FALCONS 10 – JETS 7

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

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

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

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

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

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.


Back in the hunt

December 7th, 2009
Bart Scott and the Jets defense have got their swagger back, but can they carry Gang Green into the postseason?

Bart Scott and the Jets defense have got their swagger back, but can they carry Gang Green into the postseason?

The roller coaster that has been the Jets’ 2009 season has reached another peak following this Sunday’s NFL action, and Gang Green wasn’t even a part of a single snap of football.

The mighty New England Patriots suddenly look incredibly vulnerable, and with a quarter of the season to go, the Jets find themselves just a single game behind the Pats for the AFC East lead, and are finally back to .500 at 6-6 after Thursday night’s victory over the Buffalo Bills.

A group that was counted out by most of the football world now finds themselves right where they always thought they’d be – in the thick of the playoff race heading into the season’s championship rounds.

“It’s always great to be still alive this late in the season,” linebacker Bart Scott said.  “We’ve just got to take care of our business.  I appreciate the help, but we still have four games to go and a lot of tough opponents to go through.  It’s not to start watching what other people do.  You have to take care of your business and hopefully you earn a chance.  If we don’t, then, it’s nobody’s fault but our own.”

Indeed, despite all their trials and tribulations over this seesaw season, your New York Football Jets have a realistic – even an incredibly legitimate – shot at sneaking in the back door of the 2009 AFC postseason.

Their remaining schedule features games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (currently 1-11), Atlanta (currently without starting running back Michael Turner and quarterback Matt Ryan) the undefeated Indianapolis Colts and the Cincinnatti Bengals to close the season.

Now, no game in the NFL can be taken for granted, but with the Jets playing better football, they should handle the Buccs to move to 7-6.  Turner is expected back for the Falcons, but Matt Ryan’s status is still up in the air.  The game is in the friendly confines of East Rutherford, New Jersey, though, a nice advantage for Gang Green.  The Falcons have plummetted in recent weeks, so this is another extremely winnable game for the J-E-T-S.

But if they can get through those two games unscathed, it can get hairy in week 16.  The Colts won’t have anything to play for by then outside a shot at 16-0, which they’ve already stated they want no part of.  If they happen to lose before then, they’ll be resting their starters for the major of the fina games of the season according to former coach-turned-analyst Tony Dungy, so even though this game is on the road, it could also be a winnable game if the circumstances work in the Jets’ favor.

Then we have week 17 against the Bengals.  Cincy currently sits at 9-3, with a three-game cushion in the AFC North.  They can wrap up the division as early as next week, so what happens if they’ve locked up the division, and say, the number two seed in the AFC before that game?  Do they rest their starters for the final game of the season, opening the door for a Jets victory?

There’s plenty of things that still need to go right for the Jets to earn a postseason berth, no question.  That scenario alone requires too many “what ifs” to be more than a pipe dream at this point.  But there’s hope, Jets Faithful.  And with four games left in the season, that’s all you can ask for after all the head-scratching losses that have marked this season’s first 12 games.  Your Jets have attributes that spell winning football in December: the NFL’s best defense, and an oustanding running game.  If those two things can hold serve, they will be in every game they play the remainder of the season, with a shot to take their act into January.

SANCHEZ UPDATE

This potential for a playoff run is predicated on the Jets’ quarterback, Mark Sanchez, being on the field, however.  Head coach Rex Ryan updated the media on his qb’s condition Monday, and while the signal caller didn’t practice, Ryan is optimistic he’ll be able to go Sunday.

“His spirits are good,” he said of Sanchez.  “I know he expects to play.  We’re optimistic he’ll play.  I remain optimistic he’ll be able to play.”

Ryan also stated the rookie will wear a brace on the injured knee if he is able to go Sunday, and he would be wearing it for at least the next two games, if not longer.  If he is in fact able to go, the Jets need to be careful with their prized first round draft choice.  A playoff berth is not worth a knee surgery in his rookie season, and everyone in the organization most likely feels the same.

The team will take the day off tomorrow, and will resume their week of preparation Wednesday with a workout beginning at 11:50 AM.  Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.

JetsInsider Tuesday Team Report

December 2nd, 2009

The “Sanchize” gets a lesson in self-protection from a championship skipper

The Jets want rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez to be a part of their organization for many, many years to come.

