Black Spring – NFL Combine & All Star Clownery

Justin breaks down the NFL Combine and what we learned from the NBA All-Star Game

Tequila is not for the faint of heart. Neither is getting whipped with a belt about 20 times as a crowd of drunken lunatics scream for more. Both things happened in conjunction Friday night at the always classy Coyote Ugly, so my attempt to cover the start of the 2012 NFL Combine was simply reduced to me trying to put enough meat in my body that blinking felt like an Olympic exercise while I heard Mike Mayock and Bucky Brooks ramble on about Indy without Peyton, the beauty of the 3 cone drill, and the various difficulties of switching guards to tackles and back again.

Still, I carried on. The best thing about the combine is the back and forth that ex-players and analysts have about the combine being worthless, pointless, having nothing to do with football, yet glancing over the fact that the newest iteration of the hideous workout uniform combined with super HD cameras create an almost uncomfortable level of voyeurism as GM’s and coaches stare in the stands like they’re at some bizarro slaughterhouse or bull auction, scanning each player for body fat, wobbly knees, nose hair, tattoos, and for the Raiders – telekinetic ability. And when they’re done looking from afar, they bring them into a room with various astrological charts, gypsy psychics, polygraphs, Rorschach blots and Friendly’s style color ins.

That’s the process. So who WON the combine? RG3! The great hope for whatever god awful franchise he goes to. While Griffin can run, throw, run, run, and throw a deep ball pretty good, he played at BAYLOR. Baylor. You know what I know about Baylor? That Phil Taylor is from Baylor. And they play against some of the worst defenses in college football. Not the biggest challenge for a quarterback who is going against corner backs, linebackers, and defensive lineman that aren’t even being invited to the combine.

Before going further, I’ll admit I’ve developed an SEC bias when it comes to skill players. AJ Green, Julio Jones, Trent Richardson, Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Mark Ingram etc. etc. Why the bias? Because it’s been proven time and time again that the new conference of power is the SEC, and it’s not even close. The PAC 12 is great except for the fact that they have Washington, Utah, Arizona, Arizona State, and Oregon State. The Big 12 is full of “traditional” powers that have weakened substantially and the Big 10 is old power that may or may not see some sort of resurgence in the next 10 years. Go watch Michigan State vs. Alabama in their bowl game two years ago.

But does the combine even matter any more? The combine, like the NBA and NFL all star games, is slowly being taken over by player agents, as many agents for prospective first round picks advise their players not to even bother with running or throwing. There is no upside they say, except to satisfy a bunch of analysts that have absolutely no effect on that players draft status. Too much money to risk, too little incentive to perform.

So concerning the combine, what’s the counterargument against the pro day passing against the combine passing for quarterbacks specifically? Think about this. Is a quarterback prospect going to have his college players to throw to when he gets to training camp? Is said player going to tell his offensive coordinator “I’ve never really thrown back shoulder throws, so let’s just keep things simple and maybe I can work on that stuff in the next off season”? Having something that tailored to a players skill set is almost comical when you talk about a guy who is going to be a first round pick, so he sure as hell better be able to make every throw, even if it’s with a set of scrubs in a flag football game.

So the freakshow is over, and it’s time for the truly insane to come out with 4398 mock drafts, but before that, a brief note on the NBA All Star Game. I don’t care if it is a clown-show at heart, things got SERIOUS in the 4th quarter. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook made me weep tears of joy as they drained 3’s from the corner and dunked like they were in the Colosseum scene from Escape From LA. And to cap off my childlike joy Lebron James FAILED. Again. But I’ll say this, it’s the All Star Game, not the Finals. Oh, about that.

I’m still trying to come to terms with the perceived mental weakness of James coupled with the most athletic physique to ever play basketball. Maybe he will win 2 or 3 championships, but the Kobe and Jordan era is over for good, and no one will ever challenge them again, especially when the best players are on a team consisting of 3 of the top 10 players in the league that was artificially created to win a championship in the cheapest and most sacrilegious method in the history of sports. CHEATING THE SALARY CAP SYSTEM.

As I’ve said all along, Miami has no soul. So if they want to ever get to that mountain of the immortals, they better win 7, and they better start this year.

Give The Kid Some Money: A Look At The Purple People

Justin continues his look at where every NFL team currently stands, with a breakdown of the Minnesota Vikings

Justin Fritze will be breaking down where every team in the NFL currently stands for us here at TOJ, going from worst to first…continuing today with the Minnesota Vikings

Previous Articles

The NFL is the only sport that can say without pause that anyone can win on any day at any venue, home or away. Despite their inability to get anything going the entire season, there’s always some sliver of greatness in the bottom five of the league. There’s always rookies coming on (or about to come on in the next year’s draft), a strange storyline about a team that was on top and fell off (Vikings with Favre), or as with this year, it’s the anticipation of a rookie quarterback (Luck) and one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game having a pre-draft three way metaphysical battle of the psyches between past, present, and ownership.

Would Peyton help Luck? Would Peyton survive? Is Irsay trying to become the new face of the Colts? Is Luck doomed to suffer under the bloodshot eyes of Irsay?

Crawling upwards slightly from the bottom of the barrel you’ve got the Rams, who had the worst luck of any team in the NFL (11 cornerbacks RIP) and have undergone one of the most rapid declines since the Greatest Show On Turf, which can be summed up as a bad deal on the tail end of the #1 draft pick before they changed the rookie pay scale, an experiment with McDaniels that ended in complete and total failure, and the once vaunted Spags defense that really had no talent to begin with, and thus, no impact, even in the terrible NFC West.

