Jets vs. Patriots: A Deeper Look At Two Rivals, Part 2

Part 2 of our roundtable series discussing Jets/Pats featuring TOJ, The Jet Report, Pats Propaganda, Green Lantern, and NBC’s Bruce Beck

In part I of “A Deeper Look” we broke down the main characters such as Rex, Belichick, Sanchez and Brady. As we continue today with the second installment of our three part roundtable series breaking down the Jets/Pats showdown, we look at other members of the backfield, as well as how these teams fared during free agency.

Once again we are joined by TJ Rosenthal from The Jet Report, Mike Dussault from Pats Propaganda, WFAN’s Jeff Capellini and NBC’s Bruce Beck:

Q. Darrelle Revis: Explain how his play effects the entire Jets defense and teams that try to attack it.

Capellini: Besides basically shutting off half the secondary on passing downs, Revis is also a very good tackler. He’s very good against the run. He forces opponents to overload one side of the field, which causes congestion and a better chance of tipped balls and interceptions. Cromartie, Wilson and the linebackers have already shown great prowess at ball-hawking. If you narrow a team’s options throwing the football and cut off the real estate they have to play with, turnovers happen with greater frequency. Last week Ryan Fitzpatrick was picked off twice in the center of the field by linebackers, this while Stevie Johnson was one-on-one on the outside. That right there is the Revis factor in a nutshell.

Caporoso: He is the league’s only true lock down corner and his skill set gives Rex Ryan the ability to be so comfortable in man coverage. Some teams choose to avoid Revis entirely but this season teams seem to be taking more chances on him, which is leading to a monster year for him in terms of creating big plays (see Dallas and Miami game).

Q. Neither club seems to be on their way to leading the league in rushing. The Jets struggled early on defensively and the Pats have had their problems there seemingly all year. Can a team in the modern day NFL win a Super bowl without a solid running game? Without a shutdown defense?

Caporoso: I think the answer has to be yes, just from looking at Green Bay last year. I wouldn’t say they had a solid running game or a shutdown defense yet their passing offense was so ridiculous and their defense created enough turnovers that it compensated for it. Every team has a different formula for winning based on their coach and personnel. For the Jets to win a Super Bowl, they need a solid running game and a shutdown defense.  

Dussault: The Patriots seem to think you don’t need an elite running back, though they drafted two of them in the third round this year. Benjarvus Green-Ellis is the perfect Patriots runningback. He runs hard, doesn’t lose yards, doesn’t fumble, and as an undrafted free agent he doesn’t cost much. That said he’s not going to make plays by himself. Danny Woodhead has lacked the explosive plays this year, but I believe Kevin Faulk should be the big factor against the Jets this weekend assuming he’s healthy. They’ll need his pass protection smarts to pick up the complex Jets blitzes. I’d expect to see him out there more than any other back.

As for a shutdown defense I’m not sure one exists. You need an offense that can finish and a defense that can make the stops in the key moments. Usually these are veteran defenses like Jets and not young defenses like the Pats. But you’re not going to ever fully shutdown the top offenses in the game, you just have to stop them when it counts most.

Capellini: The Colts and Pats from some years back had ample enough running games and defenses to win it all and they did. Even last season the Packers, for all their airing it out with Aaron Rodgers, still had a scoring defense and got big efforts from the likes of James Starks when it mattered. I think you can live without the running back to an extent if you have a good committee, but without the defense you are not going to win a championship. If the Patriots are not worried about this right now they have their heads in the sand.The Jets are more complete on both sides of the ball and just recently have started to show it. The onus will be on all 53 to keep up this consistency or they, too, will be watching come January.

Q. What player on your club has been the biggest pleaseant surprise so far in 2011? Biggest disappointment?

Dussault: The Patriots biggest pleasant surprise has to probably be Kyle Arrington with his league leading 5 interceptions. His emergence really made Leigh Bodden expendable and he’s able to play both outside and in the slot. He may be undersized but he’s tough, though he’ll give up his share of completions. Brandon Spikes is another player who is emerging as arguably the Pats best linebacker. For all the love Jerod Mayo gets it’s really Spikes who is becoming the heart of the defense. Too bad it looks like he’ll be out on Sunday with a sprained MCL.

Biggest disappointment has to be Devin McCourty after a breakout rookie year.He’s looked better the last couple weeks though, now he just needs to start making plays on the ball.

Caporoso: Joe McKnight has gone from being from the team goat to a terrific all-around playmaker. So he is the biggest surprise. The biggest disappointment? I will go with Derrick Mason, considering the way his entire situation went down and the early turmoil it created on the team.

The Jet Report: We’re with Joe on this one. McKnight has made huge plays and made people forget about Brad Smith who was a huge part of this team. Especially when considering how many roles Smith played, how often the Jets, who have had red zone issues in the Sanchez era pre Plax, needed big plays from him. McKnight has done the same, maybe even in a more explosive way. Disappointment? The offensive line has taken a while to get into gear. That has hurt the run game. Mangold is back now so all things seem to be settling down up front.

Capellini: Believe it or not, Plaxico Burress has begun to provide a stability on offense. He’s nearly at game speed now and you can see it in his route running and concentration. I think he more than any other player this side of Sanchez will tell the tale for the Jets on offense going forward. Defensively, I love what Sione Pouha is becoming. I think if the Jets can get him and unsung Mike DeVito going together going forward you will be talking about a serious two-headed run-stuffing monster.

