A fitting end

December 31st, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – From the start of the season it was apparent. The team had a new way of handling the media. Basically they were going to say as little as possible. There was never any conversation past that week’s game, and today, with the season over, John Idzik and Rex Ryan were barely willing to talk about tomorrow.

John Idzik succeeded in instilling a new culture to the New York Jets

It might not be the most exciting (or informative) approach, but it’s better than the circus that seemed to reside at Florham Park in seasons past.

But as Ryan and Idzik danced around questions, and exchanged glowing remarks for each other, their owner, and team there was a moment that stood out. Asked for the umpteenth time about Geno Smith being the starter next year, Ryan rolled his eyes and almost laughed in disbelief.

The answer you’re going to get from these two men is: nothing has been decided. Probably because nothing has been decided. September is a long ways away. There are plenty of intriguing quarterbacks in free agency and the draft, and who knows what will happen.

But it would be a shock if Smith isn’t at least involved in a competition. He made the strides the team was looking for. So while anything can happen, the organization has piece of mind to fill other holes and can feel comfortable giving Smith another year to prove he is the answer.

“I think we’ve seen [Smith] make great strides as the season went on.” said Ryan. “I thought Geno improved by leaps and bounds [in the turnover department] as the season went on.”

But for the Jets, in the immediate future all the questions are with the coaching staff. We know Rex will be back, but we don’t even know for how long. NFL Network reported that he will likely only get a one-year extension, and Rex almost confirmed that today.

“I’m comfortable,” said Ryan when asked about heading into the last year of his contract. “I’m the guy that looks for opportunities. I have an opportunity right in front of me to coach the New York Jets. That’s all I need. I love it.”

If the team is ascending, like the two men believe, then Ryan should receive a much bigger extension next year. For now he seems content with proving he is worth it.

The rest of the staff is even a question for next season. It seems unlikely Marty Mornhinweg or David Lee will be released, but outside of that it’s anyone’s guess.

“I think it’ll be pretty clear what the Jets think of our coaches here in the next few days,” was Ryan’s best way of answering the question.

It might even be Dennis Thurman on his way out. Either way, it appears we will have our answer soon.

Overall the mood was very positive. Rich Cimini probably described it best when he tweeted: “I can summarize this news conference this way: Rex loves John. John loves Rex. They both love the Jets. They’re both excited about future.”

The whole team seems excited for next season. And when they say that it doesn’t just seem like lip service. It feels in every sense that this team is building something. And with all the resources they have this offseason, if Idzik does his job well, the season shouldn’t end this early next year.

Game Preview: Jets (7-8) vs Dolphins (8-7)

December 26th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – At 7-8 the Jets have a chance to finish the season at .500 when most thought they’d be one of the worst teams in the league. A 6-10 embarrassment last season was followed by an offseason purge. David Garrard couldn’t make it out of minicamp and Mark Sanchez didn’t last through the preseason. The starter was a wide-eyed rookie taken in the second round. Overmatched doesn’t begin to describe how he looked in his first start, a preseason game against the Giants.

The offense has come to life since Jeremy Kerley returned from injury. He could be a difference maker this Sunday

Somehow this team weathered that storm early. They were in the thick of the playoff race heading into their bye. A three-game losing streak dashed those hopes upon returning. But in these last few games the team has bounced back. Head coach Rex Ryan is on the hot seat, but his players clearly want him to stay.

Now the Jets go on the road, a place they’ve only picked up one victory so far this season. They face a Miami Dolphins team that still has a shot at the playoffs. The Dolphins embarrassed the Jets at home the last time these two teams squared off. But the Dolphins are coming off an embarrassment of their own: a shutout loss to the Buffalo Bills that would’ve put them in the driver seat for the sixth seed. Now it’s the Jets turn to return the favor and officially knock the Dolphins out of the playoffs.

When: Sunday, December 29 2013, 1:00 pm EST (TV-CBS Radio-ESPN)

Where: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, FL

Injury Report (as of Thursday) –

Jets – DNP: CB Ellis Lankster (jaw), S Ed Reed (not injury related), TE Kellen Winslow (knee, illness) LMT: LB Quinton Coples (shoulder), CB Antonio Cromartie (hip), DT Sheldon Richardson (finger, shoulder), WR Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring)

Dolphins –LMT: RB Daniel Thomas (ankle), DT Jared Odrick (wrist), DT Paul Soliai(ankle), S Chris Clemons (knee, hamstring), WR Marlon Moore (wrist), LB Koa Misi (triceps), WR Brian Hartline (knee)

Game Keys:

Run the ball – Lost in the three point performance the Jets had in these two team’s last meeting, is the fact that the Jets ran the ball very well. Chris Ivory and Bilal Bowell combined for 95 yards at 5 YPC. Miami has had a pretty pedestrian run defense this season, and the Jets should be able to exploit that again on Sunday.

