Bye Week Leaves New York Jets Primed For Second Half Run

The table is set for the New York Jets to make a big second half run

After all of the hysterics and theatrics of the New York Jets three game losing streak, here is their current situation after 8 weeks of football.

  • Buffalo: 5-2
  • New England: 5-2
  • Jets: 4-3

One game behind both the Patriots and Bills, with two games left against Buffalo and one left against New England, in complete control of their own destiny after an extra week to get healthy and prepared.

Rex Ryan has already talked about the Jets making “their run.” The schedule breaks favorably for them after these two games. There is no reason they shouldn’t win 5 of their next 6 and be 9-4 heading into their final three games. Of course, it is easy to say those kind of things on paper. However, at a minimum the Jets must find a way to split these next two. If they happen to take both, they would assert themselves as the best team in the division.

Can they build off their second half against San Diego, which was their best of the season? A power running game, an improving Mark Sanchez and a defense thriving in Rex Ryan’s creativity is a tough formula to beat. Buffalo has been the darling of the AFC early this season, with everybody enjoying their surprising success. The Jets should be keyed up to smack them in face and remind everybody who should be taken most seriously as a contender in the AFC East.

Other Notes

New York Jets Exam Part 2

TOJ, Jeff Capellini and TJ Rosenthal debate out 10 more crucial questions about the 2011 New York Jets

CLICK HERE FOR PART ONE

11. How serious of a contender are the Jets for the AFC East title?

JEFF: Very serious, but only if the next two games don’t end up being disasters. From a Jets standpoint, we’ll know if they have a legit shot by Nov. 14.

JOE: I agree with Jeff, very serious especially if they knock New England off at home in a couple of weeks. New England is a very good team this year, but also very beatable. I would not be surprised if Pittsburgh or the Giants knocked them off in the coming weeks.

TJ: They have to come out of the New England game one game back or better. Being two back with seven games left would mean that the Pats would have to lose to three OTHER teams while the Jets go 6-1 or 7-0. Not likely. The next two games will determine whether the Jets are chasing byes and home playoff games in December, or hunting down extended January road trips again.

12. How do you see Mark Sanchez finishing out this season?

JEFF: Back in the preseason T.J. and I said you’d be nuts not to sign on the dotted line for roughly 3,500 yards, 20 TDs and 12 INTs from Sanchez. Well, he’s on pace to better all three. If you are looking for Sanchez to turn into Philip Rivers, it’s not going to happen, this season. The Jets’ brain trust rightly did a course correction, as I wrote recently. Mark is totally capable of throwing for 300 yards every time out, but the Jets shouldn’t be asking him to, not with the talent at running back and the apparent righting of the ship by the offensive line. Sanchez is a fine quarterback and by the end of the season you’ll see through his statistics that he’s making strides. There’s no regression. Plus, we already know he can win in the playoffs. Just leave him be.

JOE: I think Sanchez will finish with his best statistical season yet, while still having his occasional inconsistencies. More importantly, I do think he will remain reliable in a big spot and I don’t think he will be the reason the Jets can’t reach the Super Bowl this year, if they don’t happen to.

TJ: If the Jets are about to make a serious run at this thing, then we see Sanchez as he was against the Chargers and sometimes even better, numbers wise. In total control. Finding the right receivers in the proper areas of the field, able to shake off mistakes emotionally.

If the Jets fail to kick things into another gear, and end up as a 9-7 or 8-8 type of team, we see certain days where he is forced out of his comfort zone of managing and directing. This will lead to some helmetless mopey photos of him seated on empty sideline benches in the NY Post on Monday mornings.

Sanchez has the ability to lead the Jets all the way but it will take more than him to do it. He’s not bringing a Vince Lombardi trophy back to Florham Park all by himself.

13. How will the Jets handle the outside linebacker position the rest of the season with no Bryan Thomas? Will it be more Josh Mauga or Jamaal Westerman? Somebody else?

JEFF: Use both Mauga and Westerman. The Jets will need both to perform as one because they do different things. Westerman has stepped up a bit of late in the pass rushing department and Mauga is fairly decent at stopping the run. More importantly, both seem to understand and embrace their roles and know their responsibilities. Again, game situations will dictate who is on the field, but I think they are getting there, sort of like the entire defense has as the weeks have raced by.

JOE: I think it will be a combination of Mauga, Westerman, and Eric Smith coming down into the box while Brodney Pool steps in at free safety. There is no perfect solution to replacing Bryan Thomas, who was a valuable piece of the defense and the Jets will struggle occasionally to set the edge but overall they have enough to overcome his injury.

TJ: Maybin. For Aaron Maybin to REALLY do monster damage he has to play more. For him to play more, he has to be able to stop the run. Maybin should be given the chance to, with Mauga and Westerman sprinkled in. The combo of all three allows the Jets to stay fresh energy wise which becomes a positive as long as these guys can wrap ball carriers up when they attack the Jets defense on the edge. An area of the field that the Jets have gotten burned in over the first seven games.

14. Can Santonio Holmes maintain a peaceful existence in New York despite not being likely to rack up big stats this year?

JEFF: Santonio scares me because I have no idea what he is. Yes, he makes huge plays. Yes, he wants to win. But I do question his leadership and I do worry because he’s one strike away off the field from sitting out for a long time and he tends to be a little wacky on social networking sites with his supposedly cryptic tweets. As much as the Jets’ young players need to continue to grow up, so does Holmes, Super Bowl ring and MVP or not.

JOE: As long as the team is winning, I doubt see any more issues flaring up. Long term, Holmes need to act like a leader on this team even when the team is struggling. He is definitely worth keeping an eye on.

TJ: We’re not so sure. He SAYS it’s about the team but his body language sometimes leads one to believe otherwise. Winning will help. If the Jets for whatever reason start to lose alot of games, AND Holmes is not getting the ball? THAT could be a lethal combo.

We have the feeling that Holmes is about to break out though. This first half felt like it was more about keeping Sanchez safe and when throwing, getting Burress comfortable. Finding the right patterns and freedom on the field for Dustin Keller as well. Sancehz will keep looking for Holmes and as the line continues to gel, the time to go downfield will become more available. Holmes is THE downfield target for Sanchez.

