Jets – 17 Giants – 3: Ten Thoughts From TOJ

1. The positives for the Jets last night primarily were on the defensive side of the football. Despite allowing the Giants to move the ball, they bent but didn’t break, keeping them out of the end-zone all night, by coming up with timely big plays. The second unit made a nice statement with a 4th and inches stop on the goal-line against the Giants first unit. Overall, Rex Ryan has to be feeling good about his defense heading into the regular season.

2. David Harris was an absolute beast last night, playing like one of the top linebackers in the league that he is paid to be. He had 7 tackles, 2 passes defensed, and an interception. Beyond that he drilled Eli Manning in the chest forcing his first interception that was picked off by Jim Leonhard. He smashed Hakeem Nicks and separated him from the ball when he tried to come over the middle. When Harris is playing like he did last night, the Jets are tough to score points on.

3. Another standout on defense was Ropati Pitoitua, who is having a great pre-season and has outperformed rookie first round pick for Muhammad Wilkerson for the starting defensive end job. It was a positive and negative to see Wilkerson get into that scrap with Brandon Jacobs and get ejected. Jacobs is a notorious dirtbag on the field and it is good that Wilkerson stood up for himself as a rookie, yet the reality is that he needs to keep his cool and not get himself thrown out of games. He needs every rep he can get.

4. Darrelle Revis looks like he is in mid-season form. However, Antonio Cromartie continues to struggle in man coverage. Yes, he looked awesome on that kick return and can be a big weapon on special teams but the Jets are paying him to be one of the top number two corners in the league. He needs to be able to handle being constantly picked on.

5. Over to the offense, which was disappointing and inconsistent. Mark Sanchez looked erratic and had an ugly turnover on a fumble. It was good to see him shake off a poor start and stick in a great throw to Santonio Holmes for a touchdown but the Jets need more from their passing offense, as Plaxico Burress and Dustin Keller were invisible last night. The offensive line was pretty good as the Giants didn’t register a single sack last night and the running game was decent, although they never broke a big run.

6. Shonn Greene had a tough 42 yards on 11 carries and Joe McKnight is clearly looking like the number three back as he got 9 carries for 35 yards, compared to only 3 carries for Bilal Powell.

7. The Wildcat was back last night for the Jets as Jeremy Kerley completed a 18 yard pass to Matthew Mulligan, had two carries for 13 yards and handed off once to McKnight for a 8 yard gain. It was Kerley’s strongest overall performance as he had a nice punt return as well. It is nice that the Jets can keep their package of plays for Brad Smith in their offense this year thanks to Kerley’s versatility.

8. Sorry to hear about Logan Payne dislocating his wrist, he seemed to have the lead for the number five receiver job but after the injury Patrick Turner will likely grab that roster spot.

9. How good is it to see Jim Leonhard back on the field and making plays? He has two interceptions in the past two weeks and is going to provide a huge boost to the secondary.

10. Nick Bellore recorded a sack…Bart Scott alternated between missing tackles (allowing a huge play for Ahmad Bradshaw) and coming up with big tackles for a loss…how awful are the Giants special teams?…Kenrick Ellis had 2 tackles…Greg McElroy finished 4/5 for 39 yards.

New York Jets: Pre-Season Week 2 Rookie Report

A week by week look throughout the pre-season at how the New York Jets rookies are performing

Muhammad Wilkerson – (1 tackle) – Another relatively nondescript performance from the Jets first round pick. However, Wilkerson did look a little more comfortable at the point of attack and seems to be holding his own out there. He has looked solid against the run but it would be nice to see break through one of these weeks and get after the quarterback a little.

Kenrick Ellis – (1 tackle, 1 tackle for loss) – Ellis surprisingly didn’t get the start for an injured Sione Pouha, with Martin Tevaseu stepping in instead. Yet, Ellis was still productive during his reps, even though the bulk of them came against the Bengals backups. He certainly has the look of somebody who should be a contributor in the Jets defensive line rotation.

Bilal Powell – (9 carries, 22 yards, 1 reception, 2 yards) – A bit of a let down after an encouraging debut. Joe McKnight took a big step towards locking down the number three running back job by outplaying Powell against the Bengals. Powell had a couple of chances to pound the ball in after Brashton Satele’s interception but couldn’t get in the end-zone.

