Five New York Jets In Need Of A Big Game

In some situations it isn’t a big deal for a player to have a quiet pre-season but for the following players, it is time to put together a big performance to assert themselves as key parts of the team in 2011 –

5. Scotty McKnight – He is looking more and more like a practice squad player. The bottom line is that Patrick Turner offers more as a receiver and Logan Payne offers more on special teams. McKnight is going to need a big night on both offense and specials the next two pre-season games to have a chance at making the final roster.

4. Vladimir Ducasse – He is another poor performance away from the Jets signing a veteran offensive lineman and burying him on the depth chart. The 6th lineman on the Jets roster gets a decent amount of action as an extra tight end or tackle in certain running packages. Saturday is the time for Ducasse to show the coaching staff he can at least handle being the top backup for now.

3. Muhammad Wilkerson – The Jets first round pick has put together a solid overall camp. Yet, heading into the year as a full time starter it would be good for his confidence to come up with a tackle for a loss, a sack, or even just a couple of quarterback pressures. The more confident he goes into the season, the better, because he will be playing major reps right from the get go.

2. Shonn Greene – Despite looking good in his only pre-season game so far against the Texans, Greene could use a quality 8-12 carries with a good average behind his starting offensive line to head into the season with the proper momentum. There is no reason he can’t be a 1,200 yard back in this offense.

1. Jamaal Westerman – Rex Ryan called him his “designated pass rusher” early in training camp. Yet, how does a designated pass rusher in a Ryan defense not get near the quarterback in two straight pre-season games? I do think Westerman has the potential to be a big factor on this defense but he needs to come up with a play or two Saturday afternoon. If Aaron Maybin makes an impact against the Giants, he could begin pushing Westerman for reps.

What We Need To See From New York Jets Starters On Saturday

The New York Jets starters are going to play into the third quarter this Saturday night against the Giants. Considering that this will be their last major tune-up before the regular season opener against the Dallas Cowboys, what are a few things we should to hope to see from the starters and top reserves?

Offensively, the consistency needs to improve, particularly in the red-zone and on third downs. Mark Sanchez has looked very good this pre-season but I’d like to see him be more accurate on third down situations and also take a few more shots down the field. Shonn Greene missed last week, so it is important for him to get 8-12 carries and put a solid performance under his belt. This is also the first time the entire starting offensive line will play together, so even though they are experienced , they will need to work out any kinks since they won’t see any kind of extended action again before the opener.

On defense, the pass rush still needs to kick into gear. Muhammad Wilkerson, Calvin Pace, and Jamaal Westerman in particular need to get after Eli Manning. In the secondary, Kyle Wilson needs to be able to handle either Domenick Hixon or Victor Cruz in the slot, while Darrelle Revis should get a good test against Hakeem Nicks. Bart Scott will be back on the field after missing last week and I can already see him and Brandon Jacobs yapping at each other.

On special teams, it will be interesting to see if one of the kickers can finally pull ahead. It has been a back and forth battle so far between Nick Folk and Nick Novak. It looks like TJ Conley will probably end up being the punter and Jeremy Kerley will be the primary kick and punt returner.

Most importantly, the Jets need to leave this game healthy. All you have to do is look at how banged up the Giants have gotten this pre-season to be grateful that the Jets haven’t suffered any major injuries.

Of course, it would also be nice to see Plaxico Burress score a touchdown and 75,000 Giants fans throwing up simultaneously as he does the Flight Boys celebration in the end-zone…

Jets vs. Giants: Preliminary Trash Talk

Justin Tuck – “It will always be Giants Stadium.”

Santonio Holmes – “It’s the New Meadowlands, home of the New York Jets.”

I don’t expect the trash talk to escalate too much more this week for the Jets/Giants pre-season game, considering the two teams will meet in the regular season. Let’s not forget some of the shots Rex Ryan fired in the off-season –

It seems clear that right now we are the better team and we are going to remain the better team for the next 10 years. Whether you like it or not, those are the facts, and that’s what is going to happen…We are going to take over the town whether the Giants like it nor not, so those fans on the fence that like both teams are going to be Jets fans in the end. The truth is, if I am going to watch one game, I am going to see the Jets, without a doubt. We are better.”

He also remarked in a pre-season speech to employees that “the Giants like to talk about the past, while the Jets like to talk about the future.”

Giants fans tend to get excessively irritated by Ryan and his words, yet I think it just adds some fun to the rivalry. So yes, they will carry on about 1969, but the bottom line is that right now the Jets are a better team and that since Rex Ryan has taken over, the Jets have been a better, more entertaining, and relevant team.

