Archive for September, 2009

INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object?

While the New Orleans Saints’ high-octane offense has proven to be dominant so far, they have yet to face a defense among the likes of the New York Jets.

Likewise, the Jets’ smash-mouth defense has yet to face an offensive unit of New Orleans’ caliber.

The Jets busted out their physics textbooks Wednesday, offering their take on the age-old paradox set to be played out on the Superdome turf Sunday.

Jets safety Kerry Rhodes says the Jets must get pressure on Saints QB Drew Brees (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Jets' safety Kerry Rhodes says the Jets must get pressure on Saints' QB Drew Brees (JetsInsider.com Photo)

“It’s the number one offense versus the number one defense,” said CB Darrelle Revis.  “They got a lot of players.  Reggie Bush, Jeremy Shockey, (Devery) Henderson, (Robert) Meachem and (Marques) Colston, their go-to guy.  It’s a finesse offense, but they attack very well.  They’re very aggressive on offense.”

New Orleans leads the league in points per game (40.0), total offense (438 yards per game) and passing touchdowns (9).  The Saints aren’t too shabby on the ground either, second in the league in rushing yards per game (170.7) and rank second in the league in rushing touchdowns (5).

The Saints boast an MVP-candidate at quarterback (Drew Brees), a towering downfield threat at receiver (Marques Colston) and a charismatic two-way threat in the backfield (Reggie Bush).

Safety Kerry Rhodes is confident that the Jets’ defense is ready for the challenge they have ahead of them.  “They’re the number one offense, and we’re one of the better defenses in the league,” said Rhodes.  “So, you get to go out there against guys that are very respected in this league and go out there and make it happen.  It’s definitely a big challenge for us and we’re ready for it.”

Rhodes also stressed the need for the Jets defense to keep constant pressure on Saints’ QB Drew Brees.  “You want to get to him and make him feel the pressure,” he said.  “He’s a short guy, so if you get in his face and make him feel the pressure, some of his throws will be off-target.  With any elite quarterback you wanna get them off their spot and make them move around and get happy feet, and that’s what we wanna do here.”

The rich got even richer on Sunday, as RB Pierre Thomas returned to the Saints’ lineup from a knee injury.  Thomas looked to be more than healthy, rushing for a game-high 126 yards and two touchdowns in the Saints’ victory over Buffalo.

“This Thomas kid, you know, is a heck of a runner,” said head coach Rex Ryan in his Wednesday news conference.  “I don’t know where he came from, but he packs it in there pretty good.”

Thomas and RB Mike Bell are two of the overlooked threats of the Saint’s multi-faceted running attack.  While the task of preparing of three talented backs may seem overwhelming to some,  Jets’ DE Shaun Ellis isn’t worried.

“I mean, there’s only one ball,”  joked Ellis.  “Whoever is in the game, we pretty much know their running style and the types of runs they like to do when they get in there.  Bush is more of an outside runner.  The other two, they can mix it up, go inside and out.”

“For us, we definitely need to control the game early and not let it get into a shootout.”

INSIDER TIDBITS

Brownout in New Orleans

The Saints were dealt a somewhat surprising blow yesterday when it was revealed that Pro Bowl OT Jammal Brown will miss the remainder of the season, after undergoing hernia and hip surgeries in the past two months.  Before being placed on the injured reserve, it was believed that Brown would only miss six weeks.  Jermon Bushrod has started in Brown’s place during the team’s first three games.

Jets face an old “friend”

The Jets will line-up against a familiar face this Sunday in New Orleans.  For four seasons, Saints LB Jonathan Vilma manned the middle of the field for the Green and White, the central cog of the defensive unit.

Vilma was taken by the Jets with the 12th overall pick in the 2004 Draft and quickly proved his worth.  Vilma earned NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2004 and made the Pro Bowl in 2005.  The former Hurricane was on his way to fast becoming one of the franchise’s greatest linebackers.  Then 2007 happened.

In Week 7 against Cincinnati, Vilma suffered a season-ending knee injury.  Vilma’s replacement, then-rookie LB David Harris made his first start the next week against Buffalo.  Harris registered 17 tackles and a sack that day, signaling his arrival and effectively ending Vilma’s career in New York.

Following the 2007 season, the Jets traded Vilma to New Orleans for two draft picks.  S Kerry Rhodes expressed that Vilma is more than an ex-teammate to him, calling the linebacker “a good friend”.  Rhodes also revealed that he plans to go out to dinner with Vilma and his family on Saturday night.

“Getting to see him this week is going to be special,” said Rhodes.  “He was the heart and soul.  He was the guy that everybody looked up to.  He was just that type of guy, the guy that a lot of people respected and revered.”

Trusnik, Gholston earn honors

LB Jason Trusnik was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday. Trusnik recovered his own forced fumble in the first quarter of Sunday’s 24-17 win over Tennessee.

Rex Ryan announced at his newsconference Wednesday that since Trusnik was named Special Teams Player of the Week, Sunday’s game ball was transferred to Vernon Gholston.  Gholston made three solo tackles against Tennessee, including a touchdown-saving tackle on Tennessee RB Chris Johnson in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s win.

“Vernon is starting to get it,” said Coach Ryan.  “We’re proud of the way he’s playing.  We really think he’s coming on and again, what we said before, we think he’ll be a major contributor in our plans and all of that as we move forward.

After practice, Gholston spoke on how his confidence has grown in his second season in the league.  “It’s growing a lot,” he said.  “Getting that playing experience is huge.  That’s where  you really get better, you’re able to focus more on your technique and the things that you need to work on.”

Injury update

S Jim Leonhard (knee), LB Larry Izzo (hamstring), and cornerbacks Lito Sheppard (quad) and Donald Strickland (ankle) were all seen riding stationary bikes during Wednesday’s practice.  OT Wayne Hunter missed practice due to personal reasons.  CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring) and S Kerry Rhodes were limited in today’s practice.

Ryan expressed that he “had a feeling” that Stickland and Sheppard would play on Sunday.

