Jets vs. Cowboys: Grade Report

Quarterback (B) – Outside of two ugly turnovers, Mark Sanchez put together a strong performance. The game manager title is clearly a thing of the past, as he went 26/44 for 335 yards and two touchdowns. His confidence is fully there and considering the weapons around him, a big statistical year is a real possibility. The turnovers must be eliminated as they both came in killer spots. However, it was nice to see how well he distributed the football among his top targets and didn’t hesitate to push the ball down the field.

Running Back (C+) – LaDainian Tomlinson gets an “A” while Shonn Greene settles in somewhere around a “D.” Neither Greene (10 carries, 26 yards) or Tomlinson (5 carries, 16 yards) did much running the ball but Tomlinson was key in the receiving game, finishing with 6 receptions for 73 yards, leading the team in both categories. The Jets are going to need more from their running game, Greene in particular, moving forward.

Wide Receiver (A) – The playmakers did what they were paid to do. Santonio Holmes turned in a solid 6 reception, 70 yard performance, while Plaxico Burress stole the show in the second half with 4 receptions for 72 yards and a beautiful touchdown catch. Burress looks capable of having a much bigger year than many (including myself) projected. Derrick Mason had 3 receptions for 19 yards, and dropped a potential touchdown pass. Jeremy Kerley only played one offensive snap.

Tight End – (A) – Dustin Keller remains a reliable safety valve for Mark Sanchez and posted 6 receptions for 51 yards, along with the team’s first touchdown of the season. The offense finally demonstrated the use of a two tight end look as a passing threat, by getting Jeff Cumberland involved on a 33 yard reception.

Offensive line – (D) – It wasn’t a pretty night up front, as Mark Sanchez was sacked 4 times and there was no push in the running game. Wayne Hunter was repeatedly beaten by DeMarcus Ware in his first game as team’s new starting right tackle. Hey…at least he won’t face anyone better than Ware the rest of the year.

Defensive Line – (A) – They were solid against the run, as usual. Mike DeVito also had one of the biggest plays of the night by forcing a crucial Tony Romo fumble on a sack. He finished with 3 tackles. Muhammad Wilkerson was quiet in his NFL debut with 1 tackle.

Linebackers – (B+) – Bart Scott had a big night with 8 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 tackles for a loss. Calvin Pace also had a sack. The group still struggled defending the screen pass at times and part of Jason Witten’s big night goes on them. However, on the whole it was a productive night.

Secondary – (C) – It is going to be a long season for Antonio Cromartie if he keeps up at this pace. He was beat by Dez Bryant on a jumpball for a touchdown and then by Miles Austin on a deep touchdown, where he let him pull the ball away from him, which is unacceptable. Eric Smith and Jim Leonhard continued to struggle in pass coverage. Darrelle Revis was beat by Dez Bryant on an early deep ball down the sideline but shut him down after that and then came up with an enormous interception that set up the game winning field. You know the saying, “you come at the King, you best not miss.”

Special Teams – (A+) – The deciding factor in this game…outside of Tony Romo being a choke artist….was the Jets special teams. Nick Folk was money on the game winning 50 yard field goal. Joe McKnight blocked a punt in the 4th quarter that Isaiah Trufant took back to the house. TJ Conley was solid all night at punter as well.

Coaching – (B) – They didn’t come out ready to play and at times seemed a step behind Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan. Yet, this is a resilient, scrappy team that finds ways to win games and a big part of that comes from Rex Ryan. Also, stand up and take a bow Mike Westhoff for continuing to put together excellent special teams units. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine deserves credit for his call late in the game that help set up the Revis interception, which did a good job of masking zone coverage as man.

Third Year Jets Sanchez And Greene Must Lead The Way


The Jets offensive line houses two All-Pros in D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. The new wide receiving group owns two players in Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress, who have last minute Super Bowl winning grabs on their resume. Yet it is third year QB Mark Sanchez and RB Shonn Greene who must lead the way for the Jets offense, if it hopes to improve upon the inconsistent behavior that it has displayed throughout the Rex Ryan era.

