TOJ Film Room: Grading the 2012 Offensive Line – Austin Howard

Mike Nolan steps into the film room to grade the 2012 Jets’ Offensive Line. Next up is starting Right Tackle Austin Howard.

Before we get to the regular season, I wanted to take a look at some 2012 film of the Jets’ Offensive Line to see what is returning this year and to see what the Jets may have lost from 2012. During the regular season, I will be running a weekly column where I will grade out the offensive line’s individual performances. Unlike Pro Football Focus, I am going to grade the line from as much of a coach’s perspective as I can. This means that I will base my grades on technique and assignment in addition to play result. For the second part of the film study, let’s see what we found out about starting Right Tackle Austin Howard. To see how players are graded check out the first part of the series on D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

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New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 2

Chris Gross breaks down the defensive game film from the Jets week 2 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers

If you missed our first edition of the New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown, a season long series devoted to evaluating the play of everyone on the defense, with a focus on the defensive line, you can check that out here. For this week, we will look at what was a rather abysmal performance from a Revis-less New York Jets defense that allowed 27 points in Pittsburgh. While the run defense was much improved from week 1, allowing only 66 total yards on the ground to a stable of less than average Steelers backs, there is still much to improve on that would make this unit far more productive. As for the secondary, obviously losing the best defensive player in football is critical. However, that is not an excuse for the poor play of both Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson. All will be touched on throughout this piece, but for now, let’s start with this column’s priority, the defensive line.

Muhammad Wilkerson – Wilkerson remains very hot and cold in his play. On some plays, he looks to be the best run stopper this defense has had in years. He is extremely fast off the ball, while his reaction time is second to none. This past week, there were numerous plays where Wilkerson clearly got a pre-snap read on the offensive lineman lined up over him, as he seemingly knew exactly what block was coming at him on that particular play, whether it was a double team, down block, drive block, pull, or pass set. On one specific play, with Wilkerson lined up as the three technique over the guard, he read the pull, got in the guard’s hip pocket, screamed down the line, and made the tackle three yards in the backfield. Textbook technique and reaction time by the second year pro out of Temple.

Wilkerson also flashes tremendous awareness at times. With 5:58 seconds to go in the first half this past Sunday, Wilkerson altered his pass rush lane after he noticed Calvin Pace jump inside of him. Rather than continuing to work upfield on the inside of the tackle, Wilkerson kept his outside arm and shoulder free, while maintaining leverage with his inside arm. This prevented Roethlisberger from being able to scramble out of the pocket, where he had would have had room to run for an easy first down. Unfortunately, this play resulted in a first down completion, but only because Pace once again struggled to close the gap on the Quarterback. An outside linebacker with any type of relative game speed would have come up with a sack in the pocket, which would have been a direct result of Wilkerson’s heads up play.

While Wilkerson certainly did a lot of good, as demonstrated by the praise above, he still has miles to go before he can be considered elite, particularly in the run game. Similar to week one, Wilkerson once again displayed a poor habit of peeking his head into another gap, causing a massive running lane to open. This past Sunday, these instances led to medium gains of 10-12 yards, but against a back like Reggie Bush, who the Jets will see this upcoming week in Miami, mistakes like this will surely lead to big gains, and possibly touchdowns, as displayed by the long runs of CJ Spiller in week 1.

As you can see below, Wilkerson begins this particular play in the opening quarter in excellent position. He maintains good leverage on the left tackle, while controlling his gap, ready to make a play if the ball comes to him, with Bart Scott sitting behind him, reading which gap the back will choose.

If Wilkerson stays home, Redman would be forced to run to the inside of the tackle. Bart Scott, reading the back, is patiently waiting to see which direction he will choose, ready to react and stop the play from either side.

However, as displayed below, once Redman steps to the inside, Wilkerson cheats and peeks his head that way, placing himself and Scott in the same gap, while leaving his unattended, resulting in a massive lane being opened, and a 13 yard gain, one that would have been much greater if facing a back with home run speed.

