INSIDER WEDNESDAY TEAM REPORT
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.
“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.”
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.”
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.”