Jets vs. Patriots: Prediction, TOJ TV Episode II

Enjoy episode II of Turn on The Jets TV, where I recap week 1 in the NFL, predict the Jets/Patriots game and go over my anguish of watching the Jets lose to New England at home the last 8 years.

This Week’s Song: The Game – We Stand Alone

Jets vs. Patriots: Game Breakdown

First a few updates:

1. Check out http://web.me.com/greenrewind.com where I recently did an interview on Marty Schupak’s program to discuss the Jets/Pats game.

2. The New England locker room is likely buried in bulletin board material this week, since Kerry Rhodes didn’t hold back in an interview with Gary Myers of the Daily News. Rhodes stated, “You go out from the first quarter on, from the first play on, and try to embarrass them. Not just go out there and try to win, try to embarrass them. Try to make them feel bad when they leave here. We don’t want to just beat them. We want to send a message to them, ‘We’re not backing down from you and we expect to win this game, and it’s not going to be luck, it’s not going to be a mistake.” He also promised the Jets will hit Brady more than six times, which is how many hits the Bills got on him. Well at least we know the Jets aren’t lacking confidence heading into this game.

3. Kris Jenkins, Sione Pouha, Wallace Wright, and Damien Woody were all limited at practice today.

4. Check back tomorrow for Episode II of “Turn On the Jets” TV, where I ramble about my frustration with the Jets/Pats rivalry, review week one of the NFL, preview week two and make a pick for the Jets/Pats game.

Jets vs. Patriots: Game Breakdown

Jets Offensive Game Plan: The Jets need to build on what they did last week against the Houston Texans. There shouldn’t be any type of excessively conservative play calling because Mark Sanchez is a rookie and is facing Bill Bellicheck. Obviously, a large portion of the Jets game plan will revolve around Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and potentially Shonn Greene running the football and I still believe Jones/Washington need to be at or around 40 touches for the Jets to win but the Jets can’t be afraid to spread it out and throw the football. They have the personnel to attack the Patriots. I will say this again, don’t confuse New England’s defense with the Ravens or Steelers, this isn’t one the elite units in the league, especially without Jerod Mayo.

I have watched Jerricho Cotchery repeatedly kill the Pats secondary since 2006, and they even used to have better corners than they do now. Dustin Keller snagged 8 passes last November when the Jets won in New England. The Jets should be comfortable in their three wide set with Cotchery, Chansi Stuckey, and Keller with Leon Washington in the backfield. Also, they shouldn’t shy away from using their “Seminole” package with Leon Washington or Brad Smith working from the shotgun. I will also be real interested to see if the Jets take a home run shot to David Clowney some time in the first half to keep New England off balance.

The bottom line is that the Jets can’t go into a shell because they are playing the big, bad Patriots who usually push them around in their building. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington still need their carries but the Jets shouldn’t hesitate to take their shots to Dustin Keller down the seam or David Clowney down the side-line.

Jets Defensive Game Plan: Tackle, tackle, and tackle. The Patriots always kill the Jets with a barrage of short passes and screens to Wes Welker and Kevin Faulk. It is the entire defense’s responsibility to recognize the play, swarm to the football, and wrap these guys up. Darrelle Revis will prevent the big play from Randy Moss over the top, which means it is on guys like Lito Sheppard, Donald Strickland, Kerry Rhodes, and Jim Leonhard to keep Welker and Faulk in front of them and tackle them at first contact.

The Patriots also have a deep collection of running backs, led by Fred Taylor and Laurence Maroney. They couldn’t move the ball on the ground against Buffalo but don’t expect them to abandon the running game against the Jets. The run defense  starts with Kris Jenkins who is nursing a sore back, despite being boosted by the return of Shaun Ellis, guys like Howard Green and Sione Pouha need to step up and provide quality reps for Jenkins off the bench.

I am expecting a blitz happy scheme from Rex Ryan, which will test Brady under pressure early and often. This will make the secondary’s task even more difficult but Ryan seems to have total confidence in Revis, Sheppard, Leonhard, and Rhodes. David Harris & co need to stay in Brady’s face all day, because if Brady has time to stand back there, he is lethal.

Special Teams Breakdown: Leon Washington took a kick back for a touchdown the last time these two teams met, so keep an eye on #29 as usual. Wes Welker is always dangerous on punt returns and Maroney is a pretty good kick returner himself. Hopefully, Steve Weatherford can continue his strong punting.

The Jets Will Win If…Mark Sanchez protects the football. Brian Schottenheimer catches New England off guard by coming out in the spread offense and showing confidence in his rookie quarterback. Thomas Jones/Leon Washington do their usual work with their 40 combined touches. The Jets get points either on special teams or because of a defensive turnover. The pass rush stays in Tom Brady’s face all day, keeping him uncomfortable in the pocket. New England can’t run the football, making their offense one-dimensional and opening Brady up to more hits.

The Jets Will Lose If…Tom Brady has all day in the pocket and picks apart the Jets with short passes to his tight ends, Wes Welker, and Kevin Faulk. Mark Sanchez is confused by Bellicheck and throws a couple of costly interceptions, forcing the Jets to be conservative on offense. Thomas Jones starts out with 16 yards on 14 carries but never gets the chance to have a big finish like he did versus Houston. The Jets fall behind early and the crowd/team fall into the normal New England depression/losing attitude.