Get Geno moving – It’s been a game key the last few weeks, and a clear adjustment in play calling. Geno has been effective out of the pocket, and it seems to get him into a rhythm. It’s also important since the Dolphins have one of the best pass rushes in the league. They’re currently ninth in the league with 42 sacks. They gave the Jets offensive line a lot of problems the last time these two teams played.

Tackle – The Dolphins didn’t run the ball well last time, and their longest play was for 15 yards. The Dolphins held the advantage by completing underneath passes and breaking tackles. It helped them convert almost 50% of their third down attempts and stay on the field for about 25 of the game’s first 30 minutes. The Jets defense needs to get off the field this time around so they don’t get tired, and they give their offense more chances with the ball.

X-Factor:

Jeremy Kerley – This matchup was the last of the three straight games Kerley missed due to injury, all three were losses. Whether coincidence or not, the offense has turned itself around since Kerley has been reinserted into the lineup. He’s been a dependable option for Smith on third downs, and had a big game last Sunday against the Browns.

The Pick – The Jets are finishing the season strong. Even the loss against the Panthers was closer than anyone thought it would be. The Dolphins are not 23-3 better than the Jets. New York will prove that Sunday.

The players are clearly still fighting for Rex to keep his job, so even though the Dolphins are fighting for a playoff spot, the Jets might feel they have more to play for. Even with how bad the Jets played last time, the game was still just 6-0 at halftime.

The Jets will get their second road win of the season and improve to 8-8. It’s not enough for the playoffs, but that should be enough to see the season as a success; especially if Geno, Milliner and the other young guys continue to improve.

Jets win 27-21

Not a secondary issue

December 26th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets boast one of the top run defenses in the league. The pass defense has been a different story. Antonio Cromartie has regressed in a big way, and none of the younger cornerbacks have stepped up. With the playoffs out of reach, it is one of the big issues the Jets will be looking to fix in the offseason. There is some good news for Gang Green, though.

Dee Milliner, the team’s top pick, has turned things around the last few weeks. After looking lost for most of the season, he didn’t let up a single reception against the Raiders.

Dee Milliner has made strides recently

The following week he continued the trend. Against the Panthers he only allowed 29 yards on four targets. He added in six tackles for good measure. But the performance that has gotten everyone excited was this past week against the Browns.

Milliner notched five pass breakups, had a team-leading nine tackles, and recorded the first interception of his career. He did this all while defending one of the best receivers in the NFL in Josh Gordon.

“[Milliner]’s pretty good,” said Gordon. “He’s a great young player and should be good for a long time in this league.”

“I said at the end of the year that we’ll see if this guy wasn’t the best corner in the draft,” added Rex Ryan. “I don’t know. That kid’s (Gordon) a pretty darn good receiver, (Milliner) had six PBU’s and an interception.”

Confidence is key with corners, and it was clear Milliner’s was growing throughout the day. He was tested all day, and his performance never wavered. Overall Gordon was targeted an eye-popping 16 times, which was close to half the targets for the entire team.

“We knew that was going to happen so I just tried to keep my composure,” explained Milliner. “My teammates and the coaches stayed on me. I tried to go out there and do what I do.”

Alabama cornerbacks have taken some time to adjust to life in the NFL. It took Kareem Jackson a few seasons, and Dre Kirkpatrick struggled too. But Jackson is now considered one of the best young corners in the league, and Kirkpatrick has shown signs of turning the corner for the Bengals.

“I’ve seen a few players come down the road in my day,” said Ryan. “This guy right here (Milliner) is going to be an outstanding player. There’s no question.”

Milliner has one more game to impress Jets fans this season. After that, he’ll get an entire offseason to refine his technique. Something he didn’t get to do this past year, when injuries and contract issues caused him to miss most of training camp. With Cromartie a potential cap casualty, an improved Milliner will go a long way to shoring up the Jets deficiencies in the defensive backfield.

