Something Positive For The 2012 New York Jets Season

Something very positive for the outlook for the 2012 New York Jets season

For everybody in hysterics about the New York Jets being a 3-5 win team in 2012…looking at you Merril Hoge, Peter Schrager and Evan Silva, a simple reminder that their defense will be facing the following quarterbacks –

  • Ryan Tannehill twice (0 career NFL snaps)
  • Russell Wilson (0 career NFL snaps)
  • Andrew Luck (0 career NFL snaps)
  • Jake Locker (0 career NFL starts)
  • Ryan Fitzpatrick twice (Mediocre, 0-4 career record against Rex Ryan as a starting QB)
  • Blaine Gabbert (Struggled heavily last year, 4-10 record as a starter)
  • Sam Bradford (Struggled heavily last year, Brian Schottenheimer is his offensive coordinator)
  • John Skelton (Struggled heavily last year, very poor offensive line)

That accounts for ten of their games. Their other six come against Tom Brady (twice), Philip Rivers, Matt Schaub, Alex Smith and Ben Roethlisberger. Rex Ryan has beaten Brady 3 times over the past 3 years, including a playoff win. He is 2-0 against Rivers including a playoff win. He is 2-0 against Schaub. And Alex Smith is still Alex Smith.

The Jets defense is good enough to win them games, particularly with the above slate of quarterbacks on the 2012 schedule.

No Huddle – Austin Howard and New York Jets Injury Woes

TJ Rosenthal goes No Huddle to break down what we saw from the New York Jets in their 3rd pre-season game

Better. Yes, things were better last night. Nobody wearing Green and White Tebowed in the end zone but the Jets looked more like an NFL team last night. A team that could grow into something with more work and some additional pieces collected along the way.

1 -Way To Go Austin Howard

The best thing to come out of Sunday night was the play of Austin Howard. The new Jets right tackle should have silenced fears about a leaky offensive line thanks to his consistent play throughout. It was so nice to see Mark Sanchez sit comfortably with time in the pocket to throw. The results were clear as completions were made, and chains moved for the first time all summer.

2 – August Injuries Are Never A Good Topic

Now the worst thing to come out of the game. The injuries. First Dustin Keller went down in what we initially joked was an injury that came from being shocked that a ball was thrown to him. Then it was David Harris and finally Josh Baker, who sustained what appeared to be the worst of all the car crashes.

The Jets can ill afford to lose anyone for any amount of time right now. With Keller and Baker banged up, the Jets will have to go to the free agent market and pick up a tight end. Hayden Smith is just not ready for the role and Jeff Cumberland? We can’t figure that guy out. We hope the answer is yes to the FA market notion, and that Tim Tebow WON’T be given a job he’s never had with two weeks until week one.

Jeremy Shockey anyone?

3 – Still No Touchdowns Yet

The Jets STILL haven’t scored  TD in 2012. Maybe the Wildcat and Tebow might have helped last night but we will focus here on the passing game near the goal line for now.

Sanchez was solid Sunday night. In fact, thanks to his protection holding up, we were all able to finally assess the WR corps. The answer? There is not enough there right now in our estimation. Especially as the Jets move towards the doorstep of paydirt. We recognize that Santonio Holmes may have had a TD had he held on to a seam pass but hey, that’s what happens when you miss time due to injury. The timing is off.

Stephen Hill caught some balls but seems confused as to what to do after the catch. More telling, Hill  reacted to late to a high end zone throw that Plaxico Burress would’ve grabbed easily.

So why not bring back the red zone killer?

This reliance on Hill to lock down WR2 may bite the Jets in the first half of the season. Instead, the Jets ought to sign Plax so they can SURVIVE the first half, as Hill grows into whatever he will grow into this year.

Security. Insurance. Quality play inside the 20. Do it. If not Burress, then at least someone else please.

4 – De-Fense!

The Jets defense did what it will have to do through October. It took it to the other team’s offense. Cam Newton was poised to get rolling but didn’t. Kenrick Ellis, Quinton Coples. In fact the entire defensive line helped make sure that Newton would be pressured and that the Panther run game couldn’t get into gear.

The score was 10-9 Carolina at halftime and that’s what games will have to look like, in order for the Jets to be in position to win them until the offense can show more. Great job by a unit that looked like a real top 5 unit and reminded us of the early Rex Ryan defenses in 2009.

5 – What’s the Prognosis Doctor?

Well, the play of the defense last night now makes us feel better about September. The play of the offense gave us a glimmer of hope that by October, they won’t need to be carried every Sunday. Mark Sanchez showed us that he can make throws given the time. The lack of touchdowns though means that the Jets are still short on playmakers who must be found elsewhere or be made to step up from within. Can Greene Holmes and Keller drive the unit downfield? It’s up to them. They are the big three as of now.

As for special teams and unique players, Tim Tebow is still an unknown as far as what he will bring to the table and that’s not a bad thing. The kicking game appears solid and so does the return game with Joe McKnight. In sum, the Carolina game provided enough to have us now move back off from the ledge. To feel as though this is a playoff bound team however, we need to see more.

Right now the Jets are an AFC bubble team, but the potential is there in many areas for that to change for the better.

