Jets vs. Saints: Game Breakdown

First a few updates:

1. The only Jets who didn’t practice today were Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland. Ryan didn’t sound too optimistic about either of them playing, especially Strickland. It definitely isn’t a good week to be without your #2 and #3 corners but Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman have showed they are capable replacements off the bench.

2. Make sure you check out episode IV of Turn On the Jets TV tomorrow, Corbett (my editor) and myself will in the studio (our apartment) filming a recap on week 3 and a prediction for Jets/Saints, along with a few other things for your entertainment.

3. Congratulations to Mark Sanchez for winning the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month award. It is the first time a Jets player has ever won that award. Sanchez has 606 yards passing with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.

4. It will be good to see the Jets back in their normal green and white jerseys this week.

5. Just a reminder that after this game, the Jets get outside linebacker Calvin Pace back (80 tackles, 7 sacks, 5 forced fumbles in 2008).

6. The Jets are 6.5 point underdogs this week…no respect.

Jets vs. Saints: Game Breakdown

Jets Offensive Game Plan: It has been tough sledding for the Jets running game so far this season but this is the game they need to break out of their funk. On the road, in the deafening Superdome, against the league’s best offense you need to establish a strong running game to keep Drew Brees and co. off the field and not put too much pressure on your rookie quarterback. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington need their combined 40 touches and they need to make the most out of them. Leon is way overdue to rip off a big play on offense and Jones needs to get back above 4 yards a carry to start moving the chains again. If Jones starts off slow, don’t be surprised to see rookie Shonn Greene get a few carries. The better the Jets run the football, the better Mark Sanchez will play and the better chance the Jets will have to win this game.

When the Jets do need to pass, Sanchez must do a better job of protecting the football than he did last week. The Jets offense can’t let New Orleans get a short field because of a turnover or give them any points to make the defense’s task harder than it already is. Outside of his touchdown grab against New England, Dustin Keller has been very quiet the past two weeks and the Jets need to get him involved in their passing attack. Jerricho Cotchery needs to keep it going as the go to receiver, and Chansi Stuckey needs to bounce back after only having 11 yards receiving last week. Let’s see if this is the game that David Clowney can get a ball thrown his way, since he is coming off a couple of strong weeks in practice as a response to his deactivation against the Titans. I would like to see the Jets run another play out of their “Seminole” package beyond Leon Washington just faking the reverse to Brad Smith and keeping it. They tried a throwback to Sanchez last week but it got called back on a holding penalty.

Jets Defensive Game Plan: The Jets banged up secondary will have a difficult task against Drew Brees and co. this week. Darrelle Revis will likely be locked up Marques Colston and should be able to handle him. However, that will leave speedster Devery Henderson on Dwight Lowery, who has struggled with faster receivers in the past and been beaten deep on occasion. Don’t be surprised if the Jets give Lowery some help over the top. Expect to see Eric Smith either shadowing Jeremy Shockey or Reggie Bush out of the backfield. It will be interesting to see how often the Saints go to their running game with Pierre Thomas or Bush against the Jets front seven. I have confidence in the Jets ability to contain the run but they must continue to be aggressive their pass rush to help out their secondary this week.

New Orleans won’t drop as many passes as the Titans did and they have more players on the outside who can make you play for a blown coverage. This game is a golden opportunity for the Jets defense to make a statement that they are the league’s best. If they can go into New Orleans and keep Drew Brees in check, how are you going to say another unit has been better than them through four weeks?

Hopefully, the Jets can jump out to an early lead which will force the Saints to rely even more on the passing game than they already do, allowing the Jets to get some hits on Brees and force him into a few turnovers. This is Vernon Gholston’s last game as a starter, so far he only has 6 tackles and 1 TFL. There isn’t a better time for him to get his first NFL sack than this week.

Special Teams Breakdown: Leon Washington almost broke a few against New England, let’s see if can rip off a huge kick return against the Saints suspect coverage unit on the fast track at the Superdome. Reggie Bush is always dangerous on punt returns, but guys like Wallace Wright, Jason Trusnik, and Eric Smith have been excellent in coverage this season.

