New York Jets Fact or False: Thanksgiving and Rivalry Edition

Chris Gross with his weekly Fact or False previewing the Jets/Patriots Thanksgiving Night showdown

Happy Thanksgiving, Jets fans! After a much-needed victory in St. Louis last week, the Jets find themselves in a familiar, yet unfamiliar, spot in the Rex Ryan era. What’s familiar about tomorrow night’s game against New England is that the Jets always seem to find themselves in a pivotal point of their season when matching up against the Patriots for the second time in the 17 week regular season.

In 2009, New York headed to Foxboro at 4-5. A win would have been monumental as it would have not only gotten the Jets back to .500, but it would have completed a regular season sweep of New England for the first time since the 2000 season, when they were still led by the likes of Vinny Testaverde and Curtis Martin. New York fell that week 31-14, aided partly by Mark Sanchez’s 4 interceptions.

In 2010, the 9-2 (!!) Jets squared off with New England in Foxboro for sole possession of 1st place in the AFC East. Heading into that game, New York’s average margin of defeat in their only two losses was a meager 5 points, so naturally most people were optimistic about 2010 finally being the year that the Jets knock Brady’s bunch off of their pedestal and claim dominance in the division for the first time in a decade. What happened that night? The Jets were embarrassed 45-3 on national, prime time television.

Finally, in 2011, the Jets were hosts to the second regular season matchup between the two clubs. New York stood at 5-3 heading into their week 10 matchup with New England, fresh off of a dominant performance against the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, NY. The Patriots, on the other hand, were also 5-3, but seemed to be spiraling downward, coming off of a 2 game losing streak to the Steelers and Giants. This was finally it. The Jets had New England right where they wanted them – reeling with an equivalent record, in their own building. It finally seemed that New York was ready to take over the division and earn a home playoff game, something many felt had held them from reaching the Super Bowl in the previous two seasons. Unfortunately for Gang Green, same story, different day. The Patriots smacked the Jets 37-16 in a game that was never close. It seemed as if this habit of dropping the second regular season matchup to New England might never be broken.

Now, the Jets finally have a chance to break that very habit. New York finds itself at a crossroad in their season. Standing at 4-6, this team has been hit from all angles. Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes are out for the year with season ending injuries. The media has used Tim Tebow’s presence in various attempts to stir up drama and rip this locker room apart. Ryan, General Manager Mike Tannenbaum, and Owner Woody Johnson, each praised for their brash styles at their respective positions in years past, have all come under heavy criticism. In short, Ryan’s once up and coming Jets have become the punch line for countless jokes revolving around the NFL.

So what does it all mean? It means the Jets face New England for the second time of the regular season in a relatively new position. Instead of being poised to topple the Patriots through a monumental victory that could shift the tide in the AFC East, New York now finds themselves with their backs against the wall. As we all know, Rex Ryan’s squad has done quite well in these situations in the past. Yes, in 2009, the Jets were aided by Jim Caldwell’s decision to pull all of his starters in their week fifteen matchup against the Colts in Indianapolis. However, New York still had to defeat the AFC North champion Cincinnati Bengals in week 16 to secure a playoff spot. As you may recall, New York came out with a vengeance, blanking the Bengals 37-0, propelling them to their first AFC Championship Game run under Ryan.

Similarly, in 2010, the Jets traveled to Foxboro for the AFC Divisional Round game against the Patriots. No one in the world gave New York a chance, considering how lopsided the outcome of the previous matchup between the two clubs was. With their backs against the wall once again, New York pulled off one of the most satisfying wins in franchise history, upsetting the Patriots 28-21, leading to one of the most memorable post game speeches in the history of the sport.

By now, you are asking yourself what this all means for tomorrow night’s game. The answer is simple. These two teams have never faced each other under these circumstances. The Jets, although notoriously laughable in this game under Ryan, will be hosting the Patriots with their backs against the wall for the first time in this situation. You can throw the history books out, because regardless of the outcome, a new chapter will be written in this rivalry on Thanksgiving night. Key players on both teams are out of this competition. Rex is out to prove his worth as a head coach in an attempt to rally his team toward an unprecedented playoff run, a goal that suddenly becomes attainable with a win at MetLife stadium tomorrow, considering the fact that New York’s remaining opponents have a combined record of 17-33. The circumstances are different, but New York has another chance at a monumental victory over their long time foe.

How will it all pan out, though? For the Jets, there are several feats they need to attain to put themselves in a position to reign victorious. Rather than using outright predictions, this week’s New York Jets Fact or False highlights exactly what Gang Green needs to do in order to stage an upset of the Patriots on the biggest stage. Digest these proclamations with your holiday bird, and be sure to give thanks for a full day of NFL madness, regardless of any outcome.

The Jets need Shonn Greene to carry the load of the running game past the Patriots. False. This is a no brainer. New York looked like an entirely new offense last week using a running back by committee approach. While many have attributed their success to a poor opponent, St. Louis actually ranks thirteenth in total defense in the NFL. Are the Rams great? Absolutely not. But Jeff Fisher’s club is certainly not the laughing stock it once was. New York needed a strong offensive effort, and that is exactly what they got, led by the resurgence of Shonn Greene as the battering ram, the emergence of Bilal Powell, who scored his first two career touchdowns, as the elusive scat back, and the somewhat proper utilization of Joe McKnight as the explosive, all purpose back. The result? Mark Sanchez put together his most efficient performance of the season, and New York won in dominant fashion in a must win situation. Sticking to this philosophy is an absolute necessity against New England tomorrow. Control the clock, keep Brady off the field, and give Sanchez something to lean on.

The Jets need to find a way to pressure Brady without a heavy amount of blitzing. Fact. Most people are now aware of the blueprint on how to shut down Brady and the high-powered Patriots offense. Hit the prolific quarterback over and over and over. However, the reason that teams like the Giants have been so successful against New England is because they can do so without a heavy amount of blitzing. Tom Brady has been lights out against the blitz this year – 86 attempts, 10 TDs, 0 INTs, 90.0 QBR, and a 127.2 passer rating. New York needs to find a way to get in his face without using the blitz.

New England has lost three games this season – home against Arizona, and on the road in Baltimore and Seattle. In those three losses, Brady has been sacked 9 times, while being hit 17 times. New England’s offense can surely sputter if opposing defenses can get to Brady. The key is to do it without letting him burn you on the blitz. Rex and his staff need to get very creative disguising their pressure schemes to create the illusion that the Jets are bringing more heat than they actually are, through an effective use of zone blitzes, similar to how they were able to rattle Brady in the 2010 playoffs. Look for Ryan to mix up his fronts, using a variety of four man rushes, led primarily by Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples. With All-Pro Guard Logan Mankins ruled out for tomorrow, New York will have optimal opportunity to generate a strong interior pass rush. Based on the play of Wilkerson and Coples as of late, New England could easily have their hands full tomorrow night.

Tom Brady is the only part of the Patriots offense that needs to be stopped. False. While Brady is certainly the key to New England’s offensive success, the run game must be stopped at all costs as well. In each of the Patriots three losses this year, they have failed to generate more than 90 total rushing yards as a team. New York needs to make the offense one dimensional, and then worry about getting to Brady. A tall task, yes, but nothing will be easy in achieving the upset tomorrow night.

The Jets need to generate turnovers to win. Fact. Historically, the Jets under Rex Ryan have had their best success against the Patriots when they’ve been able to take the ball away from Tom Brady. In Ryan’s 3 total wins against New England, Brady has thrown a total of four interceptions. In New England’s five victories against Ryan’s Gang, Brady has turned the ball over via interception just once. This trend holds true to two of New England’s three losses this year. Brady has just three interceptions on the season, however one came in the home loss to Arizona, with the other two coming from the loss in Seattle. Another daunting task for the Jets, particularly without Darrelle Revis, but remember, Brady is missing two key pieces of his offense, as well, in Mankins and TE Rob Gronkowski.

