Preliminary Thoughts: Jets vs. Dallas

The New York Jets will open their 2011 regular schedule season this Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys. It will be an emotional night as the game falls on the ten year anniversary of September 11th, and the team plans to honor the event appropriately.

There is no shortage of subplots surrounding the match-up. The Ryan brothers will be facing off, as Rex’s brother, Rob is now the defensive coordinator for the Cowboys. Their father is delaying cancer surgery to watch the game. Outside of the Ryans, both rosters feature a healthy collection of big name players who provide plenty of star power to this game. Most notably, a high octane Dallas offense will face off against the Jets defense, which projects to be one of the league’s top units.

My initial impression is that I like this match-up for the Jets. There is going to be tremendous energy in the building and I think this is a game for them to set the tempo this year that they will be a difficult team to beat at home. The Cowboys feature plenty of names but were a 6-10 team last year and are an inferior football team to the Jets.

On offense, the Jets should be able to both run the football and attack down the field. The Cowboys starting corners, Terrence Newman and Michael Jenkins are both banged up. Newman has been out since August 4th with a groin injury. Jenkins has been dealing with a shoulder issue the past month. It remains to be seen if either will play, which could lead to substantial time for Orlando Scandrick and Bryan McCann. Beyond that, their safety duo of Abram Elam and Gerald Sensabaugh are vulnerable in coverage, which could lead to a big day for Dustin Keller. It is imperative that Brian Schottenheimer and Mark Sanchez are aggressive early and often. This is the type of game Sanchez could throw for 250 yards or more. DeMarcus Ware is always a handful in the pass rush but the Jets have D’Brickashaw Ferguson on one side and will likely provide consistent help to Wayne Hunter if Ware is matched up on him.

On defense, Dallas has a very legit top three pass catching options in Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, and Jason Witten. I would expect Darrelle Revis to see time on all three of them, but primarily on Austin. The Jets would be wise to roll safety help to Antonio Cromartie in the situations that he is singled up with Bryant. Witten is exactly the type of tight end who gave the Jets problems last year and it will be interesting to see if they have improved in the area of defending the tight end. Felix Jones is a home run threat at running back, so the Jets must keep contain and monitor him as a pass catching option out of the backfield.

Tony Romo is returning from injury after missing the bulk of last season and I am sure Rex Ryan will be throwing the kitchen sink of blitzes at him. While he has the ability to make plays outside of the pocket, the Jets should be able to force him into a few mistakes as he shakes off the rust.

The Jets are expecting to have all their starters and key reserves available for this game.

New York Jets Offense Raising Concerns

The Jets failure to move the ball consistently Monday against the Giants, a crosstown rival that always owns a solid front four, have some concerned that the Jets will not become a unit poised to be more efficient and higher scoring in 2011. However in viewing the entire body of work so far, one can also make a case that the Jets are where most teams are at this point: still working out the kinks while showing brief flashes of production. A measure of concern that these Jets won’t be much different from the 2010 Jets on offense, a unit that had serious problems moving the ball at times, is understandable. It is too early however for widespread panic. There have been some bright spots.

Feature running back Shonn Greene’s two game rushing totals (he missed the Bengals game due to a skin infection) add up to 16 carries for 74 yards. A better than four yards per carry clip.

Newly acquired star, 6’4 WR Plaxico Burress, was silenced against his former team Monday, but gave Jets fans some hope that the club’s sagging red zone numbers will climb thanks to his performance against the Bengals, one that included a pretty diving touchdown catch in the rain.

Third year quarterback Mark Sanchez threw three TDs in three games, was 26-43 on pass attempts, with no interceptions and one fumble. Sanchez still needs to find a way to make Holmes and Burress serious threats. Sanchez must also make TE Dustin Keller a go to safety valve in the very least. Nonetheless, his prioritizing of ball security, a major key for a team that relies heavily on their top five defense, appear to be heading in the right direction.

As for the poor showing against Big Blue, Sanchez noted after the game Monday that it is always harder during the preseason when gameplans are not part of the equation. Add to that the myriad of changes made at wide receiver with limited offseason time together due to the NFL lockout and one could find it reasonable to cut the group some slack for now.

Let’s also remember that the biggest goal of any preseason, for any club, is to come out of it healthy. Aside from an ankle injury that may sideline FB John Connor in week one, the Jets offense is healthy and ready to go. It is true that the offense has to improve. Yet with practically all of the pieces healthy and in place however, the Jets thankfully have the opportunity to grow into a unit that can make life easier for the defense.

