Archive for September, 2013

Preview: Jets (2-1) vs. Titans (2-1)

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

The Jets look to have their first winning streak of the season as they travel to Nashville to take on the Tennessee Titans. Both teams finished 6-10 last season, and have matching 2-1 records to start this season.

Muhammad Wilkerson and the defensive line have a tough test in the rebuilt Titans offensive line.

Neither team was expected to factor much in the playoff race this season, but they’ve surprised so far. Strong defenses have been the story for the two. The Jets were supposed to have a good defense, but not this good. They’ve kept all three opposing quarterbacks to less than 50% passing, are tied for third in the NFL with 12 sacks, and have kept opposing running games to just 3.2 yards per rush, which ranks third in the league. For the Titans they ranked last in scoring defense last season. They imported reinstated defensive guru Gregg Williams, and signed Bernard Pollard in the offseason. Now they are tenth in the league, giving up an average of 18.7 points per game.

But Geno Smith has been improving each week. He is coming off his best week as a pro, passing for over 300 yards. And let’s not forget Bilal Powell rushed for nearly 150 yards averaging 5.5 yards a pop.

When: Sunday, September 29 2013,  4:05 pm EST (TV-CBS Radio ESPN)

Where: LP Field, Nashville, TN

Injury Report (As of Thursday):

Jets – DNP: T Oday Aboushi (knee), RB Chris Ivory (hamstring), LB Quinton Coples (ankle/scheduled day off), WR Santonio Holmes (foot/scheduled day off), CB Dee Milliner (hamstring) LMT: NT Kenrick Ellis (back), WR Clyde Gates (knee), TE Kellen Winslow (knee), DE Sheldon Richardson (shoulder).

Titans – DNP: LB Patrick Bailey (hamstring), WR Kenny Britt (neck, ribs), RB Shonn Greene (knee), DT Sammie Lee Hill (ankle), T David Stewart (calf), TE Delanie Walker (toe). LMT: LB Moise Fokou (neck), CB Blidi Wreh-Wilson (hamstring).

Game Keys:

Turnovers – The Titans are one of two offenses that have yet to turn the ball over. For as great as the Jets defense has been, they haven’t created many turnovers yet. Just one interception and one fumble recovery, and both came week one against the Bucs. Granted the refs haven’t helped out much.

The Trenches – The Jets defensive line has been the story so far this season. They’re going up against a Titans offensive line that added Alabama guard Chance Warmack in the draft, and signed Andy Levitre from the Bills. Chris Johnson has gotten off to a slow start for them, but averaged 4.7 yards per carry last week against the Chargers.

Bilal Powell – With the injury to Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell will be the workhorse for the Jets. He had a good game against the Bills, but will he be able to replicate it against the Titans this week? Another strong performance will help open up those deep shots that Marty Mornhinweg loves to take.

X-Factor:

Stephen Hill – Hill had one of his better games last week. It’s clear this offense is focusing on the pass, and having a legitimate deep threat across from Santonio Holmes would be a big boost to this offense and to Geno. In a game that will probably be low scoring, a strong performance from Hill could be the difference.

The Pick: The two teams have won games in similar fashions. All their games have been low scoring affairs, and both their losses were close ones to last season’s division champ. This will be another close game, but the Jets defense is better, and so is their running game.

Jets win 27-17

A slow start shouldn’t doom Dee Milliner

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – It certainly isn’t comforting to find your top draft pick riding the bench after two games, especially a pick in the top 10. But Dee Milliner doesn’t seem like a bust.

Dee Milliner's rookie campaign hasn't had a smooth start, but the corner is still a talented prospect.

While Milliner struggled on Thursday, the game came on a short week against a top quarterback and coach. It’s not shocking that a rookie would struggle.

Let’s remember that Milliner missed a lot of time in the offseason between a contract holdout and injuries. This is the same guy that dominated SEC competition for a stout Alabama defense and, physically, he still looks the part.

“He certainly has the talent,” said Rex Ryan. “There’s no doubt.”

But even Milliner will admit he needs to learn the scheme better.

“Just like I said, the mental part,” said Milliner. “Just knowing the situation and where I’m supposed to be.”

Cornerback is one of the toughest transitions from college to the NFL. Now add to that the task of learning Ryan’s defense, which heavily relies on the play of its defensive backs. But Milliner is taking the demotion in stride. If anything he’s been motivated to work harder.