The Jets Special Teams need to wake up. Fact. In order to pull off this upset, the Jets need to be nearly perfect in all three phases of the game. New York’s once stout special teams has been a complete disaster as of late. Blocked kicks, big returns, losing focus and succumbing to a surprise onsides kick have haunted the Jets in previous weeks. To quote ESPN’s Cris Carter, “Mike Westhoff, where you at?!” The prolific coach, now a household name thanks to his role in HBO’s 2010 season of Hard Knocks, seems to have lost the grasp of a unit that was once regarded as a crutch for New York in times of struggle. Westhoff must get his unit ready to play. Any lapse on special teams will likely spell disaster for New York. While you may be able to get away with some blunders against mediocre teams, New England is a different animal. Bill Belichick has likely gone through hours of Jets special teams footage, looking for ways to exploit this suddenly weak group. A big play on special teams cannot happen in any way whatsoever if the Jets wish to begin a late season playoff push.

Enjoy the game, enjoy your families and friends, and most of all, enjoy the Jets tomorrow night, folks. From all of us here at Turn On The Jets, we wish you and your loved ones a very happy, healthy, and safe Thanksgiving. 

Only Rex Can Lead Jets Out Of Circus Tent

TJ Rosenthal on Rex Ryan being the only person who could stop the Jets circus

After a week filled with ridiculous circus-like sideshow drama, the Jets bizarre traveling show lands in St Louis for another must win Sunday. As the 3-6 Jets look to avoid another nail in the coffin in a season currently on life support, only Rex Ryan can reel in a team that is now being portrayed as jugglers, tricksters, and liars again. To do so, he must forget relying on a pre game speech, and go dominate offensive coordinator and current Rams OC, Brian Schottenheimer instead.

Since the Jets last left us on an actual playing field in Seattle, Jets fans have been privy to yet another uncanny weekday soap opera. One that has included, unnamed sources bashing Tim Tebow, one former Jet (Ladainian Tomlinson, now of the NFL Network) guessing aloud who the anonymous quotes belonged to (Antonio Cromartie and Bart Scott, both who deny the charge from their former teammate) an owner calling for a press conference to justify the signing of Tebow as a football decision (not one to sell jerseys, a theory most Jets fans have especially when considering how little Tebow has been implemented despite the shroud of secrecy his Wildcat package was treated with during the summer), a running back (Shonn Greene) backtracking hours after his own statement that a QB change might be a good thing, and a team that now believes the original “sources” were contrived by the Daily News simply for a story.

Those Gang Green sideshows are growing again. So are the shadowy voices. Both of whom combined to bring the Jets unity down in 2011. In a year that Ryan admitted after the final game, was one where he lost a feel for the locker room.

With self implosion staring the undermanned (and you can blame that on injuries, Mike Tannenbaum, the coaching staff’s inability to develop talent, or all of the above) Jets in the face, it is down to one man now. Rex Ryan. A coach with Jet bloodlines (father Buddy was architect of the Jets Super Bowl III defense) who upon taking over the team with the shattered psyche, one that starved for acceptance and an identity, single handedly changed the attitude of a franchise wallowing in self pity, from top to bottom in his first two seasons at the helm.

Ryan can continue to search for a leader to join him in Florham Park, but he will have a hard time finding it these days. Especially in QB Mark Sanchez, who is often times too busy moping on a sideline bench, daydreaming of a whole new WR corps, or a run game that can mask his spotty mechanics and decision making. Ryan can also rule out the recently emerging locker room force Cromartie (the defacto leader of the defense with Darrelle Revis out), now that “Cro” is embroiled in “Terrible Tim Gate.”

GM Mike Tannenbaum? After refusing to add veteran depth at receiver or RB, the strategy for Tanny lately has been “Hide, Deny, and Deflect.” Forget him for the time being too, Rex. Woody Johnson is tied up too we’re afraid. Fresh off of dropping millions of dollars and countless time spent on the unsuccessful Mitt Romney Presidential campaign, the Jets owner is too busy calling for press conferences that insure the signing of Tebow was done solely to improve the team. An ironic notion when you consider that Tebow, the only possible leader of men Ryan COULD call upon right now, barely plays at all.

Ryan has to simply look in the mirror. The only leader this team has, will be staring right back at him. Rex should kick things off in this final attempt to salvage the team by guiding it, through showing that the decision to show Brian Schottenheimer the door, was the right one. Not an easy trick to pull when you yourself (Jets) are the 30th ranked offense in football. Schottenheimer has taken a Rams offense that averaged 12 points a game an has helped to increase it to 18. However, this scoring “surge” hardly leaves St Loo in any “high powered”category.

The Jets defense showed last weekend, even in defeat (28-7 to the Seahawks), that it can slow down a great running back (Marshawn Lynch) and shake down a non elite quarterback (Russell Wilson). Ryan, a defensive genius in the eyes of many around the league,  has to take the Rams Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson Daryl Roichardson RB tandem by the horns in the same way as Lynch and Wilson were treated for much of last week’s game.. Anything less, may shine an even greater circus spotlight on the current Jets mess and the notion that OC Tony Sparano was a better fit for the job.

Talk is cheap. You’d figure that the Jets would have learned that by now. Yet just last weeek Cromartie called the club a playoff team. Ryan later echoed his cornerback’s statement. Ryan will of course roll out the “us against the media” rallying speech before the game but in truth, the real statement must start on the field. Led by Ryan in out foxing Schotty, Jets Nation’s old friend and nemesis. Who while in New York,  often times called plays that many diehards saw as more detrimental to the Jets than purposeful.

Leadership starts with action. Ryan’s is the final card in the deck the Jets can play before the house of cards crumbles, and he knows it.

New York Jets – Rex and Sanchez Try To Save Each Other

TJ Rosenthal on Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez trying to save each other

As the Jets offense continues to struggle while the losses pile up, we wonder about what this will mean at seasons end for both Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. The Jets starting QB is once again demonstrating poor body language and self admittedly has become affected by the Tebow substitutions, leading to making too many poor decisions at crucial times.

Ryan meanwhile, is defiantly sticking by him. Despite the calls for a change in energy on offense, to the emotionally fiery, miracle working Tim Tebow. Rex tells us that Sanchez still gives the Jets ‘the best chance to win’ and he could be right. If the losses keep coming though, and the idea of starting Tebow is never approached, will that give Woody Johnson more to think about in the offseason than simply who the Jets starting QB will be next season?

We hope that Ryan is making a clear headed football decision over his QB situation. Not one rooted in some personal battle with Woody Johnson. Whose acquiring of Tebow in March seems more like a publicity stunt with each passing day. Especially as the notion of Tebow taking over gets passed on so quickly by the HC these days. While Sanchez stumbles so miserably.

We like Rex and don’t want a season that bottoms out costing him his job. Ryan however, is entering dangerous territory now. The fourth year head coach is risking himself in sticking up for Sanchez every Monday after baffling offense performances. Sanchez has to dig deeper in support of perhaps the only Jet left aside from Antonio Cromartie, who continues to have blind faith in him. Ryan.

Even if others on the offense aren’t doing their jobs well either, Sanchez is the quarterback. The face and symbol of the struggles, deservedly or not. He also may be the one guy who can steer Ryan away from his own job danger if the marriage between the two remains cemented the rest of the way.

New York Jets Offense – A Failure From Top To Bottom

The New York Jets offense is abject failure from top to bottom

The New York Jets offense has sank to 30th in the NFL. We are now talking Blaine Gabbert bad. When you are this incompetent, it is a failure of their entire unit and really of the entire organization. Consider this reality: through nine games there is ONE player on the entire Jets offensive roster who has exceeded expectations this year – Jeremy Kerley. Everybody else has performed below any type of realistic expectations for them individually this season and that includes the coaching staff and front office.

As always let’s start at the top. Woody Johnson forced Tim Tebow on to this roster despite his coaching staff having no grasp on how to use him. The Jets wasted cap space on an unproductive (in their system) distraction. Mike Tannenbaum (culprit #1 for the Jets failures as an organization right now) didn’t improve the running back position despite lacking a lead back and depth. He also ignored the evident shortcomings at right tackle and guard. Finally, he failed add necessary veteran depth at both tight end and wide receiver. This team needed a capable veteran at both positions…not Jeff Cumberland and Chaz Schilens.