It hasn’t all been bad for the Jets offense over these three games. The Jets have had some pre-season moments that would make you believe that the potential is there for them to grow into a more functional offense than they were last season. For Sanchez and company in 2011, August simply has to one day be looked back upon as the starting point, not the template.

New York Jets: Flight 1017 Experiencing Delays

After Hurricane Irene rocked the east coast this weekend, it was inevitable that flights would be delayed and cancelled.  But under clear skies Monday night, it was disappointing that Flight 1017 couldn’t get off the ground in New Jersey.

“Flight 1017” of course, is how Plaxico Burress referred to himself and Santonio Holmes in this Tweet yesterday, prior to the Jets’ pre-season game against the Giants in the first inaugural Snoopy Bowl.

The possibilities were certainly there for the Jets to get into a rhythm in the passing game against a less-than-convincing Giants secondary.  The third pre-season game is always dubbed the “most important” of the four meaningless tilts because the starting units usually play more than half of the game, and it does constitute a dress rehearsal for Week 1, of sorts.  So as the Jets have gone through training camp, promising to become a more well-rounded offense with the ability to air the ball out as well as “ground and pound”, fans were hoping for some empirical evidence to support those claims.

What they received instead, was just another day at the office from Brian Schottenheimer and the Jets’ offense.

Now, I realize that it is a tad absurd to criticize Schottenheimer on August 30th, 12 days before the beginning of meaningful football.  But what happened last night is something that Jets fans have seen far too often during Schottenheimer’s five-plus seasons as offensive coordinator: an offense that needed four plays to – barely – get a first down on two occasions; painfully predictable play-calling in all scenarios; a passing offense characterized by poor spacing and bad timing between the quarterback and receivers; zero use of a very talented tight-end.

What makes this so frustrating for Jets fans of course, is the personnel: a gifted, competitive young quarterback surrounded by excellent receivers, supported – often led – by a powerful running game.  Sounds like a recipe for success, and yet, this unit had three games last year in which it did not score a touchdown.

The truth is this: the NFL is a league where it has become increasingly easy to throw the ball.  Last season, 12 quarterbacks threw for more than 3,500 yards, with five throwing for 4,000 or more.  Yet the Jets, even with their plethora of talent on the outside and their match-up nightmare tight end Dustin Keller on the inside (joined this year by Derrick Mason), have seemed to find ways to make the opposite look true.  Receivers don’t get the one-on-one match-ups where they should feast.  Dustin Keller runs the same button-hook patterns and out-routes, never anything down the seam challenging the soft space between the linebackers and safeties.  Sanchez often checks down too quickly (often to Shonn Greene, who can’t catch), rather than going to his third progression on a passing play, despite having a rock-solid offensive line in front of him.

Yes, Santonio Holmes scored a touchdown last night, on the receiving end of Sanchez’s best throw of the night: a 17 yard rocket into a tight space.  On the flip side, Plaxico Burress was held without a catch.

Let’s hope that when the curtain rises, the show doesn’t look like the dress rehearsal.

End Of The World: Jets vs. Giants Preview & Predictions

Considering New York City has already dealt with an earthquake this week and will now be dealing with a hurricane of massive proportions this weekend, this could be an end of the world type preview. The game has been moved until 7 PM Monday night as the Jets will take the day off today. They will also now have to deal with only two days to prepare for their pre-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles, which should be okay since the starters will barely play.

However, we are going to see plenty of both team’s starters on Monday, as they are expected to go well into the second half. The Giants are banged up in the secondary and have some questions at linebacker, yet their elite pass rush will provide a great test for the Jets offensive line, now finally fully healthy and playing together. Mark Sanchez needs to be aggressive if the Giants want to come after him and look to pick on their corners, as Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason, should all have favorable match-ups. The Giants have also traditionally had trouble covering backs out of the backfield, so don’t be surprised to see LaDainian Tomlinson and Joe McKnight targeted often.

On defense, Rex Ryan won’t hesitate to be aggressive, which will leave plenty of one on one match-ups for Eli Manning. Darrelle Revis versus Hakeem Nicks will be fun to watch, along with the Giants attempting to run the ball against the Jets stout front seven. I doubt we will see a hit that will top this but I do think the Jets can build some momentum heading into the regular season by having a strong performance against a quality offense.