The Jets Will Win If…They establish a strong running game and get Thomas and Leon their combined 40 touches. Mark Sanchez doesn’t have any turnovers and hits a few big plays down the field to keep the Saints defense honest. The Jets defense gets to Drew Brees early and often, forcing him into a few bad decisions. Darrelle Revis continues to prove why he is the best corner in football, by locking down Marques Colston.

The Jets Will Lose If…Mark Sanchez plays like a rookie and struggles with the crowd noise, along with the Saints opportunistic defense. Dwight Lowery gets torched by Devery Henderson for a big play. Reggie Bush rips off a long run after a catch out of the backfield to get some revenge on Bart Scott. Drew Brees isn’t pressured in the pocket and carves up the Jets banged up secondary.

A Memorable Moment in Jets/Saints History

Jets vs. Saints: Key Match-Ups

First a few updates:

1. Lito Sheppard, Donald Strickland, Jim Leonhard, Wayne Hunter and Larry Izzo sat out practice today. Darrelle Revis and Kerry Rhodes were also limited. Despite the endless list of defensive backs on this list, Rex Ryan expressed confidence that all of them would be available on Sunday, withthe possible exception of Strickland. He didn’t rule out bringing in free agent Corey Ivy by the end of the week, if it looks like both Sheppard and Strickland won’t be able to go on Sunday. Ivy is familiar with Ryan’s system from his time in Baltimore, and would be able in step in right away.

2. Congratulations to linebacker Jason Trusnik for winning the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week Award.

3. Rex Ryan singled out Vernon Gholston for praise in his press conference, saying he was awarded a game ball for putting together an all around solid game, including saving a touchdown on a hustle play during one of Chris Johnson’s big runs.

Jets vs. Saints: Key Match-Ups

Tomorrow check back for an excessively comprehensive breakdown of the Jets/Saints game and then again on Friday for my prediction, today I am going to focus on the key individual match-ups for this Sunday’s game.

The Jets Banged Up Secondary vs. Marques Colston/Devery Henderson/Robert Meachem/Jeremy Shockey: With our without Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland, the Jets will have their hands full against the wide variety of weapons the Saints have on offense. Darrelle Revis should be able to handle Marques Colston, but there will pressure on the rest of the Jets secondary to keep the speedsters Henderson and Meachem in check. If the Jets are without Sheppard and Strickland, Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman will again need to respond with big time efforts off the bench. Jeremy Shockey is becoming a bigger part of the Saints offense, so expect to see Eric Smith shadowing him on passing downs. Smith did an excellent job against Owen Daniels in week one and continues to develop as a playmaker in the Jets defense.

Thomas Jones/Leon Washington/Jets Offensive Line vs. Saints Front Seven: The Jets have stuck to their running game through the first three weeks but haven’t had anywhere near the success they did last season. Thomas Jones is under 4 yards per carry and is a couple of big runs against Houston from being under 3 yards per carry. Leon Washington is right at 4 yards per carry but hasn’t ripped off any big ones yet this season. The Jets must run the ball successfully to keep the Saints offense off the field for as long as possible. Don’t be surprised to see Shonn Greene get a few reps if the Jones has another slow start. However, all the focus can’t be on Jones and Washington. The offensive line needs to do a better job of opening up holes for their pro-bowl running backs.

Bart Scott vs. Reggie Bush: Don’t forget a few seasons ago, when Scott had this to say about Bush after the Ravens put a beatdown on New Orleans, “The media darling, aka the golden boy of the NFL, tried to take a cheap shot at me, so I told him I was going to put some extra on it. He can do all those shakes he wants, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I put a little hot sauce on that ankle.This was after a play in the 4th quarter, where Bush left with a sore ankle after Scott tackled him. In subsequent interviews, Scott said he wasn’t trying to imply that he intentionally hurt Bush, but rather was referencing the spicy food in New Orleans and was joking around. I haven’t seen footage of hit but from clicking around the Internet, it appears most people don’t think it was anywhere near a dirty play by Scott. One of our most frequent readers, my good friend Dan is a big Reggie Bush lover and correctly pointed out he is second in offensive yards on the team, so the pressure will be on Scott, David Harris and the rest of the Jets linebackers to contain him on his receptions out of the backfield. Bush has struggled running the ball (111 yards, with a 3.7 per carry average) but been a big factor in the passing game (164 yards, 11 yards per reception).