New Yorkers going Green

Who said New York was a Giants town?  Nielsen ratings from Sunday indicate that more New Yorkers were tuned in to the Jets/Titans matchup, than the Giants/Buccaneers game.  According to a report in The New York Times, the Jets’ 24-17 win generated the highest rating in the New York market, averaging a 10.7 overnight rating, to the Giants’ 9.7.

Miller-time again in Oakland

The Justin Miller comeback tour is officially underway; unfortunately it won’t be taking place in New York.  The former Jets’ return man, who was brought in for a workout last week after injuries to Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland, was re-signed by the Raiders today.  The roster  move, reported via the Twitter page of Oakland LB Thomas Howard, comes following a shin injury by current Oakland return man, Nick Miller.

The fact that Miller was not signed by the Jets indicates an improvement in the status of both Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland.  Miller, who struggled at the corner position under Eric Mangini, could have possibility made an impact with Rex Ryan at the helm.

Rex Ryan did not throw out the possibility of making a roster move in the secondary, if the circumstances deemed necessary.

“That’s definitely a possibility,” said  Ryan.  “Right now, I’m confident that –you know, I don’t think we’ll have to make a roster move, but if we do, it’s just like — Mike Tannenbaum is smart, he brings guys in, just in case.”

Jets-Titans Preview

Saturday, September 26th, 2009

Confidence.  Around the Meadowlands nowadays, everyone is brimming with it, from the fans to the players to the coaching staff.  That’s what a 2-0 start can do for a team.

Through two games, all is right in Jetsland.  With a rookie quarterback performing well beyond his years, a rookie head coach saying all the right things, a nasty defense chewing up and spitting out opposing quarterbacks, and coming off a thrashing of a hated rival, what more could you ask for?

Enter the enigma that is the 2009 Tennessee Titans.  Going into Week 3, the Titans are without a doubt the league’s most talented 0-2 team.  Coming off of a season in which they posted a league-best 13 wins, and boasting one of the NFL’s most dynamic running attacks, they are the anti-Jets.  Tennessee is a team that has seen nothing go right so far through the season’s first two weeks.  Unlike New York, Jeff Fisher’s squad came into 2009 with sky-high expectations and has severely underperformed so far.  They have lost two close games to Pittsburgh and Houston by a combined total of six points.

Bart Scott and the Jets defense have their work cut out for them Sunday against the Titans potent rushing attack (JI.com photo)

Bart Scott and the Jets' defense have their work cut out for them Sunday against the Titans' potent rushing attack (JI.com photo)

The Titans are a desperate team, by every stretch of the imagination.  They head into Sunday’s match-up at Giants Stadium, looking to save their quickly-deteriorating season before it spirals out of control.

Sunday, desperation meets confidence.  Insecurity faces off against swagger.  The Jets play the part of the glamorous prom queen, with the Titans in the role of the timid, social outcast looking for a prom date.  Will the confident Jets crush the prom night dreams of Tennessee, sending them home 0-3,  dateless and into metaphorical obscurity?  Or will the Titans muster up the confidence to ask Ms. Popularity to the prom, coming out of Sunday with a win and having their confidence soar to sky-high proportions?

KEYS TO VICTORY FOR GANG GREEN

1) Smash their dash

Despite their 0-2 record, the Titans come into Sunday with the league’s seventh-ranked offense, compiling 384.5 yards per game.  Their offensive prosperity, is thanks much in part to the “Smash and Dash” ground attack of running backs Chris Johnson and LenDale White.

Through two games, the Jets have yet to face an offensive talent among the likes of Tennessee’s Chris Johnson, whom Rex Ryan calls “the fastest player in the league.”   Johnson, a 5-foot-11, 200-pound scatback, is one of the leagues most talented young players.

“He’s a home run hitter,” says Jets LB Bart Scott.  “He’s a threat.  We’re gonna have our work cut out for us.”  That they do.

With Mach-3 speed and the ability to leap whole secondaries in a single bound, Johnson is a definite game-changer.

LenDale White, the “smash” to Johnson’s “dash”, is a punishing back that can really push the pile.  Together, White and Johnson form one of the NFL’s most potent offensive duos, and the number one assignment for the Jets’ defense Sunday.  The Jets must find a way to contain the Titans’ running game and force Tennessee to beat them through the air.

Outside of rookie WR Kenny Britt, the Titans do not pose any serious downfield threats for the Jets’ secondary.

Since Jeff Fisher took over as Tennessee’s head coach in 1995, the Titans are third in the NFL in rushing yards per road contest, averaging 124 rushing yards per game.

Plain and simple, the Jets defense should strive for a repeat performance of their 2008 game in Tennessee.  In that game, the Jets completely shut down the Titans ground game, limiting them to only 45 yards on 11 attempts.

If the Jets can mirror that performance on Sunday, there’s no way they lose this game.

2) Get the ground game going early

In their first two games, the Jets have struggled to get their running game going early.  Against Tennessee, which boasts the league’s second best run defense (49.5 yards per game), it’s important for the Jets to come out of the gates sprinting.

Jets’ FB Tony Richardson, one of the key elements of the Jets’ ground game, is aware of the tough task the team has ahead of them this week.  “We know it’s gonna be a grind,” said the 15-year veteran.  “We know they’re gonna have eight guys in the box.  We know there’s gonna be some times where they hit us for a negative two-yard run, maybe get one yard, maybe get two yards.  That’s just the nature of it.  But same situation as last year when we played them, we had to pound, pound, pound and we end up rushing for 197 yards.”

“They’re good and there’s no doubt about it.  They play good against the run, they got great pass-rushers, they got good linebackers.  They’re a good football team and they’re well coached.”

Getting Thomas Jones and Leon Washington off to a strong start will also open up the passing game for QB Mark Sanchez.  Defending the pass is not Tennessee’s strong suit, as they rank dead-last in the NFL in passing defense.

3) Stop holding

The Jets have been whistled for 18 penalties this season, the third-most in the league.  While they have been able to avoid getting burned in their first two games,  against a strong opponent like Tennessee, the Jets may not be as lucky.  The stupid mistakes must be kept to a minimum.

