New York Jets Week 8 – Early Thoughts On Jets/Dolphins

Early thoughts on the New York Jets week 8 match-up against the Miami Dolphins

A collection of early thoughts on the New York Jets critical week 8 match-up against the Miami Dolphins –

1. This game is without question a must win and has the potential to be a turning point in the Jets season in either a positive or negative way. They can’t afford to drop to 2-2 in the division, 3-4 in the AFC, take a season split with Miami, and have to sit on the loss for two weeks before heading cross country to Seattle, a game the Jets will appropriately be underdogs in. A victory keeps them within one game of New England, guarantees a tie-breaker with Miami (who will be a wild-card contender) and puts their conference record over .500. You can’t lose this game at home to a rookie quarterback.

2. Nobody is saying Ryan Tannehill hasn’t played well for a rookie or that the Miami Dolphins aren’t a talented team. Yet many people are getting carried away with their lofty praise. Let’s keep in mind Tannehill was 16/36 with a INT returned for a touchdown in the team’s previous meeting which was about a month ago. The Dolphins have beat Oakland and St. Louis at home along with a Bengals team on the road, who couldn’t even beat the Cleveland Browns. Overall, Miami is 1-2 on the road, averaging 16 points per game and Tannehill only has 1 TD pass between the three games.

3. The Jets are going to have their hands full with Miami’s running game. They were gashed back in week 3 and that was with Reggie “Don’t Call Me Hot Sauce” Bush missing the entire second half. It is doubtful that Sione Pou’ha and Kenrick Ellis are going to play making the challenge even more difficult. If the Jets can slow down Bush, it will put that much more pressure on Tannehill and likely force him into a handful of mistakes.

4. On offense, the Dolphins are stout in the front seven. The Jets can’t be stubborn and try to force the running game if it isn’t there. This Dolphins secondary can be exploited. Jeremy Kerley is rolling right now and hurt the Dolphins with two big plays in the previous meeting. Dustin Keller is back after missing week 3 and Stephen Hill looks to be 100 percent healthy. Tony Sparano and Mark Sanchez can’t be shy about throwing down the field.

5. Look for Antonio Cromartie to cover Brian Hartline for most of the game. If Cromartie keeps playing the way he has been, I’m not sure who else in the Dolphins passing game is going to hurt the Jets.

Turn On the Jets Stock Watch: Patriots Edition

Mike Donnelly with his weekly Stock Watch. Buying and selling after Jets/Patriots

After the Jets crushing loss to the Patriots on Sunday, all Jets fans seemed to fit squarely into one of two categories: Either you were happy with the way the team played, showing fight, never quitting, and going toe-to-toe with the Patriots in Foxboro, OR you pulled the “there are no moral victories!” card, bashed Mark Sanchez for his costly fumble, and said a loss is a loss is a loss, no matter what. I don’t think things have to be quite so black and white, and the appropriate way to feel about this Jets team right now is somewhere in the middle.

The game was right there for the taking, and there is no question the Jets should have pulled it out if not for a curious lack off aggressiveness when it came time to step on the Patriots throat and put them away. The offense played for 3 instead of 7 and then the defense unsurprisingly was unable to hold Tom Brady when it mattered most. We all know what happened by now. It was about as painful of a regular season loss as I’ve seen from the Jets in years. HOWEVER, there is plenty to be happy about with this team and the way they played. Let’s take a look.