15. Who are your six AFC Playoff teams?

JEFF: Patriots, Steelers, Chargers, Texans (division champs); Ravens, Jets (wild card)

JOE: Patriots, Steelers, Chiefs, Texans, Ravens, Jets…had to throw at least one curveball with Kansas City.

TJ: Pats, Steelers, Chargers, Ravens, Texans and Jets (who we’re not counting out for a division title until after Nov 13).

16. If the Jets do not make the playoffs, should Schottenheimer be booted?

JEFF: Yes, and depending on how the defense does from here on out, maybe Pettine should join him. Sooner or later the Jets need to realize how the 21st century offense in the NFL works. You bring in a serious offensive coordinator and allow Rex to bring him a hand-picked defensive coordinator so Ryan can spend more time focusing on defense and less time worrying about putting points on the board. I trust Rex implicitly, but I especially trust his defensive mind.

JOE: Unless they win a Super Bowl, I have hard time seeing them not making a change at offensive coordinator. Sometimes it is just time for a new voice and new approach.

TJ: That depends on whether not making the playoffs was the result of the offense. We’ll assume, barring injuries to the defense, that should the Jets not get in, the offense will have been the main culprit. After three years and expectations high, the scapegoat WILL be Schotty. Whether it entirely his fault or not.

17. Do the Jets miss Braylon Edwards, Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith?

JEFF: No. Burress is shutting up everyone and will continue to do so. Kerley is adapting to the slot nicely and should get better as the season progresses. I hate the “Wildcat” anyway and the Jets have not missed it. Special teams — i.e. kick returning has been just fine with McKnight, Kerley and, if need be, Cromartie.

JOE: If you would have asked me this before the New England game, I probably would have said yes. However, it appears there is still hope for Plaxico on the Jets and Jeremy Kerley looks like a long term answer as a number three receiver. Brad Smith has been replaced effectively by Joe McKnight.

TJ: Maybe in the run game outside where Edwards was as good as any big receiver in sealing off the edge. Aside from that, no. Burress provides a red zone threat that simply wasn’t there before his arrival. Cotch was clutch and a great Jet, but Kerley, who may develop over the second half without Derrick Mason around, has great hands too. With more speed as well. Smith’s loss was a big concern but not as much, after Joe McKnight took that kickoff in Baltimore and ran it down i-95 heading towards Washington DC.

18. Should Darrelle Revis win Defensive Player of the Year?

JEFF: If he keeps this up and doesn’t, I’ll know for sure there’s a conspiracy against the Jets. Even if they are hated by nearly everyone not a diehard, there’s no denying the fact that Revis is the premier defensive player in the NFL right now.

JOE: Yes…simple as that.

TJ: We can’t tell you who is more valuable to their team in other places but we CAN tell you that Revis accounts for 7-10 points, at least, every week. He shuts down a top receiver who on other Sundays, put’s up points for HIS team. Revis has in half of the games already, scored himself, or set up scoring chances for the offense. The Jets average 24.6 a game and allow 21.6 point to opponents. Factor in the difference that Revis singlehandedly makes every week and then look around and see who else can offer that kind of edge elsewhere. We’re not saying that nobody else on any other team can, but the bar is beyond high. Revis is making All Pro receivers look like depth chart guys.

19. Name your Jets Pro Bowlers.

JEFF: Revis, Mangold, Harris, maybe Nick Folk, and, believe it or not, Sanchez if his TD-to-INT ratio is as good at the end of the season as it is now.

JOE: Revis, Mangold, Joe McKnight as a returner and maybe D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

TJ: Revis, maybe Harris, maybe Joe McKnight. Pencil in Mangold from now until the 2016 election year provided that his health allows him to perform at a level he is used to performing at. Three penalties last week must have been a result of Mangold not being 100 percent due to the high ankle sprian that he’s been playing through.

20. Name the Jets who deserve credit for doing the dirty work

JEFF: Mike DeVito, Calvin Pace, both are having really good seasons and you really can’t judge their worth unless you don’t see them out there, due to injury.

JOE: Matt Slauson is steadily improving each week and Calvin Pace has been strong against the run, despite not getting after the quarterback as much as you’d like to see.

TJ: Mike Westhoff is the first name that comes to mind. How do you lose Leon Washington and Brad Smith yet somehow continue to give the Jets an edge EVERY week in the return game?  Who calmed Nick Folk down? Who made Joe Knight a weapon?  We love your lunchpail guys especially the poor man’s Joe Klecko, Mike Devito. We are thrilled to see Wayne Hunter settle in and play like he did last January. Westhoff though is our favorite unheralded Jet. He puts his crew in position to win key battles every Sunday. Especially when big plays are needed. McKnight’s punt block against Dallas for example. Or his ordering of Cromartie as the one to take that kick back in Indy last year that helped rescue the Jets in the Wildcard round. We appreciate every second of the hard work that he does in order to help ease the burden for a team that has gone to the AFC title game without a dominant pass rusher and 300 yards per game passer, two years straight.

CLICK HERE FOR PART ONE

TOJ Week 8 NFL Picks – Extended Edition

TOJ with his week 8 NFL picks. Who are your best bets?

Last Week: 5-6-1 (Yikes)

Season Record: 52-46-3

TOJ Week 8 NFL Picks (Lines courtesy of BetUS)

Indianapolis (+8.5) vs. Tennessee Neither of these teams are quite as bad as they looked last week. I do think the Colts are truly awful but they will show some pride on Sunday and keep it close against Tennessee, who doesn’t have the firepower to blow them out.

Jacksonville (+9) vs. HoustonSimilarly, neither of these teams are quite as good as they looked last week. The Jaguars defense will keep them competitive.

Carolina (-3) vs. Minnesota Carolina will get their second win a row heading into their bye week. Cam Newton and Steve Smith have this team light years ahead of where anyone thought they’d be this season.

New Orleans (-14) vs. St. Louis I am not sure people really appreciate how terrible St. Louis is this season.