4) The 12th man

Jets fans need to show that last Sunday was no fluke.  The Meadowlands crowd was unbelievable last week against New England, forcing the Patriots to four delay of game penalties and one illegal formation.  DE Shaun Ellis, who admitted he felt the Giants Stadium ground “shaking” last week says the Jets need that kind of performance every week.  “We need that every game,” said Ellis.  That’s the new culture we’re trying to bring here. They’re an extra man on the field.”  There was no taped-phone message from Rex Ryan this week, but regardless the “12th man” must make another appearance.

Prediction

The Jets face their toughest test to date, cemented in a true defensive struggle.  Sanchez is the difference, leading the home team to a scoring drive late in the game.   The Jets win a close one, 14-13.

INSIDER TIDBITS

Matchup History

Sunday marks the 40th all-time meeting between the two teams.  Tennessee holds the series edge, with a record of 22-16-1.  However, in recent years the Jets have had the Titans’ number, winning four of the last five games.

Last time…

The Jets emerged victorious in their last meeting at Tennessee on Nov. 23, 2008.  The Jets, led by Brett Favre and Leon Washington, dominated from start to finish, winning 34-13, and handing the 10-0 Titans their first loss of the season.

Injury report; Jets banged up in secondary, Titans kicking game hurting

Cornerbacks Donald Strickland (ankle) and Lito Sheppard (quadriceps) are both out for Sunday’s game.  With the Jets unsure how much time both players will miss, the team is looking at bringing in another corner.  Former Raven CB Corey Ivy, who played under Ryan and former Jets CB Justin Miller both visited with the team on Friday.

Rookie OL Matt Slauson (ankle), who was limited in practice on Friday is listed as questionable for Sunday.

For Tennessee, P Craig Hentrich will miss Sunday’s game with a calf injury.  Hentrich, who is the Titans’ franchise leader in punts, will miss only his second game in 16 seasons.  Filling in for Hentrich will be the newly acquired and always interesting Reggie Hodges.

LB Stanford Keglar is listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury while G Eugene Armano (illness), K Rob Bironas (ankle), TE Bo Scaife (knee), and QB Vince Young (illness) are all listed as questionable.


INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

They’re fresh off a win of catastrophic proportions against New England at home, and looking ahead to a showdown against the league’s most prolific offense in New Orleans next week.   From an outsider’s perspective, Sunday’s tilt against the winless Titans looks like the quintessential “trap” game for the New York Jets.

Rex Ryan and his players beg to differ.

“I don’t know why this would be a trap game or anything else,” said Ryan at his Wednesday news conference.   “This is just our next opponent and we know they’re an outstanding football team.  If they beat us, it has nothing to do with us or it being a ‘trap game’ or us not putting forth the effort.”

Jets head coach Rex Ryan is by no means taking the 0-2 Titans lightly

Jets head coach Rex Ryan is by no means taking the 0-2 Titans lightly (JI.com Photo)

“We’re gonna give everything we’ve got this week.  So, if they’re gonna beat us, they’re gonna have to earn it.”

QB Mark Sanchez agreed that the Jets aren’t getting too full of themselves just yet.  “I think Coach Ryan has done a great job this week of just, resetting our focus,” said Sanchez.  “Letting us know that yesterday and Monday really was the day to celebrate that win.  That’s one game in our schedule, one divisional game, and we’ve moved on.”

In a league as unforgiving as the NFL, getting off to slow start can spell doom for a franchise.  History has proven that overcoming an 0-3 start, in the context of a 16-game season, is a seemingly insurmountable task.

With that concept in mind, the Titans will be theoretically playing for their season Sunday.  Desperate for a win following tough losses in their first two games, while boasting one of the league’s most dominant ground attacks as well as a stellar defense against the run, Tennessee is certainly no slouch of an opponent.

Tennessee’s offensive charge is spearheaded by RB Chris Johnson.  Johnson rushed for over 1,000 yards during his rookie season in 2008, and seems poised to shatter that mark this season.

Johnson put on a show last week against Houston, rushing for an astounding 197 yards on 16 carries with three touchdowns, two on the ground, one through the air..  The second-year stud out of East Carolina broke off runs of 91 and 57 yards, leaving the Texans’ secondary in the proverbial dust.

Jets S Kerry Rhodes expressed the need for the Jets’ defense to limit the “big-play” from Johnson on Sunday.

“He’s a good player man,” said Rhodes.  “He’s probably the fastest player in the NFL right now.  If he gets an edge on you, it’s lights out.  We’ve just got to try to contain him and not let him beat us with the big one.”

“If they get the consistent, three yards or whatever and we can hold them to not the ‘big’ play, we’ll be ok.”

INSIDER TIDBITS

Blitzing their way to the top

Through only two games, Rex Ryan’s aggressive, blitz-krieg attack on the defensive side of the ball has proven to be more than effective.  To say that the Jets’ defense has been dominant, would be a severe understatement.  Bart Scott and company lead the league in yards allowed per game (241) and are second in the NFL in total points allowed (16 points).  They have been especially stingy against the run, allowing an average of only 60.5 rushing yards per game, sixth in the NFL, yet to give-up a legitimate “game-breaking” run to an opponent.

But one statistic is particularly eye-popping; Ryan’s defense has yet to allow a single offensive touchdown.  In the last 60 years, only two rookie coaches have been able to achieve this feat in their first two games:  Red Miller with the Broncos in 1977 and Kay Stephenson with the Bills in 1983.

A strong component of the Jets defensive success has been the consistent use of blitz packages and aggressive play calling through the team’s first two games.  Against a team like Tennessee, which features a strong running attack, aggressive play-calling could be risky.

LB Bart Scott contends that the Jets don’t necessarily need to blitz in order to be effective.  “Who said we had to blitz,” shouted Scott to a crowd of reporters Wednesday.  “We don’t have to blitz to be a successful defense.  Blitz is for the personnel, for the opponent that we’re playing.”

“We don’t have to blitz every game.  We just do it because it’s fun.”

Making his Mark in the history books

With his Week 2 victory against New England, Mark Sanchez continued to make history.  According to Elias, Sanchez is only the fourth quarterback in the last 40 seasons to start and win his first two games in his rookie season.  The only others are Joe Flacco, Ryan Leaf, and John Elway.

