FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- So how exactly do you stop Michael Vick and his trio of speedy, explosive cohorts in running back LeSean McCoy and receivers DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin?
"Well, I think you have to do a great job," Jets coach Rex Ryan said Friday during the run-up to Sunday's Jets-Eagles game at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. "You have to be sound fundamentally. You have to kind of get the old philosophy, get that picket fence going, and get them going east and west. But sometimes they'll blow the top off it. So you've got to do a great job of pursuit. Every play's a pursuit drill, and that's it.
"With these receivers, they are big-play receivers as well, so this is an unusual group. Now we're fortunate because we have some unusual defensive players, so I think that's where we have the advantage over most defenses. We can match up, I feel, better than most teams can."
The Eagles are 5-8 and have only a smidgen of a chance of making the playoffs. Preseason's so-called "Dream Team" must run the table and get help. But the Jets know that Philadelphia -- with the NFL's fourth-ranked offense and a quarterback who still gives defensive coordinators fits -- is a dangerous squad.
"It's difficult," Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "I mean, it's been one of our most difficult weeks of preparation, when a team has the ability to trot out that many explosive athletes at every position. Usually, there is a guy you can key on, or two guys. Sometimes there's three, and you look across the board and this is as explosive a group as we'll play. It's been a challenge.
"If I look like I'm lacking a little sleep, you would be correct in saying that. That's the way it's been. This is the kind of week where not only does the plan have to be sound but our players have to be on high alert and defend the entire field and do it for longer than you normally have to because of their ability to extend plays."
Vick has thrown for 2,401 yards and 12 touchdowns with 12 interceptions this season. He has run for another 544 yards despite missing time with a rib injury. McCoy is the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,172 yards on 242 carries and 14 touchdowns. Jackson and Maclin each has 47 catches.
So as a defense, do you try to keep Vick in the pocket and use your corners to control Jackson and Maclin while also stuffing McCoy at the line of scrimmage? It's a tall order to do all those things, especially when it's almost impossible to keep Vick in the pocket even if you want to.
"It's hard to just take that approach where you keep him in the pocket," Pettine said. "So there are times you understand he's going to get out. Again, that's where the challenge really starts, and you have to prepare for it. You have to practice it. Coverage-wise, the guys in the back end know that they have to plaster, latch on to their receivers and cover for a lot longer than normal. You have to have guys in the under cover assigned that, hey, if [Vick] gets out your side, who is coming out of coverage? Who is trying to pull them up? . . . Those are things that we've all kind of had to clear our memories of -- the normal pursuit lanes of a quarterback -- and kind of readjust our thinking this week."