Initial Reaction: Jets Put Together Encouraging Performance

The New York Jets were far from perfect in their 27-7 victory over the porous Cincinnati Bengals. Yet, there was a collection of very encouraging signs from both the offense and the defense.

Plaxio Burress was the main story of the night, pulling in 3 receptions for 66 yards including a beautiful over the shoulder 26 yard touchdown. Burress didn’t look anywhere near as rusty as many anticipated he would be. Prior to his touchdown, Mark Sanchez connected with Burress on a back shoulder fade down sideline, which was exciting to see because you can’t stop that route if it is thrown properly to a 6’5 receiver. A big chunk of the Jets third down and red-zone problems will go away if Sanchez and Burress are connecting like they were tonight.

Sanchez put together another good performance, going 12/20 for 173 yards and 2 touchdowns. He did an excellent job spreading the ball around to his top targets, as Santonio Holmes caught a 16 yard touchdown and Dustin Keller led the way with 73 receiving yards, including a 43 yarder off a nice play action fake. The sky is the limit for this passing offense once Burress, Holmes, Keller, and Derrick Mason are on the field together.

The starting defense dominated outside of one drive, where they broke down on a screen pass to Brian Leonard which went for a huge gain that eventually led to a touchdown.Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton struggled and threw two bad interceptions, one picked off by Eric Smith and one by Jim Leonhard. The backups on defense keep Cincinnati off the board. Brashton Satele intercepted a pass and fell a couple yards short of a touchdown. Recently signed linebacker Aaron Maybin also came up with a strip sack, in a play that isn’t going to make Bills fans happy.

Joe McKnight deserves credit for putting together a strong performance and taking a big step towards locking down the #3 running back spot. He scored his first NFL touchdown on a 3 yard reception from Greg McElroy and also had 36 yards on 7 carries.Bilal Powell was quiet with 22 yards on 9 carries. Fifth string running back Chris Jennings actually had the run of the night, breaking off a 69 yarder late in the fourth quarter.

The negatives? The Jets were still inconsistent at finishing drives and struggled on third downs. They stalled at the 26 yard line on the first drive of the game, followed by Nick Folk missing a 43 yard field goal, also they later had to settle for a field goal when they had the ball in the red-zone. The first unit didn’t run the ball particularly well as LaDainian Tomlinson only had 21 yards on 9 carries. On defense, the screen wasn’t defended well and it was disappointing to see them allow a touchdown drive to such a weak offense.

Overall, it was still a step in the right direction and you have to be encouraged with where the Jets currently are at in the pre-season.

Early Thoughts On Jets vs. Bengals

The New York Jets second pre-season game will take place this Sunday at home against the Cincinnati Bengals. Unlike the opener, the starters are expected to get a full half of work. A few key players won’t participate including Brandon Moore, Sione Pouha, and Shonn Green. However, Plaxico Burress will take the field for the first time in a Jets uniform.

Here are a few things we are hoping to see Sunday night –

1. Coming Up – Continued accuracy, confidence, and leadership from Mark Sanchez. I also expect to see him push the ball down the field a little more. Most important, is that he stays healthy which could be a bit of a concern with Vladimir Ducasse starting at guard in place of Brandon Moore.

2. Signs Of Life – Speaking of Ducasse, it would be nice to see him flash any kind of potential or improvement after a difficult opening to the pre-season last week. The Jets need him now more than ever as he is the team’s top backup. Another bad performance from him and the Jets will likely have a veteran signed by the time the fourth quarter comes to an end.

3. Pass Rush – Whether it is Jamaal Westerman, newly signed Aaron Maybin, or Garrett McIntyre building on his two sack performance from last week, one of the outside linebackers needs to get after the quarterback, preferably against the Bengals first unit.

4. Plax – I am sure Brian Schottenheimer will design a few plays to get him involved early and if the Jets get in the red-zone, he will get a few shots. It will just be interesting to see him back on the field again and how he responds to the contact from another team.