Also, the former Trojan became only the second rookie signal-caller to defeat Bill Belichick during his ten-year tenure as head coach.   The other?  Ben Roethlisberger in 2004.  “Big Ben” went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year and led the Pittsburgh Steelers to the AFC Championship game that season.  Will Sanchez enjoy the same rookie success?  We shall see.

Titans’ Fisher impressed by Revis, Sanchez

In his Wednesday conference call with the New York media, Titans’ head coach Jeff Fisher commented on a number of topics, most notably the improved Jets’ defense, Darrelle Revis, and Mark Sanchez.

Fisher is extremely impressed by the job head coach Rex Ryan and his staff has done with the defense so far.

“For them to come in this quick and have them playing the way they are, that’s very impressive,” said Fisher.  “They’re very well coached.  I think the secondary is exceptional, they cover well.  And they’re fearless and they’re playing with a great deal of confidence.  They’re very difficult defense to attack.”

Fisher admitted that CB Darrelle Revis is quickly becoming a serious player in the league.  “He’s playing very well, said Fisher.  “Now he’s in a system where he can really show what he’s capable of doing.”

“He’s gonna become, I think, a shut-down guy.  We have to play team offense and the quarterback has to make good decisions and people gotta make plays.”

Fisher also raved about the play of QB Mark Sanchez in his first two NFL starts.

“We’re very impressed with the way he’s handled himself,” said Fisher.  “He’s making good decisions, he’s got just terrific pocket presence.”

“They’re 2-0 against two pretty good defensive teams.  It’s difficult to go and open up on the road number one, and he looked like a six-year vet in Houston.”

Despite starting off 0-2, Fisher rejected the notion that Sunday should be classified as a “must-win” for his team.  “We’re a football team that’s just trying to improve right now,” said Fisher.  “You classify this game as ‘must-win’ and it just makes it harder on yourself.  We’ve just got to improve as a football team.”

“Unfortunately we’ve been down this road before with slow starts. We’ll pull out of it.”

Jets to go “old school” Sunday

Sunday, the Jets and Titans will both wear throwback American Football League uniforms as part of the NFL’s celebration of the 50th anniversary of the league’s eight original AFL teams.   The Titans will sport their 1960 Houston Oiler uniforms and the Jets will wear, ironically, their 1961 New York Titans jerseys.

Woody “breaks it down” at practice

In one of the day’s more entertaining moments, owner Woody Johnson was involved in drills with the Jets defense.  While being cheered on by onlooking players, Johnson tested his arm against a team of backup defenders.  Johnson fired a few errant passes, while Jets players shouted “Break it down, Woody!  Break it down!”  On his last passing attempt, the owner was picked off by LB Ryan Fowler.  It’s a safe assumption that Johnson won’t be making a Mario Lemieux-like move from the press box to the playing field, anytime soon.

Jets play dress-up

With October soon approaching, the Jets had an early Halloween celebration of sorts at Wednesdays practice.  In an attempt to emulate some of the match-up problems posed by Tennessee, WR Marcus Henry and RB Danny Woodhead wore the numbers of Tennessee players Kerry Collins and Chris Johnson, respectively.  Henry, a 6′4″ receiver, is the best candidate on the roster to imitate the size of the 6′5″ Collins, while Woodhead mimics some of the speed and agility of the Titans’ track-star RB.

Minor roster moves

With cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland both banged up, the Jets signed CB Marquice Cole from their practice squad today.  To make room for Cole, the team released TE Matthew Mulligan.

Cole had been waived by the team last week, to make room on the active roster for DE Shaun Ellis.  Mulligan, a second-year player out of the University of Maine, spent the majority of last season on the Titans’ practice squad.  He was waived by Tennessee on Sept. 6 and subsequently claimed by the Jets.  Think he had any input on this week’s game-plan?

Hodges signs on with Tennessee

Former Jets punter Reggie Hodges was signed by the Titans today and added to the active roster for Sunday.  Hodges, who was cut by the Jets on Sept. 6 after an underwhelming preseason performance, will kick in place of the injured Craig Hentrich.  Hentrich, a two-time Pro Bowl selection, strained his left calf against the Texans last week and is out indefinitely.

Injury report

Cornerbacks Lito Sheppard (quad) and Donald Strickland (ankle) both sat out practice today.  Ryan expressed that he is still unsure about what their status will be for Sunday.

INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT

Wednesday, September 16th, 2009

It is often said that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

In 2008, the Jets went into Miami on the NFL’s opening weekend and defeated the Dolphins 20-14.  Emotions rode high going into their home opener against the New England Patriots, the following week.

A confident Rex Ryan is ready to take on the Pats. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

A confident Rex Ryan is ready to take on the Pats. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

With Patriots QB Tom Brady knocked out for the season in Week 1, Gang Green hoped to take full advantage, kicking their hated rivals while they were down. The plan was to beat New England in front of the home crowd, start their season off 2-0, and take complete control of the AFC East.

Let’s just say, things didn’t quite go as planned.

Instead, QB Matt Cassel led the Pats into the Meadowlands, where they proceeded to outplay and outclass New York, defeating the Jets 19-10, and essentially extinguishing all the positive momentum the team had following their Week 1 victory.

One year later, the Jets find themselves in a similar scenario, hoping to do anything but repeat history.  With team morale sky-high after another impressive season-opening road victory, the Jets look to build off of their Week 1 success in Houston and lay the metaphorical smackdown on Tom Brady and company when they roll into the Meadowlands Sunday.

The Jets returned to the practice field Wednesday, beginning their preparations for Bill Belichick’s crew, with owner Woody Johnson looking on from the sidelines.

With a new head coach, new quarterback, and new swagger about them in ‘09, Gang Green is confident that Sunday’s home opener will prove to be more successful than last season’s.

“It’s embarassing,” said CB Darrelle Revis.  “To be home and be the favorite and have the crowd into it, and we couldn’t pull it out in the past.  So, this is a great opportunity for us to get this win.”

“We know they’re gonna come down here ready and focused and we gotta stomp ‘em out.”

Last week against Houston, QB Mark Sanchez displayed the strong pocket presence and veteran poise that the Jets saw in him when they drafted Sanchez fifth overall in April’s draft.  The rookie carved up the Texans’ defense for 272 yards and a touchdown, a performance he hopes to replicate Sunday against New England.