Jeremy Kerley – (1 reception, 5 yards) – Kerley hasn’t translated a big training camp into a big pre-season yet. He had difficulty handling a punt and only managed 1 reception for 5 yards, despite getting extended work with the first offense. He does still look dangerous in the open field and was a tackle away from breaking a big kick return.

Greg McElroy – (6/9, 52 yards, 1 TD) – McElroy was again impressive as Mark Sanchez’s top backup. Despite lacking big time physical tools, he does play confident and seems to have a good grasp of the offense. He did a nice job executing a play action fake down by the red-zone, which led to a short touchdown pass to Joe McKnight.

Scotty McKnight – Another night without a recorded stat for McKnight, who is starting to look more like a practice squad player. Patrick Turner has looked better at receiver and Logan Payne has more value on special teams, while also getting an occasional rep with the starting offense.

Out of the undrafted free agents, Garret McIntyre and Nick Bellore both recorded two tackles each at linebacker. Receivers Dan DePalma and Mike Campbell didn’t pull in any receptions.

New York Jets Passing Offense Has Chance To Be Special

It may have only been the pre-season and it may have been against the Cincinnati Bengals, who should have an over/under of about 4 wins this year. Yet, it was hard to watch the New York Jets passing offense in action and not think about just dangerous it could be this year.

Considering the following: it was pouring out, it was Plaxico Burress’ first game back in over two years, and Derrick Mason was sidelined with an injury. However, Mark Sanchez still racked up over 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half.

If healthy, you are going to have a difficult time finding a team with a better top five receiving options than Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason, Dustin Keller, and LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield. Holmes and Burress both have the ability to abuse single coverage, Mason is a savvy veteran who can work effectively both on the outside and in the slot. How many team’s number three corners are going to be able to handle him one on one? Not many. Keller is a walking mismatch, as linebackers are frequently too slow to cover him and safeties are too small and finally Tomlinson is only one of the better receiving running backs in NFL history.

Beyond those top five, you still have rookie Jeremy Kerley who has looked electric in camp, tight end Jeff Cumberland who is having a terrific pre-season, and running back Joe McKnight who caught a touchdown pass last night.

Obviously, how productive the passing offense will be ultimately falls on Mark Sanchez’s shoulder. Yet, the third year quarterback has looked poised and confident so far this pre-season and has been terrific off the play action. If he takes the same sized leap forward this year, that he look last year, he will be able to utilize all of the previously mentioned weapons.

Let’s not ever forget the Ground and Pound, but the pieces are in place for the switch to be seamlessly flipped into a wide open passing attack.

New York Jets: Pre-Season Week 1 Rookie Report

A week by week look throughout the pre-season on how the New York Jets rookies are performing

Muhammad Wilkerson(2 tackles, 1 solo) – Wilkerson’s most notable play of the night was an offsides penalty but it is hard to expect too much on the stat sheet out of a rookie 3-4 defensive end going as a starter in his first action. He generally held his own up front, wasn’t pushed around and did get a decent push of his own on a few plays. Wilkerson certainly looked like he belonged out there and by the time September 11th comes around, he should be ready to be a solid contributor up front.

Kenrick Ellis(2 tackles, 1 solo) – Going against the backups, Ellis was more active around the football than Wilkerson despite having an identical stat sheet. He also batted a pass up in the air, which was intercepted by linebacker Josh Mauga.

Bilal Powell(9 carries 25 yards, 3 receptions 27 yards) – His yards per carry don’t indicate it but Powell showed good burst and vision in his performance, and now with Joe McKnight dealing with a concussion could have a chance to seize the #3 running back job. Powell was particularly impressive catching the ball out of the backfield, and nearly scored on a screen pass from Greg McElroy.

Jeremy Kerley – (3 receptions, 20 yards) – Kerley had such massive expectations coming in after impressing at camp, that any thing short of 150 yards receiving and two touchdowns could feel like a disappointment. Yet, the rookie wide receiver looked good on both offense and special teams as a returner. He is difficult to bring down and has good vision.

Greg McElroy (23/39, 208 yards, 1 touchdown) – McElroy was very impressive his debut last night. He took every rep after Mark Sanchez left, was beat up behind a makeshift offensive line, and rebounded from a shaky start. McElroy clearly lacks arm strength but showed accuracy on the intermediate routes and plenty of toughness. The Jets just may have found their long term backup for Sanchez.