5. The Battle For Carries – With Shonn Greene out of the line-up and LaDainian Tomlinson not likely to see extended action. Joe McKnight, who is just coming back from a concussion but is expected to play and Bilal Powell will both have a chance to make a statement in extended action. McKnight is in need a of a big play or two and Powell will look to build on a solid debut.

Where Do New York Jets Fit As Super Bowl Contender?

ESPN released their first edition of NFL Power Rankings today, which always provides an interesting talking point. The New York Jets came in a somewhat surprisingly low seventh place, here is a look at the top ten –

  1. Green Bay
  2. New England
  3. Philadelphia
  4. New Orleans
  5. Pittsburgh
  6. Atlanta
  7. New York Jets
  8. Indianapolis
  9. Baltimore
  10. San Diego

Also of note, the Giants came in 11th place, the Dolphins 24th, and the Bills 31st.

I think the general consensus around the league is that the Jets haven’t got better this off-season and you can make a fair argument for that. We haven’t seen Plaxico Burress on the field yet or Derrick Mason work with Mark Sanchez in a real game. Their passing game is a work in progress, although hasn’t it been the past two years? They still have the tools to execute the Ground and Pound, which carried them to the AFC Championship Game in 2009 and 2010.

Let the entire league pick New England as the AFC Super Bowl favorite, they did it last year and we saw how that turned out in the playoffs. Atlanta hasn’t won a playoff game in the Matt Ryan era, which has to count for something. Philadelphia is receiving the expected hype from a big off-season and most people expect a New Orleans bounce-back this year after an ugly first round playoff exit.

According to these rankings, the Jets are the third best team in the AFC. It is time for them to find a way to win a division title by being consistent enough in the regular season to finish ahead of the Patriots. Regardless of recent history, the Jets need to host playoff games and make their road to the Super Bowl easier.

Jets vs. Patriots: Who Won The Free Agency Wars?

At times, in Jets nation, it seems as though there are only two teams in the NFL, the Jets and the Patriots. Everything has revolved around this New York/Boston border war rivalry that heated up to cosmic levels once Bill Parcells left Foxboro for Leon Hess Jets in the mid nineties.

The Jets and Patriots are the Yankees and Red Sox of football right no w, hated rivals who feel as though they have to be equipped in order to beat the other, otherwise reaching the Super Bowl becomes a pipe dream. When THESE two teams get at it, the fur flies the pre game hype flies, and the post game emotional damage for the losing team becomes a study to be conducted under a microscope. Consider 2010.

Last year, after the Monday night debacle in Foxboro, Rex Ryan had to bury a ball to exorcise the demons of an unexpected 45-3 massacre. A hangover then ensued in the putrid loss to Miami the following week.

It was then the Jets turn to give the Pats a dose of pain during the AFC divisional playoff round. Gang Green ruined the Pats home field advantage by eliminating them days after a week of trash talk culminating in Wes Welker’s foot fetish references. The devastating loss forced the Pats to question their personnel heading into this season.

Now enter the madness of THIS post lockout free agency. The Jets used their initial days to re-acquire home run threat Santonio Holmes and right tackle Wayne Hunter, thus keeping last year’s offensive line intact and their big play receiver in Green and White.

After a mad chase for CB Nnamdi Asomugha failed, the Jets rebounded with the pickups of WR Plaxico Burress and CB Antonio Cromartie to keep the status quo. All purpose WR Brad Smith was a casualty of the week long Nnamdi drama but the Jets kept their goal of remaining a vertical passing team capable of moving defenses out of the box against the their running attack.

The Pats sured up their run defense, exposed during their season ending loss to the Jets last year, during the first few days when they traded away a fifth round pick to the Redskins for disgruntled defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth. Next came WR Chad Ochocinco, who many feel has been hurt by the deteriorating play of Carson Palmer over the past few years. Ocho seemed needed after the Jets dropped eight defenders back into coverage all day during that same January game, thus exposing the Pats lack of firepower on the outside.