“I know that this is a well coached group,” said Sanchez of the Patriots’ defense.  “You don’t see guys acting like individuals doing their own thing on this defense.  They play well together and they give quarterbacks fits.  So it’s important for me to be smart with the football and be on my game.”

Bill Belichick stated his impressions of the rookie’s performance Wednesday, in his conference call with the New York media.  “I think he’s done a good job,” said Belichick.  “He’s managed the team well.  I think he handles the things at the line of scrimmage, the different audibles, and packages that they run.  I think he handles those well.  He’s certainly got a live arm, athletic guy, can move the ball around.   He got it to everybody, the receivers, the tight ends, the backs.  They run him on bootlegs and moving pocket kind of plays.”

“He’s been asked to do a lot and it looks like he can handle it.  He has the talent to make all the throws and buy time in the pocket on the roll-out plays.  He’s done a good job.”

For a good portion of New England’s Monday night showdown against Buffalo, QB Tom Brady looked very much like a player that missed all of last season.  Brady appeared rusty at best, shaking off the cobwebs in his first regular season start in a year.  But then came the fourth quarter.  The two-time Super Bowl MVP, finally resembled his former self with the game on the line, throwing for two touchdowns in the final 2:06 to lead New England to a 25-24, comeback victory.

Sunday, the Jets look to become the first team to beat Brady in the regular season since December of 2006.  While much has been made about the Patriots defense being on the decline, this is still the same team that went undefeated two years ago and won 11 games with a backup quarterback a year ago.

Head coach Rex Ryan, still refuses to back down from New England.  “I’m not conceding anything,” said Ryan Wednesday.  “People think that, you know New England ‘well this is a win for them for them’.  Oh yeah?  They’ve won eight in a row at the Meadowlands so you’ve got all that information, you’ve got that history and all that.  But, I’m not conceding anything.  I promise you, we’re gonna give everything we have.”

INSIDER TIDBITS

Ellis ready to go

The Jets’ defense, which dominated in their season-opening victory in Houston, will receive a boost Sunday, as DE Shaun Ellis is scheduled to return to action. Ellis was activated from the reserve/suspended list after serving his one game suspension, which stemmed from marijuana charges from last season.

The stalwart defensive end is more than ready to go.  “I feel real good,” said Ellis.  “This game means a lot to me.  Having to sit back and not play last week kinda opened my eyes to how important this is to me and how eager I wanna get back out there and play.”

Ellis admitted that not being able to participate in the team’s opener was a hard pill to swallow.  “It was real tough,” said Ellis.  “Not being able to be apart of that, kicking the season off, was kinda disappointing.”

On Monday, the Jets released CB Marquice Cole, in order to make room for Ellis on the active roster.

Rex calls out fans

Jets season ticketholders were treated to an unexpected voice on their answering machines Monday; Jets head coach Rex Ryan.  The Jets sent out a recorded message from Ryan, challenging Jets fans to get extra loud this Sunday at the Meadowlands.  “It’s tough enough when we have 11 but when our fans are into it it’s almost impossible to do anything against us,” said Ryan in the voicemail.  “So, that’s my challenge to you and again I admit that I’m not as good as Belichick, but  at the end of the game, I want to be 1-0 against him.”  As of Wednesday, a number of tickets to Sunday’s game were still available.

In his press conference Wednesday, Ryan elaborated on the need for strong fan support on Sunday.  “We’re looking to get an edge, anyway we can get it,” said Ryan.  “You want it to be a rough place to play and you want your fans behind you.  It’s almost like they’re an extension of the defense.”

Harris earns honors

LB David Harris was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.  Harris had a standout game Sunday against Houston, registering 11 tackles and a sack.

Hold the Mayo

The Jets will catch a major break Sunday, as New England will be without 2008 Defensive Rookie of the Year, LB Jerod Mayo.  Mayo sprained the MCL in his right knee on Monday night in New England’s game against Buffalo.  According to The Boston Globe, Mayo is expected to miss 6-8 weeks.  Mayo did not practice Wednesday, but the Patriots have yet to release an official timetable on the star-linebacker.  Mayo, who led the Patriots with 139 tackles last season, is a significant loss for the Patriots’ defense.  Most notably, Mayo posted a season-high 23 tackles against the Jets in Foxboro last season.

Home sweet groan

Giants Stadium has served as anything but a home-field advantage for the Jets in recent history against the Patriots. Entering Sunday, New England rides an eight-game winning streak against the Jets at the Meadowlands.  The last time the Jets beat the Patriots at home was September 11, 2000; Bill Belichick’s first season as coach.

Injury report

DT Kris Jenkins (back), DT Sione Pouha (ankle), WR Wallace Wright (hamstring), and RT Damien Woody (illness) were all limited in practice today.  None of the injuries are considered serious.

Breaking News: Jets Waive Marquice Cole

Monday, September 14th, 2009

The New York Jets have waived CB Marquice Cole. The announcement was made by Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum. Cole was waived to make room for the reinstatement of Shaun Ellis, who returns after serving his one-game suspension.

Cole (CB, 5-10, 190, Northwestern signed with the Jets as a free agent on Feb. 19, 2009. He made the 53-man roster and was inactive for the game at Houston. Cole was originally signed by the Oakland Raiders as a rookie free agent on May 4, 2007, and was waived on Sept. 1, 2007. He spent time on the practice squads of the Titans and Saints.

Stick with JetsInsider.com for the latest breaking team news.

JETS 24, TEXANS 7

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Houston; we have lift-off.

On a day that marked the debuts of both a rookie head coach and quarterback, the New York Jets took flight, turning in a truly veteran performance.

Jets QB Mark Sanchez celebrates after a 2nd quarter TD to Chansi Stuckey during the Jets 24-7 win over Houston on Sunday..

Jets QB Mark Sanchez celebrates after a 2nd quarter TD to Chansi Stuckey during the Jets' 24-7 win over Houston on Sunday.

QB Mark Sanchez completed 18 of 31 passes for 272 yards and a touchdown, while the defense dominated on the other side of the ball, leading New York to an emphatic season-opening, 24-7 victory Sunday at Reliant Stadium in Houston.

