Archive for December, 2009

Insider Thursday Team Report

Thursday, December 31st, 2009

The Case For Rex

Take a closer look at the job Rex Ryan's done in his first season as a head coach. You'll see he's done far more good than bad.

We’re just three days away from the Jets’ all-or-nothing clash with the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday night, the game that will seal their fate as either a playoff team, or an epic disappointment.

It’s still a little amazing this team is in this position.  With all the ups and downs this roller coaster of a season has taken, Gang Green still holds their destiny in their own hands.

So just how big would it be for a first-year head coach to make it to the playoffs in the biggest city in the world?

“It’d be a great accomplishment,” Ryan said of making it to the playoffs in his first year as a head coach.  “Clearly this is what every team is gunning for, it’s what your goals are.  We expect to be in.  It’s going to be a huge disappointment if we don’t make it.  But again, we know we’re playing the best the North has to offer this year, so it’s going to be a big challenge.  But I think our guys are preparing well.  We know it’s going to be the Cincinnati that plays a very physical brand of football, and it’s going to be an old-fashioned NFL game.”

A great accomplishment is an understatement.  There’s been points where Ryan has shown his inexperience as a first-year head man, from misusing timeouts to poor clock management.  You can also point to the collapse his team suffered after the scintillating 3-0 start, plummeting all the way to 4-6 through the season’s first ten weeks.  Rookie signal caller Mark Sanchez also hasn’t improved much at all over the course of his first season as a pro, seemingly turning the ball over more than he’s making a productive play in recent weeks.

But take a look at the big picture, and you’ll see just how remarkable  a job Ryan has done in his first year as an NFL head coach.  We all knew he could coach defense, but he also had two NFL Defensive Player of the Year winners on the same unit in Baltimore.  Sure, the Jets added Bart Scott who’s had a fine season, and Jim Leonhard, a safety who knows Ryan’s system and has also been solid.  But it’s awfully impressive what he’s been able to do with a defense that brought back a majority of the same players from a year ago, turning them into the number one statistical defense in the game.

And then there’s the job he’s done changing the culture within the locker room.  His bravado has trickled down to his players, who’ve done as much as guaranteeing victories over the course of this season.  He’s changed the way the players view this team, and made them believers, which cannot be ignored.

That belief could be the major reason why this team now sits one victory away from postseason football.  Think about the soul-crushing losses this team has had throughout this season.  Any one of them on the road to 4-6 could have caused this team to fold its tent.  The loss to the Falcons two weeks ago could have meant the end, but instead the team picked themselves off the mat and defeated the previously unbeaten Indianapolis Colts, on the road no less.  Their never-say-die attitude resonates throughout the team in every corner of the locker room, and it all comes from their coach.

They have wins over New England, the Colts, and the Texans, all either playoff locks or teams on the verge of the postseason.  Everyone seems to be looking at the negatives surrounding this team, but we need to start looking at all the positives Ryan and his staff have achieved over their first season in New York.  If they can pull off this last victory, it will cap a season that is a testament to his ability to lead NFL players, and more importantly, to get them to follow him.  I think they made the right choice when they hired Ryan to take the reigns of this team, and it’s clear he’s building something potentially special.  A win Sunday will be the first step towards validating the job the rookie head coach has done.

INJURY UPDATE

Gang Green will be at nearly full strength when they welcome the Bengals to the swamps of Jersey Sunday night.  Darrelle Revis, Thomas Jones and fullback Tony Richardson all participated fully in practice today, while cornerback Donald Strickland was the lone Jets player to miss the workout with a lingering quad injury.  Rookie running back Shonn Greene returned to the practice field and was a full-go, and Shaun Ellis was limited in practice with a knee injury.  Sanchez participated fully in practice as well.

It appears Strickland will not be able to go Sunday, leaving the Jets one short in the secondary.  Otherwise, the team will be at full strength as it takes on the Bengals Sunday night.

The team returns to practice for a workout Friday morning.  Check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.

INSIDER MONDAY TEAM REPORT

Monday, December 28th, 2009

Just win, baby.

The Jets are just one win away from the postseason after Sunday's victory over the previously unbeaten Colts.

There’s no way this is possible, right?

The New York Football Jets – the team that has tormented their rabid fan base for 16 weeks (at least in terms of the 2009 season), the team that has let a seemingly endless amount of opportunities slip away, now controls their own destiny with just one game left?

That’s in fact the scenario, no matter how unbelievable it may seem, after yesterday’s 29-15 upset victory over the previously unbeaten Indianapolis Colts.  The Jets find themselves at 8-7, and the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs heading into the season’s final regular season game.  While they share the same record as several other AFC teams, through the magic of the tie-breaker system the J-E-T-S will clinch a playoff berth with a win Sunday against the Cincinatti Bengals, a game that’s been flexed to primetime on NBC at 8:00 PM Sunday night.

Some have said Gang Green has been put in this remarkable position due to the Colts resting most of their starters, including quarterback Peyton Manning, for the final quarter and a half of play yesterday, essentially saying the game was “gift-wrapped” for the Jets.  Head coach Rex Ryan doesn’t feel the same way, but is quite content to be unconcerned with the world’s perception of the win.

“That’s a heck of a football team,” Ryan said of the Colts.  “They don’t have to apologize to anybody about anything, and neither do we.  We won the game.  We ended up doing what we had to do, (regardless of) whoever was in the Colts jerseys.  I think that there’s very little credit that our football team’s given, and that’s unfortunate.  But again, we really don’t care.  All we have to do now is find a way to win this game, which is no easy task.”