Sunday brought a spotlight to this border war when longtime Jets DE Shaun Ellis signed with the Pats, giving New England a line ready to take on the Ground and Pound consisting of Ellis, Vince Wilfork and Haynesworth, maybe adding some info on the Jets from the Ellis perspective as well.

The constant news regarding players gained on both sides, and even ones the Jets in particular HAVEN’T kept, have made it seem as though the two clubs have been the only active ones on the market.

We all know that the games are played on the field, not on paper, or in offices where contracts are signed. It is interesting however to consider the notion of which team got a leg up on the other these past two weeks.

For the Jets, a microcosm for this change can be seen through the WR position. Plaxico Burress and Derick Mason will replace Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. Both new Jets WRs bring with them longer careers of success and bigger numbers. They also bring with them rust and age, and a lack of familiarity with the offense. The upside, should the new duo be healthy and motivated. will make the moves an upgrade for the Jets. The downside could be a disaster.

The Patriots haven’t altered as much as they have added veterans with something to prove but again, veterans. With age on them as well. The upside for them on the defensive line could be deadly provided that Haynesworth behaves and Ellis has something left in the tank. The downside? A sluggish disruptive unit that costs coach Bill Belichick time and energy. The risk? Slight. Belichick and the Patriots have offered little to nothing financially and draft pick wise in order to obtain these players.

It will take an entire 2011 season to determine who won this free agency war. Still, it hasn’t stopped many from wondering who has gained an edge. Here are some of Jets Nation’s take on who has done better during this crazy free agency period, told to us on Twitter:

@Ton3Atlas: Pats have built a shuttle from N.Y. to N.E. because they love our players.

@JoeyScalesi: Pats unfortuantely

@jWeinstein23 Pats have gotten the bigger names but the Jets have made their team better. If Haynesworth or Ochocinco suck, it looks terrible.

@UKJets: it’s a tough question. Both teams will see the biggest benefit from development in young players like Sanchez & mccourty.

@RobKosova: Hate em but I think the Pats.

@Sanchize6: the Jets, Pats have added good pieces but who knows what they have left, the jets kept all their key pieces and are younger.

TOJ Roundtable: This Year’s Breakout Player?

TOJ Roundtable: where a collection of our writers offer a quick opinion on a pressing Jets question of the day.

Who will be this year’s breakout player on the New York Jets?

Joe Caporoso: I have faith in Rex Ryan finding ways to get after the quarterback so when he names a player his “Designated Pass Rusher” as he did yesterday with Jamaal Westerman, I tend think we could see a major leap in production from him this year. The Jets need Westerman to fill Jason Taylor’s role from last year and hopefully at least give them 5-7 sacks and create a few big plays. I think he steps up and becomes a valuable part of their defense after being a special teams player the past two seasons.

Rob Celletti: I don’t want to jinx him, but I’m going to go ahead and say Muhammad Wilkerson.  After the abject failure that was Vernon Gholston, I think the Jets would be very, very careful about speaking too highly of rookie front-7 players.  Considering the heaps of praise from Rex Ryan as well as the New York media in the first few days of camp, early returns on Wilkerson seem to be very good.  The Jets need to find ways other than all-out blitzes to generate a pass rush, so maybe Wilkerson will be the guy to help them achieve that.

TJ Rosenthal: Joe McKnight. We see him as the a Jamaal Charles type. If a game presents itself where there is ground to gain outside, he may break out and become a serious part of the rotation. Another breakout player, Calvin Pace, It’s time. The Jets have waited since he arrived to take over as a pass rushing threat. Now more than ever, the Jets could use one as the defense inches closer towards completion. Pace CAN have that breakout year, provided that he finally can stay healthy over a full season.