Next on the list is Mark Sanchez who is trending away from “maddeningly inconsistent” into “simply awful.” Sanchez has completed less than 50% of his passes in 5 of the Jets 9 games this year. He has thrown an interception in every single game except for two of them. His record as a starting quarterback in his previous 12 games is 3-9, with only 1 road victory. The Jets have failed to develop him properly by giving him a below average quarterback coach, switching his top three wide receivers ever year, letting the running back depth deplete, the offensive line talent decline and of course the Tebow circus but that doesn’t give him a pass for this level of play. There is excusably average because of a lack of talent around you and then there is the interception he threw in the red-zone yesterday (in case you forgot, he ignored Stephen Hill on the backline and threw it 3 seconds to late towards Dustin Keller).

The supporting cast around Sanchez is the worst in the NFL right now. Austin Howard is not a starting NFL right tackle. Matt Slauson is not a starting NFL guard. Brandon Moore is at the end of career and is a shell of the player he was in 2009 and 2010. Even Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson have been good but not at the level of play we’ve seen them reach before. Jason Smtih plays 15 reps per game on this team, at tight end! Think about that. Shonn Greene is a backup running back masquerading as a starter. Go take away the stat line from the Colts game and then look at his stat line this year (122 carries, 406 yards, 3.3 YPC and 2 TDs). Not good enough. Stephen Hill isn’t ready to be a starting NFL wide receiver yet but the Jets don’t have a capable veteran to split his reps. Dustin Keller is inconsistent at tight end. Did I miss anything?

This unit needs to be gutted. Tony Sparano gone. Matt Cavanaugh gone. Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, Matt Slauson, Austin Howard…let them walk in free agency. Mark Sanchez is probably coming back because of his contract and because what is the other option? They aren’t taking a quarterback in the first round. You want to go sign Michael Vick? What are the other options? Take your free cap space, take your draft picks and find yourself a new starting running back, two new starting offensive lineman and a new tight end. If you can find a taker for Santonio Holmes contract (they won’t) then trade him. Start from scratch and hope Stephen Hill develops in year two the way Jeremy Kerley did.

The Jets have officially regressed to the end of the 2005 season when they were starting Brooks Bollinger, Cedric Houston, Justin McCariens and Doug Jolley. The good news? They made playoffs in 2006. We needed something optimistic in this article, right?

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 7

Chris Gross breaks down the defensive game film from Jets/Patriots

Week 7 saw the New York Jets face a familiar foe in the AFC East. New York traveled to Foxboro to take on their divisional rival New England Patriots. While New York came up short in a hard fought, over time loss, this team played well, defensively, for the majority of the contest. There were certainly some lapses that led to 3rd down conversions, long drives, and touchdowns, but outside of about 2 total drives by New England, New York put together a very impressive effort against the Patriots’ high octane, hurry up offense.

Schematically, New York did an excellent job of putting themselves in the best positions possible to succeed against Tom Brady and his plethora of weapons. However, this game revealed some serious issues with this defense. Issues that, if not fixed in the future, will prevent this team from ever truly having a dominant defense in this league.

For this week’s film breakdown, we will take a different approach than we have in the past. Since the effort in the front 7 was much more about the cohesion of the unit and the scheme, there was not necessarily any individual performances that stood out. This week, the play of the defensive line and linebackers will be much better explained if their evaluation is grouped together. This will allow for a better understanding of exactly what the Jets were doing in the box to defend Tom Brady and Co, as well as how the Patriots responded to each of the Jets adjustments. The secondary, as usual, will have its usual mention. Let’s get into it:

Defensive Line/Linebackers: The defensive line has been extremely strong over the past 2 weeks prior to facing New England, showing very solid efforts against Houston and Indianapolis. Quinton Coples is beginning to come into his own as he grows with each and every rep he gets. Muhammad Wilkerson is starting to build a little more each game toward becoming the type of defensive lineman this coaching staff expects him to be. However, as previously noted in our earlier film breakdowns, the remainder of the defensive line, without Kenrick Ellis and Sione Pouha, are extremely average, and vulnerable.

The vulnerability of the depth behind Coples and Wilkerson are going to begin to damper this defense until Ellis and Pouha can return. The issue is, without a true nose capable of being an every down player, the Jets have been forced to play Mike DeVito a heavy amount at the 0 and 1 technique. We have discussed DeVito being a poor fit at this position, as he is much more of a 3 technique player, but due to injury, New York has felt that he is still their best option to play there until this unit returns to full health. DeVito’s struggles at this spot are beginning to become magnified and problematic, not just for his own play, but for the play of the rest of the defensive line.

Since DeVito is not a true nose, he does not garner the respect from offensive line that a true nose would. In New England, the Patriots offensive line left DeVito to be blocked by one man, whether it was the center or guard, unlike someone like Ellis or Pouha who command a double team about 99% of the time. By using only one man to block the nose, New England was then able to block the remainder of the line (in the base 3 man front) using two separate double teams on both Coples and Wilkerson. This was a very intelligent scheme by the Patriots, as they were able to neutralize the Jets two best playmakers on the defensive line, without skipping a beat. Due to this, Rex Ryan was forced to get creative with his blitzes and pressure packages to get penetration and pressure on the quarterback. What is most worrisome for New York is that New England’s blocking scheme may now be the blue print for offensive lines moving forward. Until Ellis and Pouha get back, the Jets need to find a way to neutralize this type of scheme, possibly by working in more true 4 man fronts, without the use of a nose guard.

The problem with the 4 man fronts the Jets were using in New England on Sunday were basically the same as the problems they were running into using the 3 man fronts. Rather than bring in an extra defensive tackle, and sliding DeVito to a 3 technique, with Wilkerson and Coples at the end spots, New York would slide either Wilkerson or Coples inside, and put Calvin Pace at the other defensive end spot. Unfortunately for them, the Patriots gave Pace about as much respect as DeVito, as they were able to block him with just one man as well. Therefore, Coples and Wilkerson were either left in a 2 on 3 scenario, or more double teams, if a back or tight end was left in to block. It is extremely hard to get sacks in this league as it is, but when constantly facing double teams, the numbers are likely close to being statistically impossible.

Against the run, the front 7 was generally solid. Coples and Wilkerson continued to face a good amount of double teams, but this ultimately helped the linebackers get through and make plays. DeMario Davis, although making mistakes at times, was very effective against the run, and proved to be lighting quick in getting down hill and stuffing the running lanes. Comparatively speaking, he is an upgrade over Bart Scott. While Scott may not make the cerebral mistakes that Davis will, Davis’s speed and athleticism alone make him more effective than Scott, even with his mental errors. He should see the majority of the reps at linebacker down the stretch.

New England ran the ball a surplus of times out of a heavily unbalanced package. In these packages, the Patriots would line up not just two, but three tight ends to one side of the line. Yes, this package makes it obvious where the ball is going most of the time, but against the hurry up, the Jets struggled to make adjustments to the formation, and were repeatedly gutted for positive yards. That is, until Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine did finally get to making the adjustment of bringing LaRon Landry down into the box who proved to be far to fast for any of the tight ends or offensive lineman to get out on in space. His presence in the box alone assisted in shutting this formation down, and New England used much less of it down the stretch.

David Harris was generally solid in this one, however he continues to look sluggish for his position. He does a good job of filling runs that are directed right toward him, however, he has struggled to scrape sideline to sideline this season, a trend that continued on Sunday. He was also too slow to beat offensive lineman at times, as he got sealed with a lane block on more than one occasion. The hope with Harris is that now with Davis getting a vast amount of reps, he will be able to complement the speed of the rookie with his size and tenacity.

The pass rush on this defense is obviously the most concerning issue, probably on the entire team, even more so than the quarterback position. As touched upon earlier today by TJ Rosenthal, the Jets defense lacks a true closer that can get after the quarterback late in games and cause sacks or bad throws. As much as we have praised Calvin Pace’s technique in this column all season, it is clear at this point that it will not be enough to propel him into recording a surplus of sacks. Aaron Maybin, on the other hand, regressed tremendously from his solid performance against the Colts. Perhaps Maybin got caught up in the moment of a big game, trying to make the big sack, but he reverted to his old ways of sprinting directly up the field, and ending up 5 yards directly behind the quarterback.

