In part I of “A Deeper Look” we broke down the main characters such as Rex, Belichick, Sanchez and Brady. As we continue today with the second installment of our three part roundtable series breaking down the Jets/Pats showdown, we look at other members of the backfield, as well as how these teams fared during free agency.
Once again we are joined by TJ Rosenthal from The Jet Report, Mike Dussault from Pats Propaganda, WFAN’s Jeff Capellini and NBC’s Bruce Beck:
Q. Darrelle Revis: Explain how his play effects the entire Jets defense and teams that try to attack it.
Capellini: Besides basically shutting off half the secondary on passing downs, Revis is also a very good tackler. He’s very good against the run. He forces opponents to overload one side of the field, which causes congestion and a better chance of tipped balls and interceptions. Cromartie, Wilson and the linebackers have already shown great prowess at ball-hawking. If you narrow a team’s options throwing the football and cut off the real estate they have to play with, turnovers happen with greater frequency. Last week Ryan Fitzpatrick was picked off twice in the center of the field by linebackers, this while Stevie Johnson was one-on-one on the outside. That right there is the Revis factor in a nutshell.
Caporoso: He is the league’s only true lock down corner and his skill set gives Rex Ryan the ability to be so comfortable in man coverage. Some teams choose to avoid Revis entirely but this season teams seem to be taking more chances on him, which is leading to a monster year for him in terms of creating big plays (see Dallas and Miami game).
Q. Neither club seems to be on their way to leading the league in rushing. The Jets struggled early on defensively and the Pats have had their problems there seemingly all year. Can a team in the modern day NFL win a Super bowl without a solid running game? Without a shutdown defense?
Caporoso: I think the answer has to be yes, just from looking at Green Bay last year. I wouldn’t say they had a solid running game or a shutdown defense yet their passing offense was so ridiculous and their defense created enough turnovers that it compensated for it. Every team has a different formula for winning based on their coach and personnel. For the Jets to win a Super Bowl, they need a solid running game and a shutdown defense.
Dussault: The Patriots seem to think you don’t need an elite running back, though they drafted two of them in the third round this year. Benjarvus Green-Ellis is the perfect Patriots runningback. He runs hard, doesn’t lose yards, doesn’t fumble, and as an undrafted free agent he doesn’t cost much. That said he’s not going to make plays by himself. Danny Woodhead has lacked the explosive plays this year, but I believe Kevin Faulk should be the big factor against the Jets this weekend assuming he’s healthy. They’ll need his pass protection smarts to pick up the complex Jets blitzes. I’d expect to see him out there more than any other back.
As for a shutdown defense I’m not sure one exists. You need an offense that can finish and a defense that can make the stops in the key moments. Usually these are veteran defenses like Jets and not young defenses like the Pats. But you’re not going to ever fully shutdown the top offenses in the game, you just have to stop them when it counts most.
Capellini: The Colts and Pats from some years back had ample enough running games and defenses to win it all and they did. Even last season the Packers, for all their airing it out with Aaron Rodgers, still had a scoring defense and got big efforts from the likes of James Starks when it mattered. I think you can live without the running back to an extent if you have a good committee, but without the defense you are not going to win a championship. If the Patriots are not worried about this right now they have their heads in the sand.The Jets are more complete on both sides of the ball and just recently have started to show it. The onus will be on all 53 to keep up this consistency or they, too, will be watching come January.
Q. What player on your club has been the biggest pleaseant surprise so far in 2011? Biggest disappointment?
Dussault: The Patriots biggest pleasant surprise has to probably be Kyle Arrington with his league leading 5 interceptions. His emergence really made Leigh Bodden expendable and he’s able to play both outside and in the slot. He may be undersized but he’s tough, though he’ll give up his share of completions. Brandon Spikes is another player who is emerging as arguably the Pats best linebacker. For all the love Jerod Mayo gets it’s really Spikes who is becoming the heart of the defense. Too bad it looks like he’ll be out on Sunday with a sprained MCL.
Biggest disappointment has to be Devin McCourty after a breakout rookie year.He’s looked better the last couple weeks though, now he just needs to start making plays on the ball.