Q. Where do both clubs need to improve the most?

Caporoso: For the Jets, it is Mark Sanchez and the passing attack. If they continue to improve, the Jets are going to be a very difficult team to beat. For New England, it is the defense and in particular the secondary who needs to improve substantially. 

Dussault: For the Pats it has to be communication in the secondary. We’ve seen when this defense is all on the same page they’ve been very effective at shutting down some very good offenses. This is characteristic of a young defense. If they continue to improve and show more consistency the Patriots will be a better team than they were in 2010. They’ve been especially better recently on 3rd down and in the red area which is encouraging. They just need to do it game in and game out.

Capellini: The Patriots’ secondary is a mess. Besides bringing in new guys, which is always a crapshoot, it’s on master Belichick to scheme things the way he has in the past. So far, he hasn’t. The Jets still need a pass rusher. I’m not breaking news here. They totally shut down the high-flying Bills last week without getting a single sack. Now imagine what they could be if they could get to the quarterback more?

The Jet Report: The Pats come into the is game 32nd in the NFL on defense against the pass AND run. That has to get better. They don’t have to become the Steel Curtain, but they have to exit THAT territory. The Jets are getting into a groove defensively, have their special teams set up now with McKnight and Kerley and have figured out a balance on offense. They have to stop shooting themselves in the foot in the first half. Those stunted drives that end in turnovers not only hurt on the scoreboard, they impair the team emotionally. It takes them through halftime until they regain their flow again. Finish early drives guys.

Q. Let’s go back in time for a minute. Free agency resembled the “Wild West” this past August. Has the production level put forth by free agent pick ups so far warranted the decisons to release others who once held their positions? (you answer this based on FA’s  Pats picked up and let go)

Caporoso: For the Jets it appears at this point, it was the right decision to part ways with Braylon Edwards and Brad Smith considering the production of Plaxico Burress and Joe McKnight. I can’t argue with Shaun Ellis leaving either since he hasn’t done much in New England combined with the fact that Muhammad Wilkerson has held down his previous role well. I would have liked to keep Jerricho Cotchery to mentor Jeremy Kerley, especially considering how Derrick Mason worked out. I think in retrospect New England would look elsewhere for their deep threat at receiver instead of Chad Ochocinco and would have focused more on improving the secondary.

Dussault: Brian Waters has been a great acquisition filling a big hole at right guard though the Pats offensive line has been less than stellar as of late. Chad Ochocinco has been under a lot of criticism but against the Giants he truly looked like he was starting to get it, Brady just had trouble delivering the ball to him when he was open. His ability to beat press man coverage is why he was brought in and they will really need something out of him against the Jets.

Capellini: If you consider the Pats’ two biggest pickups are now basically not involved, then I would say New England didn’t do the greatest of jobs this past offseason. Haynesworth ended up being the problem many people thought he would be and OchoCinco, as stated earlier, has been a major disappointment. Burress justifies letting Braylon Edwards walk. McKnight justifies letting Brad Smith walk, at least as far as special teams go.

The Jet Report: Haynesworth and Ochocinco were just trimmings. Albert is gone but Ocho still could help out if he and Brady get on the same page down the stretch. The Jet choices were all solid. We would have liked to see a bit of shopping for a backup QB though. The problem was that Sanchez loves Brunell as a mentor so that wasn’t going to happen. We also wonder what would have transpired that first week of free agency had Asomugha not been such a focal point for the Jets.

Q. Albert Haynesworth was released on Tuesday. Derrick Mason was traded weeks back. Did you expect alot more from them? Why did both veteran players fail to become part of the equation in Foxboro and Florham Park.

Caporoso: I thought Haynesworth had potential to be a contributor but shame on me for forgetting how lazy and what a lost cause he was. I also did think Mason could succeed here but shame on me again, for forgetting his history of creating issues in a locker room. I just think neither player bought into the system and locker room of an already tight, successful team.

Dussault: Haynesworth is who the critics thought he was. He looked dominant at times and other times he looked like the worst defensive lineman on the team.  It’s disappointing because he clearly has the talent to dominate if he wanted to.Schematically he wasn’t a perfect fit for what the Pats do, but he could’ve made a real impact as an interior sub-rusher. The Pats brought him along carefully and gently but it was all for naught, and it looks like his career is probably over now.

Capellini: Temperament goes a long way in this league. I wish Mason had just kept his mouth shut and worked on helping the Jets, but you knew what you were getting when you signed him. He’s a great talent, has been for years, but he’s also a powder keg. To basically get kicked off the Jets, who never shut up, shows you just how much he didn’t fit in. Haynesworth, like I said above, became a problem because he, too, couldn’t keep his mouth shut, not to mention the fact that he just didn’t perform all that well. But like the Jets, the Pats knew what they were getting themselves into. It shows that even in a football factory, where there’s a clear right way and wrong way to do things, even the mighty Pats can make a bad personnel decision on an older player.

Q. What makes this Patriots Jets rivalry so special?

Caporoso: The players and coaches going back and forth between the two franchises. The recent success of both teams. The number of large games, including two playoff meetings in recent years. Rex Ryan’s attitude compared to Bill Belichick’s.