It would be foolish of me, and make me sound incredibly ignorant, if I said the benching of the Colts’ impact players had no effect on Sunday’s outcome.  Clearly, the Colts offense isn’t going to be the same without Manning, Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark in the lineup for nearly 20 minutes of play.  But the Jets still had to come back in that football game yesterday.  They were down five points when the starters were pulled.  They’d also played right with the Colts for two and a half quarters, trailing only 15-10 when Manning made his exit.  They scored two touchdowns over those final 20 minutes, one on each side of the ball.  They scored an offensive, defensive, and special teams touchdown in the win, finally having all three phases come together for one of the rare times this season.

The Colts pulled their starters, and maybe that opened a door for the Jets to take the game that might not have been in open in, say, week five.  But just because the door’s open, doesn’t mean you don’t have to walk through it.

The Jets played extremely well yesterday, and if they can keep it going into next Sunday’s all-or-nothing tilt against the Bengals, they’ll have an outstanding shot to claim one of the final two playoff spots in the AFC.

PLAYER’S REACTIONS

Nearly nobody outside the Jets’ locker room believed this team would be in the position it’s in.  So what do the guys that’ve believed all along have to say now that they’re one win away from the postseason?

“We have a great opportunity in front of us,” running back Thomas Jones said.  “It’s so funny how things can change in a week in this league.  Last week after the Atlanta game guys were obviously upset and frustrated about the opportunity that we didn’t take advantage of.  We came into the team meeting the next day and found out, ‘Hey, we’re still in this thing if we take care of our business.’  The first step was to win yesterday, which is what we did.  We know what is ahead of us on Sunday.  Guys are excited about the opportunity; excited about the chances that we have.”

It’s an opportunity very few thought this team would have.  But, with just one game to play, the Jets are a playoff team.  They’ve gotten the help they needed.  Now all they need to do is win.

Jets Insider Thursday Team Report

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

Handing Out the Hardware

Linebacker David Harris won the Ed Block Courage Award Thursday.

Linebacker David Harris won the Ed Block Courage Award Thursday.

Christmas Eve featured an early schedule for your New York Jets Thursday, with head coach Rex Ryan’s press conference being held before the team took the field for practice.

The organization announced their team award winners for the 2009 season today, with cornerback Darrelle Revis earning the team’s Most Valuable Player award.   Running back Thomas Jones took home the Dennis Byrd Award, given to the player who most inspires his teammates, for the second consecutive season.  James Dearth took home the Kyle Clifton Award, given to the player who’s regarded as a “good guy” by the staff members who do not control his playing time.  Linebacker David Harris earned the Ed Block Courage Award, given to the player that best displays perseverance and overcoming adversity.

SIZING UP THE COLTS

After publicizing the winners, Ryan got down to the business of sizing up the Indianapolis Colts.

Indy has not let their plans known as to how much their starters will play Sunday, leaving the Jets to not only prepare for their regulars, but also for their understudies as they enter this must-win affair.

“We can’t take anything lightly,” Ryan said.  “We’re fighting for our playoff lives.  We actually have an opportunity to still make the playoffs.  With everything that has happened to us and we still have that opportunity.  It’s right in front of us.  We’ve got to win these two games.  It doesn’t matter if Tom Matte is the running back.  We’re going to play them.  We’re preparing for Peyton Manning.  We’re preparing for Reggie Wayne and all those guys.  If somebody else is in that position, so be it.  We’re preparing that Peyton is going to play the whole game, that (Dwight) Freeney is going to play the whole game and everybody else.”

The Jets’ secondary will be in a lot better shape than in previous games Sunday, with all hands on deck and healthy for their biggest test of the season.

“I feel a heck of a lot better going into this game than I did a couple of times when he had back up corners in there,” Ryan said.  “That much I can promise you.  We don’t have our back ups in there.  We’ve got our starters.  We’re ready to roll.  If they beat us and they’re able to pummel us like I’ve been pummeled before by them, then ok.  I know one thing, they’re going to get our best shot.”

Can the secondary slow down the Colts’ outstanding group of wide receivers headlined by Reggie Wayne?  Ryan never had a great deal of success against Manning during his time as defensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens, and Manning’s audibles at the line of scrimmage will make disguising their blitz coverages extremely tough.  He’ll have to dial up some exotic packages to try and confuse Manning, because it’s really the only way at this point you can even slow him down.   It will certainly be an entertaining chess match between coach and quarterback on Sunday.

INJURY UPDATE

The Jets were at full strength on both sides of the ball for today’s workout, with wide receiver Braylon Edwards (knee), safety Jim Leonhard (thumb), cornerback Dwight Lowery (ankle), quarterback Mark Sanchez (knee) and guard Robert Turner (knee) all participated fully in the workout, while defensive end Shaun Ellis (knee) was limited.  All are expected to play Sunday against Indy.

The Jets will take tomorrow off for Christmas, and will travel Saturday to Indy for their do-or-die matchup with the Colts.  Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.


Not So Fast, Rex

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

The New York Jets, believe it or not, are still alive in the AFC playoff race.

No so fast, Rex - Your Jets are still alive in the AFC playoff race.  Barely.

No so fast, Rex - Your Jets are still alive in the AFC playoff race. Barely.

After all the heartbreaking losses, after Sunday’s soul-crushing defeat against the Atlanta Falcons, these Jets are still, miraculously, alive.