Baltimore (-13) vs. ArizonaThe Ravens should take out their anger on a pitiful Cardinals team this Sunday.

Giants (-10.5) vs. Miami The Suck For Luck tour loses in New Jersey for the second time in three weeks.

Buffalo (-6.5) vs. WashingtonOh, Canada. Jets nation will be rooting for the Redskins but won’t receive any help.

Detroit (-4) vs. DenverNot sure I can see Tebow winning two games in a row.

New England (-3) vs. Pittsburgh The Patriots have owned Pittsburgh, period. I hope it changes but there is no reason to think it will.

San Francisco (-9.5) vs. ClevelandThe 49ers should be able to rack up 11-12 wins this year considering their schedule.

Philadelphia (-3) vs. DallasThis could really go either way. I will take the home team.

Kansas City (+4.5) vs. San DiegoThe Chargers are still drowning in their tears from last week.

A New York Jets Exam Part 1

TOJ, Green Lantern, and The Jet Report debate out 20 key questions facing the New York Jets the rest of the season

Get comfortable in your seat, print out a copy and take it on the train, or get ready for an extended lunch break. Jeff Capellini from CBS New York, TJ Rosenthal from The Jet Report, along with myself have taken the time to answer 20 crucial about the New York Jets on their bye week. Enjoy, disagree, argue…let’s get after it —

CHECK BACK FOR PART TWO ON SUNDAY

1. What does THIS Jets team have (or not have) that will allow it to move beyond the AFC Championship game.

JEFF: Personnel-wise, the Jets have enough to get to the Super Bowl. They also have the great intangible called belief. What they don’t have yet is a cohesiveness. And when you get to conference title games you have to be a united front on the field and in the locker room to beat the upper echelon teams, especially in their buildings. If the Jets make the playoffs, they are not going to zip through, only to face a wild card team that went on a miraculous run, in the championship game. It just doesn’t work that way. Odds are, they could go to New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, you name it. They have to learn how to take that last step and it’s not something you can teach. It’s a matter of experience, execution and coaching. It’s that simple. You’d think if they are truly back and get this thing revved up they’ll be one of the most difficult outs in the entire postseason. But, again, simply making it yet again is not enough. There are no gimmes in the playoffs. Sooner or later they have to truly come together, and I mean for more than 30 minutes at a clip.

JOE: I don’t think talent is an issue here and the experience is clearly in place for the Jets to make a Super Bowl run. The difference is going to be how stingy will the defense be in January and if Mark Sanchez can put together a few big time performances at the right time. It is very likely the Jets could end up in the wild-card again, which means road victories over some combination of New England, Baltimore, and Pittsburgh need to occur for the Jets to finally make it to that elusive Super Bowl.

TJ: For many on this Jets team, there is the collective experience of having battled on the road through two straight AFC playoff runs now. That’s alot of adversity to fight through together. As for new pieces, Plaxico Burress could be a difference maker in the red zone as he was last week. The Jets were red zone failures over the past two seasons. What they also may have added, should they choose to use it, is more speed on offense thanks to Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley. On the defensive side, if Aaron Maybin continues to settle in, others like Calvin Pace may benefit. In that scenario you could argue that by December the Jets will have the pass rush that was not at their disposal either during the ’09 and ’10 seasons.

2. Looking back, are there any August roster changes you’d like to have back? Or attacked differently?

JEFF: I might not have let Shaun Ellis walk, but he got a king’s ransom from the Patriots, one that the Jets would have been laughed at for matching or exceeding. However, they are still, reportedly, well below the cap and the defensive line, while improving at a snail’s pace weekly, is still not a strength. I kind of think having Ellis around would have been a good thing for the Kenrick Ellises and Muhammad Wilkersons of the world. Plus, who knows? Maybe Shaun could’ve still made some impact plays at opportune moments. The bottom line is, his return would not have HURT the Jets.

JOE: Plaxico’s recent three touchdown game and the emergence of Jeremy Kerley has calmed me down about Braylon Edawrds and Jerricho Cotchery walking. I do think the Jets are moving around the receivers surrounding Mark Sanchez too much but hopefully he can continue to adjust. Obviously, it would have been nice to see Mike Tannenbaum add a veteran lineman when Robert Turner suffered his pre-season injury.

TJ: We are still uncomfortable with the notion that if Mark Sanchez has ANY sort of issues that could sideline him during a game or even for a week or two, that Mark Brunell, with all due respect to an outstanding 19 year NFL career, is next in line. We would have liked to see a better option handled over in the Summer even though the Jets would tell you that 7th rounder Greg McElroy was on pace to landing a backup role. We wanted a Sage Rosenfels type. An 8-10 year vet who could sling it if needed.

The chase for Nnamdi Asomugha was extensive and may have cost the Jets Brad Smith but the biggest move we’d take back is cutting Aaron Maybin in the first place. Could Maybin have made a difference out in Oakland, where the early season avalanche began? We’ll never know.

3. Whats the biggest fear or danger zone for this team, player or unit, as we enter the second half?

JEFF: If the Jets’ defense continues to be what it was in the second half of the Chargers game, I’m not worried at all. However, even if it is that unit, it’s still not a shutdown unit. The Jets will still allow the occasional running back to have the big game. Tight ends and second and third receivers will still post gaudy numbers. We’ve all heard of “bend-but-don’t-break” defenses. I think that’s what the Jets are, but on a more accelerated level. They are somewhere between bend but don’t break and shutdown. The hope is they will continue to make strides toward the latter, especially over the next two weeks.

JOE: The fear is the defense allowing teams to run the football on them. There is no Ground and Pound, if you allow another running back to rack up 150 yards. It is messes with the approach of the entire team and forces the offense to play too aggressively.

TJ: The biggest fear we have is cohesiveness on the field. The Jets are, barring a major change, seeing the extent of what Mark Sanchez can give the team consistently. That is leadership, hot streaks, and the ability to come from behind. If the Jets run game keeps growing, and the defense begins to cement while adding players like Maybin into the equation, then the load  that Sanchez wlll be asked to carry can remain reasonable. If parts break down too often though, the team will have to ride the arm, and decision making of Sanchez. Two traits that are best served when keeping his stranglehold on games within reason.

