The New York Jets made a frustrating amount of mistakes in their regular season opener. Eleven penalties. Two turnovers, including one in the redzone. One dropped touchdown pass. Fortunately, it didn’t matter because they still physically dominated a weak Oakland Raiders team up and down the field at MetLife Stadium for a 19-14 win that was not as close as the scored indicated. The Jets outgained the Raiders 402-158, while holding them to an embarrassing 25 rushing yards on 15 attempts. For the fifth time in Rex Ryan’s six years as the head coach, the Jets are 1-0.
Let’s start with the quarterback…because it always starts with the quarterback. Geno Smith went 23/28 (82%) for 221 yards. For a guy who completed 55% of his passes in 2013, that is an immense step forward. He also added 40 yards rushing, continuing to build on the improved mobility he showed last December. Smith had a touchdown pass and should have had a second but Greg Salas dropped a perfectly thrown first quarter throw. However, Smith had two first half turnovers, taking away from an otherwise strong performance. He stared down a receiver and was victimized on a terrific diving interception by Charles Woodson. A few series later, Smith fumbled inside the Jets 5 yard line. It was debatable if his knee was down and it was a bizarre play call but a turnover is a turnover and Smith must avoid them. Without those two plays, today’s game would have been a complete blowout.Speaking of the bizarre play call, it is time to BURY any Mike Vick package of plays. Putting Vick in as a slot receiver in the redzone is unnecessary and over-coaching. You have three good running backs, a competent offensive line and a ton of size at tight end and receiver. Run a normal offense. Don’t out-think yourself. It was a generally a good game plan from Marty Mornhinweg but the Vick package needs to go.
As for the rest of the offense, it was a strong debut for Eric Decker who hauled in 5 catches for 74 yards on 6 targets. Jeremy Kerley had 5 catches on 5 targets, as did Chris Johnson. Jeff Cumberland had a nice start to the season with 4 receptions for 50 yards and Jace Amaro had 2 receptions. As we discussed all season, there will be limited targets for everybody after these five guys, who combined for 25/28 Geno’s pass targets. Greg Salas and David Nelson combined for the other 3…which is why the whole NUMBER TWO RECEIVER debate was overblown this summer.
The Jets have some talent at running back, no? Chris Ivory iced the game with an explosive 71 yard touchdown, finishing with 102 yards on 10 carries. Johnson had 91 total offensive yards on 18 touches with a touchdown reception. They took advantage of a good day from the Jets offensive line, particularly new comer Breno Giacomini and second year guard Brian Winters. The offensive line’s performance was slightly marred by the penalties, particularly Willie Colon who picked up a handful of costly ones.
Defensively, the Jets did what they do against the run…completely shut it down.
They sacked Derek Carr twice but failed to force any turnovers. Calvin Pryor had 4 tackles and 2 passes defensed in an encouraging first NFL start but did drop what should have been a pick six. Quinton Coples nearly decapitated Maurice-Jones Drew and forced a fumble that Oakland was able to recover. Jason Babin grabbed a sack in his first game as a Jet (Dawan Landry had the other one).
The much discussed cornerbacks held their own. Carr only threw for 151 yards, with the majority coming late in the 4th quarter on a drive capped by a circus touchdown grab by James Jones. Darrin Walls was the victim of the Jones touchdown but was steady beyond that play, Antonio Allen avoided being picked on and tackled very well in the open field as the Raiders tried to attack him in the screen game.
Overall, the Jets demonstrated they are a far superior team to the Oakland Raiders, which was generally expected. This is a more talented team than last year…maybe by a wide margin but they still fell victim to many of the mistakes that plagued them in 2013: turnovers, penalties and dropped passes. The competition is about to get harder (although maybe not as difficult as many are making it out to be, with the Packers banged up and the Bears unable to beat Buffalo at home today) so the Jets are going to have to raise their level of play.For today…it is 1-0…and oh yeah, the Patriots lost.