Turn On The Jets 2013 NFL Draft Big Board 1.0

Chris Gross with his first big board for the 2013 NFL Draft

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Turn On The Jets is going to have the NFL Draft covered from every angle in the coming months. Chris Gross will lead our coverage along with Frank Giasone and Zev Sibony. Make sure to check back for daily updates. When the site redesigned (February 1st) we will have a separate page archiving all our draft coverage, so it easily sorted amongst the rest of our content. Take it away Chris —

To kickoff our draft coverage here at Turn On The Jets, we bring you our initial TOJ Big Board – An overall look at who we feel are the best 20 college prospects poised to enter this year’s NFL Draft. As the draft process unfolds, this board is sure to have some changes to it on a week-to-week basis, so be sure to check for updates as we enter the days leading to the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine, and individual workouts heading into April. This list will expand to 25 and eventually 30 players in the coming weeks as we review more film of potential prospects. Let’s jump right in.

1.) Chance Warmack, Guard, Alabama6″3″ 320 lbs: It is extremely rare to have an offensive guard ranked at the top of college prospect rankings, but Warmack has been a stud on the best offensive line in the nation this year. The Crimson Tide ran for an average of 224 yards per game out of a pro-style offense in an a conference that yields NFL caliber defenses in terms of personnel and scheme. Warmack has excellent strength at the point of attack, and combined with his fantastic footwork and ability to get to the second level, he is surely a can’t miss prospect this year.

2.) Star Lotuleli, Defensive Tackle, Utah6’4″ 325 lbs: Lotuleli may not get the exposure that he would if he played on a team in the SEC, but he is the surest defender in this year’s class. A rare combination of size, strength, and quickness will make him a fit in any scheme at the next level. He is big and strong enough to be an effective Nose Tackle in a 3-4, while possessing the explosiveness and agility to be a playmaking 3-technique in a 4-3. There hasn’t been an interior defensive lineman this versatile since Ndamukong Suh came out of Nebraska a few years ago.

3.) Jarvis Jones, Outside Linebacker, Georgia – 6’3″ 241 lbs: Jones leads a loaded class at outside linebacker this year. While he has the ability to be an effective 4-3 OLB, his combination of strength, explosiveness, and pass rushing technique make him an ideal fit as a 3-4 DE/OLB. Jones has the size and long frame to become a nuisance to offensive tackles in the NFL, and combined with his speed, agility, and relentless motor, he will be ready to come in and start for whichever team he ends up with from day 1.

4.) Luke Joeckel, Offensive Tackle, Texas A&M – 6’6″ 310 lbs: Joeckel leads a very strong class of offensive tackles this year. A stalwart to the Aggies offense that yielded 2012’s Heisman Trophy winner, Joeckel fits the Matt Kalil, Jake Long, and Joe Thomas profiles as one of the NFL’s next great offensive tackles. While his size and strength are a key factor to what make him so great, it is his tremendous footwork that will allow him to be a day 1 starter when he enters camp. Like Warmack, Joeckel is a can’t miss prospect.

5.) Damontre Moore, Defensive End, Texas A&M – 6’4″ 248 lbs: Moore has drawn comparisons to the last great Texas A&M defensive prospect, Von Miller, and for good reason. He has that rare versatility to play standing up or with his hand on the ground, making him a perfect fit for any 3-4 defense in need of a pass rusher. Moore accumulated 12.5 sacks this season largely due to his arsenal of pass rush moves and great ability to dip his hips and shoulders to get by opposing offensive lineman.

6.) Bjoern Werner, Defensive End, Florida State – 6’4″ 255 lbs: Werner is one of those prospects that immediately jumps off of the film due to his unstoppable motor. Having moved from primarily a 6I technique in his junior season, Werner has shown his athelticism and ability to be an excellent edge rusher this year. In terms of pure strength, Werner may be the best at his position this year, which will make him an appealing prospect for either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. The combine will be key for Werner’s stock as a 3-4 OLB as there are some concerns about whether or not he possesses the athleticism needed to make the transition from having his hand on the ground for the majority of his reps. Intellectually, Werner has shown over his career at Florida State that he has no problem grasping new concepts in terms of his position.

7.) Barkevious Mingo, Defensive End, LSU – 6’5″ 240 lbs: Surely some boom or bust potential here, Mingo has the upside that can allow him to develop into a stud at the next level. While his 2012 production took a bit of a hit, Mingo’s athleticism and elusiveness to evade blockers are what stand out on film the most. At 6’5″ he certainly has the frame that NFL scouts look for in pass rushing prospects, and should be able to add some weight that will make his size adequate in the pros.

8.) Dee Milliner, Cornerback, Alabama – 6’1″ 197 lbs: Milliner may be a bit underrated on most boards right now, but make no mistake he is the clear cut leader of the cornerback class this year. There are some concerns about his man coverage abilities, but having played his entire collegiate career under defensive backs guru Nick Saban, there should be little doubt about his knowledge of the position and coachability. Like most players in his category, the combine will be an effective tool to measure how far his stock rises or falls as we head closer to April.

9.) Taylor Lewan, Offensive Tackle, Michigan – 6’7″ 302 lbs: Lewan is poised to be the next great Big 10 lineman at the NFL level, and for good reason. Aside from his immense size, Lewan shows excellent footwork and hand technique that will allow him to contribute almost immediately next season. His tenacity is something that cannot be coached, but is surely required to play the position.

10.) Manti Te’o, Inside Linebacker, Notre Dame – 6’1″ 248 lbs: While Te’o will likely see his stock fall in the next few weeks due to a rather lackluster performance in the BCS National Championship, remember he was going against the best interior lineman in the entire nation. His performance against Alabama will certainly raise some red flags and question marks about whether or not his productivity from Notre Dame can translate to the NFL, but let’s not forget his impressive overall body of work as the foundation of his defense for the past 4 seasons. Te’o has the rare intangibles that will make him a sure upgrade for any team in need of an interior linebacker.

11.) Johnathan Hankins, Defensive Tackle, Ohio State – 6’3″ 335 lbs: It is surely tough to gauge how Ohio State defensive lineman will translate to the NFL due to the poor track record in recent years (Vernon Gholston!), but Hankins has immense size and strength that make him a force at the point of attack. He certainly is not as versatile as some of the other defensive lineman in this year’s class, but he has the potential to be a very productive pro.

12.) Jonathan Cooper, Offensive Guard, North Carolina – 6’3″ 320 lbs: Cooper is a bit of an underrated player in my opinion, but the agility he possesses at his size will make him a very good pro. He consistently shows the ability to blow defenders off the ball at the point of attack, as well as having arguably the best range, in terms of getting to the second level, out of any interior lineman in this year’s class.

13.) Ezekiel Ansah, Defensive End, BYU – 6’6″ 273 lbs: Ansah is a prospect who is sure to see his stock soar following the combine and his individual workouts. An extremely raw prospect, having finished just his second year of playing football, Ansah flashes very unexpected instinct and recognition. While there is serious boom or bust potential here, having seen his growth in his very small sample of time playing the game, I feel very comfortable about how he will grow in the NFL. Ansah was originally recruited to BYU to run on the track and field team, and his athleticism is evident on film, particularly considering his immense size.

14.) Alec Ogletree, Inside Linebacker, Georgia – 6’3″ 237 lbs: A converted safety, Ogletree has the top end speed that NFL teams are looking for in interior linebackers that is needed to match up with the league’s new wave of athletic tight ends. His superior sideline to sideline ability allow him to be a menace on the field as he has great ability to tally up a large number of tackles on any given day. The biggest concerns for Ogletree will be how well he can adapt to becoming a downhill player at the next level. However, given his size and athleticism, he has the potential to end up being the best at his position in this year’s class down the road.

15.) Tyler Eifert, Tight End, Notre Dame – 6’6″ 250 lbs: Eifert comes from a school that has consistently produced quality NFL tight ends throughout their history, and there is no reason to believe he is not the next to join that class. A massive target, Eifert shows tremendous ball skills, and a great ability to leap over defenders. His overall top end speed is the only concern as of right now.

16.) Sheldon Richardson, Defensive Tackle, Missouri – 6’4″ 295 lbs: Richardson accumulated an astounding 75 tackles and 4 sacks this past season, eye-popping numbers for an interior defensive lineman. A very physical player, Richardson flashes excellent technique in terms of both hand and footwork, along with a relentless motor that is vital to the position.

17.) Dion Jordan, Defensive End, Oregon – 6’7″ 243 lbs: Jordan is very high on some boards out there, but to me he has the biggest bust potential out of any player at his position this year. While he certainly has the range and athleticism to be a very effective OLB in a 3-4, Jordan does not show as consistent a level of tenacity as I like to see out of defensive lineman. Durability will be a concern moving forward as well, as he is poised to missed the Senior Bowl due to an injury sustained in his last game.

18.) Kenny Vaccaro, Safety, Texas – 6’1″ 218 lbs: Vaccaro is very intellectually impressive, as his film reveals his great ability to recognize routes and react to them. He has the long frame that NFL scouts look for in an early round safety, and he has shown he can be effective in the run game as well. His range does not scream “elite” by any means, but in the right scheme, Vaccaro can excel.

19.) Geno Smith, Quarterback, West Virginia – 6’3″ 208 lbs: Smith is probably the most athletically gifted quarterback in this year’s class, but is any quarterback truly worthy of a first round grade this year? I am not sold on that notion one bit. However, Smith put together a very impressive season at West Virginia, that is being forgotten due to his poor performance in the Pinstripe Bowl against Syracuse. Smith may be more of a developmental prospect, but his size, athleticism, and overall body of work at WVU, particularly his completion percentage, will make him an intriguing player for a team in need of a quarterback in the late first/early second round.

20.) Eddie Lacy, Running Back, Alabama – 6’1″ 220 lbs: Lacy flew a bit under the radar this season as a major beneficiary of the nation’s best offensive line, however, he has put together an extremely impressive body of work over the course of his career at Alabama, having averaged nearly 7 yards per carry throughout his three seasons with the Crimson Tide. Lacy has excellent size and strength, combined with fantastic balance and vision that should translate well to the NFL. His top end speed will be the biggest concern, but a strong combine performance will put those questions to bed, further boosting his draft stock.

Mike Tannebaum Fired as Jets GM; HC Rex Ryan to be Retained

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As many expected, the New York Jets have decided to part ways with General Manager Mike Tannenbaum on Monday, while making the decision to retain Head Coach Rex Ryan. While the Tannenbaum firing has been anticipated, it was unclear whether or not he would be outright fired, or reassigned to a salary cap management role.

This is the best move Owner Woody Johnson could have made. There is no reason to keep Tannenbaum around in any type of role whatsoever. No quality potential General Manager candidate would have accepted the terms of coming in to work alongside Tannenbaum as his salary cap specialist. This organization’s front office needs a fresh start. The Jets have constantly been weighed down by their inability to part ways with officials, often preferring to demote them rather than outright releasing them.

Prior to the Tannenbaum era, Terry Bradway was demoted from his General Manager position to a job within the personnel department. Bob Sutton, New York’s once Defensive Coordinator, was demoted to Linebackers coach when Rex Ryan was brought in. Tannenbaum being outright fired will allow this organization to start completely over, from a front office standpoint, which is exactly what is needed.

While Tannenbaum will likely be remembered as the man who gave horrible contracts to Mark Sanchez, Bart Scott, and Calvin Pace, while swinging one of the worst trades in recent NFL history, swapping two draft picks for Tim Tebow, who became nothing more than a decoration on the sideline, let’s not forget the good he had done early in his career. Tannenbaum is responsible for drafting very fundamental pieces of this team including Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, and David Harris. However, Tannenbaum is also the same man who drafted Kyle Wilson, Vernon Gholston, and Anthony Schlegel.

Regardless of what he has done in the past, this move was absolutely necessary. Our sources have indicated that Tannenbaum not only has a fractured relationship with the media, but also has very little to no relationship with other General Managers around the league, which makes perfect sense considering the only trades this organization has been able to make recently have been with teams looking to rid themselves of certain players (Antonio Cromartie, Santonio Holmes, Tim Tebow). Tannenbaum also has a poor relationship with the agents of Darrelle Revis, as exposed in Revis’s 2010 training camp hold out. With a new General Manager, the chances of locking down the All-Pro CB to a long term deal will be much better.

The Jets have been headed down the wrong path since the conclusion of the 2010 season, and Woody Johnson needed to halt this downslide before it got any worse. Now, Johnson will work with newly appointed advisor Jed Hughes, who will help lead the Jets search for a new General Manager. Some names to watch for are Ravens Assistant GM, Eric DeCosta, New York Giants Director of College Scouting, Mark Ross, and former Indianapolis Colts General Manager Bill Polian, just to name a few. Former Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini’s name has been floated recently, but there are absolutely no indications of interest from either side at this point.

The list of potential candidates will grow in the coming hours and days, but look for Johnson and Hughes to try and make a hire sooner, rather than later, as several other decisions need to be made within the organization, particularly at Offensive Coordinator. Tony Sparano is expected to be out, but his firing may be delayed until a new General Manager is in place, so he can bring in his choice to fill the position.

In terms of Ryan, the Head Coach deservedly gets another year to right the ship after being handed an absolutely atrocious roster, in terms of depth, from Tannenbaum. While many believe the decision to retain Rex may narrow the list of potential General Manager candidates, that may not necessarily be the case. Johnson will likely give Ryan his vote of confidence for just one more year, at which point the new General Manager can reassess the situation and go from there. Obviously, if the Jets have a very good season next year, that decision will be an easy one for whoever the new GM is.

Most high ranking officials around the league recognize Ryan as a very talented Head Coach, with some flaws pertaining to his off the field antics, particularly the media leaks thats often flow out of Florham Park with more volume than the Hudson River flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. However, a new General Manager will likely change the entire culture of that situation, while demanding Ryan stick to doing what he does best – coaching football.

More pieces are sure to fall into place in the coming hours and days, so be sure to stay with Turn On The Jets, as we’ll have you covered from top to bottom with breaking new and analysis. 

Initial Reaction – Buffalo Embarrassment, Fitting End to 2012

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The New York Jets final regular season game, a 28-9 embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills, was an accurate microcosm of the entire 2012 season. Mark Sanchez looked as pitiful as he has all year. While he finished 17/35 with 205 yards, the player once viewed as the franchise quarterback for this organization represented exactly what he has become through 4 seasons in the NFL. A first quarter interception returned for a touchdown, over looking wide open receivers down field, badly missing open targets, and an overall demeanor that sums up what has become a sorry excuse for a career. Shonn Greene ran very hard, but finished with his typical 3.9 yards per carry average, Bilal Powell was under utilized, receiving just 12 carries while averaging 4.7 YPC, and Joe McKnight continued to be ignored as a member of the roster, as he had just one touch on offense.