Scotty McKnight – A night without any recorded stats for a rookie wide receiver isn’t a good thing. McKnight didn’t record a reception or make any tackles on special teams. He has an uphill battle to make the team following a strong offensive performance by Patrick Turner and a quality special teams effort from Logan Payne. Undrafted free agent  wide receiver Dan DePalma also had a good showing as a punt returner and on the coverage units.

Out of the undrafted free agents, outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre recorded two sacks and has a decent shot to stick on the final 53 man roster considering the Jets depth chart at linebacker. Tight end Josh Baker flashed very good hands and finished with 3 receptions for 45 yards. Undrafted free agent wide receiver Michael Campbell had a killer drop late in the game, which drew a few expletives out of Rex Ryan.

One Week In: Random Thoughts On Jets Offense

We are about in week into the Jets having somewhat normal practices, so here is a collection of thoughts on their offense heading into their first pre-season game which is less than a week away.

Wildcat – Rex Ryan has commented the Wildcat will remain a part of the Jets offense even without Brad Smith, mentioning LaDainian Tomlinson, Joe McKnight, and Jeremy Kerely as potential replacements. Brian Schottenheimer also seems high on the potential of McKnight replacing Smith. I don’t see the Wildcat remaining a big part of what the Jets do on offense. First off, I think as Mark Sanchez continues to develop they will want to pull him off the field less. Second, I could see Tomlinson being used for a few gimmick plays where he could throw the ball but not consistently taking shotgun snaps from the center. Kerley has some experience from college but is also just a rookie and McKnight isn’t a threat to throw the football. The Jets shouldn’t force the Wildcat outside of a handful of plays and should instead focus on getting their regular offense in rhythm.

#5 Spot – An interesting battle is breaking out between Patrick Turner, Scotty McKnight, and Logan Payne for the number five receiver spot. Turner has the size to fill in for Plaxico Burress if he misses time with an injury and actually caught a few passes in the offense last year. Payne spent time with the team last year and has the greatest special teams potential, which goes a long way for a number five receiver. McKnight has shown flashes at camp of being a capable slot receiver and obviously has good chemistry with Mark Sanchez but needs to show he can be a solid special teams contributor to have a shot.

So Then Run – The Jets wide receiver position still has a few question marks around it, as Plaxico Burress is yet to take a meaningful rep in practice and we still need to see how Derrick Mason works with Mark Sanchez in a game. Yet, keep in mind at an absolute minimum the Jet still have Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller to keep defenses honest and from stacking the box. They still have a one of the league’s best offensive lines and like many people out there, I think if Shonn Greene is given the appropriate amount of carries, he can be a legitimate number one back. LaDainian Tomlinson is still capable of being a good third down back and hopefully Joe McKnight can bring something this year.

Don’t Put Him In Canton Yet – I love hearing all the excitement about rookie wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, but let’s see him in a real game first. Remember how great Kyle Wilson looked in camp last year? It is good the Jets brought in Derrick Mason, so there won’t be too many expectations heaped on Kerely as he is bumped to a number four wide-out. Hopefully, he can provide a valuable weapon in the slot in certain packages and bring occasional big plays.

How Much Can Jets Offensive Rookies Contribute?

Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer recently discussed the four new offensive rookies the New York Jets added in April’s draft, all of whom are skill position players. Looking at the 2011 season, if and when it occurs, how much can the Jets really expect from their rookies with such a shortened off-season?

Jeremy Kerley – Considering the roster situation, Kerley seems the most likely to contribute in his rookie year. If free agency goes how expected, there is going to be some reps available at the wide receiver position and Kerley is expected to work into the mix as a slot receiver. He should also compete for the punt return job with Kyle Wilson and Jerricho Cotchery. However, he will have to pick up the offense quickly which will not be easy, especially for a slot receiver where many route changes are made on the fly and are dictated by certain coverages. Punt return won’t be as complex obviously. Look for the Jets to start him off slow by only featuring him in certain packages.

Bilal Powell – The highest of the Jets offensive selections won’t have any pressure to contribute right away considering he is behind Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Joe McKnight on the depth chart. Similar to Greene’s rookie year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him inactive for the first part of the season while he picks up the offense and then maybe get worked in depending on injuries and the productivity of the players in front of him.

Scotty McKnight – He does already have the chemistry with Mark Sanchez which will help him in his battle for reps at slot receiver. As a 7th round pick he will have an uphill battle to even make the roster so the pressure will be on to make an immediate impact in the pre-season. He is also going to have to show that he can contribute on special teams, which is something he didn’t really do in college.

