Early Thoughts On Jets/Bills Week 1 Match-Up

Early thoughts on the New York Jets week 1 match-up against the Buffalo Bills

A collection of early thoughts on the New York Jets week 1 match-up against the Buffalo Bills, make sure you check back later in the day for Mike Donnelly’s Stock Watch. Also if you are planning to head out in NYC tomorrow for the NFL opener or Sunday for Jets/Bills, we have partnered with Night Out to hook you up with a discount at Traffic East in Midtown. 

1. It sounds like Sione Pouha is 50/50 to play this Sunday. Pouha is obviously one of the Jets top defenders and his presence would be missed. However, the team is well equipped to handle his absence this week for two main reasons. First off, because of Buffalo’s spread attack, the Jets will spend more time in their nickel and sub packages, which would equal less playing time for him anyway. Second, Kenrick Ellis has been terrific this pre-season and is a capable stop-gap for a week or two. It might be better to exercise caution with Pouha and make sure he is 100 percent for week 2 in Pittsburgh.

2. The Jets haven’t had this low of expectations since prior to the 2006 season, which is a good thing. In the past decade, they have performed better in seasons where the expectations weren’t high. Most “experts” are ignoring the reality of how strong the Jets defense will be and how soft their schedule is, particularly when it comes to playing inexperienced quarterbacks and quarterbacks Rex Ryan has had success against.

3. Speaking of quarterbacks Ryan has had success against, Ryan Fitzpatrick is 0-4 in his last 4 starts against Rex Ryan’s Jets with an average QB rating of 70.3.

4. A few more fun Buffalo stats against the Jets since Chan Gailey took over

  • 0-4 record
  • Average margin of defeat – 18.75 points
  • Average points per game – 14 points
5. An overhyped storyline coming into this week will be Stevie Johnson’s “success” against Darrelle Revis, stemming from the “monster” 8 catch, 75 yard, 1 touchdown game he had against him last year. Of course most people neglect Revis was supposed to have underneath help on Johnson’s touchdown and that 8 catches for 75 yards wasn’t enough for a win that day. I am sure everybody in the Jets building is hoping Buffalo comes after Revis early and often with Johnson.
6. If Buffalo was smart, they’d make CJ Spiller a large part of their game plan on Sunday, particularly in the passing game. The more you can force the Jets linebackers into coverage, the better chance you have to move the football on their defense. Buffalo lacks a tight end who can exploit the middle of the field so Spiller is their best bet to take advantage of the softest spot of the Jets defense.

7. The best way to neutralize Mario Williams and Mark Anderson is for the Jets to establish Shonn Greene early and often, and then work the play action passing game off him. It doesn’t matter how highly touted rookie Stephon Gilmore is, he is still a rookie. If the Jets can get Santonio Holmes on him 1 on 1, they have to go after him.

8. You hate to say week 1 games are must wins but look at the Jets schedule, look at what everybody has been saying about Buffalo this off-season…this is a must win. The Jets can burst the early bubble on the Buffalo hype train, build momentum heading into a tough week two game on the road, get a crucial division win and avoid the embarrassment of feeding into pundits by losing in their own building to the supposed “up and coming” AFC East team.

NFL 2012 Gambling Preview: Over/Unders, MVP, Super Bowl Bets

Chris Celletti kicks off his weekly NFL gambling column with a look at over/unders, MVP and Super Bowl bets

We are happy to welcome Chris Celletti to the TOJ writing staff for the 2012 NFL season. He will be contributing a weekly NFL gambling column every Friday. Make sure to give Chris a follow on Twitter and all the credit if you hit on any of these bets – 

So preseason is finally, finally over, which means the beginning of the NFL gambling season (unless you have a serious problem and have been betting on preseason games, which I’m sure about 85% of the NFL gambling population does, no questions asked). Each week during the regular season, I’ll give you three picks against the spread.

And let’s get this out of the way, here’s my disclaimer: I am in no way trying to pass myself off as any sort of gambling expert. I don’t study how lines move during the week because I have a job, a life and friends. I’m simply going to waddle up to my computer every Friday or so and look at that week’s schedule, pick three games, and give football reasons as to why. From time-to-time I’ll also throw in a non-football bet and other random thoughts that pop into my head. We’ll tally my record and keep a running total each week and see how horrifically I did at the end of the year, because we all know betting on football has zilch to do with anything football related. This is gonna be a fun exercise.

So since we’re still a wee bit off until the actual games kickoff, I thought I’d debut with some futures bets; a few team over/unders and MVP and  Super Bowl Champs bets.  As with my weekly picks to come, I plan on having a big old laugh when looking back on these in February when the season is over and Mike Tannenbaum takes over for Bill Polian as ESPN’s “Expert NFL GM”.

FYI: I get lines from Bovada.