New York Jets – Struggling To Find Silver Lining

The New York Jets still haven’t found the end-zone this pre-season, despite some encouraging developments last night

There is no reason to act like not scoring a touchdown in three full pre-season games isn’t a big deal. It is. It is an embarrassing failure that speaks to a lack of cohesion and playmakers on offense. The New York Jets offense has been the worst in the NFL to this point. They are just fortunate that up until this point nothing truly counts and that their defense has conversely been one of the best.

The offensive problems last night started at the wide receiver position. Santonio Holmes dropped what would have been probably a 25 yard gain. Stephen Hill dropped a very catch-able ball that turned into an interception and failed to make a tough catch in the end-zone that should have been a touchdown. Was it a perfect throw from Sanchez? No, but that doesn’t mean that Hill shouldn’t come down with that pass.

The dropped passes took away from what should have been a huge night for Mark Sanchez, who was still 11/18 for 123 yards with completions of 20, 24 and 32 yards. He drove the football well down the field, throwing two bullets over the middle for big gainers to Dustin Keller and Patrick Turner. He read the coverage perfectly and delivered a perfect back shoulder pass to Stephen Hill outside the numbers for the other long gain. Unfortunately all that is swept under the rug when you don’t convert in the red-zone.

Outside of the dropped passes, the running game was a let down yet again. The Jets have shown no ability to run the ball consistently this pre-season. Shonn Greene finished with 47 yards on 13 carries. 3.6 yards per carry is not good enough. Greene seems to be stumbling immediately after he receives every handoff and still is not breaking any tackles or making anybody miss. There is nothing impressive about running through a well blocked hole. It is impressive when you make something happen at the second level to turn a blocked 3 yard run into a 15 yard run or a blocked 8 yard run into a 29 yard run.

Joe McKnight appears to be completely out of the mix at running back, receiving zero carries and even working behind Terrance Ganaway. Bilal Powell looks to be the primary backup and third down back. He showed a little shiftiness last night but still only finished with 29 yards on 8 carries, the same 3.6 yards per carry as Greene.

The Jets also remain clueless in short yardage. They were stuff again on 3rd and 1 and in reality stuffed on 4th and 1. They received a ridiculously favorable spot on a Mark Sanchez quarterback sneak for a first down. What purpose does John Conner serve on this roster? He can’t catch. He can’t convert on short yardage when handed the ball and can’t help Greene convert on third and short with his blocking. Beyond that, Greene’s biggest runs last night came out of a single back set.

Finally the offense made another killer mental mistake when Matt Slauson picked up a senseless personal foul that killed a potential scoring drive. The Jets are nowhere near good enough to overcome needless penalties.

Over to the positives, on offense outside of Sanchez throwing the ball very well, Austin Howard was terrific. He held his own against Charles Johnson and appeared to be play both fluidly and with a high amount of confidence. There will be bumps in the road with him but last night was a very strong start.

The real positives remained on the defensive side of the football, where the Jets have the makings of arguably the best run defense in the NFL. Kenrick Ellis was dominant at the point of attack last night and has earned himself a much larger role in the defensive line rotation thanks to a huge pre-season. LaRon Landry is a force in the run game and came up with his second interception of the pre-season. If he stays healthy, the Jets got a major steal in free agency. Quinton Coples had another sack and another forced fumble, along with constantly being in Cam Newton’s face.

The disappointing thing about Coples is how Rex Ryan called him out after the game for being winded and complaining about having to play with the second team. Good for Rex for staying on top of this and not babying him to the press. He needs to do that more frequently. A rookie complaining about playing time is inexcusable. Coples is freakishly talented and Rex and all of the veterans constantly need to stay on top of him so he reaches his potential.

For the first time of the pre-season, the blitzes the Jets dialed up were breaking through. The constant pressure led to a difficult night for Newton who finished only 6/15 for 60 yards with a turnover. Outside of Kyle Wilson, who continues to struggle the Jets defense appears in mid-season form and should be a top three unit in the league this season.

For all of the criticism heaped on the Jets offense, the same amount of praise should be heaped on their defense at this point. Will either unit play to their expectations in September? Only time will tell.

Jets vs. Panthers – Turn On The Jets 12 Pack of Predictions

12 predictions for the New York Jets third pre-season game against the Carolina Panthers

The Turn On The Jets 12 Pack is back with 12 more predictions for this week’s New York Jets action. A heads up that we are down to our last 25 TOJ Vintage T-Shirts and are running a special today to kick off the weekend – 25% off all shirts, get on it now while they are discounted and before they are gone! 

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1. The New York Jets are going to score a touchdown. Crazy that has to be a bold proclamation right? I think we will see a more complex game plan because this unit needs to get some positive momentum going into the regular season. Carolina’s defense isn’t very good, so if the Jets have another 3 or 9 point outing, you know things are even worse than they seem. Tony Sparano must let Mark Sanchez air it out a few times and implore him to get a few balls heading in Stephen Hill’s direction. The two have not connected once this pre-season.

2. Austin Howard is going to play better than Wayne Hunter did last week, but how could he not? The Jets will add another veteran before the season and it remains very up in the air who will start for the duration of the season.

3. Look for Shonn Greene to have 10+ carries for the second straight week. Hopefully the “Ground and Pound” can field a back who averages more than 3 yards per carry this week.

4. It will be interesting to see if the Jets do anything out of the ordinary to defend Cam Newton. Will we see more Demario Davis at linebacker to increase the speed of the unit?

