Scouting The AFC East: New England Patriots

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Scouting The AFC East: New England Patriots

Our first look at the teams who share the division with the Jets and how they match up with them heading into 2010:

PhotobucketOffenseTom Brady didn’t have his best season in 2009 after returning from ACL surgery, however he still was one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL and should be better in 2010 with a full year after the procedure under his belt. However, it remains to be seen when Brady’s top target, Wes Welker, will return from his knee injury and how effective he will be. Randy Moss was either hurt or just being lazy for long stretches of last season. The Patriots are hoping young receivers like Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate, and Taylor Price will adequately fill in for Welker until he returns and then become productive slot receivers behind him and Moss. Torry Holt was also signed this off-season but I don’t know how much he has left in the tank. It could be Joey Galloway 2.0 for the Patriots. At tight end, New England drafted two guys known for their pass catching ability in Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski and signed veteran Alge Crumpler for blocking purposes.

The Patriots have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, although it isn’t as dominating a unit as it used to be. Their biggest problem on offense is the lack of a number one running back or even a back who can stay healthy. Laurence Maroney has been a disappointment and you have a better chance of seeing Rex Ryan beat Santonio Holmes in a 40 yard dash than seeing Fred Taylor or Sammy Morris make it through a full year without getting injured.

You have to feel confident about how the Jets match up against New England’s offense in 2010. They did a good job of getting to Tom Brady last season and that will only be aided by the addition of Jason Taylor. Wes Welker killed the Jets in 2009 but they now have Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson to throw at him instead of Dwight Lowery, Lito Sheppard, or Drew Coleman. I also wouldn’t be shocked to see the Jets let Darrelle Revis match up on him and let Cromartie cover Moss. The Jets don’t have Kerry Rhodes at safety anymore, which means Laurence Maroney shouldn’t be running anybody over on our defense this season.

PhotobucketDefenseYes there is still talent on the New England defense and they are still coached by Bill Belichick but they aren’t the same type of unit they were in years past. They maintained their personnel from 2009 despite their struggles against both the run and pass. First round pick Devin McCourty should help at corner and Darius Butler has some potential but overall the New England secondary isn’t a scary group. They are going to have a tough time matching up with Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, and Santonio Holmes (in the second meeting). They have always had a tough time covering Dustin Keller and that shouldn’t change this season either.

Mark Sanchez threw away the game the Jets lost to New England last season. If he can protect the football, the Jets should be able to run the ball against the Patriots and pick their spots down the field. Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren are still a handful up front but Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore can hold their own. I am sure Belichick will scheme up ways to attack Vladimir Ducasse but hopefully the Jets are prepared to counter his moves.

Special Teams – McCourty will be a big addition for the Patriots on special teams on all of their return and coverage units. Stephen Gostkowski is a quality kicker. However the Patriots did have their struggles with the Jets on special teams last season.

Overall – When you look at the Jets roster compared to New England, the only glaring advantage for the Patriots is at the quarterback position which is a testament to the work done by Mike Tannenbaum. The games against New England will always be a battle but the Jets have showed over the past few years they can beat them at home and on the road. I think the Dolphins will be the Jets top challenge for an AFC East title but the Patriots won’t be far behind.

Jets vs. Patriots 2009 Highlights

Interesting AFC East Thoughts And Questions

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First a few updates:

1. Follow Turn On The Jets on Facebook and Twitter (TurnOnTheJets)…I have been hovering near 300 fans on Facebook for awhile without getting over it, so let’s go now. I know you want that news feed filled with Jets links and witty commentary on your favorite team.

2. A recent SportsNation poll on ESPN.com that asked Jets fans to select what games they thought their team would win this regular season resulted in fans projecting a 15-1 season for the team. I like the optimism because I was getting tired of the post draft negativity, but 15-1 may be…just may be…a stretch. Right now I would project the Jets as a 11-5 or 12-4 team, which scares me because I have never projected them to be that good. It is a little weird to have such high expectations.

Photobucket 3. Thoughts on Lost Final Season, Episode 14 “The Candidate” – Wow…that is what I am talking about. When Lost is on it’s game like that, there isn’t a better show on TV…not even close. I am glad we can end any debate about Locke being the bad guy now. He clearly never had any intention to get off the island but his plan was rather based around getting the candidates to all kill each other. I can’t blame Sawyer for not trusting Jack after he got Juliet killed last season but c’mon now you have to listen to the chosen one (which Sayid confirmed Jack was before sacrificing himself). I will miss Sayid, who was undoubtedly my favorite Iraqi torturer. The Jin/Sun death was obviously sad but we can get along fine without them considering how their characters have been used the past 2 seasons. It was kind of funny how nobody mentioned Frank dying…how about some love for the pilot, who went out with the funny line before getting smashed with a door and drowning. The sideways stuff is getting better, especially with Jack and Locke switching roles. Next week should be crazy good as well, with the backstory of Jacob and the MIB.