New York needs true pass rushing outside linebackers in the worst way possible. Bryan Thomas, Pace, and Maybin are all in contract years, and unless something drastic happens with their play, it would be shocking to see anyone of them resigned next season. With a rather depleted and aging 2013 free agent class, look for New York to target two OLB’s in next April’s draft. Combining a vicious edge rush with this very young and talented defensive line could finally put the Jets over the hump, and give them a truly dominant defense for the future.

Secondary: This was arguably the best game the secondary has played all season. Considering Isaiah Trufant’s lack of experience, he did a fantastic job on Wes Welker, who’s box score lies with regard to how well he was defended by Trufant. Two of Welker’s catches came on long catch and runs off of screens. Welker also hauled in a couple of overtime passes. However, these were obtained after a very questionable adjustment that moved Trufant over to Branch, and DeMario Davis on Welker. Brady recognized the switch, and did an excellent job of taking advantage of the mismatch, the linebacker on the speedy wide out. As much as Rex’s defensive mind is respected throughout this league, this could go down, with his conservative defensive approach late in the game, as the most questionable decision he and his staff have made all season. Why take Trufant, who was quite effective on Welker for the majority of the game, and move him on Branch, who was a non-factor? More importantly, why replace him with a linebacker to cover the fastest wide receiver on the team? A true head scratcher.

Antonio Cromartie continued to be a dominant force, holding Brandon Lloyd to just a single reception, further cementing his status as an elite cornerback in this league. Cromartie did drop a late interception that could have changed the landscape of the game, but played excellent regardless.

Kyle Wilson is continuing to grow as well. We have watched Wilson go from a heavily criticized nickelback, to a very capable starting cornerback. The pass interference penalty he was called for in overtime on Aaron Hernandez was very questionable, but his ability to bounce back the next time Brady went at him and break up the attempted pass proved that he has a short term memory, something vital for the position.

The safeties were generally effective as well. Landry was excellent against the run, and made some very nice plays in coverage. Bell continued to be solid, despite not putting up any flashy numbers or making any highlight reel plays. Antonio Allen did a very good job jamming the tight end, but was often caught trailing in coverage. In fact, the pass to Danny Woodhead that set up the game tying field goal in the fourth quarter was a result of Allen missing him as he came out of the backfield. Allen has struggled in coverage, but has proved to be effective as a blitzer, as well as being very physical, which is exactly what we expected out of him this season.

Watching the film of this matchup was truly remarkable. Ryan’s defensive mind against New England’s offensive coaching staff resulted in constant checks and adjustments throughout the entire game, a true chess match if their has ever been one. Hopefully, for the sake of New York, it is Ryan and Co that force New England into checkmate on Thanksgiving when the two teams meet for the final time this season.

New York Jets Fact Or False: Week 6 Edition

Chris Gross gives his weekly Fact or False, previewing Jets/Colts

The New York Jets are coming off a very hard fought week 5 loss against arguably the league’s best team, the Houston Texans. Unfortunately, like Head Coach Rex Ryan pointed out, there are no moral victories in this league, despite the numerous amount of positive things the Jets may have done this past Monday night. Heading into week 6, the Jets look to get back to .500 as they host the surging, 2-2 Indianapolis Colts, led by rookie sensation Andrew Luck and a revived Reggie Wayne.

There has been a lot of talk recently about the Jets being a desperate team, in need of serious roster adjustments, if they wish to have any chance at the post season this year. However, as ESPN‘s Colin Cowherd pointed out yesterday, the Jets are not a desperate team. The Jets are a very young team who are in need of their younger players to step their play up.

That’s correct, the Jets are actually a very young team. New York has been criticized as of late for being “old and slow,” however, of the 22 starters on this team, only 4 are over 30 years of age. At linebacker, yes, New York is certainly old and rather slow in comparison to other units around the league. In fact, of the 4 players that are over 30, 3 of them occupy 75% of the linebacking corps.

So where do the Jets go from here? Do they pick themselves up off the mat and realize that this season is far from dead? Or do they read the press clippings from just about every mainstream media outlet and pack it in, in preparation for 2013? Will the vaunted “ground and pound” that we’ve heard so much about finally get going this week? Are Mark Sanchez’s days as this team’s starting quarterback over? And finally, will the defense build on its strong second half from last week and shut down Luck and the Colts offense? Find out all of that and more in this weeks’s edition of New York Jets Fact Or False.

The Colts will run for 100+ yards. False. Indianapolis may be the only team in the NFL whose stable of running backs is just as shallow as New York’s. Donald Brown is seemingly filling the Shonn Greene role of getting carries by default, solely because there is such a lack of depth at the position. The Colts currently rank 19th in the league in rushing offense averaging 97.5 yards per contest. New York’s run defense came on very strong in the second half last week against Houston, and outside of a few very nice runs from Arian Foster, arguably the league’s best back, played particularly well all game. The Colts certainly do not have anyone on the roster that comes close to the talent level of Foster, so look for the Jets to take the run away early, and try to put in on the rookie Andrew Luck to beat them. Not an easy task against a Rex Ryan constructed defense, on the road.

Mark Sanchez will play well enough to keep his job. Fact. Sanchez has certainly struggled recently, posting historically bad numbers in terms of his completion percentage. Despite his depleted arsenal of weapons, he is still inexcusably missing key throws that he should be making. That being said, Sanchez will likely get back two key pieces of this offense in rookie Stephen Hill, who was monstrous for New York in Week 1 (a game that feels like it occurred light years ago), and tight end Dustin Keller.

Keller has been famously known as Sanchez’s most trusted target and safety blanket. As the team’s longest tenured receiving option, that perception is absolutely correct. Sanchez relies upon a good receiving tight end in key spots. Last week, Jeff Cumberland watched a Sanchez pass go off of his hands into the hands of the Houston defense, ultimately sealing the game on Monday night. Whether or not Keller would have caught that pass is irrelevant. However, Keller’s presence alone should give Sanchez some much needed confidence and a better feeling of security in knowing that his trustworthy tight end is back. With the return of Keller and Hill, expect to see an offensive improvement this week.

The Jets will rush for over 100 yards. Fact. It is depressing to Jets fans everywhere, that each week they have to wonder whether or not this offense, supposedly built on running the football, can collectively surpass 100 yards on the ground. However, over their past 4 games, the Jets have faced 4 of the best run defenses in the entire league. Pittsburgh currently ranks 11th in run defense, Miami 1st, San Francisco 7th, and Houston 9th. Four consecutive weeks of facing top 11 run defenses. While this is not an excuse for the Jets lack of execution in this area of their offense, they head into week 6 facing a much weaker unit. Indianapolis currently ranks 26th in run defense, allowing 135.8 yards per contest. With Robert Mathis out, there is really no one within the Colts front seven that should cause problems for the Jets running game. Look for Shonn Greene, who got a recent vote of confidence from Rex Ryan, to continue to get the majority of the carries, finishing with 75-90 yards, while Bilal Powell and Tim Tebow chip in for a collective total of about 50 yards on the ground. Once again, it will not be pretty, but if anything, it will be an improvement from what we have seen.

Reggie Wayne will have 5 or more receptions. False. Since losing star cornerback Darrelle Revis to a season ending ACL injury in week 3, his counterpart, Antonio Cromartie, has stepped up his play tremendously. In week 4 against San Francisco, Cromartie held Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree to a combined 2 receptions for 15 yards. Last week, the veteran out of Florida State held Houston’s Andre Johnson to just one reception for 15 yards. Cromartie is proving to be in that elite group of defensive backs in this league. This week, it will be even more imperative for him to continue this level of play, as Reggie Wayne has been Andrew Luck’s most targeted receiver. Take Wayne away, and the rookie is left with a makeshift group of receivers. Shutting down Wayne will be key to defensive success as it will likely fluster the young Quarterback to not have the trusted veteran as an option. The defensive coaching staff has likely been preaching this to Cromartie all week, who has been playing with a heavy chip on his shoulder due to the vast amount of criticism he has received over the past year. Look for Cro’ to continue his elite level of play.

