New York Jets Exam Part 2

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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.

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