New York Jets Game Balls – “Nicked Up”

Dan Marcus with Game Balls for the New York Jets 28-23 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars

Despite the fact that New York Jets key players were hitting the deck like they were under enemy sniper fire, they still managed to do enough to scratch out a win against Jacksonville. As per tradition, it’s time to hand out some Game Balls:

Ryan Quigley

For those that have complained about Quigley for the three or so seasons he’s been with the team, I think it’s safe to say that all of us took his otherwise solid abilities as a specialist for granted. After the debacle that was Steve Weatherford’s one-week stint against the Patriots, Jets fans were clamoring for Quigley’s return. On Sunday, he was called on to pull double-duty as both the place kicker and punter as unbeknownst to most of us in attendance, Nick Folk pulled his quad in pregame warm-ups and was relegated to the holder’s role for the entire game.

Due in large part to the constant state of flux of the Offensive Line and its residual effect on the running game, Quigley was called upon to punt nine times, pinning the Jags inside the 20 on five of those occasions. Although he didn’t attempt a field goal, Quigley was perfect on extra points and was more than competent on kick-offs. In a game that could have easily come down to a few missed extra points, Quigley came up clutch and for that he gets our de facto MVP of the Game and our first Game Ball.

Lorenzo Mauldin

If you know anything about Mauldin’s path to the NFL, he is no stranger to adversity, so when he went limp after hitting Johhny Manziel in the season opener, Jets Nation collectively held it’s breath for the rookie outside linebacker who had already endured so much. Thankfully, we were all able to breathe a collective sigh of relief when news surfaced that he had only sustained a concussion. Since then, the coaching staff have been easing him into the rotation and as his playing time has increased, so has his production. Mauldin has seemingly supplanted Quinton Coples as the Rush Linebacker on passing downs and has been taking advantage of every opportunity and it culminated yesterday with the best game of his young NFL career. The first-year outside linebacker out of Louisville proved to be Blake Bortles’ worst nightmare as he was credited with two official sacks, four QB hits, and the first career Game Ball.

Darrelle Revis

There’s not much else to say about the second-coming of our cornerbacking that hasn’t already been said but the fact that opposing quarterbacks are buying into the notion that somehow Revis has become mortal is both laughable an unbelievably entertaining on a multitude of levels. Revis was officially targeted nine times by Blake Bortles and the Jaguars Offense, yielding two catches for 50 yards, including a big pass deflection that resulted in a huge turnover in the form of a gift interception that fell right into Marcus Williams’ “bread basket”. Whatever opposing Offensive Cooridnators are seeing on film, I hope they continue to roll the dice by throwing into the Bermuda Triangle that is Revis Island as he is sure to continue to rack up more picks and of course, more Game Balls.

Brandon Marshall

Marshall is in the same class as Revis in that he’s likely deserving of some form of recognition every week but this week you have to commend him on a number of fronts. The uber-talented “lightning rod” receiver is the embodiment of what it means to be a tough, physical, hard-nosed football player, if you’re a coach you can only hope to have 53 Brandon Marshalls. Despite multiple nagging injuries, including an ankle, foot, and toe, Marshall suited up at what most would describe as significantly less than 100% but continued to make plays nonetheless. Although this was far from his most impressive stat line, Marshall made contributions in virtually every facet of the game, highlighted by what was a game-sealing touchdown on third down late in the the fourth quarter. However, when you thought he was done for the day, Marshall recovered a crucial onsides kick and what could have been a catastrophic fumble inside of a minute to play, which having thought the game was already over, I admittedly did not witness. Marshall is putting together what is arguably the best season any Jets receiver has ever had and is racking up some serious metaphorical accolades along the way.

Marcus Williams

Although he showed flashes of ability last season as part of one of the worst secondaries in NFL history, this season has truly proved to be a breakout season for Marcus Williams, who is making a strong case for supplanting Antonio Cromartie as the starting outside Corner opposite Darrelle Revis. After a nightmarish game against the Raiders where he was pressed into playing Safety as a result of Calvin Pryor’s ankle injury, Williams responded in a big way Sunday by reeling in two interceptions, while more or less locking down the other side of the field in relief of a reportedly injured and obviously ineffective Cromartie. Williams has reaped the windfall of playing opposite the best Corner in football as his first interception was a quintessential “right place, right time” play that saw what was essentially an “infield fly rule” pop-up after a big Revis deflection. Unlike last year’s squad, this Jets team has plenty of depth at the Cornerback position so with Cromartie ailing while giving up big plays left and right, it will be interesting to see if Williams can assume the Robin role to Revis’ Batman on a full-time basis.

Eric Decker

Just as Williams has seen the trickle down effect of playing alongside Revis, so to has Decker seen the benefits of playing opposite a guy who commands as much attention and respect as Brandon Marshall. With Marshall obviously not his regular self, Decker saw an increase in targets and made the most of his opportunities, converting big first downs, while hauling in another Touchdown to add to his “already-inflated” career total. I don’t know if others feel the same but to me it feels like Decker has lost a step as a result of the nagging knee injury he has been battling for most of the season, which has relegated him to more of a possession receiver as opposed to someone who can really stretch the field. Aside from a few hiccups in the game against Washington, Decker has quietly had a very productive/borderline outstanding season and as such gets our last Game Ball of the day.

Take A Lap

Antonio Cromartie

I know a lot of this article has been dedicated to speculating about injuries based upon one person’s eyeball assessment but you can’t help but think that the early knee sprain coupled with the hip injury that has plagued him for the bulk of his career, that Cromartie’s trademark lackadaisical coverage style is causing him to be a target for opposing offenses. I know that we’ve seen Cromartie burned on a relatively consistent basis even when he was healthy and in his prime but I have a hard time believing that he is playing this poorly without suspecting that injuries might have a hand in the equation. Nevertheless, yesterday was another abysmal showing for Cro, who has been largely disappointing in his second stint with the team. I would like to be harder on him but I just feel like something is not quite right so he gets a pass from running pending further information.

Offensive Line

It can’t be overemphasized how important the presence of Nick Mangold is for the Jets in general, let alone what he means to what has been an inconsistent offensive line. It can be argued that the All-Pro Center is the proverbial straw that stirs the drink for the entire Jets offense, given his ability and his role in making line calls. Couple Mangold’s early absence with the somewhat surprising late scratch of Willie Colon, you knew the Jets were in for something of a long day up front. The Jaguars took advantage of Colon and Mangold’s absence by selling out against the run and you need look no further than the box score to see how ineffective the Offensive Line was in blocking for any of the Jets backs.

The Jets managed only 28 yards on 29 carries running behind the makeshift Offensive Line. Pass protection was less of an issue when compared to the running game but it was still pretty sub-par, as on several occasions the Jaguars opted to bull-rush the right side of the line to test Brian Winters and Wesley Johnson. It would be pretty easy to blame the neophyte Center and the incredibly disappointing third-round pick for all of the woes up front but the rest of the line was nothing to write home about, especially D’Brickashaw Ferguson who was victimized on several occasions.

With a short week and no obvious solutions in sight, the onus will be on Chan Gailey to figure out a way to get a running game going against Rex Ryan’s stout front seven. I think I’m echoing the majority of Jets fans sentiments in that there is way more concern for the future of this unit then there is anger about their play yesterday so here’s to hoping they can figure something out by Thursday.