New York Jets Fact or False: Week 13 Edition

Chris Gross with his weekly Fact or False, previewing Jets vs. Cardinals

My, what a wild year it has been in Jets land (what else is new?). After a strong showing at opening day at MetLife Stadium back in September, when the Jets romped the Bills 48-28 to begin the 2012 season (Yes, that game actually occurred in the same season as this), the New York Jets have progressively fallen far from grace. In week 2 the Jets went into Pittsburgh without their All-World defensive back, Darrelle Revis, and despite coming out strong on the opening drive, ultimately fell to the Steelers at Heinz Field 27-10. Since then, New York hasn’t mustered up one convincing win, while being blown out 3 times at home. Although the Jets have had to deal with injuries to two essential players (Revis and Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes), this team’s total lack of depth and talent has put their fans in an uproar, and rightfully so. Sure, the Jets held their own against two of the AFC’s top teams when they hosted the Houston Texans in week 5 and when they took the Patriots to overtime in Foxboro in week 7.

However, the games the Jets have been able to win this season have been against far inferior opponents. Buffalo, Miami, and St. Louis have a combined recored of 13-19-1. Indianapolis came to New York with their rookie quarterback Andrew Luck having to face a Rex Ryan defense for the first time in his career. Luck will be great, but it is a daunting task for a rookie to solve the puzzle that is Ryan’s defensive scheme on the road. To put it into perspective, the 2012 Jets, although not horrendous, are simply a poor football team.

This column has been dedicated to making a handful of predictions based on past games, tendencies, and matchups for each week – predictions that have often failed to come to fruition. Last week, we observed what the Jets needed to do against the Patriots on Thanksgiving in order for them to upset their longtime foe. Looking back, they really failed to do any of these things.

Since it has become nearly impossible to predict what this team will do in terms of game plan (see Tebow, Tim; week 12…actually all season), execution, and outcome, this column will now focus on key points, all of which the Jets must achieve to have any chance of reigning victorious again this year.

This week’s New York Jets Fact or False will focus primarily on how the Jets need to attack their upcoming opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, what matchups will be crucial, and who needs to come to play, in order for New York to put patch one of the holes of the sinking ship that is their 2012 season. This team is all but guaranteed to not reach the playoffs this season, but the Jets can certainly do their best to salvage what is left of this mess and head into 2013 on the right foot. Whether or not they can do that, however, will depend on how they perform from top to bottom in these remaining five weeks. Let’s take a look at Arizona.

The Jets’ active rookie wide receivers need to step up big this week. Fact. As depleted as this team’s receiving corps has been all season, think about this for a second: Clyde Gates has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, creating a serious issue at wide receiver. Wow. After week 1, would you have ever thought that this is what we’d be analyzing heading into week 13? Unfortunately for New York, however, that is exactly where the Jets stand. Aside from Gates, Chaz Schilens is questionable with concussion symptoms, and Jeremy Kerley (the only receiver who has been somewhat productive this season) is still hampering a leg injury.

While it is a scary thought that the Jets could potentially be starting a receiving corps led by Kerley and rookies Stephen Hill and Jordan White, this could be a blessing in disguise. While no one should expect this group to be world beaters, it is essential to see if Sanchez can develop some chemistry with his young passing options. Stephen Hill started 2012 with a bang, hauling in 5 balls for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns in the season opener against Buffalo. Since then, however, Hill has hit the growing pains that we all expected him to heading into this season. All is certainly not lost for the promising rookie with tremendous upside out of Georgia Tech, so getting him touches the rest of the way this year will be crucial to his development.

Jordan White is a player who has been on the radar here at Turn On The Jets since New York selected him with their final pick in this year’s draft. A highly productive college player, White stood out in our post draft evaluation due to his high football IQ, strong route running, and ability to catch balls in traffic. It was expected that he may take a bit to come around, but on a team in need of hope in week 13, White could start his campaign to give some promise to this team’s depleted group of skill players.

Now, it would be foolish to think that White is going to come out in his first game and light up Arizona, prompting a surplus of waiver wire claims from fantasy football league owner’s heading into their respective playoffs. However, White is fully capable of catching anywhere from 2-5 passes this week, while beginning to gain some momentum in an attempt to be a long term asset to this roster.

Regardless, the Jets need these two to not play like wide-eyed rookies this week, but instead play with a certain level of confidence and reliability, so they can provide some security to Mark Sanchez, who desperately needs it. If Kerley and Schilens are a go, they will likely start, but do not be surprised to see Sanchez target the youngsters to gauge where they are at as he tries to find some continuity in these final 5 weeks. If this offense looks to have momentum heading into next season, it starts with these young players at receiver stepping up and asserting some kind of presence this Sunday.

