Jets vs. Texans: First Look

First a few updates:

1. Well you don’t have to worry about the Jets being jinxed by pre-season expectations. They were the consensus pick to finish in last place by all of ESPN’s “experts” and are also currently ranked #23 in their NFL Power Rankings, behind the Seahawks, 49ers, Bills, Redskins, and Texans. But, hey that’s why they play the game right?

2. The Jets added Danny Woodhead to their practice squad today and released Jehuu Caulcrick off it.

3. On the active roster, the Jets signed linebacker Ryan Fowler who played for the Titans the past few seasons, including starting 16 games for them 2 years ago and released fullback Jason Davis.

4. Mike DeVito didn’t practice today but is still expected to go on Sunday, as well is Shonn Greene who is recovering from a variety of injuries. Sione Pouha ran with the first team in practice today, with Kris Jenkins sliding out to defensive end for some looks when paired with Pouha.

Jets vs. Texans: First Look

The Opponent: The Houston Texans have been 8-8 the past two seasons, and are a trendy pick to take the step to the next level in 2009 and become a legitimate playoff contender. Their offense is expected to be one of the NFL’s best but they have a ton of question marks on defense, making them the complete opposite of the Jets who have the reverse problem. Over the past two seasons, the Texans are 12-4 at home and have generally been difficult to beat in their building since coming into the league. The latest lines I saw have them as 4-5 point favorites over the Jets. Regardless, the Jets must get this game. They don’t want to be heading home to play the Pats and Titans, teams with a combined record of 24-6 last year, as a 0-1 team.

Houston Texans Starters/Key Reserves

OFFENSE

  • Quarterback: Matt Schaub – 3,043 passing yards, 15 TD’s, 10 INT’s, 92.7 QB Rating
  • Running Back: Steve Slaton – 1,282 rushing yards, 9 TD’s, 377 receiving yards, 1 TD
  • #2 Running Back – Chris Brown – DNP
  • Fullback: Vonta Leach – 12 receptions, 103 yards
  • Wide Receiver: Andre Johnson – 115 receptions, 1575 yards, 8 TD’s
  • Wide Receiver: Kevin Walter – 60 receptions, 899 yards, 8 TD’s
  • Wide Receiver: David Anderson – 19 receptions, 241 yards, 2 TD’s
  • Wide Receiver: Andre Davis – 13 receptions, 213 yards
  • Tight End: Owen Daniels – 70 receptions, 862 yards, 2 TD’s
  • #2 Tight End: Joel Dressen – 11 receptions, 77 yards, 1 TD
  • Left Tackle: Duane Brown
  • Left Guard: Chester Pitts
  • Center: Chris Meyers
  • Right Guard: Mike Brisel
  • Right Tackle: Eric Winston

DEFENSE

  • Defensive End: Antonio Smith
  • Defensive Tackle: DelJuan Robinson – 28 tackles, 6 TFL’s
  • Defensive Tackle: Amobi Okoye – 24 tackles, 1 sack
  • Defensive End: Mario Williams – 53 tackles, 12 Sacks
  • Middle Linebacker: DeMeco Ryans – 112 tackles, 4 TFL’s, 1 sack
  • Outside Linebacker: Xavier Adibi – 35 tackles
  • Outside Linebacker: Brian Cushing – 1st round draft pick
  • Corner: Jacques Reeves – 52 tackles, 4 INT’s
  • Corner: Fred Bennett – 43 tackles, 2 INT’s
  • Safety: Dominique Barber – 15 tackles
  • Safety: Eugene Wilson – 63 tackles, 2 INT’s

SPECIALS

  • Kicker: Kris Brown
  • Punter: Matt Turk
  • Kick Return: Jacoby Jones
  • Punt Return: Andre Davis

Key Players: Matt Schaub is a dangerous quarterback when he is healthy. He has a strong arm and can get the ball down the field. Andre Johnson is arguably the best receiver in football. Kevin Walter is an underrated player and a very good number two option, who caught more touchdowns than anyone on the Jets last year. Owen Daniels is a pro-bowl tight end. Steve Slaton is an explosive player, who averaged almost 5 yards per carry last season, although he did lose 3 fumbles. DeMeco Ryans is one of the best linebackers in football. Mario Williams is a top flight pass rusher. Houston coaches have been raving about rookie Brian Cushing at outside linebacker.

Jets Injury Concerns: Mike DeVito is a little banged up but expected to start for Shaun Ellis (suspension) and rotate defensive line reps with Sione Pouha, Marques Douglas, and Kris Jenkins. Shonn Greene is nursing sore ribs and a sore hamstring but should be active as the #3 RB. Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens has a sore elbow, but will be the #2 QB on Sunday.