Greg McElroy – McElroy is more than likely going to be the third quarterback, unless something unexpected happens in training camp or the pre-season. Apparently, he was just about the smartest player in the draft and he has two good mentors in front of him with Mark Sanchez and Mark Brunell, so he should be able to handle his role this season.

One-Third Of The Game: Jets Special Teams In 2011

I realized today that Mike Westhoff would probably curse TOJ out for the lack of time we have spent on the Jets special teams in the previous few months. Beyond that, I saw that Jets punter Steve Weatherford got an endorsement deal with 2XU compression apparel. That is right, this team’s punter even has enough swag to get an endorsement deal (could also be his career 16 yards per carry or shake weight enthusiasm from Hard Knocks). Anyway, let’s get on to that too often neglected third of the game —

Right now, both the Jets punter and kicker from last year are free agents. The Jets didn’t extend a tender to Steve Weatherford and haven’t come up with a new deal for Nick Folk either. UFL special teams MVP Nick Novak was signed this off-season, along with punter TJ Conley who has been in camp with the Jets the past two years. As of now, I’d say it is a safe bet that the Jets will find a way to bring back both Weatherford and Folk, and have them compete with Conley and Novak in the summer.

Weatherford was very good last year, especially at pinning teams inside the 20. Despite a shaky post-season, the coaching staff seems comfortable with him. In 2010, he provided stability to very unstable position the past few years for the Jets. Nick Folk was up and down throughout the season and should be given a good run by Novak in the summer.

On their coverage units, the Jets didn’t extend a tender to linebacker Lance Laury who was a core special teams player in 2010 but was a bit of a disappointment. It is likely he won’t be back, with somebody like Josh Mauga taking over the bulk of his reps. Many of the Jets other key special teams players are free agents including Brad Smith, Eric Smith, James Ihedigbo, Drew Coleman, and Robert Turner, so many of their units could have a very different look in 2011.

The kick return job should be wide open if Brad Smith doesn’t return. Joe McKnight, Kyle Wilson, Antonio Cromartie (if he his back) will get the first crack at taking over. On punt return, rookie Jeremy Kerley will probably be mixed in with Jerricho Cotchery and maybe Wilson.

Regardless of who is manning the Jets coverage and return units, they should be productive again under the guidance of Westhoff, who remains arguably the best (and most entertaining) special teams coach in the NFL.

All About Jeremy Kerley

A closer look at the Jets fifth round pick, Jeremy Kerley

Background – Kerley was a four sport athlete in high school in Hutto, Texas. As a junior, he led his football team to the state championship game as a quarterback. He was recruited to play both baseball and football in college but ultimately decided to stick with football at TCU.

College – Kerley began making his primary impact as a return man during his sophomore year. During his junior and senior year, he became a bigger part of the offense while remaining the team’s primary punt returner. Last season, he finished with 56 receptions for 575 yards, with 10 receiving touchdowns. He also added 97 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns, a touchdown pass and 388 punt return yards.

Vitals – 5’10, 189 pounds, ran a 4.56 40 yard dash at the combine.

Position – He will work as a slot receiver in the Jets offense and immediately compete for the primary punt return job, which is wide open this year. The Jets will also likely experiment with him in the Wildcat formation, especially if Brad Smith doesn’t return.

NFL Comparison – Everybody is penciling him in as Brad Smith’s replacement already, although they are very different body types and Smith was a quarterback in college. Kerley should be able to be a more fluid receiver than Smith.

Quotable

“I had a great workout for the Jets when they came down and worked me out,” he said. “Ever since then I’ve thought in the back of my mind, ‘Maybe, somewhere down that line, it could be.’ I’m just glad it was today.”

Where He Fits – Kerley should compete for reps as the Jets number three receiver, especially if either Braylon Edwards or  Santonio Holmes don’t come back, along with Brad Smith likely leaving in free agency. He should also get a shot to be their punt returner and maybe get a few looks on kick return, beyond contributing on the coverage units for Mike Westhoff.

Best Case Scenario – Kerley finds a way to fill the role left by Brad Smith if he isn’t back next year. He becomes a versatile weapon on offense, contributing both as a receiver and a runner. Kerley also works into the rotation of punt returners.

Worst Case Scenario – He struggles to adjust into becoming a slot receiver in the Jets offense and doesn’t get meaningful reps on offense this season. Kerley also loses out on the punt return job.