Quinton Coples will register his first NFL sack this week. Fact. Everyone is waiting for this to happen, and based on our defensive film breakdowns, Coples is right on the cusp of registering that coveted first career sack. The rookie out of North Carolina is growing with every rep he gets, and Indianapolis has given up 9 sacks in 4 games, not terrible, but certainly not very good. Look for Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine to continue to move Coples all over the board, and for a sack to come on an inside stunt, where he is such a mismatch for slower offensive linemen.

The Jets will return to .500 after this week. Fact. New York hasn’t lost 3 consecutive home games since 2009, Ryan’s first year with the club. The defense has slowly been improving, and this could be the week that they put it all together for the dominant performance everyone has been waiting for. Expect Ryan and Pettine to throw the kitchen sink at the rookie Luck, who will face arguably the toughest defense he has all year, on the road, and expect the offense to do enough to give the Jets a double digit victory.

New York Jets Defensive Film Breakdown: Week 5

Chris Gross breaks down the defensive game film from Jets vs. Texans

Another week and another disappointing loss is in the books for the New York Jets following the team’s 2012 Monday Night Football debut, as they fell to the Houston Texans 23-17. However, unlike New York’s week 4 performance against the San Francisco 49ers, the defensive effort from this past week was much more respectable. Outside of a couple of drives, the defense played very well, despite giving up 152 yards on 29 carries to Houston’s Arian Foster. Foster hit a 46 yard run in the first quarter, but take that away, and he finishes with 106 yards on 28 carries, for a 3.7 YPC average, very good numbers against one of the NFL’s best backs.

This week’s game, although still far from perfect, consisted of several excellent individual performers. For this edition of our defensive film breakdown, we will format this column a bit differently. Before getting into each group by position like we have in the past, we will highlight each player considered to be a top performer this week. The remainder of the column will follow as normal. Let’s get right into it.

Week 5 Top Defensive Performers:

Kenrick Ellis – Ellis has been New York’s best defensive lineman through the first month of the season, and that did not change this past Monday. Ellis has arguably the highest motor on the entire team, and is so much more than a pure run stuffing Nose Tackle, despite excelling in that area.

Stepping into the starter’s role against Houston, Ellis did not show any signs of slowing down. As a pure zero technique, Ellis was once again virtually unblockable. He does a great job of recognizing particular blocking schemes, and reacting appropriately to them. He once again proved to be strong and explosive enough to consistently split double teams, but also displayed great agility by not allowing himself to be scooped or cut off by either guard at any particular point during the game. Below is a demonstration of how explosive Ellis really is. He sheds the block of the guard with one arm and makes the tackle right in the hole. Absolute textbook play here.

Ellis also continued to prove to be an extremely hard worker. On certain plays, when lined up further on the outside, as either a 3 technique, or head up on the tackle, he tended to get knocked around a bit, as he is clearly not too familiar with the down block. However, what is most encouraging about Ellis, is that even if he does get beat on a play, it proves to have no effect on his mental state. He follows each play with an even harder effort on the next. On one particular play in the second half, Ellis chased down a Houston screen and made the tackle 30 yards down the field. Most NT’s would never even come close to making such a play. Not only did Ellis make the play, but he did not miss a rep afterwards, and stuffed Arian Foster for a gain of 1 yard only two plays later. The consistency that he displays on film is unparalleled across the entire defensive line.

Ellis’s injury will prove to be a big loss for the Jets. The youngster is really coming into his own, and it is quite unfortunate he will miss the next couple weeks at this pivotal point in the season. However, if Ellis can return and continue to play with the consistency and tenacity that he has displayed thus far, there is no doubt that he will be among the league’s best defensive linemen within the next couple of years.

Antonio Cromartie – No surprise here, but Cromartie played arguably his best game as a Jet this past Monday night. Offensive performance aside, Cromartie was Revis-Like in locking down All-Pro Wide Receiver Andre Johnson, holding the veteran to just 15 yards on 1 reception. What was most impressive about Cromartie, though, was his poise on the field. He assumed the role of the leader of the secondary, and you could just feel his confidence through his demeanor.

His interception of Houston Quarterback Matt Schaub in the first quarter was one of the most impressive displays of man coverage you will ever see. In the media, Cromartie has been discredited on this play due to Schaub making a bad throw. In reality, yes Schaub should not have thrown this pass. However, the quality of the throw had nothing to do with the interception. Cromartie had Johnson blanketed from the initial snap, and Schaub seemingly tried to force the ball to his number one target, in an apparent attempt to test Cromartie as a true number one corner. Perfect coverage, perfect finish.

Rex Ryan – Rex Ryan deserves a ton of credit for putting together a unique defensive game plan against an opponent that his team was clearly overmatched against. Ryan mixed it up in terms of personnel, scheme, packages, and coverages, something we have been waiting for him to do all season long. 1st round selection Quinton Coples finally saw extended reps, and continues to grow with each and every one. 3rd round pick DeMario Davis was mixed in heavily, primarily in 3rd down sub packages, and was used to blitz and drop in coverage.

Schematically, Ryan was extremely creative. Throughout the course of the game, the defense constantly shifted their alignments and disguised pressures and coverages tremendously. On one particular play, Calvin Pace jumped from his normal spot as an outside rusher, to a three technique with his hand on the ground, only to drop in coverage once the ball was snapped. Although Pace is certainly not the fastest player to be put in a role like this, the act of it alone was usually enough to throw the offensive line off.

In the fourth quarter, on a very pivotal 3rd down play, Ryan and the Jets came out in one of the most interesting fronts you will see in this league. Pace and Coples lined up as down lineman, while David Harris, Aaron Maybin, and DeMario Davis lined up as linebackers, all moving around, showing blitz.

The confusion on Houston’s offense line was obvious, as you could see the tackle and guard on the right side trying to communicate some sort of line call before the snap. After the snap, the guard, completely unsure of who to block, allows Calvin Pace to blow right by him and make the tackle for no gain. This is a great example of excellent coaching and schematics being the difference on a particular play.

On to the remainder of the team, per the usual formatting of this column.

Defensive Line

Quinton Coples – Coples saw the the most reps he has seen all season long in this contest. While he still continues to make mistakes that you would expect of someone this early in his career, his talent level is absolutely astronomical. One of the best plays I have seen any defensive lineman on this team make this season came in the second quarter, when Coples was lined up as a 5 technique and came on an inside move. He was so quick off the ball, he was in the backfield while the tackle was hardly out of his stance.

Unfortunately, once he broke through the line, Coples made a very young mistake. Seemingly surprised by how easily he got into the backfield, Coples lost sight of his fundamentals by dropping his head and allowing Arian Foster to spin to the inside and turn a 3 yard loss into a 3 yard gain. Coples needs to realize that his athleticism and talent are going to put him into positions like this, and he cannot be caught off guard when he needs to make a play. As he matures, this is a play he will begin to make more often than not. In his defense, he had a very difficult task at hand in making a one on one tackle with one of the league’s top running backs.

Coples’ pass rush ability is certainly there, but he just needs to put it all together. In this contest, like he has been doing in the previous four, Coples was moved all over the defensive front in passing situations. He lined up as a 1, 3, 5, and 7 technique, and came on stunts to both the inside and outside. He is a bit reckless, but is right on the cusp of getting to the quarterback, something that, once it happens, could become very habitual based on his immense talent level.

Muhammed Wilkerson – While Wilkerson has been seemingly inconsistent all season long, this past week’s game was telling sign of why that notion may be misconstrued. Wilkerson is relied upon to do a number of things in this scheme. Like Coples, he was moved all around the defensive line this past Monday, but in a much greater capacity. When he was lined up at the nose, he played a true nose, rather than stunting. The same goes for when he was lined up as a 3, 5, or 7 technique. Wilkerson is being asked to play just about every position on the defensive front, which certainly speaks to how this coaching staff evaluates his ability. So, while he may seem inconsistent, it is likely more of a case of Wilkerson getting a little dose of everything on the defensive line, and maybe not necessarily being put in a spot where he can get in a consistent rythm. Still, Wilkerson proves to do everything very well, and like Coples, is right on the cusp of becoming a play maker. Either way, the future is very bright for this group based on the talent levels of Wilkerson, Coples, and Ellis.