Help Rex Out

Jets vs. Patriots: Key Match-Ups

First a few updates:

1. The Jets added recently released cornerback Marquice Cole to their practice squad and released tight end Jack Simmons off it.

2. Kris Jenkins missed a small portion of practice today to receive some treatment on his lower back, according to both him and Rex Ryan it isn’t anything serious but we’ll see on Sunday if Jenk is his normal dominating self.

3. The Jets have no interest in recently released Eagles receiver Hank Baskett.

4. Rex Ryan left all Jets season holders a voice mail today encouraging them to help the team out at home this Sunday be being as loud as possible. He reaffirmed his quote of the week about Bellicheck being a better coach than him and Tom Brady being a better quarterback than Mark Sanchez, but that it remains to be seen who has the better team. So, yes at this moment I am sipping on some green tea and getting my voice ready for the game on Sunday which I will be attending. Hey, all of section 313 and myself won’t be letting Ryan down, I can tell you that much.

5. Bill Bellicheck ignored questions about Rex Ryan’s “kiss the rings” comment in every way imaginable today. Tom Brady pointed out that “talk is cheap,” and disagreed with Kris Jenkins’ comment that the Jets are preparing for this game like it is the Super Bowl, reminding us that “Super Bowls are played in February,” regardless I hope Brady is having his face slammed into the turf as many times as he did the last time he played in February…remember New England fans, when you were undefeated but choked in the Super Bowl?

6. Patriots middle linebacker Jerod Mayo is out 6-8 weeks with a sprained MCL, which means he won’t be suiting up on Sunday. Another blow to the Pats defense which is quickly turning into a collection of strangers.

7. David Harris was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week…hopefully the first of many accolades for him this season.

Jets vs. Patriots: Key Match-Ups

Tomorrow check back for an excessively comprehensive breakdown of the Jets/Pats game and then again on Friday for my prediction, today I am going to focus on the key individual match-ups for this Sunday’s game.

Darrelle Revis vs. Randy Moss: Revis is at the top of the match-up list again as he gets no break after shutting down Andre Johnson last week. Ever since Randy Moss shredded the Jets for 9 catches, 183 yards and a touchdown on opening day in 2007 (also the first game of Revis’ NFL career), Revis has more than held his own against Moss. In their second meeting in 2007, Moss had 5 catches for 79 yards and Revis had a spectacular one-handed interception over him. In 2008, Moss was held to 2 catches for 22 yards in their first meeting and 3 catches for 26 yards in their second meeting, although he did catch the game tying touchdown (but it was on Ty Law). It will be important for Revis to continue keeping Moss from killing the Jets with the big play. Moss is coming off a great performance on Monday Night against the Bills, where he racked up 12 receptions. If Revis could start out the season shutting down Andre Johnson and Randy Moss, who else is going to catch passes on him this year?

Mark Sanchez vs. Bill Bellicheck: Bill Bellicheck excels at confusing quarterbacks young and old with his complex defensive schemes. Mark Sanchez had a great start to his NFL career last week against a suspect Houston defense but the challenge is obviously greater this week. New England won’t drop the interceptions the Texans did last week, so Sanchez needs to be extra careful with the ball while still playing with his usual confidence and swagger. Regardless, let’s not confuse this New England defense with the 2000 Ravens despite who is coaching them. Trent Edwards went 15/25 for 212 yards and 2 TD’s against them last week.

Dustin Keller vs. Adalius Thomas/Pierre Woods/Brandon Merriweather: Or whomever the Patriots decide to use in coverage versus Keller, who killed the Patriots when the Jets beat them last season with 8 catches for 87 yards, many of them converting big third downs. Keller is a difficult match-up for any defense and needs to build off his strong game in Houston last week. Look for Mark Sanchez to target his tight end early and often against New England.

Jets Organization/Jets Fans vs. The Aura of New England: We are all feeling it right now…we are excited about our new coach, new quarterback, and general new direction of the team. Yet, here come the Patriots to ruin it, like they always do. I have been at every single Jets/Pats game in the Meadowlands since 2001, which means I have sat through 8 losses like many of you out there. I remember believing in Herman Edwards in 2002 and 2004. I remember believing that Pennington would lead us to an upset in 2003 or that Brooks Bollinger could somehow get us a Monday Night win in 2005. I remember believing the Man-genius and Pennington would take us to an upset in 2006 and then kick the season off right in 2007. Of course, I thought Brett Favre would beat Matt Cassell last year in week two, and yet the last 8 years I have left the stadium disappointed…freakin 8 years, since I was 14 years old! I wasn’t even in high school yet the last time the Jets beat New England at home. This organization and fan base needs to forget the past, forget “kissing the rings” and go out and expect to beat New England, because we have a better defense, a better group of running backs, and a better offensive line…will it happen or will Brady, Bellicheck and the Pats find a way to curb all of our enthusiasm? Only time will tell.

One of my favorite vids of all time…it’s good to beat the Patriots, and I’ll say this, I don’t like Brett Favre and think he killed the Jets last year but you have to love the end of the video when he runs into the locker room screaming “F%#@ Yea!”

NFL Week 1 Recap/Jets vs. Pats: First Look

First a few updates:

1. The Jets released cornerback Marquice Cole to make room for Shaun Ellis who is now reinstated and will be back in the starting line-up when the Jets play the Pats this Sunday.