Dussault: Of course you have the history of being divisional rivals for so long, but what makes it truly special now is the stark contrast in approaches. In just about everything they’re complete opposites yet both styles have proven effective. There’s a great balance to the rivalry and they’ve split the games since Rex Ryan joined the Jets. There also a balance to the Jets having a veteran defense and an offense around a young quarterback, while the Pats have a veteran offense with a young defense. Just about every element of the rivalry has balance and that makes it a lot of fun. Rex brings a lot to it all by himself, I can’t think of another coach I’d rather have coaching my team’s rival. He makes it a lot of fun because you want to beat him so badly. I’m sure Belichick does the same for Jets fans in his own way.

Capellini: It’s really not about New York and Boston. It’s a matter of combustible personalities and fan bases colliding. It’s about one perennial doormat finally getting its act in gear and challenging the status quo. It’s about the rightful throne holders not liking the new kids on the block because they know one day their reign of terror could end, mostly because the usual also-rans now have a plan. It’s also about the lesser team being tired of hearing about and watching the great gods from up north continue to destroy and conquer. The Jets envy what the Pats are as much as the Pats fear what the Jets are becoming. It’s a symphony on the field two or three times a year.

The Jet Report: The history. The storyline. The characters involved. From the AFL’s onset up until the 1990’s, these teams were division rivals but never eternal enemies. Once Bill Parcells left New England to become the Jets head coach, and Bill Belichick left the Jets to return to New England, the entire battle went from trench warfare to Civil War style. With both sides fully armed, heading full steam towards each other. Add New England’s magnificent run with Brady, followed by Eric Mangini ditching Bill, getting locked out in Foxboro, then calling out his boss with “Spygate,” and you have the need for NATO intervention. All of this mind you, BEFORE REX RYAN showed up in Florham Park. It’s been nothing but great drama, great strategy, and classic games for a long time between these two. Both of whom have now earned a mutual respect for each other in the process. As hard as that may be for some of the players involved to admit.

Beck: The atmosphere will be electric. Jets-Pats — the best rivalry around, outside of Yankees-Red Sox. Sunday Night Football on NBC. As Mills Lane used to say, “let’s get it on.”

Look for Part III of “Jets vs Patriots: A Deeper Look at Two Rivals” Saturday

Jets vs. Patriots: 12 Pack Of Predictions

12 predictions for the Jets/Patriots Sunday night showdown for first place in the AFC East

What else can I say? 12 Pack. Jets vs. Pats. It doesn’t get any better.

1. Tom Brady is getting sacked at least three times and will turn the football over at least once. He also won’t crack 300 yards through the air.

2. The other quarterback? Mark Sanchez will put together a performance very similar to the one he had in the playoffs last year.

3. Shonn Greene will be the leading rusher in this game. He will also score another touchdown.

4. Rob Gronkowski will have a big game against the Jets secondary after not doing in much in their first meeting.

5. Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress will combine for 150 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns.

6. Joe McKnight is going to outplay Danny Woodhead.

7. Chad Ochocinco…will have at least 1 reception. How is that for a bold prediction?

8. Wes Welker will have 75 yards receiving and a touchdown.

9. Dustin Keller will have less receiving yards than both Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

10. Calvin Pace and Bart Scott will both record sacks. Scott will see a substantial bump in playing time after not playing much in the week 5 meeting.

11. Jeremy Kerley will have at least 40 yards receiving.

12. If you haven’t been able to tell, I am pretty confident in the Jets this week. Actually as confident as I have ever been for a Jets/Pats game. The Jets will win 31-21 and began their march to a AFC East title.

Jets vs. Patriots, Round Two: Game Breakdown

TOJ breaks down what the New York Jets need to do to seize control of the AFC East this Sunday night

Offense: There have been calls from some in the media to let Mark Sanchez loose against a weak New England secondary. While I agree to an extent, the Jets still need to give Shonn Greene his 20 carries and have LaDainian Tomlinson/Joe McKnight chip in another 10. You don’t ignore your running game, you use it to set up your down field play action passing attack. A run first offense doesn’t mean Mark Sanchez can’t take his shots and can’t be aggressive.

I don’t think Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Dustin Keller should have a tough time getting open when the Jets do decide to air out. If they can make the most of their opportunities, there is no reason this offense can’t put up a 30 spot this Sunday night. The key is going to be for Mark Sanchez to avoid any costly turnovers or red-zone mistakes. They won’t get away with them like they did last week against Buffalo.

Defense: Attack. The Jets need to come after Tom Brady and get him rattled in the pocket from the opening whistle. I expect to see an aggressive scheme from Rex Ryan, which will use more man coverage and won’t be anywhere near as defensive back heavy as their week 5 approach. The defense has been doing a better job of setting the edge lately and if they keep it up, BenJarvus Green-Ellis won’t have anywhere near the impact he did in the last meeting.

This unit’s confidence should be at an all-time high for this season after their performance last week and watching game tape of New England from the previous two weeks. If they can force Tom Brady into a turnover or two, like they have in the past, New England is going to have a very tough time winning on the road.

Special Teams: This unit has been simply terrific all season. Joe McKnight is a Pro Bowl returner. He has had a toe injury this week and if he can’t go, look for Antonio Cromartie back on kick returns. Nick Folk is having a career year and TJ Conley does appear to be rounding into form at punter. In what should be a tight game, the Jets special teams could make a huge difference.