“We wanted to get a win under our belt. That meant the world to me,” said Sanchez.  “I wanted to play well for the veteran defense, my offensive line and also for coach Ryan.  This is just Week 1 of 16, and I gotta keep things in perspective.”

The Jets’ defense turned in a near- perfect game, manhandling the Texans offensive line from the start, forcing two turnovers and not allowing a single point from the Houston offense.

Led by 11 tackles and a sack from LB David Harris, the Jets’ defensive unit applied non-stop pressure on Houston QB Matt Schaub. Rex Ryan’s unit blitzed early and often, never allowing the Texan offense to get comfortable. Houston’s explosive offense was totally shutdown, limited to only 183 yards of total offense.

“When Rex came here, he pretty much brought that physical and nasty mentality, and I think it trickled down,” said Harris.

The Jets’ run defense was particularly stingy, allowing only 38 yards on the ground. Texans’ Pro Bowl WR Andre Johnson, who led the league in receiving a year ago, was virtually nonexistent all day, a credit to CB Darrelle Revis. Revis blanketed Johnson, limiting him to only four receptions for 35 yards.

Texan’s QB Matt Schaub completed 18 of 33 passes for 166 yards, threw one interception and was sacked twice.  The Jets’ defense also held the Texans to an average of 4.0 yards on first downs.  Last season, the Texans were among the best in the league on first down, averaging 6.5 yards per play.

Despite a strong finish to the preseason and high praise from his teammates, no one could have expected such a stellar performance from the rookie Sanchez in his debut.

Sanchez was magnificent, displaying outstanding poise and terrific footwork as he escaped pressure from the Houston defense all day. The rookie was particularly effective on third down, converting 10 of 18 for first downs, a truly outstanding number for a rookie making his first start on the road.

Sanchez also displayed veteran pocket presence in his first start, allowing more time for his receivers to get open down the field.

After the game, Texans’ head coach Gary Kubiak offered high praise for the rookie.  “We made him move around. He’s good. He made a lot of plays,” said Kubiak.  “He did it in the preseason. He did it in college. I told our guys he’d come in here and do it, and he did.”

The former Trojan was helped tremendously by a strong performance by the Jets’ receiving core of TE Dustin Keller (4 receptions for 94 yards), WR Jerricho Cotchery (6 receptions for 90 yards) and WR Chansi Stuckey (4 receptions for 64 yards, 1 TD) and the diverse play-calling of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

Sanchez was also helped tremendously by a phenomenal performance from the Jets’ offensive line, which did a great job of protecting the rookie all day, not allowing a single sack.

After going three and out on his first drive, Sanchez led the Jets offense down the field on a 68-yard drive. The rookie converted on third down on three separate occasions, completing passes to Stuckey, Keller, and Cotchery. The drive was encapsulated by 24-yard field goal by K Jay Feely, putting the Jets ahead, 3-0.

The eight minute and twenty-seven second drive lasted 16 plays, longer than any drive the Jets offense put together last season, with Brett Favre at the helm.

After being totally shut down by the Jets defense on their first three drives, the Texans offense began to get into their groove on their second possession of the second quarter.

QB Matt Schaub led Houston down the field into Jets territory with long completions to RB Steve Slaton and FB Vonta Leach. On second and eleven from the New York 35, Schaub completed a short screen pass to Slaton who juked and gyrated past a handful of Jets defenders, picking up a first down and poised for much more.

That’s when the Jets caught their first big break of the day. At the 17-yard line, Jets CB Donald Strickland hit RB Steve Slaton with his helmet, popping the ball up into the air, falling into the arms of Jets DE Mike DeVito.

Taking over at their own 22-yard line Sanchez engineered another brilliant scoring drive, highlighted by two deep third down completions to Chansi Stuckey. On third and nine from their own 38, Sanchez eluded pressure and fired a 20-yard missile to Stuckey. Then, on third and ten later in the drive, Sanchez connected again with an uncovered Stuckey for a 30-yard touchdown pass, extending the New York lead to 10-0.

On the final play of the half, Sanchez completed a 25-yard cross-field pass to a wide open Dustin Keller. After being taken down, Keller exchanged words with Texans LB DeMeco Ryans, who was flagged for a taunting penalty. The defensive penalty ended the half, as the Jets headed to the locker room with the 10-0 lead.

The Jets picked up in the second half where they left off, dominating possession of the football for half of the third quarter. On third and two from the Houston 36, Sanchez came with yet another huge third down conversion. This time, the rookie found Cotchery who took it 25 yards before being taken down at Houston 39.

After two dynamic runs by RB Leon Washington, Sanchez gave it to RB Thomas Jones, who took it up the middle for the 1-yard score, extending the Jets lead to 17-0.

On the Texans’ next possession, the Jets defense delivered the knockout blow. After driving down to the New York 49, the Texans made a last ditch effort, going for it on fourth and two. Schaub’s pass intended for Pro Bowl TE Owen Daniels, was deflected by a diving effort from Jets S Eric Smith. Smith’s deflection ended the drive and effectively squashing any hopes of a comeback for the Texans. But that wasn’t all she wrote for Houston.

On the Jets’ first drive of the fourth quarter, Sanchez made his first rookie mistake. On second and fifteen, Sanchez’s pass to Dustin Keller was intercepted by Texans S James Busing. Busing ran ten yards with the ball and then coughed it up. Fortunately for Houston, the ball was picked up by S Dominique Barber, who took it 48 yards for the score, making it 17-7.

Sanchez bounced back quickly on the next possession, finding Keller for a 33-yard strike on a post route down the right side. On the very next play, Thomas Jones broke free, taking a handoff 38 yards to the end zone, putting the Jets up 24-7.

Before Jones’ game-breaking run, he had struggled mightily all day, accounting for only 16 yards on his first 14 carries. Jones finished the day with 107 yards on 20 attempts and two touchdowns.

Jones praised the Jets coaching staff for sticking with the run, despite the team’s first half struggles.  “They were putting nine or 10 guys in the box.  Anytime you do that, it’s impossible to block everybody, said Jones.  “The coaches did a good job in the second half, sticking with the run.”