4. After the spreading the ball around and featuring big pieces like Burress, Greene and Keller last Sunday, is it safe to say that Schotty and the offense have a solid handle on their approach now?

JEFF: I’m confident this offensive line is very close to being what it was last season. I think it has gotten over its adjustment period, which was caused mostly by injuries and these new and somewhat absurd CBA rules on padded practices. Shonn Greene IS a No. 1 running back. He moves the sticks. Mark Sanchez is a better quarterback than he was last season. Plaxico Burress is still a premier red zone target. The Jets just have to do a better job of complimenting Greene with LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield and as a receiver, must not forget about Dustin Keller, which they have been prone to do, and must get the ball in Santonio Holmes’ hands. He cannot be catching 2-3 balls a game. He’s their quickest way to the red zone. Brian Schotteheimer must find new and inventive ways to get the ball in No. 10’s hands. He changes games.

JOE: I don’t think it is safe to say that after one game but they are definitely moving in the right direction. Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller should be the top targets in the passing game, with Burress being the primary threat in the red-zone. Kerley is a third down weapon. The running game should feature Shonn Greene getting around 20 carries each week, while LaDainian Tomlinson chips in 7-10 touches as a runner and receiver. Joe McKnight needs a few packages where he can catch and run the ball in space and will gradually become more involved as the season goes on.

TJ: They better. If last week was a fluke rather than the template moving forward, then the Jets will be spotty on offense in the second half and be forced to win games solely through the work of the special teams and the defense. A strategy that has a limit to it’s effectiveness without a killer pass rusher. Last Sunday, the Jets got everyone involved which kept everyone mentally in the game. This stretched the field enough to create room for Shonn Greene to run. The only way that the Jets offense can be counted on to uphold their 24.6 points per game average is to keep doing more of the same.

5. What can we expect of Wilkerson and Ellis? How high is the ceiling of Aaron Maybin as a pass rusher this year and beyond?

JEFF: I think 3-4 years from now the Jets will have serious pieces with Kenrick and Muhammad, but for now you just have to hope they continue to show the flashes they’ve shown and live with the disappearing acts. Jets are a scheme-based defense anyway, and they generate their pressure off the blitz. Maybin has been a pleasant surprise, but he’s nowhere near a polished player. He gets to the QB for sure, but he’s mostly a straight-line or speed rusher. The guy needs to learn some moves because sooner or later wise tackles will just push him outside rather than engage him at the point of attack.

JOE: Wilkerson and Ellis look like they can be building blocks on the defensive line for years to come. In Rex’s system they won’t be flashy players but will be key components in stopping the run and pushing the pocket. Aaron Maybin really only has a couple of things going for him, his speed and motor. However, in Rex’s system he may have found a perfect home. I do believe he can be a double digit sack this year and beyond.

TJ: Wilkerson and Ellis will have their moments. The best case scenario has them making impacts in a few games, or on a few game changing plays. Their time as terrorizing beasts upfront is off in the not so distant future. Maybin’s time may be now. Maybin is fast, his pursuit can wreak havoc when plays are extended. All three have a bright future at this point, but Maybin can be a difference maker for this team. He may HAVE TO continue his pass rushing growth if the Jets hope to reach Indy.

6. If the “bad” Cromartie rears his head too often, are you comfortable throwing Kyle Wilson at the corner yet?

JEFF: I think anyone waiting for Kyle to become a shutdown corner at this level may be waiting a while. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t be a responsible and useful part of this defense. He’s improved over last season. His reads have been much better, but for the time being I think you just have to live with Antonio being Antonio because he has more upside as a “big play player” than Wilson has. And on a defense that features just one true star, the Jets need all the big- and game-changing plays they can get. Take the good with the bad with Cro and keep Kyle zoned rather than out wide, where there is less margin for error.

JOE: You know what you are getting with Antonio Cromartie, which is inconsistency. I don’t think the quick hook is the right answer as the Jets need his size and speed on the outside. Beyond that, Kyle Wilson is starting to thrive in the nickel role which is a crucial one in the Jets defense. I wouldn’t mess with that anytime soon.

TJ: No. However, we are a heck of alot more comfortable with him now that he is playing the ball and his head is turned around, than we would have been had he been forced into a starting corner role last season. Wilson’s growth in roles  such as a nickel cover guy, a blitzing weapon, and a spy, along with Maybin’s blindside speed, give the Jets added elements to last year’s defense. The second year CB’s confidence is certainly growing. That bodes well should he be forced to spell Cromartie or provide health insurance for EITHER cornerback position. As scary as that is to say, considering what a thought like that means.

7. Will Joe McKnight’s role increase?

JEFF: It almost has to, but it’s hard to say it will because even Tomlinson disappears for long stretches of games. And that’s not because LaDainian is no longer a viable talent. Schottenheimer has yet to find a balance with his RB personnel.  We know Greene should be a 20-plus carry back. We know Tomlinson should be a 5-7-carry back and more of a pass-catching threat. Where does that leave McKnight, a guy with tons of talent and more maturity? It’s hard to say. If in the average game the Jets runs 60-65 plays from scrimmage and want a 50-50 run pass balance, you are looking at 30-33 touches for RBs. Well, if Greene is getting 20-25 and Tomlinson 5-7, that’s 25-32 right there. I think McKnight could be the true change-of-pace back the Jets need, while Tomlinson at this point should be in sets where he’s split out wide or used as the primary back, but only inside the opponent’s 5-yard line.

JOE: I do think it will, but the Jets still need to figure out exactly where to fit him in this year. In the long term, he is a perfect change of pace back for Shonn Greene. For this year, with LaDainian Tomlinson still in the mix it remains hard to get him many touches. Yet, the Jets must get him going in the screen game and use his receiving skills by splitting him out.