The Sanchez debate over his first two seasons ranges from the notion that he is a clutch late game winner, to the concept that Sanchez is not, and never will be, an elite quarterback. Two trips to the AFC title game are not enough for many including Sanchez, who along with Rex Ryan, have publicly stated a desire to see the QB’s completion percentage grow to 60 percent, up from from a 54 percent career average.

Sanchez has 29 career touchdowns with 33 interceptions but threw more TD’s (17) than picks (13) in 2010. That ratio must also improve significantly in order for Sanchez to make his way into the upper echelon of NFL signal callers.

Perhaps the addition of a red zone threat, the newly acquired WR Plaxico Burress will help, along with having WR Santonio Holmes from the onset (Holmes missed four games to start 2010 due to violating the NFL drug policy) will give Sanchez the downfield potential from week one as well. Many also believe TE Dustin Keller will break out in 2011. This courtesy of the arrival of former Colts offensive guru, the tight end centric offensive assistant Tom Moore.

In the end, though, the responsibility falls not on those who get the ball. It falls on the shoulders of Sanchez. A leader whose job it is to make quality decisions in where he chooses to deliver his throws. Sanchez in year three, has to solidify his emotional demeanor too. This in order to minimize the mental ups and downs he’s had a tendency to display in games. Those waves occurring mostly when moving the chains does not come easily. It is there that panic has lead Sanchez in the past, into high risk throws ending up as turnovers.

Maligned offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been criticized for not trusting his quarterback since his arrival as the fifth overall pick during the 2009 NFL draft. That trust must go both ways though. Sanchez has to prove to Schotty and the sidelines that being given a greater responsibility will pay off in more points, not more mistakes.

Greene has been a playoff beast for the Jets during their back to back late January runs. His regular season totals of 1,306 yards and a 4.5 yards per carry average are numbers however, that a feature back would hope to display over one season, not in two years combined. Greene needs to enforce his will on opponents earlier in the game, and show that he is the feature back, earlier in the season. In 2010, his hesitant nature and failure to run with confidence left the Jets in the position of having to hand over the tempo setting reigns to veteran LaDainian Tomlinson.

LT did a solid job in a role that was expanded for him, in a backfield that opted to let the hammering Thomas Jones go in favor of Greene as the future. A future that didn’t happen for the former Iowa Hawkeye in 2010.

It must become a reality for Greene and the Jets in 2011. Otherwise Gang Green will again have to turn to LT, a future Hall of Famer who in the twilight of an outstanding career, appears to be a step slower. Running backs Joe McKnight and rookie Bilal Powell will seek to contribute to the ground game regardless of the effect that Greene has, but remain unproven.

There is no denying the fact that the Jets have to pick it up offensively in 2011. Their ability to do so, despite all of the talent the Jets currently have on offense, starts with Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene.

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.

Ground and Pound? Looking at the Jets Running Back Situation

Just four days into training camp,  Rex Ryan and his Jets have fired off their usual array of verbal salvos: They’ve already uttered Super Bowl guarantees and boasts about how this is “the best roster” in Ryan’s tenure.  But one surprising talking point has been in regards to the Jets’ offense, and how they plan on placing more of the burden on Mark Sanchez and the passing game.

While this is something that many Jets fans have been clamoring for (myself included), it’s also something that may give them reason to pause.

For two seasons, the Jets have not only survived, but thrived on their “ground and pound” philosophy, particularly in the cold-weather months at the business end of the season.  But perhaps the Jets’ shift to a more passing-oriented offense is a function of the Jets’ personnel in the backfield, which is far from a sure thing.

Everyone is ready to jump on the Shonn Greene bandwagon, but the only person that really matters in that equation is Greene himself.  His first two seasons with the Jets have been inconsistent; flashes of brilliance one week, absolutely nothing the next.  His game logs prove that point pretty well, so the question remains: can Greene shoulder the load over the course of an entire 17 week season, plus playoffs?

Greene is the de facto number-one because LaDainian Tomlinson is a year older.  After a fantastic start to 2010, Tomlinson’s production predictably dipped as the season wore on, though he remained a valuable option in spots and was an important safety valve for Sanchez as a receiver out of the backfield, especially on 3rd down.  This will be the 32-year old’s only role in 2011, and rightfully so.

