Archive for November, 2009

INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Sharpen those number-twos, turn off the cell-phones, bring out the Scantron strips.  Everyone quiet-down.

Three-weeks after watching Kris Jenkins limp off the Meadowlands turf against Buffalo, the Jet defensive unit will face its first true test since watching their leader go down for the season.  Much like the Scholastic Aptitude Test, this exam is also better identified by its three-letter nickname; M-J-D.

Jim Leonhard and the rest of the Jet defense face the daunting task of containing Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew on Sunday (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Jim Leonhard and the rest of the Jet defense face the daunting task of containing Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew on Sunday (JetsInsider.com Photo)

In the two games without their defensive leader, the platoon of Sione Pouha, Howard Green, Mike DeVito and Marques Douglas have so far, exceeded expectations with their play.  In fact, the unit has only yielded an average of 82.5 rushing yards per game since the Jenkins injury.  Granted, it’s only been two games and the Jets have yet to face off against an elite back since they limited Tennessee’s Chris Johnson to only 97 yards on the ground in Week 3.

This week is a different story, as the Jets gameplan will game-plan to contain the powerful, yet fleet-footed Maurice Jones-Drew.   “MJD” has more than stepped up in his first-season as the main-man in Jacksonville.

For the first three seasons of his career, Jones-Drew split carries with veteran Fred Taylor, with Taylor being the featured runner.   Despite running behind an insufficient offensive line, Jones-Drew has made the most of his starring role, leading the league in total points scored (66) and touchdown rushes of ten-yards or more (4).

The fourth-year star‘s 737 rushing yards through eight games ranks sixth in the league and has had no problem finding the end zone this season, racking up 11 TDs.

He is the consummate two-way threat, excelling not only as a shifty runner but also as a more than capable receiver in the Jags’ passing game.  Despite his relatively small frame (5-foot-8, 208 pounds), Jones-Drew has also gained notoriety as one of the league’s most feared blockers and toughest players.

Jets safety Kerry Rhodes believes that Jones-Drew’s small size is more of an advantage than a disadvantage.

“He’s a small guy, but he’s big,” said Rhodes.  “You don’t really have a big target to hit.  So, if you’re going in there, he gets low.  You’ve gotta gang tackle him, if you don’t he can break tackles and make big runs.”

In their road losses to Miami and New Orleans, the Jet defense struggled to bring guys down, missing a number of tackles.  A similar performance on Sunday could spell doom.  Jones-Drew is a powerful runner who is adept at breaking tackles and making big plays in the open field.

“He’s tough man,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan.  “He’s just a tough, competitive and I say bowling ball.”

“He’s low to the ground, got great balance.  When you think he’s down, he’s still up.  We’ve got to make sure we get him on the ground.  We’ve got to have more than one guy on him.”

Jets safety Eric Smith talked about the tough task of tackling the one man wrecking crew that is, MJD.

“That guy is hard to bring down,” said Smith.  “He’ll start one way and take it the other way and break four or five tackles.  Three guys will wrap him up and he’ll still get out of it.”

In his Wednesday news conference with the New York media, Jones-Drew was asked to talk about his running-style, which he had trouble labeling, but described as “doing whatever to win”.

“I really don’t know,” he said.  “If it’s blocking, I block.  If it’s running to get a first down on third-and-short, that’s what it is.  If I have a chance to make a big play, I do that.”

Jones-Drew attributed most of his success to the performance of his supporting cast.  “A lot of things happen because the guys in front of me are blocking well and the big runs we have are because guys are downfield blocking.   Granted, you can make one or two guys miss, but when you have everybody blocking where you don’t need to have anyone miss, it makes it that much easier for a running back to run.”

Jones-Drew also spoke on how much pride he takes in his innate ability to break tackles.  “It’s very prideful,” he said.  “I think every running back prides that.  That’s why we’re running backs.  We’re built to make the first guy miss and keep driving your feet.  If everybody is working that hard to create space for me to run, I feel like I’m letting them down by letting the first guy  tackle me and I really don’t want to do that.”

If the Jets are successful in bringing down Jones-Drew on Sunday, that letdown will be inevitable.  Otherwise, the disappointment will be on their side of the field.

INSIDER TIDBITS

Injury Update

LB Vernon Gholston was seen riding the stationary bike at this morning’s practice.  Gholston tweaked his hamstring during the Monday walk-through and his status for Sunday is uncertain at this point.

Limited during practice were DE Shaun Ellis (knee),  WR Brad Smith (quad), OT Damien Woody (lower back) and WR Wallace Wright (knee).

Cornerbacks Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland both went through the full practice.  Sheppard will play Sunday, but Ryan stated that he is not willing to name Sheppard the starter yet.

Del-Rio meets the media

Jack Del Rio’s bunch has been a model of inconsistency throughout the 2009 season.   While they stand 4-4, three of those wins have come against the likes of Tennessee, St. Louis, and Kansas City, bottom feeders of the NFL.