TJ: We hope so. Making McKnight a player who is part of 5-7 plays, even as a play action decoy, gives the Jets the threat of big play speed that they haven’t had under Ryan since Leon Washington was around. Speed kills. McKnight has already proven that this year on special teams. It’s not easy to find guys who cause oppoments comcern simply by lining up. Number 25 would have to be treated by defense with respect should he be sent out into the flat for a pitch outside or for a fake that could allow Sanchez to roll out in the other direction with less defenders on his heels.

8. Assess the safeties so far. Some argue that it’s time we see more of the athletic Brodney Pool.

JEFF: It probably is time to see more of Pool. He’s sound in most aspects. But, truth be told, Eric Smith, Pool and Jim Leonhard are undersized and do not cover very well. I think finding a do-it-all safety is one of the hardest things an NFL front office has to deal with on a yearly basis. Ronnie Lott doesn’t grow on trees. So, unless the Jets go out and get lucky on the open market, I think you have to rotate Pool and Smith and play off their strengths depending on the situation. I’d trust Pool more on the opposing side of the 50 due to his speed, but I’d be fine with Smith when the field gets shorter.

JOE: On paper that does make sense, but Pool hasn’t been very good when on the field this year. The Jets will have a patch-work situation at that position for the rest of the year. A playmaking safety isn’t easy to find but the Jets need to try, especially in the early rounds of next year’s draft.

TJ: Why is there so much “miscommunication” going on back there as I believe Leonhard claimed there was last week when rookie LB Josh Mauga was frantically running for his life to cover Antonio Gates in the end zone. Plays like that are happening too often and they shouldn’t, given the experience that Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith have during their time in New York together.

Covering tight ends has been a nightmare again for the Jets who may want to leave that up to corner guys like Wilson, and Donald Strickland instead of Smith. Does Brodney Pool get what defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Rex Ryan want? If so, get him in on more plays. He hits hard. so even if he’s late to the ball, someone is gonna get dialed up, perhaps leading to some turnovers.

9. Are the Patriots better than the Jets? If so, in what ways and how much better?

JEFF: At the end of the day I see this matchup as a wash. It all depends on when on the calendar they meet. Earlier in the season is better for the Patriots because the Jets’ D is so complex it takes quite a while for the players to get comfortable in their roles. Later in the season is better from a defensive standpoint. Offensively, the Jets should always be able to move the ball and put up points on the New England defense because it’s simply not that good. The Pats have more “stars” on offense; the Jets are much more sound defensively. I just think the Pats know how to put teams away, while the Jets, due in part to their offensive philosophy, always seem to find themselves still being forced to move the ball on offense in the fourth quarter instead of just letting the defense preserve victories. It’s not by design and that’s the main reason the Jets hover around 9-11 wins instead of 12-13 and securing home playoff games.

JOE: On a week to week basis, yes they are a better football team. They are more consistent and have one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history under center with a ridiculous collection of weapons. Fortunately, that doesn’t mean the Jets aren’t more than capable of beating them in a few weeks and again in the playoffs if it comes to that. A few weeks ago, the Jets played far from their best game and hung right with New England. They have confidence against them, which goes a long way.

TJ: The Patriots of week 6 were better than the Jets. We’re not so sure if they will be by week 9. This Jets team has the roadmap to success now, thanks to a second half against the Chargers that helped highlight key blueprints. They have found their identity of spreading the ball around and stretching the field in order to open up the run game. This while locking down the corners, covering tight ends with nickel guys, and putting some heat on the pocket with Maybin and Calvin Pace. McKnight and rookie Jeremy Kerley provide the field positon in the return game. There is still room to grow for the Jets so the jury is stlll out. Falling behind by two games by failing to identify the strengths and weaknesses of this current group earlier, makes it tougher to win the division though. Obviously.

10. How can the Jets compensate for their shortcomings on defense, particularly at safety and outside linebacker?

JEFF: By getting to the quarterback. I can’t state it any clearer.

JOE: Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine. They have the ability to coach around those shortcomings, which existed last year but still didn’t prevent the Jets from beating Indianapolis or New England on the road.

TJ: By working Brodney Pool into the safety rotation for more athleticism and aggressive hitting. By rushing guys like Wilson on passing downs and again, asking Pool and the safeties to play the outside run a bit more. This would leave Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis on their own more often so Cro would HAVE TO think less and react more on his island. We all know that Revis can handle any coverage assignment by himself.

CHECK BACK FOR PART TWO ON SUNDAY

New York Jets Bye Week – A Call To Arms

In response to Rich CImini, Justin with a solution on how the New York Jets should handle their bye week

The NFL bye week is a vicious assault on the glory of the organized violence we call football. It makes even the most brutal of thugs snap out of their psychopathic routine and fall backwards toward reading trash like Twilight on their wife’s kindle, spending time with their children, and going to pansy events like poetry readings at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Hell even Ray Lewis spent his bye week writing a pacifist manifesto to be handed out to the protesters at Occupy Wall Street.

Upon the start of bye week, all cell phones should be temporarily disconnected and every player should be taken on a 13 hour bus ride to Binghamton (a place once called, by it’s own sheriff “the place where hopes and dreams die”), where they will begin readying themselves for the inhuman brutality of the east coast winter.

Upon arrival in the 9th circle of hell, the lineman, in an effort to slim them down and tone them up, will be given a rucksack consisting of raw meat and various bottles of unlabeled whiskey. The raw meat will be accompanied by a small roll of kindling and a flint to start a fire. The whiskey can be used either for the treating of turf infections or to accompany the meat.

A nice 5 day survival expedition into the wilderness of upstate New York would do wonders for team morale. Let’s start with the defense, because after all, if you can chase down a grizzly and tear it to pieces with your bare hands, tackling starry eyed quarterbacks trying to find tight ends on a hitch route would look as difficult as beating the Seahawks in Madden 12. Though there may be a few armless quarterbacks, the constant influx of young talent from college would give guys like Tony Pike and Pat White a second shot as an NFL starter.

An alternative: Drop the whole offensive line into the heart of Trenton at 3am and see if defensive ends are as intimidating as the thought of having to duck into some project building in efforts to avoid the intermittent stray gunshot. I’m pretty sure if guys like Colin Baxter were able to manage getting themselves out of Trenton in the hour of the demon, the defensive stunts of the Buffalo Bills would not be as complex as they seem today. To illustrate, the showdown between offensive lineman and the opposing defense would look like Michael Douglas trying to pay for his soda in Falling Down.