Their coach, Rex Ryan, acknowledged as much yesterday during his Monday address to the media, after he’d unceremoniously buried his team during Sunday’s postgame press conference.

“You would think the head coach of the team would know the situations and know the playoff scenarios.  The only thing that I knew is, in my opinion, I thought we had to win out.  We just had a single focus that we were going to have to win six straight games.  That’s it, so when I found out this morning, even when I heard, ‘That’s not true, the Jets still have a chance.’ I was thinking, Baltimore has to lose twice and Pittsburgh has to lose twice, which is impossible.  That’s not the case at all.  We’re actually in a better situation right now this week than we were last week at this time.  That’s unbelievable, but again, we’re there.  We’ve got a chance to make the playoffs.”

The Jets still sit just one game back of the final AFC Wild Card spot in the midst of a slew of clubs who all sit at 7-7.  The Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens hold the remaining playoff spots, but each have very losable games coming up over the next two weeks.  The Ravens travel to Pittsburgh next week for a tough divisional game against the Steelers, who also sit at 7-7, and the Broncos travel to Philadelphia this week to take on the red-hot Eagles.  The Jaguars, another team who sits at 7-7 and a club that holds the tiebreaker over the Jets, travels to New England with the Patriots having the opportunity to clinch the AFC East with a victory on Sunday.

So all these Jets need to do is win this weekend, and if those teams fall, they’re right back in a tie for the final playoff spot.

The only problem is, they travel to face the undefeated Indianapolis Colts, in Indy.  What a time to try to slay Goliath.

“For us, this is our Super Bowl,” wide receiver Braylon Edwards said.  “No if ands or buts about it.  This is, for us, going to decide what we really want to be on offense.  Can we come out and execute.  When all the chips are on the line, can we put it together and win a game that we need?  Can we be a team that can win in December?  Everything we have we need to put on the line in this game.  If we don’t make it to the playoffs, we still showed that we were willing to take that step.  We don’t need to worry about anything but beating the Indianapolis Colts.  They’re a great team.  They are the best team in football.  It is going to be a tough matchup any way you look at it.”

A tough matchup is an understatement.  The Jets defense might be able to at least slow down the high-powered Colts offense and Peyton Manning, but how will Mark Sanchez respond in a huge game, on the road, with everyhing on the line?  The Jets will have to play a perfect game in all phases to beat the Colts, the type of game that has eluded them all season long.

While the team has a chance to pull off the monumental upset, those chances might be heightened by the Colts’ not playing their regulars for four quarters.  Unfortunately, the Jets won’t know their plans until Sunday, meaning they’ll have to prepare for the top team in the NFL’s best game.

“You prepare for all of them to play and if they don’t, that’s good for us.  You have to prepared that they are going to play the entire game.  They have a bye, they have that bye coming up.  You expect them to continue to play their players and if they decide to take them out then that is what they decide to do.  If you go out there preparing for a backup quarterback and end up facing Peyton Manning, you are in trouble.  You prepare for all of the all stars that they have and if they chose not to play certain guys, that will certainly help us.”

With the playoffs on the line, the Jets have the opportunity to resurrect their season with a signature victory.  Will they pull off the upset of the season?  We’ll know in six short days.



FALCONS 10 – JETS 7

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Field goal follies and a laggard offense that included three more Mark Sanchez interceptions, doom the Jets and their playoff run.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Missed opportunities.  Costly penalties.  Shooting themselves in the foot.

 This record’s been played too many times over the course of this season of Jets football.  And it reared its ugly head again this afternoon, as the Jets gave away another winnable game in their Giants Stadium confines that have become anything but friendly.

This time it was a 10-7 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, a team they had dominated for 57 minutes of play Sunday.  Gang Green had held a 7-3 lead since the first quarter, but when the final gun sounded, they were on the wrong end of the scoreboard, with Matt Ryan’s six-yard touchdown throw to Tony Gonzalez in the game’s final minutes proving to be the difference.  All the Jets were left with was nothing but the haunting thoughts of opportunities they’d let slip away, an all too familiar feeling.

There was not one, not two, but three misplayed field goals by kicker Jay Feely and the field goal unit.  The first came in the second quarter, when holder Kellen Clemens botched the snap on a 23-yard try, forcing the Jets to leave the field with no points.

Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez celebrates after scoring the winning TD during the Jets 10-7 loss to Atlanta.

Falcons TE Tony Gonzalez celebrates after scoring the winning TD during the Jets 10-7 loss to Atlanta.

“I dropped the first one,” Clemens said.  “It can’t happen.  It’s a chip-shot field goal and Jay is of course going to make it.  It doesn’t matter what the conditions are, you have to get the ball down.”

The second came just 13 minutes later, when Feely pushed a 38-yarder wide right as time expired, leaving the Jets halftime lead at 7-3.  And the third came in the game’s final stanza, when Feely’s 37-yard try was blocked after a high snap.  Any one of those goes through, and the Jets are driving on that final series to win the game, not tie it.

But the field goal unit isn’t all to blame.  There were the costly penalties on both sides of the ball, totaling six in all for 65 yards.  None of these miscues were more costly than the 15-yard facemask penalty that placed the Falcons 15 yards closer to the Jets’ goal line on the final drive of the fourth quarter, followed a few minutes later by an unnecessary roughness call on Alan Faneca on the ensuing series.  That inexplicable foul put the Jets inside their own 15, on a drive where they were trying frantically to tie the score and force overtime in the game’s waning seconds.  If neither of those penalties happen, who knows how this game ends up.

