Next Gen Stats: Jets turn to dominant defensive front

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When the New York Jets activated defensive end Sheldon Richardson from the suspension list last week, it was natural to wonder how coach Todd Bowles would manage the challenge of squeezing four of the roster's best players into three defensive-line spots.

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Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson have been Pro Bowl-caliber players the past two years. Nose tackle Damon Harrison is one of the most disruptive run-stuffing nose tackles in the league. Rookie Leonard Williams was coming off five quarterback hits versus the Dolphins in Week 5.

Who would be the odd man out in Bowles' 3-4 scheme?

As it turns out, Bowles flipped the script, turning to a four-man defensive front against Washington.

After playing four down linemen on just 19 plays all season, the Jets employed that formation on 70 percent of snaps in Week 6, per Next Gen Stats.

We might chalk that up to a game-plan specific approach to shut down a run-oriented Redskins offense. Bowles made the same adjustment to a four-man front as the Cardinals became the first defense to hold DeMarco Murray under 100 rushing yards last season.

It will be interesting to see if Bowles shelves his 3-4 scheme going forward in an effort to maximize the obvious glut of talent on the Jets' defensive line.

Here's what else we learned from Next Gen Stats in Week 6:

1. Brandon Marshall declared last week that Chris Ivory is the best running back in the business right now. "Just watch the tape," Marshall explained, "speed, quickness, agility, vision, endurance -- he has it all."

Ivory followed up a career-high 166-yard rushing performance versus the Dolphins in Week 5 with a career-high 196 yards from scrimmage in Week 6. Long viewed as a poor man's Marshawn Lynch, Ivory is known for running through defenders as opposed to running around them. That wasn't the case against the Redskins, as Ivory posted two of the five fastest speeds (21.91 and 20.64 mph) as a ball carrier among running backs on gains of 32 and 54 yards. He also covered more ground than any other tailback, traveling 542 yards on the afternoon.

2. Martavis Bryant was the difference in the game between the Cardinals and Steelers, making a spectacular leaping touchdown catch in the third quarter and outracing the entire Arizona defense for an 88-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks broke down the latter score in the video to the right. Cornerback Patrick Peterson, one of the NFL's fastest players, reached a peak speed of 21.6 mph in pursuit to close within 1.44 yards, per Next Gen Stats. That's when Bryant made a dynamic cut inside to pull away for the final 30 yards.

"This is what you were excited about when you saw him at Clemson," Brooks said. "A big-time playmaker's speed, burst, explosiveness, acceleration." Bryant covered a total distance of 131.26 yards on the play, reaching a maximum speed of 21.44 mph, the third-highest speed by a ball carrier in Week 6.

3. Philip Rivers established single-game career highs in completions (43), attempts (65) and yards (503) with No. 1 receiver Keenan Allen sidelined by a hip injury in the fourth quarter and No. 3 receiver Steve Johnson inactive. That left a heavy workload for No. 2 receiver Malcom Floyd, who led all Week 6 players in total distance traveled at 1,875 yards.

4. We've highlighted the offensive line's dramatic improvement in run blocking under new Falcons coordinator Kyle Shanahan, but they haven't fared nearly as well in pass protection. A scrambling Matt Ryan covered 960.2 yards last Thursday, third among quarterbacks for the week. Now a dink-and-dunk passer, Ryan has recorded four the top 25 total distances from scrimmage by quarterbacks this season.

5. Is Travis Kelce the fastest tight end in the league? He reached 21.25 mph versus the Vikings last week, the only time a tight end has cleared 20 mph with the ball in his hands this season. Rob Gronkowski reached 19.90 mph in Week 3. Ladarius Green has flirted with 20 mph twice, hitting 19.37 in Week 4 and 19.31 in Week 2.

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