Archive for October, 2008

Notable Quotes from Favre Presser

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Here are some interesting quotes from quarterback Brett Favre’s morning press conference:

*On Deanna Favre’s blog and whether the alleged phone conversation with former Lions president Matt Millen has served as a distraction

“No it’s not [a distraction]. I’m well aware of all that stuff. It’s not the first time we’ve either gone through things as a family. Not all stories are positive, families are families. You stick up for one another, regardless of what situation you’re in,” Favre said. “It has not lingered. It has not distracted me. I hate to say I’m used to it. It’s just part of it.”

*On whether Matt Millen has apologized

“No, I don’t think he owes me an apology. I don’t think anything was done wrong. I talked to Matt last week after all that came out and nothing was wrong. Nothing was done wrong. He doesn’t have to apologize to me.”

*On Jay Glazer standing behind his story

“Great. Let him stand by it. I could care less. I have the Buffalo Bills to worry about this week. I didn’t call the Lions. I’ll say that again. He can stand by whatever. I’m trying to get ready for the Buffalo Bills.”

*On whether he has ever played with anyone with Leon Washington’s versatility

“No, I haven’t. I don’t know that [anyone] would step into offense and be as productive after returning kicks the way he does. He’s dynamic. He’s very smart. Versatile is an understatement with him. He’s quick as a cat. He’s got great hands. I could go on and on.”

*On his time with the Jets

“I’m really having a good time working with these guys. This organization has been great. I realize that there are a lot of expectations and that’s okay. Also, to get on the same page and do it weekin and weekout, we have to play the Buffalo Bills this week, we don’t have a lot of time to either put in new plays or to get on the same page with plays that we had been running, and just try to find some comfort level.”

Jets-Chiefs Grades

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Jets safety Kerry Rhodes put it best at the conclusion of Sunday’s 28-24 victory over the Chiefs: “It was very bad, very ugly, but the outcome was good. That’s all that matters in this league.” Yes it does, and as bad as the Jets looked at times, they will take the victory. After suffering a heartbreaking loss to the Raiders one week prior, you would think that the Jets would have opened Sunday’s win by pounding the Chiefs’ last-ranked run defense early with handoffs to Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. Surely you would have never expected the 1-5 Chiefs to make Sunday’s battle with the Jets a close contest with Tyler Thigpen starting at quarterback. But as former Jets’ head coach turned Chiefs’ Head Coach Herman Edwards stood on the Meadowlands’ sidelines, his famous “you play to win the game” rant echoed loud and clear. The Chiefs were not about to just mail it in. Yes it is scary to ponder what the mood around the Jets’ Florham Park, N.J. facility would be had the Jets managed to cough up a loss, but luckily, that direction did not need to be traveled. The Jets escaped, albeit in ugly fashion. Now as the Jets sit in third place in the AFC East with a 4-3 record, the road turns bumpy as three of the next four games will come against playoff-calibur opponents on the road (Nov. 2-Buffalo, Nov. 13-New England, Nov. 23-Tennessee).

Quarterback: C+

Brett Favre (28-of-40, 290 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions) did not look as frazzled as he did in the Oakland loss, due in large part to strong offensive line play which limited Kansas City to just one sack. However, the turnovers contine to mount. Through eight weeks Favre is currently tied with the 49ers J.T. O’Sullivan with 11 interceptions, which is a label Favre may soon bestow as O’Sullivan now finds himself benched by interim Coach Mike Singletary. Favre has always been recognized as an ole’ gunslinger who takes chances, and in some instances those chances work, but there is no need to be throwing into triple coverage repeatedly. But as much as Favre may frustrate with his numerous interceptions, he seems to end up the as the hero in the end. The final drive, which resulted in Laveranues Coles’ 15-yard touchdown grab was a signature moment for Favre as a Jet. He completed 4-of-4 passes on the drive for 46 yards and one touchdown.

Running Back: A-

Heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Chiefs’ last-ranked run defense, you surely would have expected Jones to gain more yardage on the ground, but nonetheless, he proved efficient. Jones carried the ball 14 times for 54 yards and added a one-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to hand the Jets a 21-17 lead. The star of Sunday was Leon Washington (three carries, 67 yards, three catches, 34 yards, two touchdowns) who proved to be an effective changeup alongside Jones. The lone question for Head Coach Eric Mangini and Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer is can the Jets find that elusive balance between run and pass?