Jets vs. Patriots: A Deeper Look At The Two Rivals, Part 1

A roundtable discussion of Jets/Patriots featuring TOJ, The Jet Report, Green Lantern, Pats Propaganda, and NBC’s Bruce Beck

When the Jets host the Patriots on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, they will be bringing along with them, a shared history that has turned into a pro football border war over the past ten years. The game not only features marquee names on both sides, it crosses the paths of two clubs who have traveled different roads in 2011, only to have landed at the same stop simultaneously: As part of a three way first place tie with Buffalo, for first place in the AFC East.

To help us break down what has become for both clubs, the most highly anticipated opponent on the schedule, we were joined by TJ Rosenthal from The Jet Report, Mike Dussault from Pats Propaganda, NBC’s Bruce Beck and WFAN’s Jeff Capellini.

Here is Part I of a three part series:

1. Talk to us about the first half of the season for the Pats. What kind of trip has it been?

Dussault: The first half of the Pats season has been a steady decline in offensive production and consistent inconsistency on defense. Tom Brady has been uncharacteristically sloppy and is already 4 interceptions away from his career high. The defense has shown improvement and looks to have a higher ceiling than they did in 2010 but they need to come through in clutch spots like they did against the Cowboys.

Capellini: I wonder if the Pats just got old in a hurry, because their offense was unreal over the first five games, but has looked rather un-Pats-like over the last three. Now, granted, their last three foes have been three very good teams, but when has that stopped New England from bludgeoning anyone in the past? I think they really need Branch and Och to stretch the field, but so far they haven’t.

Ocho has been a disaster and the passing attack has really relied almost too heavily on the tight end combo of Gronkowski and Hernandez. Sure, Welker is awesome in this system and will continue to be, but without a really solid running game and really no deep threats the Pats aren’t, at least lately, ripping off the big chunks of yardage we’re used to seeing from them. Defensively, there’s nothing to see here, which is quite stunning considering Belichick’s prowess as the master game planner and schemer, mixed with the fact that the organization has drafted countless defensive players over the last five years. How many are stars now? Not many at all.

2. Are the Jets and Patriots where you expected them to be heading into the second half record wise, and performance wise?

Caporoso: I thought both teams would be about a game better at this point. The Jets struggled more early on than I expected and New England is struggling more now than I expected. In the end, both are going to compete for this division title down to the final weeks but neither will likely establish themselves as a truly dominant team, similar to how the Packers are right now.

Beck: The Jets are the better team right now. They have momentum and confidence. The Patriots look puzzled. Brady looks mortal.

Cappellini: Yes and no. I expected them to be at the top of the division, but I figured one would be either undefeated or have one loss and the other to have no more than two losses. The Jets had their problems early, but have fought out of the abyss. The Patriots are sort of in one now, but I’m not sure we’ll see the same vaunted Pats again for the reasons I stated earlier.

3. The two head coaches, Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick are so interesting to compare and contrast. Help us do that, from their work on the sidelines to their media presence during the week as they get ready for an opponent.

Beck: The difference in the coaching styles is dramatic. Rex is a whirling dervish — a bundle of energy — a cheerleader of the highest degree. Belichick is as stoic as Landry — as unemotional as any Coach in the game. Their styles may contrast but they both burn inside with a incredible desire to succeed and in this case — kick the other guy’s butt!

Caporoso: Clearly their personalities, at least their public personalities couldn’t be any more different. Regardless, I do think there is a high level of mutual respect between the two of them and an example that there are different, effective ways to motivate a successful team. These two teams know each other inside out at this point, which is what makes watching the game plan process so interesting. How can Belichick compensate for his lack of talent on defense? How can Rex attack Tom Brady and his variety of weapons? This is a chess match between two unique, interesting head coaches.

Dussault: This might surprise some Jets fans but I am a big Rex Ryan fan. I’ve read his book and love what he brings to the rivalry. I think both coaches can make things more difficult on themselves with their respective styles at times, but clearly both are effective at preparing their teams to play. The fun part is that their styles couldn’t be more opposite so it brings a great balance to the rivalry.

4. Let’s breakdown the work of the quarterbacks so far. How they’ve played, where they might want want to improve going forward.

Dussault: For Tom Brady it’s about making better decisions. He’s been under duress a little more this season, especially in the last few games and has been the victim of a number of tipped ball interceptions. If Brady can get back to playing consistent the Patriots offense should start to roll again. It will also require his wide receivers to start beating press man coverage more consistently and for Brady to deliver the ball quickly and accurately. I’m confident that he will turn it around, I just hope it’s this weekend.

The Jet Report: Sanchez and the Jets have owned three personalities on offense this season. Initially, they tried to become a pass first offense, with Burress and Mason as additions to the WR corps. Then, the coaches decided to return to the Ground and Pound. Recognizing that this was too drastic of a measure, a balance was found against San Diego. Sanchez has done well spreading it around during this stretch, but can’t continue to throw early interceptions. THAT habit will haunt the Jets someday soon if it continues.

Capellini: Brady is a fiery guy who leads by example, but if you’ve watched his demeanor of late he seems like he realizes that if this team doesn’t get its act together in a hurry all of New England may be in for a major disappointment. Slamming water bottles? Barking at everyone? I think he realizes the urgency of the situation. On the field, sure, he’s thrown more interceptions this year, but iit s hard to kill the guy when you compare so-called “down” or “average” Brady years to the immortal seasons he’s put together in the past. He’s still the same guy. The rest of his team isn’t.