On the ensuing drive, Schaub was picked off by Jets CB Lito Sheppard at the New York 12 yard line, officially putting the icing on the cake for the Jets’ victory.

INSIDER TIDBITS:

Sanchez makes history

With his second quarter touchdown pass, Mark Sanchez became the first Jets rookie to throw a touchdown since Chad Pennington in 2002.

Sanchez also became the first rookie quarterback since Chris Weinke in 2001, to win his first start on opening day on the road.

Weatherford gets his kicks in debut

P Steve Weatherford, who was signed less than a week ago by the Jets after being by Jacksonville, turned in an impressive performance in his debut Sunday. Weatherford posted an average of 41 yards on four punts, including a 46-yard punt in the third quarter.

Gholston, Westerman turn in solid performances

DE Vernon Gholston, who recorded two sacks during the preseason, was impressive Sunday in his first career start, registering 3 tackles.

Undrafted rookie LB Jamaal Westerman, who shined throughout the preseason and training camp, turned in another stellar performance in his debut Sunday.  Westerman registered two tackles, including a key sack in the fourth quarter

INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Draw the curtains, and bust out the Jiffy Pop; it’s finally showtime for Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets.

Sanchez, fresh off of two impressive outings to close out the preseason, makes his first regular season start Sunday in Houston.

“I’m excited,” said Sanchez.  “We need to attack a great defense and it’s gonna be a formidable challenge for us.  We’re excited about the challenge.”

Mark Sanchez says he ready for the challenge of the Houston Texans defense

Mark Sanchez says he's ready for the challenge of the Houston Texans defense (JI.com Photo)

While flambéing second string and scout team defenders in the preseason is one thing, doing it against starters on an every-down basis when it really matters, is quite another.

The “Sanch-ize”, as he as been anointed by Jets’ supporters, faces a host of challenges from his first regular season opponent.

The Texans defense is anchored by the Pro Bowl duo of DE Mario Williams and LB DeMeco Ryans.

Ryans started all sixteen games for Houston in 2008, leading the team with 112 tackles.  “Super Mario” Williams is one of the league’s most feared pass rushers, registering a combined 26 sacks over the past two seasons.

The former first-overall pick is without question salivating over the idea of imposing every square inch of his 6′6″, 290 pound “He-Man” frame on the rookie signal-caller, and turning the former Trojan’s NFL debut into a living nightmare.

“He’s a great player,” said Sanchez.  “He’s one of those guys that can change the course of a game with his play.  Hes physical, he attacks offenses, he busts up runs and he’s an amazing pass rusher.  We need to keep a watchful eye on him and be smart when he comes free.”

“I’ve known him going back to college,” recalled RB Leon Washington who played against Williams while at Florida State.  ” I played against him at NC State,  I knew how special he was there.”

Head coach Rex Ryan also spoke highly of the star defensive end.  “A guy like that comes out once every 20 years” said Ryan.  “He’s a special guy, special athlete.  He’s worked at his craft.  He’s a tremendous player.”

“They’ve got a bunch of guys on that defense.  DeMeco Ryans, Dunta Robinson  is back.  They’re a fast, physical, smart group, so they’ll be a challenge for us.  We look forward to it.”

It is unknown how much playing time Texans CB Dunta Robinson will get in the team’s first game.  The former first round pick, finally returned to practice Sunday, ending his camp-long holdout.  Though Robinson most likely is not in top game shape, the less the Jets see of him, the better.  Robinson, 100 percent or not, is the team’s most talented defensive back.

Despite the tall task at hand, S Kerry Rhodes is confident that Sanchez will step up to the plate.   “He’s a cool customer,” said Rhodes.  “I don’t think anything really phases him that much.  The thing that he does well for a young guy is bounce back.  When he makes a mistake or he has adversity, he backs it up and bounces back.  So, I think he’ll be fine.”

Aside from the defense, the home field advantage of Houston poses another problem for Sanchez.  Reliant Stadium has proven to be anything but hospitable to opposing teams over the past two seasons.

Since 2007, the Texans have posted a dominant 12-4 record on their home turf, which has been touted as the league’s loudest stadium.   The 12-4 mark, is the third-best home record in the NFL over the past two seasons, inferior only to the Patriots and Steelers.

According to the Texans official web site, the team is sponsoring a stadium-wide “white out” for Sunday’s game, further adding to the tumultuous atmosphere.

Leon Washington offered a surefire remedy to counteract the raucous Reliant Stadium atmosphere.  “I think the best way to answer the crowd noise is be successful early on offense and try and quiet them down,” said Washington.

INSIDER TIDBITS

Schaub returns to practice for Houston

Houston Texans starting quarterback Matt Schaub returned to practice yesterday.  Schaub, who has been receiving 24-7 treatment on a sprained ankle, will in all likelihood get the nod Sunday for Houston.

“He took a big step forward,” said Texans head coach Gary Kubiak.  ”He took half the reps in practice, so he’s progressing towards getting ready to go.”

With Schaub at the helm, the explosive Texans offense could spell trouble for the Jets defense.

Houston, which boasts the dynamic Andre Johnson at wideout and future Pro-Bowler Steve Slaton in the backfield, hopes to repeat their offensive success of 2008.

While CB Darrelle Revis admits the task of defending Johnson is a challenge, it’s one he fully embraces.  “It’s a big challenge,” said Revis.  “He’s one of the top receivers in the league.  He’s a big guy, 6′3″,  230, he can do everything.  He can run, hes very physical.  I’m ready for it and I’m ready to go.”

In 2008, Houston ranked third in the NFL in total offense, registering 6113 yards on the season, an average of 382.1 yards per game.

The Schaub-led aerial attack also ranked fourth in the NFL in passing, averaging 266.7 yards per game through the air.

Beat the streak

The Jets are undefeated against the young Texans, winning all three of the contests between the teams since Houston’s inception into the league in 2002.

The teams’ last meeting was a particularly successful one for the Jets, as they cruised to an emphatic 26 – 11 victory over Houston in the Meadowlands on Nov. 26, 2006.