What should have been a gain of 1-2 yards, results in a gain of 13 and a Pittsburgh 1st down. Wilkerson cannot continue to make mistakes like this, particularly this week when facing Miami and Reggie Bush, who would have likely turned this play into a touchdown.

Marcus Dixon – Unfortunately, Wilkerson is not the only defensive lineman to practice this poor habit. Marcus Dixon was also very guilty of making the exact same mistake on Pittsburgh’s first touchdown drive. In the second quarter, with the ball at the Jets’ 13 yard line, the Jets had the opportunity to hold Pittsburgh to a field goal by stopping them in the red zone, heading into the half. However, on 1st and 10, the Steelers ran for a seven yard gain, setting up a nice 2nd and 3 from the six yard line, eventually leading to the Heath Miller touchdown. How did this happen? Take a look.

Here, just about everyone in the front seven, other than Dixon, is maintaining perfect gap leverage. However, Dixon is clearly struggling to maintain his ground. Instead of continuing to fight to his outside and hold his gap, he takes the easy route by ducking inside, in an attempt to get a cheap tackle. This opens up yet another massive running lane, leading to the seven yard gain that led to a Pittsburgh touchdown.

The closest person to making the play here is Yeremiah Bell, who, at this point, is about 12-13 yards away from the ball carrier.

Dixon remained very unimpressive in this contest. He more often then not gets knocked off the line of scrimmage, causing problems for the linebackers and creating large running lanes. Dixon has been caught out of position numerous times in the first two games, something that, if not fixed, will certainly begin to cost him playing time.

Kenrick Ellis – To me, Ellis was the most impressive defensive lineman on the field this past Sunday. He plays with unbelievable leverage, something that, when combined with his fantastic size and strength, makes him virtually immovable. Ellis proved to be technically sound, explosive, quick, and relentless. Expect him to begin to see more and more playing time as the season unfolds. A solid two man rotation at the nose tackle position could be a very dangerous weapon for this defense.

Garrett McIntyre – McIntyre, the man of the hour, delivering two sacks and a tackle for loss in his debut as a starter, certainly surprised a lot of people by his performance in Pittsburgh this past Sunday. However, take caution when anointing him the next leader of the New York Sack Exchange. Yes, McIntyre played very hard, and was certainly thrown to the wolves by having to face a Ben Roethlisberger led offense in his very first career start, but when observing the film, McIntyre hardly did anything spectacular.

His first sack was a direct result of a well designed, well timed line stunt. The Jets ran a loop with Quinton Coples, who was lined up on the interior of the defensive line. What this means is that Coples drove up field extremely hard for two steps, fooling the offensive line into thinking he was taking his normal pass rush lane, just before he bailed out to loop around to the end of the line to occupy the outside rush line. Meanwhile, McIntyre was sent like a bullet direct inside at Steelers Center Mike Pouncey, who never saw him coming as he was paying attention solely to Coples on the play. As a result, McIntyre ran Pouncey over from his blind side, and had a clear shot at Roethlisberger in the pocket. While McIntyre certainly deserves credit for coming in so aggressively, this sack was a direct result of Rex Ryan’s defensive genius and the respect commanded by Coples. Still, a sack nonetheless.

On McIntyre’s tackle for loss in the second half, he came off the edge completely unblocked and made the tackle on the back about 2-3 yards behind the line of scrimmage. To his credit, he made the offense pay for not accounting for him. However, it is not very difficult to make plays when not a single person lays a finger on you.

McIntyre’s second sack was his most impressive play of the game. He came upfield very hard on the left tackle, gaining leverage on the edge, and split the attempted chip by the back, taking him right to Roethlisberger for the takedown.

As far as coverage goes, McIntyre is a complete liability. On more than one occasion, he can be found running around in coverage like a chicken with his head cut off. He even warranted an unpleasant reaction from Kyle Wilson on one play early in the first quarter.

Based on his performance, McIntyre should not be a full time starter, however, his effort level lead to the majority of his execution. That alone, should continue to earn him some limited reps, with the hope that he continues to grow and develop into a decent contributor.