Mike DeVito – Monday night was undoubtedly DeVito’s best performance of the season. Relentless with his motor, DeVito consistently shuts down any run that comes his way, displaying great recognition for all types of blocking schemes. While he is still virtually useless in rushing the quarterback, his ability to defend the run is among the best on this unit. His tenacity and leadership displayed on the field continued this past Monday night. DeVito also moves around, but more primarily on the inside, from the 1, 3, and 5 technique spots, performing the best as a 3. While he won’t jump off the stat sheet, something he proved once again Monday, his value to this group cannot be duplicated. His motor rubs off on the younger guys, and with Kenrick Ellis, the interior of this defensive line possesses arguably the highest motor of anyone on the team.  A true blue collared player, every defensive line needs a guy like Mike DeVito.

Calvin Pace – The story with pace has been the same for the entire season. He is very fundamentally sound, has great tenacity, but is simply too slow to be overly effective at this point in his career. Pace is very slow in his pass rush and coverage, but still sets the edge better than any player at his position on this roster. Pace has come under heavy scrutiny by the Jets fan base, many calling for his benching. However, from what the other OLBs have shown, there is no one else at this position worthy of taking his spot. Sure, rushing the passer, Pace is very ineffective at this point. However, so are Aaron Maybin and Garrett McIntyre, and neither of them play the run as well as Pace. Why sacrifice what Pace can do against the run for someone who will not be an upgrade? Should he be subbed on 3rd and longs and passing situations? Sure, it would be wise to bring in speed in these situations. However, Pace still remains the best on the roster at this position, and does the little things well enough to keep his job. Don’t expect him to be watching from the sidelines anytime soon. He continues to demonstrate a veteran knowledge of the game, the defense, and fundamentals.

Bryan Thomas – Thomas is generally in the same boat as Pace, however he is nowhere near as fundamentally sound, nor does he posess the same tenacity as Pace. He does a good job at setting the edge, as he displayed the ability to string out outside runs and turn them back inside against Houston. When in space, however, Thomas has serious issues. He lost contain on one end around early in the game which led to a big game, and when Houston came at him again a few series later, he would have been shook in the open field if not for the ball carrier falling down. Thomas, in Kyle Wilson fashion, got up waving his finger as if he made some sort of impressive open field tackle. Still, outside of Pace, I don’t see anyone on the roster who can play the run better at his position.

Aaron Maybin – I’m not sure what there is more of: words in this write up, or the amount of plays that Maybin ended up 5 yards directly behind Matt Schaub in his pass rush. To his credit, Maybin did attempt an inside move, once, in the second half and was completely stonewalled by the offensive tackle and guard. To say his disapointing season continued Monday night would be an understatement.

Damon Harrison Harrison looked promising, but with very limited reps, against a tired offensive line, it is hard to give a fair assessment. This week will tell a lot about where he stands.

The Linebackers – Bart Scott and David Harris were both very hot and cold once again. There were times when they made quick reads, and got to the ball carrier on the drop of a hat. Then there were plays where they were repeatedly sealed by offensive lineman and cut off, opening running lanes for Arian Foster and company to gain more yardage. Their play has been inconsistent, but was not terrible this past Monday. Coverage wise, they could each be better. Harris was roasted by Foster on a route out of the backfield, but in his defense, there aren’t very many linebackers in this league that can match up with him in man coverage.

DeMario Davis saw quality reps, and seems to be getting more comfortable with more playing time. Still, he was not much of a difference maker this week.

Josh Mauga and Garret McIntyre saw a decent amount of action as well. Both play hard, but should really be limited to special teams at this point. McIntyre struggles against the run, despite a great motor.

The Secondary – Outside of Cromartie’s dominant performance, Kyle Wilson seemed to step his play up a bit as well. He did not give up any big plays, and you can see him starting to build some confidence on the field.

The safeties, for the most part, played on an average level. LaRon Landry was used in much more of a free safety role this week, with Yeremiah Bell getting a lot of reps in the box. Both players do not hesitate to stick their noses in on the run, which is good, but can prove to be costly as it was on Owen Daniels’ touchdown reception, on which both Bell and Landry bit on the play action, leaving Houston’s tight end wide open in the middle of the field.

Outside of a few drives, the defense played much better this week. This unit is certainly banged up, heading into week 6 when they will host Andrew Luck and the surging Indianapolis Colts, a game that certainly will not be as easy as it once seemed. Cromartie needs to continue to assert his dominance against Reggie Wayne, and Rex Ryan should be just as creative as he was this week to confuse the rookie and force him to make some mistakes.

New York Jets Fact Or False: Week 5 Edition

With the first quarter of the 2012 NFL regular season in the books, the New York Jets stand at 2-2 atop the AFC East. However, anyone following this team knows that, with the way the Jets have played since week 2, there is little to no security in that position. Sure, New York is .500 and in first place in their division, but the reality of the matter is, with their 2 best players out, Mark Sanchez seemingly going in the tank, and the defense giving up yardage like it is going out of style, the Jets season seems all but lost already.

The Jets face yet another daunting task this Monday night as they host the undefeated Houston Texans, deemed by many as the best team in the league this season. Can the Jets beat Houston at home? Sure, this is the NFL where upsets happen all the time. However, this is also a team that is seemingly becoming all too familiar with losing.

The Jets are desperate for a convincing win, something they’ve had very few of over the past calendar year. Although a win will be extremely difficult to come by this Monday, New York can certainly take a step in the right direction with competitive play in which they show desire, drive, and confidence, while the offense displays ball security and the defense shows the ability to stop the run and get off the field on third downs. Still, an extrememly difficut task against a team like Houston.

So, how will the Jets fare? Is this the end of the Mark Sanchez era in New York as we know it? Will Rex Ryan’s defense get back to its old ways of dominance, or is that just a mirage at this point? And will Mike Tannenbaum’s inactivity with this roster prove to be the ultimate demise of this team? Find out all you need to know about this week’s game in our latest edition of New York Jets Fact Or False.

Houston will sack Mark Sanchez multiple times. Fact. While the Jets offensive line has been improved in pass protection over these first four games, Houston’s defense has 13 sacks in that same time span, averaging just over 3 per game. Defensive End J.J. Watt is putting together one of the greatest performances by a defensive lineman in recent memory, leading the NFL with 7.5 sacks. While San Francisco’s pass rush was certainly the best the Jets had seen up until that point last week, Houston has an abundance of pass rushers at every position. The Jets will likely slide a lot of protection toward Watt leaving players like Brian Cushing and Brooks Reed, two players who also have a history of getting to the quarterback, for single blocking.

Texans’ Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will certainly get very creative with his blitz packages and rush schemes, something he has become notorious for since joining Houston last season. New York will do their best to keep Sanchez upright, however expect Watt, Cushing, and Reed to all combine for anywhere between 3-4 sacks.

The Jets will finally run the ball effectively. Fact. This is a very bold prediction here, considering how poor New York’s rushing offense has been. Houston’s run defense ranks 11th in the NFL, allowing just over 90 yards per contest. However, the Texans gave up 144 yards on the ground last week to Chris Johnson, who up until that point, was the only starting running back in the league averaging less YPC than Shonn Greene with 1.4. Against the Texans, however, Johnson posted a season high 5.6 YPC.

Yes, Johnson is much more physically gifted than Greene, and unlike the Jets starter, runs with some form of identity. However, if Johnson can make somewhat of a revival, there is no reason the Jets entire rushing attack cannot as well. The key for Tony Sparano will be to identify the holes and weaknesses in Houston’s front seven, something that will certainly be no walk in the park. However, with the right amount of Greene, complemented with Bilal Powell and possibly Joe McKnight, coupled with a coherent Tim Tebow game plan, there is no reason the Jets cannot at least make some sort of improvement in the run game this week. Will it need to be done with gimmick plays and creative formations? Absolutely. But, with the personnel left on this offense, that will likely be the only way to get things materialized from here on out.