“[Milliner is] taking it as a pro,” said Antonio Cromartie. “He’s come out and made sure he is working hard. He’s paying a lot more attention to detail. He’s coming into to it”

At this point what Milliner needs most is reps, in both practice and games. While Milliner likely won’t start, he should still see plenty of action on Sunday.

“It’s not like Dee’s sitting there riding the pine forever,” said Ryan. “That’s not the case. Dee’s going to be (an) active part. Is he a starter? He’ll be starting in some capacity, I’m sure.”

“If I just get out there and get in a rhythm and do more reps I’ll be fine,” added Milliner.

It also doesn’t hurt having Ryan as the head coach. On top of having a reputation as a good play-caller, Ryan is known as one of the better teachers in the league.

From the start Milliner has had big shoes to fill. He certainly hasn’t come close to the expectations, but it’s too early to be worried.

Jets bring back punter Ryan Quigley after releasing Robert Malone

Monday, September 16th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – Punter Robert Malone was released by the Jets today in a bit of a surprise move. In his place the Jets have brought back Ryan Quigley, who competed with Malone during the preseason.

GM John Idzik made a few moves this morning. The biggest being the release of punter Robert Malone

Malone set a franchise record with a 45.8 gross average for the Jets last season, but Malone didn’t have the greatest game against the Patriots this past week. The hang-time on his punts decreased and his net average dropped to 36.6 yards. Edelman was able to return six of his kicks for 72 yards. He also failed to pin the Pats inside the 20 on a few occasions.

Quigley performed well for the Jets in the preseason. It was the preseason, and only a few games, but he posted a 40.7-yard net average over those games. Malone had a 38.5-yard net average last season.

The Jets also re-signed linebacker Scott Solomon, and made a switch to their practice squad. They brought back linebacker Danny Lansanah and released wide receiver Rahsaan Vaughan.

Jets Lose a Heartbreaker to Patriots 13-10

Friday, September 13th, 2013

Foxborough, MA – The Jets came into the game losing four straight to the Patriots. In fact, the last time these two teams met, the Jets embarrassed themselves, giving up three touchdowns in less than a minute. But this time there was hope for a different outcome. Already missing several key offensive contributors, the Patriots added Danny Amendola and Shane Vereen to the injury list. A strong Jets defense could certainly keep this game close.

Fast forward and the defense did just that. They kept the Patriots offense to 13 points, and completely shut them out in the second half. Three of those points came when New England started a drive inside the Jets ten yard line. Brady failed to complete 50 percent of his passes for the first time since 2009. The Pats only gained 54 yards on the ground for a 2.3 yards per carry average, and went 4-18 on third down. But the Jets could only muster 10 points, losing when Geno Smith threw his third interception of the day to seal the 13-10 loss.

Muhammad Wilkerson and the defense held the Patriots to 13 points, but it wasn't enough for the win.

But this loss can’t squarely be placed on Smith. The first turnover of the game was on Stephen Hill who was careless with the ball and fumbled, a turnover that set that Pats field goal up to make the game 10-0. Both Hill and Clyde Gates had some forgettable plays. Gates only caught two of the eight passes he was targeted on, which included some bad drops. It was expected Smith would struggle in his second NFL start, but the guys around him let him down.

There was some good news for the offense. Vladimir Ducasse had a good game for the Jets, a week after struggling badly enough to hear calls for the rookie Brian Winters to replace him. The running game rebounded as well, adding 129 yards with a 4 yards per carry average. And Chris Ivory showed the bruising power the Jets expected when they traded for him.

This is a tough loss. The Patriots were vulnerable and this game was definitely winnable. Smith was picked off on three of the four Jet drives in the fourth quarter, and the first one came with the Jets on the New England 27 yard line. Worse, both Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson left the game early. Richardson’s injury didn’t seem serious, but losing either one would be a blow. It also doesn’t help that both Willie Colon and D’Brickashaw Ferguson were ejected following a scuffle that occurred after the last pick, and they might be facing a suspension.

No one wants to hear a silver-lining with the season only two games old. 2-0 and first place in the AFC East was in the Jets grasp. More importantly it would’ve been a road win against a team, a coach, and a quarterback that has dominated the division in the last decade.

But let me try my best to give you one. The defense looked phenomenal for the second straight week. The running game came to life today, and Chris Ivory was a big part of that. Santonio Holmes looked good for playing on a short week. Sure Geno made mistakes, but it was his second career game. He also showed a lot of positives. Next week the Jets host the Bills, who have their own rookie quarterback. A win and the Jets will be 2-1, and the good vibes will be flowing once again.