Running backs are not spared, as they should all be sent to the nearest army obstacle course and forced to scale 50 foot rope walls while holding on to a football caked in Vaseline, followed by a nice 50 yard swim across an alligator infested lake while holding onto a 20lb medicine ball. It will be beautiful…receivers being forced to run through a paintball field while avoiding fire from both sides….all sorts of mortars, land mines going off in the distance akin to the first day of Navy Seal training….there will be a point when the sheer will to get to the end zone will outweigh childish fantasy football stats, the game clock, or even what some call being “down by contact”.

Yes the bye week will allow these things and so much more. A hand to hand combat version of capture the flag, a friendly game of rugby with the only athletes who seem to make NFL players look like they have a paranoid fear of injury, and even some good old bare knuckle boxing would make the Chiefs recent fascination of bean bag toss look as dainty as the exercise routines of golfers.

Football is a wonderful game, but as Terrell Suggs and Scott Van Pelt said, it’s getting soft. Time to throw out the moisturizer.

Breaking Down The Rest Of The New York Jets Schedule

TOJ breaks down the rest of the New York Jets 2011 regular season schedule. Is 10 wins reasonable?

The New York Jets currently sit at 4-3, likely a game or two behind the place many people thought they would be at this point of the season. When looking at their remaining nine games, it is very conceivable the Jets could still finish with 10 or 11 wins. Of course the deciding factor in that is going to be if they play like they did in the second half against San Diego for the remainder of the season or like they did in the second half against Oakland. Let’s look at what’s left for the Jets —

  • November 6th at Buffalo

A huge game that will go a long way how the AFC East and wild-card race will look for the remainder of the season. I would expect Buffalo to take care of business against Washington this week, meaning the Jets will be a full game behind the Bills heading into this meeting. The key against the Bills is to not turn the football over and slow down Fred Jackson.

  • November 13th vs. New England, Sunday Night

Showdown. Especially, if the Jets can beat Buffalo and New England slips up against either Pittsburgh or the Giants in the next two weeks. Even without a Patriots slip-up in the coming weeks, a Jets win will make them relevant in the AFC East race for the rest of the season. They have never been swept by New England since Rex Ryan has taken over.

  • November 17th at Denver, Thursday Night

A short week. A long trip. Tebow Christ. This should be an interesting game.

  • November 27th vs. Buffalo

The Bills for the second time in four weeks. They are a different team on the road and if the Jets handle their business, this could be a chance to bury them in the AFC East race and seriously cripple them in the wild-card hunt.

  • December 4th at Washington

Considering the way their season is headed, this should one of the easier games left on the Jets schedule if not the easiest. Rex Ryan and his defense should be able to tee off on the John GrossBeck crap platter at quarterback.

  • December 11th vs Kansas City

The Chiefs looked like the worst team in football for three weeks but now look halfway decent. Regardless, the Jets should be able to handle them at home.

  • December 18th at Philadelphia

A difficult road trip to face Mike Vick and the Eagles, who will likely need this game as they attempt to claw back in the NFC East race.

  • December 24th vs G-Men

How many fights are going to break out in the stadium? How many holidays are going to be ruined? It looks like this game will have playoff implications for both teams and you know Rex Ryan’s off-season quotes will be plastered all over the place leading up to it.

  • January 1st at Miami

Good to know if the Jets need this one, they finish against one of the worst teams in recent NFL history.

If you remember my roadmap to the Jets making the playoffs from a few weeks ago when they were 2-3, you will see they are on pace by taking the first step in sweeping Miami and getting a split out of the San Diego/New England match-ups. Sticking to that original article, 10 wins can be achieved like this —

  • Take 2 out of 3 from remaining NFC East opponents
  • Beat Kansas City, Denver, and Miami
  • Split with Buffalo

Not too crazy, right? Nevermind the reality that the Jets have a good shot to knock off New England at home, as they have done the past two years.

Young Pups Could Lead To Big Second Half For New York Jets Defense

TOJ on the development of the younger players on the New York Jets defense and how it could lead to a second half improvement

The New York Jets defense has problems and shortcomings, as any unit in the NFL does. However, thanks to Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine’s ability to gameplan on a weekly basis they can still come up with big time performances, which will allow the Jets to remain a playoff contender throughout the rest of the year.

One of the other reasons for optimism with the Jets defense in their final nine games is the development of their young players.

Let’s start with the defensive line, which has quickly been rebuilt for the long haul. First round draft pick Muhammad Wilkerson has put together a strong start to the year, particularly with his showings against Jacksonville, Baltimore, and San Diego. Third round pick Kenrick Ellis has shown potential in his limited role and should get more reps as the season moves on. Beyond that both Ropati Pitoitua and Marcus Dixon are quality rotational players to support Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito, who should still have their best years in front of them.

At linebacker, the Jets are sorely lacking speed. Josh Mauga and Jamaal Westerman are platooning as replacements for Bryan Thomas at outside linebacker and both have taken their lumps. Yet, Westerman has shown some of the pass rush ability the coaching staff has talked up with 2.5 sacks and Mauga should get better as the season progresses. Beyond that, Aaron Maybin has been a revelation with 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in only four games with very limited reps. His role will continue grow and he just may be the double digit sack guy the Jets have been looking for.

In the secondary, outside of Darrelle Revis putting together another monster season the most encouraging thing has been the growth of Kyle Wilson. The Jets 2010 first round pick is substantially improved in his second year and is turning into a very good nickel back, which is a key spot in Ryan’s defense.

In the long term, the Jets will need more young talent, particularly at safety and linebacker. However, they do have enough this year to make that run Rex Ryan talked about in his most recent press conference.

A Roadmap Is Found By The New York Jets

TJ on the winning formula the New York Jets discovered against the San Diego Chargers

The Jets exited the field of Met Life stadium on Sunday, entering the much needed rest of a bye week as owners of not only a crucial comeback win, but possibly of a roadmap containing an identity and blueprint for the future.