2. The Jets made a nice little jump in ESPN’s Power Rankings from #23 to #16, giving them the week’s biggest improvement.

3. A few non-Jets things: The Yankees should be clinching that AL East title any day now and yes I believe they are the team to beat in the playoffs…Last week’s Entourage was a bit of a let down…But you have to be fired up about that new season of Curb Your Enthusiasm starting up this Sunday.

NFL Week 1 Recap

Wrapping Up Jets/Texans

Defensive Player Of The Game: David Harris/Darrelle Revis – It is impossible not to recognize both of them, which is why Rex Ryan gave them both game balls. Harris was all over the field and Revis shutdown arguably the best receiver in the NFL.

Offensive Player Of The Game: Mark Sanchez – Another easy pick, Sanchez looked like a seasoned veteran in his first career start. The tests only get tougher with the Patriots and Titans coming to town.

Honorable Mentions: Jerricho Cotchery for being clutch on third downs and looking like a running back after the catch…Donald Strickalnd for making two impact plays in a limited role…Sione Pouha/Mike DeVito for filling for Shaun Ellis and not letting the D-Line miss a beat…Leon Washington for 120 total yards…The Jets offensive line…Steve Weatherford for bringing some stability to the punting position.

AFC East Observations

New England Patriots – Was it just me or did the Patriots look nothing like an elite team last night? I’m pretty sure I saw Buffalo physically dominate them for 58 minutes and then choke away the game in a manner that only the Bills could. Give Tom Brady credit for a strong finish and leading the game winning drive and to Randy Moss/Ben Watson for having big time nights. However, let’s be honest the Pats defense didn’t look good, they had no running game, and Brady looked a little shaky in the pocket. How often you think Rex Ryan will be sending the house next week?

Miami Dolphins – Welcome to reality Miami fans aka your 2009 season. I have been saying this for months, Miami has 6-10 written all over them, last year’s magical run is over and it is time for a tough schedule and a lack of talent to catch up with them. Chad Pennington won’t finish the season as their starter, and they will be 0-2 after losing to Indy this Monday night.

Buffalo Bills – Smart play, Leodis McKlevin…just brilliant. You really showed everybody what a game breaker you were last night by taking the ball out of the end-zone with your hands team blocking for you and then trying to fight for extra yards after getting lit up by Brandon Merriweather…awesome, real smart football. Beyond that, Buffalo was impressive and should be 1-0. How do you bench Fred Jackson when Marshawn Lynch comes back?

Five Teams That Impressed Me

  1. Philadelphia Eagles– Steam rolled the Panthers in their building, but better hope McNabb gets back quickly.
  2. Oakland Raiders – Put up a fight on Monday Night Football when everyone expected them to lose by 30.
  3. Buffalo Bills – See above.
  4. San Francisco 49ers – Big opening day win against the defending NFC West champs.
  5. New York Giants – Dominated the Redskins, don’t let the score fool you.

Five Teams That Looked Like Garbage

  1. St. Louis Rams – Absolutely no fight from this team, are they really that bad?
  2. Cleveland Browns – They are going to average about 10 points a game this year.
  3. Carolina Panthers – They aren’t going anywhere with Jake Delhomme, who looks like his confidence is shot after last year.
  4. Arizona Cardinals – What happened to that offense from last season?
  5. Miami Dolphins – The first of many losses for them this year.

Other Observations

Let’s see if the Vikings can win when somebody stops the run (if it is possible to stop AP)…At least on Sunday night I was happy we didn’t trade for Jay Cutler, 4 picks owch…The poor Bengals, they had become my 2nd favorite team after Hard-Knocks and they lose like that? (By the way, Laveranues had 1 catch and 2 drops)…Good effort by a young Jacksonville team to nearly upset the Colts…I’d still take Darren Sproles over LaDanian Tomlinson, regardless of what anyone says about him having some type of big bounce back year…Reggie Bush: 7 carries for 14 yards, glad we got #29.

Jets vs. Patriots First Look

The Opponent: Everybody’s pick to win the AFC East, Las Vegas’s favorite to win the Super Bowl, the New England Patriots are the team that every analyst and expert loves to love. The Pats were 11-5 last year without All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady who has now returned. New England looked less than impressive as they escaped with a week one victory because the Buffalo Bills choked in the final minutes. Regardless, they have won their last eight games in the Meadowlands against the Jets and have one of the league’s most potent offenses. Despite questions on defense, the Pats will be consensus favorites to beat the Jets this week as the media hypes up Rex Ryan’s quote that he won’t “kiss Bill Bellicheck’s rings.” If the Jets want to be considered serious AFC contenders, a win at home against the Pats would be a good place to start.