Sheldon Richardson Lives for Football

Monday, September 9th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – Sheldon Richardson slept like a baby last night. After devouring a victory meal consisting of a sixteen-ounce steak, mac and cheese, green beans, and a baked potato, Richardson passed out, undefeated to start his NFL career.

“I felt pretty good. I was flying around, making some plays here and there,” said Richardson.

After his week one performance, John Idzik has to be happy with his decision to draft Sheldon Richardson.

He was a big part of a defense that bottled up Tampa Bay running back Doug Martin, and kept the Bucs to 17 points on the day. Richardson finished with seven tackles, half a sack, and a quarterback hit.

The rookie was possibly a bit too excited. In minicamps his biggest problem was overrunning plays. On game day, it was rushing onto the field even when the defense wasn’t out there.

“I was just into the game,” said Richardson. “Offense was on the field making big plays, you’ve got to celebrate a little bit. They need a little enthusiasm from the sideline.”

It would make sense that Richardson would ooze enthusiasm. He pretty much lives for sports and competition. Try to find his interests off the gridiron, and he’ll immediately bring up his love of basketball. Dig a little deeper, and after much deliberation he’ll mention his passion for video games. His favorite? The NBA 2k series. The only answer more obvious would’ve been Madden.

He is a fan of the “My Player” mode and models his players off his favorite NBA stars. That includes Allen Iverson at point guard, Dwyane Wade at shooting guard, and, not too surprising, Lebron James at small forward. The rookie admits James is probably his favorite player right now. And if the Finals MVP ever made it on to his favorite team, the Bulls, he’d have to go out and buy season tickets.

But on Sunday he wasn’t the spectator. No, over 80,000 people came to watch him play, and it was a special moment for the former Tiger.

“Faurot [Missouri’s stadium] is a little crazy too, but it got louder here. I will say that it got louder here,” said Richardson.

Richardson joked that the noise helped the defense out, making it hard for Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman to make calls at the line. That wasn’t as big of an issue for a defense that was well prepared going into the game.

“[Defensive Line coach Karl] Dunbar makes it critical that we know our assignment, because he says sometimes you won’t hear the linebackers making the calls,” explained Richardson. “And you just have know the formations in front of you, and you just have to know what you’re doing.”

For a guy pegged as a mismatch in Rex’s 3-4 defense, he is certainly proving prognosticators wrong. He’ll get his first taste of Tom Brady and the New England offense Thursday night. Something tells me he’ll be pretty excited for that game as well.

Preview: Bucs (0-0) @ Jets (0-0)

Friday, September 6th, 2013

The Jets start off their season at home in an interconference battle with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Jets will be starting rookie second-round pick Geno Smith under center. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg will most likely be drawing up a friendly game plan for the neophyte, and the expected return of Santonio Holmes should help matters as well. Clyde Gates and Stephen Hill will also be expected to carry over their training camp performance, especially with former Jet Darrelle Revis on the other sideline.

The Bucs led the NFL in rush defense last season, and were last in pass defense. But along with Revis, the Bucs added former 49ers safety Dashon Goldson, and drafted corner Johnthan Banks out of Mississippi State in the second round. Offensively they have two stars in receiver Vincent Jackson, and second-year running back Doug Martin. In his fifth year out of Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman is entering a pivotal year. After leading the Bucs to a surprising 10-6 record in 2010, the team has disappointed each of the last two seasons. Tampa drafted NC State quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round this year, a clear indication they’re willing to move on from Freeman if the team has another subpar year.

So for all the questions surrounding the Jets quarterback situation this season, the Bucs have some as well. And while the team expectations for the Jets are pretty low, they’re not much higher for Tampa. Most project the team to finish fourth in a division with the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers. The Jets can certainly surprise people this year, and taking a winnable game at home would be a good first step to accomplishing that.

All eyes will be on Geno Smith this week

When: Sunday, September 8 2013, 1 pm EST (TV-FOX, Radio ESPN)

Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

Injury Report:

Jets – Out: QB Mark Sanchez (shoulder), DE Quinton Coples (ankle). Questionable: DL Kenrick Ellis (back), WR Santonio Holmes (foot). Probable: TE Kellen Winslow (knee), DL Leger Douzable (illness).