Team Over/Unders:

Baltimore Ravens (10) – UNDER

My dad is a huge believer of “being due” in sports, and he’s passed that on to me. This ranges from everything like “Good god is Swisher OVERDUE for a homer” to “All the home teams have won on Wild Card Weekend so far, one of the road teams has to win”. It’s completely illogical and totally irrational, and yet I still believe in it. And to me, the Baltimore Ravens are due for a crap year. They’ve made the playoffs in all of John Harbaugh’s four seasons, which is a miraculous accomplishment given that Joe Flacco has been the starting quarterback for all of them. And of course it’s because of the Ravens’ defense, which to me is on its last legs. Ed Reed and Ray Lewis are on the way out, and Terrell Suggs is hurt. Their schedule isn’t a murderer’s row but does include games with the Giants, Cowboys, Eagles and of course two with the rival Steelers. It’s just pretty hard in the NFL to have five straight winning/playoff seasons, especially with a quarterback like Flacco. I don’t expect the Ravens to be bad, but I can see 8-8.

Jacksonville Jaguars (5.5) – UNDER

This is the biggest dumpster of a franchise in the NFL and it’s not even close. Can you blame Maurice Jones-Drew for wanting out? The Jags and Jets should have pulled a Tebow-MJD trade, but the Jags would rather start Blaine Gabbert at quarterback than someone who, at the very least, would fill their stadium. Oh, wait, this is easy to figure out…their owner wants absolutely nothing to do with the city of Jacksonville. Additionally, the Jags have the NFC North and the AFC East on their schedule this year. It will take them until they’re the London Jaguars before they win six games in a season.

Denver Broncos (9) – OVER

It’s going to be close but I have the Broncos slightly over, probably by about a game or so. The competition in the AFC West will remain mediocre and Denver’s schedule isn’t too bad. And then there’s this: last year, this team won eight games and one in the playoffs with Tim Tebow at quarterback. This season, they made an itty-bitty upgrade at the position with Peyton Manning. Peyton Manning throwing with his left hand could win 10 games if he gets half the support Lefty Jesus got last year from this defense, special teams and running game.

NFL MVP

Eli Manning (18/1)

The Giants’ offense has a chance to be insanely good. If David Wilson is even a fraction as good as every Giants blogger has blabbered on about since April, and Ahmad Bradshaw stays healthy, can’t Elisha have a truly MVP-caliber season? With any semblance of a running game Eli should put up monster numbers throwing to Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Co. Of course for Eli to win the MVP, the Giants will need to have a big regular season, something many seem to think isn’t going to happen, but I do (and then they’ll promptly lose in the first round of the playoffs because that’s how the Giants do things). To me, there’s no reason at all why guys like Michael Vick, Arian Foster and Matt Stafford should have better odds to win the MVP than Eli.

Super Bowl Champs

New Orleans (18/1)

What the Saints will prove this year is that in the NFL, coaching doesn’t mean a whole lot when you have a great quarterback who runs your offense from the huddle/line of scrimmage. In 2009, The Colts went 14-2 (should have went 16-0) with Jim Caldwell as their head coach, and Jim Caldwell is about as aware of his surroundings as a deer that sprints across the Garden State Parkway . The only reason that Colts team was worth anything was because of Peyton Manning. The Saints still have that whether Sean Payton is on the sidelines or not because of Drew Brees, and Brees also still has plenty of explosive weapons to use. The whole bounty scandal will end up being good for them because it forced ax-murderer wannabe Greg Williams and his Transitions lenses out of town, and Nola replaced him with Steve Spagnuolo, a totally competent and Super Bowl winning defensive coordinator. Besides, defense means jack in the NFL these days, just ask last year’s Patriots. And then there’s the dome. The Saints are impossible to beat in that dome. If they can get to the Super Bowl, well, do you know where the Super Bowl is this year? Why take the Eagles at 11/1 (this is a joke, right?) or the Bears at 15/1 if the Saints are sitting there below them?

New York Jets (40/1)

You remember what site you’re on, right?

Turn On The Jets NFL Divisional Preview – AFC North

Mike Donnelly previews and gives his predictions for the AFC North in 2012

With the NFL preseason thankfully coming to a close, we have a pretty good idea of what we can look forward to this year. Sure, we all know the ins and when it comes to the Jets and the rest of the AFC East around these parts, but what about the rest of the league? Well, today we’ll be taking a look at the AFC North. If you missed my AFC East preview (Which you can read HERE), I’ll be doing these previews in Stock Watch fashion. I’ll be buying and selling each team’s Vegas line on over/under of wins, some made-up stats props, some fantasy football tidbits, and whatever else. Here we go.

1. BALTIMORE RAVENS (11-5), #3 seed

BUY: Over 10 wins – Honestly, I think this will be a push, but there’s no fun in just agreeing with what the geniuses in Las Vegas have put out there for us, so I’m going with the over. I think a clean sweep of Cincinnati and Cleveland, coupled with a split with the Steelers will help get them to 10 easy, and perhaps 11. Yes, the defenses is starting to get up there in age and Terrell Suggs is out for a good chunk of the season, but they’ll still be good enough to carry Joe Flacco through yet another season.