The Jets need to get Mark Sanchez airing it out on Sunday. False. While the Jets do need to see some signs of life from Sanchez, following one of his most horrific performances,in terms of ball security, last week, the key to being successful on offense remains the same as it has been since Sanchez arrived in New York – a strong running effort, with a limited amount of drop backs. Look at the Jets two most convincing victories this season, against Indianapolis and at St. Louis. Sanchez was 11 for 18 for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns and 15 for 20 for 178 yards and 1 touchdown, respectively. What do you notice about those numbers? That’s correct, no turnovers.

The Jets ground attack during those two games, however, was on point. Although the total rushing yardage against St. Louis was not eye opening – 124 total yards – the Jets stuck to a successful formula of a running back by committee approach. Bilal Powell was able to record his first two career touchdowns in that contest, primarily because Tony Sparano took some risks in obvious passing situations in the red zone by giving Powell the carries, and it paid dividends.

The bottom line is, the more Sanchez is asked to throw, the more likely it is for him to commit a mistake and turn the ball over. New York needs to give him a strong running effort once again, while allowing him to make some high percentage throws on slants, play action passes, and designed roll outs. If the Jets can limit him anywhere between 20-25 attempts, while running the ball 35-45 times, not only will they be helping Sanchez regain some much needed confidence, but they will also be putting themselves in the best position to win. Is it ideal to have to game plan like this with a fourth year quarterback? Of course not, but at this point the reality is that Sanchez has performed poorly, and has a depleted group of receivers to throw to. If the Jets can stay grounded this week, they will control the clock and field position, while keeping their defense off of the field.

The Jets defense needs to come up with a surplus of quarterback sacks and hits. Fact. New York’s pass rush has been absolutely horrendous over the past five seasons, mostly because they have done a poor job of outside and self scouting at vital pass rushing positions during that time. However, Arizona ranks dead last in sacks allowed throughout the entire league this season, and they will be starting a rookie quarterback on Sunday. Remember what we said about that Andrew Luck guy? Ryan Lindley isn’t anywhere near the type of player that Luck is, but he does have a solid group of wide receivers to throw to against a very shaky Jets secondary. If he is given ample time to throw the ball, he will make plays.

Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples will be licking their chops when they line up against this poor offensive line on Sunday. However, they will need support from the linebacking corps in order to establish a strong pass rush. All season long, these two have been hampered as a result of facing a vast amount of double teams, due to the complete lack of a pass rush from the outside and inside linebackers. Whether it is the dinosaurs that are Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, Garret McIntyre, or DeMario Davis, the Jets need to find a way to get Arizona’s attention off of Wilkerson and Coples, so they can be put in man blocking situations. If New York can rattle the cage of Lindley early, and throughout the course of the game, this offense should not be able to move the ball. If they let him sit in the pocket and gain comfort, however, it will likely be another week of excuses, pouting, outrage, and turmoil heading into week 14.

The Jets need to focus primarily on Larry Fitzgerald to shut down Arizona’s passing attack. False. Aside from getting to the quarterback, the Jets need a strong game plan against the Cardinals’ number 2 and 3 receivers. Andre Roberts has been very productive for a team with the poorest quarterback situation in the league this season, accounting for 50 receptions, a team high 639 yards, and another team high 5 touchdowns. Michael Floyd and Early Doucet are two players who haven’t had the productivity of Roberts this year, but are highly skilled. Each of these receivers have the ability to exploit the embattled Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster. Aside from getting to the quarterback, New York needs to figure a way to neutralize these two, primarily from scheme. If the Jets expect to put Wilson and Lankster in man coverage on Sunday, without generating a pass rush, they will not win this game., plain and simple.

Dustin Keller needs to establish a veteran presence and allow Sanchez to lean on him. Fact. Lost in the disaster that has become the 2012 Jets is the player that Mark Sanchez became comfortable looking toward in previous times of struggle. Although Keller is second on the team in receptions, that number is a mere 26. 26 catches from a player who was thought to be Sanchez’s go to guy. While he has been hampered by injury for the majority of the season, Sanchez is usually the most efficient when Keller gets going. Look at the first matchup against New England. Many will refuse to admit this, but Sanchez played one of the best games of his career, prior to overtime, that week. A lot of that success has to do with Keller’s strong day of catching all 7 passes thrown his way for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Now, it is unfair to blame this lack of production on Keller. The lack of receiving threats on this team makes him an easy focus of opposing defenses. However, he needs to find a way to get open and give Sanchez that much needed security. If Keller can get going with some early catches to move the chains, Sanchez’s confidence will only grow as the game progresses. As of right now, aside from the run game, Keller is the straw that stirs the drink on this team’s offense. If he can get some early receptions, Arizona will be forced to shift their coverage toward him, allowing ample opportunity for those young receivers to get open and make plays. Sanchez, in the meantime, will only be able to grow on all accounts because of this. Yes, he should be limited to no more than 25 passing attempts, but each of those 25 will be critical. The Jets’ quarterback has no margin for error anymore. Most people are ready to write him off as the New York’s signal caller. Whether or not this is just, it is the harsh reality of the NFL and particularly of professional sports in New York. Dustin Keller can help Sanchez slowly climb out of the abyss with a strong performance this week.