5. Keep an eye on Greg Olsen. Tight ends have always been an issue for Rex Ryan’s defense and Carolina goes to their tight ends a good amount. We don’t know if the Jets have really remedied the problem yet because all of their safeties have coverage issues.

6. Carolina can run the damn football. This will be a great test for the Jets front seven, in particular Kenrick Ellis who will start for Sione Pouha again. We will have a good indication that the Jets run defense is the real deal if they can slow down DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and Mike Tolbert.

7. I wouldn’t be surprised if Greg McElroy didn’t get any snaps for the second straight week. It will be more curious to see if Terrance Ganaway can get any carries. He didn’t play last week and at least deserves a look at this point, no?

8. We know Tim Tebow can scramble. Let’s see him set his feet in the pocket and actually drive a few passes down the field this week.

9. Jordan White is a big pre-season game away from knocking Chaz Schilens off this roster.

10. Garret McIntyre is another strong pre-season game away from knocking Ricky Sapp off this roster.

11. Both have been unimpressive overall so far but I think Joe McKnight takes the lead over Bilal Powell in the battle for the third down back Sunday night.

12. Jeremy Kerley is going to play and catch at least 3 passes. Santonio Holmes is going to play and catch at least 1 pass.

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New York Jets Offense – How To Use Their Weapons

Joe Caporoso and TJ Rosenthal on how the New York Jets can get the most out of Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight

Yesterday TJ Rosenthal wrote an article here looking at how the New York Jets can utilize the speed in their offense, namely Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight. Today TJ and myself take a closer look at what each player brings to the table –

Santonio Holmes

Joe Caporoso – Holmes is an elite route runner and is explosive after the catch. He works best in the intermediate passing game, where he can catch the ball with a little space to improvise after catching the ball. Can we see this guy run another route besides a slant?

TJ Rosenthal – Get Tone the ball. Let 10 set the tempo in the passing game. In fact, the Jets should be including Holmes in the discussion as far as what he feels can work given the QB he has and the protection issues that have taken place. He doesn’t need a “C” on his chest to feel as though he is being asked to provide leadership. Make him part of the process of devising ways to get him the ball. This will also put the onus on him to make sure he is calling for plays that are possible at this given time. We already know how clutch he can be already.

Stephen Hill

Joe Caporoso – Hill has elite top end speed and size at the wide receiver position. He is built to run deep posts and go routes, just like he did his entire career at Georgia Tech. With his frame he should also be effective on slant routes. A nice part of Hill’s game is a willingness to block down the field, which could help spring big plays in both the run game and short passing game. He is going to have occasional mental lapses as a rookie receiver and has struggled with drops in August. Look for Hill to fluctuate between big plays and errors all season. 

TJ Rosenthal – We heard so much about Stephen Hill’s blocking prowess yet all we’ve seen so far have been half hearted attempts to get his feet wet as a pass catcher. Let a guy play to his strengths, and feel good about himself. This will help relax him. In a four wide speed package, Hill can be a deep down the sideline guy but use him more so, as  the one who can crack OLB’s as Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley come across with the catch. Allow Hill to gain confidence as a deadly blocker who springs the little guys down the sidelines. Let him use his height and speed yet think less with some go routes in this formation as well. Hill can also be the short slant guy the way Braylon Edwards, and his 6’4 frame was in 2010.

Jeremy Kerley

Joe Caporoso – Kerley is more quick than fast and is built like a prototypical slot receiver. He is going to run a ton of option routes and quick outs, making him a primary target on most 3rd and short situations. However, if he can get matched up on a linebacker or safety, he should be able to get down the seam and make plays.

TJ Rosenthal – He needs to be an underneath route guy who can make big plays with his feet in space. He’s not a household name yet, but a few short receptions that turn into 25 yard gains will help the offense create a threat that can open up room for guys like Dustin Keller. Like McKnight, Kerley can be a slot screen option. Especially on the side of Hill should he line up that way.

Joe McKnight

Joe Caporoso – McKnight is a running back who can run routes and catch the football like a receiver. He also has durability issues and is prone to mental mistakes. The Jets can get the most out of him by working him on screen passes and then lining him up in the slot and hoping to get him matched up on linebackers. Tony Sparano needs to find a way to get him the ball in space consistently

TJ Rosenthal – Part of the reason in making 25 a slot guy is his inability to pass protect. A problem that has given Bilal Powell time on third down. This is a bigger problem for the Jets offense. One that needs explosive laymakers on the field as often as possible. Stop thinking about McKnight as solely a RB and use him on flares, screens and short underneath routes. Having him out there even as a decoy can serve the same purpose of opening up room for Keller as any success by Kerley would provide. Lining up Keller and McKnight to one side could create favorable one on one’s near the line of scrimmage.

New York Jets Fact Or False: Preseason Week 3 Edition

Chris Gross weekly Fact or False previews the Jets third pre-season game against the Carolina Panthers

For this week’s edition of New York Jets Fact Or False, we examine the most pressing issues facing Gang Green heading into their third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.

Austin Howard will prove he is the answer at Right Tackle. False. While many people are getting caught up in today’s news that Austin Howard has replaced Wayne Hunter as the Jets starting RT, there is still no reason to believe that Howard is the savior. Will he play better than Hunter? Probably. But unfortunately for Wayne, the Jets could have likely put Tony Sparano himself in there, and he wouldn’t have looked much worse than Hunter did last week. Hunter’s contract should have never been guaranteed after his abysmal 2011 and now Mike Tannenbaum is in one of the worst positions he has ever been in as the Jets GM. Howard will get the start tomorrow by default, but the Jets will likely remain active in their hunt to bring in a tackle from the outside. Don’t expect Howard to be the long term solution here.