SELL: Joe Flacco – Speaking of Flacco, I’ve been hearing more and more frequently lately from “the experts” about how this is going to be his breakout campaign and he’s gonna crack 4,000 yards. Umm, sorry, I don’t see that happening. Joe Flacco stinks, and even if they are going to a more pass-happy offense, that just means more dump-off passes to Ray Rice. Anquan Boldin can barely run these days, and while Torrey Smith looks like a good receiver, he’s not quite in that “elite” group, which is what Flacco would need to get up to that level. Plus, would you trust a guy who thought it was a good idea to grow that thing on his face to lead your team to the Super Bowl?

SELL: Over 0.5 playoff wins – The Ravens will get into the playoffs this year more due to a weak division than because they’re a legit Super Bowl contender. Last year they had it for the taking and Lee Evans and Billy Cundiff blew it for them. Now both those players are gone, but it’s not going to matter. I see the Ravens taking a slight step backwards and going 1-and-out in the playoffs.

BUY: Torrey Smith Over 1,000 yards – After recording 841 yards last year as a rookie, look for Smith to take a leap this year toward becoming a solid #1 receiver. 1,000 yards should be a lock for Mr. Smith, despite Cam Cameron (who is awful) calling the plays.

2. PITTSBURGH STEELERS (9-7), missed playoffs

SELL: Over 10 wins – I think this is the last go-round for this group of players, especially on the defensive side, and it’s not going to end well. Yes, they’ll win their share of games, but it will become clear this is no longer the Steelers team we’ve become accustomed to seeing the past few seasons. James Farrior and Aaron Smith are gone. Guys like Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton, and James Harrison are nearing the end. Ike Taylor was never that good to begin with. The offensive line is atrocious and seems intent on getting Big Ben killed. It’s time to re-build or at least re-load.

BUY: Over 2.5 fights between Todd Haley and Ben Roethlisberger – Every time I watch the Steelers this year (and it will be often because CBS thinks EVERYONE wants to see the Steelers every single week), this is what I’m going to be rooting for. I just hope they escalate from your typical shouting matches where they say “It was the heat of the moment, we are fine” after the game, into all-out fisticuffs. If there’s a coach in the league that would make this a legit possibility, it’s Todd Haley.

BUY: Big Ben over 4,000 yards – Since the team has no running backs and an awful offensive line, Big Ben is going to have to pass. A lot. And that’s why…

BUY: Antonio Brown over 1,200 yards – Antonio Brown is going to be a fantasy football superstar. But if any players in the TurnOnTheJets.com fantasy football league are reading this, I’m just kidding about Brown. Forget I said anything.

BUY: Roethlisberger over 50 sacks – That’s a little over 3 per game. With this horrific offensive line, 50 could be reached by November. I don’t know what the record is for sacks in a season, but it’s in jeopardy.

3. CINCINNATI BENGALS (7-9)

SELL: Over 8.5 wins – Despite an impressive season last year with rookies Andy Dalton and AJ Green playing really well, I don’t see it carrying into this season. Not that Dalton and Green won’t play well, it’s just that… it’s the Bengals. Plus, Marvin Lewis is going to cost them at least 2 games with his inability to properly use his timeouts and/or his inexplicable failed challenge flags.

SELL: Benjarvus Green-Ellis – I was never particularly impressed by BJGE with the Patriots, and I can’t imagine that’s going to change now that he’s the Bengals starting running back. With the Patriots, he was constantly facing nickel and dime looks on defense because teams were scared to death of Tom Brady passing the ball. Now it’s going to be regular defenses who will be keying on him, and I don’t think it’s going to be pretty.

SELL: Over 0.5 wins against the Steelers and Ravens this year – Just like last year, the Bengals are going to show they aren’t ready to move on up in the world and overtake either of the two teams that ruled the division for the past decade.

4. CLEVELAND BROWNS (4-12)

SELL: Over 5 wins – It’s going to be yet another rough season for the Browns. Just when they had a glimmer of hope with the selection of running back Trent Richardson in the first round, it turns out he has a bum knee and his status for the start of the season is in jeopardy. Even if he plays week 1, do you have a lot of confidence that he can make it through 16 games on a bum knee with defenses keying on him as he tries to carry the entire team on his back? I see a lot of Chris Weinke 2.0, aka Brandon Weeden, struggling out there with or without Richardson.

BUY: Trent Richardson over 1,000 yards – All that being said, Trent Richardson is so talented that even on this crappy team, with a crappy coach, with a crappy Q, with a bum knee, he will still crank out of 1,000 yards and show plenty of flashes of greatness along the way. When he gets to leave the Browns in a few years, we’ll really get to see a great player thrive.