It should be a fun week regardless, especially with Plaxico Burress now added to the mix. You have to think Eli Manning is now regretting acting so disinterested in a Burress to the Giants reunion, considering what his group of receivers looks like right now and how ready to make an impact Burress looked last week. The Jets and Burress will try to play down the hype of him going against the Giants, but there is no way he isn’t extra geared up to go against them and there is no way the Jets won’t make a concerted effort to get him in the end-zone.

New York Jets: Linebackers Need to Make Plays

The New York Jets have a solid, veteran group of starting linebackers. Calvin Pace, David Harris, Bart Scott, and Bryan Thomas are now entering their third year together as the 4 in Rex Ryan’s 3-4, and while the group has been instrumental in the defense’s success the past two years, it would be nice to see them increase their playmaking ability in 2011.

Scott and Thomas have roles that are more conducive to doing the dirty work and making plays that don’t always show up on the stat sheet, so it is more on Pace and Harris to come up with the game changing plays.

Pace was signed to a monster contract before the 2008 season and has been productive, but still hasn’t put together that one big season for the Jets. The past two years he has missed the first four games, once because of a suspension and once because of a foot injury. On the current depth chart, he is the guy most likely to pull in double digit sacks and now needs to put together a full 16 game season where he produces like he is being paid.

Harris is now one of the highest paid linebackers in the NFL, and after playing at an All-Pro/Pro-Bowl level in 2009, took a minor step back in 2010, coming up with less tackles, sacks, interceptions, and forced fumbles. Rex Ryan’s scheme is designed to free Harris up to make plays and he needs to take advantage of that. There is no reason he shouldn’t be able to match his 2009 production (127 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 INTs) on a consistent basis.

Even though backup linebackers like Josh Mauga have shown potential in the pre-season, it is especially important that this group stays healthy this year. The depth behind them is extremely young and inexperienced. A full, healthy season from all of them with a bump in plays made from Pace and Harris could propel the Jets back to being the NFL’s number one defense.

Most Impressive New York Jet So Far In Pre-Season?

I won’t call this a full roundtable because only myself and Justin are going ro chime in for this one. Yet, I want to hear from you on the Facebook or Twitter page, or right here, which player has impressed you the most so far this pre-season?

Joe Caporoso: Despite only playing in one game, I am still going with Plaxico Burress. I can’t get over how fluid and athletic he looked the other night despite his extended lay off. He showed the ability to find a window in the middle of the field for a big gain, still work his trademark back shoulder grab, and then run under a perfectly thrown fade ball to make an impressive diving, over the shoulder catch. If Burress can provide those type of big plays on a consistent basis, the Jets passing offense is going to be near impossible to stop.

Justin Fritze: Greg McElroy. We know he doesn’t have a big arm, and he probably won’t be throwing any 60 yard passes, but he also isn’t in a Mike Martz offense. He will be asked to read defenses, hand the ball off, and get quick 3 step drop passes over the middle. He nearly won his first preseason game if not for a dropped ball in the end zone. With every snap you  can see him getting more comfortable and making better reads. I think at some point during the preseason he might even get some snaps with the first team offensive line to see how he does with some time in the pocket. Oh yes, and he has the highest QB rating out of ALL rookie quarterbacks, better than Newton, Gabbert, Locker, etc. And he has been doing it with practice squad talent.

A few other considerations –

Jeff Cumberland – Looks like he can be a weapon as a number two tight end.

Josh Mauga – Very impressive filling in for Bart Scott and looks to be a lock for the top backup inside linebacker spot.

Mark Sanchez – Crisp, poised, and accurate so far.

Santonio Holmes – Looks like the number one receiver the Jets are paying him to be.

Ropati Pitoitua – Finally appears ready to be a major contributor on the defensive line.

New York Jets: Pre-Season Week 2 Rookie Report

A week by week look throughout the pre-season at how the New York Jets rookies are performing

Muhammad Wilkerson – (1 tackle) – Another relatively nondescript performance from the Jets first round pick. However, Wilkerson did look a little more comfortable at the point of attack and seems to be holding his own out there. He has looked solid against the run but it would be nice to see break through one of these weeks and get after the quarterback a little.

Kenrick Ellis – (1 tackle, 1 tackle for loss) – Ellis surprisingly didn’t get the start for an injured Sione Pouha, with Martin Tevaseu stepping in instead. Yet, Ellis was still productive during his reps, even though the bulk of them came against the Bengals backups. He certainly has the look of somebody who should be a contributor in the Jets defensive line rotation.

Bilal Powell – (9 carries, 22 yards, 1 reception, 2 yards) – A bit of a let down after an encouraging debut. Joe McKnight took a big step towards locking down the number three running back job by outplaying Powell against the Bengals. Powell had a couple of chances to pound the ball in after Brashton Satele’s interception but couldn’t get in the end-zone.