Jacksonville was also defeated in their other meeting against the Titans, and was blown out by the 3-5 Seahawks in Week 5, 41-0.

In his conference call with the New York media on Wednesday, Del Rio addressed the current state of his .500 ball-club.

“I think the biggest thing for us, this year in particular, we’re a team that’s got some room for improvement,” admitted Del Rio.  “We’re a team that’s working hard to get better.  We’re excited about getting going in the second half of this season and playing better football down the stretch.”

“We have an opportunity to start the second half of this season with two teams that would like to be a in a better situation, two teams that very much need to win, so it should turn out to be a heck of a game.”

Jets head coach Rex Ryan worked with Del Rio on the Baltimore Ravens staff from 1999-2001.  Ryan worked as the defensive line coach, and Del Rio coached the linebackers.

Ryan commented on his relationship with Del Rio during his Wednesday press conference.

“I like the way he coaches football and I admire the way he played football,” said Ryan.  “But again, we’re good buddies but once we’re out there, we’re gonna try and kill each other.”

“Feliz cumpleaños a tí…”

For our inarticulate readers, that’s “Happy birthday to you” in Spanish.   Today the Jets celebrate quarterback Mark Sanchez’s 23rd birthday.

One of the more humorous moments of the day came when Rex Ryan joked that he noticed something different about Sanchez today, aside from the fact that he wore short sleeves during the morning’s cold, windy practice.

“He looks older to me, today,” joked Ryan, who was then alerted by one of the beat writers that today is in fact Sanchez’s birthday.  “Oh, see I’m on top of this.  I mean, I can tell these things.”

“23.  Don’t we wish we can all go back to being 23?  God, he’s a young dude.  What were we thinking drafting him that high?”

Sanchez returned to his locker after practice to find his birthday present from the team; a pile of dirty socks, courtesy of the defensive linemen.

Air-attack to take flight?

Jacksonville has struggled mightily to defend against the pass all season.   The Jaguars defense has given up an average of 242.2 yards per game through the air, which ranks 26th in the NFL.

A bulk of the unit’s ineptitude can be attributed to a non-existent pass rush, a glaring weakness which was amplified by the loss of defensive end Reggie Hayward to injury.    Jacksonville has only registered eight sacks all season, dead-last in the league.

The lack of pass rush gives opposing quarterbacks a wealth of time to sit back in the pocket and locate open receivers, and is something the Jets should be licking their chops to exploit on Sunday.

Jets honor the armed forces

Sunday, the Jets will host their 10th annual Military Appreciation Day at the Meadowlands.  The day’s events include a military fly-by during the national anthem and a halftime performance by the U.S. Air Force Honor Guard Precision Drill Team.

Air Force Chief Master Sergeant James A. Roy and Coast Guard Commander Captain Robert O’Brien will serve as honorary captains for the game.

Insider Mid-Season Report Card

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

The Jets 2009 season has had enough ups and downs and twists and turns to make a fan seasick.  And its only Week 9.

Heading into the bye with a 4-4 record, it’s time to sit back and evaluate what’s worked, what hasn’t and what needs to be improved. Here are your mid-season grades:

Bart Scott and the defensive unit earn top marks (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Bart Scott and the defensive unit earn top marks (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Quarterbacks

After a strong start, Mark Sanchez has been anything but consistent.  While the rookie signal-caller has put up some solid numbers through eight games (53.5 completion percentage, 1,443 yards, 8 touchdowns), he has also shown a propensity for turning the ball over (10 interceptions, 8 fumbles).

While Sanchez’s ball-security issues and turnovers flat-out cost the Jets two games against New Orleans and Buffalo, the bottom-line is that he’s a 22 year-old rookie.  The Jets knew what they were getting into by starting a rookie quarterback and the growing pains that would follow.  Bet they never saw the hot dog coming though.

We haven’t seen much on-field action from Kellen Clemens or Erik Ainge so far, but boy can they wield a clipboard with unbridled ease.

Grade:  C

Running Backs

Grinding.  That’s the one word that embodies the Jets’ ground game since Week 1 in Houston.  Week by week, the rushing attack has slowly but steadily ground and pounded its way to the top of the NFL’s ranks.  Gang Green’s number one ranked ground game is averaging a boisterous 177.6 yards per game.

10-year veteran Thomas Jones is running like a rookie, spearheading the offense with 704 yards and 7 touchdowns through eight games.

The loss of Leon Washington definitely hurts, but the emergence of rookie Shonn Greene (144 rushing yards against Oakland in Week 7) will help ease the pain.

Veteran fullback Tony Richardson, the unsung hero of the Jets’ running game, has been rock-solid as usual.

Grade:  B+

Receivers:

Jerricho Cotchery (27 receptions for 430 yards) is putting together another stellar campaign.  The sixth-year receiver out of N.C. State has developed a strong rapport with Sanchez, and has once again proven to be one of the league’s finest possession receivers.