Wide Receiver: B-

Sunday was a nice rebound performance from the loss to the Raiders, in which the Jets’ passing game was held in-check for far too long. Despite suffering a shoulder injury the week before and seeing limited work in practice, Jerricho Cotchery turned in one of his most effective outings this season with nine catches for 102 yards. Ditto for Laveranues Coles, (seven catches, 64 yards, one touchdown) who played despite suffering his third concussion in 22 months in the week prior. His footwork on Favre’s 15-yard touchdown pass proved why he remains one of the league’s top receivers. Chansi Stuckey turned in another solid outing as the slot receiver, catching three passes for 43 yards.

Tight Ends: B

The Jets anticipated an injured Bubba Franks (hip) to miss Sunday’s victory against Kansas City, but they surely did not except to be without Chris Baker, whose hip flared up before kickoff. As Mangini suggusted following the victory, the insertion of offensive tackle Robert Turner at tight end did not provide secrets as to what plays the offense planned to run: “There’s not a lot of disguise when you’re putting an offensive lineman in those packages in terms of what the intent is.” Nonetheless, Turner filled in admirably as an emergency tight end. Rookie Dustin Keller (four catches, 38 yards) continues to make strides in the passing game and as a blocker.

Offensive Line: B+

The newly revamped, high-priced offensive line took some hits after the Oakland loss for the way Favre was roughed up, but they delivered a top performance Sunday. Granted the Chiefs entered the contest with just five sacks in six games, but the Jets provided Favre the time he needed to be effective. Also, the offensive line paved the way for the Jets’ run attack, which gained 135 yards on 24 carries (5.6 avg).

Defensive Line: A-

The defensive line has been a force for the Jets throughout 2008 and on Sunday, it did not disappoint. The line limited Kansas City’s running back duo of Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith to 60 yards on 16 carries, due in part to solid performances by defensive end Kenyon Coleman (five tackles) and nose tackle Kris Jenkins (three tackles). Defensive end Shaun Ellis, who recorded his team-high sixth sack delivered another consistent performance in what is quietly developing into a Pro Bowl-calibur season.

Linebacker: B

All that was missing from Sunday’s defeat were the sacks. The Jets recorded four in total, with only one coming from the linebacker unit, courtesy of David Bowens. Calvin Pace (seven tackles) and Bryan Thomas (six tackles) and Eric Barton (five tackles) all delivered in the run defense. However, all that was overshadowed by the loss of David Harris, who left with a hip injury.

Cornerback: C+

Surely the Jets were not expecting a breakout performance from Thigpen, but the second-year quarterback delivered. He completed 25-of-36 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (six catches, 102 yards) and Mark Bradley (five catches, 42 yards, one touchdown) were left open too often.

Safety: C+

Kerry Rhodes turned in one of his finest performances of the season, recording nine tackles and one sack. Aside from Rhodes, Mangini still has to be searching for that other key contributor at safety. Eric Smith has been invisible this season minus his helmet-to-helmet hit on Cardinals’ wide receiver Anquan Boldin and Abram Elam remains average at best.

Special Teams: A-

One week after kicker Jay Feely was the star of the special teams with his game-tying 52-yard field goal, his missed 36-yard attempt proved to be the lone mistake from the unit against the Chiefs. Washington averaged 25 yards on four punt returns, which included a 37-yard return to put the Jets into Chiefs’ territory for the winning touchdown drive. Punter Reggie Hodges (three punts, 38.7 avg)also delivered an effective outing

Ainge, Chatman Placed on Injured Reserve

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Running back Jesse Chatman’s return to the lineup did not last long. The Jets placed Chatman on season-ending Injured Reserve today after he injured his left knee while blocking for Leon Washington during the second half of Sunday’s win over the Chiefs. Chatman played in three games for the Jets in 2008, recording five special teams tackles, gaining eight yards on five carries and two receptions for five yards. With Chatman now sidelined for the season, the roster features only three backs: Thomas Jones, Tony Richardson, Leon Washington.