SELL: Mike Holmgren – You never hear about this guy anymore, do you? He got a massive payday to come in and “save” the Browns, and all he did was fire Eric Mangini (who was actually doing a pretty good job), blow a ton of draft picks, and then pretty much give up. It’s no wonder Browns fans are always so miserable.

Plenty Of Work Left For New York Jets Heading Into Pre-Season Finale

The New York Jets still have plenty to sort out on their roster heading into their final pre-season game

The New York Jets head into their pre-season finale tonight against the Philadelphia Eagles with plenty of questions surrounding their roster. On the field tonight will be a minimal amount of impact players for the 2012 team, however there are a handful who still have an opportunity to lock down prominent roles. After the game Mike Tannenbaum needs to get to work in adding depth to a few spots by scanning the league for other team’s end of August cuts.

At right tackle Austin Howard needs another strong showing to truly lock down the starting right tackle job. If he struggles tonight he could be on a quick hook for the recently acquired Jason Smith, who should also see some action tonight. At wide receiver, another good game from Patrick Turner and Jordan White should keep Chaz Schilens off the roster, if the Jets are going by merit. Schilens has hardly played at all this August and simply can’t stay healthy. There is no logical reason to keep him on at the expense of White or Turner and the Jets can’t afford to carry six receivers.

Shonn Greene won’t play tonight at running back leaving the workload to Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight and Terrence Ganaway. Powell is the least proven backup running back in the NFL and it would be nice to see him rip off a couple of big runs against the Eagles backups to build some confidence heading into the season. Joe McKnight appears to be completely out of the mix at running back which doesn’t say much about the coaching staff’s faith in him considering the current depth chart. Ganaway is in an interesting situation, he hasn’t received much work at running back this pre-season and should receive some carries tonight but he has also worked at fullback in practice. Will we see him get extended work at fullback tonight and if he succeeds, could he knock John Conner off the roster?

Conner has been nothing but below average since taking over as the starting fullback. Beyond that, he lacks any kind of versatility. Shonn Greene runs well in the single back set, so why bother to keep Conner on the roster? When you do want to use a fullback, you could let Ganaway step in and he has the ability to both run the ball and do some damage as a receiver out of the backfield.

As for the rest of the offense, Mike Tannenbaum absolutely must add a blocking tight end to the Jets roster. Simply put, they are currently not carrying a single tight end capable of blocking. It will be interesting to see who comes free in the coming days. It also wouldn’t hurt for Tannenbaum to take a long look at some available veterans at both wide receiver and running back. The Jets are thin in both spots and quality options like Ryan Grant, Kahlil Bell, Jabar Gaffney and Donte Stallworth remain out there.

On defense, the Jets are stacked at linebacker and will have to make some tough choices about roster cuts. It is hard to see them carrying more than 8 into their final 53 and with Calvin Pace, David Harris, Bart Scott, David Harris, Aaron Maybin, and Demario Davis locks, that only leaves two spots for Garret McIntyre, Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga and Ricky Sapp (who has been injured all pre-season).

In the secondary, Antonio Allen will get extended work at safety tonight and seems to have played his way into a roster spot. The fourth and fifth cornerback spots aren’t completely settled with Ellis Lankster, Isaiah Trufant, and Julian Posey battling for reps. It probably wouldn’t have hurt for the Jets to add a veteran here considering how cornerback heavy Rex Ryan’s defense can be.

Mike Tannenbaum has left holes in his roster with the season opener only 10 days away, hopefully between a combination of bottom of the roster players stepping up and some timely last second pick-ups he can patch them up.

New York Jets – Biggest Positional Question Marks

Who are the biggest question marks on the New York Jets heading into the 2012 season?

The New York Jets have a handful of sure things on their roster. You know Darrelle Revis is going to be a lockdown corner. You know Nick Mangold is going to anchor the offensive line. You know David Harris and Sione Pouha will play at a Pro-Bowl level and not receive the recognition for it. However, who are the team’s biggest question marks? Let’s take a quick run through

Austin Howard – Right Tackle – Howard has put together one pretty good pre-season and has the honor of replacing the least popular tackle in New York football history, Wayne Hunter. Let’s not forget he was an undrafted free agent who has never started a game before this season. If Howard starts to stumble, the Jets will likely have a quick hook to give the recently acquired Jason Smith an opportunity. He will be tested right out of the gate when facing Mario Williams or Mark Anderson week one and then Pittsburgh’s endless collection of pass rushers week two.

Kyle Wilson – Nickelback – Nickelback is a crucial spot in Rex Ryan’s defensive back heavy defense. Wilson has had a rough pre-season and patience is rightfully wearing thin with him. He is entering his third year and the former first round pick has never looked anything like one. Teams are going to pick on him with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie on the outside but Wilson must do a better job of locating the ball in the air and avoiding giving large cushions when he can’t afford to.

