TOJ Roundtable Week 4: Jets/Ravens Key Match-Up

Joe Caporoso: I am putting this on the shoulders of our quarterback Mark Sanchez taking on a star studded Baltimore Ravens defense. Despite the big names of Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed, and Haloti Ngata the Ravens have been susceptible to the pass. Sanchez and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer need to find ways to attack Lardarius Webb, Chris Carr, and Cary Williams with Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and Derrick Mason consistently. The pass protection has been questionable and we all know the Ravens will be coming, but the Jets need to roll out their best blitz beaters and scheme to get the ball in their hands of three veteran wide receivers in space. Sanchez needs to protect the football, while still being aggressive down the field and standing in the face of a stacked Ravens front seven.

Rob Celletti: Going with the obvious one this week: The Jets’ front-seven, which was absolutely miserable last week, vs. Ray Rice. Like Darren McFadden, Rice is an elite running back who can hurt you inside or outside of the tackles. Even more importantly than the issues that have been addressed this week such as “containment” and “setting the edge”, I want to see the Jets get back to solid fundamentals: good positioning and tackling.  Holding Rice in check is the first step towards getting back on track this Sunday.

TJ Rosenthal: The biggest matchup for the Jets will be their ability to protect Mark Sanchez and create holes for the running backs against the Ravens front seven. We expect the Jets to come out with intensity especially after the loss to Oakland where many including Broadway Joe Namath came out and questioned whether the Jets are treated with kid gloves by the coach, and too confident in themselves as well.

The Jets screen and run game worked until they went away from it last week. Maybe the Raiders forced them out of it, but this week, the protection must hold up longer in order to get the ball to key playmakers Dustin Keller, Plaxico Burres and Santonio Holmes. The jury is out as to whether they will be able to.

Chris Celletti: The most important matchup will be the Jets’ cuurently-maligned run defense against Ray Rice and the Ravens’ offensive line. Including last year’s AFC Championship game loss to the Steelers, Rex Ryan’s defense has been torn apart in three of their last four games. Two of those times, including last week’s horror show against the Raiders, the run defense has been carved up. The Jets need to bottle up Rice and make Joe Flacco beat them. If they can’t do that and allow the Ravens to control the clock, it could be a long night.

Jets vs. Ravens: Game Breakdown

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Offense: We all know the Jets want to run the football, yet if they want to move the ball against the Baltimore Ravens it is going to make sense to throw more than usual. The Ravens are beat up in the secondary in a big way. They won’t have Ed Reed taking people’s heads off and intercepting everything in sight and will be without Dominique Foxworth and Ladarius Webb at cornerback. The bottom line is they will have a very average collection of players in their secondary and the Jets must take advantage. I’m not saying to completely ignore the ground and pound, yet the best formation for the Jets offense this week might be Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith and Dustin Keller split out with LaDainian Tomlinson in the single back or motioning out to the slot.

There isn’t a corner on Baltimore who could physically match up with Edwards, who is coming off a great off-season and will have the chance to show these first four weeks he is capable of being the Jets number one receiver. Cotchery should be able to be very effective in the slot and Keller will be a tough match-up for the Baltimore safeties, although Dawan Landry is a talented player who is athletic enough to battle with Keller.

PhotobucketObviously, left guard remains an area of concern. The Ravens will be attacking Matt Slauson and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Jets left the running back in to pass protect more frequently than usual. I am interested to see the division of reps between the halfbacks and fullbacks in week one. This will be Shonn Greene’s first career start, yet I wonder if he will get the chance to get around 20 carries. Tomlinson could get more reps than usual because of a more pass centric than usual game-plan and his pass protection abilities. I am sure we will see John Conner in short yardage packages but there should be plenty of Tony Richardson out there, again because of his experience in pass protection.