The Jets also placed rookie quarterback Erik Ainge on Injured Reserve with a right foot injury. The fifth-round pick out of Tennessee was inactive for all seven games this season. His most extensive work came in the Jets’ preseason finale Aug. 28 against the Eagles, where he completed 10-of-16 passes for 131 yards and one touchdown.

Jets-Chiefs Key Matchups

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

Last week as the New York Jets prepared to face the Oakland Raiders, there was little doubt as to what the Raiders’ silver lining was. Running backs Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush had averaged 141 rushing yards per game, good for fourth in the NFL. Oakland Quarterback JaMarcus Russell had struggled entering the game, but with talented targets in tight end Zach Miller and wide receiver Javon Walker, there was reason to believe that their offense could break open at any minute. But as the Jets prepare to battle the 1-5 Kansas City Chiefs, there is hardly a bright spot for Head Coach Herman Edwards’ struggling bunch. To put it bluntly, the Chiefs have been downright awful in 2008.

After coming off last week’s disappointing loss to the Raiders, this matchup could not come at a better time for the Jets. The Chiefs’ offense is depleted, as second-year quarterback Tyler Thigpen will get the start after both Brodie Croyle (torn knee ligaments) and Damon Huard (torn thumb ligaments) were placed on Injured Reserve earlier this week. Talented but troubled running back Larry Johnson will be benched for the second consecutive week tomorrow after reports surfaced that Johnson was involved in a late-night altercation at a nightclub on Kansas City’s bye weekend (Oct. 14). Jamaal Charles and Kolby Smith, who have combined for 154 yards on 38 carries, are expected to receive the bulk of the carries. Overall in 2008, the Chiefs rank 29th in total offense with 257 yards per game and 32nd in scoring with 12.5 points per game. The troubles do not stop there. The Chiefs’ defense ranks 31st in the NFL, with 402 yards allowed per contest. In reviewing such statistics, the Jets have to be licking their chops heading into tomorrow. Last Sunday’s loss was a complete disappointment, but if the Jets were to lose tomorrow, it would be an utter disgrace.

Key Matchups:

Jets’ RB Thomas Jones v. Chiefs’ LBs Derrick Johnson and Donnie Edwards- Jones’ breakout performance as a Jet came last Sunday, as he gained 159 yards on 24 carries. It is difficult to expect a player to repeat such gaudy numbers, but against the Chiefs, it is more than a possibility. The Chiefs’ run defense ranks last in the NFL (207 yards/game) and have held an opponent until 100 yards rushing just once in six games this season. If Jones can gain some ground early, it will be a very long afternoon for Kansas City.

Jets’ QB Brett Favre v. Chiefs’ DBs Brandon Flowers and Patrick Surtain- Whereas the Chiefs’ run defense ranks last in the NFL, their pass defense finds itself in the middle of the NFL pack. The Kansas City pass defense ranks 13th in the NFL, allowing 195 yards per game. But no so fast Jets’ fans, the truth extends beyond the statistic. Opposing teams have been run-heavy against the Chiefs this season, leaving Kansas City’s enlightening pass-defense statistics more the result of facing limited chances. Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini could not have put it any better this week when speaking about Kansas City’s struggles in stopping the run against their success versus the pass:”Sometimes, like with any statistic, that can get steam-rolled, where if you show that’s an area which can be attacked, you not only get it, but you get it in heavy, heavy doses from a lot of teams. Sometimes what ends up happening is you’re top-10 in pass defense and 32nd in run defense.” As pretty as the Chiefs’ pass defense may look, there are holes and Favre should be able to exploit them. Favre had arguably his toughest game as a Jet last week (21-for-38, 197 yards, two interceptions) but there are more than enough holes to attack tomorrow.

Jets’ Offensive  Line v. Chiefs’ DEs Alfonso Boone and Tamba Hali-If you are searching for a silver lining on the Chiefs, you’re not going to find it on the defensive line, where Kansas City has generated just one sack. Favre has been hit all too often in recent weeks, leaving the 39-year old quarterback looking his age. This should be one of those matchups where Favre can drop back and survey the field without two defenders in his face. It will be the offensive line’s job to make that happen.