Jeremy Kerley – (1 reception, 5 yards) – Kerley hasn’t translated a big training camp into a big pre-season yet. He had difficulty handling a punt and only managed 1 reception for 5 yards, despite getting extended work with the first offense. He does still look dangerous in the open field and was a tackle away from breaking a big kick return.

Greg McElroy – (6/9, 52 yards, 1 TD) – McElroy was again impressive as Mark Sanchez’s top backup. Despite lacking big time physical tools, he does play confident and seems to have a good grasp of the offense. He did a nice job executing a play action fake down by the red-zone, which led to a short touchdown pass to Joe McKnight.

Scotty McKnight – Another night without a recorded stat for McKnight, who is starting to look more like a practice squad player. Patrick Turner has looked better at receiver and Logan Payne has more value on special teams, while also getting an occasional rep with the starting offense.

Out of the undrafted free agents, Garret McIntyre and Nick Bellore both recorded two tackles each at linebacker. Receivers Dan DePalma and Mike Campbell didn’t pull in any receptions.

New York Jets Passing Offense Has Chance To Be Special

It may have only been the pre-season and it may have been against the Cincinnati Bengals, who should have an over/under of about 4 wins this year. Yet, it was hard to watch the New York Jets passing offense in action and not think about just dangerous it could be this year.

Considering the following: it was pouring out, it was Plaxico Burress’ first game back in over two years, and Derrick Mason was sidelined with an injury. However, Mark Sanchez still racked up over 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half.

If healthy, you are going to have a difficult time finding a team with a better top five receiving options than Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason, Dustin Keller, and LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield. Holmes and Burress both have the ability to abuse single coverage, Mason is a savvy veteran who can work effectively both on the outside and in the slot. How many team’s number three corners are going to be able to handle him one on one? Not many. Keller is a walking mismatch, as linebackers are frequently too slow to cover him and safeties are too small and finally Tomlinson is only one of the better receiving running backs in NFL history.

Beyond those top five, you still have rookie Jeremy Kerley who has looked electric in camp, tight end Jeff Cumberland who is having a terrific pre-season, and running back Joe McKnight who caught a touchdown pass last night.

Obviously, how productive the passing offense will be ultimately falls on Mark Sanchez’s shoulder. Yet, the third year quarterback has looked poised and confident so far this pre-season and has been terrific off the play action. If he takes the same sized leap forward this year, that he look last year, he will be able to utilize all of the previously mentioned weapons.

Let’s not ever forget the Ground and Pound, but the pieces are in place for the switch to be seamlessly flipped into a wide open passing attack.

Jets vs. Bengals: Plax Is Back, As Backups Answer Call

The Jets put preseason game two behind them properly Sunday night, with a 27-7 win over the Cincinnati Bengals while both resting key starters and unveiling WR Plaxico Burress in a feature role.

Despite the rain that continued through the contest, Burress, in his first NFL appearance since November of 2008, looked quick, agile out of his breaks, and hungry. Number 17 capped off an impressive return (3-66-1TD) with an over the shoulder 26 yard TD grab, on a third down lob from QB Mark Sanchez.

The Bengals brought their safeties up to the line of scrimmage prior to the play, leaving Jets receivers with one on one coverage. Should this be a sign of things to come, clubs may start to think twice about consistently trying to hurry Sanchez up offense while risking secondary numbers up close to the ball.

Sanchez read the defense and simply dropped quick in order to loft the throw to the 6’5 Burress, who outran the Bengals CB on the play in order to catch up to, and land underneath the perfectly thrown ball. The result was the most exciting play so far in 2011 for the new New York Jets. A club that now features a serious scoring weapon who may help the club climb out from the t bottom of the barrel red zone ranking of 2010.

Aside from the triumphant return of Burress to the field, other notable performances came from LB Aaron Maybin, signed this week after being released by Buffalo. Maybin looked fast speed rushing outside. Although he slipped on one attempt, the third year pro caused a strip late in the fourth quarter, albeit against the Bengals second and third string unit. Should Maybin be able to provide that same speed all year long, the Jets defense will have added an extra boost in disrupting opponent’s third down and long attempts.

Safety Jim Leonhard excited the crowd in his home return from a broken leg in November of 2010 with an interception. Backup LB Brashton Satele, the player that special teams coach Mike Westhoff suggested “open a pizza joint” last Summer on HBO’s Hard Knocks, picked off a second half throw as well, and was tackled just short of the goal line.

Maligned backup offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse settled in finally, perhaps thanks to the return of All Pro C Nick Mangold, who missed the opener at Houston due to a stinger suffered in practice days prior to the trip.