Sanchez has become more of a team leader this season, but only because his performance has improved. He’s on pace for career high in every positive statistical category. Until he’s a hardened veteran I think he’s content to be a co-leader. The most important thing about Mark is he’s avoided long tailspins. He hasn’t allowed his dumb mistakes to snowball or fester. This is a different guy than from his first two seasons.

5. What do Jets fans think of Tom Brady as a player? What do Pats fans think of Mark Sanchez as a player?

Caporoso: I respect the hell out of Brady as a football player and a leader but hate the way he whines to the officials. As Jets fans, we hate Brady because he has won and because he quarterbacks our rival team. Yet, you can’t argue that he is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

Dussault: I really respect what Mark Sanchez did vs. the Pats in the playoffs last year. He needed to play perfectly and he did. However I know that he can be dreadfully inconsistent. I believe it all starts with stopping the Jets running game. If they’re able to run it takes the pressure of Sanchez and opens up their play action and short passing game. He’s the kind of quarterback that you can’t let get going. If you allow him to build confidence he will only get better over the course of the game. But if you make him uncomfortable, or build a lead on him, he can implode.

The Jet Report: We’re more concerned about what Jets fans think about Mark Sanchez (laughs). Brady’s Brady. The smart football fan recognizes his greatness, his ability to incorporate the ballboy in a crossing route if necessary .Sanchez, is getting the old Phil Simms treatment in New York. Called out for his mistakes much more often than he is highlighted for his attributes, for which he has many. The most greatest of them, being his ability to elevate his play late in games and win. Period.

Capellini: The answer is totally based on results. Jets fans secretly admire Brady because he’s the standard by which all other quarterbacks should be measured. Simply, you hate him because he lights you up. However, Patriots fans, I believe, have little respect for Sanchez the QB. They have actually earned the right to be skeptical because until the day comes when Sanchez can at least be on the fringes of the conversation with a player like Brady, he’s just not at the level they expect for a “great.” It’s fair that they think this way. The Jets talk until the cows come home that he’s the face of the franchise. They’ve made their own bed with opposing fans. Hey, being hated means your respected, but as far as individual players go, the NFL is the “show me” state.

6. Both backfields split up the workload differently. Are you satisfied with the current distribution of touches among Jets running backs?

Caporoso: Yes, I think they are moving in the right direction. Shonn Greene needs 17-25 carries every week to be successful . LaDainian Tomlinson is all you can ask for as a third down back and Joe McKnight is becoming more involved each week. I think Brian Schottenheimer finally has a grip on how to use all three.

Capellini: It’s getting better, but at the same time I don’t want to see the Jets lessen Greene’s load now that he’s got his game in gear and the offensive line is blocking like it has in the past. Schottenheimer still needs to use Tomlinson more as a receiver, but he did a nice job going to LT inside the red zone against the Bills. McKnight is the change-of-pace guy. Keep getting him the ball at least seven times per game as a runner and the Jets will be very hard to decipher on the ground.

7. Gronkowski and Hernanadez: So special. So hard to defend. Why?

Dussault: It really starts with Gronkowski because of his ability to be dominant as a blocker and receiver. He forces teams to show their hand defensively. Hernandez is being treated more and more like a receiver and that limits his effectiveness somewhat. Opposing defenses have been pressing them both at the line and neither have the true quickness to gain separation instantly. That has been a huge factor in the slowing down the Pats offense recently. However in the red zone there is no combination in the NFL that is more dangerous. Look at the clutch touchdowns from the Dallas and Giants game: Hernandez has two of them and Gronk has one.

The Jet Report: Who does this? Nobody. Who thinks of an approach to attack downfield like this? Only Belichick. We know other teams have utilized two tight ends in the passing game, but not as hybrid receivers with size, power and their own individual toughness. We can only imagine how much more devastating these two can be if and when one more talented WR joins the huddle up in Foxboro.

Capellini: Both are really wide receivers. Both are extremely gifted physically, have great hands and each can make things happen after the catch. It’s a very unique situation when you get an Antonio Gates-like talent at tight end. It’s even more unique when you have potentially two tight ends that can do it.

8. Bruce, watching the Jets from a vantage point that few if any have, how does Mark Sanchez handle himself emotionally after mistakes? Who are the emotional leaders on the team, the ones that others follow for advice or inspiration?

Beck: Sanchez is mature beyond his years. His composure is remarkable. He does not get rattled by an early mistake — or two. Just last week in Buffalo, he was awful in the first half and very solid in the final thirty minutes. His leadership abilities are outstanding. During the lockout, he ran his quarterback camp in Calif for his teammates — and then took them all to the Lakers game. That stuff goes a long way. It is not something you can teach. You are born with it. He has the “it” factor!

Bart Scott is the vocal leader. His brashness reflects his head coach. His bravado irks opponents. LaDainian Tomlinson is a classy, quiet leader. He prefers to set an example for others to follow. Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis are both outstanding players, whose professionalism and work ethic are beyond reproach. They exhibit fire on occassion and a quiet calm on others. They clearly are leaders of this football team

CHECK BACK FOR PART II TOMORROW

New York Jets Offense: They Can Do It All

TOJ on why there is no reason for the New York Jets offense not to have a monster game this Sunday night

The New York Jets offense has seemed like a perpetual work in progress the past couple of years. In the past few games, we have seen steps in the right direction. The shift to a greater focus on the running game with a play action passing attack working off it has given the Jets back the identity they have thrived in.