Mark Sanchez vs. Tracy Porter/Roman Harper/Darren Sharper/Jabari Greer: The Saints secondary is tied for the league lead in passes defensed and interceptions. There will be pressure on Mark Sanchez in this game to put up some points through the air, so the rookie must do a better job of protecting the ball than he did a week ago. Sanchez has looked good when throwing the ball down the field so far this season so let’s see if he takes some shots to Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller, or maybe even David Clowney, fresh off his Twitter suspension.

Marques Colston Almost Has Hands As Good As Mine

Jets Defense in Trouble?

First a few updates:

1. The Jets began to make their roster cuts yesterday releasing quarterback Chris Pizzotti, receiver Huey Whittaker, safety Nate Ness, and linebacker Craig Kobel…no surprises there.

2. Apparently the Jets have no interest in adding Reggie Brown if he gets cut by Philly, according to Dave Hutchinson. The Jets may be satisfied with their group of receivers this late into pre-season. It will be a committee approach that will rely on different players to step up each week.

3. Oh boy, it’s Jets-Eagles pre-season week…there is nothing worse than week four of the pre-season. Thank god tomorrow is September, a month that will hopefully be filled up with the Yankees winning the AL East, the Jets getting off to a strong start, and my fantasy team going undefeated.

Jets Defense in Trouble?

The Jets defense has looked pretty good this pre-season. The first unit is stopping the run, getting to the quarterback, and created two turnovers on Saturday against the Giants. However, there is a growing list of concerns about the unit that could affect their early season play. In their first four games, the Jets play three of the best offenses in football. The Texans have a dangerous collection of weapons, including receiver Andre Johnson, running back Steve Slaton, and tight end Owen Daniels and the Patriots and Saints success speaks for itself. Will the Jets be equipped to handle these high caliber units, despite these problems:

1. No Calvin Pace, Big ProblemPace has been exceptional this pre-season when he has been on the field but unfortunately the Jets will be without him the first four weeks. Vernon Gholston finally showed some signs of life last week as his replacement but only as a pass rusher. The Giants ran the ball right at Gholston, who couldn’t get off his blocks, with a high degree of success. Teams will be targeting Gholston early in the year and the Jets will struggle to stop the run unless he can quickly improve. Jamaal Westerman could begin to see an increase in reps if Gholston doesn’t play well against the Eagles and then in week one against the Texans.

2. D-Line Depth Issues – The Jets already had some serious questions about their defensive line depth coming into the season and now they will be without Shaun Ellis in week one because of a suspension. Making matters worse is now his backup, Mike DeVito, has a pulled hamstring and could also miss some early season action. This will put serious pressure on highly inexperienced players like Ropati Pitoitua and Zach Potter to step up give quality reps. It also increases pressure on newly acquired Marques Douglas to have a strong start to the year and provide some stability to the defensive end position. Also, don’t be surprised if you see Howard Green slide over from defensive tackle to take some reps or Vernon Gholston put his hand in the dirt, while somebody like Westerman steps in at linebacker.

3. Picked On Corners – First it was Dwight Lowery against the Rams, then it was Drew Coleman and Marquis Cole getting beat deep against the Ravens, then it was Lito Sheppard having a rough night against the Giants…the Jets may have some issues opposite Darrelle Revis. Teams aren’t going to target #24 all that often, so Sheppard and Lowery are going to need to step up and be ready to handle a ton of balls coming their way. Yes, the Jets have Revis to counter Andre Johnson but Kevin Walter is a good player opposite him, the Saints have a group of speedy receivers across from Marques Colston, and the Patriots obviously have Wes Welker and Joey Galloway to with Randy Moss.

The pressure is on players like Vernon Gholston, Ropati Pitoitua, Marques Douglas, Dwight Lowery, and Lito Sheppard to improve their play and complement the rest of the talented Jets defense. It doesn’t matter how good Darrelle Revis, Kris Jenkins, and David Harris are, in football you are only as good as your weakest link.

Mark Sanchez Pre-Season Highlights

Jets vs. Giants Highlights, A Day Late (Also Added to the Game Highlights Section)