The Offense will score a touchdown. Fact. I mean, they have to…right? The Jets offense remains without a touchdown over two preseason games thus far. Although the game plans have been very vanilla as they are implementing a new system, it is now time to spice things up. The basics of this new offensive scheme should be more than engraved into every offensive players head at this point in the preseason, so it is time for Sparano to mix it up a bit. It is extremely difficult to take shots down the field when there is virtually no time to properly execute a 5 or 7 step drop, however, look for the Jets to take advantage of a very average defense. With the likely return of Jeremy Kerley this weekend, Sanchez gets back with a familiar target that he can rely on to help move the chains. Regardless of how poor they have looked, there is simply too much talent on this offense to go another game without crossing the goal line.

We will finally see some of the wildcat. False. For everyone waiting to see the marvelous Wildcat formation, it looks as if you will have to wait until, at the earliest, September 9th in the season opener against Buffalo. At Rex Ryan’s press conference today, the fourth year head coach stated that he did not expect to see any Wildcat during this preseason. Of course, this could be Rex throwing a smokescreen at fellow defensive mind Ron Rivera, however, Ryan is likely being honest here. There is no reason to unveil this formation and give the Bills a series of plays to watch on film and prepare for. Tebow enthusiasts, keep on waiting.

The Jets starting defense will have its best test against the run. Fact. While Cincinnati and the Giants certainly have established running offenses, neither of them quite compare to the four headed monster of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Cam Newton, and Mike Tolbert. This will be a great test for the Jets as they will face a very unique combination of size, speed, agility, and athleticism, that they have yet to see this preseason. If they can hold the Panthers to less than 100 combined rushing yards through the first 2-3 quarters, it will be a very good sign of things to come for the defense this season.

The Jets will have ease running the football. False. This is certainly not to say that the Jets will not run the ball effectively in this game, because they very well just may. However, Carolina has a daunting young pair of linebackers in two time All-Pro Jon Beason, who returns after missing last season with a tear in his Achilles tendon, as well as rookie Luke Kuechly, the 9th overall selection in this year’s draft out of Boston College. This will be yet another great test for Greene, Tebow, and the rest of the running attack to get themselves on track and finally show some of that ground and pound that has been preached so frequently since the hiring of Sparano.

This is the best opportunity for Quinton Coples to prove his worth thus far. Fact. Coples faced an excellent offensive line last week against the Giants, but this week he has the opportunity to play against All-Pro Jordan Gross, along with Matt Kalil, and Bruce Campbell. With these three, Carolina has one of the most respected offensive lines in the league. If Coples can duplicate what he has been doing through the first two games against this unit, it will be an excellent sign of progress. A sack, a QB knockdown, or a tackle for loss will all be indications of further improvement and more good things to come.

New York Jets – Top Debates Heading Into The 2012 Season

The TOJ writers debate the top issues surrounding the New York Jets heading into the 2012 season

There are plenty of debated topics about the New York Jets heading into the 2012 NFL season. Judging from our interactions on Twitter and Facebook in the previous months, here are our top ones in no particular order and our opinions on them.

1) Shonn Greene’s Ceiling/Potential

Joe Caporoso – My support and faith in Greene as a true lead back has waned considerably over the past two seasons. While I do not think he is the bum people like Evan Silva make him out to be, it is impossible not to be frustrated with his inability to consistently break tackles or break a big run. He is going to get a ton of opportunities this season and I think he averages somewhere in the 4.1 – 4.4 yards per carry range with low touchdown numbers because of the presence of Tim Tebow. I see the ceiling on his rushing yardage total somewhere around 1,250 yards and think the Jets will take a long look on deciding whether to re-sign him in the off-season.

Chris GrossWhile Greene can be a solid starter in this league, I don’t see him ever becoming a huge star. He’s already 27 years old, and has really struggled to prove that he can carry the workload as a lead back for New York. Last season, Greene’s first full year as the starter, he ran for just over 1,000 yards and only 6 touchdowns. On a team built to run the football, you’d think the top back would post numbers better than these. Still, with Tony Sparano now at the helm as offensive coordinator, one would think that Greene is poised for a career year. Sparano worked his magic in Miami last season, as shown by Reggie Bush hitting the thousand yard mark for the first time in his career. I do think Greene is much better in a complementary role as he was with Thomas Jones during his rookie season when he posted a career best 5.0 YPC average. In the role that he is currently in, I see Greene topping out at about 1100 yards, 7 touchdowns, and averaging somewhere between 3.9-4.2 YPC.

Mike Donnelly – First of all, Evan Silva is an idiot and he’s proven it time and time again. Be sure to check back for my fantasy football coverage this year where I plan on proving that repeatedly. Anyway, I love Shonn Greene this year. When he was given the ball last year and allowed to get in a groove under the incompetent Brian Schottenheimer, he was really quite good. The offensive line problems were well documented early in the season, but when Greene hit his stride in the second half, he performed very well. He even caught 30 passes for over 200 yards, so he’s not a waste in the passing game either, as many would lead you to believe. This year, I expect him to rush for around 4.2-4.4 yards per carry, and total around 1,250-1,350 yards on the ground with 250-325 or so through the air, with 8-10 TD’s. Don’t forget, Shonn is playing for a contract this year, and that is a huge motivating factor. He will stay healthy, run hard, and silence the haters.