Game Preview: Browns (4-10) vs Jets (6-8)

December 20th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets are officially eliminated from the playoffs, but still have a chance of reaching .500 for the season; a record that seemed like a long shot at the start of the year. In their path is a 4-10 Browns team, that have lost five straight, and eight of their last nine.

Dee Milliner and the Jets secondary get a tough test in the NFL's leading receiver, Josh Gordon.

It will be a home game for the Jets, which is an important factor for these two teams. Both have only recorded one win on the road this season. In fact, the two teams are fairly similar. They have top ranked defenses that rely on the dominance of their front seven, and offenses that strike fear into no one.

The lone exception might be Josh Gordon. The receiver for the Browns has gone on a tear in recent weeks. He currently leads the league in receiving yards, despite missing the first two games due to a suspension. In the past five games he has caught 39 passes for 841 yards (an eye-popping 21.6 yards per catch) and six touchdowns, but his team has gone 0-5 in that stretch.

For the Jets, they’ve bounced back from a two-week stretch of six combined points to put up 57 in the last two weeks. They hardly resemble a top-10 unit, but they should be able to keep up with the Browns.

When: Sunday, December 22 2013, 1:00 pm EST (TV-CBS Radio-ESPN)

Where: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

Injury Report (as of Thursday) –

Jets –DNP: S Ed Reed (not injury related) LMT: CB Antonio Cromartie (hip), WR Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring), CB Ellis Lankster (jaw), DT Sheldon Richardson (wrist, finger), TE Kellen Winslow (knee).

Browns – DNP: WR Davone Bess (not injury related), TE Jordan Cameron (concussion, knee), G John Greco (knee), CB Joe Haden (hip), TE Andre Smith (calf) LMT: RB Willis McGahee (concussion, knee), DE Ahtyba Rubin (calf), T Joe Thomas (back)

Game Keys:

Get Geno running – Marty and Rex have been working to get Smith to use his legs. The added element has clearly helped the offense move, and seems to get him into a rhythm. This will also help offset a Browns pass rush that has totaled 39 sacks this season.

Run in general – The Browns rank 8th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, and are third in the NFL only allowing 3.7 yards per carry. But those numbers have come down in recent weeks. Chicago rushed for 179 yards on 5.8 YPC. The Patriots only managed 87 yards, but on 4.1 YPC. The Jets should stick to their strength of running the ball, and they could find success against this defense on Sunday.

Limit YAC – The Jets have gotten better at limiting the deep pass, but now tackling and pursuit issues have allowed short passes to turn into big plays. The Browns are tenth in the league for yards after the catch. Gordon leads the NFL with an 8.5 YAC average, and is second in the NFL with 608 YAC.

X-Factor:

Muhammad Wilkerson – The Browns have given up 43 sacks this season. Only three teams have let up more. For as good as Gordon has been, it won’t matter if Jason Campbell doesn’t have time to throw him the ball. Wilkerson has had a Pro Bowl season. You want your best players to step up when they are needed, and this is a game he can dominate.

The Pick – The Jets have been a good team at home this season, while the Browns have struggled on the road. As bad as the Jets offense has been at times, it’s starting to round into form these last couple weeks. At the same time the Browns defense has regressed a bit. It could be a difficult game to pick but it will certainly still be worth checking the odds at Bwin.com.

On the other side, already a pretty poor running offense, the Browns should have no luck on the ground in this one. It could be a rough day for Campbell, and even if Gordon gets a few big plays, the Browns will fall just short.

Jets win 23-17

The look of a leader

December 20th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets were trailing 30-13 in the 4th quarter. They were on offense and after a delay of game penalty they were backed up to the 23-yard line for a 2nd and 15. Geno Smith clearly had a look of annoyance on his face.

The next play he scrambles for 14 yards, directing blockers and fighting to get close to the first down. He then methodically led the team down the field, eventually hitting Jeff Cumberland with a hard thrown eight-yard pass for the touchdown. Smith finished the drive 5-for-9 for 53 yards, 20 yards rushing, and the touchdown.

For one drive Sunday, Geno Smith looked like a winner.

With less than four minutes left in the game, the Jets would never see the ball again. But what you saw from Smith was an intangible quality you want your quarterback to have. Football is a team sport, but it looked clear that Smith willed the team into the end zone.