Chris Celletti: Is it possible to be one of the highest paid players in the league at your position and be eligible as a breakout player? Well, for Calvin Pace, it is now or never. He’s never had double digits in sacks in his career, and the only area the Jets are really lacking is consistently pressuring the quarterback. Pace needs to be the one doing so and I think (and hope) he will this year. I think in 2011 he finally reaches the double-digit sack plateau.

Miami Dolphins Heading In Wrong Direction, Makes Us Smile

The AFC East will likely end up being a two team race this season between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets. For the past couple of seasons the Miami Dolphins have hung around but ultimately flamed out late in the season to finish at 7-9. It would seem this upcoming year they are closer to competing with the Buffalo Bills to stay out of last place than they are at coming near the Patriots or Jets.

Am I aware that the Dolphins have beat the Jets, three out of their last four meetings? Yes, it is one of the ugliest stats of the Rex Ryan era but hey in 2009 Ted Ginn Jr was solely responsible for both Miami wins and the Jets improved to a split last year with him gone. With the direction the Dolphins are moving and the direction the Jets are moving, I am calling for the sweep this year.

What direction is it that Miami is moving in? They flirted with hiring Jim Harbaugh long enough to be their head coach that made it clear they didn’t really want Tony Sparano back, but were then forced to bring him back. They then went on to make the same mistake with the quarterback position by flirting with Kyle Orton long enough to make it clear they weren’t confident in Chad Henne being their quarterback, and now they are stuck with him, as Dolphins fans chant “We Want Orton” everyday at training camp. I suppose they could always turn to Matt Moore, one of the few worse quarterbacking options in the league than Henne.

I can’t say I don’t think Reggie Bush could be a valuable player for them but it sounds like are expecting an awful lot out of a specialty back coming off an injury. They can talk up rookie Daniel Thomas all they want but the bottom line is that he is a rookie who had no work with any of the coaches all off-season up until now.

In the end, this is a positive trend for the Jets to have Miami move closer to being a 5-11 Buffalo type team instead of a team who hovers around .500, especially if the Jets can help our collective sanity by stopping the losses to an inferior Miami team.

They are a team stuck in limbo with a coach they don’t really want or a quarterback they don’t really want, which isn’t how competitive teams are built.

Should Injuries Caused By Lockout Alter Jets Summer Plans?

With the Jets opening camp this week, the question we raise today is should potential injuries due to the lack of organized workouts be enough of a concern that Rex Ryan and company alter the pace of their workout load?

Young players trying to making the team, veterans who are fighting to secure positions, and newcomers trying to impress will have a natural tendency to fire out of the gates in order to make an impression. By easing into contact and pulling everything back just a few notches, maybe the Jets can improve their chances that their star filled team remains healthy heading towards September 11th, when the opener at home against the Cowboys will take place.

We’ve all heard about Mark Sanchez’s “Jets West,” a players only, training session organized by the Jets QB, that sought to keep players accountable and the camaraderie consistent. However, just like nothing beats the experience of games, no unofficial practice will replace the pressure filled ones in training camp. Where watchful eyes grade players on their habits, performance, and demeanor. 

A slow starting gate will occur for clubs who have to fight off the Summer injury bug. One that this season more than ever, may cause a high number of early strains if practice tempos are not adjusted to accomodate the incredible amount of time missed during the offseason by all players in their own practice facilities.

Here’s hoping that the concept of letting players acclimate a bit, before running them out to fight for jobs and positions at full speed, has already been incorporated into the August workout plans of the New York Jets.

NFL Free Agency 2011: New York Jets Moving Forward

Post Nnamdi thoughts —

1. Cornerback – The Jets are pushing hard to get Antonio Cromartie back and it won’t easy as at least three other teams are in the bidding for him. They may be forced to overpay for him, as they are now scrambling to fill the spot opposite Darrelle Revis. They did sign Donald Strickland, who if healthy, can be a good nickel corner. The team has also brought back Eric Smith to compete with Dwight Lowery to start at safety opposite Jim Leonhard. Brodney Pool is a goner from everything we have heard. A backup plan for Cromartie at corner, could be trading for Asante Samuel but he isn’t a great fit for the Jets scheme. Chris Carr could be a cheaper alternative.