Jeremy Kerley finished his impressive season at wide receiver with a strong effort, considering the circumstances, finishing with 3 receptions for 88 yards. Braylon Edwards continued to highlight the poor decision by Mike Tannenbaum to let him leave following the 2010 season, as he hauled in 4 balls for 42 yards, while more importantly establishing a leadership presence that was clearly absent from this team throughout the duration of the past two years.

Defensively, the Jets were stout against the run, limiting CJ Spiller to just 2.5 YPC, and allowing only 109 total rushing yards. However, New York witnessed a first hand account of irony as former Jet Brad Smith scored a fourth quarter touchdown out of the wildcat formation, surpassing Tim Tebow’s season touchdown total out of that very formation in a single play. The Jets secondary seemingly mailed in the final game of 2012, allowing Ryan Fitzpatrick to pass for 225 yards and a touchdown, with wide receiver Stevie Johnson leading Buffalo’s receiving effort with 6 receptions for 111 yards. Fitzpatrick was hit 4 times, but was never sacked, representing the pass rush woes that have haunted the Jets since Ryan took over in 2009.

While the outcome of this game was basically meaningless due to the fact that neither team was alive for postseason play, the effort that the Jets turned in today leaves no one within the organization with any sense of job security. Heads will begin to roll as early as Monday. Offensive Coordinator Tony Sparano will reportedly be fired after just one season in New York. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum is sure to be relieved of his duties, but it is still rather unclear whether he will be outright fired or reassigned to a salary cap management role. Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine’s future is extremely uncertain, as he has already turned down a contract extension offered to him earlier this season. Rex Ryan has been believed to be safe for the majority of the year, but after such an uninspiring loss to finish his second consecutive season of missing the post season, there are absolutely no guarantees that he will be retained as of right now.

Lisa Zimmerman of CBS Sports has reported that owner Woody Johnson has hired Jed Hughes of Korn/Ferry International to assist in leading New York’s search for a new General Manager, assuming Tannenbaum is officially removed from the position. Hughes has a background in coaching and scouting, having served under five Hall of Fame coaches throughout his 20 years of prior coaching experience. Hughes is no stranger to leading efforts to install officials into leadership positions for football teams at the professional and college level, as he has previously played a significant role in the hirings of current Jets President Neil Glat, Green Bay Packers CEO Mark Murphy, and the University of Michigan’s head football coach, Brady Hoke. Changes are sure to be made within this organization, likely as early as tomorrow, and you can rest assured that there are absolutely no guarantees with this team as of right now.

Woody Johnson has a history of making knee jerk reactions, and following a two year post season drought, there is no doubt that significant pieces of this organization will be replaced. The rumor mill has been extremely active over the past few days, but outside of the firing of Sparano, and the potential firing of Tannenbaum, the majority of these rumors can be dismissed until the powers that be are sorted out. There has been plenty of discussion about Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow being moved this offseason. While these are likely scenarios, there are far too many pieces that need to fall into place before decisions like these will be made. It will surely be a hectic week in Jets land, but make no mistake, an overhaul is coming in some way, shape, or form.

Heading into “Black Monday,” plenty of activity is on the horizon. The most likely departures include Sparano, Tannenbaum, Sanchez and Tebow at some point, and a surplus of other players including, but not limited to, Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, Eric Smith, Bryan Thomas, Sione Pouha, Dustin Keller, Shonn Greene, Brandon Moore, Matt Slauson, Jason Smith, Clyde Gates, Lex Hilliard, Mike DeVito, and LaRon Landry, to name some. Depending on what changes are made, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie certainly do not have a clear future with this organization either.

Where this team is headed from here on out depends largely on the approach that will be taken by Johnson and the newly appointed Hughes. If they decide to take the rebuild approach, expect the entire coaching staff to be relieved, along with efforts to move any high priced players on the roster. If the retool approach is taken, many players will still be let go, but Ryan could remain as the Head Coach of a roster that will likely look nothing like what was on the field in Buffalo today.

It is certainly a dark time for the New York Jets, who have just posted their worst overall record since 2007 when the club finished 4-12. There will be plenty to discuss in the coming days, and Turn On The Jets will be bringing you updates and analysis every step of the way, so be sure to stay with us. Until then, there is no need to lose sleep speculating the changes that will be made due to the high level of uncertainty as explained above. 2012 was as bad as it gets for New York, but one positive we can all take from this season is that change is on the horizon for an organization that desperately needs to rid themselves of the immense amount of drama and overall abysmal play that have plagued this once promising team since 2010. Rest easy, Jets nation. Changes are on the way.

New York Jets: Looking at the Roster Beyond 2012

Chris Gross with an in-depth look at the New York Jets roster options and why any current report about 2013 personnel decisions is BS

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Following Rex Ryan’s decision to replace the embattled Mark Sanchez with third string quarterback Greg McElroy this past Tuesday, multiple reports have surfaced citing unnamed sources within the organization claiming that the powers that be in Florham Park will decide to part ways with both Sanchez, and second string quarterback Tim Tebow, following the conclusion of the 2012 season. However, much like the Mayan Calendar, the script for the New York Jets has not yet been written beyond 2012. While the said powers that be may be in favor of moving both Sanchez and Tebow, there is a very good chance that they are no longer the powers that be following the week 17 season finale in Buffalo. Regardless of what sources are claiming, or what reports are emerging, there is simply no way that a front office and coaching staff, seemingly walking on eggshells trying desperately to save their jobs within these final two weeks, have had the time to sit down and discuss monumental decisions like the ones mentioned above.

Following New York’s disastrous, playoff ending loss to Tennessee on Monday night, Rex Ryan supposedly made the decision to bench Sanchez as his team shamefully strolled into the locker room. On Tuesday afternoon, Ryan announced his decision to the media, and by Wednesday night, the Jets had apparently decided to not only move on from both Sanchez and Tebow, but to pursue Michael Vick in free agency this offseason. So, let’s think about this, chronologically for a minute.

Monday 12/17/2012, roughly 11:00 PM EST: Ryan notifies Sanchez he will not be the starting quarterback for the Jets week 16 matchup against San Diego.

Tuesday 12/18/2012, 3:52 PM EST: The New York Jets official twitter account announces that Greg McElroy will be the starting quarterback for the Jets final home game of 2012 season.

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Wednesday 12/19/2012, 9:44 PM EST: Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News reports via Twitter that the New York Jets will try to trade Mark Sanchez following the conclusion of the season.

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Wednesday 12/19/2012, 9:58 PM EST: Mehta tweets the link to the full story on the Jets apparent decision to move Sanchez after the season. Included in that story is another unnamed source confirming that the Jets do have interest in soon to be free agent Michael Vick, citing Rex Ryan’s “love” for Vick as the “X-Factor” in the veteran signal caller coming to New York this offseason.

Thursday 12/20/2012, 12:02 PM EST: The Daily News reports the Jets will look to trade or release Tim Tebow following the conclusion of the season.

So, according to Mehta and other various reports, in just over a day after naming McElroy the starting quarterback for this week, the Jets also decided that they will not only be parting ways with a former top 5 draft pick, whom they traded up to obtain, but have already had discussions about bringing in another high profile veteran to replace him.

Hmm. 24 hours is surely a long time, particularly in the NFL where sleep is relatively scarce during the season. However, for a front office and coaching staff desperately scrambling to find a way to somehow save their jobs, after another miserable performance that ultimately ended their season, it does not seem logical that they’d be using what little time they have to muster up a .500 record by discussing trading two of their highest profile players, and acquiring another, within 48 hours, on a 6 day week.

We also aren’t just talking about making mindless releases, trades, and additions to the roster. We are talking about a concluded plan on how to deal with a player who was once viewed as the face of the franchise, is owed over $8 million in guarantees next season, counts for $17 million against the salary cap if released, and is someone that both the head coach and general manager have pledged their undying loyalty to. We are also talking about moving one of the most polarizing figures in all of professional sports. Then, we are talking about acquiring one of the most controversial, yet dynamic players the NFL has ever seen. Do you honestly think all of this was decided between 11 PM on Monday night and Thursday at noon?

Well, with the Jets, anything is certainly possible. Woody Johnson has become known as one of the greatest knee-jerk reactors in the entire community of professional sports ownership. Could Johnson have muttered some things like this out of extreme frustration, causing someone to overhear him and leak his statements to the News? Sure. But these reports are suggesting that these are organizational decisions, meaning internal discussions between the front office, ownership, and even the coaching staff. As Rex Ryan stated earlier in the week, he is involved in every decision that is made with this team. Whether or not that is true, certainly remains to be seen, but the reality of the fact is that Woody Johnson does not posses nearly the amount of football knowledge that it would take to devise a plan like this in under three days, without consulting with the people he pays to run his team. You can rest assured Ryan did not partake in any such discussion this week, considering he is likely coaching to save his job in these final two games. Do you honestly think he’s sitting in a meeting room with Mike Tannenbaum mapping out their future, when the future of both men is insanely unclear?

What I am alluding to here is obvious. However, for the sake of argument, let’s say that Tannenbaum has met with his staff and these discussions were, in fact, had, and these decisions were, in fact, made. Let’s assume all of this speculation is one hundred percent true. Now let’s assume that the Jets lose their final two games, finish 6-10 and everyone, including Rex Ryan and Tannenbaum, are relieved of their duties. Now all of a sudden the roster is frozen. No moves will be made until a new regime – GM, front office, and coaching staff – is installed.

Now, we suddenly have a General Manager and head coach who come in and take a long look at the roster on day one, considering the play of each person on the team, as well as contract terms and conditions. This imaginary GM looks down at his roster, studying it closely. He sees the name Mark Sanchez. He then looks to his salary figures, noticing the guaranteed money, and potential cap trouble if Sanchez is outright released. This GM now has a massive decision to make. Does he give Sanchez one more chance to compete to be the starting quarterback for the Jets, or does he begin his reign as General Manager by releasing Sanchez and crippling himself with a $17 million cap hit?

Then that same General Manager continues to look over the roster and sees the name Tim Tebow. He consults with his new coach about the player. For the sake of argument, let’s say that coach is Jon Gruden, a red hot name on the list of potential NFL head coach replacements for 2013. Gruden then begins to gush to his new GM about how he has spent time at Oregon with Chip Kelly learning the spread offense, and how he thinks he can make it work at the professional level. He then tells his general manager that the only person on the current roster to make that system effective, is Tim Tebow. Now, all of a sudden Tebow goes from being thrown out of town, to the foundation of this team’s rebuilding process.

Are either of these situations going to happen? No one knows at this particular point in time, but that’s just the point. If the regime that is in place now is replaced, all supposed roster decisions that you have heard in the last few days are suddenly meaningless. While it is still unlikely that the current regime has made these decisions already, it is even more unlikely that the majority of the decision makers within the front office will be with the organization next year, rendering any apparent decisions for 2013 completely obsolete. Basically, we know very little about what this team will look like in 2013.

So what do we know? Well, the Jets have several key players under contract that will surely be on the team next season. They also have very inexpensive role players that will likely stick around as well. Then, there are a surplus of players who have underperformed and will be released to create cap relief, as well as players whose contracts will expire after this season, many of whom will not be brought back.

Then comes the interesting portion of the roster. Outside of Sanchez and Tebow, there are several players whose respective fates remain up in the air depending on what happens with the powers that be of the New York Jets. Below is a chart of what you can expect to become of every player currently under contract with the Jets, including a list of those players whose fortunes have yet to be decided, regardless of what you may hear or read, for the reasons aforementioned.

Jets going staying

Let’s start with who will remain on the team beyond 2012. In the secondary, Antonio Allen and Josh Bush are two rookies who have each contributed in relatively small roles this season. Allen has impressed the coaching staff enough to earn rare public praise from Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff, while Bush has chipped in sporadically on defense and special teams throughout the year. Both Allen and Bush are very young, inexpensive players, who will see their roles grow in the coming years. Kyle Wilson is Kyle Wilson, but will make just over $2 million next season. While he hasn’t performed to the level of where he was drafted yet, there is no reason for him to be moved. Ellis Lankster certainly isn’t Deion Sanders, but at $630,000, he has played beyond his pay grade this season.

At linebacker, DeMario Davis was drafted to replace Bart Scott, a role he will likely step into next year, barring any unforeseen additions to the position this offseason. Garrett McIntyre shouldn’t be asked to start, but has played well in his time as a reserve this season, and will likely be the only returning outside linebacker on the roster. Nick Bellore is a solid special teams player who makes just over a half a million dollars per year. These players will all be Jets in 2013.

Along the defensive line, Wilkerson, Coples, and Ellis are primed to become one of the most dominant units in the league, with youngster Damon Harrison providing a much cheaper alternative to spell Ellis at NT than anyone else currently on the roster.

The offensive line has cornerstones in Ferguson and Mangold, while Austin Howard has certainly played well enough to come into camp as the starting right tackle next season. Vlad Ducasse hasn’t been nearly as horrible as he has looked in the past, and at under a million dollars in salary next season, he provides inexpensive experience on the interior of the offensive line.

Jeremy Kerley has played tremendously all season, and he should be a big part of this team’s plans moving forward. Although Stephen Hill had his troubles this season, he is still an extremely bright prospect with tremendous upside. Considering this, and the fact that the organization used a 2nd round pick to obtain him, expect him around for the long run.

At running back, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight remain under contract at low costs. Powell has played well this season, and should be the team’s 1B back next year, with McKnight playing his usual role on special teams, while still trying to find some type of niche in the offense.

The specialists Folk, Malone, and Purdum have all performed well this season, and there is no reason to fix what isn’t broken.

To the far right of the chart lies the list of names that you can all but certainly rule out for a return to Gang Green in 2013. Eric Smith has been nothing more than a role player this season, a role that will likely be filled by Antonio Allen next season. The longest tenured Jet among the safeties becomes the first salary cap casualty, allowing New York to save $3 million upon his release.

Calvin Pace and Bart Scott have been solid players for this team in the past, but neither have performed to their pay grade over the past two seasons. Both would have been cut following 2011 if not for having guaranteed money due to them in 2012. This year, New York can save about $15 million in cap space with a release of both players. Their days with the Jets are all but finished. Bryan Thomas played his heart out this season after being cut and resigned before the year, but he is on a one year contract and will likely retire.

Sione Pouha has been fantastic for this organization, but unfortunately back injuries have taken their toll and diminished his play. With the emergence of Ellis, the Jets can save about $1.5 million i cap space by releasing Pouha.

