New York Jets Offense Raising Concerns

The Jets failure to move the ball consistently Monday against the Giants, a crosstown rival that always owns a solid front four, have some concerned that the Jets will not become a unit poised to be more efficient and higher scoring in 2011. However in viewing the entire body of work so far, one can also make a case that the Jets are where most teams are at this point: still working out the kinks while showing brief flashes of production. A measure of concern that these Jets won’t be much different from the 2010 Jets on offense, a unit that had serious problems moving the ball at times, is understandable. It is too early however for widespread panic. There have been some bright spots.

Feature running back Shonn Greene’s two game rushing totals (he missed the Bengals game due to a skin infection) add up to 16 carries for 74 yards. A better than four yards per carry clip.

Newly acquired star, 6’4 WR Plaxico Burress, was silenced against his former team Monday, but gave Jets fans some hope that the club’s sagging red zone numbers will climb thanks to his performance against the Bengals, one that included a pretty diving touchdown catch in the rain.

Third year quarterback Mark Sanchez threw three TDs in three games, was 26-43 on pass attempts, with no interceptions and one fumble. Sanchez still needs to find a way to make Holmes and Burress serious threats. Sanchez must also make TE Dustin Keller a go to safety valve in the very least. Nonetheless, his prioritizing of ball security, a major key for a team that relies heavily on their top five defense, appear to be heading in the right direction.

As for the poor showing against Big Blue, Sanchez noted after the game Monday that it is always harder during the preseason when gameplans are not part of the equation. Add to that the myriad of changes made at wide receiver with limited offseason time together due to the NFL lockout and one could find it reasonable to cut the group some slack for now.

Let’s also remember that the biggest goal of any preseason, for any club, is to come out of it healthy. Aside from an ankle injury that may sideline FB John Connor in week one, the Jets offense is healthy and ready to go. It is true that the offense has to improve. Yet with practically all of the pieces healthy and in place however, the Jets thankfully have the opportunity to grow into a unit that can make life easier for the defense.

It hasn’t all been bad for the Jets offense over these three games. The Jets have had some pre-season moments that would make you believe that the potential is there for them to grow into a more functional offense than they were last season. For Sanchez and company in 2011, August simply has to one day be looked back upon as the starting point, not the template.

The Final Days Of Pre-Season

We are less than two weeks away from Jets vs. Cowboys: week one, Sunday night football. Ryan vs. Ryan. The Jets blitz vs. Tony Romo. Miles Austin/Dez Bryant vs. Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie. D’Brickashaw Ferguson vs. DeMarcus Ware….the list goes on.

Yet, we need to finish up the pre-season first, namely the Jets last game at home against the Philadelphia Eagles this Thursday. The final roster cuts still need to be made and I wouldn’t expect too many shockers. They have already decided their kicking options by keeping Nick Folk and TJ Conley over Nick Novak and Chris Bryan. Both battles were close throughout the pre-season, so why not go with the more experienced kicker in your building and a punter who has now spent three training camps with you?

The Jets also have to be concerned about starting fullback John Conner who is in walking boot now with a sprained ankle. He is expected to be start in week one but if he has any setbacks, the team is going to have to dust off Tony Richardson from retirement, which certainly isn’t a bad fallback option.

Around the rest of the roster, I would expect Patrick Turner to end up as the number five receiver now that Logan Payne has a dislocated wrist. Scotty McKnight belongs on the practice squad…if that. Payne probably would have claimed the number five spot but his injury will likely either put him on the IR or the practice squad for the time being.

Undrafted rookie linebackers Nick Bellore and Garret McIntyre both have a great shot of making the final 53 and could bump recently signed Aaron Maybin off the roster. Maybin would need a monster performance against Philadelphia on Thursday to give the coaching staff second thoughts.

Journeyman offensive lineman Robby Felix and Dennis Landolt will also likely make the final 53, as the Jets will risk it with questionable depth on that unit. It is sounding like Rob Turner will be kept on the roster in hopes that he is healthy by the end of October. On the other side of the ball, Ryan will probably keep 7 or 8 defensive lineman in a group that looks to have solid depth thanks to strong pre-seasons from Ropati Pitoitua, Martin Tevaseau, and Marcus Dixon.