Chiefs’ QB Tyler Thigpen v. Jets’ DE Shaun Ellis-On 90 passing attempts this season, Thigpen has compiled a 42 percent completion percentage, two touchdown passes and a 44.3 quarterback rating…yikes! If Ellis can pressure Thigpen repeatedly, the Jets can force the second-year quarterback into some costly mistakes. The Jets’ defense should make it a long afternoon for Thigpen, but on second thought, they have already lost to Matt Cassel and Russell in the season’s first six games.

Chiefs’ TE Tony Gonzalez v. Jets’ LB Calvin Pace-Even in a painful season for the Chiefs, Gonzalez has not disappointed as he has recorded 27 catches for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Thigpen does not possess the rocket-arm that Russell does, so Gonzalez will surely be targeted repeatedly on short passing routes. It might take a career day from the nine-time Pro-Bowl tight end for the Chiefs to leave the Meadowlands victorious tomorrow, but Gonzalez always is one to watch on offense. If the Jets are able to shut down Gonzalez, it’s difficult to see how the Jets won’t win this one in easy fashion.

The Jets are not exactly clicking on all cylinders heading into tomorrow’s matchup, but the Chiefs are depleted. With the Chiefs down to their third-string quarterback, their backup running back and a run defense that has holes larger than the Grand Canyon, it’s difficult to find where Kansas City’s  production will come from……Jets 31, Chiefs 10

Colquitt Out

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

The Chiefs have downgraded punter Dustin Colquitt (left groin) to “out” for tomorrow’s matchup with the Jets. There is no word yet on who the Chiefs plan to replace Colquitt with. Colquitt is one of the lone brightspots on the 1-5 Chiefs, as he ranks eighth in the NFL with 47.9 yards per punt. He has also booted 14 kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, ranking him third in the NFL in such category.

Jets to Honor Lone Championship

Friday, October 24th, 2008

This Sunday against the Chiefs, the Jets will again reach back to their roots, but it won’t be to their New York Titans days. The Jets will celebrate the 40th anniversary of their Super Bowl III championship team with a reunion and halftime ceremony featuring players from the franchise’s lone championship season. That championship team went 11-3 in the regular season and then proceeded to defeat the Oakland Raiders 27-23 for the AFL Championship and the Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III.

Coles’ Concussions Don’t Need to Continue

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Jets wide receiver Laveranues Coles knows what it’s like to suffer bone-jarring hits. He knows what it’s like to be pounded into the turf. He even knows the inevitable pain his body exhibits on Monday mornings. Yet if there’s one feeling that the Jets’ nine-year wide receiver has become all too accustomed to, it’s the pain that comes with suffering a concussion. Coles has suffered three concussions in the past 22 months, with the most recent occurring during the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s 16-13 overtime loss to the Raiders. For any player who’s ever been fortunate enough to play the physically taxing game that is football, such a statistic is unfortunate.

But even though the phrase “concussion” is uttered, Coles continues to make his way back to the field. The Jets’ wide receiver re-entered Sunday’s game after suffering the head injury and then was back on the field today practicing with his teammates. In fact, one question resonates from Coles’ speedy trips back to the practice field…why?

“There’s in-game protocol and there’s prior to the game protocol,” Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini told reporters today. “That’s why we have the doctors and the trainers on the sidelines. They make those decisions. Those aren’t coaching decisions.”

If Coles should learn from anyone, it’s former Jets’ wide receiver Wayne Chrebet, who suffered at least six concussions over his 11-year career and was forced to retire at the age of 32 because of it.  There was never any doubt Chrebet had the talent and the determination to succeed on Sundays, but the concussions got the best of him. Coles should take note.

Coles has made his name being one of the league’s toughest receivers. Coles’ 2007 season ended prematurely due to an ankle injury and missed most of training camp and the entirety of the preseason with a nagging hamstring injury. But as Coles has done often throughout his career, he’s fought through those injuries. Concussions can be a different story.

As important as Coles is to the Jets’ passing attack, the Jets should think twice about Coles trying to fight through this injury. That’s tough for any warrior to do, but across from the Jets this Sunday will be the Kansas City Chiefs. No game should be listed as a gimme as the Jets’ proved in last week’s loss to the Raiders, but it would take a major collapse for the Jets to lose to the banged-up, talent-starven Chiefs. They’re going to need a healthy Coles for remainder of this season if they have any hopes of returning to the playoffs. Why risk it?

