adams on the left side, and that could make a huge difference. Marcus Gilbert and David DeCastro have been better every week on the right side. Fernando Velasco has been a pleasant surprise since Maurkice Pouncey went out, and Ramon Foster has been solid at left guard.


WILKERSON: Wilkerson mostly lines up on the left side, but you will find him sliding over the right side and even on the center in the Jets' sub-packages, making him difficult to game plan against. Wilkerson has used his long wingspan, his unusual strength and a high motor to collect four sacks during the first five games. Wilkerson also is a reason the Jets are allowing 3.0 yards per carry to opponents.

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As quick as the wildcat came in, it was gone.

Miami dusted off the rarely used formation five years ago with great success against New England (six plays resulting in four touchdowns), spawning a league-wide trend that had half of the league using a wildcat by year's end.

Within a couple years, the wildcat — an offensive formation that involves a running back lining up as a quarterback with the choice of running, throwing or handing off — disappeared and was replaced by the read-option.

New York Jets coach Rex Ryan is bringing it back.

Through five games, the Jets have used the wildcat with mild success — 14 carries for 59 yards — but it has proved to be consistent. Of the 14 times they've used it, eight have gone for 3 or 4 yards.

The Jets' favorite way to use the wildcat has been with fake jet sweep action.

The offensive line is in a “tackle over” set where tight end Jeff Cumberland lines up on the weak side of the formation next to guard Vladimir Ducasse, with left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson flipping to the strong side next to right tackle Austin Howard.

Tailback Bilal Powell is 6 yards behind the center as the wildcat quarterback, with fullback Tommy Bohanon up tight to the strong side of the formation in between Ferguson and Howard. Wide receiver Stephen Hill is in the slot to the right, and quarterback Geno Smith is on the outside with Jeremy Kerley in the slot to the left of the formation.

The key to the play is the speedy Kerley.

He comes in motion left to right at full speed at an angle where he passes just inside Powell at the snap so he can take the handoff around right end or fake doing so.

This is an important aspect because the play happens faster than a normal sweep or outside zone play, and if the defense doesn't react quickly or doesn't have a defender in position to make the tackle, it will result in a big play.

Kerley has taken the handoff only once this season, but that might change against the Steelers because of different personnel. With the Jets' receivers hurting and the return of running back Mike Goodson from suspension, the Jets could use Goodson instead of Kerley as the jet-sweep action guy.

However, the Jets ultimately want the play to go to Powell.

At the snap, Powell fakes the handoff to Kerley/Goodson and takes a counter step to his right before following a pulling Ducasse in either the A or B gap on a power run. Bohanon doubles the left defensive end with Ferguson to create a seam.

The Jets use the wildcat in other unique ways as well.

Against Buffalo, Powell took the snap out of the wildcat, ran to the right end and flipped the ball to Smith, who threw the ball deep downfield.

Twice against Tampa Bay, Smith walked up to the line like it was a typical offset-I formation before sprinting to the right to line up as a receiver and have Powell run the wildcat.

“They mix in enough of (the wildcat) in that you know that when you step into a stadium, you better be prepared to deal with it,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said.

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