BUY: Mark Sanchez & Dustin Keller – It’s amazing how much better the offense looks when Dustin Keller is on the field, isn’t it? He clearly has the most rapport with Mark Sanchez out of anyone on the roster and it really shows. In fact, in the 3 games Dustin has been on the field this year, here are Mark Sanchez’s passing numbers:

58-86, 67.4%, 676 yards, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions

Those are excellent numbers no matter how you slice it, and it really speaks volumes. Mark Sanchez is not perfect by any stretch, but the kid is a GOOD quarterback. For the majority of the season his top targets were Jeff Cumberland and Chaz Schilens. Think about that. Nobody can thrive when put in that position, but now that Jeremy Kerley is emerging, Stephen Hill is coming along, and Dustin Keller is getting healthy, Mark is playing some of his best ball. Unfortunately, there are fans out there who won’t give #6 any form of credit no matter what he does, and that is a disgrace. (I even tweeted about this during the game.) The bottom line is this: Mark Sanchez played an excellent game on Sunday, making great throws to Keller and Kerley all over the field and all anybody wants to bring up is the fumble and the admittedly horrible interception in the end zone. Other than that, he was pretty much flawless, and when he left the field with just over a minute to play in the 4th quarter, his team had the lead. Everyone wants to pile on and trash him when he makes a bad play, but lets give him credit when it’s due.

SELL: The playcalling – We’ve been over this ad nauseam since Sunday so I won’t beat a dead Sparano, but that sequence of plays when the Jets had the ball at the Pats 4, 3rd & 1 and a half or so, you’ve got to have Tebow in the game to plow forward. The slant to Chaz Schilens is a terrible play call anywhere on the field and that situation was no different. Just had to mention this. Again.

BUY: Shonn Greene & Joe McKnight – Shonn Greene is another guy Jets fans love to hate, but his performance on Sunday was really great to see. He ran for the tough yards all day against a stout Patriots run defense, and contributed 6 big catches to move the chains and give the Patriots something else to think about on defense. And let’s be real, Shonn Greene is A MAN. There’s no other way to really describe him. After seeing him bounce back up after that crushing show from Brandon Spikes, then return to the game because the team needed him, well it was pretty awesome.

Same goes for Joe McKnight, who had his typically tremendous day in the kick return game and managed to grind out 7 carries for solid yardage after Greene’s injury, despite hobbling around on one leg and looking like he was in a great amount of pain all game. When Bilal Powell returns from injury, the Jets will have a pretty solid little trio of backs, especially when you throw Lex Hilliard into the mix. They’re not the most talented group around, but they can definitely get the job done.

SELL: Matt Slauson & Brandon Moore – Yes, our guards are now officially bad. Matt Slauson was beat several times during the course of the game and actually had me calling to see more Vlad Ducasse. Yes, that Vlad Ducasse. Brandon Moore’s struggles are tough to watch, because he’s been such an underrated and key player of this team for so long. Last year, his run blocking slipped noticeably, but was still excellent protecting the quarterback. This year, not so much. He’s still serviceable, but we are likely seeing the last few games of Moore’s very good career. Look for an overhaul at the position in the offseason as both starters are likely to be replaced.

Fortunately, Nick Mangold is as good as ever and D’Brickashaw Ferguson is looking more like the 2010 version than 2011. If Chandler Jones had been playing, I’m sure Brick would have had a much worse game, though. Oh wait, Jones did play? And he did nothing? Weird..

BUY: Mo Wilkerson & Quinton Coples – Chandler Jones may not have made a peep all game, but Quinton Coples sure did. Coples was routinely getting pressure in the Pats backfield, and should have recorded his 3rd sack of the season, but David Harris cleaned it up and got the credit. Chris will cover this more in his defensive breakdown, but there is little doubt Coples is going to be an excellent player for the Jets. As for Wilkerson, he’s really starting to come into his own as the dominant force on the defensive line we all expected this season. He was double-teamed nearly the entire game and still managed to almost single-handily disrupt the Pats run game as well as get up into Tom Brady’s face. Throw in Kenrick Ellis, and the Jets defensive line is looking like a major strength for the next few years.

BUY: Demario Davis & Antonio Allen – It was great seeing Demario Davis play so much this week and to make such an impact. When he knifed his way through the line and made a stuff in the backfield, I could hardly believe my eyes. It had been so long, I forgot a linebacker was allowed to do something like that. Davis is far from perfect, but he’s super athletic, fast, and he can lay the wood. The same goes for Allen, who played a lot in the Jets “big nickel” defense, to slow down the Pats tight ends while keeping an eye on the run game. For most of the game, it worked very well. New “hybrid” defenders like Davis and Allen, along with perhaps Marcus Dowtin, are the new breed of defenders in the NFL and will be key for the Jets going forward defending teams like the Patriots. More Davis and Allen, less Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas, and Eric Smith is a great thing.