Quinton Coples – It remains a mystery as to why Coples is seeing such limited action. For a team that clearly has pass rush issues, one would think that this team would be eager to get one of their most athletic players in the game to get after the Quarterback. In this particular contest, Coples saw a fair amount of his reps on the interior, where he was a clear mismatch to the center and guards due to his superior athleticism. In order to establish a respectable pass rush, New York needs to get their first round selection on the field more.

Calvin Pace – Pace continues to be the most technically sound, disciplined player on the Jets defensive line. The veteran OLB/DE plays very, very tough, and is arguably the most consistent player the Jets have up front. However, his problem remains the same, and was displayed yet again this past week in Pittsburgh, in that he is just a step too slow at this point in his career. With his form and tenacity, if Pace had the speed and explosiveness of a 25 year old, there is a good chance he would be playing in a pro bowl due to how well he fits within the Jets’ defensive scheme. Expect him to remain solid, but not extraordinary, for the remainder of the season.

Mike DeVito – DeVito remains as one of the best run stoppers on this team, and arguably in the entire division. Time and time again this past week DeVito displayed that, although he will never jump off the stat sheet at anyone, he rarely gets caught out of position, or beaten by his opponent. He is certainly a fundamental piece up front, and his presence is surely missed when he is spelled by Marcus Dixon.

Sione Pouha – Pouha looked decent in his first start back from injury. He was very solid, as he has been in the past. He remains very strong as the anchor for the Jets in the middle of the defensive line, and his experience and knowledge of the game is very noticeable on film.  He commanded several double teams, which is certainly something to be said about a player who has been troubled by back issues. Pouha and Ellis together should give everyone else on this defensive line the ability to become playmakers due to the large amount of double teams they both command.

Aaron Maybin – Maybin was virtually non-existent yet again. He continues to show poor body control, as he repeatedly will fly upfield with no regard for where the pocket or Quarterback is. It seems as if the league may be catching onto his tactics, as the tackles in Pittsburgh, like Buffalo, used his own momentum to ride him past the Quarterback on his pass rushes. Maybin needs to display an expanded arsenal of pass rush moves and a much greater sense of awareness if he plans on building on his fairly strong 2011.

The Linebackers – David Harris was extremely solid, and remains a fundamental cornerstone of this defense. What really jumped off the tape was the athleticism and explosiveness displayed by Bart Scott. Scott was extremely impressive last week, particularly against the run. He is so fast in his reads and reaction time that his first two steps make up for whatever straight ahead speed he may have lost at this point in his career. He undoubtedly looks to be back to the Bart Scott of old.

The Secondary – The play of the Safeties was generally average and similar to week 1. Both Bell and Landry remain solid against the run, while both are still seemingly trying to get comfortable in coverage. Each of them were caught trailing the Tight Ends a few times, and Landry even came up with a couple of personal fouls.

Bell seems to play much more poised than Landry, who find himself out of control at times. He had more than one clear shot at Roethlishberger for a sack, on well designed blitzes, however, like Maybin, he came in so fast and uncontrollable, that Roethlisberger was able to easily avoid him in the pocket.

The Cornerbacks obviously took a serious hit this week, losing Darrelle Revis to injury. However, that is no excuse for how Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson played.

Cromartie in particular, displayed no ability to finish a play. Numerous times, he started out great in coverage, but would lose the receiver he was matched up on by the end of the play, as displayed by the Mike Wallace touchdown. It is quite embarrassing that an inability to finish is a critique of a veteran like Cromartie. He is much better than how he played this past Sunday, and must start playing to his potential for this defense to succeed.

Kyle Wilson, on the other hand, was no match for Antonio Brown. The Steelers went after Wilson, and rightfully so, as they knew Brown held the clear advantage in the match up. To me, Wilson is seemingly a much better zone coverage corner, than he is man coverage corner. Perhaps it is a confidence issue because one would think a former first round selection would be able to match up, athletically, with someone like Brown, a former sixth round pick.

