Waiting For Godot: The New York Jets Defense

TOJ looks at the sobering realities of the New York Jets defense

Since Rex Ryan has taken over, the New York Jets have had anywhere from a very good to great defense. This season they have been maddeningly inconsistent. The pass rush isn’t there. The coverage breakdowns keep happening. An offense can now run the football on the front seven.

What happened? A lack of talent is what happened. The gaps were there last year but the Jets were able to coach around it for the most part. They couldn’t compensate for it in the beatdown at New England in the regular season or in the first half of the AFC Championship Game. Let’s also not forget this glorified defense couldn’t even give their offense a shot to carry the Jets to the Super Bowl last year, as they let Pittsburgh run out the clock.

So yes, Bart Scott they take a lot of slack.

The reality of the Jets defense is this. They are slow at linebacker and lack an elite pass rusher. Their starting safeties are average at best and below average in coverage. Their defensive line is pretty good but still lacks a difference maker. Their #2 and #3 corner have tons of talent but are still inconsistent.

You have the best corner in football in Darrelle Revis and a borderline pro-bowl linebacker in David Harris. Outside of that, you have a few slightly above average starters (Calvin Pace, Bart Scott, and Antonio Cromartie) and then a collection of average to below average players.

What is the remedy? Long term it is finding a pass rusher and a better safety to pair with Jim Leonhard, who is okay but can’t be relied on to be the top guy at the position. Short term, it is scheme and development. The coaching staff needs to flash the creativity and brilliance that stymied Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the playoffs last year more consistently. For development, young players like Jamaal Westerman, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Kyle Wilson have to grow into big time contributors.

We can’t count on a top ten defense this year but we can hope for a unit that strings together a few great performances and can be good enough to keep the Jets competitive on a weekly basis.

The Optimist – New York Jets Chance At The Playoffs

TOJ breaks down what the Jets road back to playoffs looks like

Is 2-3 the death sentence that many are making it out to be for the New York Jets playoff hopes? There is no question the Jets have put themselves in a serious hole in the AFC East, being already two games behind both Buffalo and New England and they haven’t helped themself in the wild-card race. Yet, let’s look at a realistic way they could climb to 10-6…a record that won’t guarantee a playoff spot but will give them a puncher’s chance to get in.

Out of their remaining 11 games, the following needs to occur

  • Take 2 out of 3 from their remaining NFC East opponents. This isn’t an easy task but certainly a doable one, considering the Giants inconsistencies (they just lost to Seattle at home), the Eagles awful start and Redskins being a good, but far from great team.
  • Beat both Kansas City and Denver. They get Kansas City at home and Denver on the road in primetime on a short week. However, these are both teams that shouldn’t win more than 5 or 6 games this year.
  • Sweep Miami. The Dolphins are arguably the worst team in the AFC this year…no letdowns.
  • Split with Buffalo. The Bills are a feisty but beatable bunch as we saw in their loss to Cincinnati.
  • Split with New England/San Diego combo. The Jets have both of them at home, including a primetime showdown with the Pats. You have to get one.

This outcome probably won’t lead to a division title and but should be enough to sneak the Jets in as a wild-card, where they have done some damage the previous two years.

Five Remedies To The New York Jets Offense

Relax and take notes Brian Schottenheimer before people start picketing in front of your home…

1. More McKnight, More Screens – The New York Jets always had an issue using Leon Washington enough back from 2006-2009. Not surprisingly, Brian Schottenhiemer has done a poor job of incorporating Joe McKnight into the Jets offense. Wasn’t he drafted because of his ability to spread out as a receiver, along with be a running back. Can we split him out and get a mismatch on a linebacker? Can we throw the guy a screen pass in some space, since he is ripping off a monster kick return a week right now? One carry isn’t enough, he should be getting 6-10 touches on offense and on the whole the Jets need to use more screens to him, LaDainian Tomlinson, Dustin Keller, and their starting wide receivers.

2. Look Deep Early – Teams load up to prevent the Jets running game and short/intermediate passing “attack.” They need to take a shot deep early in the game to loosen up the opposing defense. How about a slant and go, since the Jets throw about 8 slants a game? I recall the Jets running that route once under Schottenheimer and it going for a 80 yard touchdown.

3. Where Are You Dustin? – The Jets offense always seems to operate at a better rate when Dustin Keller is actively involved in the offense. He has been MIA the past few weeks after a big start. The excuse that teams are doubling him doesn’t work. He has the ability to move around all over the formation. The Jets need to get creative about getting him involved.