In that game, QB Chad Pennington put on a show, completing 24 of 31 passes for 286 yards and a touchdown.  Current Jets Jerricho Cotchery and Kerry Rhodes also had standout games.  Cotchery hauled in seven balls for 119 receiving yards, while Rhodes had a breakout game, registering 12 tackles and an interception.

As impressive as the Jets offense was that day, their defense was for lack of a better term, atrocious.  Despite yielding only 11 points on the scoreboard, the Jets secondary was picked apart by then-Houston QB David Carr, who completed a record 39 passes that day.

Andre Johnson accounted for ten of those completions, something that cannot happen again this Sunday.  Another porous secondary performance would spell  disaster for the Jets against this Houston offense.

Trojan Reunion

Sunday Sanchez will be reunited with his former USC teammate and roommate, Texans rookie LB Brian Cushing.  Cushing, who the Texans drafted 15th overall in April’s draft, missed all of the preseason with a sprained knee.  Despite his lack of reps, Cushing is expected to start Sunday.

Sanchez gushed about Cushing during Wednesday’s newsconference, calling him “a phenomenal player and even better friend.”

“He’s one of those guys on gameday. you just don’t want to get in his way, said Sanchez.  “He’s a tough young man, and he’ll be coming full speed off the edge and that’s going to be fun, to play against him for real.”

Jets-Eagles Preview

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

Thursday night, the New York Jets wrap up their preseason schedule against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Meadowlands, the team’s final tune up in preparation for the regular season.

The Eagles, fresh off an exciting 33-32 comeback victory over Jacksonville on Sunday night, come to town touting their latest controversial prized-acquisition; QB Mike Vick.

The Jets will be focusing on #7 and not #5 when they meet the Eagles on Thursday.

The Jets will be focusing on #7 and not #5 when they meet the Eagles on Thursday.

While the idea of facing the 6-foot, athletic freak with a rocket left arm, is enough to make any defensive unit lose sleep, the concept does not apply to the New York Jets.  In fact, they embrace it.

“He’s a tremendous player, said LB Bart Scott.  “What you have to do against Michael Vick is make sure your edges are set. You want to make sure you stir the pocket in the middle and set the edges. He’s a shorter quarterback, so you want to stir the pocket and get visual lanes. It will be a great test for us to see where we are at.”

“It gives us great work going in. We have to come out of the gates. We have a tough schedule coming up. It is important for us to be hitting our strides. For a lot of our guys, (Darrelle) Revis and (Kris) Jenkins, it’s going to be only their second preseason game. We have to build chemistry with those guys.”

DT Kris Jenkins echoed the sentiments of Scott, expressing his excitement to face the former Atlanta Falcon QB.

“I am looking forward to playing against him,” said Jenkins.  “When I was in Carolina we had quite the rivalry while he was at Atlanta. There are still a lot of, we’ll say, memories with that.”

Vick, playing for the first time in over two years last week against Jacksonville, appeared in six Wildcat plays.  The former Pro-Bowler, completed all four of his passes, including a 13-yard completion to WR Hank Baskett.

Head Coach Rex Ryan also stated that facing Vick is a challenge that he welcomes with open arms.

“It’s good for us because we’re definitely going to be challenged,” said Ryan.  “(He’s) a guy that’s been a Pro Bowl quarterback for how many years and he’s going to be playing in the second half of a preseason game.  I hope we get up early on him and then kind of hold our breath there.  He is a great player and a great talent.”

“He’s dangerous.  That the ideal guy, there’s no doubt.  He’s a dual threat.  He can run it.  He can throw it.  So that’s definitely presents a problem.”

Despite his high praise of the former Pro-Bowler, Ryan refuted the notion that the Jets were “game-planning” around Vick.

“We’re not game planning him,” said Ryan.  “We’ll just play base defense and see what happens from there.”

Ryan stated Tuesday that he plans to get his starters in for one series, and the rest of the game will be competition between the backups for the final roster spots.

While it is speculated that QB Mark Sanchez will only play in one series, the rookie expressed that he is still unsure of the coaching staff’s plans for him on Thursday night.

“They haven’t said anything specific to me yet,” said Sanchez.  “I’m just hearing from other guys, ‘Hey, you might not even play.’  So, that’s one scenario.  Another scenario is a couple of series, but I’d love to get in the whole time.  Houston is right around the corner so I want to be smart about it as well.”

“I think they know how bad I want to play.  It’s just important to me and I need as much practice as possible before the first game.”

Eagles head coach Andy Reid stated on his weekly radio show that QB Donovan McNabb will not play against the Jets Thursday night and that QB Kevin Kolb will be the starter.  Kolb, vying for the team’s back-up quarterback spot, has missed time during the preseason with a knee injury.

Vick will get some time in the Wildcat formation in the first half, and will start the second half at the quarterback position.  QB A.J. Feeley will also likely take snaps in the second half for the Eagles.

Eagles offensive tackle Shawn Andrews, who has missed all of training camp with a back injury, returned to practice this week, and could see some action Thursday night.

“He’ll probably be in there and he’s a load,” said Ryan.  “It’ll be good.”

Notes from Florham:

Thursday’s contest marks the ninth consecutive year that the Jets and Eagles have faced off in the preseason.  It also marks the 29th time the two teams have met during the preseason with New York holding an 18-10 advantage over Philadelphia.

Last season, the Jets defeated the Eagles 27-20 in their preseason finale at Lincoln Financial Field.  The win was highlighted by an impressive performance by then-rookie QB Erik Ainge.  Ainge completed 10 of 16 passes that night, for 131 yards and a touchdown.  Ainge’s performance earned him a roster spot as the team’s third-string quarterback, a position he still holds one year later.

“Play Like a Jet Today”:

Heading into the teams final preseason game, Ryan talked about how one of the key phrases he has preached heading into the regular season has been “Play like a Jet.”

“Something that I always talked in Baltimore was ‘play like a Raven,” said Ryan.  “That’s what we’re trying to have here, to ‘play like a Jet.’  It’s going to mean something.”

“It’s going to mean that we care about each other.  It’s going to mean that you’re going to get everything we’ve got and they’re not doing that for selfish reasons.  They’re doing it to take care of each other and when you play this year, you’re playing against a football team not a group just of individuals.  We’re going to play as a football team.”