2) The Quarterbacks

Joe Caporoso –  I am as bullish on Sanchez as ever and believe he is the team’s option at quarterback. The Jets have done an awful job of supporting him but I do think he will do a substantially better job of protecting the football this year and his production will be a slightly improved version of his 2010 numbers. Tim Tebow is best suited as a weapon in the running game and will be the team’s de facto number two running back.

Chris Gross – As I said in my review of training camp, the biggest thing that stood out to me was the command displayed by Mark Sanchez. You get the sense that this is the year that he is finally ready and confident enough to declare this team his. He needs to continue that mindset and be the leader that the offense needs him to be, while being very protective of the football. He will be challenged due to a great lack of experience in his receiving corps, but expect him to lean heavily on Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller. As for Tebow, the only way I see him advancing from his role as a RB/Wildcat QB is if the offensive line plays so poorly that Sparano and co. and forced to put the more elusive Tebow at the helm because of his ability to extend plays with his feet.

Mike Donnelly – I’m with Joe on this one. I’m a huge Sanchez supporter, and I expect him to perform well this year, despite the organization seemingly writing the book on how not to develop a young QB.  When Holmes and Kerley get back fully healthy, and Hill gets comfortable, the offense should end up being in the middle of the pack in the NFL. For all the hoopla talk about a QB controversy, Tebow is going to make a bigger impact running the ball in short yardage and goalline situations. I’m comfortable with our QB situation.

3) Needed Offensive Additions

Joe Caporoso –  The Jets should have added a veteran running back and wide receiver for depth purposes but it appears that window has passed. However, I think we are all in agreement that it is imperative for the Jets to add both a right tackle and a blocking tight end prior to the season starting. My reasoning on the Jets needing a veteran running back is because if Shonn Greene rolls an ankle, the Jets have the worst collection of running backs in the NFL. Bilal Powell had a good camp but has been mediocre in the pre-season and has done nothing in the NFL. Joe McKnight has potential but is made of glass. At wide receiver, it wouldn’t hurt considering the durability issues surrounding Holmes, Kerley and Schilens (if he makes the roster) this season.

Chris Gross – This is obvious. Right Tackle, Tight End, and some veteran help at WR should be the team’s top priority once teams begin to make the majority of their cuts. The Jets will likely try and look to the trade market for a Right Tackle because of how dried up the Free Agent class will likely be at the end of training camp. Blocking Tight End could be found from a foe, as New England has a surplus of Tight Ends and could possibly look to release someone like Daniel Fells. As for Wide Receiver, the Free Agent market is also very depleted, but looking to add a veteran would be nice insurance considering how Jeremy Kerley has been plagued by injuries so far. A veteran Running Back like Ryan Grant, a New Jersey native and Don Bosco Alum, would also give the backfield much more depth than it has right now. Outside of Greene and Tebow, there is not one proven runner on the entire roster.

Mike Donnelly – I was of the belief the Jets should let McKnight and Powell play rather than signing a veteran like Cedric Benson. I still believe that, even though they have been underwhelming so far this preseason because Cedric Benson stinks and if you use picks on these guys you have to let them play. I also didn’t have a major problem with the offseason moves at the WR position, but obviously I had a major, major, major problem with guaranteeing Wayne Hunter’s $2.5 million salary for this season and not giving him any competition at the RT spot. I addressed that in my Letter to Mike Tannenbaum, as well as the fact that if you combine all the tight ends on the roster they don’t equal up to one competent NFL blocker. RT and blocking TE were the two biggest whiffs this offseason.

4) Defensive Potential

Joe Caporoso – At a minimum the Jets are going to have a very good defense in 2012. Their run defense should be suffocating and their safety play should be much improved to compliment their elite corners. However, the only way for them to be a great or dominant defense this year is for the pass rush to show up. Aaron Maybin and Quinton Coples are the players on this team who are supposed to get after the quarterback and they need to do it consistently. Overall, the Jets defense is good enough to keep them competitively on a weekly basis even with a struggling offense.

Chris Gross – The Jets will very likely return to the elite level of defense that propelled them to two AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010. The safety play is much improved, and considering the trio of corners on the Jets roster, the argument could certainly be made that they have the best secondary in all of football. The pass rush is going to play a major role in how far this defense can really go. Rookie Quinton Coples and veteran Aaron Maybin need to be the pass rushers that everyone is envisioning them to be, with one of them reaching double digit sacks. Tell me the last Super Bowl Champion team that did not have a player on their defense record double digit sacks. Along with the pass rush, underneath pass coverage will be a huge concern. Bart Scott and Calvin Pace are virtually non existent in that area, so look for increased reps from Rookie DeMario Davis and Safety Antonio Allen, who could be used in some packages to cover drags and unders.

Mike Donnelly The Jets defensive potential this year is off the charts. During Rex Ryan’s three seasons here, they’ve never finished worse than 5th overall in the league, and I expect them to contend for #1 this year. They’ve added Quinton Coples, Demario Davis, upgraded the safety spot immensely, and they’ll get a full year out of pass rusher Aaron Maybin. Throw in the continued development of Mo Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, and Kyle Wilson and this defense could easily be the best in the NFL. Oh yeah, they also have some guy named Revis that I hear is pretty good.