There were also three interceptions by rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, one of which lead to the opening field goal of the game in the first quarter – a 24-yarder by Matt Bryant – or the three points that proved to be the difference in this affair.  While the offense did move the ball fairly well and put the field goal unit in position to score points, Sanchez’ picks still put his defense out on the field in more high-pressure situations than they’d particularly like.

I’m speaking of the defense that for the fifth time this season allowed an opponent they had dominated for nearly 60 minutes to drive the field and score to take the lead in the game’s final minutes.  A defense that, while they only gave up ten points, had at least four sure interceptions slip through their fingers, one of which would have ended the game on the Falcons’ final series.  The unit that had dominated another Sunday afternoon is left with the sting of another crushing loss, and the inability to close out another victory.

“It never should have happened,” safety Jim Leonhard said.  “The frustrating part about the whole day is we left a lot of plays out there, myself included.  We never should have been in that situation.  Defensively, we had the opportunities to pull that game out.”

We left a lot of plays out there.  Those words are the 2009 Jets in a nutshell.

Time and again, they’ve had the opportunities to put themselves in a position to win football games.  And time and again, they’ve found ways to blow those opportunities.  Whether its interceptions, penalties, or special teams gaffes, it’s always something different with this team that ends up putting them on the wrong side of the scoreboard.

Think about the winnable games this team has had.  Their home games against Buffalo and Jacksonville were there for the taking.  And then you have today.  If they’d even won two out of those three, they’d be at 9-5, in the driver’s seat for the AFC Wild Card and tied for the AFC division lead with two weeks to go.

But they’re not.  This team is 7-7, and needs a miracle to find its way into the postseason.  The picture-perfect 65-yard bomb from Sanchez to Braylon Edwards in the first quarter was not enough to overcome the assortment of miscues in all phases of the game.  Indeed, the New York Jets were dealt their knockout punch on this sunny Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford.  And in a fashion no one wishes could be deemed typical, the blow was self-administered.

Jets-Falcons Live Blog, Direct from the Meadowlands

Sunday, December 20th, 2009

Greetings, Jets Faithful:

The swamps of Jersey are frozen on this Sunday afternoon, having fallen victim to the severe snow storm that plowed its way through the East Coast yesterday.  But not even Mother Nature herself can keep us here at JetsInsider from getting out here to the Meadowlands to provide our loyal readers with up-to-the-minute analysis of Gang Green’s week 15 clash with the Atlanta Falcons.

I’ll be blogging the action live throughout the day from snow-filled Giants Stadium, providing my thoughts on the action.  We’re just 15 minutes from kickoff, and even though the snow has stopped, the storm is still wreaking havoc on today’s matchup.

I’ve never seen Giants Stadium this empty, this close to kickoff.  It appears as though the weather has made it impossible for the majority of ticket holders to make their way out to East Rutherford, and “the majority” may even be an understatement.  I’d be surprised if there’s even 15,000 people in the stadium as we speak, with Gang Green set to be introduced.  Hopefully more fans will be able to make it in, because what would have been a home field advantage for the Jets in this must-win contest has now been cancelled out by Jack Frost.  I’ve been coming to this building my entire life as a fan, and I must say, the stadium has an eerie feel to it with this few people in the building on game day.  The Falcons won’t have to deal with a raucous sellout crowd today, and it will be interesting to see how that changes the dynamic of this game.

As for the players on the field, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, and running back Michael Turner have both been activated for the game, and will both start for Atlanta.  Ryan won’t be 100%, his toe injury almost certainly making him less mobile against a Jets defense that loves to bring pressure on the quarterback.  Turner is closer to fully healthy, so in the cold temperatures it will be important to see how both players hold up.

There’s no major changes for the Jets on the injury front, so we’re set to go for kickoff.  The Jets captains will be Mark Sanchez, Tony Richardson, Bart Scott, Ben Hartsock and Shaun Ellis.  Sanchez is ready to go after missing last week’s game with a knee injury, so let’s see how he fares in his first December game in Giants Stadium.

1:02: The Jets have won the toss and have elected to defer.  Seems like they want to see just how healthy the Falcons’ backfield is right from the start.

1:05: The Falcons try to test Darrelle Revis early, tossing up a fade down the right sideline on the second play from scrimmage.  And, like clockwork, Revis provides blanket coverage on Roddy White, forcing him into an offensive pass interference call.  Ryan converts the third down, though, on a 20-yard completion to Michael Jenkins.  If the Jets are going to come out on top in this one, Lito Sheppard must have a solid day against Jenkins.

1:08: The Jets get some pressure on Matt Ryan, forcing an incompletion on third down.  We’re about to get our first glimpse of Sanchez today, let’s see how well the California kid adapts to the frigid temperatures in the Meadowlands.

1:13: Mark Sanchez tries to thread the needle down the field on the first series for the offense, and has his throw picked off by Thomas DeCoud and returned to the Jets 35 yard line.  The Jets defense matches up well against the Falcon offense, but Sanchez cannot put the unit in compromising positions throughout this game.  It’s a recipe for disaster.

1:15: Outstanding playcall by the Falcons.  The Jets overloaded the right side on third down, so Atlanta simply ran a pitch to Jason Snelling to the left, the side of the field that was left wide open, allowing them to pick up the first down.  The Falcons are now in field goal range, and driving.