At this point, it is hard to not just root for Thursday to be over with so the final roster can be locked in and the preparation/preview for Dallas can start.

New York Jets Unveil Kerley & New Wildcat

It happened during the second half of the Met Life Bowl against the Giants Monday night, while both clubs rolled their backups out onto the field to fight for the Snoopy trophy and their own jobs, rookie Jeremy Kerley took direct snaps from center. With it came the official end of an era once spearheaded by former big play Jet Brad Smith. The former TCU wide receiver has now become the heir apparent to Smith as the pilot of the Jets new Wildcat formation.

The speedy Kerley moved well from the position, slashing quickly for positive yardage, tossing pitches to RB Joe McKnight, even completing his only pass attempt. A third option of the play design that Jets fans had often hoped would be employed by the former college QB Smith during his time in New York.

The current version of the Jets Wildcat presents the club with a new super speed package should Kerley and McKnight be the personnel implemented for it. Given the way the Jets stalled on offense Monday for much of the first half, this up tempo change of pace may become a welcome addition.

Smith made big plays both out of the Wildcat and in the return game consistently throughout his Jets career. Kerley who also has lined both as WR, returner, and now Wildcat QB and has shown elusiveness, but has yet to put together big plays so far this summer. His ability to do so in 2011 will make the loss of Smith, a momentum changing player, much easier to swallow once the games start counting in September.

New York Jets: Flight 1017 Experiencing Delays

After Hurricane Irene rocked the east coast this weekend, it was inevitable that flights would be delayed and cancelled.  But under clear skies Monday night, it was disappointing that Flight 1017 couldn’t get off the ground in New Jersey.

“Flight 1017” of course, is how Plaxico Burress referred to himself and Santonio Holmes in this Tweet yesterday, prior to the Jets’ pre-season game against the Giants in the first inaugural Snoopy Bowl.

The possibilities were certainly there for the Jets to get into a rhythm in the passing game against a less-than-convincing Giants secondary.  The third pre-season game is always dubbed the “most important” of the four meaningless tilts because the starting units usually play more than half of the game, and it does constitute a dress rehearsal for Week 1, of sorts.  So as the Jets have gone through training camp, promising to become a more well-rounded offense with the ability to air the ball out as well as “ground and pound”, fans were hoping for some empirical evidence to support those claims.

What they received instead, was just another day at the office from Brian Schottenheimer and the Jets’ offense.

Now, I realize that it is a tad absurd to criticize Schottenheimer on August 30th, 12 days before the beginning of meaningful football.  But what happened last night is something that Jets fans have seen far too often during Schottenheimer’s five-plus seasons as offensive coordinator: an offense that needed four plays to – barely – get a first down on two occasions; painfully predictable play-calling in all scenarios; a passing offense characterized by poor spacing and bad timing between the quarterback and receivers; zero use of a very talented tight-end.

What makes this so frustrating for Jets fans of course, is the personnel: a gifted, competitive young quarterback surrounded by excellent receivers, supported – often led – by a powerful running game.  Sounds like a recipe for success, and yet, this unit had three games last year in which it did not score a touchdown.

The truth is this: the NFL is a league where it has become increasingly easy to throw the ball.  Last season, 12 quarterbacks threw for more than 3,500 yards, with five throwing for 4,000 or more.  Yet the Jets, even with their plethora of talent on the outside and their match-up nightmare tight end Dustin Keller on the inside (joined this year by Derrick Mason), have seemed to find ways to make the opposite look true.  Receivers don’t get the one-on-one match-ups where they should feast.  Dustin Keller runs the same button-hook patterns and out-routes, never anything down the seam challenging the soft space between the linebackers and safeties.  Sanchez often checks down too quickly (often to Shonn Greene, who can’t catch), rather than going to his third progression on a passing play, despite having a rock-solid offensive line in front of him.

Yes, Santonio Holmes scored a touchdown last night, on the receiving end of Sanchez’s best throw of the night: a 17 yard rocket into a tight space.  On the flip side, Plaxico Burress was held without a catch.