The Jets cannot afford any more Special Teams blunders. Fact. There is no need to explain this one. The Jets’ Special Teams has been horrendous for the majority of the season. With a struggling offense and a defense that has had its troubles getting off the field on third downs, special teams mishaps are a recipe for the perfect disaster. This needs to be turned around immediately. Period.

 

New York Jets Fact Or False: The Tweeter’s Choice Edition

Chris Gross weekly Fact or False on the New York Jets answers your submitted questions on the team

Throughout the season, we will periodically poll our Twitter followers for what they want to see addressed in New York Jets Fact Or False. For our inaugural edition of The Tweeter’s Choice, our readers brought the heat. Not one person disappointed with the issues they wanted to read about, which proves we have one of the most, if not the most, knowledgeable fan bases in all of football. Huge shout out to @Crazychimpan, @bleist25, @ItsOasus, @DrewFromJersey, and @Jetsforlife25 for sending in their suggestions this week. Be sure to give each of them a follow on twitter, and be sure to keep a look out all season, as we will certainly run another edition of this in the future. Thanks again, and enjoy!

8 DAYS UNTIL THE PRE-SEASON OPENER. WHERE IS YOUR NEW SHIRT?

The Jets will carry more than 5 RB/FBs going into season. (@Crazychimpman). False.

While five is a great over/under for the number of backs that will be on the active roster come opening day, don’t expect any more or any less. The three guaranteed spots will be Shonn Greene, who will presumably be the starter barring an injury, Joe McKnight, for his Special Teams value will lock him in, regardless of whether or not Bilal Powell gets the nod as the third down back, and John Connor, who established himself as the starting Fullback early in training camp as the team has already decided to waive journeyman Fui Vakapuna.

The next two spots are the intriguing ones. You’d have to think that, with all the talk about Powell, he will make it. However, Powell must truly prove that he is worthy of being a valuable option as a third down back. McKnight isn’t going anywhere, due to his worth on Special Teams, so for the team to carry two backs with strikingly similar skill sets, Powell must go above and beyond what’s asked of him.

Rookie Terrance Ganaway is also a very interesting case. Ganaway was seemingly drafted because he looks to be a perfect situational fit for this season, with the hope that he will develop into a perfect schematic fit long term. He has great experience in the option offense, running for an astounding 1547 yards and 21 touchdowns last season at Baylor, while posting a remarkable 6.2 YPC, which makes him the most logical back in any Tebow package. Ganaway also has tremendous size at about 6’0” 240 lbs, which makes him an ideal fit for the Ground and Pound that New York plans to implement under Tony Sparano. Unless Ganaway really struggles to prove he is not yet NFL ready, he should remain on the roster.

The Jets will likely remain set with these five backs. Unless Powell is written off, it looks very doubtful that New York will look to add a veteran. If Powell does not prove to be worthy of a spot by the time the season begins, the Jets still may remain content with just four backs, while relying on Tim Tebow to be a huge contributor to the run game. The only way I truly see New York adding a veteran is if Powell tails off, and Greene struggles immensely during the pre-season. Otherwise, it looks like the Jets are ready to roll into the season with what is currently on the roster.

Trader Mike will make a move for another RT before camp is over (@bleist25). Fact.

Tannenbaum took a shot swinging a deal with the Panthers for Tackle Jeff Otah, which clearly did not work out due to the former first rounder’s inability to pass a physical. With the Otah trade nullified, New York is back to square one with Wayne Hunter and Austin Howard as the two most logical choices at Right Tackle. Hunter has a serious edge over Howard, who will likely not see a significant down all season. That is a scary thought. Clearly, Mike T is aware of this, as displayed by the failed Otah trade. By now, I’m not sure anyone can argue with the notion that the Jets are not comfortable with the competition they currently have at the Right Tackle position.