Beyond Greene and Tomlinson are nothing but question marks.  Joe McKnight could barely handle training camp last season, forcing the Jets to put him at the mercy of Mike Westhoff on special teams.  Rex even toyed around with the idea that McKnight could play cornerback.  Aside from his monster performance in the meaningless Week 17 game vs. the hapless Bills, McKnight has shown the Jets absolutely nothing that should make them comfortable about him as their third-best running back.  If Greene or Tomlinson is injured, can McKnight fill either player’s void effectively enough?

Beyond McKnight is Bilal Powell, who thus far in camp has yet to really challenge McKnight for the third spot on the depth chart.  It’s early, but how much can the Jets realistically expect out of the rookie?

The Jets’ shift to a more passing-oriented offense is both exciting and nerve-wracking.  Plaxico Burress has already tweaked an ankle, Jerricho Cotchery waits in limbo, and we all know Brian Schottenheimer’s playbook often leaves a lot to be desired, especially in the passing game.  The Jets are still going to need a strong running game, probably one that ranks in the top 10 of the league, in order to get where they want to go this season.  Time (and injuries) will tell if that’s a realistic goal.

NFL Free Agency 2011: Brad Smith Leaves, Jets Play Waiting Game

In a move that most of us expected, wide receiver/quarterback/running back/kick returner Brad Smith has left the New York Jets. It was however somewhat surprising that he decided to join the division rival Buffalo Bills, who seemed to come out of nowhere today to snatch him up on a 4 year, 15 million dollar contract.

According to Smith, the Jets did reach out to him but couldn’t move on signing him until the situation with Nnamdi Asomugha shakes out. The Jets do still have plenty of room under the cap but apparently their top priority right now is filling the cornerback spot opposite Darrelle Revis, whether it is Asomugha, Antonio Cromartie, or a cheaper option like Chris Carr.

It will be interesting to see the contingency plan if Asomugha decides to sign with Houston or San Francisco. Cromartie would probably be the immediate fallback option but he might still not be around or the Jets could consider him too pricey and look to go with Carr and then hope to still have a shot at getting Braylon Edwards back.

Regardless, it seems like the Jets next two major moves will be signing a cornerback and a number two wide receiver, with Asomugha, Cromartie, Carr, Edwards, and Randy Moss all in play.

In other news…

LaDainian Tomlinson did agree to take a pay cut to help in the Jets pursuit of Asomugha.

The Jets aren’t going to make an attempt to resign punter Steve Weatherford. No more shakeweights at camp.

According to Manish Mehta of The Daily News expect a long term deal with David Harris to worked out some time next week.

NFL Free Agency 2011: What Dominoes Will Fall Next For Jets?

After a chaotic morning where the New York Jets signed Santonio Holmes to a five year deal and the discussion about Nnamdi Asomugha coming to town reached a fever pitch, things have quieted down…a little bit.

– The discussions about Asomugha have continued on, with ESPN’s John Clayton commenting it will take a few days for him to work a deal out with any team. However, keep in mind Clayton had said earlier in the off-season the Jets would be in salary cap hell and would have no chance to sign any free agents, so take his words with a grain of salt.

– A testament to Mike Tannenbaum’s creativity. Santonio Holmes contract will only count $2.45 million against the 2011 cap…wow.

– Manish Mehta of The Daily News has reported the Jets will ask LaDainian Tomlinson to rework his contract to free up more cap space (likely to pursue Asomugha).

– The Jets have resigned kicker Nick Folk to a 1 year deal. CBS Sports is also reporting that punter Steve Weatherford is unlikely to return.

– In a press conference today, Rex Ryan said Mark Sanchez will be the team captain this year and will literally wear a “C” on his jersey.

– Darrelle Revis was very diplomatic about Asomugha joining the team while still paying respect to Antonio Cromartie. Revis did call Asomugha “the best corner in football” even though I find it hard to believe Revis doesn’t he think he holds that title.

– This isn’t surprising but it sounds like Braylon Edwards days with the Jets are numbered. He is clearly frustrated by the lack of attention/effort the Jets have made thus far to keep him, which is understandable but they simply have higher priorities right now. Edwards will get a good contract somewhere and that team will get a tough receiver who improved vastly the past year.