So, the obvious question that remains from Sunday is the same one that has been prevalent since Rex Ryan took over in New York – Where was the four man pass rush? Once again, the Jets relied on scheme to get pressure on the Quarterback. Well, at least for this week, the Jets’ four man rush was schemed against to perfection by Pittsburgh. The Steelers knew that Garret McIntyre would be seeing the majority of reps filling in for Bryan Thomas, and drew their protection around this perfectly.

Most of the time, when the Jets rushed four, Pittsburgh kept an tight end or back in to help in pass pro. This resulted in the following:

By leaving in an extra blocker, Pittsburgh allowed themselves to set up two mismatches. At the right of the screen, you can see a 3 on 2 matchup with a guard, tackle, and tight end on Ellis and Wilkerson. In the middle, the center and right guard are assigned to doubling DeVito, leaving the right tackle on an island with Garrett McIntyre, a matchup they were willing to take all day. While McIntyre finished with two sacks, only one came on a straight four man rush. Pittsburgh was smart to play these odds, as they clearly paid off, displayed by the Jets lack of pass rush with a four man front.

There is certainly much to be excited about when it comes to the Jets defense. It is still extremely early in the season, and most of the issues discussed above should be ironed out as the year progresses. However, make no mistake, this defense is far from dominant. The potential is there, but there is an abundance of things that need to be worked on before reaching it.

Jets vs. Patriots, Round Two: Game Breakdown

TOJ breaks down what the New York Jets need to do to seize control of the AFC East this Sunday night

Offense: There have been calls from some in the media to let Mark Sanchez loose against a weak New England secondary. While I agree to an extent, the Jets still need to give Shonn Greene his 20 carries and have LaDainian Tomlinson/Joe McKnight chip in another 10. You don’t ignore your running game, you use it to set up your down field play action passing attack. A run first offense doesn’t mean Mark Sanchez can’t take his shots and can’t be aggressive.

I don’t think Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Dustin Keller should have a tough time getting open when the Jets do decide to air out. If they can make the most of their opportunities, there is no reason this offense can’t put up a 30 spot this Sunday night. The key is going to be for Mark Sanchez to avoid any costly turnovers or red-zone mistakes. They won’t get away with them like they did last week against Buffalo.

Defense: Attack. The Jets need to come after Tom Brady and get him rattled in the pocket from the opening whistle. I expect to see an aggressive scheme from Rex Ryan, which will use more man coverage and won’t be anywhere near as defensive back heavy as their week 5 approach. The defense has been doing a better job of setting the edge lately and if they keep it up, BenJarvus Green-Ellis won’t have anywhere near the impact he did in the last meeting.

This unit’s confidence should be at an all-time high for this season after their performance last week and watching game tape of New England from the previous two weeks. If they can force Tom Brady into a turnover or two, like they have in the past, New England is going to have a very tough time winning on the road.

Special Teams: This unit has been simply terrific all season. Joe McKnight is a Pro Bowl returner. He has had a toe injury this week and if he can’t go, look for Antonio Cromartie back on kick returns. Nick Folk is having a career year and TJ Conley does appear to be rounding into form at punter. In what should be a tight game, the Jets special teams could make a huge difference.

New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills: Game Breakdown

TOJ breaks down the New York Jets week 9 match-up against the Buffalo Bills

Offense: I don’t think it is any secret that the New York Jets need to run the football this Sunday. They haven’t cracked 40 carries in a single game yet, but with Shonn Greene’s recent emergence and talk of Joe McKnight receiving more opportunities this week, now could be the time. Buffalo struggles to stop the run and has only had success on defense when they have forced turnovers. This is the perfect week to run right at them, have Mark Sanchez work off his play action and bootlegs, and control the time of possession. Remember the Jets game-plan back when they beat Cincinnati in the wild-card round? Brian Schottenheimer should dust off that tape.

Santonio Holmes is due for a big game and if he could find single coverage off play action, he should be able to make plays down the field. Also keep an eye on Dustin Keller, who did have two touchdowns against in Buffalo last year.

Mark Sanchez needs to protect the football and know when to pick his spots. With the recent improvement in the offensive line’s pass protection, he should have time in the pocket but this isn’t the type of game where he should try to do too much. Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight need to lead the charge. It would be nice to see Brian Schottenheimer finally dust off a screen pass or two to his backs as well.

