New York Jets Week 2 – Early Thoughts On Jets/Steelers

A collection of early thoughts on the New York Jets week 2 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers

A collection of early thoughts on the New York Jets week 2 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers…stay with us all day today at TOJ as we have a roundtable discussion on the game coming later, along with new content from Mike Donnelly and Chris Gross

1. Regardless of the flaws on Pittsburgh’s offensive line and disappointing showing of their defense in week 1. This is a very tough match-up for the Jets. Heinz Field is never an easy place to play, nevermind when the Steelers are 0-1 and desperate for a victory. A win on Sunday would truly put the league on notice that the Jets are a legitimate contender in the AFC.

2. Early indications are that Darrelle Revis is going to play despite a mild concussion. The logic match-up is to put him on Antonio Brown, put Antonio Cromartie on Mike Wallace and come after Ben Roethlisberger like crazy in an attempt to take advantage of their struggling offensive line.

3. The players on Pittsburgh’s offense who have the ability to hurt the Jets the most are Emmanuel Sanders, Heath Miller and Jonathan Dwyer. We all know the history of slot receivers and tight ends taking advantage of Rex Ryan’s defense since he took over the Jets. This is a big week for Kyle Wilson and for the Jets new safeties, LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, to show their ability in coverage. The reason I say Dwyer is because Pittsburgh has ran the ball down the Jets throat in their previous two meetings and Dwyer looks to be the workhorse back this week.

4. The Jets will receive a nice boost to their run defense if Sione Pouha returns to the line-up. Chris Gross will discuss this later in his film breakdown but the defense missed badly missed him last week at nose tackle. It will also be interesting to see if Eric Smith can play, as he would provide a boost to the special teams.

5. We will get a nice barometer of just how legitimate the Jets passing offense is this week. Pittsburgh has a seemingly endless collection of pass rushers and will receive Ryan Clark back at safety. Mark Sanchez played well both times the Jets went to Pittsburgh in 2010 and you know Santonio Holmes will be fired up for his return. Tony Sparano must stay aggressive in the passing game to keep balance on offense. It will be interesting to see how Stephen Hill responds to the extra attention he should likely receive now from opposing defenses.

6. If Mark Sanchez is playing like he did last week, I’d prefer even less of the Wildcat than we saw last week. Give the extra carries to Bilal Powell, particularly the edge rushes which Shonn Greene lacks the speed for.

7. What in the world would be the justification by the national media for a Jets win this week? Pittsburgh is having a down year? We won’t be impressed until they play Houston or San Francisco? Who knows…

8. It will be good to see Jerricho Cotchery again.

Turn On The Jets Film Breakdown – Jets vs. Bills

Turn On The Jets breaks down the game tape from Jets/Bills, answering your questions and giving other observations

Every week in this column we will break down the offensive game tape, both offering our observations and answering your questions submitted on Twitter. Tomorrow, our resident defensive lineman, Chris Gross, will provide a film breakdown of the other side of the ball. Thank you to everybody who sent in this week’s questions, which were aggregated into the following as many were on the same topic – 

1. How effective was Mark Sanchez at going through his progressions and making the proper reads?

The short answer is very effective and this question led me to spend most of my time breaking down the Jets passing game, which was without question the biggest surprise of the week. Tony Sparano and Mark Sanchez both did a terrific job with a game plan that was built to feature Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland while using Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller primarily as decoys.

The first two pass plays were designed for Stephen Hill who was open on both and caught the second one on a crucial early third down. The third play was for Cumberland who was also wide open and moved the chains on a 13 yard gain. After that completion, Sanchez alternated making poor decisions/throws with terrific ones before settling down and playing a great overall game.

First, came the interception which occurred because Buffalo quickly took away his first and second read. Simply put, he should have ran out of bounds for a 3 yard gain or threw it away, as he did later in the game when the Jets tried a similar play that was defended well. He then followed up with a beautiful strike to Jeremy Kerley on a third down, where he was the first read and beat his guy immediately. Sanchez then missed a cover 2 hole shot to Holmes that could have been a touchdown, although Holmes could have got a cleaner release to help him out. Sanchez was then bailed out when he went to Hill on a 3rd and 5 and he drew pass interference, when he should have went to Holmes on a deeper out behind Hill.