Six Pack Of Predictions

1.Plaxico Burress is going to score a touchdown. As silly as it sounds, this the kind of the thing that Rex Ryan is going to push for in a pre-season game just to piss off the Giants. He will be in Brian Schottenheimer’s ear when they get into the red-zone to give him a fade ball or a slant.

2. The Jets starting defense is going to force at least one turnover. Yet, on the the flip side Mark Sanchez is going to commit his first turnover of the pre-season. Let him get it out of his system before the regular season starts.

3. Aaron Maybin will get work with the first unit in a few pass rushing situations, as the coaching staff will want to see if he can actually be a factor this year. His speed is hard to find but you have to worry about his lack of size.

4. Shonn Greene is going to get at least 10 carries as the Jets look to assert their running game after a poor performance against the Cincinnati Bengals. Joe McKnight will also get a few reps with the starting offense.

5. The starting offensive line is going to rise to the occasion against the Giants pass rush and keep Mark Sanchez clean for the bulk of the night. I’d be surprised if he was sacked more than once.

6. Greg McElroy is going to put together another strong performance, leading to questions if he should actually be the backup instead of Mark Brunell.

Jets vs. Giants: Preliminary Trash Talk

Justin Tuck – “It will always be Giants Stadium.”

Santonio Holmes – “It’s the New Meadowlands, home of the New York Jets.”

I don’t expect the trash talk to escalate too much more this week for the Jets/Giants pre-season game, considering the two teams will meet in the regular season. Let’s not forget some of the shots Rex Ryan fired in the off-season –

It seems clear that right now we are the better team and we are going to remain the better team for the next 10 years. Whether you like it or not, those are the facts, and that’s what is going to happen…We are going to take over the town whether the Giants like it nor not, so those fans on the fence that like both teams are going to be Jets fans in the end. The truth is, if I am going to watch one game, I am going to see the Jets, without a doubt. We are better.”

He also remarked in a pre-season speech to employees that “the Giants like to talk about the past, while the Jets like to talk about the future.”

Giants fans tend to get excessively irritated by Ryan and his words, yet I think it just adds some fun to the rivalry. So yes, they will carry on about 1969, but the bottom line is that right now the Jets are a better team and that since Rex Ryan has taken over, the Jets have been a better, more entertaining, and relevant team.

It should be a fun week regardless, especially with Plaxico Burress now added to the mix. You have to think Eli Manning is now regretting acting so disinterested in a Burress to the Giants reunion, considering what his group of receivers looks like right now and how ready to make an impact Burress looked last week. The Jets and Burress will try to play down the hype of him going against the Giants, but there is no way he isn’t extra geared up to go against them and there is no way the Jets won’t make a concerted effort to get him in the end-zone.

New York Jets Passing Offense Has Chance To Be Special

It may have only been the pre-season and it may have been against the Cincinnati Bengals, who should have an over/under of about 4 wins this year. Yet, it was hard to watch the New York Jets passing offense in action and not think about just dangerous it could be this year.

Considering the following: it was pouring out, it was Plaxico Burress’ first game back in over two years, and Derrick Mason was sidelined with an injury. However, Mark Sanchez still racked up over 170 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the first half.

If healthy, you are going to have a difficult time finding a team with a better top five receiving options than Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason, Dustin Keller, and LaDainian Tomlinson out of the backfield. Holmes and Burress both have the ability to abuse single coverage, Mason is a savvy veteran who can work effectively both on the outside and in the slot. How many team’s number three corners are going to be able to handle him one on one? Not many. Keller is a walking mismatch, as linebackers are frequently too slow to cover him and safeties are too small and finally Tomlinson is only one of the better receiving running backs in NFL history.

Beyond those top five, you still have rookie Jeremy Kerley who has looked electric in camp, tight end Jeff Cumberland who is having a terrific pre-season, and running back Joe McKnight who caught a touchdown pass last night.

Obviously, how productive the passing offense will be ultimately falls on Mark Sanchez’s shoulder. Yet, the third year quarterback has looked poised and confident so far this pre-season and has been terrific off the play action. If he takes the same sized leap forward this year, that he look last year, he will be able to utilize all of the previously mentioned weapons.

Let’s not ever forget the Ground and Pound, but the pieces are in place for the switch to be seamlessly flipped into a wide open passing attack.