With that, I turn attentions again to the Vikings. The Vikings I doomed for at least four years after their stunt with Favre (every year with aging quarterback means two years of failure afterwards), the smoke and mirrors Vikings, the crypt keepers, the old and the unfortunate. The Vikings to me are like a machine that never quite works right. They’re a cheap dirt bike. Half the price, less fun, and prone to throw a piston every few days. The past year has gone as such: Brett Favre nearly dies his second year at the helm, Percy Harvin has migraines that may or may not force him into early retirement, and Adrian Peterson, the greatest running back in the league, just tore an ACL and an MCL.

There’s not much I believe in when it comes to the Vikings. It’s a whirlpool of underachievement. Looking at the all important secondary, Antoine Winfield is too old to keep up with the freaks of the NFC North: Greg Jennings. Calvin Johnson. Earl Bennett? Ok that’s a stretch.

Do they want to grab Morris Claiborne and attempt to put a stop to the aerial assault of Detroit and Green Bay? He could give Harvin a spell on special teams. He also played with Patrick Peterson, who gave the Cardinals a few minutes on sports center as they went ahead and lost for what seemed like the 156th time in the past two years.

Turning to the guys in the middle, Chad Greenway is one of my favorite linebackers in the league simply for the fact that after he sacks somebody, I imagine him screaming something about the cost of the GreenWay, or something about traffic on the GreenWay, an offhand Beltway reference.

The Vikings aren’t going to trade down for a defensive lineman, so they might try and grab someone in free agency or a defensive end/outside linebacker like Whitney Mercilus in the 3rd. They’ll have Jared Allen back, and hopefully Kevin Williams survives the blade unlike Pat. Although Pat is 39 and Kevin is 31, so that move kind of made sense, especially when you look at the actual athletes on teams like the Giants or the 49ers and the general trend towards speed rushers instead of fatboys.

So why “give the kid some money”? Christian Ponder NEEDS some money. He needs some big time. Some Deion. He needs someone who can make him look good. He needs Justin Blackmon. If for no other reason than the fact that they need SOMETHING to take the pressure off Percy Harvin for the rest of his Vikings career. If Kyle Rudolph pans out as a Gronk prototype, the fact that Adrian Peterson can rip off a 94 yard run in the strong I formation should get him open on about 99% of play action bootlegs. Every linebacker bites agains the Adrian Peterson play action fake. There’s no choice when you’re dealing with that sort of vicious juggernaut with a head full of steam.

So what would Justin Blackmon mean? The second coming of Randy Moss? The Third coming of Randy Moss? Neither. Two legitimate receivers on the edge, a working man’s Gronkowski and the best running back in football. That’s what they’ll need if they want to compete in the NFC North.

So enters the Ponder detractors. Ponder doesn’t need elite talent, he needs to be a good quarterback, which he can do with a 2nd or 3rd round receiver and a bolstered offensive line. Regardless the play of Ponder, Matt Kalil will be Matt Kalil, whereas Justin Blackmon can’t be Justin Blackmon if he’s getting passes thrown at his ankles on 3rd down.

Never mind the fact that Steve Hutchinson seems to be on his way out and they may in fact start a kid from Slippery Rock. The Vikings, in essence, need to get more blue collar before they get big time.

Late round value at cornerback and defensive line could get this team into at least playoff contention. Hell an 8-8 season would be looked at as an accomplishment, and prevent Adrian Peterson from suffering the same fate as Larry Fitzgerald – a career whose potential never even came close to what it should be due to John Skelton, Matt Leinart, and Kevin Kolb’s greatest con of all time in getting $50 million for nothing. (If Larry plays his cards right this week however, and Peyton Manning ends donning the Kurt Warner 2.0 uniform, all will be forgotten.)

For pure excitement, I hope they get Blackmon and attempt to grab some lineman in free agency, because I’ve got no horse in the race, and flash is fun. Especially in Minnesota. Which may become LA.

Digesting The 2011-2012 NFL Season From A Jets Perspective

The hard digestion of the 2011-2012 NFL season from a New York Jets perspective

If you would have told most New York football fans prior to the season starting that there would be a parade marching through the city on February 7th, the majority would have had to concede that it would more likely be the Jets than the Giants walking down the Canyon of Heroes.

Giants fans might disagree with their 20/20 hindsight  but they were not an overly confident fanbase heading into the season, coming back off back to back seasons without making the playoffs and an off-season that was being questioned by most. On the other hand, the Jets were off back to back AFC Championship Game appearances and seemed to be ready to take the next step.

I have been quick to point out that the media has been exaggerating the Jets failures this past year. The talk around the team is like they went 2-14, not 8-8. Yet, let’s be honest with ourselves before the season started if somebody would have told you that –

1. The Patriots would sweep the Jets.

2. The Giants would beat the Jets propelled by a ridiculous 99 yard touchdown, that would launch their Super Bowl run.

3. The Jets would miss the playoffs thanks to losses to the Giants and the Dolphins.

4. Santonio Holmes would quit on the team in the final game.

5. Mark Sanchez would have an ugly regression to close the 2011 season.

5. The Giants and Patriots would have a rematch in the Super Bowl, with the Giants winning again.

You probably would have vomited a little in your mouth right?

It is okay to admit this past year sucked on many levels. I didn’t enjoy a second walking to work today through a sea of Justin Tuck and Brandon Jacobs jerseys, while thinking about how the hell the Jets could here.