– The speculation on Randy Moss coming to the Jets as a cheap alternative to Braylon Edwards has picked up. However, the latest word from Bob Glauber of Newsday is that his chances of joining the team remain “very small.” How the Jets handle the wide receiver position, will likely depend how the cornerback position shakes out for them.

– Kellen Clemens was signed by the Washington Redskins to a one year deal. We will miss his happy feet in the pocket and interceptions.

– Ben Hartsock signed a two year deal with the Carolina Panthers. We will miss his false starts and holding penalties.

Closer Look At Jets Rushing Attack In 2010

If you haven’t noticed yet, Turn On The Jets has a new title after our name: “Ground and Pound Writing”…so clever and original, right? The reasoning is that for years the Jets were a franchise without an identity, outside of being the ugly stepchild of New York football. Fortunately with Rex Ryan has came the identity of the Ground and Pound, which is the Jets are going to be a physical football team led by their defense and rushing attack. This brand of football has carried the Jets to back to back AFC Championship Games and pulled them from irrelevancy to a national team, who will have five prime-time games this season.

Let’s take a closer look at the “ground” half of the equation in 2010. After losing Thomas Jones to free agency and trading away Leon Washington, the Jets worked a two back approach, with LaDainian Tomlinson as the primary ballcarrier and Shonn Greene as the supporting back. Here is a breakdown of their numbers (averages out of 15 games, since both were inactive in week 17)

Tomlinson

  • 219 carries
  • 914 yards
  • 4.2 yards per carry
  • 6 rushing touchdowns
  • 14.6 carries per game
  • 60.9 yards per game

Greene

  • 185 carries
  • 766 yards
  • 4.1 yards per carry
  • 2 rushing touchdowns
  • 12.3 carries per game
  • 51 yards per game

As a pair the duo combined for about 27 carries and 111 yards per game, along with a touchdown every other week. It is worth noting Brad Smith served as the de facto 3rd back, with 38 carries for 299 yards, although most of those came out of the Wildcat formation.

Compared to 2009, when they had the league’s top rushing attack, the Jets ran 73 less times for 382 less yards, along with 7 less rushing touchdowns and fell to third in the NFL in rushing yards per game. It is hard to complain about being ranked in the top three, especially with the following factors in play —

  • A more open offense to accommodate an improved Mark Sanchez and the addition of Santonio Holmes
  • Replacing Alan Faneca with Matt Slauson…Slauson was better than expected in his first year as a starter but still has a ways to go before he is on Faneca’s level, especially in run blocking.
  • Damien Woody missing time late in the season.
  • The lack of a true number one back, don’t forget Thomas Jones ran for over 1400 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009.

It will be interesting to see if the Jets can approach their 2009 production in the running game this season. Slauson will be a year better. The Jets will likely be losing one of their starting receivers, which could limit how open their offense will be. Obviously, the biggest factor will be how Shonn Greene handles the starting role and if he can be the type of back Jones was in 2009, while Tomlinson supports as a third down back. Look for Joe McKnight to compensate for the yards left behind by Brad Smith, who will probably be signing with a different team.

A Full Off-Season Of New York Jets Workouts

Click here for more information on the Jets team workouts over the past few months

With the conclusion of “Jets Camp Lockout” today, the team likely wrapped up their last informal workout during the lockout (hopefully). Since the end of the previous season, here is an unofficial look at the different workouts Jets players took part in —

Jets West – List of attendees – A collection of skill position players led by Mark Sanchez at his high school, Mission Viejo out in California. The camp was in early May and lasted roughly a week. It was highly organized and included on field work, film sessions, and various team activities.

Jets Southwest – Darelle Revis and Kyle Wilson spent a couple of weeks training together out in Arizona. It was very encouraging to see Revis take Wilson under his wing and Wilson to be smart enough to follow the lead of the best corner in the NFL.

Jets East – Bart Scott, Vladimir Ducasse, Jerricho Cotchery, Jamaal Westerman and a few others worked out together in Martinsville, New Jersey and then traveled to Miami to work out with fellow AFC East players.

Jets City Club – A group defensive lineman, led by Sione Pouha held a few days of workouts in North Jersey a couple of weeks ago. First round pick Muhammad Wilkerson was in attendance along with Mike DeVito, Ropati Pitoitua, and Westerman.