Defense: A nice challenge for a unit this showed signs of improvement last week. Expect the Jets base defense to have Kyle Wilson and Brodney Pool out there to match-up with Buffalo’s spread attack. The key to slowing down Buffalo is slowing down Fred Jackson.  If the Jets can keep him under 100 yards, I would expect a victory. Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown his share of interceptions this year and if the Jets can get after him (see Aaron Maybin), they should be able to force him into mistakes.

Keep in mind Buffalo’s passing attack is built on timing and quick releases. The Jets have the corners in Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson to play a physical man to man press with should disrupt the timing of Buffalo’s plays. Stevie Johnson isn’t doing anything on Revis and there is no reason Cromartie shouldn’t be able to handle David Nelson. The safeties and corners all need to have a hand in slowing down Fred Jackson as a receiver out of the backfield.

Special Teams: Two excellent units facing off against each other here, as it will be exciting to watch Joe McKnight and Brad Smith duel on returns. Nick Folk has been perfect this season at kicker, which is surprising and scary as you feel he is due for a big miss.

Game Breakdown: Jets vs. Chargers

TOJ breaks down the Jets week 7 match-up against the San Diego Chargers

Offense: How about a first quarter touchdown? Maybe even a first quarter first down? The New York Jets must find a way to start faster because of the firepower San Diego has on the offensive side of the football. It is on Mark Sanchez and Brian Schottenheimer in particular to come up with something to put the Chargers defense on their heels.

I would expect to see more LaDainian Tomlinson than usual on Sunday. He has looked better with the football in his hands all season than Shonn Greene and you know how motivated he will be for Sunday. Between Tomlinson, Greene, and hopefully a larger dose of Joe McKnight the Jets must establish a running game to keep the pressure off Mark Sanchez and open the play action passing attack down the field.

The Jets are going to need all of their pass catching options to step up on Sunday. Santonio Holmes must be the number one receiver they signed him to be and make another big play as he did the past two weeks. Plaxico Burress needs a couple of first quarter catches to get in the flow of the game. Dustin Keller should be able to stretch the seam with Jeremy Kerley. The offense only scored 17 points last week, which isn’t going to cut it this Sunday.

Defense: Ryan Matthews would seem to be type of back who will give the Jets defense a world of trouble. Of course, Ray Rice seemed that way too but they were able to keep him in check. Rex Ryan’s unit needs their “A” game like they had in Baltimore led by the defensive line up front slowing Matthews and Mike Tolbert down. Philip Rivers has been off so far this year but always has the ability to flip the switch and push the football down the field as well as any quarterback in the league.

I would expect Darrelle Revis to spend the overwhelmingly majority of the game on Vincent Jackson. The real question is going to be how will the Jets handle Malcolm Floyd and Antonio Gates if he suits up? Antonio Cromartie needs to show up and the safeties have to perform better. The Jets should also be able to get after Rivers. Aaron Maybin, Jamaal Westerman, and Calvin Pace must keep Rivers uneasy in the pocket and force another turnover or two.

Special Teams: An area of the game where the Jets could have a large advantage. A huge kick or punt return will go a long way towards helping pull off the “upset.” TJ Conley must also keep up his strong performances, as field position will be crucial in what should be a tight game.

Game Breakdown: Jets vs. Dolphins

TOJ breaks down the Jets week 6 match-up with the Miami Dolphins

Offense: This New York Jets offense needs a confidence boosting performance in the worst way. It can’t be only Ground and Pound and it can’t only be Chuck and Duck. The Jets need to run the football effectively to keep balance but take more than a handful of shots down the field against a suspect Miami Dolphins secondary. The main thing I want to see out of this game is zero turnovers from Mark Sanchez, similar to last week but a more aggressive game plan and style of play from him.

Santonio Holmes has been running his mouth the past couple of weeks, so it would be nice if the Jets called for a few big plays down the field for him and he came through on them. Rex Ryan has always said the player he feared most in Baltimore was Holmes, so let’s use him. Plenty of eyes will also be on Jeremy Kerley as he fully assumes an expanded a role. We also wonder if this will be the week when Joe McKnight gets to truly become part of the offense.