New England Patriots Starters/Key Reserves

OFFENSE

  • Quarterback: Tom Brady – 39/53, 378 yards, 2 TD’s, 1 INT
  • Running Back: Laurence Maroney – 10 carries, 32 yards
  • Running Back: Fred Taylor – 9 carries, 25 yards, 1 TD
  • Running Back: Kevin Faulk – 3 carries, 7 yards
  • Wide Receiver: Randy Moss – 12 catches, 141 yards
  • Wide Receiver: Wes Welker – 12 catches, 93 yards
  • Wide Receiver: Joey Galloway – 0 catches
  • Tight End: Ben Watson – 6 catches, 77 yards 2 TD’s
  • Tight End: Chris Baker – 1 catch, 7 yards
  • Left Tackle: Matt Light
  • Left Guard: Logan Mankins
  • Center: Dan Koppen
  • Right Guard: Stephen Neal
  • Right Tackle: Nick Kaczur

DEFENSE

  • Defensive End: Ty Warren
  • Nose Tackle: Vince Wilfork
  • Defensive End: Jarvis Green
  • Outside Linebacker: Pierre Woods – 4 tackles, 2 FF
  • Inside Linebacker: Jerod Mayo
  • Inside Linebacker: Gary Guyton – 4 tackles
  • Outside Linebacker: Adalius Thomas – 1 sack, 5 tackles
  • Outside Linebacker: Tully Banta-Cain – 2 sacks
  • Outside Linebacker: Derrick Burgess – 1 sack
  • Corner: Leigh Bodden – 5 tackles, 1 pass defense
  • Corner: Shawn Springs – 6 tackles, 1 FF
  • Safety: Brandon Merriweather – 8 tackles,
  • Safety: James Sanders – 4 tackles

SPECIALS

  • Kicker: Stephen Gostkowski
  • Punter: Chris Hanson
  • Kick Return: Laurence Maroney
  • Punt Return: Wes Welker

Key Players: Obviously Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker are the Pats best weapons on offense. They have a deep group of running backs led by Laurence Maroney and their offensive line is consistently solid. On defense, they have a strong rotation at outside linebacker who all contribute to their pass rush. Brandon Merriweather is a rising star in the secondary.

Injuries: The Jets appear to be 100 percent healthy heading into this game, nobody will be inactive because of an injury. Pats middle linebacker Jerod Mayo was hurt last night and is questionable to play this week.

Early Story Lines: Pats have won 8 straight in the Meadowlands…Rex Ryan “kiss the rings” quote…Battle for early lead in AFC East…Darrelle Revis vs Randy Moss…The Jets defense getting after Tom Brady…Mark Sanchez vs Bill Bellicheck’s defensive scheme.

Good Luck Blocking Kris Jenkins

Scouting the AFC East: New England Patriots

First a few updates:

1. I decided to double post, because I had a good weekend and I feel bad about not posting on Friday or Saturday which is a bad job by me. All of these graduation parties are killing me.

2. Losing 2 out of 3 to the Nationals and Marlins…terrible job by the Yankees, just terrible.

Scouting the AFC East: New England Patriots

Along with the positional analysis articles, I am going to take a look at each of the AFC East teams in the next week and how the Jets stack up against them, continuing today with the New England Patriots.

2008 Record: 11-5

2008 vs. Jets: The Jets and Patriots split last year, with both teams winning their road games. New England beat the Jets at the Meadowlands 19-10 in week 2 and then the Jets won an OT thriller in New England 34-31 in week 11. In their first meeting, Wes Welker had 7 catches 72 yards, while Randy Moss was quiet with 2 catches for 22 yards (credit Darrelle Revis). Thomas Jones was solid in week 2 with 70 yards on 17 carries, while Leon Washington only had 2 carries despite gaining 28 yards. The Jets sacked Matt Cassell four times in their September meeting, while New England got to Brett Favre twice. In week 11, Thomas Jones had 104 yards on 30 carries with a touchdown. Leon Washington scored two touchdowns, one receiving and one on a kick return. Jerricho Cotchery had a big night, with 5 catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Welker had 7 catches for 108 yards and Randy Moss had 3 catches for 26 yards, although he had the game tying touchdown as time expired in regulation.

2009 Additions: On offense they added declining veterans Fred Taylor, Joey Galloway, and Greg Lewis. They also added tight ends Chris Baker and Alex Smith. On defense, they acquired cornerbacks Leigh Bodden and Shawn Springs and signed linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. In the draft, their highest selection was safety Patrick Chung in the second round, they also selected cornerback Darius Butler in the second round and receiver Brandon Tate in the third round.

2009 Losses: Cheap shot artist Rodney Harrison retired. Matt Cassell and Mike Vrabel joined the Chiefs. Ellis Hobbs was traded to Philadelphia. Receivers Jabar Gaffney and Kelly Washington left in free agency. Linebackers Roosevelt Colvin and Junior Seau also are gone.

Why the Jets Should Be Worried: New England is probably the team to beat in the division as of right now. If Tom Brady is back to his normal self, he is the best quarterback in the NFL. Randy Moss and Wes Welker are the best starting duo of receivers in the league. The Patriots offensive line is always very good and they have a deep group of versatile running backs. Bill Bellicheck will always have his team ready to go with a creative scheme. Their front seven will be difficult to deal with. The Jets haven’t beaten New England at home since 2000.

Why the Jets Can Handle New England: The Patriots have a suspect secondary and are generally starting to get old on defense. Tom Brady is coming off major knee surgery and it remains to be seen whether he will be his old self. They are counting on declining veterans Joey Galloway, Fred Taylor, and Greg Lewis to be major contributors on offense. The Jets have won in New England two of the past three years and outside of the home opener in 2007, have been in every game with them the past few years. They did a good job running the ball on them last season and did a decent job at getting to the quarterback.