Caporoso: Joe McKnight has gone from being from the team goat to a terrific all-around playmaker. So he is the biggest surprise. The biggest disappointment? I will go with Derrick Mason, considering the way his entire situation went down and the early turmoil it created on the team.
The Jet Report: We’re with Joe on this one. McKnight has made huge plays and made people forget about Brad Smith who was a huge part of this team. Especially when considering how many roles Smith played, how often the Jets, who have had red zone issues in the Sanchez era pre Plax, needed big plays from him. McKnight has done the same, maybe even in a more explosive way. Disappointment? The offensive line has taken a while to get into gear. That has hurt the run game. Mangold is back now so all things seem to be settling down up front.
Capellini: Believe it or not, Plaxico Burress has begun to provide a stability on offense. He’s nearly at game speed now and you can see it in his route running and concentration. I think he more than any other player this side of Sanchez will tell the tale for the Jets on offense going forward. Defensively, I love what Sione Pouha is becoming. I think if the Jets can get him and unsung Mike DeVito going together going forward you will be talking about a serious two-headed run-stuffing monster.
Q. Where do both clubs need to improve the most?
Caporoso: For the Jets, it is Mark Sanchez and the passing attack. If they continue to improve, the Jets are going to be a very difficult team to beat. For New England, it is the defense and in particular the secondary who needs to improve substantially.
Dussault: For the Pats it has to be communication in the secondary. We’ve seen when this defense is all on the same page they’ve been very effective at shutting down some very good offenses. This is characteristic of a young defense. If they continue to improve and show more consistency the Patriots will be a better team than they were in 2010. They’ve been especially better recently on 3rd down and in the red area which is encouraging. They just need to do it game in and game out.
Capellini: The Patriots’ secondary is a mess. Besides bringing in new guys, which is always a crapshoot, it’s on master Belichick to scheme things the way he has in the past. So far, he hasn’t. The Jets still need a pass rusher. I’m not breaking news here. They totally shut down the high-flying Bills last week without getting a single sack. Now imagine what they could be if they could get to the quarterback more?
The Jet Report: The Pats come into the is game 32nd in the NFL on defense against the pass AND run. That has to get better. They don’t have to become the Steel Curtain, but they have to exit THAT territory. The Jets are getting into a groove defensively, have their special teams set up now with McKnight and Kerley and have figured out a balance on offense. They have to stop shooting themselves in the foot in the first half. Those stunted drives that end in turnovers not only hurt on the scoreboard, they impair the team emotionally. It takes them through halftime until they regain their flow again. Finish early drives guys.
Q. Let’s go back in time for a minute. Free agency resembled the “Wild West” this past August. Has the production level put forth by free agent pick ups so far warranted the decisons to release others who once held their positions? (you answer this based on FA’s Pats picked up and let go)
Caporoso: For the Jets it appears at this point, it was the right decision to part ways with Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith considering the production of Plaxico Burress and Joe McKnight. I can’t argue with Shaun Ellis leaving either since he hasn’t done much in New England combined with the fact that Muhammad Wilkerson has held down his previous role well. I would have liked to keep Jerricho Cotchery to mentor Jeremy Kerley, especially considering how Derrick Mason worked out. I think in retrospect New England would look elsewhere for their deep threat at receiver instead of Chad Ochocinco and would have focused more on improving the secondary.
Dussault: Brian Waters has been a great acquisition filling a big hole at right guard though the Pats offensive line has been less than stellar as of late. Chad Ochocinco has been under a lot of criticism but against the Giants he truly looked like he was starting to get it, Brady just had trouble delivering the ball to him when he was open. His ability to beat press man coverage is why he was brought in and they will really need something out of him against the Jets.
Capellini: If you consider the Pats’ two biggest pickups are now basically not involved, then I would say New England didn’t do the greatest of jobs this past offseason. Haynesworth ended up being the problem many people thought he would be and OchoCinco, as stated earlier, has been a major disappointment. Burress justifies letting Braylon Edwards walk. McKnight justifies letting Brad Smith walk, at least as far as special teams go.
The Jet Report: Haynesworth and Ochocinco were just trimmings. Albert is gone but Ocho still could help out if he and Brady get on the same page down the stretch. The Jet choices were all solid. We would have liked to see a bit of shopping for a backup QB though. The problem was that Sanchez loves Brunell as a mentor so that wasn’t going to happen. We also wonder what would have transpired that first week of free agency had Asomugha not been such a focal point for the Jets.