Early Story Lines: Rex Ryan’s first game as a Head Coach…rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez’s first start…Darrelle Revis vs Andre Johnson…Texans look to justify pre-season expectations…expected great defense (Jets) vs expected great offense (Texans).

I’m glad we got Darrelle Revis

What Is A Successful Jets Season?

First a few updates:

1. The Jets released tight end Bubba Franks yesterday, moving them from being very thin at the position to being ridiculously thin. Behind second year player Dustin Keller, the Jets have a converted defensive end, a long snapper and two undrafted free agents. It might be time to consider a move before training camp starts, Mike Tannebaum, because the Jets are kidding themselves if they think Kareem Brown can start off the year as their number two tight end.

2. Kerry Rhodes was on ESPN Radio today and made a few interesting comments. He discussed the relief of having Jim Leonhard starting alongside of him because of the freedom it will grant him in the secondary. It was also clear from the interview that he was frustrated with the way Eric Mangini used him last season.

What Is A Successful Jets Season?

Over the past few days I have been reading numerous previews about the Jets in 2009 and listening to different football analysts talk about the team and have noticed a growing pessimism about them this upcoming year. The general consensus seems to be that the Jets and their fans have too high of expectations for 2009, and that there are many reasons to believe the team will struggle this season. The organization and the fans need to reconsider what a successful 2009 season equates to.

Reading these previews and thinking about the upcoming year forces you to question, what do you consider to be a successful Jets season in 2009? Personally, I always think a playoff appearance equals a successful season, but should I be satisfied with less?

There are plenty of reasonable and convincing arguments against the Jets being a playoff team in 2009. They have a rookie head coach. The last two defensive coordinators from Baltimore who became head coaches struggled in the top position. They are likely starting a rookie quarterback. Their schedule is difficult, especially in the first four games. They lack depth on both sides of the ball and are due for a rash of injuries after having a healthy 2009 season. Their offense has major question marks at tight end and receiver. Their defense will be without their best outside linebacker for the first four games. I hear you critics…and you got some valid arguments.

Here is a hypothetical: the Jets go 7-9 this year. Mark Sanchez wins the starting quarterback job, progresses nicely during the season and shows signs of being the guy the Jets drafted him to be. The defense starts out a little slow but adapts to the new system as the year moves on and they finish very strong. You get what you expect out of your pro-bowl running backs and your inexperienced receiving core. The season ends and the Jets spend the off-season acquiring a big time target for Sanchez and improving their overall depth, not that bad, right? Can you be satisfied with that for next year? Honestly, I can’t say I would because naturally I want to watch a team with winning record compete in the playoffs but in reality that wouldn’t be a terrible season.

The above scenario could very easily happen in 2009, as could even worse scenarios that involve major injuries, Mark Sanchez/Rex Ryan looking like a bust, and a 4-12 record. However, it also isn’t crazy to argue/believe the Jets can be a 9-7 to 11-5 team competing for wild-card spot and maybe even a division title.

The rookie head coach/rookie quarterback problem can be overcome (see Atlanta/Baltimore last year). I also remember the Jets making the playoffs with a rookie head coach in both 2001 (Herman Edwards) and 2006 (Eric Mangini). The Jets didn’t receive incredible quarterback play in either of those seasons but still managed to win ten games. Sanchez will make his mistakes but if he can be average/slightly above average, the Jets will be in every game because of their running game and talent level on defense.

I don’t buy the concerns about the Jets schedule. Their first four games aren’t the easiest in the world but there is no reason they can’t be 2-2. Houston is a team that everybody says is jumping to the next level every single season, yet they always go 7-9 or 8-8. The Pats are the Pats. The Jets whipped the Titans last year in Tennessee and now get them at home and the Saints haven’t made the playoffs the past two years. After those four games the Jets have Miami, Buffalo, Oakland, Miami and then a bye. Am I really insane to think the Jets can be 5-3 heading into that bye? The second half of the schedule isn’t a cakewalk but includes winnable games at home against Jacksonville, Cincinnati, and on the road against Tampa Bay and Toronto aka Buffalo. Carolina, New England, Atlanta, and Indy are tough second half games but if the Jets are a playoff caliber team, they will be able to pull an upset or two.

The Jets depth is a major issue on offense, period. If an offensive lineman gets hurt for an extended period of time, they could be in serious trouble although Wayne Hunter and Robert Turner have some game experience the past two years (as extra tight ends), there would be still be large drop off. They have one NFL caliber tight end on their roster right now and the receivers are a question mark. However, I do remember in 2006 when the same questions were asked about their receiving core and a little known player stepped up and turned into a capable NFL starter (Jerricho Cotchery) and the other one was a solid number one (Laveranues Coles). Why can’t Chansi Stuckey or David Clowney imitate Cotchery from 2006 this season and why can’t Cotchery imitate Coles, a player who he arguably played better than the last two years?