Let’s hope that when the curtain rises, the show doesn’t look like the dress rehearsal.

Jets – 17 Giants – 3: Ten Thoughts From TOJ

1. The positives for the Jets last night primarily were on the defensive side of the football. Despite allowing the Giants to move the ball, they bent but didn’t break, keeping them out of the end-zone all night, by coming up with timely big plays. The second unit made a nice statement with a 4th and inches stop on the goal-line against the Giants first unit. Overall, Rex Ryan has to be feeling good about his defense heading into the regular season.

2. David Harris was an absolute beast last night, playing like one of the top linebackers in the league that he is paid to be. He had 7 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and an interception. Beyond that he drilled Eli Manning in the chest forcing his first interception that was picked off by Jim Leonhard. He smashed Hakeem Nicks and separated him from the ball when he tried to come over the middle. When Harris is playing like he did last night, the Jets are tough to score points on.

3. Another standout on defense was Ropati Pitoitua, who is having a great pre-season and has outperformed rookie first round pick for Muhammad Wilkerson for the starting defensive end job. It was a positive and negative to see Wilkerson get into that scrap with Brandon Jacobs and get ejected. Jacobs is a notorious dirtbag on the field and it is good that Wilkerson stood up for himself as a rookie, yet the reality is that he needs to keep his cool and not get himself thrown out of games. He needs every rep he can get.

4. Darrelle Revis looks like he is in mid-season form. However, Antonio Cromartie continues to struggle in man coverage. Yes, he looked awesome on that kick return and can be a big weapon on special teams but the Jets are paying him to be one of the top number two corners in the league. He needs to be able to handle being constantly picked on.

5. Over to the offense, which was disappointing and inconsistent. Mark Sanchez looked erratic and had an ugly turnover on a fumble. It was good to see him shake off a poor start and stick in a great throw to Santonio Holmes for a touchdown but the Jets need more from their passing offense, as Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller were invisible last night. The offensive line was pretty good as the Giants didn’t register a single sack last night and the running game was decent, although they never broke a big run.

6. Shonn Greene had a tough 42 yards on 11 carries and Joe McKnight is clearly looking like the number three back as he got 9 carries for 35 yards, compared to only 3 carries for Bilal Powell.

7. The Wildcat was back last night for the Jets as Jeremy Kerley completed a 18 yard pass to Matthew Mulligan, had two carries for 13 yards and handed off once to McKnight for a 8 yard gain. It was Kerley’s strongest overall performance as he had a nice punt return as well. It is nice that the Jets can keep their package of plays for Brad Smith in their offense this year thanks to Kerley’s versatility.

8. Sorry to hear about Logan Payne dislocating his wrist, he seemed to have the lead for the number five receiver job but after the injury Patrick Turner will likely grab that roster spot.

9. How good is it to see Jim Leonhard back on the field and making plays? He has two interceptions in the past two weeks and is going to provide a huge boost to the secondary.

10. Nick Bellore recorded a sack…Bart Scott alternated between missing tackles (allowing a huge play for Ahmad Bradshaw) and coming up with big tackles for a loss…how awful are the Giants special teams?…Kenrick Ellis had 2 tackles…Greg McElroy finished 4/5 for 39 yards.

Final Thoughts On Jets/Giants

A few final thoughts on the Jets/Giants pre-season game, which will finally take place tonight at 7 PM…hope all you readers out there stayed safe and dry this past weekend.

1. It will be interesting to see how the Jets utilize Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason and Dustin Keller tonight, considering they will all finally be on the field together. Brian Schottenheimer has the ability to move the four of them all over the formation to create mismatches. The benefit of having so many quality receiving options is that somebody is going to find a favorable one on one match-up and it is up to Mark Sanchez to exploit that mismatch. After losing Terrell Thomas to an injury, the Giants are a little thin in the secondary so the opportunity for big plays will be there.

2. The Giants offensive line is in a period of transition, so tonight is a good opportunity for the pass rush to get after Eli Manning. Rex Ryan won’t be shy about being aggressive and it will be interesting to see if he gives Aaron Maybin a little run with the first unit in pass rushing situations to see what he can do .