So it’s only natural that when a player the club has put it’s collective faith in sacrifices his body in a reckless manor, there’s other people than just the coach holding their breath.

Sanchez has hurled his body into the air on multiple occasions this season, and while this marks the toughness and intensity that are a few of his strong points, what the team has tried to emphasize to the young qb is that sometimes, you simply need to be smart.

And by smart, they mean taking a slide instead of leaping into the air or staying on your feet to take a bone-crunching hit.  But sometimes, a football coach simply can’t teach a quarterback how to properly execute a successful slide.   This is why, in the case of head coach Rex Ryan and the Jets, it pays to share their home city with the most prolific franchise in professional sports.

Ryan called in reinforcements for Tuesday morning’s workout, in the form of the newest World Series-winning manager, New York Yankees skipper Joe Girardi.  Girardi visited the Florham complex to help teach Sanchez the finer points of the baseball slide that must become a part of the rookie’s repertoire if he wants to remain in one piece for the better part of his tenure with Gang Green, let alone the rest of his first season in New York.

“I told Schotty (Brian Schottenheimer), ‘I’m going over your head,’” Ryan said.  “I’m going over (Matt) Cavanaugh’s head.  I’m going over my head.  We’re bringing in a world champ to get this done.’  He (Sanchez) was running and learning to slide off his right leg.  He’s too valuable and he needs to understand that we need him out there and people are going to take shots at him if he doesn’t start sliding.  I really did want to make an emphasis to Mark and get the best guy that we can in the area.  I made a call today to the Yankees and I was really happy that Girardi came over and did that for us.”

Mark Sanchez got a surprise visitor today to help his sliding skills.

Mark Sanchez got a surprise visitor today to help his sliding skills.

After watching Girardi perform the move, Sanchez worked on his slide for about ten minutes on a sliding mat, and seemed to grow increasingly confident with the maneuver.  He seemd to show no ill effects from the knee injury he suffered during Sunday’s victory over Carolina, and participated fully in practice today.

“It meant a lot to me personally for him to come out, take time out of his schedule, his vacation and celebration time, to help me with something like sliding,” Sanchez said.  “There’s nobody better to get coaching from than him, especially in this area.”

“I’ve never really been a slider.  In baseball, I slid head first.  In football, I’ve done the same thing, or tried to get out of bounds or throw the ball away.  It’s something that you need to learn at this level.  Once you get the first down or as many yards as you need, just protect yourself and protect the ball and give yourself a chance to play.”

There’s no shame in taking care of yourself, and that’s an important lesson for Sanchez to learn.  He’s shown his toughness, both mentally and physically, throughout the course of his first season as a Jet, but he needs to learn that he’s more valuable to this team when he’s actually on the field.  That means taking care of his body when he has the chance, something any NFL player who’s had a long career has been able to master.  It’s all part of the maturation of Sanchez, but learning from someone who manages the World Champion Yankees has to make the process a little easier.  Only in New York can you find these types of teachers just a phone call away.

INJURY UPDATE

Sanchez, along with tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson (hamstring), safety Jim Leonhard (thumb), linebacker Calvin Pace (shoulder) and safety Eric Smith (back) all participated fully in practice today.   Defensive end Shaun Ellis (knee) was limited, and cornerbacks Donald Strickland (concussion) and and Dwight Lowery (ankle) and guard Robert Turner (knee) did not practice.

SIZING UP THE BILLS

Thursday’s matchup between the Jets and Buffalo Bills will be the clubs’ second meeting this season, the first featuring a terrible game from the Jets’ signal caller.  So what’s the difference between this game and the first tilt for the qb?  Coach Ryan offered his thoughts Tuesday.

“You can’t buy experience,” he said.  “He went through that and I think he is a better quarterback now than he was then.  You play this game long enough, bad things are going to happen to you unfortunately.  I think he’s growing in the fact that he understands what we want from him.  Don’t force the issue.  If it’s not there, then find something else to do with the football.  Check it down.  Throw the incompletion.  Run with it.  Take a sack.  Anything is better than forcing the ball in particular times and i know he learned from that.”