Prediction: The Patriots should have one of the best offenses in the league and will always have a good defense with Bellicheck calling the shots. I think the Pats will be a double digit victory team again in 2009 but won’t run away with the division as some people are predicting. I can see them being anywhere from 10-6 to 12-4. In terms of the Jets, I think it is reasonable to believe the Jets can manage a split against them this season and they will need to if they have any hopes of winning the division.

2009 Games: Week 2 at New York Jets, 1 PM Kickoff. Week 11 at New England, 4:15 PM Kickoff.

Turn On The Jets Interview with Tim Layden

First a few updates:

1. I would have to say at this point there is a less than a 10 percent chance of the Jets signing Plaxico Burress or trading for Brandon Marshall. Beyond those two, what other veteran options could they consider at receiver? Marvin Harrison might not be a bad option, regardless of his diminishing skills, he could still be a very competent number 2 receiver.

2. It’s funny how much negative press the Jets inexperienced receivers get, in comparison to all the hype and positive press the Giants inexperienced receivers get. What have Sinorce Moss and Mario Manningham ever done to merit so much optimism? I do think Domenick Hixon and Steve Smith are good players but certainly no better than Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey.

3. The only enjoyable part of my daily commute to the PVSC (Passaic Valley Sewage Commission) in Newark, New Jersey (where I am working this summer as a landscaper…yes, a landscaper at the Sewage plant, awesome stuff I know) is I get to pass by the brand new Giants/Jets stadium every day. The new building puts the old one to shame and is going to be great for all NY/NJ football fans.

4. Congratulations to Brooks Bollinger for being drafted in the UFL. It seems just like yesterday he was leading the Jets to a 4-12 record in 2005.

Turn On the Jets Interview with Tim Layden

Tim Layden is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and recently did a great feature on Rex Ryan, which can be accessed here http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1156765/index.htm  . He was kind enough to let me interview him yesterday about Ryan, the Jets, and the AFC East. Here is what we talked about in the first ever interview at TurnOnTheJets.com:

JC: How much of Buddy Ryan do you see in Rex?

TL: I think Rex developed his passion for coaching from watching his father work growing up. There is no question he has alot of Buddy in him, yet it ends at a certain point. Rex’s mother is a very cerebral person and you can see that in Rex also. Unlike his father, Rex is a little more calculating when talking to the media and his players. He has an ability to treat different people in different ways, which is important in the NFL. I think he is also a little more reserved than Buddy and does hold back a little sometimes, in a positive way. I think you will see Rex be more successful as a head coach in the NFL than his father.

JC: When you were talking to the Jets players, did you sense that they are enjoying the switch from Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan? Both guys are obviously polar opposite in terms of how they run their team.

TL: When I was talking to Kris Jenkins, he expressed that he did like Eric Mangini and was okay with the way he ran things but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t enjoyed the new attitude Rex has brought to the Jets. Whenever there is a new head coach, people are going to focus on their positive qualities. Rex is a very likable guy and certainly a players coach so you would expect the players to be excited about him.

Kerry Rhodes admitted he is still adjusting and as I mentioned in the story, is used to holding himself back a little more on the field and with the media but is now learning more emotion is ok. Speaking of Rhodes, I really think he is guy you are going to see flourish in Rex’s system.

Bart Scott also made a good point not to get too carried away with the fun and emotional side of Rex. He noted they had success in Baltimore because of their scheme and execution. Rex is a well prepared, confident guy which leads to the swagger his defenses have. Scott said people don’t spend enough time talking about Ryan’s X’s and O’s and how smart he is when crafting a defensive scheme.

JC: What do you think of the recent comments he made about New England and his back and forth with Channing Crowder?

TL: I think with the Bellicheck ring statement, I mean…what is he supposed to say? Rex is confident in his guys and doesn’t say anything he knows his players won’t hear. He doesn’t want them to be afraid of New England and their past success. He isn’t intimidated by New England and believes he was brought to New York to beat them, not to look up to them. I don’t think it is a condescending statement to the Patriots at all.

In terms of the Crowder stuff, Rex has a great gift for conversation and humor. It is entertaining to listen to him speak and I think all that stuff was very light-hearted and also probably blown out of proportion by people criticizing him.

JC: Do you think Rex and the Jets should be as confident as they are heading into the season?

TL: One thing I know about Ryan is that he has never coached a bad defense. Even when some of those Baltimore teams had injuries, they were still consistent and successful. The Jets defense is going to be good this year, maybe great. I think the confidence is good thing and is rubbing off on the players. Bart Scott was telling me how he can’t wait to play against Tom Brady and New England. He wants to challenge them because he believes they can get to Brady and he wants to see how he will respond to the constant pressure coming off that leg injury.

JC: Switching to some more player specific questions, how does Ryan feel about Mark Sanchez?

TL: Ryan has a good amount of measured excitement about him. He knows he has the talent but understands he still has a ton to learn at this level. He doesn’t want to go too far praising Sanchez, in fear of losing Kellen Clemens, because there is still a chance he could be guy this September. Is Sanchez going to be Matt Ryan or Rex Grossman? I don’t think anybody can answer that yet. It will be tough in New York but Ryan believes Sanchez has the right make up for this city. Remember that Rex wants to win games 17-13 and isn’t going to be asking Sanchez to throw the ball over the field. He just wants him to protect the ball and make a few plays when the opportunity is there.

JC: What did Ryan have to say about Vernon Gholston?