Overall, 20 points doesn’t work this week. This offense has too much talent not to drop a 30 spot on the Dolphins defense and honestly they need to before Jeff Capellini and company lead a revolution at Florham Park.

Defense: Come after Matt Moore from the first snap of the game until the final seconds. This shouldn’t be any different than what the Jets did to Luke McCown in week 2. This entire unit should have an awful taste in their mouth based on how last game ended. Jamaal Westerman needs to build on his 2 sacks last week and keep rolling as he hopefully develops into a consistent contributor. Aaron Maybin was quiet last week so it’d be nice to see him get back into the action this week.

Reggie Bush isn’t an every down back but he is dangerous out of the backfield as a receiver. The Jets must shadow him with a safety or Kyle Wilson. I’d be worried about Brandon Marshall but we have that Revis guy and it sounds like Marshall will be gone by halftime anyway. If Miami scores 17 points on Monday night, the Jets defense underachieved.

Special Teams: Joe McKnight may take over punt return duties along with his kick return duties with Jeremy Kerley now playing more on offense. The more he can touch the football, the better. The Jets special teams have been their one constant this season and I don’t expect that to change this week, especially since Ted Ginn Jr isn’t on Miami anymore.

Game Breakdown: Jets vs. Ravens

Offense: Logically it makes sense for the New York Jets to attack the Baltimore Ravens primarily through the air, particularly outside of the hashes, away from Ed Reed. The weakest spot of the Baltimore Ravens is their cornerback position. The more one on one match-ups the Jets can get for their starting receivers, the better. This isn’t a day for Dustin Keller and Derrick Mason. This is a day for Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress.

I am not saying Keller and Mason can’t have their moments contributing in the short passing game and in third down situations. Yet, if the Jets want to win this game it will be on a collection of big plays from arguably their two biggest playmakers, Holmes and Burress. I am also not saying the Jets should be completely one dimensional. A complete ignorance of the running game will only fuel the Ravens pass rush. The Jets need to keep the defense honest by occasionally hitting the edges of the Ravens defense with Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson.

This is a night for Mark Sanchez. He has put together his share of “big boy” performances and now is time for another one. Let’s see our young quarterback go on the road, in primetime, against one of the league’s best defenses and put together a 22/30, 275 yard, 2 touchdown performance without any turnovers.

Defense: Gut-check time. It has been an ugly stretch of football for the New York Jets defense against NFL opponents (sorry, I don’t count Jacksonville). How about it Rex? How about it Mike Pettine? More importantly, let’s see the linebackers and Antonio Cromartie get up off the mat after last weekend. I don’t buy any talk about this defense losing their swagger. This is still a confident unit, who is in need of a performance to hang their hat on.

The linebackers need to set the edge on Ray Rice and keep him contained, and put this game on Joe Flacco. This unit is built to man up with Darrelle Revis and Cromartie, and send the house after the quarterback. Hit Joe Flacco in the mouth, early and often and he will throw you a few interceptions. If the Jets can create a couple of sacks and turnovers, they will be in good shape to move to 3-1.

Special Teams: Always a potential x-factor with a unit as talented as the Jets have. Jeremy Kerley looked like a major weapon on punt return last week and Joe McKnight will get a shot to make a statement this week on kick return.

Roster: Nick Mangold will likely be a game time decision. It would be unbelievably impressive if he returned this quickly from his high ankle sprain. Antonio Cromartie is going to start at corner but likely won’t be used on kick return. The Jets would be wise to make both recently signed Aaron Mayin and rookie third round pick Kenrick Ellis active this Sunday. They need help on the pass rush and in stopping the run, so why not give them a shot?

Game Breakdown: Jets vs. Raiders

Offense: The Oakland Raiders are going to show plenty of man to man looks against the Jets defense and work to prevent them from running the football, which hasn’t been a difficult task so far against their offense. I don’t see any chance of Nick Mangold playing this week, so the Jets are going to need to protect rookie center Colin Baxter. The way to do this is to work the outside rushing attack and find ways to have the short passing game replace the running game. Instead of plunging Shonn Greene into the middle repeatedly for 1 and 2 yard gains, throw quick slants, hitches, and screens to Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. The Jets should also look to get their screen game going with LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight out of the backfield.