It will be interesting to see how Sanchez, with his new color-coated wristband, will fare against a Buffalo defense that tortured him in their previous meeting.  If he can limit his mistakes, the Jets could find themselves at .500 by the night’s end, and in the thick of the AFC playoff race.

Identity Crisis

November 24th, 2009
What type of the team are the Jets?  Trying to mold their quarterback of the future while attempting to win now is a recipe for disaster.

What type of the team are the Jets? Trying to mold their quarterback of the future while attempting to win now is a recipe for disaster.

Losing makes you question everything.

Everything’s alright when you’re winning.  The plays that don’t go as planned are swept under the rug, just as poor coaching decisions are overlooked, as long as the “w’s” keep piling up.

But when you lose six of seven in the NFL, everything you do begins to come into question.  And that’s the world in which your New York Jets currently reside.

Everything, from the coach’s style to the injuries to the quarterback’s mistakes have come to the forefront, things that were once masked by the glow of a 3-0 start.  But the honeymoon has long been over, and it’s time to start asking some questions.

Questions, for instance, about how this team has been constructed.  There’s no question this team is one of the more talented in the league.  Their defense has a Pro Bowl-caliber player at every level of the unit.  The left side of their offensive line features two first round draft choices and a high-price free agent import.  They’ve been active in free agency in each of the last two seasons, bringing in talent at a feverish pace.

They’ve also traded away a multitude of draft picks.  Like in the most recent draft, when they traded their first and second round picks in the draft along with three players for rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez.  In the same draft, they traded their third, fourth and seventh round picks to get rookie tailback Shonn Greene.  And already this season, they’ve traded two draft choices and two players for wideout Braylon Edwards.  If you’re scoring at home, that’s seven draft choices they’ve surrendered in trades in six months.  For three players.

Now, those players can all be stars in this league.  But moves like those create the perception  the Jets are in “win now” mode.

Only they’re not winning.  And now, at 4-6 with their playoff hopes dwindling, you have to begin to think about the decisions that have been made.

If your team is in “win now” mode, as you’ve clearly made it apparent that that’s the case, it’s awfully gutsy to entrust your big-money roster to a rookie signal caller, no matter how talented he is or how a good a player he may become.  The lack of draft choices will not allow you to achieve sustained success:  The model franchises of this league (Patriots, Colts, Steelers, Giants to name a few) have achieved their success through the draft, and finding quality players in the later rounds, something the Jets are not leaving themselves the option of doing with their current strategy.

You’re either coming or you’re going.  You’re either trying to win now, or trying to build for the future.  You can’t do both – that is, you can’t do both and win.   The Jets tried to use the same formula the Baltimore Ravens used a season ago to reach the AFC Championship Game, only the Ravens had a better defense, and a rookie quarterback who was further along in his development. The Jets’ quest to reach a Super Bowl while molding their quarterback of the future has backfired for the 2009 season.  Which wouldn’t be so bad, if they hadn’t talked up a Super Bowl berth the moment Rex Ryan stepped to the podium as the new head man of Gang Green.

Sunday’s game was a perfect example.  The rookie qb’s turnovers lead to 17 New England Patriots points – the exact same amount of points the Jets lost the game by.  It’s been like that on more than one occasion so far this season – which again, wouldn’t be so bad, if their coach hadn’t boasted of meeting President Obama in his opening press conference.

A team filled with swagger no longer talks trash.  A star-studded roster is being harpooned more weeks than not by its rookie quarterback.  A team with the talent to win now is simultaneously trying to mold its quarterback of the future.  And with a great deal of draft picks either gone or on their way out in the next draft, this will be the majority of the club’s roster going forward.  The Jets need to figure out which way they’re headed, and what type of organization they want to be.  Either they build through the draft, or make every move they can to win now.  You simply cannot do both.  And these Jets have tried to do just that.  And, at least for this season of NFL football, it’s blown up in their faces.

NEWS FROM JETS CAMP

Aside from the David Clowney Twitter revelations that have been previously reported on this very website, the only major news coming out of Jets camp is that head coach Rex Ryan will be taking on a bigger role on the offensive side of the ball, sitting in on offensive meetings and becoming more of an involved overseer in the offense.