So, the question really is what is this team going to do now?

To be clear that I am not one of these flip-flopping convenient fans, who come and go with the Jets depending on their success, I still firmly believe in Rex Ryan as a head coach. Many of his comments look stupid after this season but he has breathed life into a lifeless franchise and can coach a hell of a defense. The failures of this year will serve him well in the long run, as I believe he will be wise enough to learn from his previous mistakes and improve into a better coach. Getting punched in the mouth this past year could very well be the best thing that ever happened to him.

I will not act like I wouldn’t be excited for a healthy Peyton Manning to join this team because if it happens, I will be cautiously excited. That being said, I do not think he is going to play here and I do think Mark Sanchez is the long term answer at quarterback. I am aware that puts me in the minority but take a glance at Eli Manning and Drew Brees first three years in the NFL and tell me it is smart to throw in the towel on Sanchez at this point. I doubt he will ever be a Pro-Bowl quarterback but I don’t doubt that he can win alot of games in the NFL and with the right team can win a Super Bowl.

Mike Tannenbaum has had his ups and downs. He had a bad year last year but he has had enough good years in the past to have some kind of faith in him bouncing back. There is a need for speed on defense, coupled with upgrades at safety and linebacker. An improved right tackle and a split end are also necessities on offense. How the Jets address these needs will go a long way to determining whether they are 8-8 or 11-5 next year.

Heading into 2012, there won’t be any brash predictions for Super Bowls. There will be a knowledge that this a talented team that could cause damage if they get into the playoffs. We learned this past year, like many years before, that all you need to do is get into the tournament and anything can happen.

The King Keeps His Crown: How The Jets Can Learn From The Giants

TJ on what the New York Jets can learn from the New York Giants

As difficult as the winter months were for the Jets, enduring their own crash and locker room dramas, as the hated Patriots and “Big Brother” Giants just rolled along, Gang Green should ditch any small minded “G Men” envy, and get out the notepads instead. Rex Ryan said that he reviewed his own performance with a pen and paper this past week while vacationing in Hawaii. The Jets entire organization should do the same. Using a big part of this important break in the action, by studying how the Giants beat their AFC East rival three times in four years. Along the way to adding to more Vince Lombardi hardware to their own collection.

MAKE FINDING SPEED RUSHERS UP FRONT PRIORITY ONE

The way to defeat top five QB’s and fast break passing games in general, is NOT by drafting more cornerbacks to cover receivers as the Jets did by selecting Kyle Wilson two years back. It is by hurrying the decision making and release time of these signal callers by having speed up front. Alot of it.

Draft pass rushers on the outside. Sign them as free agents. Grow them in the basement of Florham Park. Do anything it takes. Just find them.

The Giants have now twice in the Super Bowl, and once in the regular season since 2008, slowed down the Pats passing attack by living close to Tom Brady. Doing it with tipped balls. Sacks. Pressures. Presence.

The names seem endless. Tuck. Osi. JPP. Kiwanuka. Strahan. Not one but an army of attackers who can line up anywhere and who together, allow the other seven to drop back and bolster coverage.

The concept of “rush three drop eight” helped the Jets beat the Colts and Pats in the playoffs last year, but doesn’t STRIKE THE FEAR OF GOD in these touchdown machines who line up under center. Monsters who have taken over the NFL lately. It is time for the Jets to put a scare into these guys. Like the Giants did and have for a number of years now.

As for the Giants latest run to the title, it wasn’t just the great Tom Brady who fell victim to the tsunami caused up front. Big Blue even forced perhaps the game’s best, Aaron Rodgers, to throw less and escape more, by running. This took it’s toll mentally on the Pack. The Giants got to Rodgers just enough that despite the Packers many drops during the NFC divisional round, the feel for Green Bay’s beloved QB in his own pocket went from comfort, to serious concern.

The Jets have to strive to obtain this type of potential defensively on the edge going forward. Period.

WE GET IT REX, BUT NOW BUILD THE RUSH FROM THE OUTSIDE

We spoke to Rex Ryan prior to the 2011 season and he told us that his dad Buddy taught him that defensive lines are built from the inside out. That size inside will flush QB’s outside where ends can clean up.

We don’t have the resume or pedigree to thumb our noses at theories created by the father of the 46 defense. We DO want to remind Rex and GM Mike Tannenbaum however, that it is not 1986 anymore either. QB’s play differently.

The athleticism has changed at the position.

We no longer live in an age of the “five step drop and plant the feet” quarterback. Most can throw on the run out of designed rollouts anyhow. It is forcing receiver routes that are free to roam after five yards to be cut off, that has to be the top priority for defensive units nowadays.

Become ultra fast up front. Crush and close pockets quickly. Make receivers stop and turn back to the ball.

SOLID QB PLAY, WITH A GREAT DEFENSE CAN DO THE TRICK

Second, is the dual need of quality QB play and the fear of owning threats downfield on offense. We all remember how Mark Sanchez struggled this season. Yet how many remember the struggles that elite Eli Manning had in HIS first three seasons? Eli has since calmed down and settled in to becoming one of the best. For Sanchez, the jury is still out, yet patience and understanding that it doesn’t happen out the gates for all QB’s on the Jets part, will be necessary.

No matter how IMPATIENT we as a society, and collection of fan bases who expect instant success, have become.

It took time for the younger Manning brother to become the player he is. Now it is the Jets turn. Any discussion by Jets brass regarding the recent notion of ditching Sanchez, should include a serious review of how and why Eli outgrew his own growing pains .