Keep this play in mind because Sanchez learned from his mistake later in the game. The following pass was the Jeremy Kerley touchdown which was a well designed play by Sparano. It was meant to look like a wide receiver screen to Santonio Holmes. As Holmes works back to the ball, Kerley appears to be going to block the corner causing a slight hesitation from the man who is covering him, he then jets to the back of the end-zone and Sanchez delivered a perfectly thrown pass.

Sanchez was pretty locked in for the rest of the game from this point. He hit Holmes in a tight window to convert a third down, the Stephen Hill touchdown on his double move was an easy read and a good throw. Throughout the rest of the game, he made only three throws that weren’t on point. First he slightly overthrew Jeremy Kerley on a quick out, which was caught but forced him to extend and stumble, ending up short of the first down. Second, he just missed Holmes on a quick post, although you could argue Holmes should have made the catch. Finally, he again missed the hole shot to Holmes at the end of the half which was nearly a touchdown. This is a tough throw and they nearly executed it but missed by about an inch.

One particular play later in the game that was encouraging from Sanchez was a 3rd and 9, when instead of throwing it immediately to an open Dustin Keller in the flat (a play he absolutely would have made last year), he was patient and waited for his primary option, Jeff Cumberland (who is on the 20 yard line in this screen shot), to run his 9 yard hook route before delivering a spot on pass to convert a third down.

Finally, remember the Kerley touchdown? Tony Sparano smartly came back to the wide receiver screen to Holmes, knowing that the defense would be hesitant to jump it after getting beat earlier in the game. This was executed to perfection, thanks to a great block from Dustin Keller and went for a 17 yard gain.

A few final observations on passing game – It was striking just how often Hill, Kerley or Cumberland were the first read on passing plays. It showed immense confidence in three unproven players and all three answered the bell. The plan worked well because Buffalo was keying on Holmes and Keller, which helped get the three of them consistently open. Ironically enough it appeared the receiver Sanchez had the least chemistry with was Holmes. They just missed on three completions that all could have been big gains (two of which should have been touchdowns). If they get rolling on the same page, the Jets passing offense could be that much more effective.

2. Austin Howard/Mario Williams

Howard’s game was as good as advertised. He spend the majority of the dropbacks singled up on Mario Williams and consistently stonewalled his pass rush. Williams continually tried to bull rush him and use his power but could not get through, which gave Sanchez time to go through all the progressions outlined above. Howard showed surprising quickness and the times WIlliams looked to adjust to more of a speed rush he looked a step slow. His complaints about illegal hands to the face certainly didn’t show on the film as there were not blatant penalties missed by the officials on Howard.

3. Shonn Greene

Shonn Greene did finish with 94 yards, unfortunately it took him 27 carries to get there. Yes, there were times Greene ran very well in-between the tackles and he pushed the pile. However, the Jets need another option when running to the edge. This play below serves as a perfect example of why Greene needs a complimentary speed back with him. This play only went for 6 yards and look how well it is blocked up. Greene, again inexplicably stumbles when he receives the handoff, a recurring problem for him.

After the stumble, he gets temporarily held up behind the line here yet still there is space for a run that should net more than 6 yards. However, he simply doesn’t have enough burst to hit the seam. This is why the Jets may need to consider giving more outside handoffs to both Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight.

Check back tomorrow for Chris Gross’ film breakdown of the defense, primarily focusing on the defensive line. 

New York Jets Week 1 Report Card – Dean’s List

A grade report for the New York Jets opening season win over the Buffalo Bills

Quarterbacks (A) – If Mark Sanchez is completing 70% of his passes and throwing 3 touchdowns on a regular basis, the Jets are going to be one of the toughest teams to beat in the NFL. Sanchez showed accuracy, poise and a short memory after a first quarter interception. He pushed the football down the field and spread it around to seven different receivers, consistently finding the proper read based on what the coverage was dictating. Yesterday’s performance confirms something we have been saying about Sanchez for a long time here, if he is protected properly he has the skills to be a very good NFL quarterback who can lead a winning team.