There was a reason behind the chest puffing from members of the offense in the pre-season. There is a high talent level on this unit, enough talent to consistently put up around 30 points on a weekly basis. You have a legitimate number one, slot receiver, a split end who is rounding into form as a big time target over the middle and in the red-zone, a tight end with the ability to stretch the field and an improving rookie slot receiver. In the backfield, you have a good north/south runner who fits in well behind a very good offensive line, complimented by a more than capable third down back and a potentially electric change of pace back.

The quarterback is still developing, still prone to occasional bonehead mistakes but on the whole is continuing to improve and is more than capable of putting together big games, particularly in big spots.

WIth the defense they are facing this week, there is no reason the Jets can’t do it all and play to their true potential. The running game should absolutely take the lead but don’t handcuff Mark Sanchez. When New England starts stacking the box, their personnel has no chance of matching up with Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Dustin Keller. Take the play action shot down the field.

Brian Schottenheimer needs to be able to find the mix of exploiting New England’s secondary, while still allowing his running game to keep rolling. Shonn Greene can get his 20 carries with Sanchez still taking his shots down the field.

The Jets put up 21 in New England back in week 5. Considering their progress since then, there is no reason they shouldn’t be able to put 31 this time around.

New York Jets: The Blueprint For Stopping New England

What is it going to take for the New York Jets defense to keep rolling against the suddenly fading Patriots offense?

We have learned the past two weeks that the New England Patriots offense is far from unstoppable. Pittsburgh and the Giants have both effectively flummoxed Tom Brady in a similar way the New York Jets did in the playoffs last year. In their earlier meeting this season, the Jets defense did some good things but overall had a weak showing, particularly against the run. Since the loss, the unit has steadily improved and appeared to hit their stride last Sunday in Buffalo.

What is it going to take for the defense to continue rolling this week against the suddenly fading Patriots?

The Jets don’t have the personnel to rush the passer the same way Pittsburgh and the Giants do. However, they do have a better secondary which will allow them to send extra blitzers to compensate for their lack of elite pass rushers. The formula to slowing down New England’s offense is to beat up their wide receivers at the line of scrimmage and keep their tight ends double teamed as frequently as possible. New England can run the ball so the Jets can’t overreact to the degree they did earlier in the season to stopping the pass. They spent a good portion of that game with 6 to 8 defensive backs on the field, which allowed BenJarvus-Green Ellis to have a career day.

As a defense, the Jets spend a higher than usual amount of time in the nickel. It makes sense to have 5 or 6 defensive backs on the field for big chunks of the game, especially with how well Kyle Wilson has been playing and with their inconsistencies in replacing Bryan Thomas at outside linebacker. However, Rex Ryan needs to have confidence in his unit’s ability to stop the pass while still keeping enough defensive lineman and linebackers on the field to keep the run in check.

The Jets will receive a nice boost by getting Mike DeVito back in the line-up, who is a big part of their run defense. In DeVito’s absence, the rest of the Jets defensive line rotation has received experience and steadily began to improve. Muhammad Wilkerson is quietly putting together a very good rookie year and Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, and Martin Tevaseu are all solid rotation players. The defensive line, David Harris, Bart Scott, and Calvin Pace need to set the edge and not let the thoroughly average running back combination of Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead eat up clock.

In the secondary, the Jets are built to play an aggressive man to man style against New England’s wide receivers. Darrelle Revis is Darrelle Revis. Antonio Cromartie has been much better as of late and Kyle Wilson is playing the best football of his career. Wes Welker hurt the Jets on one play in their previous meeting thanks to Eric Smith getting over the top late. Look for more Brodney Pool in passing situations, and for him along with the rest of the Jets safeties to take turns doubling Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Tom Brady isn’t standing behind an elite offensive line anymore and we know that if you get him uncomfortable in the pocket, his accuracy begins to drop substantially. The Jets sacked him 4 times earlier this season, Pittsburgh sacked him 3 times, and the Giants brought him down twice but were constantly putting pressure in his face, forcing him into three turnovers.

It seems that the Jets are meeting New England at the perfect time. The Patriots are known for their offense, which is trending downward. The Jets are known for their defense, which is trending upward. New England has to come into the Jets stadium in prime-time in what should be an electric atmosphere. There are no excuses, as Rex Ryan has a chance to show the whole country his prized defense is back, in a big way.

The Landscape Has Changed For The New York Jets

TJ on how the lessons learned from the New York Jets three game losing streak have created a three game winning streak

The Jets, once 2-3 with no identity and a growing hole to climb out of, have suddenly gained a share of the AFC East lead. Owning a piece of the penthouse that will come as a surprise to detractors, who saw this club as one ready to implode after a brutal early road trip. It shouldn’t. A defense returning ten starters and an offense that has added key pieces, are simply beginning to gel. The Jets are NOT the same team that culminated a three game skid in Foxboro. Gang Green’s crucial Sunday night matchup with the Patriots comes at the right time. As all systems are go.

