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Rex Ryan set to return next season as Jets knock off Dolphins in final game

Sunday, December 29th, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – On the heels of a feel-good, 20-7, win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, Jets owner Woody Johnson and general manager John Idzik ended weeks of speculation by announcing that Rex Ryan will return as head coach next season.

Saddled with rock-bottom expectations and the notion that he wouldn't be around much longer, Rex Ryan took the Jets to an 8-8 record in 2013 and will return next season, according to owner Woody Johnson.

“After five years of looking at Rex, it’s pretty obvious he’s a good coach,” Johnson told SNY after the game. “This is the start of something really big for the New York Jets.”

Idzik also broke his radio silence after the game, acknowledging that Ryan will return next season, although he would not comment on Ryan’s contract, which runs out at the end of 2014.

“It was a great feeling that we had. It started from day one with me,” said Idzik. “The feeling we had inside was that this was a pretty good pairing.”

The Jets aren’t playoff bound, finishing off at 8-8, but won back-to-back games for the first time all season, and relished the role of spoiler, knocking the Dolphins out of the postseason race.

In a season marked with struggles, the rookie class shined on the final day for the Jets, with Geno Smith, Sheldon Richardson and Dee Milliner all turning in great performances.

Smith played his second straight turnover-free game, passing for 190 yards and rushing for 44 yards and a touchdown. Milliner intercepted Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill twice, his second straight game with a pick, and Richardson scored his second touchdown of the season.

“We knew we were a better team than showed up against Miami [the last time], certainly,” Ryan said. “That was the main driving force of it, to show where we’re at.”

Ryan said he found about the Jets decision to bring him back before the start of the game, during warm-ups.

“I love being the head football coach of the New York Jets, plain and simple,” he said. “I didn’t want to go out this way.”

The announcement about Ryan’s future coupled with the win over Miami ends the season a high note, but there are still many questions for the team moving forward.

The biggest of which will be, can the team be good enough to make the playoffs next year? That answer is pretty clear, according to Richardson.

“Next year, baby, we’ll be in the playoffs.”

Quinton Coples finishing the season on a high note

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Just before heading into the cafeteria after practice, Quinton Coples jokingly raises his hand in the air, up and out of the reach of a Jets public relations staff worker, looking for a high five.

The 6 foot 6 inch, 290-pound linebacker lets out a deep laugh as he watches her she jump and struggle to meet his skyward arm before mercifully lowering his hand to meet hers. Moments earlier, Coples admitted that, much like his wingspan, he has a “big personality.” Someone who gets joy out of making people laugh, whether they are his teammates, family members, sick kids, or team staffers.

The only problem being, up until these last few weeks, Coples’ big-time personality hadn’t been matched with big-time production. That, along with the emergence of his teammates along the defensive line, left Coples on the outside of the white-hot spotlight.

An injury and a position change hampered Quinton Coples early on, but the second year man is putting together a strong finish.

A place his personality would suggest, isn’t where he’d like to be.

But any criticism of Coples’ play this season must be scrutinized through the correct lens, and if he deserved any flack for how he preformed during the first eight games, he deserves all the more credit for how he is finishing.

After completing his rookie season with a team-high five and half sacks, Coples was asked to move from defensive end to 3-4 outside linebacker, no small transition for a man of his size. On top of that, Coples fractured his ankle during the second preseason game, costing him two preseason and two regular season games along with invaluable learning time.

To expect him to become Aldon Smith overnight was unrealistic; to have him do so while overcoming an injury is just, well, ridiculous.

Yet, just as the calls for Coples benching were reaching a fever pitch, the second year man out of North Carolina responded with what Mohammed Wilkerson called a “break-out” game against the New Orleans Saints, which included a tackle for a loss on 4th and 19 to end the game.

And he’s been improving ever since. In just thirteen games, Coples is seventh in the league at the linebacker position with 17 quarterback hits, including nine tackles for loss, three passes defensed and one forced fumble. He has three and a half sacks in his last four games and his confidence is burgeoning.

“I think the game plan is getting a little shorter, everything is starting to work out in my favor in more situations,” he said. “Everything is going well, I’m definitely a lot more confident.”

When the Jets took Sheldon Richardson with the 13th overall pick in 2013, in launched Coples into a world of uncertainty. It seemed curious that the Jets would take Richardson, with Coples, a first round pick who played the same position, already in toe. However, Coples’ move to linebacker now rounds out a young defensive front with loads of potential.

“These young guys, I think as it gets going, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be one of the top groups in the league,” said head coach Rex Ryan about his defensive front which now includes back-to-back-to-back first round picks.

Coples attributes much of his development to Wilkerson, his former prep school teammate, who took him under his wing after being drafted. Now, even after his move to linebacker, Coples still considers himself part of the “front four,” which includes Wilkerson, Richardson, and Damon “Snacks” Harrison.

“We’re definitely close knit,” he said. “We talk about anything and everything. It’s great.”

“I think that’s a young group that has the potential to be around for a long time,” said Ryan.

So, after undergoing some early growing pains, Coples, in two less games and with one more left to play, sits just one sack removed from his rookie total. And regardless of whether he gets it, the big guy, with the big personality should remain a big-time piece in the Jets rebuilding effort.

Veteran Calvin Pace is ‘most improved’

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – With two games remaining and his team officially eliminated from playoff contention, Jets head coach Rex Ryan remains tight-lipped about his future and the future of his young starting quarterback.

However, during a period of reflection on Wednesday, Ryan did open up long enough to commend a few players he sees as “most improved” this season.