Braylon Edwards has been as good as advertised since being acquired in Week 5.  It’s early, but Edwards has already shown glimpses of the outstanding playmaking ability he is capable of.

In limited action, David Clowney has stepped up and ridden himself of the “Mr. August” tags.  Clowney has emerged as a legitimate downfield threat in the slot position and is getting better by the week.

Grade: B

Tight Ends:

Aside from his big game against Miami on Sunday (8 catches, 76 yards, 1 TD), Dustin Keller has been a non-factor in the first half of the season.  Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer needs to find a way to get Keller more involved in the offense.  Meanwhile, Rex Ryan needs to find a way to get TE Ben Hartsock less-involved.  Hartsock has been a mess, committing key bonehead penalties in the home losses to both Buffalo and Miami.

Grade: C-

Offensive Line

While the veteran group has done a phenomenal job in the running game, they’ve been less than stellar in protecting their rookie quarterback.  The fleet-footed Sanchez has been sacked a total of fifteen times so far this season.  Guard Alan Faneca has given up a team-leading four sacks, and is beginning to show his age.  The unit also needs to cut down on the false start and illegal shift penalties which have become a common occurrence.

Grade:  B

Offense

While the rushing game has dominated, the passing game has struggled.  The Jets’ 164.5 yards per game through the air is 27th in the NFL.  Overall, the Jets rank 16th in total offense (342.1 yards per game) and 18th in points scored (22 per game).  The offense has struggled to convert on third down all season and has turned the ball over way too many times in or around the red zone.

In the second half of the season, the Jets need to continue to focus the offense around their running game, easing the burden on Mark Sanchez.  A few less turnovers from the rookie wouldn’t hurt either.

Grade:  C+

Defensive Line

Much like the rest of the team, the performance of the defensive line has fell-off a bit since the Sept. 20 victory over New England at the Meadowlands.  Since then, the Jets have struggled to get to opposing quarterbacks and apply pressure in the backfield.  While the blame doesn’t fall solely on the line, a majority of it does.  DE Shaun Ellis has been relatively quiet so far and the injury to NT Kris Jenkins was a huge blow.

Still with all that being said, even with their flaws, the d-line has been pretty rock solid.  Sione Pouha and Howard Green have played well in the absence of the big fella, Jenkins.  They’re not flashy, but make the plays when they need to.

Grade: B -

Linebackers

The heart and soul of the Jet defense and the reason why the team has four wins.  The linebacking unit has been exceptional, led by David Harris and Bart Scott.  Harris leads the team in tackles (65) and sacks (3.5), while Scott’s “swaggerlicious” demeanor has payed dividends on and off the field.  Calvin Pace is  beginning to get back into the swing of things after missing four games with his suspension.  That’s a scary thought for opposing offensive coordinators.

Grade: B+

Secondary

Darrelle Revis is on an entire different planet.  The third-year corner has officially earned the title of “shutdown corner” with his outstanding play so far in ‘09.  Revis, who has registered 29 tackles and 2 interceptions has locked up the likes of Andre Johnson, Randy Moss, and Marques Colston while anchoring a secondary which has given up only a handful of big plays.  Safeties Kerry Rhodes and Jim Leonhard have been solid, while Eric Smith has stepped up.

Lito Sheppard, when healthy, has shown that he still can make plays.  The problem is he can’t stay on the field.  The same goes for CB Donald Strickland, who’s been banged up since September.

Grade: B

Defense

The defensive unit as a whole has been a model of consistency for a team that has been plagued by inconsistency.  From the get-go this defense has stepped up and gone above and beyond their potential.  With the exception of the Monday night game in Miami, the defense has put this team in a position to win every game, and you really can’t ask for more than that.

The Jets rank second in the league in total yards allowed per game (273.4) and have only allowed seven offensive touchdowns all season.

However, this group is not without its flaws.  Again, they need to do a better job of getting to opposing quarterbacks.  The defense also needs to do a better job of forcing turnovers.  Playmaker Kerry Rhodes needs to start making things happen in the secondary.

Grade: A -

Special Teams

Jay Feely has been absolute money, converting 13 of 15 field goal attempts this season.  Punter Steve Weatherford has also been solid, especially when executing the fakes.  Mike Westhoff’s unit has been one of the Jets’ strengths all season, even with their blemishes against Ted Ginn Jr.  While special teams can undoubtedly be blamed for this past week’s loss to Miami, don’t forget that they were also responsible for the win against Tennessee in Week 3.

The impact of Leon Washington’s injury has yet to sink in, but Washington had been setting the Jet offense up with great field position all season.  Justin Miller is no Leon, but he can get the job done.

Grade: B -

Coaching

Rex Ryan has done wonders with the defense and has been successful in changing the culture around the Jet locker room.  However, his in-game management has been poor and has hurt the team in spots.  Ryan also needs to do a better job of keeping his emotions in check.  At times, his wavering moods have been bad for the team.  In the second half, Ryan must stick to his running attack and do a better job of managing the team at the end of games.

Grade: C