5) Expectations

Joe Caporoso – Not buying the Buffalo Bills hype train at all and still think the Jets are the second best team in the AFC East. Will that be good enough for a playoff spot? Right now, the Jets don’t look like a playoff team. That being said, considering how their schedule softens up after week 5, the talent on defense, and the hope that the offense has to eventually improve in some way they could very well grab 9 or 10 wins and sneak in. The Jets are going to play close football games on a weekly basis, they need to play clutch at the end of games like they did in 2010 if they are going to have a winning record.

Chris Gross – This is where it gets sticky. The defense has the potential to be among the best in the league, if not the best. However, the offense is a cause for serious concern. You can say that winning teams are built on defense and the ability to run the ball, but can the Jets run the ball? The way the league has evolved, the importance of the Quarterback position is at an all time high. For this team to be successful, Mark Sanchez needs to have a career year in terms of ball security. If he can limit his turnovers, and provide numbers that he has in the past, then this team will have a chance to get into the playoffs and make another run. If not, New York will be picking in the top twenty come Apirl’s draft.

Mike Donnelly – In my AFC East preview, I outlined my expectations for the team this year. I think they’re going to win 10 or 11 games, despite how bad the offense looks right now. Face it, the defense has the potential to be outrageously good, and that combined with an easy schedule is enough to get them plenty of wins. I believe the offense is going to get it together, and while they won’t be setting the world on fire, they are going to be a competent offense, and they’ll be one of the better teams in the AFC.

6) Rookies

Joe Caporoso – Quinton Coples has looked impressive rushing the passer, although you hate to hear veterans questioning his motor at practice. He is so immensely talented, it is hard to see him not registering at least 4-6 sacks as a rookie and gradually having his role increase as the season moves on. Stephen Hill will be a boom or bust player as a rookie, alternating big plays with drops and mental errors. Demario Davis will see more time as the season goes on but immediately be an impact player on special teams and on passing downs. Jordan White looks like he will make the roster, but will likely need a few injuries in front him to see substantial offensive reps. Beyond that, Antonio Allen has outplayed Josh Bush so far and could get into the mix for a defensive packages. It doesn’t appear that running back Terrance Ganaway will be much of a factor, as of right now at least.

Chris Gross – When it is all said and done, I expect DeMario Davis to have the greatest impact among all rookies this season. That is not a slight on any of the other players because I do think that Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill, Antonio Allen, and possibly Jordan White will all contribute nicely. However, with how balanced Davis is in terms of his ability to defend the run and pass, and as a special teams contributor, I expect him to have the greatest immediate impact. Over the long haul, the hope is for Coples to eventually become a cornerstone of this defense along with Davis, Mohammed Wilkerson, David Harris, and Darrelle Revis.

Mike Donnelly – I expect between 4 and 7 sacks from Coples this year, which will obviously lead some less than sane Jets fans to call him a bust, but his contributions will be more than just his sacks total. The guy is a force agains the run and he’s someone offensive coordinators have to plan and account for when he’s out there. He’s going to help open things up big time for those playing around him. Stephen Hill is another rookie whose contributions will go beyond the box score. He provides the deep threat the team sorely missed last year, and his presence on the field will open up the underneath routes, plus he’s an excellent run blocker. Demario Davis is going to be a special teams force, and will definitely help in sub packages with his coverage ability. The other rookie I’m very excited about is Antonio Allen, the 7th round steal who has looked tremendous so far this preseason. All in all, this rookie class has the potential to be very good.

7) Right Tackle Revisited 

Joe Caporoso – In the process of writing this article Wayne Hunter was benched for Austin Howard. This was a no-brainer after watching Hunter play against the Giants. However, let’s not celebrate Howard like the second coming of Orlando Pace. He did not win this job, Hunter lost it. The Jets had no choice but to bench Hunter and Howard was simply next on the depth chart. If the team was truly that high on Howard, they would have given him the job in the beginning of the summer, wouldn’t have traded for Jeff Otah and wouldn’t have worked out Marcus McNeil a few weeks back. Yes, I think Howard can be an upgrade from Hunter but who couldn’t? Look for the Jets to still add another player via trade or free agency.

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New York Jets Offense – Offset Pressure With Speed

TJ Rosenthal on the need for the Jets offense to offset the pass rush they are facing with their speed

We all know that necessity is the mother of invention. That said, all that the Jets had hoped to achieve through the air in 2012 has to be under review in the coaches offices out in Florham Park these days. Better invent something fast. Well, one adjustment to complimenting a run first attack could be force feeding a “four wide” speed package. With on emphasis on short receptions and yards after the catch. Stretching the field will of course open up any run game but sacks, as we’ve seen since early 2011 on into this summer, will devastate it.  Maybe an empty backfield speed formation, sprinkled in with occasional shots “up top” can help.

In Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, and Joe McKnight, the Jets have four pieces on offense whose forty yard dash times can impress. Why not line them all up at once? With Kerley and McKnight in the slots?

Given the Jets struggles to protect the QB so far this summer, it might be a wise idea for OC Tony Sparano, in the search for an air approach that can ease the heat off of the QB. If three of the four make like Wes Welker, and work near the line of scrimmage while one goes deep, there will be home run hitters spread across and down the field.