Their collection of tight ends should also come in valuable this week, as Dustin Keller and Jeff Cumberland are reliable weapons in the short to intermediate passing game. The Jets are going to want to avoid longer drops for Mark Sanchez with Baxter at center and Wayne Hunter struggling at right tackle. It is time to work the 3 step passing game and again let those short passes replace the running game.

We have seen limited trickery from the Jets so far on offense, with Antonio Cromartie running a reverse last week being the only sign of it. I am still waiting for them to unleash Jeremy Kerley or break out a toss pass from LaDainian Tomlinson who has history of creating big plays when given the chance to throw the ball.

Defense: Stop Darren McFadden. Oakland’s offense begins and ends with McFadden’s production. If the Jets can slow him down rushing the football and put this game in Jason Campbell’s hands, they will be in very good shape. The Jets secondary is more than equipped to slow down the Raiders receivers and tight ends. McFadden is a threat out of the backfield as a receiver and I am sure Oakland will find a way to use him in the screen game. The Jets must tackle well in space and I wouldn’t be surprised if they went with a three safety look on many downs, getting Brodney Pool on the field to replace Bryan Thomas.

If McFadden isn’t creating big plays, Oakland will struggle heavily to get receivers open down the field which will feed into a pass rush that has been better than expected this season. Calvin Pace had three sacks back in 2009 when the Jets came to Oakland and is off to a strong start this year. Let’s hope he can continue to lead the way along with Bart Scott who already has more sacks this year than he had all of last season.

Special Teams: Nick Folk hasn’t missed a field goal yet this season and TJ Conley has been surprisingly solid. I wonder if will begin to see teams start kicking away from Antonio Cromartie, although with Sebastian Janikowski at kicker, he might not get any chances this week.

Jets vs. Jaguars: Game Breakdown

Offense: For the second week in a row the Jets are facing a defense that will be more susceptible to the pass than the run. Jacksonville is solid up front and won’t be easy to run the football on. However, that doesn’t mean the Jets need to be dropping Mark Sanchez back 44 times in this game. You would like to see them try to establish some type of balance and get Shonn Greene rolling with some type of confidence. The Jets are going to have favorable match-ups in the passing game that will be there to exploit, but being able to create the threat of the run will only open that up more.

Sanchez needs to do a better job of protecting the football this week and getting the offense off to a quick start. He can contribute to that by getting Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller involved early.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Joe McKnight get a few reps on offense this week, along with Jeremy Kerley maybe getting a longer look. The Jets are going to show the Wildcat at some point and using Kerley and McKnight in the backfield together could be a good way to break through against the Jaguars tough front seven.

Also keep an eye out for former Jets defensive backs Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman, who both have quickly picked up large roles on the Jacksonville defense. Coleman had a sack last week and Lowery recorded an interception.

Defense: Jacksonville is lacking on major offensive threats in a big way. Maurice Jones-Drew is a beast but if the Jets can contain him, which they are equipped to do, Jacksonville doesn’t have many options to turn to. Mercedes Lewis is a very good tight end who would have the ability to gash a Jets defense that struggles to stop his position but he isn’t expected to play on Sunday. Their top two receivers, Mike Thomas and Jason Hill, shouldn’t be able to get free on Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Yet, let’s hope Cromartie is motivated to return with a strong game after a weak opening performance.

The Jets took the time to look at multiple pass rushers on the free agent market this week, including Tully Banta-Cain. It Is time for Jamaal Westerman to break through and make a statement if he wants to be a major part of this defense moving forward. I would also like to see Muhammad Wilkerson come up with an impact play or two. Jacksonville will be running right into the teeth of the Jets defense early and often, so Wilkerson should be able to fill up the stat sheet a little bit.