Great players do this. Great players just get that look in their eye. That look that no matter what they won’t be denied, and then they deliver. It wasn’t the tying score, and Smith didn’t have the greatest game, but on that drive he looked like a franchise quarterback.

This isn’t an article anointing Smith the next savior of the franchise, but the constant vitriol the kid has received is premature.

“I think the history of this league though shows you that rookie quarterbacks, no matter how good you are, struggle,” said Rex Ryan. “You go back to a Troy Aikmen, I think Dallas won one game that year and by the way, I don’t think he was the quarterback. You’ve had Peyton Manning struggle, Eli (Manning) struggle, a lot of these great quarterbacks have struggled.”

Recent rookie performances have changed that perception, but most of those guys were some combination of better prepared, on a better team, or in a more conservative offense.

Smith was a second-round pick because there were questions about him. He was not expected to be a starter, but he started day one with a receiving corps that might be the worst in the league, and he was asked to pass the ball down the field.

Yet before the bye week the Jets were firmly in the playoff discussion. While he had a bad stretch after that week, his receivers were ravaged by injury.

“I think when Jeremy (Kerley) has been out there specifically and Holmes has been out there a little bit, I think it gives us a better opportunity to see what this young man can do,” said Ryan. “But, I’ve seen him improve certainly in a lot of areas. Statistically, it doesn’t jump off the chart, but I know he’s getting better.”

Look back on the first couple weeks he played. He didn’t have any pocket presence. It seemed like he was in way over his head. While he still makes rookie mistakes, he looks noticeably better these days.

“His footwork has been much better as far as his depth – three-step drops, five-steps, seven-step (drops),” said Rex. “I think he’s got a better feel for pressure in the pocket than he’s done. And the thing that I know has been greatly improved is the way he’s protected the football in the pocket and that’s something that’s hard to do.”

“I’m still learning,” added Smith. “I had an instance in the previous game where I forced the ball late in the game and it ultimately cost us. Just things I’ve been learning from and just overall just getting better and having a better feel for the offense and the guys around me.”

The Jets are well within their rights to bring in competition for Smith next year. That might even be the smart move. But Smith is far from done developing. The rookie has talent, and if the Jets put resources into improving the offensive weapons, Jets fans might be able to see that next season.

Game Preview: Jets (6-7) vs. Panthers (9-4)

December 13th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets ended their three game skid with a 37-27 victory last week against the Oakland Raiders. 37 points was a huge number for a team that had failed to hit that total in the previous three games combined. The biggest difference for the offense was the return of receiver Jeremy Kerley.

Will Jeremy Kerley and the Jets offense be able to keep it up against the tough Panthers defense?

It also helped that the Jets were going up against an equally struggling team in the Raiders. This week the Jets won’t be as lucky. They’ll be on the road where they’ve gone 1-5, and play a Panthers team that looks like one of the best in the entire NFL. They’ll also be looking for back-to-back wins, which isn’t something the Jets have been too good at recently. They are 1-11 in their last twelve games following a win.

The Panthers won eight games in a row before losing 31-13 to the Saints in New Orleans last week. They might be the only team in the league with a better front seven than the Jets, and recently overtook the Jets as the top rushing defense in the league. They’re not too bad against the pass either. They come into the game ranked 5th in the league, thanks to a front four that’s dismantled offensive lines without the help of the blitz.

The Jets have yet to lose to an NFC opponent, though. They are 3-0 including a big victory over the Saints. As good as the Panthers defense has been, they’re weak in the secondary. If the offensive line can give Geno Smith time, the Jets might be able to find some plays down field now that they have the full compliment of their receivers.

When: Sunday, December 15 2013, 4:05 pm EST (TV-CBS Radio-ESPN)

Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC

Injury Report (as of Thursday) –

Jets – DNP: WR Stephen Hill (knee), S Ed Reed (not injury related) LMT: CB Antonio Cromartie (hip, concussion), WR Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring), TE Kellen Winslow (knee).

Panthers – DNP: LB Jordan Senn (hamstring, illness), RB Jonathan Stewart (knee) LMT: TE Greg Olsen (foot)

Game Keys:

Don’t let Cam run – The Panthers have been a good running team this season, but a lot of that production comes from Cam as a runner. He is the second leading rusher and the only one on the team who averages more than 4 yards per rush. If the Jets contain Newton, they probably can shut down the Panthers running game. That forces Newton to beat them with his arm. As much as he has improved in that aspect recently, Newton still struggles to read a defense and make the difficult touch passes.

