New York Jets – The First Half Positives (Yes, They Exist)

A collection of positives from the first half of season for the New York Jets

Here I was ready to write a feel good article about the New York Jets when they clog up my Twitter feed with foolish decisions. First and most importantly, the organization hasn’t been proactive enough about sending support to hurricane victims throughout New Jersey and New York. We have heard about the New York Giants heading to South Jersey to pitch in. Where are the Jets? Outside of Mark Sanchez who went down there today, the organization has been painfully quiet in their support of the state they play and practice in. Get your checkbook out Woody. Get your community relations and media department in order New York Jets.

Second, the Jets made yet another collection of bonehead roster decisions today by releasing rookie safety Antonio Allen and signing wide receiver Jason Hill and offensive lineman Hayworth Hicks off the Colts practice squad. Why are these foolish decisions? Antonio Allen is a promising rookie safety who fits well into the big nickel, an essential modern NFL defense. Jason Hill is a journeyman receiver who didn’t receive a single workout or claim after the Jets released him last week. Hayworth Hicks couldn’t make the Colts active roster and the Colts have a terrible offensive line. Memo to Mike Tannenbaum, you don’t find wide receivers in Jacksonville and you don’t find offensive lineman in Indianapolis.

Tannenbaum has continually been below average at his job the past few years. He actually seems to be getting perpetually worse. We can only hope that he is the fall guy this off-season…

Rant over and now to a few first half positives

Jeremy Kerley – He has developed into a better player than many imagined he could. Kerley has shown he can be more than a slot receiver, lining up all over the formation and making plays. With his crisp routes, good hands and good run after the catch ability Kerley is a building block for the future.

Demario Davis – The early returns have been good on the Jets much hyped 3rd round rookie. He brings a needed element of speed and should be a long term starter at inside linebacker.

LaRon Landry – One of the few shrewd signings of the past few years by Mike Tannenbaum. If Landry finishes the season healthy, the Jets should lock him into a long term deal. He is a strong fit in Rex Ryan’s defense and has been a major upgrade over Jim Leonhard or Eric Smith.

Antonio Cromartie – Playing the best football of his career. He deserves All-Pro consideration thus far.

Kenrick Ellis – Before he got hurt, he was the Jets best defensive lineman. He will be back against Seattle. The Jets can build around him, Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples up front.

Joe McKnight – Gutted through an ankle injury against the Patriots and seems to have turned a corner at running back. He needs more work in the second half of the season.

The Homeland Inspired NFL & Jets Mid-Season Awards

Mike Donnelly hands out his mid-season NFL and New York Jets awards, inspired by the TV hit Homeland

While watching the NFL games this past weekend, one of the biggest things that stood out to me was how impressive the Chicago Bears defense was in their dismantling of the Tennessee Titans. What also stood out was how all of the major talking heads on TV were practically jumping out of their chairs trying to tell us, the viewers, how awesome that defense is and that Charles Tillman is the most underrated player in the league. Of course, there were plenty of people saying this all year but most people were slow to catch on. Now that the Bears have clearly cemented themselves as the league’s best defense, everyone has jumped on the bandwagon and raved about the Bears.

This reminded me of when there’s a great new TV show that people aren’t watching. Slowly but surely, those that are watching start spreading the word to everyone they know. They tell their friends, they post on forums, they write blogs about it and before you know it, more and more people are watching. I’m usually one of the last people to join the “cool club” and watch shows like this, but after being told two or three dozen times that something is awesome, I usually cave in and check it out. My most recent case of this happening was with Homeland, which is indeed downright awesome. Everyone was right. It hooked me in so quickly and strongly, that I was completely torn on whether to watch the new episode Sunday night, or watch the Cowboys choke away another late night game. Anything that even made me consider not watching football must be pretty excellent, right? So excellent, in fact, that I decided to honor the show by naming my mid-season NFL awards after it. And since we are all about the Jets around here obviously, I’m handing out the league awards and also Jets team awards, all in one. Heeeere we go…

THE CARRIE MATHISON MVP AWARD

NFL: Matt Ryan (honorable mention: Peyton Manning) – Carrie may not be the greatest agent, but she gets things done, and without her, her CIA team wouldn’t be nearly as effective (although I can do without her crying every single episode). Same goes for Matt Ryan. I don’t think he will end up winning the award at the end of the season, but you can’t deny he’s had an excellent first half in leading the Falcons to the only undefeated record in the league. His stats are not particularly eye-opening, but he’s done everything right, made the big plays, and he narrowly edges out Peyton for the top spot.

JETS: Antonio Cromartie – Sadly, there isn’t even much competition here.