1:21: Huge goal line stand for the defense, stuffing the Falcons at the one yard line on third down.  A Delay of Game penalty forces the falcons back five more yards on the field goal try, making Matt Bryant’s field goal good from 24 yards, putting Atlanta on top 3-0.  It’s clear early on that this Jets defense will bend, but most likely not break, against this Falcons offense.  If the offense can limit mistakes, they should have an excellent shot to come out of this game with a victory.

1:35: Mark Sanchez certainly isn’t short on confidence.  The rookie heaved up another bomb on the first play of the Jets’ third drive, connecting on a perfectly-thrown ball to Braylon Edwards in stride, the 65-yarder going for a touchdown to give Gang Green a 7-3 lead.  The play marks the longest pass play, and longest touchdown pass of Sanchez’ career.  It’s clear the cold weather won’t have any affect on the rookie – he simply could not have thrown a better ball to Edwards on that touchdown throw.  With the Jets defense now staked to a four-point lead, let’s see how the unit responds.

1:41: I’m not sure why people even bother throwing at Darrelle Revis anymore.  #24 makes another outstanding defensive play, thwarting another Falcons drive and giving the offense the ball back.  With the Falcons offense rendered virtually nonexistent, the Jets can put the Birds in a serious hole here with another touchdown.

1:45: We’re through one quarter of play, with the Jets on top 7-3.  I think it’s worth noting that, normally, frigid temperatures make for more running of the football, and teams running the football more effectively.  That’s not the case today, with both teams’ successes coming through the air.  Let’s see if that holds up throughout the game.

1:46: Matt Ryan, you still haven’t learned your lesson? Revis nearly picks off Ryan’s pass on first down, notching his second pass defense of the day.  Is there any player playing better defense right now than #24, anywhere in the NFL?

1:49: Kerry Rhodes is off to a nice start, notching his second pass defense of the afternoon.  It’s important for Rhodes to get more involved – and feel more involved – in the defense.  He’s an extremely talented, young player, who could be a major factor in Rex Ryan’s defense. The Jets have outstanding field position, starting this drive from their own 43.  If the offense can put six on the board here, the Falcons could be in serious trouble not even halfway through this one.

1:54: Huge third down conversion on a pass to Jerricho Cotchery, the 18′yard gain bringing the Jets into Falcons territory.  Sanchez avoided the rush extremely well, showing no ill effects from his knee injury, and made an outstanding throw on the run to hit Cotchery.  The running game is also starting to take shape, with both Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene having nice gains on this drive.  Everything appears to be coming together for the Jets.

1:57: Another big third down conversion keeps the drive alive, this time on a pass to Braylon Edwards.  The Jets have already chewed a ton of clock off on this drive, but they need to come away with six points.  That will really put the Falcons behind the eight ball, forcing them to take chances against a defense that loves to force the issue.

2:01: The drive stalls on the two yard line, as Thomas Jones is stuffed on third and goal.  Inexplicably, the Jets attempt a fake field goal, and the Falcons snub it out to send the Jets away with no points.  Terrible decision by the coaching staff.  You’ve got the chance to put the Falcons down a touchdown, and your defense is playing lights out.  Have to take the points right there.

2:09: A shot of life for the Falcons as Sanchez makes another ill-advised throw and has it picked off by Brent Grimes.  That’s the second time today Sanchez has thrown into double coverage, and both times it’s burned him.  He needs to be smarter with the football – that’s twice he’s thrown in to situations where the Falcons have had a safety over the top of the receiver he was throwing to.  More importantly, it gives the Falcons a jolt they weren’t going to get otherwise.

2:12: Even flee-flickers don’t work against Darrelle Revis.  The drive stalls one play later, forcing a Falcons punt.

2:23: Sanchez is orchestrating a great drive here in the two-minute drill, putting the Jets at the Falcons 12 with precision passing and more importantly sound decision making.

2:24: And right on que, he takes a sack he simply cannot take.  Forcing the Jets to call their final timeout of the half with three seconds to play, setting Jay Feely up for a 38-yard field goal try, which sails wide left.  The Jets still lead 7-3, as we head into half time.

2:26:  At halftime, the taste that’s left in my mouth is the missed opportunities for the Jets to put points on the board.  They left six points on the table, points that would have put a Falcons offense unable to move the ball at all in a serious hole.  Hopefully these miscues don’t come back to haunt Gang Green.

Sanchez has had his share of good moments, and his fare share of bad ones over his first half back as the team’s quarterback.  He’s made two poor decisions, throwing into double coverage twice.  But other then that, he’s been solid, showing pretty good decision-making and hitting a variety of receivers.

Heading into the second half, Sanchez has to limit his mistakes, and the defense needs to keep doing what they’re doing.  Another touchdown by the Jets could make the deficit too much to over come for Atlanta, but the Jets must capitalize when the opportunities are presented.

2:38: We’re set to go for the second half, with the Jets ready to receive.  A quick strike here could really put the pressure on Atlanta.

2:40:  Great return by Brad Smith to get things started.  Since Leon Washington went down for the season, Smith has done a multitude of different things for this team, from the return game to the offense.  He’s been a much unheralded player this season, but he’s done a great job in whatever role he’s been asked to take on.

2:43: Gutsy call here as the offense decides to go for it on fourth and inches from the Falcons from the Falcons 43 yard line.  Sanchez keeps it for a two-yard gain, picking up the first down.   It’s clear the Jets feel their defense can stop Atlanta at any point on the field, so they’re going to be taking chances on offense to try and put this one away.