TL: Ryan didn’t talk all that much specifically about Vernon Gholston. I know alot of people are trying to match up Baltimore players to Jets players, comparing Gholston to Terrell Suggs and Kerry Rhodes to Ed Reed but Ryan doesn’t want to do that. A key thing that both Ryan and Bart Scott said about the Jets linebackers is that everybody is going to have the chance to makes plays and it will be hard for the offense to know where the pressure is coming from. In Baltimore, the Ravens funneled everything to Ray Lewis, in this defense it won’t be that way.

JC: One last question, how do see the AFC East shaking out this year?

TL: I guess I would say New England is probably the best team but they aren’t head and shoulders above anybody in this division. Don’t think for a second they are a 14-2 team, that is a group of older guys with some question marks at linebacker and in the secondary and you can’t be 100 percent confident that Brady is going to be back to his old self. I am not confident in Miami repeating their success from last year and honestly think the Jets are probably the second best team right now and will be in the wild-card hunt and the division hunt until late in the year.

Three Moves the Jets Need to Make & A Rant on Mike Freeman

First a quick rebuttal to Mike Freeman of CBS Sports:

Mike Freeman of CBS Sports wrote an article (http://www.cbssports.com/columns/story/11849129) the other day where he pours it on Rex Ryan and the Jets organization as a whole. While I can understand a little bit of where he is coming from, he goes way overboard and makes a few questionable statements.

Yes, I understand Rex Ryan is a rookie head coach and may be doing a little too much talking for his own good. Yet, he didn’t say anything that outlandish or out of line. He is an accomplished defensive coordinator in this league and there is no reason he can’t have confidence in his group of guys or not stand in awe of New England’s past success. The guy never guaranteed anything or disrespected any of the Jets opponents.

Here are a few of Freeman’s excerpts, with my responses:

“Typical Jets: patting themselves on the back even before the season begins. The New York Jets — kings of June wind sprints.”  — Typical? When is the last time the Jets have patted themselves on the back before the season begins? I don’t remember many Junes where the Jets have been made any kind of bold proclamations about the upcoming season.

“Not certain about the rest of you, but I would love to see an organization with the sort of losing and embarrassing history of the Jets, oh, you know, win before the head coach starts beating his chest and running his mouth like he’s Big Pussy from The Sopranos.”  — Yes, the Jets don’t have one of the most illustrious histories in sports. However, the past decade they have been one of the better franchises in the NFL, with playoff appearances in 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004, and 2006 along with a .500 or better record in 1999, 2000, and 2008. Big Pussy from the Sopranos? Oh yes, clever reference since the Jets play in New Jersey but why Big Pussy, why not Paulie or Tony?

“Remember these are the Jets. It was this team that made one of the worst acquisitions in recent history with Brett “The Vikings love me/they love me not” Favre.” — Of course it is easy to say acquiring Brett Favre was stupid now, but at the time the Jets were universally praised for acquiring a hall of famer to fill the one glaring hole on their roster. Nobody was thought it was a bad acquisition when the Jets were 8-3 and had just blown out the undefeated Titans in their building. Yes, Favre and the Jets melted down the stretch but if it is another team that Freeman doesn’t hate, that’s on Favre not the organization for taking a chance by bringing him in.

“Ocho Rexo sounds just as silly as pops. He’s the guy with a larynx larger than his biceps who has had a few too many beers taking on the biggest, meanest guy in the bar. Challenging New England the way he has without a win under his belt puts Ocho Rexo in the same category as Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco. Rex has failed to also show the current division champions, the Miami Dolphins, a modicum of respect”— Did he challenge New England or did he just say he wasn’t going to “kiss their rings?” Should he kiss Bellicheck’s rings? Should the Jets play scared of New England because they won a few Super Bowls a few years ago? The Giants weren’t scared of the undefeated Patriots and they beat them up. Ryan also never disrespected the Dolphins (unless you consider his what his defense did to the wildcat last year as disrespect) he only talked trash to one of their average players, who came at him first.

“This season, after the Jets win five games and Mark Sanchez is a bloodied mess, Ryan’s faux bravado and words will haunt him.”— So now because Ryan is a confident guy the Jets are going to be a 5 win team? It sounds like some wishful thinking by Freeman, but why would a team that won 9 games last year and added Bart Scott, Lito Sheppard, Jim Leonhard, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Donald Strickland, and Marques Douglas become 4 games worse? Also, why will Mark Sanchez be a bloodied mess, because he is playing behind one of the top five offensive lines in the league? An offensive line that is returning all 5 starters and their top two backups, all of whom played together in every single game last year. An offensive line that has pro-bowlers Alan Faneca and Nick Mangold on it…yea, I think Sanchez will make it through the year in one piece.

Three Moves the Jets Need to Make

1. Don’t Trade Thomas Jones –  This is more in the “non-move” category but the Jets need to find a way to make Jones happy for this upcoming season. It would be foolish to trade away a workhorse pro-bowl running back when you are going to start an inexperienced quarterback. I know they like Shonn Greene but give the rookie a year to develop behind Jones and Leon Washington before you start giving 15-20 carries a game. I am not saying the Jets have to give him a long term contract, but they could advance him his signing bonus from next year or reach some kind of compromise.