Hard lessons learned on the road

The Jets learned some hard, but key lessons during each stop of their long losing tour. One sent them reeling and threatened to ruin their season. In Oakland, the club realized their need to tighten the bolts on the edges thanks to the Oakland’s Darren McFadden. Otherwise running backs would roam free down sidelines all year long, like cars in the EZ Pass lane.

In Baltimore, the Jets realized that their chemistry was off. Derrick Mason was then sent packing. In Foxboro the Jets regained their footing on the ground but may have overemphasized the notion of the “Ground and Pound,” after a month of trying to force feed an air attack featuring a third year quarterback and new faces at wide receiver. Balance on offense was needed.

Turmoil subsides and a win streak begins

By the time the Jets returned home at 2-3 for a win or else matchup against hapless Miami, the club faced an uphill climb (the Pats and Bills were 4-1 at the time) back to the top of the standings. The big question at the time however, was not their play on the field, but the team’s unity off of it.

Former Jet hero Joe Namath had started it all back in week three by suggesting on 1050 ESPN that Rex Ryan’s “soft” overconfident approach led to an ambush in Oakland. A Daily News report that the wideouts were unhappy with Schotty then surfaced prior to the Baltimore loss. Suddenly a Jets club that had motivated itself with an “us against the world” mentality under Rex Ryan, appeared to have acquired a cancerous “us against each other” one. The soil was still fertile inside of Florham Park to the outside observer while the offensive line had struggled without Nick Mangold. A three time All Pro who was returning as the Jets headed for Foxboro.

All of those internal dramas however, were symbolically put to rest when Santonio Holmes and Brandon Moore ended their feud by coming out together as captains for the Monday night coin toss against the winless Dolphins. The move was a brilliant ploy by Ryan. What it showed the Jets and the entire nation was that THIS team would not be broken up by weekday quotes and any frustrations borne out of any October troubles. The offense again started slow again that night, but the defense began to ferment, albeit against backup Matt Moore. The result was a 24-6  win. A display that may not have proved the club as Super Bowl worthy, but went a long way towards building the club’s confidence back up again.

Offense and defense rise

Now at 3-3, a key matchup against 4-1 San Diego, helped set the stage for a cementing of the foundation on both sides of the ball. During the losing streak, the defense had been growing, even though the offense was still not in rhythm. Aaron Maybin was resigned in week four, adding speed and pass rushing to the equation. Kyle Wilson provided solid coverage in the nickel and Antonio Cromartie had begun to keep his hands to himself. All while Darrelle Revis was embarking upon what has been up until now, a career year.

The defense looked good against Baltimore. It was the turnovers that killed them THAT night. One week later, despite Ben Jarveus Green Ellis rushing for 136 yards in Foxboro, the defense put pressure on Tom Brady. Miami was dealt with properly as well, despite a long gain outside by Reggie Bush in the first quarter.

Trailing at the half 21-10 against the historically high powered Chargers (who have struggled as of late but were still viewed as a legit first place team at the time) who featured a hot Antonio Gates that day, the defense finally put it all together. They shut out Phillip Rivers, Gates and co. in the second half. This while featuring a spread out passing game and featuring Shonn Greene. Both working effectively in unison for the first time all season. Seventeen unanswered points. 27-21 Jets. A template was now in place for the offense now as well.

Bye week fear is put to rest

Then fears of a bye week layoff reared their ugly head. After all, Rex’s Jets were 0-2 after bye weeks, and looked bad doing it. Trailing both the 5-2 Bills and 5-2 Pats, the Jets flew up to Orchard Park, with a dodgy post bye history and a hot upstart Bills team in their way.

The Jets battled complacency and a fired up Bills home crowd on Sunday by coming out focused, fast, and aggressive. In all phases. Fred Jackson, the Bills go to star, was bottled up all afternoon. The Jet offense itself, was marching up and down the field in the first half. Often times they stopped themselves with too many mistakes, but the club’s ten minute drive on their first possession (resulting in a brutal interception by Mark Sanchez) provided a window into the future as to how the Jets could move the ball against Buffalo. Once they stopped aiming the gun at their own feet, the Jets offense, with the help of a Rex Ryan defense that is now starting to take over games, settled in and hit cruise control for a 27-11 win. Their third straight.

A Giants win moves the Jets into a first place tie

Hours later, QB Eli Manning gave Patriot fans Super Bowl nightmarish flashbacks with a dramatic come from behind win in the final minute. It was a Giants victory that was music to Jets fans ears as it dropped the Pats into the three way tie with the Bills and Jets at 5-3. The AFC East race is once again wide open. With the Jets having made up ground that one month ago, with so much working against them, seemed like a longshot.

New York Jets: Ready To Rise In Wide Open AFC?

Now is the time for the New York Jets to rise to the top of a wide open AFC

Oh, how a few weeks can change things in the NFL.

Remember a few weeks ago after the New England Patriots beat the New York Jets 29-21? It was crazy to think the Jets were even in the discussion of contending for a division title in the AFC East. They had no offensive line. They couldn’t run the football. The defense had fell off a cliff. They’d be lucky to reach .500 with two games still left against the mighty Buffalo Bills, the San Diego Chargers and still having to play New England again.

The three game losing streak had given the legions of New York Jets haters all the ammunition they needed. Everybody got ready to watch Rex Ryan and his over-hyped team go down in flames.