Luke McCown is going to be asked to manage the game and not make any turnovers. If the Jets can establish an early lead, they should tee off on McCown who is lacking in experience. I simply can’t see him being able to find open receivers down the field with a myriad of Jets blitzes coming at him.

Special Teams: It was hard not to be very impressed with both Nick Folk and TJ Conley last week. Let’s hope they can keep it up and maintain some degree of consistency. Mike Westhoff said this week Antonio Cromartie is going to handle the majority of kick return duties, with Joe McKnight occasionally spelling him. Cromartie has the natural ability to be one of the league’s best returners but he needs to refrain from trying those 109 yard returns. Jeremy Kerley will continue to handle punt return duties and did a nice job fielding the ball last week.

Jets vs. Cowboys: Game Breakdown

Offense: The New York Jets need to be in attack mode from the first snap of the game. There is too much talent at the wide receiver and tight end position for them not to have a game plan based around a downfield passing attack to take advantage of a battered and suspect Dallas secondary. You can’t double team Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller, meaning at some point all three should have opportunities to make huge plays. It is imperative that the Jets get Burress involved early on a safe pass to calm his nerves and get him into the flow of the game. Holmes is going to get his looks but Mark Sanchez can’t forget about Dustin Keller and Derrick Mason in the short to intermediate passing game on third down situations.

Sanchez has a prime opportunity to demonstrate his progression as he enters the third year in this system. We are past color coded wrist bands and games with sub 50% completion percentages. He needs to play confident from the first snap and put together a statement performance on national television.

Let’s not entirely forget about the running game, which will set up the opportunity for play action down the field. We have heard all about Shonn Greene being the feature back so Brian Schottenheimer needs to prove it by giving him at least 16-20 carries. LaDainian Tomlinson will be out there on third downs and to occasionally spell Greene. I wouldn’t expect to see Joe McKnight or Jeremy Kerley except for a handful of plays. Kerley could take a few snaps from the Wildcat to give upcoming defenses more to prepare for.

Wayne Hunter will be under the microscope on the offensive line, especially in his match-ups against DeMarcus Ware. The Jets don’t frequently give help to their tackles so Hunter will be on an island at times and needs to protect Sanchez so the Jets can attack down the field.

Defense: Just like the offense, they need to attack from the first snap of the game. If he gets cleared to play, rookie first round pick Tyron Smith will start at right tackle. Rookie Bill Nagy is starting at left guard and Phil Costa will be making his second career start at center. Tony Romo should also be rusty considering he missed the last two thirds of the 2010 season. I am aware it is risky to leave your corners on islands against Miles Austin and Dez Bryant but that is why Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie make the big bucks. Expect to see plenty of 6 and 7 man blitzes coming right at Romo.

The match-up that is most concerning for the Jets is tight end Jason Witten. Their defense struggled against tight ends last year and Witten is one of the best in the business. Their safeties are not equipped to cover him one on one, so the Jets will have to mix and match double teams at him and maybe occasionally throw Revis on him.

Felix Jones is a serious home run threat out of the backfield, so it is important the Jets keep contain and force him to run north and south. He is also a threat as a receiver out of the backfield and Dallas will likely attempt to take advantage of the Jets lack of speed at linebacker.

It will be interesting to see how Rex Ryan uses his bench on defense. Look for Jamaal Westerman, Kyle Wilson, Brodney Pool, Ropati Pitoitua, and Donald Strickland to see plenty of action. This is an important game in particular for Westerman and Wilson who need to prove they deserve big roles on the defense. Also keep an eye out for rookie first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson making his career regular season start.

Special Teams: Nick Folk and TJ Conley will be under the microscope all year at kicker and punter for the Jets, respectively. Conley in particular could be a bad game or two away from being released.  Look for rookie Jeremy Kerely to handle most of the return duties. Antonio Cromartie will likely get a rep or two on kick return and run it out regardless of where it is kicked. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jim Leonhard deep on a punt in a big spot. Brian McCann is listed as the Cowboys primary returner but Dez Bryant and Felix Jones both have the ability to step in and provide a major threat. Cowboys kicker David Buehler has one of the strongest legs in the game.