Tim Tebow didn’t do much with his limited reps, finishing with 11 yards on 5 carries and handing off for a few short runs. There has to be some ongoing concern about disrupting Sanchez’s rhythm by replacing him with Tebow but it wasn’t an issue yesterday. Eventually, he will be need to throw the ball out of the Wildcat to keep defenses honest. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Tony Sparano to dial one up.

Running Backs (C) – Shonn Greene ran hard for 94 yards but let’s keep perspective, it took him 27 carries to reach that total. His longest run of the day was 14 yards and he fumbled twice (losing neither). He continues to look like nothing more than a slightly above average back who lacks the ability to consistently break tackles or make people miss. Bilal Powell showed a little giddy up on a 16 yard reception and you have to wonder when the Jets will bump his carry total up. They can’t give Greene 27 carries on a weekly basis, so maybe Powell will start getting 7-10 carries a game.

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends (A) – Stephen Hill had a spectacular debut, scoring 2 touchdowns including one where he smoked fellow rookie Stephon Gilmore on a double move. We knew Hill would be a vertical threat but what was really impressive was how he moved the chains on a few third downs with precise routes and tough catches in traffic. Hill has a chance to be a better version of what Braylon Edwards was for Mark Sanchez in 2009 and 2010. Santonio Holmes was productive and just missed having a ridiculous touchdown catch at the end of the half. Jeremy Kerley came up huge in the slot with a 27 yard catch and a 12 yard touchdown…hell even Chaz Schilens caught a pass for 8 yards.

Dustin Keller was quiet in the passing game but Jeff Cumberland pulled in three nice catches for 33 yards. Newcomer Konrad Reuland deserves credit for logging 17 plays after being signed just a week before the season starter.

Offensive Line (A) – Austin Howard completely shut out Mario Williams. I feel as if that needs to be typed again…Austin Howard completely shut out Mario Williams…just an unbelievable job by the Jets first year starter. The rest of the unit was excellent as well, keeping Sanchez clean all game and giving him to go through his progressions.

Defensive Line (C) – Without Sione Pouha, the Jets rushing defense struggled at times, particularly in letting CJ Spiller rip off a few monster runs. However, despite not logging any sacks they received a good push up front when the game was still in question. Muhammad Wilkerson did have a quarterback hit and Mike DeVito had 2 tackles.

Linebackers (B) – David Harris led the way with 7 tackles, Bart Scott wasn’t far behind with 5 including one for a loss. Calvin Pace hit Fitzpatrick twice  and also had 5 tackles. Bryan Thomas tweaked a hamstring and will be questionable for next week. Quiet game for Aaron Maybin.

Secondary (A) – An interception for each of the Jets top three corners. Antonio Cromartie’s was gift wrapped for him, both Darrelle Revis and Kyle Wilson made nice breaks on their respective picks. LaRon Landry seemed to be in on every tackle, finishing with 7 and a pair of quarterback hits, along with forcing a fumble on CJ Spiller. This secondary has the potential to be one of the league’s best, particularly if they keep forcing game changing turnovers.

Special Teams (A) – A beautiful punt return touchdown by Jeremy Kerley, two made field goals from Nick Folk and great distance on kickoffs…not much for Mike Westhoff to complain about. New punter Bob Malone looked very good as well.

Coaching (A) – Rex Ryan pushed all the right buttons this week by keying his team up from all the “circus” talk. His decision to publicly call out Jeremy Kerley also seems to be paying early dividends. Tony Sparano’s game plan was a refreshing break from Brian Schottenheimer ball the past 6 years.

Initial Reaction – 48 Points And A Barrel Of Laughs, Jets 1-0

The New York Jets rolled to a 48-28 win…thoughts on how they handled Buffalo

While we are happy to say we told you so about the Buffalo Bills being overhyped and the New York Jets remaining the second best team in the AFC East, we certainly can’t say we saw that coming. 48 points? Special teams touchdowns? The Jets looking like a high functioning NFL offense for an entire game? Today was a fun one at MetLife Stadium. Fun, because today demonstrated just how good this team could be and just how ridiculous all the negative pre-season hype around the team was.