3. Jeremy Kerley has been a few inches from breaking a big kick or punt return the past couple of games. I think it would be good for the confidence of the entire unit, if he could rip one off out to midfield tonight. Kerley has basically been handed the job, which says enough of what Mike Westhoff thinks of his skill set.

4. I’d really like to see what Joe McKnight could do with the first unit in a few situations, especially on a screen pass or motioning out of the backfield to receiver.

5. The hype has been fun this game, but ultimately the most important thing is that the Jets get out of tonight completely healthy. If you didn’t notice opening night is 13 days away…bring on those Cowboys.

6. Most likely to jaw at each other tonight? Bart Scott vs. Brandon Jacobs…Antrell Rolle vs. Santonio Holmes…Justin Tuck vs. Rex Ryan. Let the words fly.

Jets/Giants: Whose Town Is It? Who Cares?

Rex Ryan calls Met Life stadium the home of the Jets. Justin Tuck says it still be seen as Giants Stadium. Santonio Holmes and other Jets beg to differ with Tuck. The argument goes on and on. The debate as to who owns the town has grown louder in recent years between the Jets, the Giants, and their fans. The reality is, who cares? Both have more important issues and teams to deal with than each other.

With the recent runs to the AFC title game, the New York Jets have not only talked a good game, they have finally set themselves up to win for an extended time. The Jets loud, brash head coach has raised the temperature in this hometown battle but has done so without a Super Bowl title, raising the anger of Giants die hards.

For the Jets and their fans though, Ryan’s attitude, one that has brought with it notable one liners such as “Here we come baby” and “Let’s go eat a goddamn snack,” has been a breath of fresh air for a franchise that once felt sorry for itself. The confidence that Ryan has instilled in his Jets are a far cry from the “Same Old Jets,” lovable losers whose dramatic crash landings often grabbed defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Giants on the other hand, don’t talk. They never really have or feel as though they need to. This classic age old franchise HAS the Super Bowl hardware and old NFL title game resume. Their most recent, the upset of the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2008, was one of the greatest wins in professional football history.

Their coach Tom Coughlin is NOT Rex Ryan. He’s loud yes…on the field and brash at times on the sidelines too. Coughlin is old school. A decades old coach who allows his team do the talking, without the desire to impart his words as part of the weekday headlines.

From the top on down, these two franchises handle themselves differently. The results ON the field the past two seasons however, might be a reason perhaps for the heightened scrutiny that this Jets/Giants drama has received. The new Jets are loud. They love the limelight and the attention. They also win. The Giants are quiet. Business as usual. They however, have NOT had the January success during the past two seasons that the Jets have.

Jets fans love the new attention surrounding the club nationally. The notoriety. The feeling that THEIR team is now one of the best in the NFL, and the one on top in New York. Giants fans don’t like playing second fiddle to a club that for fifty years played the role of red headed AFL born step child.

To make matters worse, Big Blue supporters now must listen to those Jets fans who won’t keep quiet about who runs the Big Apple. The same Gang Green crazies who, for the longest time, sat back and watched the Giants, not the Jets bring home championships.

The argument of “Who Owns the Town” while in essence is fun, remains non essential. Yes the rivalry HAS grown. It has grown mostly however on paper, in the papers. These clubs, who face each other Saturday, even meet down the stretch in 2011 on Christmas Eve. When the games actually count. In spite of that odd reality in the scheduling this year, both teams have much BIGGER enemies to set their sights on from now until then.

The Jets have the Patriots. The Dolphins. After last January, you can also include the Steelers into the “rivalry” talk, albeit from a distance. The Jets schedule this season is brutal.

The Giants and their fans have atop their hatred list, the Eagles, especially after the DeSean Jackson game, to focus on. With it, the possible hangover that a nightmarish late game and late season collapse may have left for them this year. In fact, divisional and conference foes pose an entirely greater threat to both clubs Super Bowl dreams than any crosstown rival could.

The chatter surrounding who is king of New York makes this August game more exciting than other August games, but the Jets vs Giants “Met Life Bowl” for the Snoopy Trophy is a tune up. Always will be. Teams and fans can claim ownership of the tri state area if they want to, but there is room for both.