For the Jets to become a contender year in year out, the front four has to pressure the quarterback. In addition, Sanchez will have to be more than a game manager. The Niners Alex Smith became that type late in 2011 and can be the example for the future upside of Sanchez. A player who even if he never becomes a Canton bound type, has to deliver throws accurately and on time. Has to be able to do the little things well consistently.

Whether the club feels he can or cannot become that player at a high level, is how he must be how he is judged this offseason. Taking into account not just the 8-8 disaster but his prior body of work as well.

DONT BE SCARED OFF FROM OPENING IT UP BECAUSE OF 2011

The Jets 2012 receiving corps must still look to help Sanchez by providing the threat to stretch the field too. Even if they haven’t proven to be as productive as the current Giants crew of Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham are. The new NFL calls for the ability to score points quickly at times.

To their credit, the Jets recognized this need heading into 2011 and actually tried to force feed a downfield attack early on. The added concept had little time to mesh new faces with old ones and as a whole, never got on the same page. They shouldn’t abandon this extension of the playbook entirely simply because it failed to work out this time around.

A return to the “Ground and Pound” under new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano without some semblance of the ability to open it up at all, will not work in a modern day NFL. One that allows receivers to get open and QB’s to often go untouched.The model of balance, efficiency, and mild potency, just has to be executed better. With mutual trust between the players. Which brings up chemistry.

A RETURN TO TOGETHERNESS

The Super Bowl champion Giants were “All In.” The 2009 and 2010 Jets were unified as well. A return to that mindset is essential for the Jets, in overcoming the adversity that a long grinding NFL season carries along with it. Choices made as to who to keep, release, and acquire can’t be graded solely by projected production and numbers, but with “team player” included as a category as well.

This task will be left up to Ryan and Tannenbaum, who must establish ground rules that include consequences for “conduct detrimental to the team.” Maybe the Jets guidelines will always be looser than they are for the Giants or Bill Belichick’s tight lipped troops, but there HAVE TO BE SOME.

PLAYERS MUST PITCH IN: MANGOLD AND REVIS?

Leadership from certain players will also play a big part in aiding Ryan’s attempt to get everyone on the same page. If Rex’s Jets truly choose to go without the ceremonial “captains” they will still need de facto ones.

Often times Justin Tuck speaks eloquently on behalf of his club’s vision often times. Manning does as well. Never throwing a teammate under the bus while doing so. Even if the Jets don’t copy the Giants “leadership council” template that Tom Coughlin has invented for his championship team, it is time for a few “go to” guys to make themselves more available vocally. In a bigger way than they have done in prior years.

Inside and outside of the locker room.

We see Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis, two perennial All Pros, as guys who could become the daily quotable ones. Stars who can provide the public with the temperature taking on behalf of the rest of the team. After all, their play has warranted them the right to take on this important role in setting the big picture tone.

In this scenario, others could then fall in line behind them. Follow their lead. Echo their sentiments which to date, have never included any finger pointing. Do this for now. Until a rhythm is established for what it takes to have each others backs in good times and bad. New leaders can develop based off of this pair’s lead.

Mark Sanchez will have to become part of THAT group in the near future. His position on the field requires it. The “Sanchise” may need a few positive performances in order to regain confidence and a belief in him by his own teammates first. Before this added duty is asked of him.

At this point, Mangold and Revis should be the firestarters.

FORGET ABOUT WHO OWNS NEW YORK CITY

The keys are clear, yet only come after putting an end to the nonsense of caring about who owns the Big Apple. Who cares? There are no trophies awarded to the city’s best, only the league’s best.

Prioritizing a defensive gameplan that chases quarterbacks with the front four, with a QB who must do more than just manage a game, aided by receivers who are threats, on a team that sticks together, is where to start.

TRYING TO BE “KINGS OF NEW YORK” HURT JETS IN WEEK 16

Congratulating the Giants as classy Woody Johnson did on Sunday night was a solid initial step in moving away from a local rivalry that may sell tickets, but derails the vision in “sideshow” like ways. Respecting what good teams like the Giants do well while aiming to set in place solid footing in order to achieve one’s own high standard of consistency, is the path of least resistance. Allowing time for more focus on the important things. Such as clarity.

The idea of 59 pass attempts, the amount of tries the Jets had through the air against the pass rushing monsters on the Giants, was not borne out of a calm thought process. Self inflicted distractions that came from the Jets trying to win the “Battle for New York” played a lethal part in the Jets devastating 29-14 Christmas Eve day loss. A defeat that essentially ended Gang Green’s season, only to kickstart the Giants glory ride in the process.

RESPECT, RECOGNIZE, IDENTIFY, THEN YOU CAN IMPROVE

Recognizing the core principles that helped the Giants to beat New England and slow down the unstoppable Rodgers along the way in 2012, would provide a longer shelf life of a foundation, than goals of “winning the day” in the press can ever do.

The Jets are on the map now. It’s time to quit reminding people of that, and time to start battening down the hatches instead. The 2012 season is underway. Any “Peyton Manning” talk, as well as all other big personnel decisions that are to come, have to be diagnosed under the proper lens and microscope.

Great job Giants. Winning six straight games with your backs against the wall, by capitalizing on opponents mistakes, while getting the job done on long drives after trailing late in games.