Defense: Ray Rice. Ray Rice. Ray Rice. Regardless of all their additions at the wide receiver position, Rice is the most dangerous player on the Ravens offense. He can kill you as a pass catcher out of the backfield and obviously has the ability to rip off huge runs at any moment. I wouldn’t be shocked to see a ton of Kyle Wilson shadowing him, if he motions out to the slot and when he is in the backfield, it will be on the linebackers and safety to contain him. Eric Smith will get the nod at safety in place of an injured Brodney Pool and will have his hands full right out of the gate. The Jets don’t have the fastest collection of linebackers, which could prove to be a problem when attempting to slow down Rice.

In the secondary, we should be seeing Revis Island matched up Anquan Boldin primarily, which leaves Antonio Cromartie to deal with Derrick Mason and Kyle Wilson to focus on Rice out of the backfield and TJ Houshmandzadeh. Todd Heap is also one of the better pass catching tight ends in the league. It will be interesting to see who the Jets match up on him. I would imagine the responsibility would fall mostly to Eric Smith, Jim Leonhard, and maybe Dwight Lowery. All in all, this will be a good test for the Jets secondary because the Ravens have a very legit five pass catching options in Boldin, Rice, Housh, Heap, and Rice.

As we saw in the playoffs last year, Joe Flacco can be pressured into making poor decisions. He does have a big arm and put together a pretty productive season in 2009, yet the Jets defense should be able to force him into a couple of turnovers. Jason Taylor has been invisible in the pre-seaosn but he will have the chance to show he can still get after the quarterback while filling in for Calvin Pace. Also don’t be surprised to see some Jamaal Westerman on certain pass rushing downs.

Special Teams: You can bet both team’s fanbases and coaching staffs will be cringing each time their kickers line up. Nick Folk and Billy Cundiff both still have to win over everybody’s confidence. Brad Smith will be the primary kick returner for the Jets, while punt return could be a combination of Jim Leonhard, Jerricho Cotchery, and Kyle Wilson. Chris Carr is a fairly explosive return man for the Ravens, but I don’t expect the Jets to do anything out of the ordinary to avoid kicking him the ball.

It’s Just About That Time

Jets vs. Ravens: First Look

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The Opponent: Along with the Jets and the Indianapolis Colts, the Baltimore Ravens are widely being selected as a favorite in the AFC. Coming off a 9-7 season in which they grabbed a wild-card spot in the week 17, Baltimore improved their offense this off-season with the addition of wide receiver Anquan Boldin and the recent signing receiver of TJ Houshmandzadeh. However, there is some concern about their secondary, with All-World safety Ed Reed beginning the season on the PUP list and starting cornerback Dominique Foxworth out for the year with a torn ACL. Regardless, Baltimore is a team cut in a similar mold to the Jets. They want to run the football and play an aggressive style of defense. This week one match-up could very well foreshadow a future playoff game between these two teams.

Baltimore Ravens Starters/Key Reserves

OFFENSE

  • Quarterback: Joe Flacco – 63.1 completion percentage, 21 TDs, 12 INTs
  • Running Back: Ray Rice – 1339 rushing yards, 702 receiving yards, 8 TDs
  • Running Back: Willis McGahee – 544 rushing yards, 85 receiving yards, 14 TDs
  • Fullback: Le’Ron McClain – 180 rushing yards, 2 TDs
  • Wide Receiver: Anquan Boldin – 84 receptions, 1024 yards, 4 TDs
  • Wide Receiver: Derrick Mason – 73 receptions, 1028 yards, 7 TDs
  • Wide Receiver: TJ Houshmandzadeh – 79 receptions, 911 yards, 3 TDs
  • Tight End: Todd Heap – 53 receptions, 593 yards, 6 TDs
  • Left Tackle: Michael Oher
  • Left Guard: Ben Grubbs
  • Center: Matt Birk
  • Right Guard: Marshal Yanda
  • Right Tackle: Jared Gaither