2:47: It’s never the guy that starts it that gets caught.  A completion to Braylon Edwards that secured a first down was followed by some extra curricular activities between the two clubs, with Thomas Jones getting pegged for a personal foul.  The scuffle was clearly started by a member of the Falcons, who went after the facemask of center Nick Mangold, igniting the incident.  The penalty puts the Jets out of field goal range, facing another huge third down.

2:55: The Falcons offense is powerless against this Jets defense.  Another three and out for Atlanta.  If the Jets can get any points at all on the board, the Birds will be in serious trouble.  But the longer Gang Green lets this team hang around, the longer they leave the opportunity for one blown play to get Atlanta back in the game, maybe even put them in front.

3:06: Kerry Rhodes has been all over the field today.  He’s made his presence known again, stuffing a running play in the backfield on second down.  It’s nice to see #25 get into the act – there’s no doubt he has the talent to be one of the premier safeties in the game.  Today’s an example of that.

3:08: If the Jets hold on to win this one, the entire defense deserves a game ball for their performance.  The Falcons offense is no slouch, but how many times have you heard Tony Gonzalez’ name today?  What about Roddy White’s?  A loss would overshadow the utterly dominant performance this unit is putting on today, so now it’s time for the offense to get a score and put the pressure on Atlanta’s offense.

3:16: We’re through three quarters, with the score still Jets 7, Falcons 3.  It appears as though one big play by either side could decide this game, and with the way the Jets defense has played, it would be heartbreaking if the Falcons were the team that pulled it off.  One more score for the Jets will all but ice this one, so it’s time for the offense to step up.

3:22: The Falcons catch the Jets in an overload blitz again, as Ryan hits Jerious Norwood for a gain of 38 yards.  The play puts the Falcons in field goal range, leaving the Jets defense in need a big-time stop.

3:24: They get their stop, as Ryan’s throw to the end zone is broken up by Rhodes.  The play sets up a 48-yard field goal try by Matt Bryant, that just sails wide to the left, preserving the four-point advantage.  Gang Green dodged a major bullet right there, and now it’s time to knock the Falcons out.  This team must develop a killer instinct if it’s going to find its way into the playoffs, and now’s a good time to start.

3:29: Huge third-down catch by Dustin Keller after getting rocked by Christopher Owens on the play.  The conversion’s followed by a 13-yard gain by Thomas Jones, and suddenly the Jets are in business at the Falcons 33 yard line.

3:33: Does anyone actually want to win this game?  The Jets’ drive stalls at the Falcons 19, setting up Feely for a 37-yard field goal…which is blocked by Chauncey Davis of Atlanta.  That makes two misses on the day for Feely, and leaves the Jets still up four with 4:27 remaining.

It looks like, much as it’s been on season, this game will be on the defense to pull out the victory.

3:41: I’m starting to get that sinking feeling in my stomach.  The Falcons are driving, and a costly facemask penalty, followed by a big run by Snelling has put Atlanta at the Jets’ six yard line at the two minute warning.   Someone on this defense is going to need to make a big play to keep the Falcons out of the end zone.

3:47: Another monster play by Revis sets up fourth and goal for the Falcons.  Revis had an opportunity to make the interception to seal the win, but had it go off his hands as he dove out near the sideline.

3:50: Ryan hits his favorite target, Tony Gonzalez, for the go-ahead touchdown from six yards out, putting the Falcons up 10-7 with 1:38 to play.  There’s still plenty of time to get into field goal range, but Feely’s already missed two opportunities today.  It’s time for Sanchez to pull some magic.

3:54: Terrible penalty on Brad Smith, an unnecessary roughness penalty pushing the Jets back 15 yards.  This drive is beginning to unravel quickly, forcing them to call their second timeout before their third-down play.

3:56: Sanchez’ third pick of the day ices the win for Atlanta, preserving the 10-7 Falcons victory.

Jets Insider Thursday Team Report

Thursday, December 17th, 2009

Rex makes the case for Revis

The Jets' Darrelle Revis has been one of the top defensive in the NFL this season, but is he the Defensive Player of the Year? His coach certainly thinks so.

Rex Ryan might have made his share of mistakes during his first season as a head coach, but there’s one thing nobody can criticize him for; his ability to use the rabid New York media to his, and his team’s, advantage.

He’s used his puppets to help rile up the Jets’ faithful on more than one occasion, and following Thursday’s workout, he did his best pitch-man impersonation, hopefully starting the publicity campaign to get the best player on the best defense in the NFL some postseason hardware.

I speak, of course, of all-universe cornerback Darrelle Revis, the shut-down defender who’s taken his place amongst the best in the game in his second season in the league.

“I went back and looked and I was going to be subtle about this, but if he’s not the NFL Defensive Player of the Year something is wrong with the system,” Ryan said.  “Nobody and I mean nobody in maybe the history of the game has had the challenges that he’s faced week in and week out.  You look at the top receivers in this game now that he’s gone out and matched with and literally almost shut down.”

The list Ryan speaks of is a who’s-who of the best wideouts in the league: Andre Johnson, Randy Moss (twice), Terrell Owens (twice),  and Steve Smith are the biggest names, which makes the dominating work #24’s done over this season even more impressive.

But what makes him even more impressive still  is that in an era of NFL football in which the rules have been shifted so dramatically with penalties (such as illegal contact, and more frequent pass interference penalties) that favor the offense, Revis might be the lone true “cover corner” we’ve seen since Deion Sanders.