Stephen Hill – Wide Receiver – The Jets are relying on Hill to start right out of the gate despite how raw he is. He has shown an ability to get open and make plays down the field in the pre-season, while showing a consistent problem with drops. Hill is a rookie receiver from a triple-option offense. Can his positives outweigh his negatives as a full time player?

Mark Sanchez – Quarterback – I don’t see Sanchez as anywhere near as big of question mark as most people do. Outside of his interception against the Giants, he has been accurate and in-control of the offense despite a shaky offensive line and a banged up group of receivers. At his worst Sanchez will be an effective game manager, at his best he can be the player who led four 4th quarterback comebacks and won a playoff game in New England back in 2010. The biggest question around him this year is how he will handle being pulled from the game for Tebow when the Jets use the Wildcat.

Tim Tebow – Backup Quarterback – Not sure why more people aren’t concerned that the Jets backup quarterback had a 26.5 QB Rating and 38 percent completion rate in the pre-season. How can this offense function if Sanchez goes down for an extended period of time unless they are going to let Tebow just run 20 times per game from the QB position?

Jeff Cumberland – Backup Tight End – Hopefully Mike Tannenbaum isn’t foolish enough to go into the season with him as the primary backup. Simply put he is a less talented version of Dustin Keller and is an even worse blocker. The Jets are in trouble if he gets pushed into extended duty.

LaRon Landry – Safety – He has been terrific this pre-season but if he gets hurt the Jets are right back to Eric Smith.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson – Left Tackle – It was a surprisingly down year for ‘Brick last year. The Jets badly need him to bounce back and be the Pro-Bowl caliber tackle he was throughout the early years of his career.

TJ Conley/Nick Folk – Punter/Kicker – The value of these guys on the Jets is extremely enhanced because of the type of football they are likely to play. Folk had a great pre-season but can’t afford to miss the chip shots this year that he did in the past. Conley has been inconsistent and is now in competition with the recently signed Spencer Lanning. You can’t shank punts when you are desperately battling for field position.

Shonn Greene – Running Back – Considering his primary backup has under 30 career NFL rushing yards, he better stay healthy and productive. Greene had a disappointing pre-season and has been a notorious slow starter. The Jets can’t afford that this year as he will be getting 20+ carries a game right out of the gate.

New York Jets – State Of The Roster

A conversation with a former NFL Personnel Executive and Scout about the state of the New York Jets

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to have an extended conversation with a former NFL personnel executive and scout about the state of the New York Jets roster. This individual still works in the league and requested anonymity, here are a few of the most interesting excerpts of our conversation –

John Conner – He cited Conner as one of the least valuable players in the NFL and somebody who does not merit a roster spot. “He can’t catch and is average at best as a blocker. His lack of versatility makes the Jets that much more predictable on offense.”

Have to agree with the assertion here. Conner got a catchy nickname early in his career and was a fun story on Hard Knocks but ultimately has brought just about nothing to the table in 3 seasons. It is a shame Josh Baker is done for the season because the Jets would have been better off starting him at fullback than Conner. 

Blocking Tight End – A recurring theme throughout our conversation was the inability of Mike Tannenbaum to properly scout players and understand actual football techniques. “Everybody in the league knows Dustin Keller can’t block. Last year you had the Jets trot out Matthew Mulligan and John Conner on every running play and Keller on every passing play. It makes them easy to defend. When they talk about using an extra tackle as a tight end this year, it is a dead giveaway to their tendency. Why not go get a blocking tight end? They had success with Ben Hartsock in the past but have completely ignored the position this year.”

My feelings about a blocking tight end have been well stated. I do not understand how a “Ground and Pound” team does not carry one on their roster. 

Tannenbaum’s Future – “Tannenbaum will not be the fall guy if the Jets don’t make the playoffs this year. He has Woody Johnson wrapped so far around his finger, he isn’t going anywhere. He will be the GM for the next 5 years.”

Cameron Wake – “Prior to the 2009 season the Jets scouting department wanted Cameron Wake badly and the team was in a position to sign him, Tannenbaum personally overruled the move and said he didn’t want him.”

This statement caught me by surprise, as similar to many others I believe Tannenbaum is the first to go if the Jets don’t make the playoffs this year. Only time will tell. The Wake story is a frustrating one to hear considering the pass rusher he turned into and how the Jets have struggled to fill that spot. 

Shonn Greene – “An average to slightly above average back. For the type of offense the Jets want to run, they need an elite back or at least a capable 1B option which they don’t have right now. McKnight is not a NFL caliber running back and can’t stay healthy.

It still boggles my mind why the Jets didn’t sign Cedric Benson and I don’t see how they can give big money to Greene after this season. 

Jets 2012 Prospects – “Considering their defense and schedule, they are going to be right around or slightly above .500 all year and in position to make a late season run into the playoffs. However, they are still not equipped not overtake New England.