DEFENSE

  • Defensive End: Cory Redding – 2o tackles
  • Nose Tackle: Kelly Gregg – 46 tackles, 3 sacks
  • Defensive End: Haloti Ngata – 25 tackles, 1.5 sacks
  • Defensive End: Trevor Pryce – 6.5 sacks
  • Outside Linebacker: Jarrett Johnson – 36 tackles, 6 sacks
  • Inside Linebacker: Ray Lewis – 95 tackles, 3 sacks
  • Inside Linebacker: Dannell Ellerbe – 34 tackles, 1 INT
  • Outside Linebacker: Terrell Suggs – 44 tackles, 4.5 sacks
  • Corner: Chris Carr – 38 tackles, 2 INTs
  • Corner: Fabian Washington – 34 tackles, 6 passes defensed
  • Safety: Dawan Landry – 70 tackles, 4 INTs
  • Safety: Tom Zbikowski – 24 tackles, 2 INTs

SPECIAL TEAMS

  • Kicker: Billy Cundiff – 12/17 FGs
  • Punter: Sam Koch – 43.7 yards per punt
  • Kick Return: Jalen Parmele – 9 KRs, 283 yards
  • Punt Return: Chris Carr – 8.2 yards per return

PhotobucketKey PlayersRunning back Ray Rice is the Ravens biggest weapon and is coming off a monster season. He is a threat to break a big play at any moment and has terrific hands out of the backfield. Rice reminds me of a younger LaDainian Tomlinson. At receiver, Anquan Boldin is a pro-bowl caliber player who will be a good early test for Darrelle Revis. Joe Flacco can be inconsistent at times but still has a big time arm. Ray Lewis remains one of the best linebackers in the NFL and the Ravens pass rush is led by Terrell Suggs and Trevor Pryce. Dawan Landry is a dangerous player at safety.

Injuries – Outside of Ed Reed, the Ravens will likely also be without corner Lardarius Webb further hurting their secondary depth. Don’t expect Jets starting safety Brodney Pool to suit on Monday, which moves Eric Smith into the starting lineup. The Jets are also without tap pass rusher Calvin Pace, who recently had foot surgery.

Key Storylines – Battle of expected AFC heavyweights…Rex Ryan going against his former team…Does Revis Island still exist?…Can Mark Sanchez and Joe Flacco be consistent…Time for the Jets to put their money where their mouth is.

Highlights of Ravens Beating Down Fading AFC East Team Last Year

Turn On The Jets Interview with Tim Layden

First a few updates:

1. I would have to say at this point there is a less than a 10 percent chance of the Jets signing Plaxico Burress or trading for Brandon Marshall. Beyond those two, what other veteran options could they consider at receiver? Marvin Harrison might not be a bad option, regardless of his diminishing skills, he could still be a very competent number 2 receiver.

2. It’s funny how much negative press the Jets inexperienced receivers get, in comparison to all the hype and positive press the Giants inexperienced receivers get. What have Sinorce Moss and Mario Manningham ever done to merit so much optimism? I do think Domenick Hixon and Steve Smith are good players but certainly no better than Jerricho Cotchery and Chansi Stuckey.

3. The only enjoyable part of my daily commute to the PVSC (Passaic Valley Sewage Commission) in Newark, New Jersey (where I am working this summer as a landscaper…yes, a landscaper at the Sewage plant, awesome stuff I know) is I get to pass by the brand new Giants/Jets stadium every day. The new building puts the old one to shame and is going to be great for all NY/NJ football fans.

4. Congratulations to Brooks Bollinger for being drafted in the UFL. It seems just like yesterday he was leading the Jets to a 4-12 record in 2005.

Turn On the Jets Interview with Tim Layden

Tim Layden is a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and recently did a great feature on Rex Ryan, which can be accessed here http://vault.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1156765/index.htm  . He was kind enough to let me interview him yesterday about Ryan, the Jets, and the AFC East. Here is what we talked about in the first ever interview at TurnOnTheJets.com:

JC: How much of Buddy Ryan do you see in Rex?

TL: I think Rex developed his passion for coaching from watching his father work growing up. There is no question he has alot of Buddy in him, yet it ends at a certain point. Rex’s mother is a very cerebral person and you can see that in Rex also. Unlike his father, Rex is a little more calculating when talking to the media and his players. He has an ability to treat different people in different ways, which is important in the NFL. I think he is also a little more reserved than Buddy and does hold back a little sometimes, in a positive way. I think you will see Rex be more successful as a head coach in the NFL than his father.