“I’m new to this and I came in with more of a controlling interest in the defense, obviously,” he said.  “I tink that this is what I can add to them.  This is what I can help.  Brian has got to run the offense.  That’s not going to change.  We’ve got great coaches.  I’m here to help this football team.  To me, it’s giving him (Sanchez) the understanding of the game of right now this is an opportunity, we have to take chances, or we can’t take chances here.  If you can make this completion, make it.  If not, get rid of it or run with it.  I’m going to be here to support Brian.  I’m here to support Mark and everybody else.  I have to be demanding of that, because right now that’s not getting done to my satisfaction or this football team’s satisfaction.”

As the head man, Ryan has no choice but to make this move.  He’s got to know what’s going on, has to have his hand in every area that’s struggling at this point, so that at least he can say he’s involved in every aspect of what’s going on with this team.  He can’t pidgeon-hole himself to the defensive side of the ball anymore – he has to be an overseer of every aspect of this team, for better or worse.

The Jets return to the practice field Tuesday with a morning workout beginning at 11:50 AM.  Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com for all your news and updates.

PATRIOTS 31 – JETS 14

November 22nd, 2009

5 Sanchez turnovers doom Jets as team’s playoffs chances slip away.

FOXBORO, MA – What a difference nine weeks make.

To say Sunday’s AFC East showdown between the Jets and the New England Patriots featured two teams heading in opposite directions would be an understatement. The Patriots are no longer out of sync on offense. Tom Brady no longer looks uncomfortable when pressure comes his way. And on the flip side, the Jets no longer possess the swagger on defense that marked their exhilarating Week Two victory over these Patriots.

Their quarterback doesn’t put together as many games like the one he orchestrated in that victory anymore either. On this cool November Sunday, the Jets’ Trojan warrior was in fact their Achilles Heel.

Sanchez finished the day a putrid 8-21 for 136 yards with four crippling interceptions, each managing to come at a worse time than the one preceding it. When the dust settled, the Patriots had methodically dismantled a desperate Jets team 31-14, putting Gang Green at 4-6 and all but out of the race for the AFC East title.

Patriots WR Wes Weker runs over Jets CB Marquice Cole during New Englands 31-14 win over NY. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Patriots WR Wes Weker runs over Jets CB Marquice Cole during New England's 31-14 win over NY. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

New York never lead in this crucial tilt, with Sanchez putting his team behind halfway through the first quarter when Patriots corner Leigh Bodden intercepted a pass and took it 53 yards for a score, putting New England up 7-0. The New England offense struck on the last play of the quarter, when quarterback Tom Brady hit wide receiver Randy Moss for a 4-yard touchdown pass putting the Pats up two scores.

The barrage continued in the second stanza, when running back Lawrence Maroney capped the Pats’ opening series of the second quarter with a two-yard score, putting New England up an insurmountable 21-0. Sanchez then cost his Jets three more points, when Bodden intercepted his second pass of the day, putting the Pats in great field position halfway through the frame. A Stephen Gostkowski 26-yard field goal put the Patriots up 24-0, and put the Jets on the ropes not even halfway through the game.

But a glimpse of hope broke through late in the second, when the Jets were able to block a New England punt deep in Patriots territory, and wide receiver Brad Smith was able to recover the loose ball and take it in for the Jets’ first score of the day, cutting the lead to 24-7 just before the half.

It seemed as though the tide was finally turning in favor of Gang Green in the third, when Sanchez drove his troops down the field on the opening series of the half, connecting with wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery on a ball tucked inside the sideline in the end zone, the 29-yard score bring the Jets within 10 points. Suddenly, their defense was showing signs of life, bending but not breaking, and keeping the team in the game allowing the offense a chance to put the team back in the affair.

But Sanchez struck again with another self-inflicted wound in the beginning of the fourth quarter, serving up his third interception of the day to Bodden, killing a Jets drive and crushing the momentum they’d fought so hard to achieve. The defense was able to force a punt, but Sanchez then committed his final interception of the day, this time Brandon Meriweather being the culprit. The result was a Maroney one-yard scoring run on the ensuing drive, putting the game away at 31-14.

The Patriots finished the day with 410 total yards, 299 of it coming through the air. Wideout Wes Welker made his presence felt after missing the clubs’ first matchup, catching a career-high 15 balls for 192 yards.

For the Jets, Thomas Jones posted a 100-yard performance on the ground, finishing with 103 on 21 carries.