New Look New York Jets Passing Game Has Potential

The new look New York Jets passing game has a high amount of potential and the Jets must take advantage of it

There was excessive lazy analysis by many NFL writers over the past month that characterized the New York Jets passing offense as a “wasteland” that lacked any talent. This went hand in hand with the analysis that ranked them as one of the worst teams in the league, which is a laughable assertion at this point. The Jets aren’t Jacksonville. The Jets aren’t Kansas City. The Jets aren’t Oakland. The worst teams in the league don’t beat the Colts by 30 points, don’t lose to the 6-1 Texans by 6 and don’t take the Patriots to overtime in their building.

But back to the Jets passing game. When all this criticism was being thrown around there was an ignorance of just how much Jeremy Kerley had been progressing. Kerley has pulled in 25 receptions on 40 targets so far this season, racking up 435 yards at an impressive 17.4 yards per catch. Over the last 3 weeks he is top ten in the NFL in both receiving yards and receptions. The much maligned by Mike Tannenbaum appears to have found a gem in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Kerley has underrated speed to go with his quickness in and out of breaks on his routes. For such a young receiver, the precision on those routes has been extremely impressive. He has also shown consistent hands and an ability to make tough catches in traffic. Kerley has looked the part of a very capable lead receiver the past few weeks.

The value of a healthy Dustin Keller was also glossed over by many. Keller showed in the running game against the Colts as a surprisingly solid blocker but really made noise this past week against New England with 7 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. With Kerley producing on the outside and in the slot, it frees up the middle of the field and creates favorable match-ups for Keller. Without an unnecessary amount of balls being funneled to Santonio Holmes, Keller should be able to consistently put up strong numbers.

Despite everybody being down on Stephen Hill because of a critical late game drop, he has flashed very good potential through 7 games. He is also now fully healthy. Hill has only logged four games this season that weren’t hampered by injury (he missed two and was clearly banged up against Miami), in those four games he has three touchdowns, 12 catches and 167 yards. Before dropping that pass, he had four tough catches in traffic and showed good body control and discipline on his routes. A rookie out of a triple-option offense is going to make mistakes but Hill is still going to make his share of big plays. Defenses must respect his speed and size, which will only further open things up for Kerley and Hill.

Outside of those three, you have two role players who at least have good speed and have made a few plays in Jason Hill and Clyde Gates. Hill drew a critical pass interference penalty against New England because he beat his man on a double move and caught a touchdown against Indianapolis. Gates had an impressive 27 yard catch against the Texans. Chaz Schilens is coming off a rough outing against New England but prior to that had been a productive possession receiver. It will be interesting to see if his role is reduced moving forward.

Obviously everything comes back to Mark Sanchez, who has quietly made strides over the past two weeks despite the usual round of criticism. Over the past two weeks here are his stats – 39/59 (66 completion percentage), 410 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception. Sanchez is going to make his share of mistakes just like the overwhelming majority of quarterbacks in this league but the Jets can’t by shy about letting him throw aggressively down the field when the match-ups dictate it. After a brutal start against the Dolphins, Sanchez carved them up the in fourth quarter and overtime, finishing with over 300 yards passing and leading the go ahead drive in the 4th quarter and game winning drive in overtime. Miami is strong in the front seven but questionable in the secondary. The Jets must attack down the field.

There are going to be match-ups the Jets need to be more careful about (see on the road in Seattle) but for the most part, they can’t be shy about utilizing Kerley, Keller and Hill who many teams will have a tough time matching up with. The Jets passing game, like their entire team is not the punchline it is generally portrayed to be and has the potential to keep them very relevant in the division and playoff race.