Jets, it is now your turn, to assess and identify areas that hopefully only stunted the growth that took place over the first two years of the Ryan era. An exciting time for the men in Green and White,  that can be improved upon as long as what happened in 2011 is reviewed by the club with clear minds.

Not emotional ones.

TOJ Super Bowl’s Prediction – Be Worried Giants Fans

TOJ with his prediction for the Super Bowl

Considering my track record on predictions this year, I am glad this will be my final one for awhile.

The Super Bowl? I started the two weeks ago firmly behind the notion of rooting for the Giants. Now after two weeks of listening to them run their mouths and predict parades and victories, while getting in plenty of cheap shots at the Jets…it hasn’t been quite so easy.

Hey, I really get why people hate Rex Ryan and the Jets. I always have. It is annoying to hear so much chatter from a team, when it isn’t your own.

It seems to me that everybody loves the Giants this week and they are overconfident. In a rational world, they should come out and take one on the chin from the Patriots led by Brady and Belichick. But this season hasn’t been a rational one for Jets fans, as everything that could go wrong has went wrong starting with the beating they took in Philadelphia and culminating with Giants/Patriots Championship Game victories aided by lucky special teams plays.

I have come to accept that I won’t be happy with the result either way and as a mature adult, I am going to still run my mouth throughout the game to whichever team is losing or struggling at the particular time and then talk smack to whatever fan base loses.

My prediction? Considering how this season I went, I bet today is the greatest game ever played and the Giants win on a hail mary when four Patriots defenders run into each other and the ball shoots up in the air and magically lands in Henry Hynoski’s hands…or something like that.

Follow #BitterJetFan on Twitter all day. See you on the other side.

Justin’s Super Bowl Prediction – A Fate Worse Than Hell

Justin with his Super Bowl prediction

I’m gonna make this simple. I was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, eventually moving to Enfield, Connecticut and finally Long Island. To say I don’t have moral/geographic/psychological dilemmas regarding the HellBowl would be a lie. So why do I see the Patriots losing 28-21 and me being rather upset about it?

As a starting point, there’s nothing quite like the Giants defensive line in the league. They make EVERY defensive end in the league look fat and slow. They’re too fast for tackles and guards to try and keep up with without eventually getting caught for holding, and the Giants have finally found a balance between a two back running attack (with a fullback!), tight end passes off the play action to the “faster than you think” Jake Ballard, and the old school SMU style “run and shoot” passing between 3 or 4 receivers.

What sets the passing game apart is that unlike the way the Patriots use Wes Welker, Victor Cruz is occasionally seen catching a comeback route 25 yards down the field, about 10 yards too far for a prototypical slot guy. Then again, Kevin Gilbride’s offense, once derided by Buddy Ryan as the “chuck and duck”, gives receivers multiple options on every route they run, the results of which being Victor Cruz breaking the Giants receiving yards record, yet somehow missing the Pro Bowl.

He had a bigger impact than almost every receiver in the league, and probably won them at least 2 games singlehandedly. But why would I be upset about the Patriots losing? Because the Giants have slowly taken on the persona of the 2010 Jets right before they played the Patriots. The Jets won that game, but they got soft before the Steelers and were mentally worn out. Still, there’s some part of me that thinks that the Giants aren’t going to be able to keep up this oracle style of fearless prediction. It’s not that the Giants aren’t talented enough to do it, it’s the fact that I feel like Tom Brady has some very pissed off part of him that gets channeled into film study, practice, and more film study.

Brady’s going to know every single defensive scenario the Giants throw at him, and as I predicted very late last night, he’s going to try and wear that Nascar package down to the point where they’re too tired to keep going, and then drop one right up the middle to Woodhead for 10 yards on 3rd down, right after which he will hurry to the line and attempt to get something to Welker over the middle before handing off to Hernandez as Nate Solder becomes a blocking tight end.

He’ll do things like this until they try and substitute, and then beat whoever gets caught out of position, akin to both Jet games this year, when Brady decided to run it down the Jets throat while Rex Ryan has a slow meltdown on the sidelines, watching Brady play Jets football against his own defense that seemed to be falling apart at the seams as Brady firmly planted foot on throat.

Again, why would I be upset at a Giants Super Bowl victory? Because from here on out, the Giants will proclaim that the new MetLife stadium is theirs. Which it will be, and will be until the end of time. There’s no argument against it for at least 4 years. They demolished the Jets on the field they share, went ahead and blew out Aaron Rodgers and then happened to beat the REAL best defense in the league before defeating for the 2nd time, Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. There’s no argument against that. They couldn’t keep the Patriots out of the Superbowl because they are in the opposing conference, but they already beat the PERFECT Patriots team in the SuperBowl in front of the world, beat them on the road in the regular season, and could potentially DO IT AGAIN IN FRONT OF THE WORLD.

If the Jets ever thought they could “own the Patriots”, nothing short of sweeping them next year, and a defeat in the AFC Championship could even scratch the surface of what the Giants have already done.

That’s what Jet fans are going to have to live with for the rest of their lives. They had their chances and couldn’t get it done. Which is already going to create the inner dialogue about the “great” Rex Ryan defense, whose defensive front can’t even hold a candle to the Giants, the running game of the Jets, which the Giants walked all over, and the general modus operandi of the entire organization. Bringing in veterans, stars, rejects, draft busts, attempting to create some sort of flash and dash roster that’s supposed to steamroll the AFC.