4. Do you think Nick Mangold noticed the contract Jahari Evans just got from the Saints? Do you think David Harris noticed the contract Patrick WIllis just got from the 49ers? The Jets better be ready to offer up the money to keep the cornerstones of their offense and defense…okay maybe Revis is the cornerstone on defense but he is about to be a free agent too.

Interesting AFC East Thoughts And Questions

#2 Quarterback in the Division? – Tim Graham of ESPN.com addressed this question in his AFC East blog and properly selected Mark Sanchez as the second best quarterback in the division over Chad Henne. Here is a key part of his argument:

“While Sanchez got better as games became more meaningful down the stretch, Henne struggled. Heading into Week 15, the Dolphins had a wonderful shot at securing a wild-card berth. They finished with three straight losses. Henne threw three touchdowns and five interceptions.”

PhotobucketI couldn’t agree more. I am always amazed how much people talk up Henne as this player who is going to jump into greatness next year, while they are quick to question Sanchez as the Jets biggest potential problem in 2010. Yes, Sanchez struggled heavily at times last year but it was the guy’s rookie year and he was thrown right into the fire. In the end, he came out  of it to lead the Jets from 4-6 to the AFC Championship Game. Henne had a year to learn behind Chad Pennington and turned in a very average season last year. Stop talking about Henne like he lit the league on fire last season. He threw 12 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and had a QB rating of 75.2. Beyond that, he had his team at 7-6 and lost out to three teams who missed the playoffs to finish 7-9.

Sanchez’s performance against the Bengals in the wild-card round on the road, in the fourth quarter against the Chargers in the divisional round on the road, and in the AFC Championship Game on the road are all more impressive than anything Henne has done in his career.

Well, at least we can’t debate Tom Brady is the best quarterback in the division and Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick, or Brian Brohm are the worst.

Just How Bad Is Buffalo – Unfortunately for those upstate New York football fans, it is hard to see Buffalo winning more than 5 games this season. No quarterback. No offensive line. A questionable defense. A questionable hire at head coach and GM. Three other quality teams in the division. This is the recipe for a rough season. Yet, I am still terrified of the Jets traveling up there in week 4.

PhotobucketWhere Are Your Running Backs The AFC East is stacked with quality running backs. Even the previously mentioned Bills have two 1,000 yard rushers and the 9th overall pick in the draft, with Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller. The Dolphins have Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams. The Jets have rising star (I hope not to jinx him) Shonn Greene, LaDainian Tomlinson in the proper backup role, and Joe “Tums” McKnight. But what about the Patriots? Laurence  Maroney isn’t a #1 back. Fred Taylor is 650 years old and can’t stay healthy. Sammy Morris is 575 years old and can’t stay healthy. This normally wouldn’t be a problem in New England’s spread offense, but with an injured Wes Welker, their passing offense just isn’t that scary anymore. I could only say that because I know Darrelle Revis can take Randy Moss out of the game 1 on 1, and I like…make that love, matching up Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson on Julian Edeleman, Sam Aiken, or the old version of Torry Holt.

For No Particular Reason, Receiver Rankings

  1. Brandon Marshall
  2. Randy Moss
  3. Santonio Holmes
  4. Braylon Edwards
  5. Jerricho Cotchery
  6. Lee Evans

PhotobucketThis is obviously very, very debatable. I really hate putting Braylon in front of Cotchery but his physical talent is too hard to ignore…the guy had 17 touchdowns only a few season ago. What about Edwards and Cotchery in front of Lee Evans? The guy only had 44 receptions for 612 yards last year. I know his quarterbacks were crappy but Cotchery’s quarterbacks were crappy in 2007 and he had 1130 yards. Then again Evans had 1000 yards in 2008 with crappy quarterbacking and Cotchery didn’t with Favre back there…but then again Favre stunk the second half of the season. Evans is more physically gifted and more of a big play threat but Cotchery is more consistent…I don’t know, they are interchangeable. I feel good about 1-4, what is interesting is how sharp the drop off is after these 6. Look at this collection of players:

  • Torry Holt
  • Julian Edeleman
  • Sam Aiken
  • Brad Smith
  • David Clowney
  • Steve Johnson – That is Buffalo’s listed other started right now by the way.
  • Roscoe Parrish
  • James Hardy
  • Brian Hartline
  • Devone Bess
  • Greg Camarillo

How do you rate those guys? Holt has the best pedigree obviously, but how much does he have left in the tank? Brad Smith isn’t really a true receiver. Edeleman and Hartline showed flashes last year. Bess and Camarillo are steady guys, who are decent fits as #3 options. Everybody else is a journeyman.

And Yet Another Well-Made Highlight Video

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

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