At running back, Shonn Greene was a monumental part of the two AFC Championship game runs, but he has proved he is not a lead back at the NFL level. Greene is still a very capable 1B option, but the Jets need a true 1A at the position. With how Powell has played this season, the Jets will be wise to insert him into the 1B role, while spending the money saved by allowing Greene to leave to get a true lead back via free agency. Lex Hilliard was average at times, and awful at other times. The team needs a real solution at fullback, rather than an emergency signing to cover for the botched John Conner pick.

At wide receiver, Gates, Gilyard and Schilens were all brought here out of panic in an effort to assemble a last minute receiving corps for Mark Sanchez, but all are free agents at the end of the year, and not one of them has earned the chance to receive a new contract. Dedrick Epps, to my surprise, is still on the injured reserve, but there’s no reason for him to be back next season in what will likely be an entirely revamped group of tight ends. Josh Baker showed promise early in his career, but injuries and an overall lack of production have worn out his time in New York.

Now we get to the interesting part. In the middle of the chart above is a list of players whose fates with the Jets will ultimately be decided by a number of factors, none of which are apparent at the present moment. The most eye popping names are Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Revis has been the best player on this team for 3 years, but his future hinges on the GM situation. If Tannenbaum remains in charge, expect Revis to be gone. Tannenbaum and Revis’s agents have a poor relationship, have failed to come to a long term agreement in the past, and likely have little interest in working with each other on a new deal. If Tannenbaum is the GM of the Jets, look for him to try to move his All-Pro CB to alleviate some of the cap trouble that he created, while obtaining some much needed draft picks in return.

Cromartie’s situation really depends on what happens with Revis. If Tannenbaum is fired, there is a good chance that the new General Manager comes in and makes signing Revis to a long term deal his first priority. If that becomes the case, look for that GM to move Cromartie, who is coming off of a career year with trade value likely higher than it will ever be. The Jets are a team in dire need of cap relief, and when you don’t have the luxury of being flexible with your salary cap, it is not feasible to have two highly paid cornerbacks on your roster.

Yeremiah Bell stated that he would like to be back with the Jets, but this again depends on the GM. A new hire may want youth at the position. Personally, I see Bell coming back either way on a one year, inexpensive contract, but his situation can certainly go one way or the other. LaRon Landry has played very well this season, but will look to cash in and will likely command more money than the Jets can give him. A return is not completely out of the question, but as of now it looks highly unlikely.

Aaron Berry, Donnie Fletcher, Darrin Walls, and Isaiah Trufant are all inexpensive, but none have contributed much of anything due to injury or other circumstances.

Josh Mauga is a restricted free agent, and after missing a year to injury, his situation will likely depend on how well the regime in place feels he can come back. Ricky Sapp has been on and off the practice squad all season, while struggling through injuries, but could stick around through mini-camps and training camp due to the overhaul of the position.

Mike DeVito is a fundamental piece to the defensive line, but his situation remains as unclear as any. Tannenbaum has a history of letting players like DeVito leave rather than paying them their market value, and having drafted Quinton Coples last year, you have to wonder how much any GM will be willing to pay for DeVito, who will likely end up as a reserve/situational player if he remains with the team next season.

On the offensive line, it is mind boggling that Caleb Schlauderaff still has a spot on this team. Any competent GM will likely release him simply to regain his roster spot, but for some reason, Mike Tannenbaum is infatuated with him, convinced he will become the next Victor Cruz. So, if Tannenbaum sticks around, expect more Schlauderaff in 2013. Matt Slauson has played relatively well this season but his status also depends on the front office. Slauson will be an unrestricted free agent this year, and will likely be seeking a decent contract. If the Jets are confident with Ducasse and a rookie or cheaper free agent occupying the guard spots, they will let Slauson walk. If they see him as valuable, the price will need to be right.

espnnewyork_a_sanchez_mb_600Wide Receiver and Tight End are also very intriguing. Santonio Holmes, like Mark Sanchez, is due a surplus of guaranteed money next year, however unlike Sanchez, he may hold some type of trade value. It is difficult to gauge exactly what that value would be considering he has missed the majority of the season due to injury and has been known to be a headache in the locker room. If the Jets wish to move Holmes, they will likely have to pay part of his salary as well. This is very unlikely, but if a new GM with a no-nonsense attitude comes in, he could make a clean break with Holmes before developing any type of relationship with him.

Braylon Edwards will probably be back on a one year, inexpensive deal, but again, this depends on what happens with the front office and coaching staff. A new GM with no history with Edwards may be indifferent toward signing him. Conversely, if Rex Ryan is fired, and Mark Sanchez is released or traded, Edwards may look to go to a more stable quarterback situation (or wherever Sanchez ends up).

Jordan White has potential to be a solid contributor, but he was a seventh round pick, and if a new GM is brought in, he certainly isn’t guaranteed anything. Royce Adams will not see a down on the active roster next year, but could hang around on the practice squad for another season.

Dustin Keller is likely going to leave via free agency, however if a new offensive coordinator, someone like Norv Turner, is brought in, perhaps the Jets and Keller regain interest in one another with the implementation of a pass heavy offense, with a relatively large role for the tight end. Jeff Cumberland and Konrad Reuland have been average at best, but one of them could hang around as the third tight end, assuming two are added either by draft or free agency, or one is added and Keller is retained. Aussie Hayden Smith should be back for the offseason, and will likely get another crack at making the active roster in training camp.

The quarterbacks, as described above, are both likely to be gone under the current regime. However, as we have explained, a new General Manager and coach could come in and have a different vision for either of these two, whether it be potential cap ramifications or judgment of their actual ability. While all signs surely point to both not being here next season, there are far too many factors that will play into that decision, making their futures unrealistic to predict at this point in time. Tebow has apparently expressed displeasure with the organization for choosing to start Greg McElroy over him, but what if Tebow gets a chance to start in week 17 for some reason? Or what if a coach comes in with a vision to build around him? The same goes for Sanchez. While it is certainly fair to speculate on their futures based on how things have played out so far, it is still too early to predict what will happen after the season.

By now, you’re probably asking yourself how the Jets will address all of the positions that will be vacated next season. Be sure to check back later in the week for an exploration of the best possible Free Agent options for the Jets by position, as well as an introductory draft piece that will kick start our draft coverage here at Turn On The Jets. 

**All New York Jets salary cap information courtesy of www.nyjetscap.com**

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 14

Chris Gross goes inside the New York Jets defensive game film

Through a tumultuous up and down 2012 season, the New York Jets have experienced some all-time lows in the Rex Ryan era, this year. While the offense has been stagnant and putrid for the better part of the season, the Jets still somehow find themselves mathematically alive for an unlikely Wild Card spot as we enter the tail end of December. Ryan has rallied his group of embattled troops, through injury and an overall poorly constructed roster, enough to keep them playing relatively meaningful football in the final 3 weeks of the season. This is a testament to Ryan’s coaching ability. Not only has he been able to weather the recent storm that ensued among the Jets faithful following the disastrous Thanksgiving blowout loss to the New England Patriots at home, but he has also kept this team’s defense afloat throughout the entire year, turning in two dominant performances over the previous two weeks against Arizona and Jacksonville, respectively.

Last week, New York traveled down to Florida to take on the lowly 2-10 Jaguars in a game that has been engulfed in a series of must win contests for the Jets. Offensively, the game was another mess prior to the second half ground surge that helped propel New York to their sixth win of the season. While the offense was beyond frustrating once again, Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine put together another defensive gem, an effort so impressive that this team was able to overcome one of the most abysmal first half offensive performances that you will ever see in the sport of football. Led by the likes of Muhammad Wilkerson and Antonio Cromartie, the Jets defense has shown serious signs of domination, similar to the play of the unit that helped propel the organization to consecutive AFC Championship games in the first two years of Ryan’s stay as Head Coach.

For this week’s defensive film breakdown, we will format the column similar to our previous evaluations. However, this week, we will provide a surplus of images to properly demonstrate the impressive individual efforts that took place within the personnel of the Jets defense, as well as the excellent quality of the overall defensive scheme built by Ryan and Pettine. We will again highlight the week’s top individual performances, followed by an individual breakdown of the defensive line, and finally an evaluation of the linebackers and secondary as respective units.

Week 14 Top Defensive Performances

Muhammad Wilkerson, DE – We may have to end up just solidifying Wilkerson’s name at the top of this list due to the frequency that it appropriately fits here. The second year defensive end out of Temple drew high praise from the Jets coaching staff all offseason, and has lived up to the hype thus far this year, particularly over the past month or so. The way Wilkerson has been playing for the Jets this season has solidified him as arguably the best player, not only on the defense, but on the entire team, making it obvious as to why Ryan and Pettine gushed over him this past August.

Wilkerson has begun to command serious attention from opposing offenses. Week in and week out, Wilkerson faces endless double teams, a bulls-eye on his chest in pass protection, and an abundance of game plans that are based on avoiding him at all costs. This did not change last week in Jacksonville, however Wilkerson’s increased ability to overcome these challenges has not only made him a much better player, but it has improved the quality of other individuals within the front seven, particularly fellow pass rushers like rookie Quinton Coples, as well as the entire defense as a whole.

Below are a series of images that display how Wilkerson is becoming so dominant, as well as how other players are becoming direct beneficiaries of said domination through optimal matchups.

Above is a shot of a pre-snap formation on Jacksonville’s opening drive. Wilkerson, highlighted by a red circle, is lined up as a 5 technique, slightly shaded to the outside shoulder of the Jaguars’ left tackle. At the snap of the ball, Wilkerson will engage the tackle’s outside shoulder, maintaining excllent leverage, which will give him the abiliy to dictate what he is going to do on this particular play.

In the top image below, you will notice Wilkerson engaged wih the offensive tackle, demonstrating perfect position with his hands inside his opponent’s breast plate, along with his head being lower than the offensive tackle’s, an accurate representation of how great his leverage on this play truly is. The green arrow represents the Running Back’s predicted trajectory on the play. His goal is to take the handoff from the QB, Chad Henne, and read the block of TE Mercedes Lewis, who is highlghted by the blue circle. The back will base his running angle off of the read he gets from Lewis’s rear. If Lewis kicks out the OLB, Calvin Pace in this instance, the back will cut inside of him in an effort to get to the next level. If Pace crashes inside, Lewis will use his momentum against him by blocking down, with the back reading his rear and adjusting his route to the outside.

The bottom image above shows that Pace did not crash inside, but set the edge as he normally would against the run. Lewis accurately recognizes this and adjusts his block accordingly by attempting to kick Pace out, and drive him toward the sideline. The back recognizes this, and rightully aims to hit the hole that should be opened up behind Lewis’s rear. However, as you will also notice, Wilkerson has complete control of Jacksonville’ offensive tackle, as shown by his picture perfect arm extension, placing him in position to stop the back for a minmal gain, which he does, represented by the image below.

This is a perfect example of how disruptive Wilkerson has become in defending the run, particularly when he is put in situations where he faces man-on blocking. This play was vital to the Jets success in defending the run last week,  as the Jaguars soon realized that they could not afford to abort their plan of scheming around Wilkerson. Wilkerson set the tone early here, notifying Jacksonville that he will kill all offensive plans if they wish to attempt to block him with just one player.

In the second quarter, Jacksonville unsuccessfully tried to tame Wilkerson with man-on blocking again, this time in pass protection. The image below represents the immediate moment following the snap of the ball, with Henne scanning the field to his left. Wilkerson – again denoted by the red circle – is in the 3 technique, lined up on the outside shade of the guard, attacking his opponent’s soft shoulder, or shoulder to the outside of the ball. The Jets send two additional players, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, on a blitz to the outside of Wilkerson. Scott and Pace will commad the attention of the tackle and running back left in to assist in protection, leaving Wilkerson in a one on one blocking situation.

The next image – below and on top – shows Jacksonville’s left tackle opening up to Pace, giving Wilkerson an optimal lane to the quarterback behind him, as long as he is able to beat his block. Wilkerson – red circle  – has already gotten past the guard’s initial point of attack, as he executes a rip move that will propel him past the blocker with a clear shot at Henne. The second image below is the direct result of what happened next. Wilkerson was able to blow by his block with excellent hand technique and acceleration, allowing him to get a nice hit on Henne as he attempted to throw the ball, resulting in an incompletion, highlighted by the green circle showing the ball hoplesslly gain flight before falling to the turf, without a chance to be caught by anyone.

Although plays like this will never register in the box score as a sack or tackle, they are equally as important throughout the course of a game. On a second and long play, backed inside their own twenty, Jacksonville had the opportunity to hit a quick pass to set up a third and short in hopes of keeping the chains moving and extending the drive. However, because of this play by Wilkerson, the Jaguars were forced into a third and long situation, which resulted in a Wilkerson sack, ending hopes of any type of offensive momentum, and in turn, ultimately ending the game. Wilkerson’s presence on the field goes well beyond any statistics he will produce, even as impressive as they have been in recent weeks. The most important thing to remember in terms of defensive line play is that these players often make key plays without recording any statistical numbers.

These are just two examples of the problems Wilkerson can cause if he isn’t given the proper attention. However, this superior play from Wilkerson is beginning to create problems for offenses in other areas, as well. Below is an image of the Jets pre-snap alignment on Quinton Coples’ sack of Chad Henne, his third of the season.

As you’ll notice, Coples (red circle) is at the three technique, shaded on the outside shoulder of Jacksonville’s left guard. To his right is Bryan Thomas in a 4 point stance, set to come off the edge, and one of the interior linebackers who has walked up to defend the split out Montell Owens. On the other side of the line, Wilkerson is lined up in a 4I technique, shaded just slightly to the inside shade of the right tackle, with Calvin Pace lined up wide on the edge.

Usually, when an offensive line gets a front like the Jets show here, with the area over the center completely vacated, the center will adjust his line calls to slide the protection toward the defense’s strength in numbers. Using this idea, with three players to the left, the center would typically slide the protection to the left, in order to ensure there are an adequate number of blockers in the event that the linebacker over Owens comes on a blitz. On the back side, you would usually see the guard take the 4I/5 technique, with the tackle taking the edge rusher. This way, the blocking becomes an even five on five, considering the back doesn’t stay in to block, or another player isn’t motioned into the backfield, and left in as an additional blocker. In this case, no such motions are made, and Owens does, in fact, run a route.

Unfortunately for Jacksonville, however, this is not what the center opts to do. Instead, he slides the protection toward Wilkerson, who at this point has been dominating one on one blocking situations, seemingly protecting the interior of the line, as he likely views Wilkerson’s slight inside shade on the tackle as an indication that he will stunt hard to the inside. In order to prevent Wilkerson from registering another sack, or disrupting another pass, the center opens his hips to the right at the snap of the ball, opening the door for Coples to hit the left guard with a quick inside move, as shown in the image below.