4. The Happy Medium – You don’t have to either be an all out Ground and Pound or a pass happy, chuck and duck attack. There could be a gray area or a happy medium. You run the football to help protect Mark Sanchez but don’t hold him back if the opportunities are available down the field.

5. More Of This – Back shoulder fades to Plaxico Burress…LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene in the same backfield…The Wildcat with Jeremy Kerley and Joe McKnight in the backfield…A vertical pass to Santonio Holmes.

New York Jets: No Excuses Against Pitiful Dolphins

The New York Jets have no excuses this week against the Miami Dolphins

I am aware the New York Jets recent three game losing streak has been a kick in the you know what to those who approached the season with a high amount of optimism for the team. However, there are different types of teams and different types of losses in the NFL.

In Oakland, you had a Jets team take their foot off the pedal up 17-7 and play a lackadaisical second half against a hungrier team. In Baltimore, you had a recipe for disaster going against one of the league’s best defenses with a makeshift offensive line. In New England, you had a superior team run out the clock late preventing your offense a chance to win the game.

Baltimore and New England are both playoff teams in the AFC and will both likely be division winners who receive a bye week. The Jets lost to both of them in their building. Oakland is a serious playoff contender at this point and could also very well be a division winner. The Jets also lost to them in their building. Losses to these teams is disappointing in that the Jets clearly can’t compete with the elite of their own conference at the moment, yet the Miami Dolphins are a completely different story.

At 0-4, the Dolphins are the worst team in the AFC. They have lost every game by 10 points or more except for one and are now on their backup quarterback, the thoroughly mediocre Matt Moore. Miami is a led by a lame duck coach who likely will be fired within the month, has an overpaid, underachieving starting running back in Reggie Bush and a big time receiver who doesn’t make any plays in Brandon Marshall. Their defense can’t stop the pass and doesn’t force turnovers.

There are no excuses this week as the Jets host this awful team in their building on Monday Night Football in front of the whole country. There are no moral victories. Hell, there are no normal victories. This needs to be a thorough double digit beating of your rivals in front of your angry home crowd. Kick the Dolphins while they are down and get some swagger back because you are going to need it with San Diego, Buffalo, and New England upcoming on the schedule.

Shonn Greene and Santonio Holmes…get your first 100 yard games of the season. Plaxico Burress…stop dropping the football and get back in the end-zone. Mark Sanchez…throw for 275 yards without a turnover. Dustin Keller…come out of the witness protection program you have been in the previous two weeks. Calvin Pace and Bart Scott…get back to making plays on defense and come up with a few sacks. Darrelle Revis…well you just keep doing what you been doing.

I am about as optimistic as they come but if the Jets lose this game, their season is over.

New York Jets: Who Do You Blame?

Three game losing streaks are a great time to play the blame game. So who do you blame?

Rex Ryan

Why to blame himHe is the head coach after all…doesn’t spend enough time focusing on offense…big mouth inflates player’s confidence too much. Mike Francesa says so.

Why not to blame himWithout him the Jets would still be a middling, irrelevant team so give the guy a break and a chance to turn it around. He has rebounded from two three game losing streaks in a single season already. Plus he is the man…come on now.

Brian Schottenheimer

Why to blame himIn a Jets fans universe, Schottenheimer is the cause of every problem in your life…more seriously, he has presided over a consistently average offense for six straight seasons…play-calling is predictable and he doesn’t utilize all his weapons enough.

Why not to blame himHe has been dealing with a banged up offensive line, a revolving door at wide receiver, and an inconsistent young quarterback.

Mark Sanchez

Why to blame himLook at his career numbers…he hasn’t grown up enough in three years…still turns the football over too much and hasn’t earned full trust of coaching staff…wears questionable outfits in magazine spreads that disgust Aaron Rodgers.

Why not to blame himHe has been dealing with crappy protection for most of the year…he has answered the bell when given the chance in past years…look at his career numbers, he is a winner and clutch.

Alex Rodriguez

Why to blame him He gets blamed for everything in this market.

Why not to blame himTeixeira sucked in the playoffs too.

The Defense

Why to blame themAlot of hype without the results this year…where you at Bart Scott…how much are you getting paid Calvin Pace…Antonio Cromartie stop getting flagged.

