First a few updates:
1. Rich Cimini posted an article today which cited a few sources within the Jets organization that pinned the decision to draft Vernon Gholston on ex head coach Eric Mangini. We had been hearing this for awhile now about Mangini’s pre-draft infatuation with Gholston but regardless Mike Tannenbaum is supposed to make all final decisions on the draft so it isn’t fair for him to completely pass the buck to Mangini. The entire organization deserves blame for the Gholston pick which has not worked out at all. Gholston was drafted to sack the quarterback and in 24 NFL games, he hasn’t recorded a single sack. The reality is that Gholston should be inactive for every game in the second half of the season. Jamaal Westerman is a better reserve pass rusher on defense and Marques Murrell, Ahmad Carroll, and Westerman are all better special teams players than him.
2. Peter King gave the Jets some love in his mid-season All-Pro Team by placing Darrelle Revis, David Harris, and Nick Mangold on it.
3. The Jets reportedly have no interest in recently released Chiefs running back Larry Johnson…well duh. Who would want this washed up head case, especially with Thomas Jones and Shonn Grenne on the roster and Leon Washington coming back next year?
4. CBS has protected the Jets/Pats 4:15 game on November 22nd, preventing NBC from moving it to Sunday Night Football. At least we have our prime-time game against the Bills in Toronto to get excited about.
5. A few highlights from Rex Ryan’s press conference today: Vernon Gholston sat out practice with a hamstring injury, while Lito Sheppard and Brad Smith were both limited but still are expected to play this weekend. Ryan confirmed Sheppard would return to the starting line-up when he comes back. He also complimented Mark Sanchez for practicing without sleeves today and admitted he needs to learn how to deal with the cold weather if the Jets are going to be successful in the second half of the season.
Some Quick NFL Second Half Predictions
In my “2009 NFL Predictions” article here: http://turnonthejets.com/2009/09/07/2009-nfl-predictions/, I predicted the AFC playoff teams would be: New England, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, San Diego, Baltimore (wild card), New York Jets (wild card). In the NFC: Philadelphia, Minnesota, Atlanta, Arizona, New York Giants (wild card), Green Bay Packers (wild card). My Super Bowl prediction was Philly vs. San Diego.
Obviously, it isn’t fair to revise picks half way through the season. However, in the AFC I’d like to trade Baltimore out and take Cincinnati in but beyond that I am feeling alright. I am thinking San Diego will win the AFC West and Denver will fade away in the second half. In the NFC, I look completely idiotic for not picking New Orleans to even make the playoffs so I need to trade the fading Giants and the mediocre Packers out to bring the Saints and Cowboys in.
I won’t bail on my Super Bowl picks because I think both teams will still be in the mix come January but if I had to switch it up now I would say we are looking at a Colts/Steelers AFC Championship Game and a Saints/Vikings NFC Championship game with the Steelers and Saints meeting in the Super Bowl.
How The Jets Can Make A Playoff Run
I have already stated my belief that the Jets are going 6-2 in the second half of the season and will find a way to sneak in the playoffs, but what do they need to do to make that happen? Let’s look at the three separate phases of the game:
Offense: It all starts and ends with the quarterback, if Mark Sanchez can take what he learned from the first half of the season and put together an improved second half the Jets are going to have a very good offense. He needs to continue doing what he did in the past two games, which means protecting the football, hitting big plays down the field when the defense stacks the box, and avoiding sacks by checking the ball down or throwing the ball away. Keep in mind Sanchez lost two games for the Jets in the first half of the season with amazingly bad, turnover-filled performances. I think those type of games are behind him which is going to prevent the Jets from having a let down against inferior teams like Jacksonville, Carolina, Tampa Bay, and Buffalo. The real question is going to be can Sanchez rise up on the road in games against New England and Indy and at home against Atlanta and Cincinnati to lead the Jets to a couple of upsets.
Beyond the quarterback, Brian Schottenheimer needs to remember what the Jets identity is on offense. They need to keep running the football. I hope Thomas Jones got his rest over the bye week because the guy should be getting 22-25 carries every single week for the rest of the season. Shonn Greene needs to bounce back from a rough Miami game and become a reliable 10-12 carry guy off the bench. I know Schottenheimer is going to be tempted to air it out with a healthy Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards and a rejuvenated Dustin Keller but the Jets aren’t going anywhere throwing 35 passes a game. When teams stack the box and finally begin slowing down the Jets #1 ranked rushing attack, then they need to take advantage of single coverage on either Edwards, Cotchery, or Keller. With how well the Jets run the football, they should be able to hit big plays down the field in the passing game.
Defense: Outside of the weak showing on Monday night against Miami, the Jets defense has been exceptional this year. Over the past two weeks, they have finally started creating turnovers and sacking the quarterback and that needs to continue. If the Jets are going to pull some of the necessary upsets to make the playoffs, it will be led by strong defensive performances that will keep games against New England, Indy, Atlanta, and Cincy close and give the Jets a chance to steal the game in the fourth quarter. On the defensive line, Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito, and Marques Douglas need to keep their elevated level of play going to fill the void of Kris Jenkins. They will be tested right out of the gate against Maurice Jones-Drew and will also have to deal with DeAngelo Williams, Michael Turner, and Cedric Benson later in the year.
At linebacker it is time to plant Vernon Gholston on the bench and let Jamaal Westerman become the primary pass rusher off the bench. In the secondary, Lito Sheppard’s return will boost the secondary by allowing Dwight Lowery, who is talented enough to be a starter, to slide into the nickel role. Kerry Rhodes also needs to get it going. The Jets are going to need some defensive touchdowns or key turnovers that give easy points to the offense, and for that to happen Rhodes to start making some big plays.
Special Teams: Tackle, Tackle, Tackle. The Jets won’t make the mistake of making Marques Murrell and Ahmad Carroll inactive in the same week again. Jay Feely has been very good this season and needs to keep it up. Steve Weatherford has been okay and you’d like to see a slight improvement from him. In the return game, hopefully Justin Miller got back up to speed over the bye week and will provide a threat on kick returns.
Who Else Could We Have Had With This Pick?