Win in the trenches offensively – The Panthers strength is their ability to get a rush with just their front four. The Jets have struggled pass blocking in recent weeks. If the Jets can’t get those guys blocked up, Smith is in for a long day.

Hit some big plays – The Jets aren’t going to be able to methodically move the ball down the field on this team. They are strong against the run, have a ferocious pass rush, and can force turnovers. If the Jets want to score points, they are going to need to have some quick drives and pick up yards in chunks.

X-Factor:

Dee Milliner – The Jets have the players to limit Newton’s rushing yards, and the Panthers running game overall. The challenge will be both focusing on Newton as a runner and limiting their success through the air. Antonio Cromartie is a game-time decision, but it seems he is likely to play. He will probably be matched up with Steve Smith, so that leaves Ted Ginn to Milliner. Ginn has been the Panthers main deep threat, averaging 15.3 yards per catch. It’s well known by now the Jets are susceptible to giving up the big play. Milliner had arguably his best game as a pro last week. If he can build on that and shut Ginn down, the Jets have a chance of keeping this a low-scoring affair.

The Pick – It’s hard to pick against the Panthers. They’ve been arguably the best team in football over the last couple months. The loss to New Orleans was brutal, but the Saints are a juggernaut at home. Good teams don’t lose two in a row. And they’ll be home, while they Jets have clearly struggled on the road. They’ve lost by more than two touchdowns in their last three road games.

The win against the Raiders was nice, but the Panthers are a completely different animal. The Jets will have another tough day offensively, and even if the defense can limit Newton and the Panthers offense, it won’t be enough.

Panthers win 27-13

Has the Jets run defense regressed?

December 12th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets run defense has slipped the last few weeks. After dominating the league as the top unit in football, Gang Green has given up 150 and 125 yards on the ground in their last two games. Now the Panthers—this week’s opponent—have taken the top spot. But has the run defense actually been that bad?

Against the Dolphins the Jets gave up 125 yards, but only for an average of 3.5 YPC. To put that in perspective, both Maurice Jones-Drew and Peyton Hillis are averaging 3.5 YPC this season. Jones-Drew is having a very disappointing season, and Hillis was signed off the street when the Giants were desperate for running back depth.

Despite dropping in the rankings, Muhammad Wilkerson and the Jets have still been a top run defense

There are only three teams this season averaging 3.5 YPC or less: the Steelers, Jaguars and Ravens. Last year there was only one: the Arizona Cardinals. In fact, the Jets lead the league allowing only 3.1 YPC. The Browns are second in the league allowing 3.5 YPC.

The Dolphins were able to rack up 125 yards because they had the ball long enough for 36 carries. The Jets played soft coverage to avoid giving up the big play, and that allowed the Dolphins to convert on 44 percent of their third downs and stay on the field for almost 25 of the first 30 minutes. The best third-down conversion rate in the league is Denver at 48 percent, while the Dolphins rank 22nd with a 35 percent mark.

This past week the Jets gave up 150 yards to the Raiders. 62 of those came on one run by Marcel Reece. The Raiders only managed that same 3.5 YPC for the rest of their carries. That number is with Matt McGloin scampering for 20 yards on just two carries.

This Sunday the Jets go up against the Panthers. They are ninth in the league in rushing with 129.2 yards per game, but they are middle of the pack for YPC with an average of 4.2. And that is factoring in Cam Newton’s numbers, which are 495 yards on 5.6 YPC.

These are the Panthers numbers over the last four games if you remove Cam Newton’s impact: 41 yards (2.56 YPC), 85 (4.0), 95 (3.1), 80 (4.7). That was against the 31st, 23rd, 9th, and 17th ranked run defenses, respectively.

Granted, it isn’t fair to completely remove Newton from the equation. After all, those runs do help the Panthers move the ball down the field. The point is the Jets shouldn’t have much trouble stopping straight up run plays.

But how will the Jets fair against Newton? The Jets have only had three games against a mobile quarterback. The two games against the Bills, and the game last week against the Raiders…even if that was only for one series.

In the first matchup against the Bills the Jets allowed EJ Manuel to run for 40 yards at 6.7 YPC. But in their second matchup Manuel was held to only 9 yards at 1.3 YPC. In his one series Terrelle Pryor ran for only 4 yards at 1.3 YPC.