Meanwhile, the Giants have been hitting on almost all of their draft picks, getting huge trade return value by dumping guys like Steve Smith, Kevin Boss and Rich Seubert while acquiring Antrel Rolle, the solidifying force of the secondary. That said, I still say the Patriots defense is going to get walked on by Eli Manning. They’re going to run away from Wilfork, Eli is going to keep everything calm and collected while throwing four touchdowns by the start of the 4th quarter. Then, they will run the ball and play action their way to a couple of punts as Brady goes to throw 2 game destroying interceptions as Rob Gronkowski hobbles towards the sideline.

So would I pick the Patriots with a healthy Gronkowski? Of course. Exact same score flipped. That’s the worth of Rob Gronkowski. One touchdown over the seam. But he’s got a high ankle sprain, and things are looking grim for someone who has to make cuts on post routes and attempt to run block against guys like Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka.
There will be no winner tomorrow. Not for anyone with a Jets jersey somewhere in the closet.

What New York Jets Fans Should Be Rooting For Sunday

A list of what New York Jets fans should be rooting for on Sunday

The Super Bowl is just about here. As expected, it hasn’t been the greatest two weeks to be a New York Jets fan with both the Patriots and Giants getting plenty of shots in on our team while they are down. It isn’t easy to root for the Giants and it isn’t easy to root for the Patriots. There is nothing wrong with rooting for neither but here are a few things for Jets fans to root for on Sunday –

1. A huge mistake from Steve Weatherford, who thinks he has parlayed one decent season into being a media celebrity who has the right to trash one of the league’s greatest special teams coaches. Hey Weatherford, you are a punter. I don’t care if you win a Super Bowl, you are a freakin’ punter. Westhoff’s impact on the game will still outweigh yours tenfold. Jets fans should be rooting for an untimely shank, a dropped snap, or a self-inspired fake on 4th and 18.

2. Antrel Rolle and Brandon Jacobs eating their Rex Ryan sized words after a poor performance and a loss this Sunday.

3. Tom Brady having an awful performance, continuing his streak of playoff mediocrity since 2007.

4. Most importantly, Curtis Martin getting into the Hall of Fame this Saturday night (I know it isn’t on Sunday but whatever).

5. No PepsiMax commercials featuring Rex Ryan or Mark Sanchez.

6. The most important thing to root for and maybe you disagree with this, but a blowout one way or the other. At least if there is a blowout, you have a little ammunition for the rival fanbase next year. At least let’s hope to avoid an epically, amazing game that one of the team wins on one of the luckiest plays imaginable.

Free agency and the draft, hurry up!

New York Jets: Is Shonn Greene A Lead Back?

TOJ questions whether the Jets can continue to rely on Shonn Greene as a lead bac

I have been consistent in my support of Shonn Greene as the New York Jets lead back since he burst on the scene midway through the 2009 season. Unfortunately, after watching him finally spend a full season in that coveted lead back role it is hard to believe that the Jets offense doesn’t need to add another back to take co-ownership or full ownership of that job.

His stat line of 253 carries, 1,054 yards, and 6 touchdowns is somewhat disappointing enough. However, a closer look at his stats from Pro Football Focus paints a clearer picture of Greene’s shortcomings in 2011. They have something called an “elusive rating” which breaks down like this –

“We combine a runner’s carries and receptions to give a total ball handling opportunities figure.  We then combine the number of missed tackles that player forced against both the run and the pass to get a total missed tackles forced figure, which is then divided by the ball-handling opportunities.  This figure then gets multiplied by a player’s yards after contact per carry average (*100) to get the final Elusive Rating.  In essence the rating is a combination of how often players force missed tackles and how much yardage they generate after contact on a per carry basis.”

Greene ranked 47th in this category among halfbacks in the 2011 season and finished 24th in rushing missed tackles total. If you watched every Jets snap this season, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. I am aware of the struggles on the Jets offensive line but the bottom line is Greene simply doesn’t make enough people miss and doesn’t make enough big plays. His longest run since the 2009 playoffs is for 31 yards. He only had 4 runs of 20 yards or more this past season.

Greene is a good, not great player who some offenses could get away with being their lead back. Not this offense. Michael Lombardi made a great point the other day when discussing the Jets in 2012

“If they want Mark Sanchez to be a great quarterback, they need to have a blue-chip running back around him. If they want to be ground and pound, then you can’t be ground and pound and [tight end] Dustin Keller can’t block anybody. It’s tough to be ground and pound when everybody knows the tight end isn’t going to block anyone. So now you have to substitute to get the blocking tight end in. And, oh yeah, by the way we’re going to run now that [Matthew] Mulligan is in the game. Why don’t you just put up a red flag that you’re going to run it? I think they need to change their roster to suit that [style]. I don’t think Shonn Greene is the guy to be the blue-chip running back.”

This argument also supports potentially moving Dustin Keller. Yet focusing on running back, if the Jets want to have a dominant running game to support Sanchez, they are going to need more at running back than Greene, Joe McKnight, and Bilal Powell.

Getting a “blue-chip” player isn’t going to be an easy process. In the draft, they’d have to move up to acquire Trent Richardson. In free agency, they would have to put a mammoth offer together to acquire a franchised Matt Forte in a trade. They could also explore engaging other teams who have a surplus at running back (Carolina, New Orleans, Houston to name a few) but teams don’t just give away big time backs, it is going to cost the Jets. Mike Tannenbaum has got creative in the past and he may have to do it again.

A cheaper scenario would be the Jets adding a running back in the middle rounds and then adding a mid-level free agent, maybe a Ryan Grant or Tashard Choice. You then have the new additions compete with the current backs on the roster and find the best committee approach possible.