Aarian Foster will run for 100+ Yards. False. Yes, another bold prediction considering how bad the Jets run defense has looked recently. However, with Sione Pouha likely out this week, Kenrick Ellis will be receiving most of the reps at Nose Tackle, which will prove to be a blessing in disguise for this defense. Ellis has been the best defensive lineman for the Jets thus far this season. His ability to take on double teams, and occupy two blockers, is head and shoulders above what Pouha’s is right now. This will allow for less free shots at the linebackers, who will be more free to roam the field and make plays. Quinton Coples will likely see more reps as an every down player, as his workload has been increasing each week, and that will give the Jets much more athleticism and explosion up front. While Houston will likely rack up over 100 yards on the ground collectively, it will likely be through a committee effort. Plus, the Jets couldn’t possibly miss 17 tackles again…right?

The Jets pass rush will finally show some signs of life this week. Fact. By now, you’ve realized this piece is full of bold predictions. However, considering how dead the Jets pass rush has been throughout the first 4 games, 2 sacks and 3 QB hits would be considered a revival. Throughout our film breakdowns, it has become extremely apparent that the Jets’ pass rushing problems stem, not from lack of effort or technique, but mostly lack of speed from the starters. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, despite each recording a sack last week, are simply too slow to get to the quarterback at this point in their careers. DeMario Davis and Quinton Coples are beginning to see extended reps in passing situations, something that will prove to be brilliant as the season progresses. Each has tremendous speed, and Coples is undoubtedly the most talented lineman on the team, just still a bit raw. Kenrick Ellis gets an excellent push up the middle in his pass rush, which will ultimately help flush Matt Schaub out of the pocket, hopefully into an edge player. If Aaron Maybin can somehow develop a few pass rush moves, the Jets’ rush may not be as dormant anymore.

Houston’s Brian Cushing will have an excellent performance in his Homecoming game on Monday Night Football. Fact. Former AP Rookie of the Year Brian Cushing makes his return home to North Jersey this Monday night. A graduate of Bergen Catholic High School, Cushing won a state championship in the very same complex, at the old Giant Stadium, as a high school senior. Now, Cushing comes back to the Meadowlands as Houston’s 2012 leading tackler.

While he will surely be fired up for this game, in which he takes on former college teammate Mark Sanchez, Cushing is physically a mismatch for the Jets offense. Possessing great speed, athleticism, and tenacity from the inside, Cushing’s versatility makes him a dangerous weapon for Wade Phillips. As previously noted, New York will likely pay a lot of attention to J.J. Watt, leaving Cushing to roam the field, and make plays, exactly what he does best. Expect a stat line close to 10 tackles, 1 sack, and a tackle for loss for the former BC Crusader.

This will be Mark Sanchez’s last game as the starting Quarterback of the New York Jets. False. While the clock certainly seems to be ticking on Sanchez, as many are convinced it is not a matter of if but when he will be replaced by Tim Tebow, don’t expect a decision to come after this game. Even if Sanchez plays poorly again, something that could very well happen against this defense, New York is simply not ready for a change, because they know like everyone else, once they go to Tebow, there is no turning back.

Regardless of his performance, Sanchez will be given amnesty due to the fact that he has had to face arguably the two best defenses in the NFL in consecutive weeks. However, if his poor play continues into the Colts game, not only will the fans and Woody Johnson call for Tebow to take the reigns, Rex Ryan and the coaching staff likely will as well.

New York Jets – Minor Changes Won’t Solve Problems

The New York Jets need more than minor changes to solve their long list of problems

The New York Jets losing to the San Francisco 49ers yesterday should not have surprised anybody. It does not merit a shocked or angry reaction. The approach to the game and the emphatic manner in which they lost does however merit a response. Hopefully that response is taking place among the coaching staff and front office of the organization as they take today and tomorrow to reflect on a few harsh realities.

On the game film from yesterday, the coaching staff is going to see what a legitimate Super Bowl contender looks like. The 49ers are the team Rex Ryan wants. A smash-mouth, versatile running game supported by an efficient quarterback on offense and an elite defense that can get after the quarterback and force turnovers. The New York Jets can’t be them because Muhammad Wilkerson isn’t Justin Smith. David Harris isn’t Patrick Willis. Quinton Coples isn’t Aldon Smith. Bart Scott isn’t NaVorro Bowman. Not even remotely close. Shonn Greene isn’t half the running back Frank Gore is. Dustin Keller is a very poor man’s Vernon Davis. Colin Kapernick is a fast Tim Tebow who can throw the football. And right now, Mark Sanchez isn’t anywhere near the quarterback Alex Smith is and that is saying something because Smith isn’t very good.

The Jets don’t have Super Bowl talent. The Jets have 8-8 talent with zero depth. There is no middle class on the Jets roster. There is no capable backups with bright futures. Continuing the San Francisco comparison because it really drives it home – the 49ers 3rd and 4th running backs, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James could very well be the Jets 1st and 2nd best running backs. The 49ers 4th, 5th, and 6th wide receivers, Kyle Williams, AJ Jenkins and Ted Ginn Jr would be the Jets top three receivers this Monday night.

The lack of talent and depth gets dumped on Mike Tannebaum’s lap and it appears more analysts are finally jumping on the Mike Tannenbaum is doing an awful job train we have been driving here at TOJ the past year or so. When you have a pair of lackluster off-seasons in a row and don’t draft well it catches up to you. Unfortunately, there is no cure all trade or signing that can be made at this point. It is going to take a purging of overpriced veterans this off-season and a wise use of available cap space, something that Tannenbaum shouldn’t be given the chance to do but probably will because of his relationship with Woody Johnson.

Where does that leave the 2012 Jets right now? The problem with the game-plan against San Francisco was that the Jets approached the game like they had enough talent to compete with the 49ers. They mistakenly thought they could play their normal defensive scheme minus Darrelle Revis and stop their offense. They thought they could run a standard offensive game plan and score on the 49ers defense. They could not have been more wrong and that is on Rex Ryan’s hubris.

Similar to Tannenbaum, Ryan does a poor job of self-scouting his own talent. He overestimates the players on his roster. Hopefully, yesterday’s game tape will be a needed hard smack in the face resulting in Ryan realizing his team’s deficiencies. Against San Francisco the Jets should have been emptying the book on offense, mixing in gadget plays and new formations in hopes of catching their defense off guard. On defense, they should have been trying new formations, blitz schemes and personnel. Houston is coming to town this Monday and they are a better all-around team than San Francisco. If the Jets play straight up, they will lose by 30 points for the second week in a row.

On defense, it is time face the reality about the Jets linebackers. They have one very good inside linebacker who is having a poor year in David Harris and not much else. Bryan Thomas and Garrett McIntyre can’t play major reps on a good NFL defense. Calvin Pace and Bart Scott are slow, 2 down linebackers who are average players at best. The less linebackers on the field for the Jets, the better. We discussed in the off-season how the Jets are better built for a 4-3 or 46 and it is time for Rex to stop trying to fit square pegs in round holes in the 3-4.

Get Quinton Coples in the starting line-up and start showing more 4-3 looks. Accept the reality that Siona Pouha is hurt and give him time to heal while getting Kenrick Ellis more reps. At linebacker, more reps need to be given to Demario Davis immediately. Let him make his mistakes now and grow into the position he will hopefully be holding the next few years for the Jets. They need his speed out there. Put Aaron Maybin on the inactive list until he learns a second pass rush move and give Ricky Sapp a chance to rush the passer on third downs. In the secondary, hopefully Aaron Berry gets up to speed quickly. From a talent perspective, he could very well be starting over Kyle “I taunt the receiver when I’m beat by 10 yards” Wilson in a couple of weeks. Beyond that, you hope Antonio Cromartie and LaRon Landry continue their elevated level of play.