2. Keep Monitoring the Plaxico Burress Situation – If Burress is going to be able to play football this season, the Jets should take a chance and sign him, even if they only get him for 12 games. Burress is a legit number one receiver who would provide a huge security blanket to either Mark Sanchez or Kellen Clemens. He would also allow Jerricho Cotchery to go back into his more natural #2 role. The Jets offense would be pretty difficult to stop with Burress and Cotchery split out, Keller at tight end and Jones and Leon Washington in the backfield.

3. Sign Another Veteran Tight End – I am still not comfortable with an aged and banged up Bubba Franks or a converted defensive lineman, Kareem Brown as the #2 tight end. The Jets are in major trouble if Dustin Keller gets hurt. There are still veterans on the market who could provide 20 snaps a game as a blocker.

Where to Begin? Recapping an Active Week of Jets Football

I’m back from vacation and finally finished going through the massive amounts of Jets stories/happenings from the past eight days. I was able to follow what was going on in Vegas to an extent but I was beilacked out from any type of updates in Mexico. Fortunately, there was no shortage of information or sources to read through all day today about everything that has been going on in the world of the Jets, here’s my extended reaction and opinions in an attempt to catch up, followed with regular, daily updates for the rest of the year starting with coverage of practice tomorrow:

First a few vacation thoughts:

1. It was my first time in Vegas and it met and exceeded expectations. I was lucky enough to actually win some money, thanks in part to hitting on Leon Washington’s #29 on the roulette tab.

2. American Airlines? Can you give me something to eat? A five hour flight from Dallas (we had a stopover) to Jersey and nothing more than some ginger ale…give me a break. I almost stormed first class in search of a sandwich but figured the risk outweighed the reward.

3. Cabo is one hell of a place…really beautiful. Obviously, I will let you know if I get the swine flu but from my perspective there was absolutely no danger in traveling there.

Back to the trash-talking, swaggalicious Jets:

1. Who isn’t excited about AFC East football this year? There is no need to repeat all of the quotes that have been thrown around by Rex Ryan, Channing Chowder, Kerry Rhodes, Joey Porter…etc but the trash-talk is flowing in full force already in June. I think Ryan’s quote about “not kissing Bellicheck’s rings” is music to Jets fans/players ears. I also don’t think there is anything disrespectful about what Ryan said. You can’t be standing around in awe of New England’s past success and expect to beat them out in the AFC East. The Jets need to be aggressive and hit the Patriots in the mouth to show they aren’t going to back down from them. I don’t care about regular season records, neither of them made the playoffs last year and they split their regular season games, there is no reason the Jets shouldn’t expect to beat the Patriots at home in week 2 this year.

I think it is comedic how concerned the Dolphins are about what analysts are saying about their team in June. They should enjoy flying under the radar and let all the pressure be on the other AFC East teams and then worry about sneaking up on everybody again. What do they care if Vegas sports books are picking them to win 8 games this year? The whole Channing Crowder/Rex Ryan exchange is a little more light-hearted than people are making it out to be. Of course now that I said that, watch the two of them rumble at the 50 yard line before the Jets/Fins Monday Night game.

Crowder also came after Mark Sanchez and Kerry Rhodes. His comments on Sanchez basically claimed he was soft because of his photo spread and that Chad Pennington/Chad Henne were tougher because they wouldn’t do that stuff. All I know is that if Sanchez isn’t throwing 4 INT’s in a playoff game like Pennington or riding the bench like Henne, he can take all the pictures in GQ he wants. Obviously, he needs to produce this year to silent critics of his photo shoot and critics in general.

Crowder went below the belt by saying Rhodes should worry about his off the field problems. Rhodes isn’t a suspect in any criminal investigation and never called out Crowder by name. All Rhodes did was post on twitter his belief that the Jets would have the best defense in the league. I love the confidence of the group and the support he received from other players and Ryan who backed him up, but still you need to show it on the field first before saying you are the best overall in the league.

Regardless, how different is this team from Eric Mangini’s group of robots from last year? I love the new confidence/emotion/swagger but it remains to be seen if it will lead to an improvement from 2008. I would take a group of 11-5 robots over a 7-9 group of trash-talking, emotional players. As of right now though, I agree with Kris Jenkins…hiring Ryan was an even better decision than building their new state of the art facility.

2. Mark Sanchez signed his contract today, which is for 5 years and about 50 million dollars making him the highest paid player in Jets history…pressure, anyone? It is great that the Jets wrapped this up long before training camp, which will allow Sanchez the best possible opportunity to win the starting job and excel in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense.

Turning the focus to on the field, Sanchez has been making steady progress and has flashed better than expected arm strength. The general consensus is that quarterback battle has been about even so far, with Kellen Clemens probably having a slight edge. However, you still have the feeling that inevitably Sanchez is going to keep improving and lock down the starting job by week one.

3. Leon Washington spoke to the media and made it clear that he wants a “fair market value” deal. He showed up for the last week of voluntary workouts as a goodwill gesture but no deal appears imminent. Can we please give this guy his money? He is too valuable to the Jets offense and special teams to be missing any parts of training camp. Thomas Jones still isn’t talking to the media and there are rumors circulating that the Jets may look to trade him this summer. I know they like Shonn Greene, but why trade away a pro-bowl running back when you are going to be starting an inexperienced quarterback? The Jets need to find some way to placate Jones for this season so Green has a year to learn behind him and carry a lighter workload. In 2010, I’d feel much better about Green/Washington backfield than I would in 2009.