With Coples having lined up before the snap on the outside shade of the guard, in a slight tilt, the guard likely expected that he was pinning his ears back, preparing to attack the soft shoulder in an aggressive pass rush, considering Jacksonville had come out in an empty set. However, Coples, who seemingly had an idea that the center would open away from him to give help on Wilkerson, comes hard across the guard’s face, leaving him with his base far too wide to recover in time – as indicated by the distance between his feet, and ratio to his shoulder width – giving Coples a clear path to Henne once he rips through that inside shoulder.

While Coples is slamming Henne into the turf, notice the Jaguars’ center still tentatively preparing for some type of contact with Wilkerson. Wilkerson’s value is beginning to extend beyond his own personal play, something that will not only make him an elite defensive lineman, but will assist in reestablishing the defense among the NFL’s elite, as well.

Antonio Cromartie, CB – Cromartie is another name that should probably be cemented in these top performances on a weekly basis. Since losing All-Pro CB Darrelle Revis in week 3 to a season ending ACL tear, the Jets have discovered that they have two elite caliber defensive backs in their secondary, as displayed by the highly impressive quality of play that Cromartie has performed at all season. Like Wilkerson, Cromartie has become a nightmare for opposing offenses to game plan for. He has taken over the role of eliminating a top offensive threat on a weekly basis, previously occupied by Revis prior to injury.

Last week in Jacksonville, the Jaguars’ coaching staff wisely devised a plan to get young and emerging rookie WR Justin Blackmon matched up with anyone in the Jets secondary, but Cromartie. Blackmon was motioned away from Cromartie frequently, as well being placed in a slot alignment in an effort to target advantageous matchups against the lower caliber defensive backs in the Jets’ secondary. While the technique was an intelligent one by Jacksonville, Cromartie still had a very high impact on the game. When he was lined up on Blackmon, the rookie out of Oklahoma State was non-existent. When he wasn’t on Blackmon, Cromartie remained a force in the secondary with his immeasurable instincts and aggressive, yet intelligent, level of play. Below, we will look at some images from his performance against Jacksonville, and point out how he also benefited the defense in a way that likely could have swung the game.

The image below is a pre-snap shot of a 5 yard out to Jacksonville’s Jordan Shipley on third down. The Jaguars line up in a tight bunch formation to the right, while Cromartie lines up about 8 yards off the ball.

When the play breaks, the inside receiver runs up the middle, with the receiver to his right running a hitch in front of Cromartie. Meanwhile Shipley runs about a 4-5 yard out route toward the Jets sidelines. Cromartie could have easily bit on the hitch directly in front of him, however his quick eyes recognize Henne locked into Shipley, prompting Cromartie to break on the out route before Henne has even hit the top of his wind up. The result? Cromartie hits Shipley as soon as he makes the catch, stopping him well short of the first down marker.

Cromartie’s best play, however, may have come on the game’s opening drive. Having marched right down the field on the Jets defense, the Jaguars come out in an unbalanced I-formation with Mercedes Lewis at left tackle, and two additional blockers on the right, one who is off the line. Split out left is Justin Blackmon, who will attempt a fade route on Cromartie. At the snap of the ball, Henne is supposed to get rid of this ball extremely quick and just give Blackmon a chance to make a play. Garret McIntyre, who you’ll see at the bottom of the image below, with his feet staggered, ready to come off the edge, will go unblocked because the play is designed for the quarterback to get rid of the ball well before even the fastest edge rusher could get there.

After the ball is snapped, Henne locks in on Blackmon, as displayed in the shot below. However, Blackmon is completely blanketed by Cromartie. Henne seemingly panics with no other option to throw to, so he holds onto the ball hoping Blackmon can get some type of separation. In the meantime, McIntyre (yellow circle) is coming off the edge like a bat out of hell, while the right tackle (blue circle), is facing the opposite way, as he never expected the ball to be in Henne’s hands long enough for McIntyre to get to him in time.

Blackmon never gets the separation that Henne was hoping for, so he seemingly attempted to try to force something to his receiver or just throw it away, but because he was forced to hold the ball for so long, McIntyre gets a hit on him in his release, causing the ball to take an alternate trajectory directly into the hands of Bart Scott.

While this was certainly a poor decision by Henne, Cromartie’s lockdown coverage of Blackmon gave McIntyre enough time to come off the edge unblocked, and force the bad throw that ended up in a Jets turnover. If Jacksonville scores on this opening drive, perhaps the outcome of the game is entirely different. Luckily for the Jets, Cromartie plays for the guys in green and white.

Defensive Line

Quinton Coples – As we have previously gone over Coples’ sack, that play alone does not quite do his performance from last week the proper justice it deserves. Coples was very active in the run game, as well as rushing the passer. He continues to show the physical tools that will allow him to become an elite defensive lineman in this league, but he needs to be a bit more consistent. While his consistency looked vastly improved against the Jaguars, he still has some plays where he looks unsure of what he is supposed to do, as he has a small habit of peeking into the backfield, causing him to play far too high and get tangled up with the offensive line.

When Coples is sure of his assignment, however, he has been lethal. He is beginning to develop a presence on the edge in passing situations, helped partially by his extremely effective inside move. As we discussed above, his inside move assisted him in registering his third career sack. This move also helped seal the game for the Jets, as the following images will demonstrate.

On Jacksonville’s final offensive play of the game, Henne takes the snap out of the shotgun with Owens lined up to his right. Coples (red circle) works what appears to be a hard edge rush to the soft shoulder of the left tackle.

However, Coples again hits the offensive lineman with a quick move across his face.

Again, this hard inside move, causes the right tackle to try to recover, but the speed of Coples does not allow him to get his feet under him, making him completely obsolete as a blocker. With how wide his feet are in the image below, the tackle might as well be in quicksand.

As you’ll notice below, the left guard attempts to offer some help to the tackle, but cannot nearly get there in time. Instead, he is left (literally) giving his fellow offensive lineman a hug while Coples (red circle) drills Henne, sending the ball in the air, and directly into the hands of Ellis Lankster, who is able to field it as if it were a punt.

Coples also did a tremendous job of displaying how physically strong he truly is. On David Harris’s sack of Chad Henne, Coples rushes the center out of the amoeba, driving him nearly 10 yards back, causing Henne to flee the pocket and run to the outside, where he is eventually tracked down and stopped behind the line of scrimmage by Harris.

Coples could have had a multiple sack day in this contest, however on this particular play, he left his feet as he got to Henne, giving the quarterback a lane to duck under and escape his grasp. Coples needs to learn that as a defensive lineman, he can never leave his feet. He will become subject to some severe cut blocks, and will often find himself tackling air, rather than a player, as he did on this one. He is certainly still a bit raw, but there is no question that the tools are there. Once he becomes a bit more comfortable with the scheme and his fundamentals, expect to see a surge in his play similar to what we have seen with Wilkerson this season.

Kenrick Ellis – Ellis was very impressive early on. He displayed excellent power, as he always has when healthy, and continues to show a very deceptive lateral quickness, a combination that will allow him to thrive in the coming years as this team’s nose tackle.

The play displayed in the image below is a direct snap to Owens, that results in a gain of two yards. However, if not for the efforts of Ellis (red circle), who began the play lined up as a 0 technique directly over the center, this play could have been hit for a substantial gain.

At the snap of the ball, you’ll notice the play is a counter, designed to be hit directly inside of the pulling guard (blue circle) who will aim to hit Garrett McIntyre coming off of the edge. The left tackle blocks down on the three technique, the left guard blocks down on Ellis, with the front side, away from the counter, blocking man on – basically your traditional counter blocking pattern of down/down/kickout. Following the kick out of McIntyre, the plan is for the fullback to lead through the hole and either pickup any leakage, or hit the first person he sees as a threat to the play (green arrow). The orange arrow indicates where Owens would like take the ball to find a seam.

Meanwhile, Ellis (red circle) is fighting hard across the face of the down blocking guard, in order to get to where the ball is going. This is simply a great reactive technique by Ellis. Rex Ryan religiously preaches the need to fight back from where the pressure is coming from, because if the line is attempting to block Ellis down to their right, it is highly likely that the ball going to their left. Recognizing this, Ellis uses his strength and quickness to assist his laser like reaction in fighting back to the ball carrier.

As the play develops, it seems to be wired for a massive gain, with all players accounted for in the box, and LaRon Landry as the sole defender to beat to the end zone. The red arrow indicates Ellis’s current position at this point in the play. While it looks as if the guard has him sealed to the inside, you’ll see that he fights his way back directly in the path of the ball carrier, and makes the play for a gain of just 2 yards.

The red arrow in the image below points to Ellis breaking free to the outside of the guard that attempted to block him. Because of this, the fullback (green circle) is forced to slow down to try to give help on Ellis, causing Owens to slightly slow down his path of attack, which ultimately results in both of them getting completely stuffed by Ellis. What could have been a significant gain, turns into just a two yard play due to the excellent strength and agility, but most importantly, the relentless motor of Ellis.

As great as Ellis looks in flashes, he tends to disappear late in games, which usually indicates a conditioning issue, something that would not be surprising considering the amount of time he has missed this season due to injury. If he can get his conditioning level to the point where he can be this effective on a consistent basis, this defensive line will undoubtedly be one of the best units in football in the not-so-distant future.

Mike Devito/Sione Pouha – We bunched these two together because our evaluation of each of them remains the same as it has all year. DeVito is the work horse of this group. He is extremely effective in occupying multiple blockers against the run, but provides very little to no help against the pass. Pouha, still clearly hampered by the lingering back issue, shows that he can still be a very effective NT when healthy. His comfort level seems to vary throughout the course of games, and when he is visibly stiff in his bend, he performs at a noticeably inferior level. Pouha’s health could be a key factor in this team’s run defense if they end up making an unlikely postseason push. As promising as Ellis is, he does not have nearly the amount of experience or veteran moxie of Pouha. A healthy Pouha would provide the Jets with an effective every down NT, while having the ability to rotate a fresh Ellis in and out of the lineup.

Linebackers – David Harris came extremely close to “top performers” consideration, however, his 10 tackles were more of a result of the improved defensive line play than it was of a superior defensive performance. Harris certainly looked better, as he seemed much faster and more tenacious than he has in recent weeks, however, I’d like to see him gain some consistency moving into the final three games. Bart Scott played extremely aggressive, but a bit out of control at times, causing him to miss some early tackles and bounce off of lead blockers. Still, Scott played a relatively average game, with a very small amount of negative plays. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas were both excellent in the run again, but continue to provide virtually no help in rushing the passer. Garrett McIntyre played extremely hard and opportunistic, however, he continues to prove to be nothing more than a role player/special teams starter. On Jacksonville’s sole touchdown of the day, McIntyre was pancaked by Owens’ lead blocker, before the running back hurdled over him en route to a 32 yard touchdown run. DeMario Davis saw more reps than he has in previous weeks, but still seems to be struggling to grasp the defense, as he continues to look unsure for the better part of his reps.

Secondary – Outside of Cromartie, the cornerbacks played slightly above average. Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster did decent jobs in coverage throughout the day, and neither of them were beat for anything significant. Wilson struggled against hitches and comeback routes again, though, another indication that he has relatively stiff hips that are hampering his ability to change direction. Lankster made, what could have been, a disastrous mistake by going for an interception on 4th down of the Jaguars final possession, rather than knocking the ball down. The pass went right through his hands and into the hands of the intended Jaguars WR, extending the drive for another set of downs. Fortunately for Lankster, Quinton Coples is on his team.

LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell each looked impressive again. Landry is a menace in the box, and seems to be expanding his range in coverage as the weeks pass. Bell is the ultimate communicator in the secondary, which seems to be helping the less experienced guys come along more and more. Antonio Allen was impressive in the box. He was sent on blitzes a few times off the edge, showing excellent burst and a knack for getting to the passer. Against the run, he showed an impressive ability to use his hands to get separation, and he even drew a holding call on Mercedes Lewis. Expect to see more Allen in some blitz packages this Monday night.

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 13

Chris Gross with his weekly film breakdown of the Jets defensive performance, looking at how they shut down Arizona

Although it has become an afterthought in the wake of the earth shattering move that replaced the embattled Mark Sanchez with second year pro Greg McElroy this past Sunday, the New York Jets actually provided what was arguably their best defensive effort of the season. While this assertion must certainly be taken with a grain of salt due to the unbelievably poor quality of offensive play from the Arizona Cardinals, there are still several reasons to be excited about what the Jets did last week. Is Ryan Lindley the worst quarterback to start an NFL game this year (and possibly ever)? Yes, probably. However, New York’s defensive performance during this contest goes far beyond the offensive ineptitude of Arizona.

For this week’s defensive film breakdown, we will format this column as we normally do — top performers, individual defensive line play, and positional breakdowns of the linebackers and secondary. However, this week we will highlight the obvious signs of progress from within this unit as we move into the final month of the season.

Week 13 Top Defensive Performers:

Muhammad Wilkerson, DE: No surprises here. Wilkerson has been playing at a high level all season, and is finally beginning to get some of the recognition that he deserves. In Arizona’s first few offensive series, the game plan was obvious — do whatever it takes to neutralize number 96. The film repeatedly shows the offensive line adjusting their line calls and blocking schemes, whether it was a run or pass play, to provide extra help to whichever side of the line Wilkerson was lined up on. On passing downs, if Wilkerson was at a 1 or 3 technique, the center opened toward the second year defensive end 100% of the time. If Wilkerson was at the 5 technique, or on the edge, a tight end or back would stay in to provide help, with the guard to that side also offering assistance with an unoccupied gap over him. If it were a run play, Wilkerson would simply be doubled, or the ball would be run away from him. Throughout the first half of this game, there was not a single play that Wilkerson was unaccounted for. Credit the Cardinals coaching staff for drawing up their game plan based solely around avoiding the Jets best defensive player in the front 7.

Although much attention was paid to Wilkerson, the Cardinals could only hold him off for so long. Wilkerson has been developing an excellent knack for defending the double team, something he has likely been working on all season long with defensive line coach Karl Dunbar, as the mounting double teams have become a surplus this year. Wilkerson’s block recognition has become flawless. On film, he displays excellent instincts to get a pre-snap read on the opposing offensive lineman by noticing “tells” in their stances and the overall offensive formation. He always seems to be one step ahead of who he is lined up against, and that reveals a lot about, not only his knowledge of the game, but the amount of time he puts in in the film room as well.

What really stood out about Wilkerson from this past Sunday was his recovery ability. As excellent as he is in getting these pre-snap reads, there are still some plays where he makes a mental error by taking the wrong step, or peeking his head in the wrong area. In these few cases, Wilkerson displayed a tremendous ability recover from his own mistakes. If he was beat to the outside on a reach block, he screamed to the sideline to regain his outside leverage. If he got hit on a down block, he quickly fought across the opposing offensive lineman’s face to maintain his position.