Down 21-10 midway through the third quarter to the 4-1 Chargers was not how Gang Green had drawn up their pre game battle plans against a Bolts offense known for delivering high powered knockout blows. Then again, neither was a 3-3 start to a 2011 season that was racing towards a scenario that would have left the club three games back of first place with half the year already in the books. Then it all came together. On both sides of the ball.

A ten play 55 yard TD drive that started with 7:30 left in the third quarter, was soon followed by a game changing interception by, who else, Darrelle Revis. Just like that, a two score deficit became a one score lead. Along with it, the reemergence of hope for a season that a short while ago, contained Super Bowl goals.

Credit the eternally embattled offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for making a point to get ALL Jets skill position players involved during the first half. This attention to detail not only gave Shonn Greene (20 carries -112 yards) the amount of carries that Rex Ryan often insists will make him a War Machine again, but it helped keep another embattled Jet, Plaxico Burress, attentive long enough to add two more TD catches to his three score day.

Looks to speedy rookie  Jeremy Kerley with carries finally given to Joe McKnight, gave the Jets some unpredictable flavor. This as Sanchez took shots to big play Santonio Holmes (who had an incredible diving TD reception called back due to a holding call) as well.

The offensive line also stepped up again. Credit the recent return of Nick Mangold from injury and the improved play of Wayne Hunter at RT (who helped slow down Miami’s pass rushing star Cameron Wake the week before) for the rise in quality. With the offensive line coming together to help spearhead a balanced attack (Sanchez 173 yds passing. Jets rushing attack combined 162 yds), the Jets were able to surpass their 24.2 points per game average just enough to turn things over to Rex’s defense. A unit that was also doing it’s share of growing.

While Revis was busy taking star WR Vincent Jackson (1-15 yds) out of the equation, the Jets were busy trying to sort out their first half issues of once again dealing with the tight end. This was not your normal one, somehow burning them up and down the field though. It was future hall of famer Antonio Gates. Gates was open early and often during the first half but better coverage by the safeties, linebackers, and emerging second year CB Kyle Wilson on Gates in the second half (Wilson’s first NFL interception late in the 4th to help seal the win) was a big reason that the Jets held the mighty Chargers offense scoreless after halftime.

Scrap heap gem Aaron Maybin, provided his third sack and added some pressures to a defense that exited the game 6th in the NFL with 18 sacks. The notion of pressure from both Calvin Pace and now Maybin, with weekly lockdown coverage from Revis, could now get another boost INSIDE the numbers from players like Wilson.

Should this and Antonio Cromartie’s work towards keeping his hands to himself (as he did for the most part on Sunday) begin to solidify, than THIS Jet defense, during this modest two game win streak, may have found a rocket boost in two places; Pressure and coverage.

Now add Special Teams into the equation. With McKnight and Kerley having safely allowed the Jets to have moved beyond the loss of current Buffalo Bill Brad Smith due to their big plays during the first seven games, the Jets can add the potential for big plays into their new formula. One that abandoned the overload of pass or run for a less obvious mixture.

In September, the Jets tried to feature Mark Sanchez as a fantasy football owner’s dream. In October, they tried to delve into the past with the ultra conservative Ground and Pound. Against the Chargers, in the final game before the Winter months arrive, they blended both. Letting everyone join the party in doing so.

When the air attack would end up in turnovers, Jets coaches would often retreat into treating Mark Sanchez as an adolescent. A teenager not to be trusted alone in the house while the parents were out for the night. During the Chargers win however, Sanchez, despite any recent proof of an ability to lead the club all day with his arm, was imparted with a measurable amount of faith from the Jets sidelines. It payed off, as key pieces provided big time production at the right time.

Burress was BROUGHT HERE to be fed in the Red Zone. Sanchez fed him. TE Dustin Keller, the true safety valve wasn’t forgotten. He was featured. Greene’s engine was made to plow over ground like a tank after the engine was properly heated. Sunday, the third year back was given the ball. Time and again. The Jets overall ability to finally use their weapons collectively, helped the club finally move the chains. In doing so, it allowed the defense the opportunity to stay rested and settle in.

The Jets, at 4-3, have not played well enough against enough quality teams, to simply assume that they are now undoubtedly headed for a third straight playoff appearance under Ryan. They ARE however in position to, for the first time this year, put the search mission to rest. The Jets, if even for a brief two quarter stretch, showed themselves who they are, and who they can be. A team that runs the ball efficiently while using the air to both threaten and damage.

They are a team that will always leave a top receiver stranded while pressure and coverage thanks to the surprising play of Maybin and Wilson, may help tighten the screws even tighter on the opposition.

Buffalo and New England are up next. It won’t be easy. However, a Jets team that may now be firing on all cylinders, will be tough for opponents to beat as well. The Jets can use the second half comeback that saw 17 unanswered points, as a template going forward, provided they can show that all of the miscommunication that went on weeks back inside of the Jets locker room, was like their inconsistent play, a thing of the past.

Those faces are starting to fall in place. Just in the nick of time. November is here and that means that it is time to make the push for the playoffs. The Jets are set up to do that now. To be a team that CAN surge head on into January, and perhaps even beyond. For the first time this season.

CHECK OUT THE REST OF TJ’S WORK

JEFF CAPELLINI TALKING JETS FANS BACK TO REALITY

A Closer Look At The New York Jets Stats

TOJ with a closer look at the New York Jets stats through 7 games

Passing

  • Mark Sanchez – 129/231, 55.8 completion percentage, 1545 yards, 12 TDs, 6 INTs

Despite all of the scrutiny he is under, Sanchez is on pace for a season that many of us would have signed up for statistically. Of course, the Jets don’t need him to rack up All-Pro stats. All that matters is his ability to continue to win football games, play well in big spots, and be a leader on the offense. Considering their move back to Ground and Pound and the expected continued growth in chemistry with Plaxico Burress, there is no reason Sanchez can’t finish with over 25 touchdowns and around 3,500 yards.