Hill in particular, is known for his blocking, and could be a big help should Kerley or McKnight head his way with the rock after hauling in a catch made  after a safe three step drop by Mark Sanchez, a QB who could seriously benefit from positive plays that don’t entail running for his life prior to making them.

Unlike Hill, lining up McKnight up as a WR eliminates the need to use him as a blocker. A place where he has had troubles, but allows him to still make plays. Like the ones he made in open space on special teams last year.

Due to the early August injuries to Holmes and Kerley, the Jets offense has been unable to settle in at all on the outside, let alone feature any idea of four fleet footed players together all at once. With Kerley back now at a reported 90 percent, and Holmes close to a return as well, perhaps the time is near for to get a clearer sense of what they have.

In the meantime, if Sparano hasn’t already, he might want to get out a blank sheet of paper and a pencil, and begin to draw up a few “four wide” designs with this crew. Plays whose end goal would be to find that one on one mismatch. Given the pass protection issues that threaten the notion of too many downfield attempts this season, it may be time to give the four wideout speed package serious consideration. Use the weapons you have at your disposal,

Right?

Short, quick, high percentage throws that land in the hands of threats who can eat up the turf. That’s a weapon. No, we don’t mean roll out tosses to guys like John Connor folks. Please Sanchise. Enough with the fullback. Utilize speed instead. Gang Green has it in four guys who can catch passes, and must to overload defenses with the fear of it. It may be one of the few defenses against pressure the Jets have left.

New York Jets Bench Wayne Hunter

The New York Jets have benched right tackle Wayne Hunter

In a move that was long overdue…as in it should have done after the first play of the 2011 regular season, New York Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter has been benched. His replacement for the time being will be Austin Howard, who started the Jets first pre-season game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Howard was an undrafted free agent in 2010 who has spent time on the Eagles and Ravens practice squad. The best thing to say about Howard is that he cannot be worse than Wayne Hunter, it is physically impossible.

ESPN’s Rich CImini is reporting that the Jets remain in the trade market for a starting right tackle despite Howard’s promotion. The team will likely evaluate how he performs against Carolina on Sunday with the starters before deciding to pull the trigger on any move. At this point, it will not be easy to acquire a capable starting lineman.

Ultimately guaranteeing Hunter’s contract this off-season will go down as one of the worst moves in Mike Tannenbaum’s career as the Jets GM. It was indefensible considering his play last season and the plethora of options on the free agent market at right tackle this off-season. The Jets cannot cut Hunter at this point without taking a substantial hit to their cap and are desperately still looking for a starter with the season only a couple of weeks away.

You hate to have this type of instability on the offensive side of the football so close to the season.

I hope offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo is avoiding his office in the coming days…

Exploring The Possibility Of MJD to NYJ

Chris Gross explores the potential pros and cons of the New York Jets trading for Maurice Jones-Drew

With a lengthy hold out seemingly poised to last well into the regular season, Jacksonville Jaguars star Running Back Maurice Jones-Drew has reportedly told the team that he is open to being traded if the two sides cannot come to an agreement on a new deal. Since then, many reports have surfaced linking the reigning rushing champion to the New York Jets. Some sources have reported that the Jets front office has contacted Jacksonville to inquire about the availability of Jones-Drew, while conflicting reports have stated that New York has no interesting in making a deal. Although signs currently point to the latter, with Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, one can never quite say never.

In exploring a deal for Jones-Drew, there are numerous factors to take into account. First, why on earth would Jacksonville, under the new ownership of Shahid Khan, get rid of the face of the franchise, rather than pay him the money he commands? The answer is quite simple. With a completely new regime in place, the Jaguars seem ready to move forward in complete overhaul mode, meaning moving ahead with young players, leaving no room for high priced veterans who are going to cause a distraction to the new coaching staff and front office. With that in mind, Jacksonville would surely like to add some future draft picks to bring in their own, young players in the future, with the idea of building a playoff caliber team a few years from now.

What could also determine whether or not the Jaguars decide to retain, or move MJD, is the play of the man who has replaced Jones-Drew as the lead back in his absence, Rashad Jennings. Over the past two seasons in Jacksonville, Jennings has built a career rushing average of 5.4 yards per carry. Last season, he played in just 13 games while accumulating 459 rushing yards on just 84 carries, for a total of 5.5 YPC. The argument can certainly be made that Jennings is a beneficiary of Jones-Drew wearing down defenses for him to rip off big chunks of yardage, however Jennings has been quite impressive this preseason thus far without MJD carrying the load in front of him.

In his first two games this preseason, Jennings has carried the ball 23 times for a total of 118 yards, including 56 yards on the New York Giants starting defense, the same defense that held Jets starting Running Back Shonn Greene to just 36 yards on 11 carries. While Jennings may not be Jones-Drew, he has shown that he has the potential to be a very serviceable back in this league.

The next immediate question that comes to mind is whether or not this would be a good move for the Jets to make. First, let’s look at why Tannenbaum and co. would want to make such a trade:

Usually when players of Jones-Drew’s stature reportedly become available, the immediate concern for all teams interested is the cap space. According to nyjetscap.com, the Jets have just over $6 million left before going over this year’s salary cap. Jones-Drew is slated to make $4.45 million this season, and $4.95 million next season, so, for at least the immediate future, the move could work financially.