For the Jets, Giants and their fans want to REALLY win the argument as to whose town this is, they should focus on landing in Indianapolis next February, not on each other.

TJ Rosenthal runs The Jet Report and can be followed on Twitter. (He also took the picture at the top of the article)

Interviews With Mark Sanchez & Darrelle Revis

TJ Rosenthal made the trip out to Bryant Park yesterday and had the opportunity to interview both Mark Sanchez and Darrelle Revis.

TJ interviews Mark Sanchez about utilizing Dustin Keller more

TJ talks with Darrelle Revis on Kyle Wilson’s development

Check out www.profootballnyc.com for further coverage of yesterday.

NFL Pre-Season Review: Last Of The Week 2 Memories

It is becoming a blur after watching week 2 of preseason football. One half of good football, strange final scores that have little to no relation to how the game went. How is one to judge a preseason football game? Do we just make the most of the first half and try and hash together some sort of highlight reel for rookies? I have found myself up at 6am watching Reggie Bush look like he did in fact deserve that Heisman trophy. I watch Cam Newton grin and smile after almost having his head torn off. I watch the Redskins look…good? No sleep can do strange things to the human mind. People can start to believe things like the Redskins winning the NFC East. Shanahan got a haircut. Anything is possible in Washington.

Game 1: Jaguars vs. Falcons

The Falcons have a serious receiving core. Matt Ryan will probably go over 4,000 yards this year. Julio Jones will run block, catch deep balls, and go over the middle without issue. The Falcons are going to need to outscore teams if they want to win in that division. They score fast. The issue with fast scoring is that if the opposing team has a good run game and can eat up clock, then that Falcons offense is going to be stuck on the sideline.

Defense is not the focal point of the Falcons, which is why they used their 1st,5th and 7th round pick on offense. The biggest star on the Falcons defense is John Abraham. Abraham is 33 years old and may not have enough left in the tank to be the dominant pass rusher of years past. Sean Weatherspoon is a solid linebacker but might not have enough of an impact to pick up the rest of the defense.

For the Jaguars, things looked better in week 2 for Blaine Gabbert, who has a serious gun and seems to look more comfortable in the pocket with every snap. This preseason will be good for Gabbert, who is going to need to feel out the offense against defenses that are trying to make him uncomfortable and rush his throws. He will learn to find his tight end, namely Mercedes Lewis when the play breaks down. 6’6 275. Just throw it to him.

Game 2:  Colts vs. Redskins

Are the Colts on the edge of missing the playoffs? Yes. Peyton Manning might miss the season opener. He did not have his usual receiver camp or practice in full pads yet, not a good thing when it is already week 2 of preseason. There will be interceptions and missed throws, possibly more than last year. It will not be pretty until week 6. That said, the Colts have enough defensive lineman to stop the run, though that linebacking core leaves much to be desired. Drake Nevis will fit right in with guys like Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis showing him the ropes.

The Colts knew last year that they needed some help at offensive line, because if Peyton goes down, the season goes down. They grabbed Anthony Castonzo in the 1st round and Ben Ijana in the 2nd round. Manning sleeps well.

The Redskins. Let me tell you a little about my relationship with the Redskins. I’m 23, so the Redskins have never been good in my lifetime. My dad is a Redskins fan. A sad, bitter, almost guilty Redskins fan. I like to occasionally call him and let him know the latest Redskins news, like when they signed Haynesworth last year and gave him a $20,000,000 check.

For some reason, he did not think this was going to end well. It did not end well, and he could only watch as his team was manhandled by Michael Vick. He actually told me that after the first touchdown, he had to turn on The Biggest Loser to stop the vein in his neck from throbbing. So recently I gave him a call, notifying him that Donovan Mcnabb had been traded to the Vikings, and that John Beck was the new starting quarterback. Not former 1st round pick Rex Grossman, but John Beck. The John Beck 99% of NFL fans have never heard of.