On offense, the solutions are going to be much harder to come by. Mark Sanchez was abysmal yesterday and the lack of supporting cast isn’t going to help him out of his slump. Tim Tebow is not the answer as a full time quarterback. He can be the answer as a shot in the arm to the offense if he is used properly, which Tony Sparano has shown no concept of doing. No more reps at H-Back. No more reps in the slot. No more reps at fullback. Get Tebow in the shotgun with Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley next to him and let him run option and take off up the middle on short yardage situations. Give him 10-12 carries a game. Treat him like a running back who is taking direct snaps and then pop in a deep pass on occasion to keep defenses honest.

The Jets are so bad at running back, that it wouldn’t be irrational to give recently signed Jonathan Grimes and roster ping pong ball Joe McKnight extended work. How could they be less productive than Shonn Greene? Go with a committee approach that hopefully pops a few big plays with the two of them and Bilal Powell. I mentioned Kerley in the Wildcat because he is type of player who should be getting 8-12 touches a game, especially in an offense as devoid of talent as the Jets. Use him how Green Bay uses Randall Cobb. Give him handoffs, pitches, quick screens…get the ball in his hands.

Mark Sanchez is so inconsistent that he may not be salvageable at this point. He needs to be given quick reads where he can get the ball out of his hands without too many progressions. Hopefully an improved, creative run game will open up some type of play action for him down the field. At wide receiver and tight end, you can only hope Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller get healthy and Chaz Schilens can be relied upon.

The Jets need a roster overhaul but they have 12 games left. In order to make those 12 games competitive, it is going to take creativity on both sides of the ball and a shake up of the depth chart. Hopefully Rex Ryan and his staff are smart enough to realize that.

New York Jets Fact Or False: Week 4 Edition

As we enter the final week of the first quarter of the 2012 NFL season, we still aren’t necessarily sure who this New York Jets team is just yet. For a team striving to be built primarily through strong defense and a ground and pound offensive philosophy, the 2012 Jets have been anything but that. New York currently ranks 21st in overall defense this season, a ranking that could certainly grow worse with the loss of the team’s best overall player, CB Darrelle Revis. Offensively, the Jets rank 22nd overall, but are 29th in rushing yards per carry, with an abysmal average of 3.3. Shockingly, however, New York’s offense ranks just outside of the top ten in points scored, standing at 11th overall, only one spot behind Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, with 81 total points.

Translation? All is not lost for New York just yet, despite countless fans and media members declaring them dead without Revis lurking in the defensive secondary. For a team ranking in the bottom tier in defense and rushing offense, New York still stands at 2-1 and first in the AFC East. However, it is no secret that this team needs vast improvements in most aspects of the game, otherwise they will in fact suffer the complete landslide that everyone seems to be waiting for.

How can the Jets get back into that upper tier of teams without Revis? It begins with a few things. First, the Jets need to begin to limit Shonn Greene’s touches. By now, it is no secret that Greene is not the feature back New York thought he was going to turn into. Averaging an extremely disappointing 3.1 YPC this season, Greene has been arguably the most boring running back in the NFL this year. His lack of ability to make defenders miss and break tackles is noticeable to even the most fair weather fans. It is time Tony Sparano begins to divide his workload amongst the other backs on the Jets roster, namely Bilal Powell, who averaged 4.5 YPC last week in Miami, and (you guess it) Tim Tebow. Rex Ryan will also need to prove how great of a defensive mind he really is. Without Revis eliminating a player from opposing offenses, Ryan is going to need to show what made him such a successful defensive coordinator during his days in Baltimore. He will need to be very creative both schematically and personnel wise in order for this defense to assert itself as one of the league’s best again.

This week is sure to be a daunting test for each area of improvement for the Jets. Will New York be able to make the necessary adjustments in all phases of the game to overcome the powerhouse that is the San Francisco 49ers? Find out how it all will shake out in this week’s New York Jets Fact Or False.

Quinton Coples will register his 1st NFL sack. Fact. As good as San Francisco’s offensive line is in the running game, they have struggled so far in protecting quarterback Alex Smith this season. Smith has been sacked 10 times through the first three games this year. While Green Bay, Detroit, and Minnesota certainly have better pass rushes than the Jets, don’t be surprised to see New York’s first round selection get himself his first career sack this Sunday.

Although he has seen limited reps in his first few games, Rex Ryan proclaimed today that he expects the rookie out of North Carolina to take on a heavier workload this week. Coples has been an absolute mismatch when he’s been lined up on the inside on passing downs due to his superior athleticism against interior lineman. He has also been tremendous on the few stunts that he has run, often playing with excellent agility and leverage. Expect Ryan and Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine to get creative with their blitzes and stunts this week to confuse an offensive line that has struggled in pass protection this season. That could very well leave the door open for Coples to get to Smith for his first, of what could be many, NFL sacks.

Mark Sanchez will finish with a higher passer rating than Alex Smith. False. This is not to say that Sanchez will not play good. However in terms of passing efficiency, there have been very few who have done it better than Smith over the past year. This season alone, Smith ranks 7th in passer rating among all starting quarterbacks in the NFL with a rating of 102.7, that includes 5 touchdowns to just 1 interceptions and a completion percentage of 69.6.

Sanchez on the other hand ranks last in the league in terms of completion percentage, having completed just 50.5% of his passes with passer rating of 78.3. Of course, Sanchez has been hindered by the Jets’ lack of running ability as well as a very inexperienced group of receivers.

This is not to say that this unit will not get it together and outperform Smith and the 49ers’ passing attack this Sunday, however, the primary X-Factor in this is the absence of Darrelle Revis. Without Revis in the secondary, opposing teams are completing over 70% of their passes against New York. When facing a team like San Francisco, whose entire passing game is built on efficiency and a lack of mistakes, it will be very difficult for Sanchez to outperform his counterpart.

Frank Gore will rush for 100+ yards. Fact. Over the course of his first three games, Gore has run for 264 yards on just 45 carries, for an excellent average of 5.9 YPC. Although he has surpassed the century mark just once this season, he has yet to be given a heavy workload, with a season high of 17 carries in week 2 against Detroit.

This week, however, expect San Francisco to put the Jets 22nd ranked defense to the test. Based on the success that CJ Spiller and Reggie Bush experienced against this defense, the 49ers would be wise to give Gore the ball early and often. While New York is much better suited to defend backs like Gore, rather than Spiller or Bush, do not be surprised to see the former Miami Hurricane get anywhere from 20-25 carries, taking him over the 100 yard mark for the second time this season.

The Jets will not surpass 100 yards rushing as a team. False. Yes, the Jets have struggled to run the ball this season, but as addressed above, that is a heavy result of the inabilities of Shonn Greene. To think that New York is going to abandon its ground and pound philosophy after just three games under Sparano is utter blasphemy. New York’s inability to run the ball is undoubtedly keeping Sparano up at night, surely enough to devise a very clever game plan against one of the league’s top defenses.

Sparano and co. are likely wise enough to realize that they will struggle to pound the ball against this defense in jumbo packages. Expect New York to come out in various spread formations, and actually look to pass early to open up the running game. If Sanchez can be efficient and prove to be able to stretch the field in the first few offensive drives, San Francisco will have no choice but to unload the box, giving New York ample space to run the ball. The Jets should divide the workload amongst an abundance of ball carriers who will all collectively gain over 100 yards.

At least 4 different players will carry the ball for the Jets. Fact. As touched on above, Shonn Greene’s days as a 20-25 carry back are seemingly over. It is time for the Jets to divide his carries amongst Powell, Tebow, and possibly the newly acquired Jonathan Grimes. While Greene will likely still get around 10-12 carries this Sunday, look for Powell to cut into that load the most with about 15-17 carries. Tebow will likely chip in out of the Wildcat with somewhere around 5-7 carries, and New York would be foolish not to give the ball to the speedy Grimes, or the recently “traded” Joe McKnight a few times to attempt a home run play.

While the Shanahan approach of playing an abundance of Running Backs is not necessarily a popular one in this league, Greene has left the Jets with no choice. In order for this offense to get on track, they need to be able to run the ball, and in order to be able to run the ball, the Jets need to divide the workload, plain and simple.