Jets-Raiders Grades

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Linebacker Calvin Pace said about all he needed to yesterday on the Jets’ 16-13 overtime loss: “It’s one situation where you keep letting them hang in there and they keep building confidence. They made more plays than us. We definitely had more than enough chances to pull that out, but we didn’t.”

Yes, the Jets let one slip away. A career-day for running back Thomas Jones (24 carries, 159 yards), a solid contribution from wide receiver Brad Smith (four carries, 59 yards…four catches 29 yards) and 14 Oakland penalties for 85 yards were not enough to beat the 1-4 Raiders. In the NFL, ‘good losses’ do not exist, but Sunday’s debacle reaches completely to the other end of the spectrum. For a team which invested $140 million this offseason, then added one of the most prolific passers in NFL history, this loss had to bite Eric Mangini like none other. As pretty as Mangini tried to paint the defeat in yesterday’s press conference-crediting Oakland’s endless pressure on Favre to “uncommon” pressure schemes-losing to the Raiders is inexcusable.  The Jets have  another very winnable game this Sunday (home against the 1-5 Kansas City Chiefs) but it will be a while before the Jets lose the taste of the Oakland defeat.

Quarterback: C

Brett Favre called it “one of the toughest losses of my career.” That is saying alot for a 18-year veteran who came within one win of his third Super Bowl appearance last season and fell short in Super Bowl XXXII to John Elway’s Broncos. But at Sunday’s conclusion, it was Favre who was beat up all too often. Oakland sacked Favre three times and pounded him into the turf on many more occasions. With that said, Favre looked his age (39). Mangini preaches turnover-free football within his offense and Favre threw two costly interceptions. The first came inside the redzone, as Favre tried to fit a ball into tight coverage to wide reciever Jerricho Cotchery. The second came when Cotchery seemingly broke off his route, but Favre sailed his pass deep. Favre also fumbled three times and was neutralized by an aggressive Oakland defense.

Running Back: A

The Jets had been waiting for Jones to have his breakout performance, but it just so happens it was overshadowed by the painful defeat. Jones was every bit the Jets hoped he would be, as he displayed the power to run inside and the elusiveness to run outside. It was Jones’ first 100-yard rushing performance since Week One in Miami (22 carries, 101 yards) and his highest single-game total since he ran for 173 yards on Sept. 15, 2002 as a member of the Arizona Cardinals. Leon Washington (three carries, 19 yards, one touchdown) made the most of his limited action in the offensive gameplan.

Wide Receivers: C

Minus Smith, who proved effective through reverses and quick slants, the wide reciever unit had its toughest day of the season. Cotchery (one catch, zero yards) was limited in the second half with an undisclosed injury and Laveranues Coles (four catches, 51 yards) was a non-factor throughout. Chansi Stuckey (two catches, 48 yards) was an effective target on the final drive of regulation leading to Jay Feely’s game-tying 52-yard field goal.

Tight Ends: B

Chris Baker was a favorite target of Favre’s early, as he caught four passes for 30 yards on the opening drive. However, Sunday’s key moment for Baker came in overtime, when he was unable to reach a Favre pass because he fell to the field. Other than Baker, the only other tight end to record a catch was Dustin Keller, who caught one pass for six yards. Bubba Franks spent most of the game on the sidelines after leaving early in the first quarter with an undisclosed injury. While the unit’s contribution through the air was limited, a lot of credit has to go to its blocking in the running game.

Offensive Line: C

Favre was only sacked three times, but the 18-year veteran was pummeled all too often. At times it seemed as though Favre was getting hit or hurried on every dropback, limiting the Jets’ play-selection to five-yard routes. For a unit that was expected to stabilize the offense, they were clearly out-played by the Raiders. After receiving criticism for its run blocking in recent weeks, the line paved the way for 242 yards on 7.2 yards per carry. Such a high total should have been enough to grab a win.