Very rarely, if ever, do the Jets put a safety over the top to help him on the premier receivers he covers.  He almost never blitzes – why blitz someone who is single-handedly shutting down an entire half of the field?  He’s simply covering the receiver to which he’s assigned, doing his job more precisely and dominantly than anyone else in the game.

You can toss out names like Charles Woodson and Darren Sharper as candidates for Defensive Player of the Year, and they’re both very deserving candidates.  But they cannot do what Revis does game in, and game out.  With no help whatsoever, he shuts down the best wide receivers in the league, time after time.   We’re witnessing the blossoming of one of the definitive defensive talents of this generation of NFL football, and there’s still plenty more to come.   Coach Ryan’s convinced those in the media who didn’t really need convincing at all; Darrelle Revis needs to be the Defensive Player of the Year, or as Coach Ryan said, the system is very, very wrong.

SANCHEZ UPDATE

Number six took about 75% of the snaps in today’s workout, and seemed to be moving very well through his drills.  Ryan still remains cautiously optimistic that Sanchez will play Sunday, but still offered no definitive statement on the qb’s status.

One thing we do know for sure, however, is that the expected inclimate weather at Giants Stadium Sunday afternoon will have no bearing on the decision to start Sanchez against the Atlanta Falcons.  Throughout the barrage of questions hurled at Ryan about #6, we also learned that if he does play, he’ll be wearing a brace on each knee, and that the last hurdle that needs to be passed is how he feels the morning after a full workout, which he’ll experience tomorrow.  They’re treating the kid with kid gloves, and with good reason.  Judging by the way he moved around today during practice, though, my guess is that you’ll see him on the field Sunday afternoon.

The team returns to practice Friday morning for a workout beginning at 11:50 AM.  Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.


Stayin’ Alive

Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Can the stingy Jets defense carry Gang Green to the postseason?  Its one down, three to go for the Jets after beating the Buccaneers Sunday.

Can the stingy Jets defense carry Gang Green to the postseason? It's one down, three to go for the Jets after beating the Buccaneers Sunday.

Sunday’s drubbing of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers puts your New York Jets in the thick of  a bonkers AFC Wild Card race, and just one game behind the AFC East-leading New England Patriots.

At 7-6, Gang Green is still holding on to the slimmest of hopes to earn a postseason berth, and got a little help from the Miami Dolphins, who beat the Jacksonville Jaguars this weekend to put all three teams at 7-6.

The only problem with that is, both teams hold tiebreaks over the J-E-T-S, and a fourth team, the Baltimore Ravens, are also 7-6.

So while this team is still mathematically alive in the AFC playoff race, they still need a little bit of help, and a little bit of luck.

“All I’ve got to say is it’s improbable,” head coach Rex Ryan said.  “That’s the way everybody will approach it right now.  Our stance is we believe we’re going to win every game.  That’s the way it’s been from day one.  That’s the way it will always be.  We’ll go into every single game, no slight to our opponents, but we’re going to believe in ourselves.  We believe in our players, the coaches, the organization and that hasn’t changed since I got here.”

Taking a look at the AFC landscape after week 14, it doesn’t seem quite as improbable as it did three weeks ago.  A win against a never-say-die Atlanta Falcons team, who will probably not have quaterback Matt Ryan in action, and suddenly this team is 8-6.  The Colts have already stated that “healthy” players will play from here on out, but how much do you anticipate Peyton Manning playing in week 16 in a meaningless game for Indianapolis?  This team cannot look ahead, because one slip-up and the 2009 season is over for Gang Green.  But if they can stay the course, and keep stayin’ alive with each passing week, you could find this team sneaking in the back door of the playoffs, with a defense no team will want to face come January.

SANCHEZ UPDATE

It still remains uncertain whether or not rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez will play Sunday against Atlanta, but #6 did receive treatment throughout the weekend on his ailing knee, and Coach Ryan is optimistic he’ll be able to go Sunday.

“Much like last week, I’ll check with the medical staff and make the decision based on the player first and our team record.  I’ll never put a player in a situation where he can’t protect himself, number one, or if it is not in the best interest of himself or the team.  We’ll see how it is.  I have confidence, though.  I thought he would play last week at the beginning of the week on a Monday, but I was wrong.  I think we made the right decision.  Those three extra days of treatment are going to help Mark.  We’ll see what it’s like on Wednesday.”

A cautious approach must be taken with the young Sanchez.  He’s entirely too valuable to the organization’s future to send him out there less than 100% for the 2009 Jets.  You have to applaud the discipline the coaching staff and the organization is displaying here.  He probably could have played Sunday, but they decided to keep him out and let him fully heal, so the injury doesn’t become major.  It should certainly pay dividends down the road, maybe even as soon as this Sunday.

The team returns to the practice field Wednesday for a workout beginning at 11:50 AM.  Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.


JETS – BUCS PREVIEW

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Holding the fort is the key for Clemens.

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – As we preview the Jets’ week 14 matchup with  the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, we start things off by outlining what quarterback Kellen Clemens must do to give his club a chance to win Sunday, after being thrust into the starting role due to an injury to Mark Sanchez.

It can be summed up in three simple words:  Hold. the. fort.

No one’s asking the backup qb to be a fantasy stud this week, or to carry his Jets team to their seventh win of the season.   He doesn’t need to be flashy, and he doesn’t need to light up the stats sheet.  All he needs to do is manage this game, in order for his offense to be successful.