Why not to blame themThey have received no consistent support from the offense since Rex Ryan has taken over.

How I handled a Jets 3 game losing streak in 2009

New York Jets: Jeremy Kerley Ready To Take Off?

The most obvious beneficiary of the decision to trade Derrick Mason is rookie receiver Jeremy Kerley. In his first extended action last week, Kerley finished with 3 receptions for 35 yards and a touchdown, making more of an impact than Mason already had all season which accelerated the decision to trade him.

Kerley was probably the most hyped Jets player throughout training camp as he repeatedly made big plays in every practice. He had a somewhat quiet pre-season and didn’t do much until the Raiders game when he ripped off a big punt return. Last week was the first time he really had a chance at receiver and he showed the big play ability the coaching staff was raving about all summer.

The decision to move Mason is a smart one in that it will give Kerley the chance to grow into the slot receiver role that he appears ready to take over. He has the short area quickness required for the position but also has the speed that Mason lacked to push up the seam. The more Kerley is involved in the regular offensive packages, the more the Jets will likely expand his use in the Wildcat, which will help diversify their attack.

Kerley doesn’t have the pressure of becoming one of the unit’s top options with Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress also at receiver. Yet, he should be a complimentary weapon who gradually takes on a bigger role. Hopefully the coaching staff will also begin to expand the role of running back Joe McKnight by incorporating him in the screen game and giving him more outside handoffs, which coupled with Kerley’s greater use will provide a needed shot of speed to the offense.

Three Game Losing Streak No Stranger To Rex’s Jets

Rex Ryan’s tenure with the New York Jets has been a successful one to date. However, there has always been bumps in the road. Is this recent three game losing streak the biggest bump they have encountered under his leadership?

In 2009, the team started 3-0 and followed with three straight losses. An ugly loss to the eventual Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, a last second loss on the road to the Miami Dolphins and then a 5 interception Mark Sanchez performance in an overtime loss to the Buffalo Bills. If you remember at that point, most people were calling for a Sanchez benching and Brian Schottenheimer to be fired. After a win in Oakland, the Jets lost another three straight, falling at home to Miami and Jacksonville and then getting crushed by New England on the road putting their record to 4-6. You can imagine how loud those calls for Sanchez and Schottenheimer’s head were then.

The team did respond in 2009 to win 5 of their last 6 and make the playoffs. In 2010, the Jets didn’t have a 3 game losing streak but did have ugly back to back losses late in the year to New England and Miami. The peaks and valleys have always been present under this regime, which doesn’t make them acceptable but does mean they could be overcome.

We are all fed up with the offense at this point. Sanchez is in his third year and has enough talent around him to put a more consistent product on the field. Some of the blame falls on him. Some falls on Schottenheimer. Some falls on Rex Ryan. Some falls around to the other players on the unit. There is no single culprit. You can run the football, while mixing in a downfield passing attack. It is possible. I am not sure why every other team in the NFL can hit a 15 yard dig route a few times a game, while the Jets may hit it once every 4 games. When is the last time the Jets hit a pass when the ball traveled over 30 yards in the air?

Rex Ryan needs to always be involved on both sides of the football, not just when crisis strikes. He is the head coach, not a glorified defensive coordinator. Brian Schottenheimer needs to run the football 25-30 times a game and still take shots down the field that utilize the Jets weapons. If he can’t do that, turn the offense over to Bill Callahan. Mark Sanchez needs to be more accurate and consistent. The receivers can’t drop passes and the offensive line has to protect Sanchez and get a better push up front. There isn’t an easy answer. The answer is that the entire unit has to get better.

On defense, the Jets aren’t a great unit. They are a good but inconsistent unit. Here it is on Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine to scheme around their deficiencies at safety and linebacker, while hoping somebody like Jamaal Westerman can build on his performance last week.  The Jets need Westerman, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Kyle Wilson to grow up fast in contributing roles. Eric Smith needs to not be on the field on passing downs and instead be replaced by Brodney Pool. Long term, the linebacking core needs more speed, the safety position needs more size and talent, and the defensive line needs more options. Yet, for now they have to work with what they have.

Everything the Jets want is still on the table in front of them. If they win their next two games at home, they have a bye week to prepare for Buffalo and New England in back to back weeks, which will be their last chance to make a move in the AFC East. Otherwise the rest of the year will be a scrap to stay around .500 and hope for a break in the wild-card race.