Let’s start at the top, with the most important positon on the field and the most important player on the Jets roster not named Darrelle Revis…Mark Sanchez. Outside of a bonehead interception in the first quarter that had Twitter ablaze with cheap shots, Sanchez was as accurate as we’ve ever seen him, consistently fitting passes into tight windows and pushing the football down the field. Credit Tony Sparano for an aggressive game plan but credit Sanchez for dropping in some gems. He effectively spread the ball around, completing passes to 7 different receivers and showing tremendous comfort with rookie Stephen Hill. When you protect Sanchez, he can make all the throws necessary to win in the NFL.

The Jets wide receivers took a beating all summer, particularly Hill who many people claimed wasn’t ready for a big time role. He silenced those critics by turning in a monster 5 catch, 89 yard, 2 touchdown performance. Hill is a faster, bigger version of Braylon Edwards who Sanchez was extremely comfortable with in 2009 and 2010. Jeremy Kerley also got himself out of Rex Ryan’s doghouse with a 4 catches for 45 yards, a receiving touchdown an electric punt return touchdown. If they can stay consistent, the Jets offense has a ceiling much higher than anybody expected.

Austin Howard deserves to be singled out for praise. Mario Williams laid a goose egg today and Buffalo’s pass rush in general did absolutely nothing. The whole line deserves credit but Howard just recently stepped into a starting role and has the most prove. He was more than up to the challenge against Buffalo’s much hyped personnel.

Defensively, it was playmaking. The Jets made Ryan Fitzpatrick look every bit the overpaid, mediocre quarterback he is by intercepting him three times and taking one back to the house (we have been waiting for that defensive TD Cro!). Yes, the running defense and the lack of sacks was a mild disappointment but ultimately when the game was still in question, the defense routinely made game changing plays. LaRon Landry seemed to be in on every tackle and there is no question the tandem of him and Yeremiah Bell are a major upgrade from last year’s safeties.

The Jets and their fans have every right to enjoy this one. It was a statement victory in the division. However, there will be an even better chance to turn some heads this week in Pittsburgh. The talent is there to win, but will the consistency be there?

Check back tomorrow for No Huddle, a full Report Card and a closer look at Sanchez’s performance

New York Jets: Separating The Reality From The Hype

Separating the reality from the hype when it comes to the New York Jets

The general view of the 2012 New York Jets is the following – an overhyped team who went down in flames last year and is about to completely fall off the tracks, leaving both Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez unemployed. The circus characterization has been beaten to death by an unoriginal New York media who has spent the last 6 months making a mountain out of every mole hill possible. NFL “media experts” have piled on, pegging the Jets as a 5-7 win team that is more headlines than substance, even when they are the ones giving them the headlines they complain about.

Seriously, is there any thing more tone deaf that ESPN running a segment about how the Giants have flown under the radar because of excessive Jets coverage when ESPN ran the idiot brigade out there all August?

The public fellatio handed to coaches like the Harbaugh brothers isn’t extended to Rex Ryan because he isn’t an information hoarding Bill Belichick clone. He is loud, obnoxious and not afraid to open up in press conferences. His public personality has prevented him receiving the respect he deserves. The hot seat? Because of a 8 win season after back to back AFC Championship Games in his first two years? Give me a break.

Jim Harbaugh lost in a Conference Championship in his first year, exactly what Rex Ryan did, only Rex had to break in a rookie quarterback. Rex then followed up by beating Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Belichick in his own building in the playoffs in his second season. Let’s see how Harbaugh follows up in year two, when he has already been crowed as Lombardi 2.0. John Harbaugh has the same thing to show as Rex Ryan so far in his coaching career, two Conference Championship losses. They get the benefit of the doubt and lofty places in polls like this where Rex isn’t even mentioned. Comically, somebody would rather start their team with Greg Schiano than Rex Ryan, only problem is the biggest game Schiano ever won is the Insight.com Bowl.

Perception is the Jets went 3-13 last year. Reality is they went 8-8, one game worse than the eventual Super Bowl champions and 2 games better than the “upstart” Buffalo Bills who have been unanimously picked to finish ahead of them in the standings this year.