Defensive Line: C

Perhaps the most overlooked statistic of Sunday’s loss was the fact that the Jets sacked Raiders’ quarterback JaMarcus Russell just twice. Defensive end Shaun Ellis brought down Russell on a meaningless dropback with ten seconds left in the first half, while the second was recorded as a team sack. They gave Russell too much time to roam around the backfield and fire darts to open targets. The second-year quarterback easily had his most effective outing of the season, completing 17-of-30 passes for 203 yards and one touchdown. The Jets proved serviceable in limiting an Oakland rushing attack to 153 yards on 38 carries (4.0 average). Oakland entered Sunday averaging 141 yards per contest and 4.6 yards per carry.

Linebackers: C+

Eric Barton and David Harris combined to lead the linebacking core with seven tackles apiece. The unit helped limit the Raiders to just 16 points, but in the process, no big plays were made. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas  were non-factors in the pass rush.

Safety: C

Where are the big plays? Through six games, the unit has totaled just two interceptions. Russell entered the afternoon with a measley 73.2 quarterback rating, but that rating jumped to 88.6 in the defeat. Wide receiver Javon Walker (five catches, 75 yards, one touchdown) had his first noteworthy day of the season. Kerry Rhodes’ blitz during the second half failed, leaving tight end Zach Miller open for the long completion. Abram Elam was whistled for an inexcusable 15-yard facemask penalty in the fourth quarter.

Cornerback: C

Similar to the safety position, Dwight Lowery, Darrelle Revis and Hank Poteat were non-factors. Russell looked like a cool and collective quarterback, rather than his usual jittery self. Perhaps it was because too many receivers were left open.

Special Teams: C-

Washington’s muffed punt in the first quarter was costly. The Raiders recovered the ball at the Jets’ 16-yard line and tied the game up with a field goal. Raiders’ punter Shane Lechler had the better afternoon than Reggie Hodges, booming five punts inside the 20-yard line. The Raiders’ fake punt was a back breaker for the Jets’ as a stop would have handed them prime field position. Feely’s 52-yard field goal was clutch.

Jets-Raiders Key Matchups

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

The Oakland Raiders have had their rightful place on the mountaintop before. The ‘Silver and Black’ are the only NFL team to have played in Super Bowls in four different decades-1960s (Super Bowl II), 1970s (Super Bowl XI), 1980s (Super Bowls XV and XVIII) and the 2000s (Super Bowl XXXVII)-and have the top all-time win percentage (.550) among original AFL teams. My, how the mighty have fallen.

Today the Jets will get their crack at the 1-4 ‘Silver and Black,’ who suffice to say, aren’t your father’s Raiders. Even though both teams find themselves moving in complete opposite directions, this is one of those ’strength against strength’ matchups. The Raiders’ vaunted running game (4th in NFL, 141 yards per game) will battle the Jets’ equally dominant run defense (3rd in NFL, 69 yards per game). Thus with each team playing to similar strengths, the final outcome will likely come down to multiple matchups.

Key Matchups:

Raiders’ WR Chaz Schilens and Javon Walker v. Jets’ CB Dwight Lowery and Darrelle Revis: If there’s one area where the Raiders truly struggle, it’s passing the football. JaMarcus Russell possesses one of the strongest arms in football, but through two seasons, it has not translated into many completions. Russell enters this matchup having completed only 50 percent of his passes, with only four of his 134 attempts resulting in touchdowns. If the Jets are able to stop the Raiders’ air attack, they can move more defenders into the box to defend the running game. As effective as running backs Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas and Michael Bush have been, it’s difficult to win when you feature a one-dimensional attack.

Raiders’ DT Tommy Kelly and Gerrard Warren v. Jets’ RB Thomas Jones: The Raiders are in the middle of the pack when it comes to stopping the run, having allowed an average of 115 yards per game (18th in NFL). Before last week’s three touchdown outburst, Jones also found himself in the middle of the pack in terms of production. But if Jones can pound the middle of the Oakland defense with his punishing running style, it could be another long afternoon for Al Davis’ bunch. Stopping Brett Favre, Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery will be difficult enough, but if Jones can get into an effective rhythm, the Jets could post points in bunches.