As for others, rookie QB Greg McElroy looked poised for the second straight week. This time during his second half duties as Mark Brunell sat for a second straight week. McElroy capped his efforts of solid decision making with a short rollout TD pass to RB Joe McKnight, who made some nice runs of his own in the battle for the number three job with Bilal Powell. The rookie RB out of Lousiville was quiet during his attempts. RB Chris Jennings broke a long late 4th quarter run that could keep him in the mix as camp heads into the latter stages.

Last week the questions surrounding the Jets centered on Burress and the club’s depth. Those issues were lessened to a degree tonight, despite playing a Cincinnati team undergoing a transition to the future from the Carson Palmer years.

With Shonn Greene, Derrick Mason, and a few other nicked up members of Gang Green resting on the sidelines and no apparent major injuries from the game to speak of, Jets nation couldn’t ask for more out of a rainy night in mid August.

Initial Reaction: Jets Put Together Encouraging Performance

The New York Jets were far from perfect in their 27-7 victory over the porous Cincinnati Bengals. Yet, there was a collection of very encouraging signs from both the offense and the defense.

Plaxio Burress was the main story of the night, pulling in 3 receptions for 66 yards including a beautiful over the shoulder 26 yard touchdown. Burress didn’t look anywhere near as rusty as many anticipated he would be. Prior to his touchdown, Mark Sanchez connected with Burress on a back shoulder fade down sideline, which was exciting to see because you can’t stop that route if it is thrown properly to a 6’5 receiver. A big chunk of the Jets third down and red-zone problems will go away if Sanchez and Burress are connecting like they were tonight.

Sanchez put together another good performance, going 12/20 for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did an excellent job spreading the ball around to his top targets, as Santonio Holmes caught a 16 yard touchdown and Dustin Keller led the way with 73 receiving yards, including a 43 yarder off a nice play action fake. The sky is the limit for this passing offense once Burress, Holmes, Keller, and Derrick Mason are on the field together.

The starting defense dominated outside of one drive, where they broke down on a screen pass to Brian Leonard which went for a huge gain that eventually led to a touchdown.Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton struggled and threw two bad interceptions, one picked off by Eric Smith and one by Jim Leonhard. The backups on defense keep Cincinnati off the board. Brashton Satele intercepted a pass and fell a couple yards short of a touchdown. Recently signed linebacker Aaron Maybin also came up with a strip sack, in a play that isn’t going to make Bills fans happy.

Joe McKnight deserves credit for putting together a strong performance and taking a big step towards locking down the #3 running back spot. He scored his first NFL touchdown on a 3 yard reception from Greg McElroy and also had 36 yards on 7 carries.Bilal Powell was quiet with 22 yards on 9 carries. Fifth string running back Chris Jennings actually had the run of the night, breaking off a 69 yarder late in the fourth quarter.

The negatives? The Jets were still inconsistent at finishing drives and struggled on third downs. They stalled at the 26 yard line on the first drive of the game, followed by Nick Folk missing a 43 yard field goal, also they later had to settle for a field goal when they had the ball in the red-zone. The first unit didn’t run the ball particularly well as LaDainian Tomlinson only had 21 yards on 9 carries. On defense, the screen wasn’t defended well and it was disappointing to see them allow a touchdown drive to such a weak offense.

Overall, it was still a step in the right direction and you have to be encouraged with where the Jets currently are at in the pre-season.

A Six Pack Of Predictions For Jets vs. Bengals

We don’t break out the full 12 pack for the pre-season, so are here 6 predictions for tonight’s game –

1. Bilal Powell is going to have a better all-around performance than Joe McKnight tonight, making the battle for the number three running back spot that much more interesting. The two of them have very different running styles, so they both could remain contributors moving forward, although it could be hard to justify keeping four halfbacks active on a weekly basis.

2. Mark Sanchez is going to push the ball down the field more. I expect to see him take a shot down the field to Santonio Holmes and look for Dustin Keller much more frequently. Also, look for a very early, safe pass to Plaxico Buress to get him involved right from the beginning.

3. Speaking of Plax, if the Jets get in the red-zone with him on the field, look for the fade or slant ball coming his way. Brian Schottenheimer and Tom Moore aren’t going to hesitate to see their new 6’5 receiver in action where it counts the most.

4. Considering the state of the Bengals offense, I am expecting multiple sacks and a turnover generated by the Jets first defense. I think Muhammad Wilkerson will be a little more comfortable and active tonight than he was against the Texans.

5. This could be the boldest prediction of all: Vladimir Ducasse won’t allow a sack tonight…maybe he will allow a few pressures and miss an assignment or two, but in the end Mark Sanchez won’t hit the ground with the ball in his hand because of him.

6. Overall, I think the starters will be a lot more crisp tonight and should beat up on the Bengals, who are a team clearly in transition.