Bucs – Out: TE Tom Crabtree (ankle). Doubtful: OG Carl Nicks (staph infection). Questionable: RB Mike James (eye). Probable: Darrelle Revis (knee).

Game Keys:

The Running Game – As mentioned earlier the Bucs were tops in the league in run defense. In an attempt to be more balanced the Bucs might scheme more towards the passing game, but that has never been head coach Greg Schiano’s philosophy and it’s unlikely to change going up against a rookie quarterback. Short passes like the Redskins used to get RG3 comfortable in their opener last season will help, but if the remade offensive line can open up holes for Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell the Jets should have the edge in this one. This team used a lot of resources to improve the running game over the offseason. This game is a good first test, and the Jets could make a huge statement with an 100-yard performance.

Turnovers – An obvious point, but one that has to be made. The Jets have a strong defense, and limiting offensive turnovers is one of their biggest priorities. It will be Smith’s first regular season NFL start, and if he looks anything like he did against the Giants, the Jets will be in for a long day. If Marty can get Smith comfortable early, and Smith can avoid making costly turnovers, the Jets defense should be able to keep the game low-scoring.

Limiting the Big Play - The Bucs have two home run hitters in Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. Even if the D is able to bottle those two up for most of the game, one play could hurt them. The Jets have to remain focused on those two all game, and make sure neither one is able to break for a big play and a touchdown.

X-Factor:

Dee Milliner – Rex has never started a rookie corner in the opening game before. On top of that Milliner has missed a lot of time in training camp for various reasons. He was picked on by Blaine Gabbert and the Jaguars in week 2 of the preseason, and if that happens again Rex might have to consider moving Kyle Wilson back to the starting spot. The Jets are unlikely to win a high scoring game.

The Pick: The Jets are better than people give them credit for. The defense should once again be in the top half of the league. While the Bucs have weapons, they’re not an offense that scares you. But it’s unlikely the Jets get a big contribution from their running game, and even with a friendly game plan I don’t see Geno leading this team to victory in his first start. It’ll be low scoring and close, but the Bucs are going to get the win.

Bucs 24-14

Santonio Holmes Would Look Good Even in a Boot

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – Santonio Holmes sat out practice today.

Don’t be too worried. It appears Holmes will be put on a similar “pitch count” as Kellen Winslow, and today was a planned precaution. But his status for Sunday is still up in the air.

“I still don’t know,” said Holmes. “Still haven’t gotten any word from the doctors yet on whether I should be playing or not, so I’m just going to keep playing it by ear.”

A healthy Santonio Holmes would make Geno Smith's life a lot easier.

Rex Ryan doesn’t have the same doubts:

“I was comfortable with him [starting] when he was in a boot.”

All kidding aside, the feeling throughout the organization for some time has been that he will play against Tampa. It’s the receiver’s insistence that, “looks can be deceiving,” that has some in the media speculating that Holmes is worried about a future payday.

It is believed that Holmes could be cut this offseason so the team can avoid paying a $10.75 million cap number. If he reinjures himself, it’ll be hard for him to come anywhere close to the five-year $45.25 million deal he signed back in 2011.

“Like I said before, I have a long career and I don’t want to go out there and do anything to jeopardize that up until this point,” said Holmes. “We have 16 games to play this season and hopefully I can play in all 16, but if not, we’ll have to deal with what I can do.”

With a game scheduled for next Thursday, it would make sense for the receiver to be a little tentative.  Yet several players on the team, including Geno Smith and Stephen Hill, have said Holmes has claimed all offseason he’ll be ready week one.

More good news: he has been practicing for over a week now, and Rex Ryan is pleased with what he’s seen.

“I thought he looked really good for not practicing a whole lot,” said Ryan. “It’s a new system and things, but I thought he caught the ball well and I thought he moved around pretty good.”

It’s no secret that a healthy Holmes would be a big boost to a passing offense that ranked 30th in the league last season. Going up against Tampa’s defense last season might’ve helped too—they ranked dead last in pass defense in the NFL—but that doesn’t look to be the case this year.

In the offseason the Bucs traded for former Jet, and All-Pro corner, Darrelle Revis. Revis, along with free agent pickup Dashon Goldson and second-round pick Johnthan Banks, should solidify the backend of a defense that already ranked at the top of the league at stopping the run.

Needless to say, the Bucs should be a challenge for rookie Geno Smith in his first NFL game. Having Holmes, a former Super Bowl MVP, could be the security blanket he needs.