Agreed

Future Of Jets – “Tannenbaum gave himself minimal flexibility this off-season because of his habit of guaranteeing contracts. The decision to give that much guaranteed money to Wayne Hunter (this was pre-trade), Bart Scott and Calvin Pace (when they re-did his contract) is inexplicable and killed them this off-season. When those guys come off the books, they will then have the ability to make their needed moves, although they will continue to be hamstrung by the guaranteed money for Holmes and Sanchez.”

The handling of Wayne Hunter’s contract was truly awful, we know that. Scott and Pace are goners after this year. Only time will tell if Sanchez and Holmes can work out. 

Sanchez – “Needs to be in certain type of offense to succeed and the Jets have done a poor job building around him in recent years. The Tebow circus could be a disastrous distraction. Why keep trotting this guy out in front of the media so much?”

Rex Ryan – “A great defensive mind, who has a unit this year that will be good enough to keep the Jets competitive. However, he needs to stop talking his players up to the media so much. It puts unnecessary pressure on them and comes off as phony.

It has been nice to see Rex step up the public criticism of players this year, when it has been merited instead of the endless hype train. Hopefully this continues to be a trend. 

Other Tidbits

  • Stephen Hill – “A physical specimen but probably a year away from being a consistent contributor. He has a long way to go in the mental part of the game.
  • Right Tackle – “Only thing they can do is gamble and hope for the best. The position is a commodity. You need to draft and develop those players. Howard might be a one year stopgap but certainly isn’t a long term answer.”
  • LaRon Landry – “Can make a major difference but hard to imagine he gets through all 16 games.”

Turn On The Jets Stock Watch – Pre-Season Week 3 Edition

Mike Donnelly’s weekly Stock Watch is buying and selling after the New York Jets third pre-season game

I hope enough Jets fans out there managed to avoid jumping off the ledge after they again failed to score a touchdown on Sunday night, and are still around to read this column. It’s easy to be down on the offense after their preseason performances, but I saw enough silver linings this week that lead me to believe hings are going to come together soon. By soon, I mean I pray it will be week 1 against Buffalo and their crappy defense led by the hilariously bad Dave Wannstedt. Let’s get on with it…

BUY: The Jason Smith Trade – GOOD-BYE WAYNE HUNTER! I seriously can’t see any downside to this trade at all. What’s the worst that can happen, Jason Smith comes in and is awful? That’s STILL an upgrade over Wayne Hunter. Jason Smith is a former #2 overall pick, so he clearly has talent and at one time had a ton of potential. Sometimes guys like that just need a change of scenery before they start to realize some of that potential, and I hope that is the case here. But again, even if he sucks, what did we lose? Oh that’s right, we lost the $1.5 million that Smith makes more than Hunter this year. But again, so what? Everyone complained for weeks now that Tannenbaum hasn’t spent money on upgrades, and now he spent a mere $1.5 million of the approximately $6 million they were under the cap to get a player with the potential to be much better than Hunter. Any pickups Mr. T could make between now and the start of the season are going to be low-cost pick-ups, not star players, so dropping $1.5 of the nest egg on Smith is not a big deal at all. Maybe Tannenbaum did read my letter to him after all and realized he needed to do something. Ok, probably not, but still, at least he did something. 

SELL: The Rams and Brian Schottenheimer– When I heard about that Wayne Hunter was traded, I broke out into a big smile. When I found out it was to the Rams, I started laughing out loud. How hilarious is the idea of whoever-the-hell the Rams GM is asking Schottenheimer about Hunter, and Schotty getting all excited and saying “WE GOTTA GET HUNTER!”, then running down the hall to find Matt Mulligan and tell him he’s getting the old band back together with a big fist pump? Even better, how great is the next Rams practice going to be with Wayne Hunter as a 3rd-string tackle and Matt Mulligan as the 3rd-string tight end combining forces to block 5th-string defensive end Vernon Gholston as Brian Schottenheimer looks on proudly? Needless to say, I’m going to enjoy the 2012 St. Louis Rams.

BUY: Mark Sanchez – I tweeted this during the game on Sunday and it was retweeted something like 18 times (a new record for me!), so I guess at least a few people agree with me, but if you watched that game and came away thinking Mark Sanchez is the problem on this offense then you aren’t paying attention. In fact, if that’s what you think, then that’s all I need to know about you as a fan: You just hate Mark Sanchez and will blame him for anything. Considering he’s working with a makeshift line, zero blocking tight ends, no receivers, I think he played really well. When Holmes, Kerley, and Keller get fully healthy and Stephen Hill learns to catch, things will only get better.

SELL: The Tight End Position – When Dustin Keller got injured in the first quarter the other night, we really saw how pathetically weak the tight end position is. Jeff Cumberland, who is useless, was already out with yet another injury, so we were down to some guy named Epps, who failed miserably on several blocking attempts which got runs stuffed in the backfield. Mike Tannenbaum, for the love of God, please get a tight end!