Unfortunately for them, the AFC East and the rest of the conference, it appears the Jets have rediscovered their defense and running game, which is their winning formula. They have smacked around two finesse teams in a row who were supposed to be serious contenders in their conference and now have a chance to send the New England Patriots into a three game losing streak.

The beauty of the Jets turnaround is that while they are getting better every week and thriving in their identity, the rest of the conference appears to be crumbling around them. The AFC West is a joke of mediocre of teams trying to out-lose each other to miss the playoffs. The AFC South has the Texans who are still a finesse team that I feel comfortable predicting will lose the home playoff game they host. Pittsburgh and Baltimore are who they always have been, but just a little more inconsistent than usual. Cincinnati? I’m not sold yet. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them go 0-4 against the Ravens and Steelers.

The AFC East? Buffalo is about ready for their swoon. The Jets just wrote the book on how to stop their gimmicky offense and their defense is soft. New England has an awful, I repeat an awful defense and immortal Tom Brady looked pretty damn average yesterday.

Now is the time for the New York Jets to put their foot on the throat of the Patriots and send them to 5-4 to begin the process of creating separation from them at the top of the division. Denver, Buffalo, Kansas City, and Washington are upcoming on the schedule, which is a golden opportunity for the Jets to rack up wins while the Patriots could start a mid-season tailspin.

Sunday is the night for the Jets to start their march not just to the top of the division but to the top of the conference. A home playoff game is the goal and it is looking more attainable than ever.

Grading Out Jets/Bills

TOJ grades out the New York Jets beatdown of the Buffalo Bills

Quarterbacks (B) – Mark Sanchez was a bonehead red-zone interception and a fumbled snap away from having a terrific game…unfortunately those type of plays count in a big way. Outside of those plays, he was accurate (20/28) and did a good job pressing the football down the field. The ball was also spread around well to his receivers and tight ends. I don’t think Sanchez is much of a threat as a blocker these days.

Running Backs (A-) – Shonn Greene was solid for the third straight game. He had a huge run wiped out by a holding penalty on Matthew Mulligan. LaDainian Tomlinson was good in a limited role and got into the end-zone. John Conner scored his first touchdown of the season.

Wide Receivers (A) – Plaxico Burress looks to be heating up just in time for the second half of the season. Santonio Holmes scored a touchdown and drew two huge pass interference penalties that set up other touchdowns. Jeremy Kerley is developing into a very good slot receiver.

Tight Ends (D) – The grade is low because of Matthew Mulligan’s penalties and Dustin Keller’s stupidity in trying to jump over defenders.

Offensive Line (A) – Completely physically dominated the Buffalo Bills. It is pretty amazing how far this line has come since the Baltimore game.

Defensive Line (A) – They played an excellent all-around game, despite not having Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis in the rotation. Kudos to Marcus Dixon, Ropati Pitoitua, and Martin Tevaseu for stepping up in the rotation. Muhammad Wilkerson also had one of his better games.

Linebackers (A) – Calvin Pace and David Harris both came up with interceptions and were a big part of slowing down Fred Jackson. Bart Scott had a big hit on 4th and 1 and overall had one of his best games of the season.

Secondary (A) – They completely smothered the Bills receivers all day, outside of Darrelle Revis getting beat on one play…no that wasn’t a typo. Antonio Cromartie has settled down and Kyle Wilson continues to have a very good year.

Special Teams (A) – Nick Folk made two long field goals. Joe McKnight ripped off a huge return. Brad Smith did absolutely nothing on returns thanks to the Jets kick coverage. Just another day at the office for Mike Westhoff’s unit.

Coaching (A) – Rex Ryan pushed all the right buttons and game up with a terrific game plan on defense. Also, how about some credit for Brian Schottenheimer who called maybe his best game of the season?

Instant Reaction: The Swag Is Back, Jets Dominate Buffalo

The swag is back for the New York Jets, who completely dominated the Buffalo Bills in their building today

The darling of the AFC East took a hard crack to the face today from the New York Jets, who flexed their defensive muscle in a way we haven’t seen since last year. Buffalo’s offense was thoroughly dominated by Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine’s unit. Ryan Fitzpatrick looked helpless against the Jets secondary and with the pass rush constantly in his face, as he threw two interceptions and never made a big play. The performance was that much more impressive considering both Mike DeVito and Kenrick Ellis were inactive on the defensive line. It was the best performance of the year from the front seven and the secondary was terrific as usual.

On the other side of the football, the first half was maddening. The Jets moved the ball up and down the field but Mark Sanchez threw a killer end-zone interception and botched a snap. Fortunately, he rallied and actually put together one of his best games of the year finishing 20/28, with 230 yards, and 1 touchdown. Plaxico Burress caught all 5 of his targets for 79 yards, Santonio Holmes pulled in a touchdown, and Dustin Keller had 64 yards receiving. Shonn Greene had a solid 76 yards on 19 carries and LaDainian Tomlinson and John Conner both got in the end-zone.

What did we learn today? We learned the Jets are still capable of having an elite defense and that they can still physically dominate teams, especially finesse ones like Buffalo. Anybody who wrote off the Jets as AFC East contenders were crazy. New England is coming to the Meadowlands this week where the Jets will have a chance to take control of the division and extend their winning streak to 4.

The Ground and Pound is back…and yes the swag is back.