TOJ talked with Mike Burke from BirdsFan.com this week to preview the upcoming New York Jets/Philadelphia Eagles match-up:
TOJ: Is the Eagles defense truly as bad as it is hyped up to be?
BF: I don’t think it’s as bad as it has shown personnel wise. They had a guy in Juan Castillo making a transition from coaching the offensive line to calling the plays on defense. He really hasn’t utilized his talent to its fullest. We’ve seen the unit play pretty well at times, they’ve just failed to do so consistently. It’s really a shame because it’s essentially been a waste of a season for a team who was supposed to be in a “win now” mode. Hiring Castillo was clearly an experiment, and a decision Andy Reid made based on his personal loyalty to the guy. It has backfired big time and been quite an embarrassment to the organization.
Don’t get me wrong though, there are definitely holes on this defense. The Eagles lack of commitment to the linebacker position has never been clearer than this season. Ask any fan what position they believe the Eagles should draft in the first round next year, and I can guarantee an overwhelming number will say linebacker. I really don’t think they’re as bad as they seem. If they add an experienced coordinator next season and bring in a few players through the draft or free agency, I think the unit can be very strong.
TOJ: Assess Mike Vick’s performance this season on the whole and how he looked when he returned to action last week?
BF: This definitely hasn’t been Vick’s best season. Last year, we saw how dominate Vick can be at times and also how much he can struggle. This season has been more about struggles. He hasn’t played horrible overall. His biggest downfall has been his decision making. He has turned the ball over way too many times, especially in key situations. When we saw him early last year, he was extremely comfortable in the pocket. You could literally see him progressing through all of his reads and delivering the ball to the open receiver with accuracy every time he dropped back.
This seemed to change at the end of last season, and I placed a lot of this on him losing confidence in his line. They weren’t playing well, and he was getting killed. It was hard to blame him. This season, the line has played a lot better, but he isn’t making the correct reads and that has killed the offense. Of course, now that I mention how well the offensive line has played, we have to reflect on last week’s game against the Dolphins. Vick was returning from his rib injury, and at a time where he needed his offensive line to protect him, they failed to do so.
It was very disappointing. The unit played very well throughout the season but had an absolutely awful showing. Vick did what he could with the time he was given. With the play of the defense, he did enough to get the win and that’s what counts. It’s hard to take too much away from his individual performance based on how the line played.
TOJ: Do you want Andy Reid back next year?
BF: This is a tough one. If you asked me a few weeks ago, I’d say absolutely. Now, I’m not so sure. I think my opinion has changed for a few reasons. The biggest reason is probably the fact that I truly believe he will return next season no matter how I or any of the other fans feel. The other reason is based upon the rest of the league. A lot of coaches have been fired already and more will be continue to be fired. There is no chance that the Eagles would let go of Reid before the season ended. At this point, they would be one of a large number of teams looking for a head coach. Many other teams would have a head start and I don’t think they’re the type of franchise ready to settle for just anyone that’s available.
Reid has really done everything for this franchise but win a Super Bowl. That’s devastating, but who out there will give the ma better chance? Like I mentioned before, the Eagles are supposed to be in a “win now” type mode, and I think they will continue that next season. Bringing in a new coach with new thoughts and plans doesn’t help that mentality. I think they need to bring in a talented defensive coordinator who can run the show on that end and utilize the talent they have.
BF: The Eagles offense struggled last weekend and a very talented defense is coming to town this week. I’m not really sure why the offensive line struggled so much last weekend, but if it happens this week, the Eagles offense will struggle to do anything. The Jets have talented corners so if they get a lot of pressure up front, Vick will have struggle throwing the ball. I could very easily see this resulting in some turnovers.
In the end, I think the Jets defense will be too much. Jets win 27-17.
BF: Mark Sanchez is one of those guys who just can’t seem to play with any consistency. What are your feelings about Sanchez? Do you think he could ever lead the Jets to a Lombardi trophy?
TOJ: I think Sanchez is one of the most unfairly criticized players in the NFL. If he was a religious man playing in Denver, he’d be lauded for his ability to win. The guy is 28-17 as a starter with 4 playoff wins already and hasn’t even played 3 full seasons yet. Yes, he struggles with his accuracy and decision making at times but he is a winner and players better the bigger the spot gets. I absolutely believe he can lead the Jets to a Super Bowl.
BF: The Jets sit in the driver seat right now. How do you see the rest of the season playing out? Do they make the playoffs? If so, how far do you think they can go?
TOJ: I think the Jets will ultimately find a way into the playoffs, probably as a 10-6 team. Once they are in, they are dangerous as we’ve seen the past two years. I think they can pull off an upset or maybe two but I am not sure they are equipped to get over the hump this season.
BF: How much of an impact do you see the loss of Jim Leonhard having on Sunday’s game? The rest of the season?
TOJ: It hurts, particularly in the punt return game. The Jets haven’t any consistency there except for Leonhard. On defense, they will miss his leadership but if Brodney Pool can stay healthy they should be okay.
BF: Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets first-round rookie draft picked, used to play his home games at Lincoln Financial Field with Temple last season. How has he performed for the Jets this season?
TOJ: Wilkerson has quietly put together a very good year. He is solid against the run and has got a decent push rushing the quarterback. I am not sure he will ever be a Pro-Bowl type player but will likely be a key piece of the Jets defense for years to come.
BF: On Sunday, where will the Jets have an advantage on offense? On defense?
TOJ: The Jets biggest advantage is their physicality and ability to play well in the fourth quarter. On offense, I expect Shonn Greene to have a big day going North and South on the Eagles. On defense, I think Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie can get DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin out of their game.
BF: Where will the Eagles have an advantage on offense? On defense?
TOJ: The Eagles speed on offense will be a big problem for the Jets, particularly from LeSean McCoy on the edges. On defense, Jason Babin could be a big problem for Wayne Hunter, the Jets inconsistent right tackle.
BF: What player could be a potential x-factor for the Jets on Sunday?
TOJ: Aaron Maybin. He is the only Jets player in the front seven with the speed to chase around Vick. If he can bring him down for a few sacks and force a fumble, it could be the difference in the game.
BF: Give me a score prediction.
TOJ: I think the Eagles will be leading the whole way, but the Jets will put together a big fourth quarter to escape with a 27-24 victory.