The next logical step for Tannenbaum is to look to Free Agency. Many questioned why he hesitated to bring in a veteran during the offseason, but he likely wanted to see how Hunter and the other tackles looked during mini-camps and OTAs. Since Tannenbaum and the rest of the organization were clearly not satisfied, they can now look to add someone like Vernon Carey, who will come at a discount in comparison to what he may have cost them a few months ago.

“Mayhem” will play on more than just passing downs this season (ItsOasus). Fact.

Aaron “Mayhem” Maybin is already earning high praise from the media and coaching staff in the early stages of training camp. He has reportedly bulked up to 240+ pounds, which will help him greatly against the run. Calvin Pace will likely remain on one side of the field for the majority of downs, however the other side is open for competition. While most expect Bryan Thomas to retain the spot opposite Pace which he occupied prior to his season ending injury last year, there is a good chance we could see him in a limited role this season. While he has had success setting the edge on run-downs in the past, the praise Maybin has been receiving for his added size and relentless motor could propel him into an increased role to play a surplus of downs in a variety of spots on the outside. His versatility will be a huge weapon for Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine this season. Expect them to utilize that to the fullest extent.

Ricky Sapp will have more sacks than Calvin Pace this season (@DrewFromJersey). False.

Although Sapp has very exciting potential, he has still yet to record a sack at the NFL level. While he could very well break that trend this season, I wouldn’t give him an edge over the seasoned veteran that is Calvin Pace, even if he is entering the twilight of his career. Since joining the Jets, Pace has gotten to the Quarterback a total of 26 times. Sure, his sack total has decreased each year since 2009, however his experience, along with the amount of reps he will receive should make him good for at least 4 sacks, if healthy. Sapp, on the other hand, may still be able to compile 2-3, but will likely be used far less. Additionally, players with very little experience in real NFL game situations, unless tremendously talented, tend to compile more QB hurries and knockdowns, rather than actual sacks. Timing is everything on getting to the Quarterback before he gets rid of the ball, and it will likely take a full season of game experience before Sapp gets used to executing his moves just at the right time.

Early Camp Star Ellis Lankster will become a serious playmaker and collect at least 3 Interceptions as a shutdown nickel-guy this year (Jetsforlife25). False.

Lankster’s progress is extremely encouraging for New York thus far. With a serious question mark heading into training camp as to who would assume the role of the fourth cornerback, Lankster has provided a breath of fresh air for coaches and fans. However, he has played in just 17 total games over the course of his career, and has yet to register an interception. Additionally, the amount of reps he gets will likely be very limited. The Jets have a surplus of defensive backs including three excellent corners in All-World Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, and Kyle Wilson, whom many believe is on his way to becoming a very good corner in this league, as well as the Safeties Yeremiah Bell, LaRon Landry, and Rookie Josh Bush, who is realistically the best cover Safety on the roster. For Lankster, it will all come down to scheme. His inexperience will have some, but not much, effect on his ability to become a playmaker.

However, if the Jets choose to put out more packages of Revis, Cromartie, Wilson, and two safeties, which seems like the most logical approach, other than third and long scenarios, Lankster may not get the amount of snaps necessary to truly establish himself as a serious playmaker, while compiling 3 interceptions. As well as Lankster has been playing, it is unlikely he will beat out Wilson for reps as the third CB. You’d like to think with improved Defensive Line and Safety play, New York will not see a surplus of third and long scenarios this season. However, if these positions fail to live up to their potential, then all bets are off.

Josh Baker is the 2nd best TE on the roster (DrewFromJersey). Fact.

Baker wins the spot as New York’s second best TE, somewhat by default. Jeff Cumberland has great potential, and has showed flashes of solid play in the past, but he has participated in just 4 career contests. Baker, on the other hand, saw action in 11 games last season, while hauling in 3 balls for 27 yards, including a touchdown on Christmas Eve against the Giants. Hayden Smith is very intriguing, but as a guy who has never played a down of football in his life, he certainly does not have the edge over his competition just yet. The key for whoever becomes the second Tight End this season will be their ability to block. Unfortunately for New York, not one of them has truly proved to be able to do that, so it will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

Josh Bush will struggle in a forced role as the Jets only true cover safety (Jetsforlife25). False.

The fact that Bush will be forced into a role as the only true cover safety on the roster will actually benefit him. Prior to becoming a safety at Wake Forest, Bush was a corner, and has been noted for his cover abilities throughout his career. Last season, Bush had a team best 6 interceptions earning him First-Team All ACC accolades, as well as a spot as a third teamer on the All-American squad. Bush has sub 4.5 40 speed, and under the tutelage of savvy veterans like Landry, Bell, and Revis, he should fit nicely in a center field type role for the Jets. Sure, he will have his growing pains, but Bush will ultimately succeed more often than not this season.