Simply put, Wilkerson has tremendous physical ability, but his intellect for the game is what is beginning to carry him to the next level. In the few instances where the Cardinals would attempt to block him with only one player, Wilkerson caused havoc. In these cases, he stopped two running plays for minimal or no gain, and recorded a sack. He is an obvious mismatch when offensive lineman attempt to go on an island with him. Combine that with his developing ability to beat double teams, and Wilkerson is becoming a nightmare for the offensive lines he is facing.

Antonio Cromartie, CB: Again, no surprise here. Cromartie held one of the league’s best wide receivers to just one reception for 23 yards, a play that he actually maintained decent coverage on, but was beaten by a tremendous catch from Larry Fitzgerald, combined with what was actually a very good throw from Arizona quarterback Ryan Lindley (realistically, his only one of the contest). Following his sole reception, Fitzgerald was targeted only 6 more times throughout the entire day. By the middle of the second half, Lindley hardly bothered to look his way. Cromartie was on him like white on rice, regardless of the type of route it was. This has been a tremendous year for Cromartie, who has elevated his play to the elite level of NFL defensive backs in the absence of Darrelle Revis. At this point, it is a complete toss up between Cromartie and Wilkerson for this team’s MVP.

Bart Scott, LB: Scott played what was, without a doubt, his best game in the past year and a half. Looking beyond his impressive stat line of 5 tackles, 2 QB hits, and a sack, Scott played extremely fast and aggressive, asserting himself as a player that the entire Arizona Cardinals offense, particularly Lindley, wanted no part of. His reads were incredibly fast, and his reaction time was even faster. Scott came down hill very aggressively all game, and took on lead blockers the way he did when he first became a Jet back in 2009. There were multiple plays where he blew up the leading fullback or wrapping offensive lineman, allowing himself to either make the play on the ball carrier, or freeing up another defender to make the tackle. Combined with his rediscovered swagger, the chip on his shoulder that Scott played with this past week was a microcosm of the entire Jets defensive unit.

LaRon Landry, S: It is difficult to believe anything that Head Coach Rex Ryan says these days, however his claim that Landry played like a heat seeking missile is 100% accurate. Landry was all over the field this past Sunday in both coverage and in the box, defending the run. His interception was a great display of athleticism, and route recognition. Lined up in the center field role, Landry went through his normal coverage progressions, recognized the receiver running a seam route in front of him, and jumped it with perfect timing, taking the ball away before Lindley even realized what was going on. When lined up in the box, Landry was a pure mismatch. Tight ends and receivers lined up close to the line of scrimmage had virtually no chance of blocking him throughout the entire game, as he relentlessly displayed quickness in his hand strikes with impressive strength to rid anyone who attempted to get in his way, while defending the run. In a year of turmoil for Mike Tannenbaum, this is one personnel decision that the embattled GM got right. The Jets would be wise to lock Landry up for the future.

Rex Ryan and the Defensive coaching staff: Again, while the task of game planning for Arizona wasn’t quite the challenge of defending a team like New England, the Cardinals are still an NFL offense with very capable weapons. Ryan’s schematics and in-game adjustments were simply brilliant this past Sunday. Using a surplus of amoeba packages (more on this coming later in the week), Ryan took advantage of Arizona’s rookie quarterback by mixing up the fronts and disguising blitzes and coverage that made Lindley visibly uncomfortable. When Ryan realized Arizona’s plan to shift their passing protection toward Wilkerson, he exploited them. On Bart Scott and David Harris’s combined sack in the second half, Wilkerson was lined up at the 3 technique, with Pace to his left, and two other defenders on the right side of the line. At the snap of the ball, the offensive line again shifted the protection toward Wilkerson, with the center opening up toward him. Realizing the gap that this created in the middle of the line, Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine, sent an inside blitz of Harris and Scott, who timed it perfectly. The guard was forced to pick one of them (Scott) to attempt to block, leaving the other (Harris) with a clear path to the quarterback. Scott beat the attempted block anyway, and the play resulted in a sack of Lindley and a 9 yard loss. Ryan has come under criticism as a head coach this season, but in terms of his defensive mind, he is without question among the best in the NFL.

The overall play of the defense was also a direct reflection of Ryan. The unit played with a obvious sense of resentment toward all of its detractors, displaying the angered attitude that it had played with in the early years of the Ryan era. Give credit to Rex for this. He had his guys motivated, prepared, and ready to make a statement this past week, and that is exactly what they did. Ryan Lindley was so shook by the 4th quarter that he began to badly rush his throws, as he clearly wanted no part of any further contact. Ryan’s goal was the rattle the rookie 6th round draft choice, and he succeeded with the best defensive effort of the season. Well done, Rex.

Defensive Line

Mike DeVito: There cannot be enough said about the value of DeVito’s relentless play and leadership. The veteran defensive tackle has remained a stalwart against the run all season, and continuously occupies blockers the way a player in his position is meant to in this scheme. His motor is above and beyond the majority of players you will see in this league, as displayed by his tenacious play and menacing pursuit. Although he provides little help in the pass rush, DeVito is a staple of this front, one that cannot afford to be lost when he hits free agency this offseason.

Sione Pouha: We’ve been saying this all season, but Pouha is visibly not at full health. Sunday was basically a microcosm of how he has played all season long. On some plays, he seems to have difficulty getting into his stance, as he looks very tight in his bend, making him visibly uncomfortable. When he shows this, he has difficulty getting off the ball, allowing himself to easily be blocked or driven back. Conversely, there are also plays where he looks loose and comfortable in his stance, and this is when he displays the explosion and strength that Jets fans have become accustomed to. When he can get off the ball in a ferocious manner, he commands multiple blockers at all times, and because of this, the entire front seven has one less opponent to worry about, allowing the linebackers and ends to be put in optimal situations. The entire unit is better when Pouha plays well, but unfortunately these plays are becoming few and far between due to his lingering back issue. To his credit, Pouha realizes the lack of depth behind him, with second year NT Kenrick Ellis also nursing an injury, and rigorously fights through his pain and discomfort. Pouha, like DeVito, is a player whose work ethic and leadership cannot be valued enough.

Quinton Coples: Coples played in just 19 snaps this past week, which is the only eyebrow raising decision by the coaching staff, considering the vast potential he has shown. However, in his limited reps Coples displayed a bit of up and down play. He seems to still be coming into his own, trying to find his niche in the defense this season. Like Wilkerson, the Jets like to use Coples’ versatility by aligning him everywhere along the defensive front. Once he begins to become more and more comfortable, Coples will be a force on this line with Wilkerson, as he has all of the tools (speed, strength, agility, explosiveness), and size to be a dominant defensive end in this league. It seems as though the coaching staff is taking their time in developing Coples, which is seemingly the correct move, particularly with how late in the season it is (remember he is a rookie), but the little things he is picking up on are going to help him become that dominant force next season, and in the seasons that follow.

Kenrick Ellis: Ellis also played limited reps, as he appeared to pull up with some type of injury in the second half. However, in those limited reps, Ellis displayed the skill set of a very good 3-4 NT. As he does have the tremendous size and strength necessary for the position, he also displayed the agility that could make him a true difference make as he progresses in his career. One particular play that stands out from Sunday’s game was his use of a flat step technique — a technique that allows defensive lineman to lineup in one gap, while shooting another, and not losing any ground in the process — against Arizona’s center. Ellis lined up in the A gap to the center’s left, and displayed agility that he has yet to show this season, as he seamlessly moved across the center’s face, easily getting into the backfield before the center could come close to recovering. When Ellis can get himself healthy, he will be a key to this defense, and will likely begin to take more and more reps from Pouha, before eventually claiming the full time job.

The Linebackers: Along with Scott, this was the most complete game this unit has played all season. Scott’s improved play seemed to inspire David Harris, who also appeared faster and more explosive than he has all year. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, although heavily criticized for their lack of pass rushing abilities, still remain the two best outside linebackers on the team by a landslide. While each of these guys played with a relentless motor and undying tenacity, they also proved how effective they are at setting the edge and turning plays outside in. Fans are screaming for these two to be replaced, but it will not happen, nor should it at this point. Yes, neither are effective in rushing the passer, but as every down players, they are by far the best available guys to put on the field right now. DeMario Davis saw very limited reps and still seems to be somewhat uncomfortable and unsure at times. While he needs playing time to gain his comfort and familiarity, it is no secret as to why he did not play much considering how well both Scott and Harris performed.

The Secondary: Like the rest of the defense, this was easily the best the secondary has looked all season. Before the game, I questioned the success the Jets would have if they expected to put Ellis Lankster or Kyle Wilson in man coverage on Michael Floyd, Early Doucet, and Andre Roberts. Well, that is exactly what the Jets did, and each of them rose to the occasion. Outside of Wilson’s poor defensive holding penalty early in the game, there was really only one play where he was out of position — a comeback route by Michael Floyd that was poorly overthrown by Lindley. Wilson has struggled with these types of routes all year, as he seems to have trouble changing direction and opening his hips at times, but on Sunday he made tremendous strides toward improving these flaws. Yeremiah Bell was also all over the place, in both his run and pass defense, and clearly provides a leadership element that the younger players in the defense feed off of. Donnie Fletcher saw extended reps and certainly did not do anything noteworthy in terms of mistakes. This unit displayed excellent pre-snap communication, as displayed through their hand motions and calls based on formations and shifts, while seamlessly mastering switches in assignments on crossing routes designed to create miscommunications in the secondary.

Although this wasn’t a great test, the Jets defense showed that they still have the potential to be a dominant unit in this league. Consistency across the board will be key in these final four games, particularly against San Diego and Buffalo who, despite their struggles, still maintain a surplus of playmaking ability.

 

New York Jets Fact or False: Week 13 Edition

Chris Gross with his weekly Fact or False, previewing Jets vs. Cardinals

My, what a wild year it has been in Jets land (what else is new?). After a strong showing at opening day at MetLife Stadium back in September, when the Jets romped the Bills 48-28 to begin the 2012 season (Yes, that game actually occurred in the same season as this), the New York Jets have progressively fallen far from grace. In week 2 the Jets went into Pittsburgh without their All-World defensive back, Darrelle Revis, and despite coming out strong on the opening drive, ultimately fell to the Steelers at Heinz Field 27-10. Since then, New York hasn’t mustered up one convincing win, while being blown out 3 times at home. Although the Jets have had to deal with injuries to two essential players (Revis and Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes), this team’s total lack of depth and talent has put their fans in an uproar, and rightfully so. Sure, the Jets held their own against two of the AFC’s top teams when they hosted the Houston Texans in week 5 and when they took the Patriots to overtime in Foxboro in week 7.

However, the games the Jets have been able to win this season have been against far inferior opponents. Buffalo, Miami, and St. Louis have a combined recored of 13-19-1. Indianapolis came to New York with their rookie quarterback Andrew Luck having to face a Rex Ryan defense for the first time in his career. Luck will be great, but it is a daunting task for a rookie to solve the puzzle that is Ryan’s defensive scheme on the road. To put it into perspective, the 2012 Jets, although not horrendous, are simply a poor football team.

This column has been dedicated to making a handful of predictions based on past games, tendencies, and matchups for each week – predictions that have often failed to come to fruition. Last week, we observed what the Jets needed to do against the Patriots on Thanksgiving in order for them to upset their longtime foe. Looking back, they really failed to do any of these things.

Since it has become nearly impossible to predict what this team will do in terms of game plan (see Tebow, Tim; week 12…actually all season), execution, and outcome, this column will now focus on key points, all of which the Jets must achieve to have any chance of reigning victorious again this year.

This week’s New York Jets Fact or False will focus primarily on how the Jets need to attack their upcoming opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, what matchups will be crucial, and who needs to come to play, in order for New York to put patch one of the holes of the sinking ship that is their 2012 season. This team is all but guaranteed to not reach the playoffs this season, but the Jets can certainly do their best to salvage what is left of this mess and head into 2013 on the right foot. Whether or not they can do that, however, will depend on how they perform from top to bottom in these remaining five weeks. Let’s take a look at Arizona.

The Jets’ active rookie wide receivers need to step up big this week. Fact. As depleted as this team’s receiving corps has been all season, think about this for a second: Clyde Gates has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, creating a serious issue at wide receiver. Wow. After week 1, would you have ever thought that this is what we’d be analyzing heading into week 13? Unfortunately for New York, however, that is exactly where the Jets stand. Aside from Gates, Chaz Schilens is questionable with concussion symptoms, and Jeremy Kerley (the only receiver who has been somewhat productive this season) is still hampering a leg injury.

While it is a scary thought that the Jets could potentially be starting a receiving corps led by Kerley and rookies Stephen Hill and Jordan White, this could be a blessing in disguise. While no one should expect this group to be world beaters, it is essential to see if Sanchez can develop some chemistry with his young passing options. Stephen Hill started 2012 with a bang, hauling in 5 balls for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns in the season opener against Buffalo. Since then, however, Hill has hit the growing pains that we all expected him to heading into this season. All is certainly not lost for the promising rookie with tremendous upside out of Georgia Tech, so getting him touches the rest of the way this year will be crucial to his development.

Jordan White is a player who has been on the radar here at Turn On The Jets since New York selected him with their final pick in this year’s draft. A highly productive college player, White stood out in our post draft evaluation due to his high football IQ, strong route running, and ability to catch balls in traffic. It was expected that he may take a bit to come around, but on a team in need of hope in week 13, White could start his campaign to give some promise to this team’s depleted group of skill players.

Now, it would be foolish to think that White is going to come out in his first game and light up Arizona, prompting a surplus of waiver wire claims from fantasy football league owner’s heading into their respective playoffs. However, White is fully capable of catching anywhere from 2-5 passes this week, while beginning to gain some momentum in an attempt to be a long term asset to this roster.

Regardless, the Jets need these two to not play like wide-eyed rookies this week, but instead play with a certain level of confidence and reliability, so they can provide some security to Mark Sanchez, who desperately needs it. If Kerley and Schilens are a go, they will likely start, but do not be surprised to see Sanchez target the youngsters to gauge where they are at as he tries to find some continuity in these final 5 weeks. If this offense looks to have momentum heading into next season, it starts with these young players at receiver stepping up and asserting some kind of presence this Sunday.

The Jets need to get Mark Sanchez airing it out on Sunday. False. While the Jets do need to see some signs of life from Sanchez, following one of his most horrific performances,in terms of ball security, last week, the key to being successful on offense remains the same as it has been since Sanchez arrived in New York – a strong running effort, with a limited amount of drop backs. Look at the Jets two most convincing victories this season, against Indianapolis and at St. Louis. Sanchez was 11 for 18 for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns and 15 for 20 for 178 yards and 1 touchdown, respectively. What do you notice about those numbers? That’s correct, no turnovers.