Perception is Mark Sanchez is the 32nd best quarterback in the NFL. Reality is the racked up 32 total touchdowns last year and has won 4 playoff games in his first 3 years. Could you imagine the fawning over Josh Freeman for those type of accomplishments? Yet, Freeman remains the “experts” choice for the big year in 2012. Other young quarterbacks require time to develop and every success is praised endlessly, the same benefit doesn’t fall to Sanchez who only receives armchair psychoanalysis.

The decision to bring in Tim Tebow reeked of headline grabbing. However, would a similar move by Baltimore, Houston or Buffalo inspire such criticism? The move isn’t an abject failure until Tebow is throwing more than 5 passes in a single game. If he comes out and runs 8 times for 45 yards week 1 as the Jets win, is it a stupid decision then?

Clown car? Here are the teams who have won less total games than the 32 the Jets have won the past three seasons (including regular season and playoffs) – Buffalo, Miami, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Tennessee, Oakland, Kansas City, Denver, San Diego, Philadelphia, Dallas, Washington, New York Giants (yes they have a Super Bowl though), Minnesota, Detroit, Chicago, Carolina, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and Arizona. Atlanta has won 32 as well but with zero playoff wins.

So that leaves New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, New Orleans and Green Bay as the only teams who have been more successful than the Jets the past three years and we will throw in the Giants for their Super Bowl victory. Are the Jets ever mentioned in the same breath as these franchises for their success the past few years? Of course not. Save the clown cars for Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Minnesota and the other awful organizations, not the team who goes 8-8 and has it considered a colossal failure.

Plenty Of Work Left For New York Jets Heading Into Pre-Season Finale

The New York Jets still have plenty to sort out on their roster heading into their final pre-season game

The New York Jets head into their pre-season finale tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles with plenty of questions surrounding their roster. On the field tonight will be a minimal amount of impact players for the 2012 team, however there are a handful who still have an opportunity to lock down prominent roles. After the game Mike Tannenbaum needs to get to work in adding depth to a few spots by scanning the league for other team’s end of August cuts.

At right tackle Austin Howard needs another strong showing to truly lock down the starting right tackle job. If he struggles tonight he could be on a quick hook for the recently acquired Jason Smith, who should also see some action tonight. At wide receiver, another good game from Patrick Turner and Jordan White should keep Chaz Schilens off the roster, if the Jets are going by merit. Schilens has hardly played at all this August and simply can’t stay healthy. There is no logical reason to keep him on at the expense of White or Turner and the Jets can’t afford to carry six receivers.

Shonn Greene won’t play tonight at running back leaving the workload to Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight and Terrence Ganaway. Powell is the least proven backup running back in the NFL and it would be nice to see him rip off a couple of big runs against the Eagles backups to build some confidence heading into the season. Joe McKnight appears to be completely out of the mix at running back which doesn’t say much about the coaching staff’s faith in him considering the current depth chart. Ganaway is in an interesting situation, he hasn’t received much work at running back this pre-season and should receive some carries tonight but he has also worked at fullback in practice. Will we see him get extended work at fullback tonight and if he succeeds, could he knock John Conner off the roster?

Conner has been nothing but below average since taking over as the starting fullback. Beyond that, he lacks any kind of versatility. Shonn Greene runs well in the single back set, so why bother to keep Conner on the roster? When you do want to use a fullback, you could let Ganaway step in and he has the ability to both run the ball and do some damage as a receiver out of the backfield.

As for the rest of the offense, Mike Tannenbaum absolutely must add a blocking tight end to the Jets roster. Simply put, they are currently not carrying a single tight end capable of blocking. It will be interesting to see who comes free in the coming days. It also wouldn’t hurt for Tannenbaum to take a long look at some available veterans at both wide receiver and running back. The Jets are thin in both spots and quality options like Ryan Grant, Kahlil Bell, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth remain out there.

On defense, the Jets are stacked at linebacker and will have to make some tough choices about roster cuts. It is hard to see them carrying more than 8 into their final 53 and with Calvin Pace, David Harris, Bart Scott, David Harris, Aaron Maybin, and Demario Davis locks, that only leaves two spots for Garret McIntyre, Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga and Ricky Sapp (who has been injured all pre-season).