Initial Reaction: Jets Put Together Encouraging Performance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jets vs. Bengals: What To Watch For

The Jets 20-16 loss in Houston last week left Jets fans concerned about depth on the roster. Thankfully the big pieces to the puzzle, Mark Sanchez, Shonn Greene, Santonio Holmes and the starting defense were sharp in limited action. Perimeter issues rose up however upon review of the contest, primarily that of the club’s backups heading into 2011 season. That said, here is what to watch for Sunday night at home as the Bengals come to town.

PLAX IS BACK:  It has taken two plus seasons but Plaxico Burress will finally return to a football field Sunday night. Burress will start after sitting the first week against Houston due to an ankle injury. All eyes will be on number 17 to see how he cuts, runs and handles game one of his partnership with new QB Mark Sanchez. The stadium will be rocking when Plax touches the football, making it the most exciting story of the night.

THE DUCASSE MICROSCOPE: Aside from Burress, no player will be scrutinized every single play by Jets fans though the way Vlad Ducasse will. The second year Jet caught the evil eye of many in Jets nation for his inability to slide laterally consistent enough in week one of preseason.

Ducasse is a key backup in more than one position on the offensive line this year and that scares alot of folks. Vlad needs a solid night to begin to build his own confidence. It’s not easy constantly switching positions and assignments. Howver, that is what the Jets have in store for him this year so he must start to provide a sense of calm to those around him. The danger created by his failure to achieve that is too scary to even talk about.

MAYBIN OR MAYBE NOT? Aaron Maybin turned out to be Buffalo’s Vernon Gholston. A first round bust of monumental proportions. However, as a Jet, the speed rushing LB simply needs to be disruptive during a handful of snaps each a week. Is Maybin going to be a steal, or an ex Jet by the opener?

MOVE CUMBERLAND AND TURNER UP: TE Jeff Cumberland took matters into his own hands last Monday. Was that a result of his going against the second and third string? We’d like to see Cumberland run routes early in this one, to get a sense of the type of weapon he could be in a a two TE set. Perhaps the Jets could even feature a two TE set with Dustin Keller on passing downs as well.

Patrick Turner’s hands looked great in Houston. His size was a factor in the red zone with his short slant route TD. Let’s see him work against the Benglas starting corners. What a nice WR corps this could turn into if Turner joins Kerley as new faces mixed in with older players like Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Derrick Mason.

POWELL’S CHANCE: With RB’s Shonn Greene out and Joe McKnight one week removed from a concussion, Powell may be poised to make his bid for a spot in the rotation. Ladainian Tomlinson will get a bunch of reps but the rest could go to Powell should McKnight get dinged up early on.

Last week Powell looked quick, cut nicely, and waited patiently for his blockers. We wait not so patiently to see him do it behind Nick Mangold and company. Sunday night may be Powell’s chance to show that he can be a guy who could contribute in 2011.

Early Thoughts On Jets vs. Bengals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reasonable Expectations For Plaxico?

Plaxico Burress has finally returned to the practice field and is expected to play this Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals. Yet, considering his slow start to camp due to his ankle injury, what are reasonable expectations for him the rest of the pre-season?

I wouldn’t expect the Jets to stretch Burress too thin on Sunday, even if the starters play into the second quarter. They should be content with a few series from him, along with a catch or two. I would expect them to throw him a safe, short pass early in the game to get him in the flow and then hopefully get the chance to get him involved in the red-zone.

The following week against the Giants, you know Burress will be raring to go and Rex Ryan is the type of coach who will make sure everything that can be done to get Burress a touchdown, will be done…even if it is only a pre-season game. Hopefully, by that point he can put together a full half and really get into the flow of the offense.

None of the starters usually play in the pre-season finale, although if Burress doesn’t get enough work the next two weeks, they could give him a few reps. You still have to wonder if he will be ready to handle 60-70 reps week one against the Cowboys. Even if he isn’t, Derrick Mason is more than capable of stepping in.

I never envisioned Burress as 70 reception type guy for the Jets this year. If he can give them around 50, I’d be satisfied as long as he is producing in the red-zone. With Tom Moore now helping out, there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to give the team 6-8 touchdowns, at minimum. More importantly, you hope that he begins coming on strong late in the season as he gets his legs fully back under him and is ready to become the dominant force he once was in the post-season.