Q. Albert Haynesworth was released on Tuesday. Derrick Mason was traded weeks back. Did you expect alot more from them? Why did both veteran players fail to become part of the equation in Foxboro and Florham Park.
Caporoso: I thought Haynesworth had potential to be a contributor but shame on me for forgetting how lazy and what a lost cause he was. I also did think Mason could succeed here but shame on me again, for forgetting his history of creating issues in a locker room. I just think neither player bought into the system and locker room of an already tight, successful team.
Dussault: Haynesworth is who the critics thought he was. He looked dominant at times and other times he looked like the worst defensive lineman on the team. It’s disappointing because he clearly has the talent to dominate if he wanted to.Schematically he wasn’t a perfect fit for what the Pats do, but he could’ve made a real impact as an interior sub-rusher. The Pats brought him along carefully and gently but it was all for naught, and it looks like his career is probably over now.
Capellini: Temperament goes a long way in this league. I wish Mason had just kept his mouth shut and worked on helping the Jets, but you knew what you were getting when you signed him. He’s a great talent, has been for years, but he’s also a powder keg. To basically get kicked off the Jets, who never shut up, shows you just how much he didn’t fit in. Haynesworth, like I said above, became a problem because he, too, couldn’t keep his mouth shut, not to mention the fact that he just didn’t perform all that well. But like the Jets, the Pats knew what they were getting themselves into. It shows that even in a football factory, where there’s a clear right way and wrong way to do things, even the mighty Pats can make a bad personnel decision on an older player.
Q. What makes this Patriots Jets rivalry so special?
Caporoso: The players and coaches going back and forth between the two franchises. The recent success of both teams. The number of large games, including two playoff meetings in recent years. Rex Ryan’s attitude compared to Bill Belichick’s.
Dussault: Of course you have the history of being divisional rivals for so long, but what makes it truly special now is the stark contrast in approaches. In just about everything they’re complete opposites yet both styles have proven effective. There’s a great balance to the rivalry and they’ve split the games since Rex Ryan joined the Jets. There also a balance to the Jets having a veteran defense and an offense around a young quarterback, while the Pats have a veteran offense with a young defense. Just about every element of the rivalry has balance and that makes it a lot of fun. Rex brings a lot to it all by himself, I can’t think of another coach I’d rather have coaching my team’s rival. He makes it a lot of fun because you want to beat him so badly. I’m sure Belichick does the same for Jets fans in his own way.
Capellini: It’s really not about New York and Boston. It’s a matter of combustible personalities and fan bases colliding. It’s about one perennial doormat finally getting its act in gear and challenging the status quo. It’s about the rightful throne holders not liking the new kids on the block because they know one day their reign of terror could end, mostly because the usual also-rans now have a plan. It’s also about the lesser team being tired of hearing about and watching the great gods from up north continue to destroy and conquer. The Jets envy what the Pats are as much as the Pats fear what the Jets are becoming. It’s a symphony on the field two or three times a year.
The Jet Report: The history. The storyline. The characters involved. From the AFL’s onset up until the 1990’s, these teams were division rivals but never eternal enemies. Once Bill Parcells left New England to become the Jets head coach, and Bill Belichick left the Jets to return to New England, the entire battle went from trench warfare to Civil War style. With both sides fully armed, heading full steam towards each other. Add New England’s magnificent run with Brady, followed by Eric Mangini ditching Bill, getting locked out in Foxboro, then calling out his boss with “Spygate,” and you have the need for NATO intervention. All of this mind you, BEFORE REX RYAN showed up in Florham Park. It’s been nothing but great drama, great strategy, and classic games for a long time between these two. Both of whom have now earned a mutual respect for each other in the process. As hard as that may be for some of the players involved to admit.
Beck: The atmosphere will be electric. Jets-Pats — the best rivalry around, outside of Yankees-Red Sox. Sunday Night Football on NBC. As Mills Lane used to say, “let’s get it on.”
Look for Part III of “Jets vs Patriots: A Deeper Look at Two Rivals” Saturday