This season Manuel has run for 149 yards at 3.5 YPC (16.5 yards per game average). So even he isn’t the best comparison to Newton, and as was stated, Pryor was only in the game for one series.

So, while the run defense does not seem to have regressed, this week will be a unique challenge. They have shown an ability to shut down running quarterbacks, but they have not had a challenge like Newton.

Can Kerley turn the offense around?

December 5th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – Three points certainly won’t get it done against the Raiders this Sunday. It’s hard imaging three points beating any NFL team. That makes the return of Jeremy Kerley especially important.

Jeremy Kerley will return to the field this Sunday.

Kerley leads the team in receptions this season, but has been out during the three-game losing streak. He has practiced fully this week, and is expected back in the lineup on Sunday.

“I think Kerley has really been outstanding as a slot receiver this season for us,” said Rex Ryan. “When Jeremy is out there—that matchup for anybody—he’s got great separation, quickness, and obviously he can catch the football well. So, it’s great having him out there.”

Outside of Kerley it’s hard to find a reliable receiver on this roster. Stephen Hill hasn’t developed into the receiver the team hoped, Santonio Holmes has been a shell of his former self, David Nelson and Greg Salas have been pleasant surprises, but that has more to do with the expectations they had than their production on the field.

“It sucks not being out there. Only being limited to the training room and seeing guys out there working hard, it sucks,” said Kerley. “I’m excited about coming back.”

The last home game Kerley was healthy for was against the Patriots. He had 8 catches for 97 yards and a touchdown. More importantly those eight catches came on 10 targets, showing Kerley’s reliability.

Overall Kerley is hauling in 65% of his passes this season. To put that in perspective, Hill has been the Jets most targeted receiver this season with 59, and has only caught 40% of those passes. Nelson has caught 48% and Holmes has 36%.

It might be coincidence or even just rhetoric from Ryan, but Kerley’s return has coincided with the Jets best offensive week of practice.

“Guys came out full of energy, bouncing around,” said Ryan. “Obviously, we need that. It’s just hard to explain but it was out there today. The ball never hit the ground. From the timing, the tempo, everything, blitz pick-up. Offensively, (it was) a really outstanding practice.”

Now let’s see if that can translate into production on the field.

*****

Almost every aspect of the team has struggled so far this season. Mired in a three-game losing streak where the offense has been borderline non-existent, it’s hard to find any positives. But there has been one accomplishment that has been overlooked.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson is about to start his 125th consecutive game this Sunday. He will become the first Jet in the team’s history to start the first 125 games of his career.

“I’m happy that I’ve been picked to play this position for this long and I’m still fighting every day to represent for the left side,” said Ferguson. “So, it’s a great challenge, but it’s something that, again, it’s what I do and I’m happy to be in this position.”

While Ferguson hasn’t had his best season, he is still the Jets best offensive lineman and honestly might be their best offensive player. That might not seem too encouraging, but for a team that is rebuilding (it was true when the season started and it’s true now) it’s important to start strong in the trenches.

Ferguson and the rest of the offensive line will need to have a good performance this week. They’re going up against a Raider team that loves to bring creative pressure. Perhaps the best thing Ferguson can do is help Brian Winters this week, as he’s been struggling the last few games.

Jets offense continues to sputter in a 23-3 loss to the Dolphins

December 1st, 2013

East Rutherford, NJ – What happened? Was it really that long ago that the Jets were 5-4 after beating the Saints in their most complete game of the season?

Matt Simms replaced Geno Smith to start the second chance in an effort to jump start the offense.

For the second straight week the Jets could only muster three points. Geno Smith was benched at halftime, and fans left before the end of the third quarter. They ultimately lost 23-3 to the Dolphins dropping them to 5-7 and almost completely out of the playoff race.

“I feel bad, obviously for us, but I feel bad for our fans,” said Rex Ryan. “They deserve better than that. It was an awful performance by us. We got outplayed in all three phases of the game.”

Smith only completed four passes today, and he still managed to throw a pick. This wasn’t a game where the blame could be spread around. Smith had time in the pocket, and missed some wide-open receivers. The offense never looked like it had a chance, only collecting two first downs in the first half and failing to convert on all four third downs.

Fans got their wish when Matt Simms started the second half. But the former Volunteer didn’t look much better.

“We did absolutely nothing in the first half offensively, so I was just trying to give us a spark some way,” said Ryan. “It’s not like it’s on one man, but when a games going like that you try to find ways to pick the team up.”