In the secondary, Antonio Allen will get extended work at safety tonight and seems to have played his way into a roster spot. The fourth and fifth cornerback spots aren’t completely settled with Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant, and Julian Posey battling for reps. It probably wouldn’t have hurt for the Jets to add a veteran here considering how cornerback heavy Rex Ryan’s defense can be.

Mike Tannenbaum has left holes in his roster with the season opener only 10 days away, hopefully between a combination of bottom of the roster players stepping up and some timely last second pick-ups he can patch them up.

New York Jets – Biggest Positional Question Marks

Who are the biggest question marks on the New York Jets heading into the 2012 season?

The New York Jets have a handful of sure things on their roster. You know Darrelle Revis is going to be a lockdown corner. You know Nick Mangold is going to anchor the offensive line. You know David Harris and Sione Pouha will play at a Pro-Bowl level and not receive the recognition for it. However, who are the team’s biggest question marks? Let’s take a quick run through

Austin Howard – Right Tackle – Howard has put together one pretty good pre-season and has the honor of replacing the least popular tackle in New York football history, Wayne Hunter. Let’s not forget he was an undrafted free agent who has never started a game before this season. If Howard starts to stumble, the Jets will likely have a quick hook to give the recently acquired Jason Smith an opportunity. He will be tested right out of the gate when facing Mario Williams or Mark Anderson week one and then Pittsburgh’s endless collection of pass rushers week two.

Kyle Wilson – Nickelback – Nickelback is a crucial spot in Rex Ryan’s defensive back heavy defense. Wilson has had a rough pre-season and patience is rightfully wearing thin with him. He is entering his third year and the former first round pick has never looked anything like one. Teams are going to pick on him with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie on the outside but Wilson must do a better job of locating the ball in the air and avoiding giving large cushions when he can’t afford to.

Stephen Hill – Wide Receiver – The Jets are relying on Hill to start right out of the gate despite how raw he is. He has shown an ability to get open and make plays down the field in the pre-season, while showing a consistent problem with drops. Hill is a rookie receiver from a triple-option offense. Can his positives outweigh his negatives as a full time player?

Mark Sanchez – Quarterback – I don’t see Sanchez as anywhere near as big of question mark as most people do. Outside of his interception against the Giants, he has been accurate and in-control of the offense despite a shaky offensive line and a banged up group of receivers. At his worst Sanchez will be an effective game manager, at his best he can be the player who led four 4th quarterback comebacks and won a playoff game in New England back in 2010. The biggest question around him this year is how he will handle being pulled from the game for Tebow when the Jets use the Wildcat.

Tim Tebow – Backup Quarterback – Not sure why more people aren’t concerned that the Jets backup quarterback had a 26.5 QB Rating and 38 percent completion rate in the pre-season. How can this offense function if Sanchez goes down for an extended period of time unless they are going to let Tebow just run 20 times per game from the QB position?

Jeff Cumberland – Backup Tight End – Hopefully Mike Tannenbaum isn’t foolish enough to go into the season with him as the primary backup. Simply put he is a less talented version of Dustin Keller and is an even worse blocker. The Jets are in trouble if he gets pushed into extended duty.

LaRon Landry – Safety – He has been terrific this pre-season but if he gets hurt the Jets are right back to Eric Smith.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson – Left Tackle – It was a surprisingly down year for ‘Brick last year. The Jets badly need him to bounce back and be the Pro-Bowl caliber tackle he was throughout the early years of his career.

TJ Conley/Nick Folk – Punter/Kicker – The value of these guys on the Jets is extremely enhanced because of the type of football they are likely to play. Folk had a great pre-season but can’t afford to miss the chip shots this year that he did in the past. Conley has been inconsistent and is now in competition with the recently signed Spencer Lanning. You can’t shank punts when you are desperately battling for field position.

Shonn Greene – Running Back – Considering his primary backup has under 30 career NFL rushing yards, he better stay healthy and productive. Greene had a disappointing pre-season and has been a notorious slow starter. The Jets can’t afford that this year as he will be getting 20+ carries a game right out of the gate.