Jets Camp Lockout – Roughly 40 players attended team workouts the past three days at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Here is a partial list of attendees.

Lockout Off-Season: Rounding Up Top Jets Offensive Storylines

Despite the lack of formal workouts and traditional media access, there has still been plenty of storylines that have grown out of this New York Jets lockout infected off-season. Here is a round-up of them, check back later in the day for the top defensive storylines —

Quarterback

  • The continued development of Mark Sanchez’s leadership

Sanchez has further asserted himself as one of the leaders of the team by putting together both “Jets West” and “Jets Lockout Camp.” From what the other players have said this season, it is clear the amount of respect they have for Sanchez and the way he carries himself. One of his best traits is his work ethic and dedication to all things football, regardless of what else he has going on in his life, and his teammates clearly recognize that.

Running Back

  • Shonn Greene moving into the lead back role

Brian Schottenheimer, Rex Ryan, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Shonn Greene all agree that Greene is going to take over as the number one back this year and he is ready for the challenge. It remains to be seen how he can handle 18+ carries on a weekly basis but the only way to find out if you have a lead back is to give him the chance to be one.

  • LaDainian Tomlinson embracing the third down role

As he said in many interviews, including one right here with TOJ…Tomlinson has accepted and embraced the idea of being a third down back this year in the Jets offense. Considering his age and how he wore down at the end of last season, Tomlinson should maximize his effectiveness by being limited to this role.

  • John Conner announced as starting fullback

Nobody expected Tony Richardson back for another year, but this clinched that the fullback job would be handed off to Conner.

Wide Receiver

  • Free Agent Decisions

The endless debate over who the Jets should prioritize bringing back, Santonio Holmes or Braylon Edwards, has arguably been their biggest off-season storyline. Holmes has said he won’t sign a restricted free agent tender and would basically be looking for the most money possible. Edwards has been more diplomatic and discussed the potential of taking a hometown discount. Brad Smith is also a free agent and unless he agrees to come back for less than another team offers, probably won’t be back.

Offensive Line

  • Right Tackle

Damien Woody was released early in the off-season but there is now speculation he could return because of concern about Vladimir Ducasse being ready to step in as a starter. Considering that Ducasse didn’t play a meaningful snap last year, I would think that is a reasonable concern.

Looking At Shonn Greene As A Lead Back

Whether it is from Rex Ryan, LaDainian Tomlinson, or Brian Schottenheimer…we have heard that Shonn Greene will be the Jets lead back this year. One of the more frustrating parts of 2010 was the limited amount of opportunities Greene had to carry the ball and it now appears that problem will be remedied.

It was understandable in the beginning of the year why LaDainian Tomlinson was receiving more carries. He was simply playing better. Yet, considering his age and how Tomlinson wore down as the season went on, Greene should have been getting more touches later in the year. He is built to wear defenses down and is the type of back who gets better with the more carries he receives.

Let’s look back at Greene’s first two years at the ten games he received the most carries in —

  • 23 carries, 128 yards, 1 touchdown at San Diego in 2009 Divisional Playoff Game
  • 22 carries, 117 yards at Buffalo in 2010 regular season game
  • 21 carries, 135 yards at Cincinnati in 2009 Wild-Card Playoff Game
  • 20 carries, 72 yards at Cleveland in 2010 regular season game
  • 19 carries, 144 yards, 2 touchdowns at Oakland in 2009 regular season game
  • 19 carries, 70 yards at Indianapolis in 2010 Wild-Card Playoff Game
  • 18 carries, 70 yards vs Cincinnati in 2009 regular season game
  • 17 carries, 76 yards, 1 touchdown at New England in 2010 Divisional Playoff Game
  • 16 carries, 95 yards at Indianapolis in 2009 regular season game
  • 15 carries, 52 yards vs New England in 2010 regular season game

First off, a somewhat odd trend is that eight of those ten games were on the road. A major reason for that is that half of them are Jets playoff games and they have been a wild-card the past two years. It is clear the offense turns to Greene more in bigger spots and he has always responded, with most of his best performances coming in the playoffs or in important regular season match-ups.

This is a player who has only received over 20 carries four times in his NFL career but has responded with a 100 yard game in three of those games. It is still a question mark how he will produce over a full season but there is reason for optimism.