THE ABU NAZIR OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD

NFL: Brandon Marshall – Nobody on Homeland knows how to go on the offensive or cause more damage than terrorist Abu Nazir, both mentally and physically. Brandon Marshall isn’t a terrorist or anything, but he’s been doing a ton of damage to defensive secondaries this season, and has been the best offensive player in the league. The guy has just ben an absolute monster, racking up 59 catches, 797 yards, and 7 touchdowns through 8 games. Double those numbers to project him over a full 16 game schedule and you’re looking at one of the greatest receiving seasons in the history of the NFL.

JETS: Ummm….. Nick Mangold? – A case can be made for Jeremy Kerley, who has stepped up big time since Santonio Holmes got injured, but it’s clear nobody on this offense should be getting any awards.

THE DAVID ESTES DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD

NFL: J.J. Watt (honorable mention: Charles Tillman and the entire Bears Defense) – A lot of people don’t seem to like Estes, but I enjoy him and think he does a great job doing a little bit of everything in trying to defend against any and all attacks. In the NFL, nobody has done a better job doing a little bit of everything on defense or been as downright awesome as Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt. He knocks down passes better than any lineman I’ve ever seen, and he’s destroyed offensive linemen en route to a league leading 10.5 sacks. Oh, and he’s doing that as an interior lineman, which makes it all the more impressive.

JETS: Antonio Cromartie – There hasn’t been much competition here, but that doesn’t minimize Cromartie’s season in any way. The guy has been playing the best football of his career, and ever since Darrelle Revis went down with an injury, he’s been arguably the league’s best cover corner. If he doesn’t make the Pro Bowl, it will be a travesty.

THE SAUL BERENSON COACH OF THE YEAR AWARD

NFL: Bruce Arians – Yes, Mike Smith has his Falcons sitting pretty and undefeated, but no coach has done a better job than Bruce Arians this year. Just like Saul has his hands full dealing with Carrie and all the other things he’s in charge of, Bruce Arians has had to deal with more than any other coach in the league and done an excellent job throughout. After Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with cancer and had to leave the team, it would have been easy for this Colts team to feel sorry for themselves, just pack it in and go 2-14. Instead, Arians has led them to a 5-3 record and they’re right in the thick of the playoff race. Remarkable.

JETS: Dennis Thurman – Again, there’s not much competition here, but I’m giving this one to the Jets secondary coach. Hmm, Antonio Cromartie plays in the secondary, I’m starting to see a theme here with the Jets awards. Other than Cromartie having the best season of his career, the Jets safeties have performed admirably well, and even Kyle Wilson hasn’t been a complete disaster, due in large part to Thurman’s coaching.

THE AGENT QUINN ROOKIE OF THE YEAR AWARD

NFL: Andrew Luck – Yes, Doug Martin is the hot name right now, but this award belongs to Andrew Luck. Just like Agent Quinn in season 2, Luck arrived on the scene and immediately made a strong impact, making those around him better in the process. The Colts were the worst team in the league last year, but now are legitimate playoff contenders thanks to the strong play of their rookie signal-caller. He’s the real deal.

JETS: Demario Davis narrowly over Quinton Coples– Wow, these Jets awards are getting harder and harder to pick. In the long run, I absolutely think this will belong to Quinton Coples, but through the first half of the season, Davis has done a little more, and brought a whole new element to the defense: Speed. He’s also been a major special teams contributor, which gives him the nod. I’m just happy we still have a few rookies that weren’t cut almost immediately after being drafted. Thanks, Mike Tannenbaum!

THE TOM WALKER COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD

NFL: Peyton Manning & Adrian Peterson (tie) – It’s nearly impossible to pick between these two. In Homeland, Walker was a forgotten man who came back out of nowhere to show that his skills were as awesome as ever. Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson did the same things this year. Manning looks as good as ever, as he is on pace for 4,800 yards, 40 TD’s, and a league best 108 QB rating. Peterson, despite tearing his ACL last December, is leading the league in rushing while running for a ridiculous 5.7 yards per carry. Cut this award in half and give it to both.

JETS: Shonn Grenee – Not many options here, so I’m giving this to the beleaguered running back, Shonn Greene. He was completely left for dead by nearly all Jets fans at the beginning of the season, but he has shown serious signs of life the last 3 or 4 games. While he’s not an ideal starting running back, he’s also proven not to be the useless slug many thought he was.

THE DANA AND VP’S SON HIT & RUN SUBPLOT THAT MAKES NO SENSE AWARD

NFL: Ray Rice & Lesean McCoy usage – Just like the out-of-nowhere subplot involving Brody’s daughter and the Vice President’s son getting involved in a bizarre hit and run incident, the usage of these two elite running backs makes NO SENSE. Why The Ravens and Eagles insist on eschewing their stud runners in favor of letting their bad quarterbacks pass the ball more is about as baffling of a coaching move as you’ll ever see. Honorable mention goes here to the Chargers and Norv Turner, who seem to think it’s a good idea to play Ronnie Brown a lot, despite him having a giant fork sticking out of his back.