The Jets ground attack during those two games, however, was on point. Although the total rushing yardage against St. Louis was not eye opening – 124 total yards – the Jets stuck to a successful formula of a running back by committee approach. Bilal Powell was able to record his first two career touchdowns in that contest, primarily because Tony Sparano took some risks in obvious passing situations in the red zone by giving Powell the carries, and it paid dividends.

The bottom line is, the more Sanchez is asked to throw, the more likely it is for him to commit a mistake and turn the ball over. New York needs to give him a strong running effort once again, while allowing him to make some high percentage throws on slants, play action passes, and designed roll outs. If the Jets can limit him anywhere between 20-25 attempts, while running the ball 35-45 times, not only will they be helping Sanchez regain some much needed confidence, but they will also be putting themselves in the best position to win. Is it ideal to have to game plan like this with a fourth year quarterback? Of course not, but at this point the reality is that Sanchez has performed poorly, and has a depleted group of receivers to throw to. If the Jets can stay grounded this week, they will control the clock and field position, while keeping their defense off of the field.

The Jets defense needs to come up with a surplus of quarterback sacks and hits. Fact. New York’s pass rush has been absolutely horrendous over the past five seasons, mostly because they have done a poor job of outside and self scouting at vital pass rushing positions during that time. However, Arizona ranks dead last in sacks allowed throughout the entire league this season, and they will be starting a rookie quarterback on Sunday. Remember what we said about that Andrew Luck guy? Ryan Lindley isn’t anywhere near the type of player that Luck is, but he does have a solid group of wide receivers to throw to against a very shaky Jets secondary. If he is given ample time to throw the ball, he will make plays.

Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples will be licking their chops when they line up against this poor offensive line on Sunday. However, they will need support from the linebacking corps in order to establish a strong pass rush. All season long, these two have been hampered as a result of facing a vast amount of double teams, due to the complete lack of a pass rush from the outside and inside linebackers. Whether it is the dinosaurs that are Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, Garret McIntyre, or DeMario Davis, the Jets need to find a way to get Arizona’s attention off of Wilkerson and Coples, so they can be put in man blocking situations. If New York can rattle the cage of Lindley early, and throughout the course of the game, this offense should not be able to move the ball. If they let him sit in the pocket and gain comfort, however, it will likely be another week of excuses, pouting, outrage, and turmoil heading into week 14.

The Jets need to focus primarily on Larry Fitzgerald to shut down Arizona’s passing attack. False. Aside from getting to the quarterback, the Jets need a strong game plan against the Cardinals’ number 2 and 3 receivers. Andre Roberts has been very productive for a team with the poorest quarterback situation in the league this season, accounting for 50 receptions, a team high 639 yards, and another team high 5 touchdowns. Michael Floyd and Early Doucet are two players who haven’t had the productivity of Roberts this year, but are highly skilled. Each of these receivers have the ability to exploit the embattled Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster. Aside from getting to the quarterback, New York needs to figure a way to neutralize these two, primarily from scheme. If the Jets expect to put Wilson and Lankster in man coverage on Sunday, without generating a pass rush, they will not win this game., plain and simple.

Dustin Keller needs to establish a veteran presence and allow Sanchez to lean on him. Fact. Lost in the disaster that has become the 2012 Jets is the player that Mark Sanchez became comfortable looking toward in previous times of struggle. Although Keller is second on the team in receptions, that number is a mere 26. 26 catches from a player who was thought to be Sanchez’s go to guy. While he has been hampered by injury for the majority of the season, Sanchez is usually the most efficient when Keller gets going. Look at the first matchup against New England. Many will refuse to admit this, but Sanchez played one of the best games of his career, prior to overtime, that week. A lot of that success has to do with Keller’s strong day of catching all 7 passes thrown his way for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Now, it is unfair to blame this lack of production on Keller. The lack of receiving threats on this team makes him an easy focus of opposing defenses. However, he needs to find a way to get open and give Sanchez that much needed security. If Keller can get going with some early catches to move the chains, Sanchez’s confidence will only grow as the game progresses. As of right now, aside from the run game, Keller is the straw that stirs the drink on this team’s offense. If he can get some early receptions, Arizona will be forced to shift their coverage toward him, allowing ample opportunity for those young receivers to get open and make plays. Sanchez, in the meantime, will only be able to grow on all accounts because of this. Yes, he should be limited to no more than 25 passing attempts, but each of those 25 will be critical. The Jets’ quarterback has no margin for error anymore. Most people are ready to write him off as the New York’s signal caller. Whether or not this is just, it is the harsh reality of the NFL and particularly of professional sports in New York. Dustin Keller can help Sanchez slowly climb out of the abyss with a strong performance this week.

The Jets cannot afford any more Special Teams blunders. Fact. There is no need to explain this one. The Jets’ Special Teams has been horrendous for the majority of the season. With a struggling offense and a defense that has had its troubles getting off the field on third downs, special teams mishaps are a recipe for the perfect disaster. This needs to be turned around immediately. Period.

 

New York Jets: Don’t Give Up on Rex Ryan Just Yet

Chris Gross on why Rex Ryan shouldn’t be the fall guy for the New York Jets struggles this year

Over the past few weeks, the New York Jets have seen their season come undone in front of their very eyes. The Jets have lost 4 out of their last 5 games, 2 of which came in blowout fashion in their home stadium. Many have attributed this to poor coaching. Analysts, fans, writers, and even casual football observers have suggested that perhaps Rex Ryan is not quite head coaching material yet, that maybe he is better served as a coordinator. The same groups of people have also suggested that the Jets need to go after a former head coach with championship pedigree, someone like Bill Cowher or John Gruden.

However, the issues with the New York Jets go far beyond the coaching staff. The front office of this franchise has put this team in hole that could likely set it up for another year of poor play and mediocrity. General Manager Mike Tannenbaum and those who work within the department have maliciously restructured and back loaded a surplus of player contracts, guaranteeing the salaries for this season and beyond to guys who would have likely been released due to their dip in performance over the past two seasons. Bart Scott, Calvin Pace, and even David Harris have all played mediocre at their best this season, and absolutely horrible at their worst. Yet, Scott and Pace, who began to slide last year, had guaranteed salaries for 2012, so they were not expendable for the Jets. Remember when Tannenbaum supposedly gave Scott permission to seek a trade this past offseason? Other teams likely laughed at the notion. Who would be foolish enough to take on the guaranteed salary of a player past his prime, clearly on the downside of his career?

Fortunately for the Jets, Scott and Pace can be released next season without any serious financial repercussions. Harris, on the other hand, is guaranteed just over $9 million for 2013; so unless the Jets can do what the Yankees did to David Justice when they traded him to Oakland, don’t expect Harris to be playing elsewhere next season. The reason these guaranteed contracts are tied into the current state of affairs with the Jets is because they limit the money that can be spent elsewhere throughout the roster. This is why you are seeing this team, who was an AFC Championship contender just two seasons ago, fall so far from grace that they are the laughing stock of the league. So poorly General Manager Mike Tannenbaum has constructed this roster, that the Jets are stuck starting players who likely would not see the field, or possibly make the active roster, on some quality teams around the league.

The Jets have lost a total of 7 games so far this season. While people continue to point to the coaching as the primary reason for these losses, many are forgetting just how depleted and shallow this roster really is. Let’s take a look at how the Jets talent compares to the teams that they have lost to this season, starting with the offensive personnel.

The information in green in the above chart represents the Jets offensive season statistics up until this point in the year. Based on the team’s depth chart, players are inserted into their proper position (Sanchez at QB, Greene at RB1, Powell at RB2, and so on and so forth). The information on the right side of the chart (in white) represents the season average of all of the Jets opponents’ statistics at their respective positions. The idea here is to give a representation of how truly overmatched the Jets have been, in terms of talent, against the teams that they have lost to this season.

Let’s start by looking at the quarterback. Mark Sanchez is performing statistically below average, in comparison to his opponents that have defeated him, in every single category. His completion percentage is nearly a full 9 points lower than the average completion percentage of that group, while his turnover ratio is much higher, touchdowns are much lower, and QBR and passer rating aren’t even comparable.

Now, the obvious argument here is that he has faced Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger, two Super Bowl winning quarterbacks who alter the average because of their inflated numbers. Well, that assertion is false. Also included in that group are two rookies in Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson, a quarterback in Alex Smith who has just been replaced in San Francisco, and Matt Schaub who is good, but is certainly not the next Joe Montana. This is an average based off of two great, one decent, and 3 below average quarterbacks. An argument could certainly be made if these numbers were somewhat close, but for the most part they aren’t even comparable. Sanchez’s QBR isn’t even half of the average of that of his opponents, and his passer rating is nearly a full 20 points lower, as well. The level that he has played at for Rex Ryan and the Jets this year, would surely render him a backup if placed on any of these teams, and possibly in a third string role in some cases (New England, San Francisco, Seattle, and perhaps even Miami). The NFL is a quarterback driven league, as everyone is well aware of, and when you’re quarterback is performing well below the average of his competition, it is a miracle that you are able to win any games, never mind four.

Onto the running back situation. It’s no surprise that Shonn Greene is below the average of opposing starting running backs. This is an assertion most people who have observed the Jets this season have come to terms with. Greene is not a feature NFL back. He would be most productive in a stable of effective backs, primarily as a downhill runner late in games, as he was in the early stages of his career.

Unfortunately, though, Greene clearly is not in a solid stable of backs with the roster currently in place in New York. Take Bilal Powell for example. Although Powell has gotten one carry less than the average of RB2 on the teams the Jets have fallen to this season, he is still well below in total rushing yards, and is averaging nearly a full yard less per carry. His 24.4 yards per game and 0 carries of 20 or more yards are just not the numbers of a solid number two back capable of spelling a solid lead runner. His 3 touchdowns are impressive by comparison, but remember two of those came by clever play calling by Tony Sparano in St. Louis. Powell can be better if given a bigger role, but he has not performed to the average of his counterparts thus far.

Joe McKnight is, not shockingly, the only back outplaying his roster spot in comparison to RB3 on teams New York has lost to. Turn On The Jets has been a McKnight advocate all season long. His 22 carries are almost 5 less than the average at his position, however he has attained over 25 more yards than the average third back has. His yardage per game is only slightly above average, but remember, as the weeks continue to pass without him getting carries, that number is out of his control. By comparison, this position is the only one on the Jets offensive depth chart that they hold an advantage to over their opponents – the third running back spot.

As far as the wide receivers on this team go, the numbers speak for themselves. First, note that Santonio Holmes, who has been inactive since week 4, is still second among this group of receivers in receiving yards, and third on the team, overall. Now, let’s break into the current depth on the active roster.

Jeremy Kerley has been solid for the Jets this year, as the only real viable option in the entire corps. Unfortunately, though, Kerley just simply isn’t a number one receiver, a role he has been forced to take on due to injury and (what do you know) a lack of depth. As the chart displays, Kerley would be a solid number 2 receiver by comparison to the average of those opponents. As a primary target, though, he is, like his teammates, well below average. With nearly ten fewer catches, over 67 fewer total receiving yards, and just about 10 fewer yards per game, Kerley is a number 2 option that has been forced into a number 1 option due to poor roster depth.

Now, observing the remaining three receiver spots, you will find that New York has three players that play to the level of the average third wide receiver on those opponents. Gates is slightly below that average, but slightly above the average of the fourth receiver, outside of yards per catch and yards per game. Schillens and Hill would both be decent third receivers at this point, which Schillens basically is, but neither are even close to being an average number 2. In other words, the Jets have one number 2 and three number 3’s or 4’s on their roster. Combine that with the QB play that is well below average by comparison, and again, it is a miracle that this team is able to accumulate any type of passing offense.

The Tight End numbers are a bit altered because of injury, with Keller missing reps and Cumberland having to fill the void of TE1, but what you’ll see is New York is, once again, far below average at the position. It his hard to judge whether or not Keller would be better, statistically, and Cumberland worse, if Keller never missed time due to injury, but the bottom line is, neither of these Tight Ends are playing up to par at their respective positions.

Offensively, this team’s lack of talent is a true display of how hard it has been for the Jets to scratch out four wins so far. You have below average starters at every position, many of whom aren’t even playing at the level of opposing backups. Look at the opponents on that list and go through their rosters position by position, comparing them to the players on the Jets. Many players on this roster would not make some of those teams – Clyde Gates (who actually didn’t make one of those teams), Cumberland, and perhaps even Dustin Keller (NE, SF). When observing this personnel and the level each player has performed at thus far, is it really surprising that the Jets have lost seven games, or is it shocking that they have won four?

Onto the defensive side of the ball – Below is a chart similar to that of the one that represents the Jets offensive personnel in comparison to the opponents that they have lost to, position by position. The numbers in the orange represent the average numbers of the top three players at each position on opponents the Jets have lost to, with the exception of defensive tackle, where the average has used the top two spots on the depth chart from each of those teams. In the green, each defensive player on the Jets is represented. The number of players used coincides with the number of players used to determine the average of the opponents, to give you an accurate representation of where each player stands.

First, let’s observe defensive end. It should come as a surprise to no one that Muhammad Wilkerson is playing far above the average of opposing defensive ends. Wilkerson is superior in every statistical category, with the exception of sacks. Coples is only slightly below in terms of tackles, but is well above in tackles for loss. Sack wise, unfortunately, is where he, like Wilkerson, is below average. DeVito, is well above the average number of tackles, but again, lacks in sacks and even tackles for loss.

At defensive tackle, Sione Pouha has performed slightly above average, despite missing time, while Kenrick Ellis has been hampered by injury, causing his numbers to be below average. Taking the two of them into account, the Jets have had fairly average to slightly below average play at the NT position this year, a position that is vital to a successful 3-4 defense.

Another vital position in this scheme is outside linebacker. Here, the play is below average in nearly every statistic, at every spot on the depth chart. As far as sacks go, it isn’t even close. The defensive line is hampered by the inability to rush the passer from the OLB position. Often times, as our film breakdowns have revealed, teams can easily block one of these player using only one lineman or back, resulting in a great amount of double teams to Wilkerson and Coples. In other words, the OLB’s inability to rush the passer is preventing the defensive line from rushing the passer. This is a vicious cycle in this scheme, but a true representation of why this team has struggled so mightily in the area.