I thought it would be a beating. A sad event much like watching Holyfield still boxing, Jorge Posada swinging for the fences, or AJ Burnett trying not to have a nervous breakdown with bases loaded in the first inning. And then the game started.
The Redskins had holes to run through. If the Redskins get production out of Maurice Hurt, they will be able to use Roy Helu like they did at Nebraska. They have enough of a mix of veteran (Stallworth, Moss) and rookie (Paul, Robinson, Hankerson) wide receiver talent to spread the field. And the defense…a Redskins defense?

Mike Shanahan may actually crack a smile watching his defense play. They’ve got a serious linebacking core. London Fletcher is on his last legs, but Brian Orakpo is like having a corner and a D lineman on the field, while Ryan Kerrigan will get moved between defensive end and outside linebacker. If a team decides to throw the ball, they get to sort between Laron Landry, Philip Buchanon and Deangelo Hall. Big hits will be made.

As per the yearly lack of trying, the Colts scored 3 points. Curtis Painter grew his hair to surfer bro lengths, and the Colts look like they will ned another QB to replace Painter if Manning’s neck surgery takes longer than expected to heal.

Game 3: Dolphins vs. Panthers

This was the game I turned on after a night of good old fashioned debauchery, so it was more to see Sporano scream and Reggie Bush run. I wanted to see Cam sling it a bit and see how he handles blitzes, but conclusions are not always what you expect them to be. The Dolphins will rely on four players on offense. Chad Henne. Davone Bess. Reggie Bush. Brandon Marshall. That will be the magic formula. Run with Bush, pass it over the middle to Marshall, and catch Devon Bess on the sidelines.

Cam Newton will run. He will have to if he wants to demoralize safeties and cornerbacks that attempt to tackle him. He is a new breed of quarterback, whose physical attributes would put him as anything between linebacker, defensive end, and the world’s largest safety. Yet he is a quarterback, and that should make anyone under 6 feet tall nervous when he takes off to run. People will look weak and small.

Towards week 3, where the strange will get stranger, and upsets will be glorious.

End Of The World: Jets vs. Giants Preview & Predictions

Considering New York City has already dealt with an earthquake this week and will now be dealing with a hurricane of massive proportions this weekend, this could be an end of the world type preview. The game has been moved until 7 PM Monday night as the Jets will take the day off today. They will also now have to deal with only two days to prepare for their pre-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, which should be okay since the starters will barely play.

However, we are going to see plenty of both team’s starters on Monday, as they are expected to go well into the second half. The Giants are banged up in the secondary and have some questions at linebacker, yet their elite pass rush will provide a great test for the Jets offensive line, now finally fully healthy and playing together. Mark Sanchez needs to be aggressive if the Giants want to come after him and look to pick on their corners, as Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason, should all have favorable match-ups. The Giants have also traditionally had trouble covering backs out of the backfield, so don’t be surprised to see LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight targeted often.

On defense, Rex Ryan won’t hesitate to be aggressive, which will leave plenty of one on one match-ups for Eli Manning. Darrelle Revis versus Hakeem Nicks will be fun to watch, along with the Giants attempting to run the ball against the Jets stout front seven. I doubt we will see a hit that will top this but I do think the Jets can build some momentum heading into the regular season by having a strong performance against a quality offense.

Six Pack Of Predictions

1.Plaxico Burress is going to score a touchdown. As silly as it sounds, this the kind of the thing that Rex Ryan is going to push for in a pre-season game just to piss off the Giants. He will be in Brian Schottenheimer’s ear when they get into the red-zone to give him a fade ball or a slant.

2. The Jets starting defense is going to force at least one turnover. Yet, on the the flip side Mark Sanchez is going to commit his first turnover of the pre-season. Let him get it out of his system before the regular season starts.

3. Aaron Maybin will get work with the first unit in a few pass rushing situations, as the coaching staff will want to see if he can actually be a factor this year. His speed is hard to find but you have to worry about his lack of size.

4. Shonn Greene is going to get at least 10 carries as the Jets look to assert their running game after a poor performance against the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe McKnight will also get a few reps with the starting offense.

5. The starting offensive line is going to rise to the occasion against the Giants pass rush and keep Mark Sanchez clean for the bulk of the night. I’d be surprised if he was sacked more than once.

6. Greg McElroy is going to put together another strong performance, leading to questions if he should actually be the backup instead of Mark Brunell.