JETS: Tim Tebow Usage – We’ve been over this time and time again, but the way the Jets have used Tim Tebow this year is completely and totally insane. I have never wavered on my belief that Tebow shouldn’t be the quarterback here in any way, shape, or form, but there is no way he shouldn’t be used more often, especially in short yardage situations, or as a change of pace to spark the offense. What makes it even more confusing to me is how the Jets had their best offensive game of the season in week 1 when Tebow had his most snaps, and then they just scrapped the whole thing. If you aren’t going to use him on 3rd and 1 down by the goalline, when he’s basically UNSTOPPABLE, then what the hell is the point of having him on this roster? I will never understand this. It could turn out that Dana Brody is actually an undercover 34-year-old secret terrorist from Canada plotting to assassinate Mickey Mouse and it would make more sense than Tim Tebow’s usage.

THE “WHO SLIPPED THE RAZOR BLADE?” AWARD (for Guy Most Likely Playing For the Other Team)

NFL: Matt Cassell – So who slipped the razor blade to that terrorist guard allowing him to slit his wrists and avoid further interrogation in season 1? Was it Brody? Was it Saul? Was it someone else? We may never know, but what I do know is if there was a mole in the NFL who was secretly plotting to destroy his team, it would be Matt Cassell. There are few players who could inspire their home fans to actually cheer when he gets hurt, but he managed to pull it off. I guess losing 7 fumbles and throwing 11 interceptions in 6 starts will cause fans to turn on you. Can’t say I totally blame them.

JETS: Calvin Pace – It’s hard to pick just one for this award, but I’m going with the guy who is paid $7.3 million this year to not sack the quarterback. On the bright side, he really seems to have mastered the “run into the offensive lineman, stick arms straight out, and stop” pass rush move, so there’s that.

THE NICHOLAS BRODY MOST POLARIZING FIGURE(S) AWARD

NFL: The Atlanta Falcons – Is Brody good? Is he bad? What about the Falcons? It’s rare you see a team appear to be so good, yet have so few people actually believe in them. They’re undefeated and running away with their division. They’re going to get home field advantage throughout the playoffs. They have the league’s first half MVP and two superstar wide receivers. Yet if you said the Giants or Packers were going to Atlanta in the second round of the playoffs, who would you pick to win that game? Exactly.

JETS: Mark Sanchez – Pretty obvious one here. Just like with Brody, no matter how many bad things Sanchez does on the field, he still manages to do a few things all the time that make you think deep down he’s really great. Just like Brody, Sanchez was dealt a really crappy hand throughout his tenure with the Jets. Maybe he wasn’t quite kidnapped and tortured for 8 years, but he did have to spend plenty of time being taught by Brian Schottenheimer and Matt Cavanaugh, and that’s just as bad. And just like with Brody, I still believe in Mark Sanchez. Perhaps I’m a sap or I’m just hoping against hope, but in the end, I think both are going to do great things and convince a lot of people that they aren’t so bad after all.

Turn On The Jets AFC Mid-Season Power Rankings

Turn On The Jets mid-season power poll for the AFC, a conference filled with mediocrity

Nothing like an arbitrary power poll based on no system whatsoever, right? The AFC remains a conference stacked with mediocrity, however we are starting to get an idea of what the playoff race is going to look like throughout November and December. Voice your disagreements in the comments section or over on Facebook or Twitter

SUPER BOWL CONTENDER

1. Houston (7-1) – A balanced team, who can beat you in a number of ways. It is still hard to trust Matt Schaub in a big spot until he wins a few big games though. Regardless, they should cruise to the AFC South title and a bye.

2. Pittsburgh (5-3) – Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Nobody could watch the past few weeks and honestly say they haven’t looked substantially better than the banged up Ravens. Pittsburgh has a Super Bowl winning QB playing a high level and a Super Bowl winning coach, along with enough playmakers to make noise in January. Look for them to win the AFC North, despite currently being a game behind Baltimore.

3. New England (5-3) – Won’t win their regular 12-13 games but they won’t need to in the AFC East this season. Not sure if they end up getting a bye because of how soft Denver’s schedule is down the stretch and the fact that they still have to play Houston, San Francisco, Miami twice and the Jets once.

4. Denver (5-3) – Looking at their schedule, hard not to see them finishing at least 11-5 and likely getting a first round bye. You also get the feeling that Peyton Manning is only going to get better down the stretch.