Talking strictly football, Jones-Drew could be a godsend for the Jets. For a team committed to establishing a “ground and pound” identity, they have proved to be anything but from what we have seen over the course of their two early preseason games. Not one back on the roster has stood out as someone who can carry the workload and be the lead back. Jones-Drew is a proven back who has consistently posted stats atop the league, rushing for over 1300 yards in each of the past three seasons, including an NFL leading 1606 yards in 2011. At 27, many believe MJD is nearing the point in his career when he will begin to wear down, but he has shown no signs of that up until this point, averaging his most yards per carry last season since his rookie year.

On the issue of age, Michael Turner signed with the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent prior to the 2008 season, at 26 years old, just a year younger than Jones-Drew’s current age. In his four seasons in Atlanta, Turner has run for at least 1300 yards, other than 2009 when he played in just 11 games due to injury. However, he has been able to rush for double-digit touchdowns in each of those seasons, including his shortened 2009. While there are concerns about the mileage of MJD, he is still likely a few seasons away from reaching his peak, before the inevitable descend of the NFL running back.

Additionally, bringing in MJD would actually help Shonn Greene–also 27 years old. Greene’s most productive season was when he was paired with Thomas Jones as a rookie in 2009. Jones was the Jets workhorse, as he would wear down defenses with his tough running style, similar to that of Jones-Drew, while Greene would spell him and take advantage of an exhausted defense, averaging a career best 5 YPC. Since then, Greene has struggled to take over as the lead back for New York. In 2010, he was beat out for the starting spot by LaDanian Tomlinson, who many thought was brought in to serve primarily in a back-up/third down role. Finally, in 2011, when Greene became the starter, he barely put fear in opposing defenses, running for just over 1,000 yards with 6 touchdowns. These are not exactly great numbers for a lead back on a team built to run the football.

While a change in coordinators was expected to help Greene, there has been no sign of that this preseason thus far. Jones-Drew and Greene could complement each other as well as Jones and Greene did back in 2009, and would be a step in the right direction in returning the Jets to the top of the league in rushing, assuming the Right Tackle situation is properly addressed. Still, Wayne Hunter’s run blocking isn’t nearly as bad as his pass pro, and many times, a back as dynamic as Jones-Drew can help mask, or at least band-aid, a weak link on the line like Hunter, while providing help in the pass game, as he is certainly one of the better pass blocking backs in the NFL.

MJD is also very effective as a receiver out of the backfield, an element that was virtually non-existent in the Jets offense in 2011. Over the span of his six-year career, Jones-Drew has compiled 279 receptions for 2,473 yards and 10 touchdowns. When was the last time the Jets offense successfully ran a screen that ripped off a big chunk of yards? Or better yet, when was the last time they effectively completed a pass to a back in any type of route out of the backfield?

Although the Right Tackle situation is surely a top priority for the Jets, that does not mean they can’t make moves that would greatly improve their roster in the mean time. Jones-Drew is a unique talent that would add a very interesting dynamic to an offense that lacks in that area.

When imagining Jones-Drew in the Green and White, strictly considering football reasons, there is very little, if anything, to dispel such an addition. However, anyone associated with this league knows how much of a role the business aspect plays in every decision, and when considering this, there is great reason as to why this trade would not work.

The price tag – MJD would not come cheap. Jacksonville would likely seek multiple draft picks in exchange for Jones-Drew, possibly a 2nd and 5th, which was what Marshall Faulk was traded for back in 1999 when the premium on Running Backs was much higher, or even two 3rd rounders, which was what Brandon Marshall was traded to Chicago for earlier this offseason. While the picks required to obtain Jones-Drew would probably not scare Mike Tannenbaum away, the eventual price to pay him likely will.

Although Jones-Drew would likely report to the Jets, if traded, prior to receiving a new deal, the Jets would be in a very difficult position come March, when they are going to be required to finally give Darrelle Revis his long overdue massive pay day. So, following this season, the Jets would be in a difficult spot. Do you pay Revis and ship out Jones-Drew, essentially making him a costly one-year rental? It would be very hard to imagine a scenario where the Jets spit in the face of Revis and awarded MJD with a contract before their most prized possession, as it would likely cause an immense outrage amongst the fan base. Tannenbaum and the front office couldn’t possibly be so short sighted.

The Holdout Factor – Even if the Jets hypothetically swing a deal for the coveted veteran out of UCLA, his performance almost surely will not be near where it has been in the past due to his lengthy holdout. When observing the history of star players who have held out recently, they never seem to hit their stride until much later than normal. In 2010, Darrelle Revis missed time due to injury following his holdout. Similarly, Tennessee Running Back Chris Johnson ran for career lows in both yards–1047–and touchdowns—4—after ending his holdout late last summer. Even if Jones-Drew were to be traded right now and reported to camp by Friday, he would me miles behind, both physically and mentally. He would likely not hit his stride until midseason, which would still leave the Jets in the same predicament they are in through a vigorous first half of the year.

As unlikely as a move for Jones-Drew may be, Mike Tannenbaum is notorious for pulling surprise trades. Under his management, the Jets have acquired Kris Jenkins, Brett Favre, Braylon Edwards, Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, and Tim Tebow via trade, just to name a few. Like any trade, though, there are positives and negatives of bringing in MJD. If available, it could simply come down to how desperate the Jets become offensively, something that is still very difficult to gauge.