When you are a “Ground and Pound” team, 22nd in rushing yards per game doesn’t cut it.

St. Louis Rams: A Case Study

Justin continues his breakdown of the current state of every NFL team, continuing today with the St. Louis Rams

Justin Fritze will be breaking down where every team in the NFL currently stands for us here at TOJ, going from worst to first…continuing today with the St. Louis Rams –

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There is a strange three headed beast. It begins with the mustache of Jeff Fisher, surrounded by his increasingly “party first” mullet. It wears black sunglasses, even at night, and it is very predictable in it’s forward motion.

We all know Jeff Fisher was a defensive minded coach, so him picking up a sadistic defensive coordinator has made his rebirth in St. Louis a pretty predictable style of football. Turnovers, quarterback sacks, run the ball, short passing. Kill the clock. Antithesis of the Greatest Show On Turf.

One simple problem. There are no Pro Bowlers at defensive line or linebacker (although Fred Long made the 2008 All Pro team), helped out by a defensive back roster including the 37 year old Al Harris and the 31 year old Quintin Mikell. Add to this the fact that 11 cornerbacks were on IR at some point last season. How the hell do you explain that?

Now, the third head of that beast, Brian “the slant” Schottenheimer, is coming to town off a relatively soul crushing end to his tenure with the Jets. This makes sense to get picked up by Fisher. Why? Because as soon as Brian starts screwing up, Jeff is gonna take over the play calling and remind him, in that gravelly baritone “you have no f*cking clue what you’re doing Brian, and I still owe this kid Bradford $32 million, so if you’ll kindly stick to ruining one quarterbacks career I’m gonna take this thing over from here on out”. Then he will win coach of the year on route to the playoffs.

If the offensive experiment works then Schottenheimer will get his shot at a head coaching opportunity next year, when of course five of the 2012 season’s coaches have been fired. (Making bets on someone’s livelihood is cruel and mean, but this is football, and football is full of clowns.)
But how would it work? Well there’s Steven Jackson, who can bail Bradford out of most 3rd and short situations, a potential monster if they draft Matt Kalil at offensive tackle, or if they decide to go receiver (Kendall Wright?) in the second round, they’ll have at least three guys who can run and catch, with serious upside (Pettis 23, Salas 24, Kendricks 23), even if they completely fail on the draft pick.

THE MAD SLANTER

This is where the offense vs. defense argument comes into play. If Williams gets his way, they will take Morris Claiborne in the first round, disregarding the fact that all logical persons see Kalil as a can’t miss pick who for the next 10 years will appear in multiple Pro Bowls. But the Rams need to make a play to grab every young defensive free agent they can, because they’re going to play the 49ers twice, Arizona twice, and a Seahawks team that may in fact yield a legitimate starting roster for the first time in 5 years. Stealing guys like Cliff Avril and Anthony Spencer could help out with line depth, but they need something else. Terrell Thomas?

So how does Schottenheimer step in from all this obsessus defensus and put his foot down? He loads up the NFL.com page of the Rams, and points to the following statistics: Points (32nd) Yards (31st) Passing Yards (30th) Rush Yards (23rd). BOOM. Win one for Schotty. There are 32 teams in the NFL.

This team, with a decent draft (can’t screw it up from the 2 spot THAT bad) and a few free agent pickups, can actually COMPETE for the NFC West next year. Anyone can compete in the NFC West. If Gregg Williams carries a few tricks over from the Saints, there’s not any elite quarterbacks in their division that are going to put up numbers.

There is one thing to remember: The Rams play some playoff teams next year, and Gregg Williams, regardless of his skills, is now on the wrong side of 5,400 yards passing.

Down With The Old: Breaking Down The Indianpolis Colts

Justin begins his look around the NFL with a breakdown of where the Indianpolis Colts currently stand

Justin Fritze will be breaking down where every team in the NFL currently stands for us here at TOJ, going from worst to first…starting out today with the Indianpolis Colts.

Peyton Manning is not coming back to the Colts. Counterargument? Peyton Manning is coming back to the Colts. No? Without the GM tandem of the Polians, without the strength and conditioning coach that was his best lifeline to the franchise this season, without the offensive coordinator who built the Manning system, and without the head coach who did a half decent job of keeping the Colts in the playoffs under his tenure.

It’s ok Colt fans. Things get worse from here. Kerry Collins? Yeah sorry he’s gone too. I know a few people went out, got drunk, and purchased a Collins jersey somewhere around week 1, or if they are true riders of the ‘shoe, bought it as soon as he signed with the Colts for a cool $4 million. The Dutch Boy Painter? If the Colts don’t get rid of him, then Grigson and his purported “close door analysis of the roster” must have gone horribly awry, because that dude is probably hovering somewhere around bottom 5 quarterbacks that had actual playing time in the 2011 NFL season.

With a passer rating of 60.6, expect Painter to end up on the Jets to give Sanchez a challenge, or try and steal the thunder from Kevin Kolb out in Arizona. Most likely, he sneaks around the IFL throwing touchdown tosses to TO while one of them has a serious reassessment of where life led them. Even Dan Orlovsky isn’t safe, which could lead to a very strange testing of free agent quarterback waters. Possible scenarios: Vince Young backing up Andrew Luck, Jason Campbell backing up Andrew Luck, or even Donovan Mcnabb backing up Andrew Luck.