NOT QUITE THERE YET

5. Baltimore (6-2) – Too many injuries. They are still going to be a playoff team in this conference but don’t expect them to finish strong enough to take the AFC North crown.

6. Indianapolis (5-3) – A feel good story. They haven’t proven they could win on the road consistently yet and they have a fairly difficult second half schedule. Regardless a 4-4 finish likely gets them enough wins to sneak in as a wild-card.

7. Miami (4-4) – A popular playoff pick for many pundits but with two games left against New England, a road trip to San Francisco and a game against Seattle still on the schedule, don’t bank on them getting there.

CRAP-TASTIC

8. San Diego (4-4) – Could very well see them losing their next 5 games (at TB, at DEN, vs. BAL, vs. CIN, at PIT) and Norv Turner getting fired after as the house cleaning starts in December.

9. New York Jets (3-5) – Their next three games are brutal before the schedule softens up. They likely dug themselves too big of a hole to make any real noise in the playoff race.

10. Cincinnati (3-5) – Outside of AJ Green, they don’t have much going for them on either side of the ball. The schedule isn’t friendly enough for them to even be a .500 team.

FIRING SQUAD

11. Oakland (3-5) – How is that Carson Palmer trade looking these days? Oakland needs to dump him and anybody who remains in the organization who thought it was a remotely good idea.

12. Buffalo (3-5) – The worst offensive contract in football belongs to Ryan Fitzpatrick. The worst defensive contract in football belongs to Mario Williams. Oh and they need a new defensive coordinator and head coach.

13. Tennessee (3-6) – What is this team’s identity? They are looking at a disappointing drop off from last year’s surprise 8-8 record.

BOTTOMING OUT

14. Cleveland (2-7) – They can build around Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon on offense. Outside of that, it is time to clean house.

15. Jacksonville (1-7) – TEEEE-BOWWWW

16. Kansas City (1-7) – Crennel and Cassel. How did anybody pick this team to win more than 4 games this year?

New York Jets – Sink or Swim In The Second Half?

Will the New York Jets sink or swim in the second half?

Have you seen the standings in the AFC at the halfway point of the season? Even the most pessimistic New York Jets fan can’t proclaim their season over yet, particularly when taking the team’s schedule into consideration.

There is no question the next three games are going to be difficult. The Jets are rightfully 6.5 point underdogs this week and will be underdogs the following two weeks on the road against St. Louis and home against New England. Their final five games are against teams that I would argue the Jets are better than, despite how awful they have looked at times this season. There is no excuse for a 4-12 or 5-11 year. This team should not win less than 7 games unless they completely tank the rest of the way.

We are going to learn a ton about Rex Ryan and how his players respond to him these last 8 weeks. Do they quit and embarrass themselves in Seattle, in primetime against New England and against the mediocre slopfest that they play weeks 13-17? Or do they keep themselves relevant in the playoff race into December by scoring an upset or two in the coming three games and handling their business against inferior teams down the stretch?

The Jets defense has steadily improved in recent weeks. Outside of facing Tom Brady, they are facing a collection of unproven and inexperienced quarterbacks the rest of the season. You want hope in Seattle? Remember what the Jets defense did to Andrew Luck a couple of weeks ago. Russell Wilson is an impressive rookie but he is still a rookie and a much less talented one than Luck. Sam Bradford and Brian Schottenheimer’s offense? You better have a shutdown performance. John Skelton. Blaine Gabbert. Jake Locker. Ryan Fitzpatrick. The ghost of Philip Rivers. How about it, Rex? Kenrick Ellis will be back on the defensive line, more playing time should be given to Demario Davis, Antonio Allen, Aaron Berry and Marcus Dowtin and this defense must round into form to give the Jets a fighting chance.

On offense, the situation at running back will improve with a healthier Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell back. But ultimately it will come down to Mark Sanchez finding some measure of consistency. He must protect the football. He must improve his accuracy. The players around him must also elevate their play. No more drops from Stephen Hill. No more matador blocking from Matt Slauson and Austin Howard. If necessary get Vladimir Ducasse and Jason Smith in the starting line-up. If Sanchez is sputtering, give Tim Tebow a full series to run the offense. Yes, even this Sanchez apologist can admit the Jets offense could use a kick in the ass with more Tebow involvement…not as a starting quarterback but as a weapon in the running game and occasional downfield passing game.

Rex Ryan needs to show he won’t lose this team for the second season in a row. There is no excuse to get blown out in Seattle. There is no excuse not to steal a road game against the Rams or to be right there with the Patriots in the fourth quarter. There is no excuse not to find a way to beat Arizona and San Diego at home or to go on the road and handle Jacksonville or Buffalo. This team is lacking talent in plenty of areas but so are all the teams remaining on their schedule.

Sink or swim. What do you think Jets fans?