Rushing

  • Shonn Greene – 113 carries, 426 yards, 3.8 yards per carry, 2 touchdowns
  • LaDainian Tomlinson – 34 carries, 111 yards, 3.3 yards per carry
  • Joe McKnight – 10 carries, 26 yards
  • Mark Sanchez – 13 carries, 67 yards, 2 touchdowns

Shonn Greene is getting the bulk of the carries, as was talked about all off-season. He wasn’t doing much with it until last week. A big second half from Greene will likely equal a new contract and a commitment to him as the long term feature back. A shaky second half could lead to a spirited pursuit of Matt Forte or Maurcie Jones-Drew next off-season. Tomlinson’s top contributions come in the passing game. McKnight is slowly becoming more acclimated to the offense. Sanchez is underrated as a mobile quarterback.

Receiving

  • Dustin Keller – 25 receptions, 372 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • Santonio Holmes – 22 receptions, 311 yards, 3 touchdowns
  • LaDainian Tonlinson – 2o receptions, 260 yards 1 touchdown
  • Plaxico Burress – 18 receptions 243 yards, 5 touchdowns
  • Jeremy Kerley – 9 receptions, 82 yards, 1 touchdown

I would expect Keller to end up leading the team in receptions. Holmes numbers will eventually pick up but it is hard to see him ending up being a 1,000 yard receiver. If Burress finishes with 40 receptions, 500 yards but over 10 touchdowns, I consider his signing a success. Jeremy Kerley’s role will only continue to grow throughout the year. I would expect him to finish with over 30 receptions.

Kicking

  • Nick Folk – 10/10 Field Goals, Long of 50 yards

He never misses.

Return

  • Joe McKnight – 13 attempts on kick return, 520 yards, 40.0 average, 1 TD
  • Jeremy Kerley – 14 attempts on punt return, 143 yards, 10.2 average

McKnight has been a Pro-Bowl caliber kick returner so far this year. Kerley is also an explosive option on punt returns.

Defense

  • Eric Smith – 44 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1 INT
  • David Harris – 36 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 INT
  • Bart Scott – 36 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF
  • Calvin Pace – 33 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 FF
  • Darrelle Revis – 20 tackles, 10 PDs, 4 INT
  • Muhammad Wilkerson – 17 tackles, 1 sack, 2 TFL
  • Antonio Cromartie – 22 tackles, 5 PDs, 3 INT
  • Jamaal Westerman – 16 tackles, 2.5 sacks
  • Aaron Maybin – 6 tackles, 3 sacks, 3 FF

A few highlights from the defense. Despite their stat lines, it does feel like Bart Scott and Calvin Pace have missed their share of tackles and are struggling a little bit out in space. The coaching staff has been raving about Pace and their improvement in run defense against San Diego should be attributed to him helping set the edge. Darrelle Revis has been the Defensive Player of the Year in my opinion. Aaron Maybin racked up those 3 sacks and 3 forced fumbles in a limited amount of time. You will see plenty more of him down the stretch and I wouldn’t be surprised if he ended up with double digit sacks. Eric Smith and Antonio Cromartie both have decent enough stat lines but have been wildly inconsistent so far.

TEAM RANKINGS

  • Passing Yards – 207.7 yards per game, 24th in NFL
  • Rushing Yards – 92.4 yards per game, 28th in NFL
  • Opposing Passing Yards – 196.7 per game, 7th in NFL
  • Opposing Rushing Yards – 126.9 per game, 26th in NFL

Other Notes

  • 11 interceptions through 7 games in 2011, 12 interceptions all of 2010 season. The defense is also on pace for more forced fumbles and sacks this year.

Did The New York Jets Turn A Corner?

TOJ examines if the Jets really turned a corner with their victory over San Diego

The New York Jets victory over the San Diego Chargers was without question a crucial and pivotal win. It set the table for their upcoming games against the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots to truly be relevant, meaningful games as the Jets are now in the thick of both the AFC East and wild-card race. The impact on the standings was nice but won’t last long if the Jets don’t handle their business after the bye week.

In reality, the main reason the victory was so important was because of how the Jets won. This was a replication of the 2009/2010 Jets smacking around and beating up on a finesse team. Prior to kickoff, LaDainian Tomlinson yelled the following in his pre-game speech –

“We couldn’t be more different. Weakness vs. Strength. Finesse vs. Power. West Coast vs. East Coast.”

He was absolutely right. San Diego is everything the Jets aren’t. They put up big-time stats and win “pretty.” The Jets will never turn heads with their statistics and win ugly. The bigger the game gets, the worse San Diego plays. The later in the game it gets, the worse San Diego plays. In contrast, the Jets thrive in big spots and in late game situations. When it comes down to it, San Diego is a finesse team led by a subpar coach and a quarterback high on passing stats but low on playoff victories, who spent their post-game crying about the officials. The Jets couldn’t let a team like that beat them in their own stadium in a such big spot in their season and they responded by going back to their winning formula, running and defense.

A second half run by the New York Jets is highly plausible. After their back to back showdowns against Buffalo and New England, the schedule becomes more friendly. They fully have the ability to take advantage of it, especially if they continue to thrive in their proper identity.

On offense, Shonn Greene needs to balance the offense with a productive 20+ carries each week. Mark Sanchez plays much better with an effective rushing attack to throw play action off of. There may be times he has to throw 35 passes in a game but for the most part, the Jets will be in a better situation when he has 22-28 attempts per game. His top two targets should most consistently be Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller. Jeremy Kerley should be a third down weapon, working quick outs, whip routes, and the short crossing routes. Plaxico Burress should be the primary red-zone option who provides an occasional big target over the middle.

Defensively, Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine have shown the ability to coach around their unit’s shortcomings in the past and they must do it again. Right now, the Jets are weak at outside linebacker and safety. However, with a young and improving defensive line, Aaron Maybin turning into a legitimate pass rushing threat on third downs, and Darrelle Revis playing at the top of his game the Jets have enough on defense to play their “Ground and Pound” style.

We will learn if the team really turned a corner these next two weeks, when they have a chance to show that they are the team to beat in a division where many think they are the third best team.