On defense, I think the Jets have pretty good depth. Their top three backup corners (Dwight Lowery, Donald Strickland, Drew Coleman) and backup safety (Eric Smith) all have starting or extended experience as NFL players. At linebacker, Larry Izzo is a seasoned NFL veteran, Jason Trusnick and Marques Murrell have flashed potential and when Calvin Pace returns in week 5, Vernon Gholston can bump back into being a pass rush specialist. They are definitely a little thin at defensive end but Howard Green and Sione Pouha are experienced backups at defensive tackle in the NFL.

Like just about every NFL team, the Jets can end up anywhere in the standings in 2009. We will learn alot about Rex Ryan and his new defense, along with Mark Sanchez right out of the gate on the road in Houston and home against division favorite/rival New England in week two.

Even if it isn’t fair, I can’t say I’d be happy with a 7-9 team, unless maybe they swept New England and Miami…nah maybe not even then. I want to see them at match last season’s win total and playing meaningful games in December.

New Jets Player Highlight of the Day: Bart Scott demolishes Ben Rothlisberger. Swaggalicious.

Week 1 of OTAs: Defense Steals Show

First a few updates:

1. Sorry about the lack of overall posts this week. It is my senior week here at Muhlenberg, culminating with graduation tomorrow. I’ll be back to full time business here as soon as I receive my diploma.

2. The more I read about Thomas Jones contract situation, the more I side with the Jets. The guy requested his contract be structured the way it currently is, which is frontloaded with a drop off in the third year and is now trying to go back on it. Jones better realize the Jets aren’t going to redo this deal and aren’t going to move him unless a knockout offer comes along, which it probably won’t. Make no mistake the Jets are much better off with Jones as their starting tailback, but they can survive with Leon Washington and Shonn Greene splitting the bulk of carries.

3. According to Leon Washington’s agent’s twitter account (real professional way of doing business), there is progress being made with his contract discussions. You have to hope Washington will find his way back to OTAs this week. He should note the way they took care of Jerricho Cotchery and Kerry Rhodes before they entered their fourth years and expect the same treatment.

4. Jason Taylor is back in the division, signing with the Dolphins. I’d rather have him in Miami than in New England, I know that much.

Week 1 of OTAs: Defense Steals Show

From what the media saw of the Jets practice on Thursday, this is what we know:

1. The defense is ahead of the offense, which is to be expected. Overall, the Jets have more talent on defense and the offense is currently lacking their top two running backs and experience at both receiver and tight end. Apparently the Jets two minute drill was a disaster with numerous interceptions and dropped interceptions, along with plenty of miscommunication on the offensive side of the ball.

2. Don’t want to say too much yet, but apparently defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has been impressed with Vernon Gholston so far. He has been active in the Jets pass rush (although they haven’t been in pads yet) and has bounced back and forth from being at linebacker and in a three point stance. All Jets fans are keeping their fingers crossed that the light will go on for Gholston this year and he will live up to his lofty draft status.

3. Rex Ryan has raved about his defensive backs, in particular Darrelle Revis who appears to somehow continue improving despite already being a top 5 corner in the league. Donald Strickland has played well so far and pulled in a few interceptions, same goes for Drew Coleman who will be fighting for a roster spot.

4. Kellen Clemens was okay during Thursday’s practice, without having to look over his shoulder for Mark Sanchez who is finishing up classes at USC. Let’s see how he handles next week, when he is splitting number one reps with the Jets first overall pick. Rex Ryan continues to imply that he expects Sanchez to win the job, but that is an open competition and if Clemens outperforms him, he will start. In other quarterback news Erik Ainge was awful, throwing interceptions all over the field and showing no control of the offense. It will be a battle for him to win the #3 job this year.

5. Bart Scott continued his habit of constantly trash talking everybody around him and his swagger seems to be spreading around the team. Just from hearing interviews with players and coaches so far this year, you can expect a much different personality for the Jets this year.

6. David Clowney was running as the other starting receiver (besides Jerricho Cotchery) on Thursday. It really appears the Jets are content to let him, Brad Smith, and Chansi Stuckey battle it out for reps. Smith is the kind of the guy who always looks good in practice but rarely has translated his productions to games. Clowney has potential but alot to prove in terms of durability and consistency. Stuckey is better off being a #3/slot receiver.

7. Bubba Franks is recovering from minor knee surgery, leaving converted defensive end Kareem Brown as the #2 tight end for these practices. Danny Woodhead ran as the starting running back since Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and Shonn Greene all weren’t present. Jehuu Caulcrick also received major work in the backfield, as both a fullback and halfback. The Jets are running an offense right now with Kellen Clemens, Woodhead, Caulcrick, and Brown and none of them will likely be on the field when they play Houston in week one.