4. Chansi Stuckey seems to be creating some space in the battle to start opposite Jerricho Cotchery. Stuckey is the most accomplished guy in the competition, runs fluid routes, and has great hands. He is probably better suited to be in the slot as a #3 guy but if he is the best guy, he deserves to start. Wallace Wright has been flashing a little bit on offense and did show some potential in 2007. Over at tight end, Dustin Keller has had a strong May/June and even drew a compliment from Bart Scott, who said he could be a top 5 receiving tight end in the league. Kareem Brown is also making strides in his transition from defensive end to tight end. Also, if you asked me if I would want Plaxico Burress for 12 games this year…the answer would definitely be yes.

5. On defense, Eric Smith pulled in 3 interceptions the other day and has played well in OTAs. He provides good depth behind Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard. Inside linebacker Jamaal Westerman continues to be a favorite of Ryan, who can’t stop raving about him. Ahmad Carroll has also continued his strong play at cornerback and could see some time on defense this year.

6. The Jets cut punter Eric Wilbur and re-signed Reggie Hodges…thrilling stuff in the punting battle. They also signed LB Craig Kobel and cut LB Nate Harris and DL Brian Schafering.

Tomorrow: Coverage of Thursday’s OTA and more reaction to AFC East trash talking.

Where Do the Jets Fit in the AFC East?

First a few updates:

1. The Gang Green (www.theganggreen.com) has a great feature that tracks all of the Jets who are on twitter. Apparently Mark Sanchez spent the weekend in Seaside Heights…? C’mon Mark, you are going to be a rich man, at least get over to Belmar or something. David Clowney, Chansi Stuckey, Jay Feely, and Dustin Keller all also have active accounts. Keller just got back from Vegas…good for him, I’ll be there next week.

2. Can somebody on Cleveland please help out LeBron James and hit an open jump shot?

3. According to Rich Cimini, Thomas Jones will be coming to OTAs on Wednesday without a new deal or any plans for a new deal. It should be interesting to see what he says to the media, since it appears the Jets may have won this stare down.

Where Do the Jets Fit in the AFC East?

The Jets have had one of the more active and better overall off-seasons in the NFL. Yet, where do they fit in the always highly competitive AFC East? Last year they finished in third place with a 9-7 record, behind the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots. The Jets split with both of them last season and swept the Buffalo Bills. When most analysts look at the AFC East for this upcoming season, they rank the Jets as the third or fourth best team, meaning they will be extreme longshots at making the playoffs.

New England is receiving the most pre-season hype in NFL history for a team that didn’t make the playoffs the previous year. They have somehow become the consensus number one team in all April/May power rankings (which, fortunately are never right) and are filling up magazines with talk of breaking every offensive record in the book.

I may hate Bill Bellicheck and New England but I am not naive, they are going to be a good football team this year, like they are every year. However, there are too many questions about the Patriots that are being ignored to just assume they are going to be a 12-14 win team in 2009.

Tom Brady is coming off major  knee surgery. I know the guy is a first ballot hall-of-famer but it takes time to adjust coming back from his type of injury. How can you assume he is going to instantly be back to his 2007 form? New England still has Randy Moss and Wes Welker, probably the best starting duo of receivers in the game but have some questions behind them. I’m not sold on Joey Galloway who looked completely washed up last year and Greg Lewis who has been a 15-20 catch a season guy for the past three years. Their four wide doesn’t scare me like it used to, with Donte Stallworth and Jabar Gaffney who excelled in the Pats system.

Laurence Maroney hasn’t  proven he can handle being a lead back yet and Fred Taylor certainly didn’t look like a #1 or #2 back last season. Their secondary is also very weak. Maybe I am nit-picking with them but I don’t see them cruising to a 13-3 season like every other NFL analyst in the world. I know Rex Ryan did a hell of a job against them in 2007, and I am hoping he can duplicate that effort twice this year.

The Buffalo Bills are receiving a ton of hype because of one player…T.O. Yes, they have a great group of receivers but what about the rest of the team? I’m not sold on Trent Edwards yet as a franchise quarterback, their defense has question marks, and Marshawn Lynch is already suspended for the first three games. Dick Jauron also can’t seem to get out of his own way as a head coach.

The 2008 Miami Dolphins were the 2006 New York Jets. Despite having an overall lack of talent, they used a creative offensive scheme led by an efficient Chad Pennington, an opportunistic defense, and a cupcake schedule to sneak into the playoffs. The 2009 Miami Dolphins are going to be the 2007 New York Jets, maybe not as bad as 4-12 but nowhere near as good as 11-5. Defenses are going to be all over Pennington and their pedestrian group of receivers, similar to the Ravens in the first round of the playoffs. Their secondary also has a ton of question marks and can you really count on Ricky Williams for two good seasons in a row at this stage of his career?

It may just sound like I am bashing all of the Jets rivals, so let my clarify my feelings on the AFC East. New England is the best team as of right now. They have the best coach, the best quarterback, the most dangerous offense and an experienced, solid overall defense. However, they are a very beatable team that isn’t going to run away with this thing as a 13/14 win team. The Jets, Bills, and Dolphins are all grouped together beneath New England. One of the those three will make a strong run at the division, while the other two will hover around .500. It really depends on who can win their division games. The Jets need to find a way to get 3 out of 4 from Miami/Buffalo and manage a split with New England to have a chance at both a division title and making the playoffs.