To finish out the front seven, we move to inside linebacker. David Harris is well above average in his run support, but far behind against the pass (only 2 PD vs. the average of 4, and 0 INT vs. the average of 0.7). This should come as a surprise to no one, considering how Harris’s struggles in coverage have been noted throughout the season. Behind Harris is Bart Scott and rookie DeMario Davis. Scott is clearly a well below average LB at this point in his career, and is making a strong push for the “poor” category. Scott likely doesn’t make the active roster in San Francisco, New England, Miami, Seattle, or Pittsburgh. Davis is promising as a rookie, but clearly he hasn’t performed up to par as well. Basically, this team has four starting linebackers who would be backups at best if placed on one of these opposing teams.

In the secondary, Landry and Bell have played excellent in run support, as the numbers indicate. Landry has performed better than Bell in the coverage area, but is still slightly below average, which tells you what you need to know about Bell’s play in coverage thus far. Eric Smith has been in and out of the active lineup because of injury, but considering he is the third safety on the roster, he hasn’t played insanely bad.

As far as the corners go, the only player worthy of any type of recognition is Antonio Cromartie. Cromartie has three more passes defended than the average opponent, and nearly 2 more interceptions. His touchdown separates him from a majority of the group as well. Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster have been decent in terms of tackling, both still below average, but not necessarily horrible. However, in terms of coverage, it is rather embarrassing. Wilson has defended less than half of the average number of passes than his opponents, and he is a starter. Lankster isn’t quite as bad, but remember he has a lot more passes thrown his way when in the game, so that number is likely inflated.

In Short, this defense is solid at about 3 positions – defensive end, strong safety, and cornerback. You have about three players on the entire unit that are playing above the average of those players on opponents that have beaten the Jets. Combining this lack of talent, with the clear lack of talent on the offensive side of the ball, is a clear indication of how poorly this roster has been built.

Most people want to put the blame on Rex, and their motives are certainly justified. Rex is far from perfect as a head coach. His lack of holding players accountable, particularly Mark Sanchez, needs to be altered if he wishes to have any success as a head coach in this league. However, Tom Coughlin altered his coaching style from a pure disciplinarian, with little personal connection to his players, to more of an emotional coach, back in 2007. This slight tweak in his coaching philosophy has led to two Super Bowl wins. Now, no one here is comparing Ryan to Coughlin. Coughlin is surely the superior head coach, and will be for some time. The point is, coaches can adjust and achieve success. Rex is more than capable of this adjustment. The true question is whether or not he is willing to do it.

Aside from this flaw, Rex is the right man for this head coaching job, at least for the next year. Among the head coaches in Jets history, Ryan ranks second in winning percentage behind only Bill Parcells. Ryan also has the most playoff victories of any of these coaches. Is this more of a reflection of how poor the coaching has been in this franchise’s history? Perhaps, but the point is, when you get a guy who has shown that he can win games, you don’t kick him out the door at the first sign of struggle. All coaches struggle at some point; it is part of the business.

Now the next argument that is often made against Ryan is that he inherited a loaded roster in his first two years, which is the only reason for his early success. This is another assertion that is very narrow-minded. Remember, there were only 4 new starters from the 2008 roster during Rex’s first year. Brett Favre, who made the pro bowl in ’09, was replaced with a rookie from Southern California who had only one year of college starting experience under his belt. Braylon Edwards was brought in after the team had already won three games, and proved to be a useful weapon to the rookie Sanchez. Defensively, the only two additions that were made to the starting unit were two free agents in Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard, who happen to have been previously coached under Ryan in Baltimore. With these minor additions, Ryan propelled this defense from 16th to 1st in a year. Offensively, Ryan’s strong rushing philosophy kick started a run game that jumped from 9th in 2008 to 1st in 2009.

Most importantly, though, Ryan changed the culture of this franchise. For years, the Jets had accepted mediocrity, often hovering around .500, or sneaking into the playoffs and being bounced in the first or second round. No one in the league seriously feared the Jets, but when Ryan arrived he installed a bloodthirsty attitude throughout his team. Suddenly, the Jets went from the hunted to the hunters. In 2009 we saw a Jets team that displayed a higher sense of urgency and team bond than he had seen in years, for some of us, a lifetime.

Ryan came in and did what no other coach in the history of this franchise has been able to do – win 4 playoff games. Never mind the fact that he did this in his first two seasons; that number currently ranks first in playoff wins by a Jets head coach, as previously noted. Unfortunately for the Jets, after 2009, the personnel department slowly began to dismantle the roster, resulting in the current lack of talent and depth that we have gone over.

In 2010, the Jets drafted Kyle Wilson in the first round. Wilson has played at the level of about a 4th rounder for the majority of his career. Many people want to blame Rex for this pick, but remember this decision was made in anticipation of a Darrelle Revis holdout. The front office likely wanted to have insurance and leverage over the looming Revis extension. So while it is easy to think that Wilson was Rex’s choice, remember that Mike Tannenbaum likely wanted to cover his rear end in the event that he could not structure a new deal for Revis.

Since then, the front office has done its best to dismantle this team. They have let key pieces leave, while replacing them with far inferior players. Tannenbaum has given guaranteed contracts to players in the tale end of their careers, who haven’t lived up to their ends of the bargain. Blame Ryan all you want, but don’t forget that the General Manager has the final say in all personnel decisions. Is it a surprise that teams run by Jerry Jones and the late Al Davis have had so much trouble keeping a head coach and finding adequate talent? This isn’t to compare Tannenbaum to either of those two, but the point is that head coaches are there to coach the players given to them by their front office, and that is exactly what has happened with the Jets.

Rex Ryan, although flawed, is not at fault for the troubles of this season. He has been given a well below average roster, and has still mustered up 4 wins, while coming very close to beating two of his conference’s best teams. The 2009 and 2010 teams, although talented, did not really have any superior players, other than Darrelle Revis, and Ryan brought each of those teams within a play or two from the Super Bowl. Rex has what it takes to get this team its first championship in over 40 years, but based on the numbers and clear lack of talent, not even the best of coaches could get this team above .500.

The front office of this organization is to blame for the misfortune you have all witnessed, not the coach. Based on the information presented here, Ryan has exceeded the talent on this team, and at only four wins, that tells you all you need to know about the poor work done by the front office in recent years. The common desire is for New York to bring in a head coach with championship pedigree, like Gruden or Cowher, as mentioned above. But remember this very true statistic – no coach in the history of the NFL has ever won a Super Bowl with two different teams.

Rex has the ability to lead this team to a championship, and most importantly he has the hunger to do so, as well. Give him average talent, not even great, and this team will be able to compete for a championship. As the roster stands now, the Jets are not only below the top performers at each position, but they are well below average. No coach is winning with what Rex has to work with. Changes need to be made, but Head Coach is the one spot that needs to remain intact for the Jets to get where they want to be in the quickest manner.

 

New York Jets Fact or False: Thanksgiving and Rivalry Edition

Chris Gross with his weekly Fact or False previewing the Jets/Patriots Thanksgiving Night showdown

Happy Thanksgiving, Jets fans! After a much-needed victory in St. Louis last week, the Jets find themselves in a familiar, yet unfamiliar, spot in the Rex Ryan era. What’s familiar about tomorrow night’s game against New England is that the Jets always seem to find themselves in a pivotal point of their season when matching up against the Patriots for the second time in the 17 week regular season.

In 2009, New York headed to Foxboro at 4-5. A win would have been monumental as it would have not only gotten the Jets back to .500, but it would have completed a regular season sweep of New England for the first time since the 2000 season, when they were still led by the likes of Vinny Testaverde and Curtis Martin. New York fell that week 31-14, aided partly by Mark Sanchez’s 4 interceptions.

In 2010, the 9-2 (!!) Jets squared off with New England in Foxboro for sole possession of 1st place in the AFC East. Heading into that game, New York’s average margin of defeat in their only two losses was a meager 5 points, so naturally most people were optimistic about 2010 finally being the year that the Jets knock Brady’s bunch off of their pedestal and claim dominance in the division for the first time in a decade. What happened that night? The Jets were embarrassed 45-3 on national, prime time television.

Finally, in 2011, the Jets were hosts to the second regular season matchup between the two clubs. New York stood at 5-3 heading into their week 10 matchup with New England, fresh off of a dominant performance against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, NY. The Patriots, on the other hand, were also 5-3, but seemed to be spiraling downward, coming off of a 2 game losing streak to the Steelers and Giants. This was finally it. The Jets had New England right where they wanted them – reeling with an equivalent record, in their own building. It finally seemed that New York was ready to take over the division and earn a home playoff game, something many felt had held them from reaching the Super Bowl in the previous two seasons. Unfortunately for Gang Green, same story, different day. The Patriots smacked the Jets 37-16 in a game that was never close. It seemed as if this habit of dropping the second regular season matchup to New England might never be broken.

Now, the Jets finally have a chance to break that very habit. New York finds itself at a crossroad in their season. Standing at 4-6, this team has been hit from all angles. Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes are out for the year with season ending injuries. The media has used Tim Tebow’s presence in various attempts to stir up drama and rip this locker room apart. Ryan, General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, and Owner Woody Johnson, each praised for their brash styles at their respective positions in years past, have all come under heavy criticism. In short, Ryan’s once up and coming Jets have become the punch line for countless jokes revolving around the NFL.

So what does it all mean? It means the Jets face New England for the second time of the regular season in a relatively new position. Instead of being poised to topple the Patriots through a monumental victory that could shift the tide in the AFC East, New York now finds themselves with their backs against the wall. As we all know, Rex Ryan’s squad has done quite well in these situations in the past. Yes, in 2009, the Jets were aided by Jim Caldwell’s decision to pull all of his starters in their week fifteen matchup against the Colts in Indianapolis. However, New York still had to defeat the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals in week 16 to secure a playoff spot. As you may recall, New York came out with a vengeance, blanking the Bengals 37-0, propelling them to their first AFC Championship Game run under Ryan.

Similarly, in 2010, the Jets traveled to Foxboro for the AFC Divisional Round game against the Patriots. No one in the world gave New York a chance, considering how lopsided the outcome of the previous matchup between the two clubs was. With their backs against the wall once again, New York pulled off one of the most satisfying wins in franchise history, upsetting the Patriots 28-21, leading to one of the most memorable post game speeches in the history of the sport.

By now, you are asking yourself what this all means for tomorrow night’s game. The answer is simple. These two teams have never faced each other under these circumstances. The Jets, although notoriously laughable in this game under Ryan, will be hosting the Patriots with their backs against the wall for the first time in this situation. You can throw the history books out, because regardless of the outcome, a new chapter will be written in this rivalry on Thanksgiving night. Key players on both teams are out of this competition. Rex is out to prove his worth as a head coach in an attempt to rally his team toward an unprecedented playoff run, a goal that suddenly becomes attainable with a win at MetLife stadium tomorrow, considering the fact that New York’s remaining opponents have a combined record of 17-33. The circumstances are different, but New York has another chance at a monumental victory over their long time foe.

How will it all pan out, though? For the Jets, there are several feats they need to attain to put themselves in a position to reign victorious. Rather than using outright predictions, this week’s New York Jets Fact or False highlights exactly what Gang Green needs to do in order to stage an upset of the Patriots on the biggest stage. Digest these proclamations with your holiday bird, and be sure to give thanks for a full day of NFL madness, regardless of any outcome.

The Jets need Shonn Greene to carry the load of the running game past the Patriots. False. This is a no brainer. New York looked like an entirely new offense last week using a running back by committee approach. While many have attributed their success to a poor opponent, St. Louis actually ranks thirteenth in total defense in the NFL. Are the Rams great? Absolutely not. But Jeff Fisher’s club is certainly not the laughing stock it once was. New York needed a strong offensive effort, and that is exactly what they got, led by the resurgence of Shonn Greene as the battering ram, the emergence of Bilal Powell, who scored his first two career touchdowns, as the elusive scat back, and the somewhat proper utilization of Joe McKnight as the explosive, all purpose back. The result? Mark Sanchez put together his most efficient performance of the season, and New York won in dominant fashion in a must win situation. Sticking to this philosophy is an absolute necessity against New England tomorrow. Control the clock, keep Brady off the field, and give Sanchez something to lean on.

The Jets need to find a way to pressure Brady without a heavy amount of blitzing. Fact. Most people are now aware of the blueprint on how to shut down Brady and the high-powered Patriots offense. Hit the prolific quarterback over and over and over. However, the reason that teams like the Giants have been so successful against New England is because they can do so without a heavy amount of blitzing. Tom Brady has been lights out against the blitz this year – 86 attempts, 10 TDs, 0 INTs, 90.0 QBR, and a 127.2 passer rating. New York needs to find a way to get in his face without using the blitz.

New England has lost three games this season – home against Arizona, and on the road in Baltimore and Seattle. In those three losses, Brady has been sacked 9 times, while being hit 17 times. New England’s offense can surely sputter if opposing defenses can get to Brady. The key is to do it without letting him burn you on the blitz. Rex and his staff need to get very creative disguising their pressure schemes to create the illusion that the Jets are bringing more heat than they actually are, through an effective use of zone blitzes, similar to how they were able to rattle Brady in the 2010 playoffs. Look for Ryan to mix up his fronts, using a variety of four man rushes, led primarily by Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. With All-Pro Guard Logan Mankins ruled out for tomorrow, New York will have optimal opportunity to generate a strong interior pass rush. Based on the play of Wilkerson and Coples as of late, New England could easily have their hands full tomorrow night.

Tom Brady is the only part of the Patriots offense that needs to be stopped. False. While Brady is certainly the key to New England’s offensive success, the run game must be stopped at all costs as well. In each of the Patriots three losses this year, they have failed to generate more than 90 total rushing yards as a team. New York needs to make the offense one dimensional, and then worry about getting to Brady. A tall task, yes, but nothing will be easy in achieving the upset tomorrow night.

The Jets need to generate turnovers to win. Fact. Historically, the Jets under Rex Ryan have had their best success against the Patriots when they’ve been able to take the ball away from Tom Brady. In Ryan’s 3 total wins against New England, Brady has thrown a total of four interceptions. In New England’s five victories against Ryan’s Gang, Brady has turned the ball over via interception just once. This trend holds true to two of New England’s three losses this year. Brady has just three interceptions on the season, however one came in the home loss to Arizona, with the other two coming from the loss in Seattle. Another daunting task for the Jets, particularly without Darrelle Revis, but remember, Brady is missing two key pieces of his offense, as well, in Mankins and TE Rob Gronkowski.

The Jets Special Teams need to wake up. Fact. In order to pull off this upset, the Jets need to be nearly perfect in all three phases of the game. New York’s once stout special teams has been a complete disaster as of late. Blocked kicks, big returns, losing focus and succumbing to a surprise onsides kick have haunted the Jets in previous weeks. To quote ESPN’s Cris Carter, “Mike Westhoff, where you at?!” The prolific coach, now a household name thanks to his role in HBO’s 2010 season of Hard Knocks, seems to have lost the grasp of a unit that was once regarded as a crutch for New York in times of struggle. Westhoff must get his unit ready to play. Any lapse on special teams will likely spell disaster for New York. While you may be able to get away with some blunders against mediocre teams, New England is a different animal. Bill Belichick has likely gone through hours of Jets special teams footage, looking for ways to exploit this suddenly weak group. A big play on special teams cannot happen in any way whatsoever if the Jets wish to begin a late season playoff push.