2. Wide Receiver – The Jets are apparently in pursuit of Plaxico Burress, who will decide between them and the Pittsburgh Steelers. They are also considering James Jones, with the interest apparently waning in Randy Moss. Personally, I might like the Jones option the best as he offers the most upside and could be a long term answer opposite Santonio Holmes.

3. The Rest – You would think the Jets will have enough cap space to get Shaun Ellis back now. I would also like to see them resign James Ihedigbo.

NFL Free Agency 2011: New York Jets Day Three Primer

And the madness continues…

– The most encouraging thing to start your day: How about this Tweet from Adam Schefter:

Jets are more than $10 million UNDER salary cap, according to two NFL capologists. Might make the Jets the favorite to land Nnamdi Asomugha.”

Mike Tannenbaum how do you do it? If the Jets don’t land Asomugha, you would think they still have a good shot to bring back Antonio Cromartie or at least another veteran to compete with Kyle Wilson like Chris Carr. It seems to sound like Asomugha will reach a decision in the next day or two between the Jets, 49ers, and Texans and after him the rest of the cornerback dominoes will fall.

– The Denver Broncos are reportedly interested in Eric Smith but the Jets are going to make a strong effort to retain him. Drew Coleman is also continuing to receive interest from a handful of other teams. I am surprised we haven’t heard more about Brodney Pool yet.

– Considering Sidney Rice has signed with Seattle and Steve Breaston signed with Kansas City, you have to think a move for Braylon Edwards is coming soon for some team. I wouldn’t completely write the Jets off because if they can’t secure Asomugha, maybe they will look back towards Edwards but it does seem highly unlikely at this point that he will be back.

NFL Free Agency 2011: Departure Of Brad Smith Seems Inevitable

The loss of Brad Smith may be impossible to stop. His mid major level market value, combined with the signing of Santonio Holmes and the chasing down of Nnamdi Asomugha, aside from looking to fill the second WR position, may make the bid to keep Smith a helpless one. This harsh reality will be tough to stomach when simply kickstarting an engine that hasn’t clicked on some Sunday afternoon, becomes the difference between winning and losing. 

The Patriots, Dolphins, Bears and Giants have all been named as teams who have interest Smith. He brings so many intangibles to the table. Teams will pay for that versatility, perhaps with the mindset of expanding Smith’s role on their club. A chameleon type presence that includes big kickoff returns, long clutch runs from the line of scrimmage out of the Wildcat, the ability to line up at QB, and a penchant for late game changing plays.

There were the big runs against the Bengals to insure a playoff spot on the final night of Giants Stadium. The kickoff return for TD a week prior in Indianapolis that left the Colts and the benched Peyton Manning on the way to a controversial first loss. The opening kickoff return in Pittsburgh in 2010, off of the heels of an embarrassing thrashing in New England and a putrid loss at home to Miami during the stretch run. As well as countless other plays that would breathe life into a lifeless offense, often times while keeping the chains moving.

It would be interesting to hear how other teams who are currently in the market for Smith, envision his role. By making Smith a solid piece, not one that simply enters the fray when push comes to shove, part of the element of surprise and change of pace that Smith brought when he entered situations could disappear. An increase in touches however, could create an increase in the amount of big plays Smith could provide.

Those who shrug off Smith’s imminent exit are only making themselves feel better when they say that Smith’s departure will be “no big loss.” It will be a tremendous loss. Smith changes momentum, makes enormous game changing and even season changing playsHis one of a kind skill set is not replaceable though one player.

His abilities are not the type that can be judged solely off one game either. Only by watching Smith every week, can one begin to understand this player’s impeccable sense of timing, and clutch production for his team.

Smith’s contributions during his time in New York have been remarkable for a player who has yet to own a solidified position on offense or special teams. His departure, especially after crunching the numbers however, seems sadly inevitable.

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