“(I) didn’t do enough, didn’t get it done, couldn’t complete a ball, just wasn’t good enough to get it done,” added Smith.
“That’s pretty much it.”

Simms led the team on its only scoring drive, but that had a lot more to do with Chris Ivory. Simms’ only completion in the third quarter was an 18-yarder to a wide-open David Nelson; an accomplishment if only because Smith missed two of those in the first half.

Simms finished with nine completions for 79 yards and a pick. Hardly distinguishing him as the answer to the struggles that have plagued the Jets on this losing streak.

“(We) did some good things today but obviously didn’t do other things that we need to improve on,” said Simms. “We just have to get the football in the end zone, that’s the name of the game.”

While the defense didn’t look great, they did hold the Dolphins offense to just six points going in at halftime. They clearly looked like a team afraid of getting burned deep. They played the run strong, but had soft coverage all day. The Dolphins were able to dink and dunk their way down the field the entire first half. They had 16 first downs and held the ball for nearly 25 of the first 30 minutes.

If the defense was “bend, but don’t break” in the first half, in the second they broke. They gave up two touchdowns in the third, both coming when a defender gave a half-hearted attempt at a tackle. With Simms failing to get the offense on track, the team just looked defeated.

In the press conference Ryan cited inconsistency as the Jets problem. But the most troubling thing is actually how consistent they’ve been over the last three weeks. They’ve scored a combined 20 points, and to be honest it feels like they’ve scored less. To say the offense has been dormant would be an understatement.

Ryan wouldn’t commit to Smith starting next week. With Matt Simms failing to establish himself, it wouldn’t be surprising if David Garrard got some reps.

Next week they remain at home and get a winnable game in the Oakland Raiders. Maybe that will be enough to stop the bleeding. But it’s pretty clear they need more production from whoever is under center if they hope to get even one more win this season.

The Dolphins weaknesses are the Jets strengths

November 28th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ It’s all gloom and doom with the Jets these days. They had perhaps their best game right before the bye against the Saints, but they are currently on a two-game losing streak. The offense seems to regress each week.

Chris Ivory could be in for a big day Sunday.

Chris Ivory could be in for a big game on Sunday.

But the season isn’t over. Despite losing almost every tiebreaker at the moment, the Jets are right in the fight for the sixth seed with a 5-6 record. The last time Rex Ryan and the Jets had that record was back in 2009. That team also lost two games after the bye, in fact they were in the midst of a three-game losing streak when they managed to turn it around and win five of their remaining six games.

“We were in the last week,” said Ryan. “And that’s the way the league is. I don’t know if it’s been like this where we had that many teams lumped in with the same record or one game apart. But again, I know the approach has to be focused here. It can’t be long term. It has to be on taking care of the present. I think that’s where the big focus is.”

That present is a Miami team that has had its own struggles on offense. A team that already ranked near the bottom of the league in rushing is without the left side of their offensive line; that same line is on pace to give up a new NFL record in sacks. The Jets certainly have the personnel to take advantage of that.

But with Geno Smith’s struggles, the focus is going to be on the Jets offensive line. And there is one man in particular who can makes things real easy for him, Chris Ivory.

Lost in the shuffle of this latest slump is how well the acquisition of the former Saint has worked out for Gang Green. Ivory is on pace to rush for a career-high in rushing yards. In the three games he has gotten at least 15 carries he has averaged 113 yards and over five yards a carry.

For a big guy he’s even made some big plays, busting for runs of 52 and 69 yards in his last three games. He’s had injury issues all season, and practiced on a limited basis yesterday. But Ryan remains optimistic.

“I saw him out there,” said Ryan. “He looked good today. He was running around pretty good today. Maybe he was limited, but I thought he looked pretty good.”

When he has been healthy he has been the workhorse the Jets coveted, and has helped the Jets fashion a rushing attack that ranks eighth in the league.

Perhaps a return home where the Jets are 4-1 will help, but no matter what Ivory is going to need to get 15+ carries and continue to be that workhorse for the Jets if they want to win this game.

For how great Miami’s defense has been this season, they rank 26th in the league in run defense. They’ve given up over 100 yards rushing in 7 of their 11 games, which includes five straight games.

Smith is going to have to have double-digit completions for the first time in three games to win this one. But this is a great game for the defense and running game to lead the team.