New York Jets – State Of The Roster

A conversation with a former NFL Personnel Executive and Scout about the state of the New York Jets

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to have an extended conversation with a former NFL personnel executive and scout about the state of the New York Jets roster. This individual still works in the league and requested anonymity, here are a few of the most interesting excerpts of our conversation –

John Conner – He cited Conner as one of the least valuable players in the NFL and somebody who does not merit a roster spot. “He can’t catch and is average at best as a blocker. His lack of versatility makes the Jets that much more predictable on offense.”

Have to agree with the assertion here. Conner got a catchy nickname early in his career and was a fun story on Hard Knocks but ultimately has brought just about nothing to the table in 3 seasons. It is a shame Josh Baker is done for the season because the Jets would have been better off starting him at fullback than Conner. 

Blocking Tight End – A recurring theme throughout our conversation was the inability of Mike Tannenbaum to properly scout players and understand actual football techniques. “Everybody in the league knows Dustin Keller can’t block. Last year you had the Jets trot out Matthew Mulligan and John Conner on every running play and Keller on every passing play. It makes them easy to defend. When they talk about using an extra tackle as a tight end this year, it is a dead giveaway to their tendency. Why not go get a blocking tight end? They had success with Ben Hartsock in the past but have completely ignored the position this year.”

My feelings about a blocking tight end have been well stated. I do not understand how a “Ground and Pound” team does not carry one on their roster. 

Tannenbaum’s Future – “Tannenbaum will not be the fall guy if the Jets don’t make the playoffs this year. He has Woody Johnson wrapped so far around his finger, he isn’t going anywhere. He will be the GM for the next 5 years.”

Cameron Wake – “Prior to the 2009 season the Jets scouting department wanted Cameron Wake badly and the team was in a position to sign him, Tannenbaum personally overruled the move and said he didn’t want him.”

This statement caught me by surprise, as similar to many others I believe Tannenbaum is the first to go if the Jets don’t make the playoffs this year. Only time will tell. The Wake story is a frustrating one to hear considering the pass rusher he turned into and how the Jets have struggled to fill that spot. 

Shonn Greene – “An average to slightly above average back. For the type of offense the Jets want to run, they need an elite back or at least a capable 1B option which they don’t have right now. McKnight is not a NFL caliber running back and can’t stay healthy.

It still boggles my mind why the Jets didn’t sign Cedric Benson and I don’t see how they can give big money to Greene after this season. 

Jets 2012 Prospects – “Considering their defense and schedule, they are going to be right around or slightly above .500 all year and in position to make a late season run into the playoffs. However, they are still not equipped not overtake New England.

Agreed

Future Of Jets – “Tannenbaum gave himself minimal flexibility this off-season because of his habit of guaranteeing contracts. The decision to give that much guaranteed money to Wayne Hunter (this was pre-trade), Bart Scott and Calvin Pace (when they re-did his contract) is inexplicable and killed them this off-season. When those guys come off the books, they will then have the ability to make their needed moves, although they will continue to be hamstrung by the guaranteed money for Holmes and Sanchez.”

The handling of Wayne Hunter’s contract was truly awful, we know that. Scott and Pace are goners after this year. Only time will tell if Sanchez and Holmes can work out. 

Sanchez – “Needs to be in certain type of offense to succeed and the Jets have done a poor job building around him in recent years. The Tebow circus could be a disastrous distraction. Why keep trotting this guy out in front of the media so much?”

Rex Ryan – “A great defensive mind, who has a unit this year that will be good enough to keep the Jets competitive. However, he needs to stop talking his players up to the media so much. It puts unnecessary pressure on them and comes off as phony.

It has been nice to see Rex step up the public criticism of players this year, when it has been merited instead of the endless hype train. Hopefully this continues to be a trend. 

Other Tidbits

  • Stephen Hill – “A physical specimen but probably a year away from being a consistent contributor. He has a long way to go in the mental part of the game.
  • Right Tackle – “Only thing they can do is gamble and hope for the best. The position is a commodity. You need to draft and develop those players. Howard might be a one year stopgap but certainly isn’t a long term answer.”
  • LaRon Landry – “Can make a major difference but hard to imagine he gets through all 16 games.”

Something Positive For The 2012 New York Jets Season

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

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

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

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

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

New York Jets – Struggling To Find Silver Lining

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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