All in all, it’s not going to be pretty for anyone who has a serious issue with “the Luck” starting out of the gate. According to certain statistics, Joseph Addai did not have a good year. Well I’m not a sports scientist, but I have a brief theory on that. No Peyton Manning, no deep threat, no passing game, no reason to put less than 8 in the box. That means that Joseph Addai was essentially running into a wall of defensive lineman, linebackers, and probably the occasional safety. You can literally hear Addai telling himself how much he hates his life without Peyton, as he utters things like “come back 18”, “Peyton!”, and “how long lord!” right before hitting the hole.

He eventually grew silent altogether when running from the I formation, demanding to his running backs coach that Jacob Tamme should be getting the worst of it at fullback, because fullbacks deserve pain. Which leads us to Donald Brown, who has the sweetest picture onWikipedia that screams “that’s right, I’m PEYTON MANNING’s new running back!”.

I wish I could talk to him now, because in his brief tenure with the Colts he will have had brief time to suckle at the Manning teat, while continuing his career with what could possibly be the greatest quarterback of his generation. Delone Carter? 4th round pick out of Syracuse? Nobody Cares, you will only be used barring serious injury to Addai or Brown.

Ah the receiving core! I’m quite certain Reggie Wayne had about three nervous breakdowns mid game this year, one of which was during the realization that Kerry Collins was throwing him the ball, one when he realized he might have to live with Curtis Painter as his starter, and one when it finally set in that out of 3 quarterbacks, Dan Orlovsky was the best of the bunch. There’s no coming to terms with that, and Wayne’s statement that he wants to stay in Indy was quickly redacted once he realized his head coach and his offensive coordinator, meaning Peyton Manning, would not be coming back.

He will fit in somewhere desperate, like the Browns or the Redskins, and if Peyton does something truly strange like go to Arizona or Seattle, he’ll follow. You see, Reggie Wayne needs a good quarterback to live. He has 5 pro bowls, and 3 all pro seasons, and not one of them was for someone other than Peyton Manning. But again, I come to the defense of Colts fans, as I remind you that you have Anthony Gonzalez, 1st rounder out of Ohio State to help right the ship! Too soon? OK, take Pierre Garcon and stop calling me “Tim from Indy”.

Dallas Clark is in a strange position. He once won tight end of the year. Seeing as how Luck will eventually create his own system akin to Peyton, a tight end is very friendly to Luck, but with great new quarterback usually follows great rookie tight end. Coby Fleener, with the haircut of a 12 year old goth core fan (look at his Stanford bio pic), is already being predicted as a second round pick for the Colts, which will no doubt end Clark’s career as a Colt. You know, because he just happened to play at STANFORD. If Irsay is salting the earth, a good bit is going to Peyton’s core guys. I can see the Tamme/Fleener duo working, but then again I can also see Dallas Clark opening up a rodeo bar and making $345,000 off of Peyton memorabilia if he decides to retire.

Offensive line? NO PROBLEM. Dump sad sack Saturday and let Andrew Luck take snaps from either Peter Konz or Mike Brewster. That’s about the same in terms of blue collar name/average dude persona. Let Anthony Castonzo find out if he really deserved a 1st round pick, and if they don’t draft any offensive line help, there’s probably a few people they could grab in the off season, seeing as how the Patriots and Ravens assembled a ridiculous depth of offensive lineman from rejects and castoffs of other teams. Note to Ben Ijalana, earn that 2nd round draft pick! Don’t pull a Ducasse and ruin it for all the small schools.

Chuck Pagano is going to coach the Colts. That’s right, defensive “guru  Chuck Pagano is going to coach the Colts. Wonder if Tony Dungy had a hand in that one.

With that in mind, a brief look at the defense. I originally thought that Robert Mathis was going to be a goner, but if Pagano is going to be there, why not keep your best two defensive ends and try and build it up through some 3rd, 4th and 5th round draft picks? Jerry Hughes has one last shot to make it, especially if he’s going to be playing under a coach that spent 75% of his coaching career on the defensive side of the ball. If they use a 3-4, Hughes could be an asset in the sub package, or nickel/dime situations, while retaining a role as a starter if he switches to OLB full time. 3 legitimate speed rushers could wreak havoc if they get as exotic as the Ravens did this past year.

As far as linebackers go, Ernie Sims and Pat the Jackhammer Angerer seem to be the only ones safe. There’s going to be plenty of late round linebackers, and if they swing it right they could even trade down from their second round pick to grab one in the 3rd round. With this much changeover as far as defensive coordinators throughout the league, linebackers will be cut and signed at a pace even the hardcore insiders won’t be able to comprehend. Just keep Zach Brown in mind on draft day. It could be the first power move of Pagano’s tenure.

Seeing as how Chuck Pagano specialized in defensive backs, Antoine Bethea is likely to take over the mantle as free wheeler like Ed Reed did in Baltimore. Letting Bethea roam is probably the best option, as he is the only one who seems to have the “leader” status in the defensive backfield. What Colt fans can look forward to is the continuous saga of Bob Sanders finally being over, and getting Melvin Bullitt back as the other half to the safety tandem. One more solid corner and this defense can be in the op half in the AFC in no time at all.

With two defensive backs drafted in last years draft in the 5th and 6th, look for the Colts to throw a few 1-5-5 packages out there, or even some packages with 6 defensive backs in third down situations. This is Pagano’s team now. There will be no more debate as to if Pagano made the Ravens defense good or if the pieces made the job easy. The Colts failed on all fronts last year, and now we’ll see if the new Colts defense can compete.