Raiders’ RB Darren McFadden v. Jets’ NT Kris Jenkins: Not enough can be said about McFadden and Jenkins. The Raiders’ explosive running back is one player the Jets’ highly coveted in April’s draft and they know his elusive running style can give any defense fits. Despite battling turf foe, McFadden has averaged 5.1 yards per carry this season. While the straight-ahead running style is difficult enough to stop, the Raiders also line the rookie running back under center in the “wildcat” formation. With Jenkins clogging up the middle of the line, McFadden will surely receive the ball more often in open space.

Raiders’ P Shane Lechler v. Jets’ P Reggie Hodges: This battle surely is not as star-studded as those listed above, but field position will surely play a significant role in today’s outcome. To understand the importance of special teams, look back to the Jets’ Week Two loss to the Patriots. Kicker Steven Gostowski and punter Ken Walter essentially eliminated Leon Washington from the game by booting kicks out of the endzone. If Hodges can pin the Raiders’ young offense deep, the Jets can potentially force some game-breaking turnovers. Likewise, if Lechler, who averages 49 yards per punt (3rd in NFL) can pin Favre and the Jets near their own endzone, the rabid ‘Black Hole’ crowd will sound that much louder.

The ‘Black Hole’ v. Jets: The Raiders’ bunch surely is not your average NFL crowd. Jets’ linebacker Eric Barton put it bluntly this week when he referred to the Oakland crowd as a “spirited group of different individuals.” The ‘Black Hole’ has lost some of its luster with Oakland a measley 1-4 in the standings, but it can still be loud and obnoxious for any opposing player. If the Jets can put up points early, quieting the ‘Black Hole’ will be a quieted, non-factor.

With that said, the Raiders will keep it close by featuring their explosive run offense and several short, high-completion passes, but the Jets are too talented to fall to the ‘Silver and Black.’

Jets 27, Raiders 13

Pace, Thomas Keeping the Weight Off of Gholston’s Shoulders

Saturday, October 18th, 2008

Five tackles, zero sacks, zero interceptions. Certainly, that is not what Vernon Gholston wanted his statline to read after five games in the NFL. After all, he was the sixth player chosen in April’s draft, handing him a boatload of expectations along with his $21 million signing bonus. There was hope that the speedy yet hulk-sized defensive end from Ohio State would provide a large return to the team’s pass rush. Following the disaster of 2007 which saw the Jets generate just 25 sacks, there was little argument over what failed the team last season. The Jets knew they needed to get tougher up front to put fear into opposing quarterbacks who all too often were left unscathed. It was a tall order for the Jets, but certainly grew even larger after the Giants revealed the methods of stopping Tom Brady and the Patriots’ explosive offense: They pressured Brady endlessly, sending him into the turf with almost every dropback. Certainly the Jets were hoping to do the same, and that’s where Gholston came into the situation.

But again, five games into a promising career, Gholston has not delivered. As rosy as the Jets want to paint it, they were surely hoping for more production from the sixth overall selection through five games. But as the Jets sit with a 3-2 record in those five contests, Gholston has not needed to develop into a force all so soon. Surely, he has two of his defensive teammates to thank. Welcome Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas.

Pace and Thomas have combined for eight sacks and many more quarterback knockdowns. Add in the fact that both have proved effective in pass coverage and it surely proves why the outside linebacker position went from a necessity to a luxury for the Jets in just a few short months. As Thomas exclaimed to reporters this week about Pace, “He can do it all. He can drop. He can rush. He can cover. He’s a versatile type of guy.”

With that being said, Gholston can thank both Pace and Thomas for taking the pressure off of his shoulders. Gholston has not needed to transform into that ‘do-everything’ player like those drafted above him in April have. The fate of 2008 Atlanta Falcons’ season surely rested on the arm of No. 3 pick Matt Ryan and Darren McFadden, the No. 5 selection, would have more than a minor say in how the Oakland Raiders would finish up this year. But the Jets’ pass rush has lived up to expectations, it has saved Gholston from the need to be an immediate impact on Sundays. As Pace voiced to reporters Friday, pressuring opposing quarterbacks has been a “collective” effort. The Jets’ defense has recorded 18 sacks and an average of 306 yards per game, ranking second and 11th in the NFL respectively.

“It’s one of those things when we all collectively came together without saying it,” Pace said. “Guys are sacrificing a good rush trying to help somebody else out.”

Gholston can look at those numbers with a smile because after all, it’s his turn to join the party next.