JC: When you were talking to the Jets players, did you sense that they are enjoying the switch from Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan? Both guys are obviously polar opposite in terms of how they run their team.

TL: When I was talking to Kris Jenkins, he expressed that he did like Eric Mangini and was okay with the way he ran things but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t enjoyed the new attitude Rex has brought to the Jets. Whenever there is a new head coach, people are going to focus on their positive qualities. Rex is a very likable guy and certainly a players coach so you would expect the players to be excited about him.

Kerry Rhodes admitted he is still adjusting and as I mentioned in the story, is used to holding himself back a little more on the field and with the media but is now learning more emotion is ok. Speaking of Rhodes, I really think he is guy you are going to see flourish in Rex’s system.

Bart Scott also made a good point not to get too carried away with the fun and emotional side of Rex. He noted they had success in Baltimore because of their scheme and execution. Rex is a well prepared, confident guy which leads to the swagger his defenses have. Scott said people don’t spend enough time talking about Ryan’s X’s and O’s and how smart he is when crafting a defensive scheme.

JC: What do you think of the recent comments he made about New England and his back and forth with Channing Crowder?

TL: I think with the Bellicheck ring statement, I mean…what is he supposed to say? Rex is confident in his guys and doesn’t say anything he knows his players won’t hear. He doesn’t want them to be afraid of New England and their past success. He isn’t intimidated by New England and believes he was brought to New York to beat them, not to look up to them. I don’t think it is a condescending statement to the Patriots at all.

In terms of the Crowder stuff, Rex has a great gift for conversation and humor. It is entertaining to listen to him speak and I think all that stuff was very light-hearted and also probably blown out of proportion by people criticizing him.

JC: Do you think Rex and the Jets should be as confident as they are heading into the season?

TL: One thing I know about Ryan is that he has never coached a bad defense. Even when some of those Baltimore teams had injuries, they were still consistent and successful. The Jets defense is going to be good this year, maybe great. I think the confidence is good thing and is rubbing off on the players. Bart Scott was telling me how he can’t wait to play against Tom Brady and New England. He wants to challenge them because he believes they can get to Brady and he wants to see how he will respond to the constant pressure coming off that leg injury.

JC: Switching to some more player specific questions, how does Ryan feel about Mark Sanchez?

TL: Ryan has a good amount of measured excitement about him. He knows he has the talent but understands he still has a ton to learn at this level. He doesn’t want to go too far praising Sanchez, in fear of losing Kellen Clemens, because there is still a chance he could be guy this September. Is Sanchez going to be Matt Ryan or Rex Grossman? I don’t think anybody can answer that yet. It will be tough in New York but Ryan believes Sanchez has the right make up for this city. Remember that Rex wants to win games 17-13 and isn’t going to be asking Sanchez to throw the ball over the field. He just wants him to protect the ball and make a few plays when the opportunity is there.

JC: What did Ryan have to say about Vernon Gholston?

TL: Ryan didn’t talk all that much specifically about Vernon Gholston. I know alot of people are trying to match up Baltimore players to Jets players, comparing Gholston to Terrell Suggs and Kerry Rhodes to Ed Reed but Ryan doesn’t want to do that. A key thing that both Ryan and Bart Scott said about the Jets linebackers is that everybody is going to have the chance to makes plays and it will be hard for the offense to know where the pressure is coming from. In Baltimore, the Ravens funneled everything to Ray Lewis, in this defense it won’t be that way.

JC: One last question, how do see the AFC East shaking out this year?

TL: I guess I would say New England is probably the best team but they aren’t head and shoulders above anybody in this division. Don’t think for a second they are a 14-2 team, that is a group of older guys with some question marks at linebacker and in the secondary and you can’t be 100 percent confident that Brady is going to be back to his old self. I am not confident in Miami repeating their success from last year and honestly think the Jets are probably the second best team right now and will be in the wild-card hunt and the division hunt until late in the year.