Enjoy the game, enjoy your families and friends, and most of all, enjoy the Jets tomorrow night, folks. From all of us here at Turn On The Jets, we wish you and your loved ones a very happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving. 

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 10

A defensive film breakdown of the Jets vs. Seattle with a preview of how they match-up against St. Louis

With 10 weeks and 9 games already in the books for the 2012 New York Jets, the team’s record is extremely reflective of their overall team play. The Jets seem to only play well in stretches, on one side of the ball. This team has struggled mightily in two thirds of the game over the past few weeks. Luckily, we’re here to break down the sole third that has not been an entire disappointment for the better part of this season.

The Jets week 10 defensive effort was actually stellar for the most part of their matchup at Seattle. This unit was forced into some tough spots, field position wise, on multiple occasions throughout this game, and, for the most part, did a fantastic job of not giving up their ground in tough situations. Outside of about 2 possessions through the first three quarters, the defensive play of New York was lights out. Unfortunately, with virtually no support from the offense and special teams, this group was worn out by the fourth quarter, resulting in the inflated score that now shows on the stat sheet.

However, don’t be fooled by the numbers. Defensively, New York played much better than the box score shows. The front seven, particularly the defensive line, was the most impressive unit on the field, among other individuals as well. Rookie Quinton Coples and 2nd year Defensive End Muhammed Wilkerson have not put up monstrous stats thus far, but each of them continue to prove that their worth on this defense is virtually invaluable. Among the two young promising defensive ends, this group as a whole was quite impressive, outside of a few subpar performances and lapses in play.

For this week’s defensive film breakdown, we will highlight the group’s top individual performers, followed by our usual format of breaking down each group as a whole, with an emphasis on the defensive line. We’ll then take a look on what it all means for Sunday’s must-win game in St. Louis.  Lets jump right in.

Week 10 Top Defensive Performers:

Antonio Cromartie, CB: Cromartie continues to assert his dominance since the loss of Darrelle Revis in week 3 to a season ending ACL tear. Coverage wise, the contest in Seattle seemed effortless for Cromartie. When matched up with Golden Tate, the same player who took joy in facing Kyle Wilson, Cromartie was extremely physical and aggressive, not allowing Tate to get off the line easily. On film, Tate’s frustration when lined up across from Cromartie was obvious. While matched up with Sidney Rice, Cromartie was on him like…well, white on rice (see what I did there?). The sole play that Rice was able to get a step on Cromartie, Seattle’s attempted flea flicker, was a fantastic display of the type of athlete Cromartie really is. Trailing by nearly 5 yards, Cromartie demonstrated make up speed that can only be seen when watching a handful of NFL defensive backs. Still, Rice had a chance to make a tremendous catch, but all hope for that was lost thanks to a heads-up, last minute, punch at the ball from Cromartie. The Jets defacto defensive leader also displayed his high level of football intelligence (save the Children’s names jokes, we’re talking about football here), as well as a phenomenal feel for the defense, as he repeatedly sniffed out routes before the ball was even released by Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson, as he abandonded his coverage to jump the route of the would be intended receiver on more than one occassion. It’s hard to think about where this defense would be this season if not for the efforts of Cromartie up until this point.

Quinton Coples, DE: Many casual observers of this team, and league in general, have been deeming Coples as a poor selection by the Jets in last year’s draft simply because he has yet to put up a massive stat line. This assertion could not be farther from the truth. Coples may not be jumping off of the stat sheet just yet, however his play on the interior of the defensive line has been fantastic thus far, and continues to improve week to week. The strongest point in Coples game right now, outside of his pure athleticism, is his growing ability to utilize his length. Coples’ reach is that of defensive stalwart, and the extension he has been getting on opposing offensive lineman is becoming a serious problem for the rookie’s opponents in every game. Also playing with great leverage, Coples’ effective use of his long arms allows him to get excellent separation against the run and pass, giving him the ability to dictate what he wants to do more often than not. The sacks and double-digit tackle games are sure to come down the road, but for now Coples is getting better on the little things — footwork, hand technique, leverage, separation, block recognition, etc.– with every rep he takes. Jets fans should be ecstatic over this selection, as a year or two from now Coples could very well be considered among the NFL’s top defensive lineman, if the trend of improvement continues.

Muhammed Wilkerson, DE: Like Coples, Wilkerson has had his doubters this year, simply because he isn’t putting up monster numbers. However, consider this: Wilkerson is, by far, the best player in the entire Jets front seven this year. Think about what that means for a second. Wilkerson is the best performer in a front 7 that has struggled greatly this season. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, opposing offenses recognize this and circle number 96 on their gameplans every single week. Considering the attention he has drawn, as displayed by the vast amount of double teams he faces on a weekly basis, along with the fact that teams are seemingly sliding their protection toward him on passing downs, it suddenly isn’t very difficult to undertand why Wilkerson isn’t putting up the huge numbers that many were projecting heading into 2012. When taking all of this into account, it is truly impressive that he has still been as productive as he has been. In a recent ranking of the top defensive ends in the NFL, Pro Football Focus put Wilkerson second to only JJ Watt, based on their grading criteria which takes all aspects of defensive line play into account. Wilkerson is the foundation of this front seven, and proved why yet again last Sunday in Seattle, where he proved to be adapting to all of the attention he is getting by effectively separating double teams, recognizing shifts in protection toward him, and playing with an overall confidence that is displayed by only a few on this entire roster. Pair Wilkerson and Coples with a healthy Nose Tackle and an effective pass rushing Outside Linebacker, and all of a sudden people are talking about this Jets defense as having one of the most effective front sevens in all of football.

Mike DeVito, DT: I haven’t been able to say enough about what DeVito brings to this team in terms of motor, energy, and leadership all season long, a trend that continued in Seattle. While DeVito certainly isn’t the flashiest guy you’ll see, he is the prototype for what a blue collared player really is. With a relentless motor, and strong grasp of assignment, DeVito continues to lead through example. We could easily break down the plays in Seattle where he mugged opposing offensive lineman, resulting in a tackle for loss, or for short gain, plus his strip sack, but even that wouldn’t justify DeVito’s overall body of work. He continues to be plugged in all over the line, at the 1, 3, and 5 technique spots, and rarely ever lets down. The 1 technique is probably his weakest position, due to the fact that he does not possess the elite strength and size to consistently battle double teams, however his versatility as an interior lineman, although often overlooked, should not be something viewed as expendable. An impending free agent, DeVito should be offered a new contract by New York following the season. His numbers will likely not break the bank, and one would think he would be fine with a cap friendly deal, so there should be no reason for him to be playing elsewhere next year. That is, of course, unless Mike Tannenbaum continues his trend of letting blue collared veterans with great leadership ability walk out the door (See Jones, Thomas; Richardson, Tony; Faneca, Allen; Ellis, Shaun; Ihedigbo, James; Cotchery, Jerricho; Washington, Leon).

Bart Scott, ILB: You did not misread that. Although he hasn’t been the player he was in 2009 and 2010 for much of the past two season, Bart Scott actually played with a similar level of intensity and aggressiveness that made him such a force during the Jets’ back to back AFC Championship game seasons. Scott looked quicker and more aggressive than he has all year against Seattle, as he displayed the ability to fly downhill, take on lead blockers, and completely stuff any run headed his way. Hell, he even registered a rare sack for a veteran his age, nursing a toe injury, in the loss. Is the Madbacker of old completely back? I don’t think he will ever be. However, the flashes of his former self that were on display last Sunday are surely a sign of encouragement entering the final seven weeks.

Defensive Line:

Sione Pouha – Pouha has clearly not been himself this season, seemingly nursing a back injury that has prevented him from playing with the level of explosion and leverage Jets fans have become accustomed to. However, the Seattle game showed more glimpses of the old Sione than we have seen all season long. He was finally able to show some explosion and strength off of the ball, resulting in him occupying multiple blockers on numerous occasions. This team’s lack of ability to defend the run this season stems a vast amount from the lack of play at the NT position, with Pouha not playing at 100%, and Kenrick Ellis missing extensive time. However, Pouha’s play on Sunday was a major contribution to why the front seven players listed in our top defensive performers were able to excel. Pouha’s ability to clog the middle with multiple blockers sprung linebacker Bart Scott to be able to roam free, fly around, and make the plays he made, while also creating more one on one scenarios for Coples and DeVito. Wilkerson still drew a good amount of double teams, but if Pouha can continue to increase his play, it will likely begin to limit the attention that can be paid to big Mo. While he proved to still be virtually useless in rushing the passer, a healthy Pouha’s value against the run is indispensable.

Bryan Thomas – This was probably one of the best performances, if not the best performance, that Thomas has put on all season. While he still struggles in space, and rushing the passer on a grand scale, Thomas was able to effectively set the edge against the run, while actually proving to be a handful for Russell Okung. Thomas displayed solid leverage, and a good feel for the overall blocking scheme of Seattle, helping contribute to his team high 7 tackles, while adding half a sack as well. A good sign, but one that must keep Jets fans skeptical, based on his overall performance up until this point of the season. Cerebrally, Thomas is great. Physically, he is at the point in his career where it is difficult to put together performances similar to his against Seattle on a weekly basis.

Calvin Pace – Pace, like Thomas, put together a rather surprising performance to the outside observer. However, if you have been reading these breakdowns throughout the seaon, Pace’s performance was right on point with what we have been saying since week 1. Pace is very solid against the run, can set the edge well, has excellent technique, but just lacks that second gear at this point in his career. Well, last week’s game summed that up to perfection. Pace was his usual tenacious self inside the box, and proved once again, to have a variety of pass rush moves, effective to get beyond the opposing tackle, yet not quite enough to actually get to the quarterback in a timely manner. Mike DeVito’s sack strip was actually caused by a ferocious rush by Pace that forced Russell Wilson to become frazzled to the point where he carelessly stepped into Mike DeVito’s interior rush, without protecting the football, resulting in one of the best defensive plays of the day. Pace still struggles greatly in coverage, but at this point he and Thomas are still the best options as everydown OLBs on the roster, which tells you all you need to know about how poorly this team’s depth has been constructed.

Garrett McIntyre – McIntyre continued to show a high motor against Seattle, recording a couple tackles in situations where he came off the backside unblocked, but he is a perfect example of how poor the depth is at the position. I am unsure if I can think of another NFL team that he would be getting meaningful reps with.

Linebackers:

With the exception of Scott, the overall play of this unit was just slightly above average. David Harris looked better than he has in recent weeks, but he is far from being the dominant force on the inside that the Jets were hoping he’d become. He did a much better job of taking on lead blockers, with the correct shoulder, either forcing run plays into his help, or allowing him to make the plays himself.

DeMario Davis was used a bit more as an edge rusher last week, where he seemed quite comfortable. On one particular play early in the game, Davis came off the edge with great closing speed, and should have had a sack on Wilson, who was forced out of the pocket on the play, but was held by Seattle’s Right Tackle, without a call from the official staring directly at the line of scrimmage. Davis, unfortunately, did have more lapses in coverage last week, however, and seemed to be caught out of position on some run plays. One play that stood out was an edge run to his side, in which Calvin Pace spilled the lead blocker to force the back to the edge, assuming he’d have the help of Davis to make the play, but the rookie linebacker was nowhere to be found, turning what should have been a 1-2 yard gain into about an 8 yard gain. Physically, Davis is proving to be quite substantial, but mentally, he still has lightyears to go.

Marcus Dowtin and Ricky Sapp flashed some of their athleticism and potential, however, there has yet to be a large enough sample of their play to give a fair evaluation at this point. Sapp did make an inexperienced move, however, on Marshawn Lynch’s fumble that, if recovered, would have given the Jets the ball inside the Seattle 10 yard line. Sapp had a clear chance to simply fall on the ball and secure it for New York, but he instead tried to pick it up with a clear path to the endzone, causing him to take his eyes off of it, thus allowing Seattle to pounce on the ball and maintain posession. Hard to fault a guy just signed from the practice squad for wanting to make a game changing play, but fundamentally, this was a major lapse. To use Tannenbaum’s company line, a recovered fumble there may have changed the complexion of the game. Who knows?

Secondary:

Kyle Wilson’s faults are magnified to their highest degree, and rightfully so. Wilson struggles tremendously in man coverage, and is notorious for the finger wag that has been highly documented here at TOJ. However, despite the Golden Tate touchdown on the first drive, Wilson responded rather well, with the exception of his ability to change direction. Wilson did a good job of covering the deep ball after Tate’s touchdown, but where he really struggles is on any type of hitch or comeback routes. His stop and go ability, and route recognition, is quite poor, something that can surely be taken advantage of.

Ellis Lankster has proved to be effective as a blitzer and in some zone coverage schemes, however, like Wilson, he struggles mightily in man coverage. Sidney Rice’s touchdown is a perfect example of his struggles. Lankster completely mugged Rice, who somehow was still able to make the catch over the out of position DB. Unfortunately, like OLB, I am unsure of who else New York could turn to at this point, particularly with Isaiah Trufant recently placed on the injured reserve list.

The Safeties played their usual game – solid against the run, looked for the big hit, and didn’t give up any real significant plays. The only poor play that comes to mind is LaRon Landry’s pass interference penalty in the endzone, but to me, that was a highly questionable call considering there was little contact and the ball seemed rather uncatchable. Landry proved again to be effective in the box, while Bell played another smart game with a high display of veteran savvy.

This Jets team is at a breaking point right now. There are two ways the season can go at this point – somewhat average, or a complete disaster. How they respond this week in St. Louis will be a sign of things to come for the 6 games to follow. Defensively, this unit is a healthy nose tackle and a pass rushing OLB away from being dominant once again. Inside Linebacker may end up being an issue if Davis contiues to struggle mentally, but I don’t neccesarily see that happening. Of course, Harris will need to regain form as well, but he is slowly beginning to play more effectively than not lately.

This week in St. Louis, the Jets front seven seems to hold the advantage against St. Louis’s offensive line, however the key comes down to Danny Amendola. If Rex Ryan and Co. think that they can put Lankster or Wilson on Amendola in man coverage, expect a 8-10 catch, 100+ yard game for the WR. With the way Coples and Wilkerson have been playing, this could easily be the week that they each register a sack. Stop the run, put Cromartie on Amendola, and get Bradford to the ground are all very realistic possibilities that should lead to defensive domination for New York on Sunday.