Shonn Greene and the Jets running backs should have a big day against a subpar Buccaneers run defense. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Shonn Greene and the Jets running backs should have a big day against a subpar Buccaneers run defense. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

By managing the game, we mean attempting high-percentage throws and moving the chains.  We mean not taking chances unless you’re forced to.  And we mean limiting mistakes: when the Jets win the turnover battle, they’re 5-0 this season.  If Clemens can have anything close to a mistake-free game, the other areas of the game favor the Jets so lopsidedly that this one shouldn’t even be close.

Take, for example, their running game.  The Jets are currently gaining 168 yards a game on the ground, tops in the NFL.  The Buccs, by contrast, are currently 31’st in the league defending the run.  Can anybody say, mismatch?

While Alan Faneca is suffering from an illness and missed Thursday’s practice, there’s no reason to believe he won’t play Sunday, meaning the entire offensive line that’s done an outstanding job all season long will be on the field.  The Buccs have no significant threat on the defensive line outside Chris Hovan, so the matchups in the trenches present a huge advantage for Gang Green.  They must establish that advantage early – the Buccs will most likely sellout to defend the run, so if the running game can get going, the Buccs will  be in for a world of trouble.

They’ll be playing single coverage on the outside, and while their two corners – Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber – are one of the better tandoms in the game, no help over the top could leave them open for big plays.  Establishing an effective running game can open up the play-action passing game, which will create high-percentage throws for Clemens to options like tight end Dustin Keller in the middle of the field, maybe even a big play or two from wideouts Jerricho Cotchery and Braylon Edwards.

This is all predicated, however, on the running game having the type of day we expect.  It effects every single aspect of the game – chewing up the clock, wearing down a below-average defense, and even putting a Jets defense that’s rediscovered its mojo in the best position to be successful.

I speak of a defense that will be going against a rookie quarterback in Buccs signal-caller Josh Freeman.  While he’s had some solid games in his brief NFL career, he’s never seen a defense that can bring the type of pressure a Rex Ryan defense can.  The unit has rebounded with back-to-back solid performances, and have to be salivating at the thought of facing a rookie qb.  The Jets’ running game working will allow their defense to stay off the field, paying big dividends when the game reaches its latter stages.  Look for the Jets to bring pressure all game long, as they always do, attempting to rattle the rookie into mistakes.

Prediction: If the Jets play their game, even with Clemens at quarterback, Tampa Bay simply does not have the talent to stay with Gang Green.  Freeman will be suffocated by a Jets defense that finally looks like its hitting its stride again, and Clemens will make only the necessary plays to put his team in a position to win.  He’ll have his poor throws, but none of significance, as the Jets roll to improve to 7-6 and increase their position in the AFC playoff race.

Final Score: Jets 24, Buccs 6

Jets Insider Thursday Team Report

Friday, December 11th, 2009
Alan Faneca and the offensive line will have to step up if the Jets want to have a big game on the ground.

Alan Faneca and the offensive line will have to step up if the Jets want to have a big game on the ground.

The key to Sunday’s game can be found on the ground.

The Tamba Bay Buccaneers currently rank 31’st in the NFL at defending the running game.

The New York Jets are gaining an average of 168 yards a game on the ground, tops in the league.

You don’t need to be an ESPN anaylst to see that discrepancy.  Heading into Sunday’s tilt with the Buccs, the Jets ‘ ability to run the rock is without question the most important factor in Gang Green inching over .500 for the first time since week five of the 2009 season.  With two solid corners on the outside in Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber, Tampa will clearly look to stack the box to prevent a Jets’ running attack led by Thomas Jones.

Will the Jets be able to run the ball consistently and take advantage of a suspect defense?  The question was posed to head coach Rex Ryan this afternoon, and as always, the Head Man liked his group’s chances of taking advantage of the type of defense Tampa will most likely decide to play.

“The good thing about it is if you want to put them (the defenders) all up there, if we can break a tackle or two, then we’re making some big gains, not just four or five-yarders,” he said.  “You might hit us in the backfield one or two times, but we might pop something on you, too.  I like our chances.  I think our offensive line is doing a great job blocking and I like the way we block on the perimeter. ”

Indeed, the offensive line will be a huge factor in Sunday’s matchup.  While Tampa’s defense has been putrid against the run, the Jets will be without quarterback Mark Sanchez due to a knee injury.  Kellen Clemens is a suitable backup quarterback, but there’s a reason he was beaten out for the job in training camp.  He’s not going to be lighting up any secondaries any time soon, so it will be huge for the line to not only keep him upright, but allow the running game to be successful and take some of the pressure off the backup signal caller.

“If they are doing a good job against the run and they’re singling our guys on the outside then obviously we’ll look at that,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. ” I know we have more runs than anybody in the National Football League.  I don’t think that will change this week, But I don’t think that  guarantees we’re going to run it 43 times, whatever we ran it last week.  It all depends on the game, the style of the game and how the game is going.”

If the Jets are able to run the football, they’ll have the potential for a breakout game even without Sanchez in the lineup.  We’ll know in just a few short days how they plan to attack the defense of Tampa Bay, and whether or not a steady diet of the running game is the recipe for success.

INJURY UPDATE

Cornerback Dwight Lowery (ankle) was limited in practice today after being a full-go on Wednesday, while guard Alan Faneca (illness) was sent home for the day, but is expected to play.  Robert Turner (knee) and Sanchez (knee) did not practice, while Shaun Ellis was limited with a knee injury.

The team returns to practice Friday for a late-afternoon workout beginning at 11:50 AM.  Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.