BUY: Shonn Greene – Greene’s stock is at an all-time low with Jets fans, but I implore you all to have some faith. No, he’ll never be the big time superstar running back, nor will he be a game-breaking threat. But for the clock-control offense the Jets are going to run, he’s going to have a very good year. The offense was extremely vanilla, the offensive line always seems to start the year slowly, and we’ve yet to see the wildcat packages. When the season gets rolling, Greene is going to get a ton of carries, and he’s going to play very well. I’ve said it plenty of times now, but don’t forget: Shonn is playing for a contract this year. Expect big things.

BUY: The defense – We’re going to see a special defense this season. Mo Wilkerson and Kenrick Ellis have both taken major steps forward in their second seasons, and Quinton Coples looks like a big-time player (I wonder if Peter Schwartz of WFAN still thinks if you look up his name in the weird dictionary he uses, you’ll see a picture of Vernon Gholston?). When you throw in Revis, Harris, Cromartie, the new safeties, Aaron Maybin, and Bart Scott looking rejuvenated, this defense alone could win them 10 games this year. That being said, though…

SELL: Kyle Wilson – I was a staunch supporter of Kyle Wilson the past two seasons despite his struggles, but now it’s year 3 and he should really look better than he has. I’m getting awfully concerned that maybe Kyle Wilson just isn’t all that good and we’re going to have a problem against slot receivers this year. I guess training and hanging out with Darrelle Revis doesn’t make you Darrelle Revis after all. Darn.

 

No Huddle – Austin Howard and New York Jets Injury Woes

TJ Rosenthal goes No Huddle to break down what we saw from the New York Jets in their 3rd pre-season game

Better. Yes, things were better last night. Nobody wearing Green and White Tebowed in the end zone but the Jets looked more like an NFL team last night. A team that could grow into something with more work and some additional pieces collected along the way.

1 -Way To Go Austin Howard

The best thing to come out of Sunday night was the play of Austin Howard. The new Jets right tackle should have silenced fears about a leaky offensive line thanks to his consistent play throughout. It was so nice to see Mark Sanchez sit comfortably with time in the pocket to throw. The results were clear as completions were made, and chains moved for the first time all summer.

2 – August Injuries Are Never A Good Topic

Now the worst thing to come out of the game. The injuries. First Dustin Keller went down in what we initially joked was an injury that came from being shocked that a ball was thrown to him. Then it was David Harris and finally Josh Baker, who sustained what appeared to be the worst of all the car crashes.

The Jets can ill afford to lose anyone for any amount of time right now. With Keller and Baker banged up, the Jets will have to go to the free agent market and pick up a tight end. Hayden Smith is just not ready for the role and Jeff Cumberland? We can’t figure that guy out. We hope the answer is yes to the FA market notion, and that Tim Tebow WON’T be given a job he’s never had with two weeks until week one.

Jeremy Shockey anyone?

3 – Still No Touchdowns Yet

The Jets STILL haven’t scored  TD in 2012. Maybe the Wildcat and Tebow might have helped last night but we will focus here on the passing game near the goal line for now.

Sanchez was solid Sunday night. In fact, thanks to his protection holding up, we were all able to finally assess the WR corps. The answer? There is not enough there right now in our estimation. Especially as the Jets move towards the doorstep of paydirt. We recognize that Santonio Holmes may have had a TD had he held on to a seam pass but hey, that’s what happens when you miss time due to injury. The timing is off.

Stephen Hill caught some balls but seems confused as to what to do after the catch. More telling, Hill  reacted to late to a high end zone throw that Plaxico Burress would’ve grabbed easily.

So why not bring back the red zone killer?

This reliance on Hill to lock down WR2 may bite the Jets in the first half of the season. Instead, the Jets ought to sign Plax so they can SURVIVE the first half, as Hill grows into whatever he will grow into this year.

Security. Insurance. Quality play inside the 20. Do it. If not Burress, then at least someone else please.

4 – De-Fense!

The Jets defense did what it will have to do through October. It took it to the other team’s offense. Cam Newton was poised to get rolling but didn’t. Kenrick Ellis, Quinton Coples. In fact the entire defensive line helped make sure that Newton would be pressured and that the Panther run game couldn’t get into gear.

The score was 10-9 Carolina at halftime and that’s what games will have to look like, in order for the Jets to be in position to win them until the offense can show more. Great job by a unit that looked like a real top 5 unit and reminded us of the early Rex Ryan defenses in 2009.

5 – What’s the Prognosis Doctor?

Well, the play of the defense last night now makes us feel better about September. The play of the offense gave us a glimmer of hope that by October, they won’t need to be carried every Sunday. Mark Sanchez showed us that he can make throws given the time. The lack of touchdowns though means that the Jets are still short on playmakers who must be found elsewhere or be made to step up from within. Can Greene Holmes and Keller drive the unit downfield? It’s up to them. They are the big three as of now.

As for special teams and unique players, Tim Tebow is still an unknown as far as what he will bring to the table and that’s not a bad thing. The kicking game appears solid and so does the return game with Joe McKnight. In sum, the Carolina game provided enough to have us now move back off from the ledge. To feel as though this is a playoff bound team however, we need to see more.

Right now the Jets are an AFC bubble team, but the potential is there in many areas for that to change for the better.

New York Jets Bench Wayne Hunter

The New York Jets have benched right tackle Wayne Hunter

In a move that was long overdue…as in it should have done after the first play of the 2011 regular season, New York Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter has been benched. His replacement for the time being will be Austin Howard, who started the Jets first pre-season game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Howard was an undrafted free agent in 2010 who has spent time on the Eagles and Ravens practice squad. The best thing to say about Howard is that he cannot be worse than Wayne Hunter, it is physically impossible.

ESPN’s Rich CImini is reporting that the Jets remain in the trade market for a starting right tackle despite Howard’s promotion. The team will likely evaluate how he performs against Carolina on Sunday with the starters before deciding to pull the trigger on any move. At this point, it will not be easy to acquire a capable starting lineman.

Ultimately guaranteeing Hunter’s contract this off-season will go down as one of the worst moves in Mike Tannenbaum’s career as the Jets GM. It was indefensible considering his play last season and the plethora of options on the free agent market at right tackle this off-season. The Jets cannot cut Hunter at this point without taking a substantial hit to their cap and are desperately still looking for a starter with the season only a couple of weeks away.

You hate to have this type of instability on the offensive side of the football so close to the season.

I hope offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo is avoiding his office in the coming days…

New York Jets Defense Must Start Season On Fire

The New York Jets defense needs to take advantage of their early season opponents

The New York Jets are going to struggle offensively this season. Even if they aren’t as bad as many project them to be after a pathetic start to the pre-season, this offense isn’t built to consistently score over 20 over points even with improved play. Beyond that, they probably won’t hit their “stride” (whatever that will be this year) until the middle of the season, after all the injured receivers get in sync with Mark Sanchez, everybody becomes more comfortable with Tony Sparano’s system and the proper use of Tim Tebow is figured out.

Unfortunately the Jets schedule opens up with their most difficult five game stretch of the season, where they will face three playoff teams from last year and two divisional opponents. If they want to avoid digging themselves into a substantial early season hole, it will be up to the defense to flat out put the team on their back and win a few early season games. A closer look at the schedule, reveals that if this defense is as good as hyped they should start out very strongly.

In week one they face the Buffalo Bulls led by a mediocre quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick at home. Over the past two years, Chan Gailey’s offense is averaging 14 points per game on Rex Ryan’s defense. Buffalo made no major additions to their offense this season, while the Jets added a new pair of starting safeties and a first round defensive lineman. 14 points could very well be all the Jets can afford to give up at the rate their new offense is developing.

At first glance, week two in Pittsburgh appears to be a nightmare early season match-up. However, the Jets defense should actually match-up favorably with their offense. Pittsburgh has questions all over the offensive line, so you would think Ryan and Mike Pettine’s complicated scheme would cause some problems. Pittsburgh’s strength is going vertical with their wide receivers but the Jets are built to cover Antonio Brown and Mike Wallace with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. In their two meetings in 2010, both in Pittsburgh, Ben Roethlisberger’s offense scored 17 points both times (remember one touchdown in the AFC Championship Game was on a fumble return by Pittsburgh’s defense).

The only way Pittsburgh actually hurt the Jets defense that year was with Rashard Mendenhall who had 220 yards rushing and 2 touchdowns over the course of both games. Mendenhall won’t be on the field in week 2 this year as he recovers from an leg injury.

In week three, the Jets face a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehil and a Miami offense that is the only one in the NFL with less depth at wide receiver than their own. In week four they play San Francisco at home. The thought of their defense coming after Mark Sanchez with Wayne Hunter blocking is a nightmare but offensively Alex Smith is Alex Smith and there is no reason to think he will duplicate his consistency from last year. San Francisco improved at receiver this off-season but the Jets are still more than equipped to cover Randy Moss, Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham with their trio of cornerbacks.

Finally in week five the Jets face the Houston Texans at home. The Texans are built the way the Jets want to be. They can run the football. They can play defense and they have a vertical passing game. There is every indication that the Jets run defense will be very good this year and it better be on point in week five or Arian Foster and Ben Tate will shred them. Andre Johnson will be checked by Darrelle Revis, like he always is.

Rex Ryan believes the Jets have a top five defense in the NFL. They must be, particularly for the Jets in this early season stretch of games or the start to the season could be very ugly.