Some were more obvious guys, like Demario Davis, Damon “Snack” Harrison and Antonio Allen, but one name stuck out amongst the rest.

“A guy in my opinion that, it sounds crazy, he’s played 11 years in the league, that is playing as good now as he ever has is Calvin Pace,” said Ryan.

An offseason removed from getting cut, 11-year veteran Calvin Pace is one of the most improved players on the Jets, according to Rex Ryan.

Pace is indeed having a banner year for the Jets. The 33 year old, despite being the third oldest player on the team behind David Garrard and Ed Reed, has tallied a career-high nine sacks, including 32 solo tackles and two forced fumbles.

In 2008, the Jets signed Pace to a lucrative, six-year, $42 million contract, but after his numbers dipped – recording only three sacks in 2012 – they made the tough decision to cut him this past offseason.

After testing the free agent market, however, Pace decided to sign back on with the Jets for 2013, making $940,000 over one year – a significant pay cut.

“I think that just shows you the commitment that he’s had,” said Ryan. “The commitment that he’s had in his offseason conditioning, the fact that we’ve asked him to do several different roles and he’s accepted every single one of them, and he’s gotten better.”

There’s no doubt that Pace has benefited from the dominance of the Jets young defensive front and he’s the first to admit it.

“The things that I’ve done I’ve had a lot of help with,” Pace said. “The talent I play with is phenomenal. Having Rex back in the room has helped me a lot. It’s a little bit of me and a lot of other people to help out.”

With the playoffs out of reach, Pace shows no signs of wanting to slowing down, eyeing two more wins and that elusive double-digit sack total.

“We’re just trying to finish what we signed up for,” he said. “We didn’t sign up for 14 games, we signed up for 16 [games].”

“Hopefully he’s able to get that 10th sack, that would be a little cherry on top,” said Ryan. “You want to get that double digits but it’s been more than just the sacks for him. His play has been outstanding.”

Jets’ playoff hopes fade in loss to Panthers

Monday, December 16th, 2013

CHARLOTTE, NC – The Jets fell flat in all three phases against Carolina on Sunday, losing 30-20 to the Panthers and all but putting to bed any remaining playoff hopes.

The Jets remained competitive until the fourth quarter, but had major breakdowns on offense (Geno Smith pick-six), defense (Cam Newton-DeAngelo Williams 72-yard screen pass touchdown) and special teams (blocked punt), which inevitably couldn’t be overcome.

Santonio Holmes was forced to eat his "weakest link" comment as the Panthers held him to two catches for 14 yards in another ugly Jets loss.

“It snowballed on us and the game got out of hand at the end,” said head coach Rex Ryan, who will now go three straight seasons without a winning record and without making the playoffs.

Heading into the fourth quarter, the Jets were still very much alive, down 16-13, but a blocked punt led to great field position and an easy one-yard touchdown run by Panthers fullback Mike Tolbert.

Three minutes later, Smith was picked off, trying to force a pass to Santonio Holmes in double coverage and cornerback Captain Munnerlyn returned it 41 yards for the touchdown.

“Before the blocked punt happened I thought it was only a matter of time [until we would take the lead],” said Ryan.

Smith did rebound after throwing his 20th interception of the season, leading a 12-play, 72-yard drive that resulted in an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jeff Cumberland. But, with just under four minutes remaining, it was just too little, too late.

Smith finished his day going 15-for-28 with 167 yards passing and a 68.6 passer rating. He now trails only Eli Manning (25) for most interceptions in the NFL.

Chris Ivory had another solid day on the ground against a top-flight Carolina run defense, tallying 66 yards on 11 carries, including a long 35 yarder that set up one of Nick Folk’s three field goals. Smith and running back Bilal Powell added 81 more rushing yards for a total of 157 at 5.6 yards per carry.

The pass catchers were no where to be found, however, as Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley combined for three catches and 39 yards.

Holmes, who earlier in the week called the Carolina secondary the Panther’s “weak link” on defense, was jawed at all game and dropped half as many balls as he caught despite being targeted eight times.

“I’m an eight-year veteran,” Holmes said after the game. “I wouldn’t regret anything.”

Despite clearly motivating the Panthers, Ryan stood behind his star wide receiver saying, “I think the weakness is the secondary, I’ll say it. I’m not saying they’re a bad secondary, but [their weakness] is not they’re front.”

Cumberland led all receivers with 50 yards and one touchdown while wide receiver David Nelson added 44 yards on three catches.

Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, a defensive rookie of the year candidate no less, had the only other Jets touchdown, taking two carries to punch it in at the goal line with three minutes left in the third quarter.

“We’ve been practicing it,” said Ryan about giving the 294-pound Richardson goal line touches. “[We were] thinking they shouldn’t be able to deny that guy down there.”

On the whole, the defense played well enough to win, save for loads of missed tackles and a 72-yard touchdown screen pass which DeAnglo Williams took for a touchdown.

After Miami’s unexpected win over the Patriots earlier today, the Jets, at 6-8, sit two games back of the final wildcard slot in the AFC. That means they would need a prayer and a miracle just to have the possibility of sneaking in.

But despite hanging tough against a playoff bound Carolina team, and despite being projected as one of the worst teams in the league heading into the season, Ryan was not in the mood for moral victories.

“No, no, no. Absolutely not,” said Ryan, half laughing, half shaking his head. “We came here to win, we thought we’d win.”

“Hell, obviously that’s not our intent going into a season or any other time. We want to win it all that’s been clear since I got here.”

So, as for the Jets in 2013, it’s like the saying goes: Wait ’til next year. Unfortunately for Ryan, there might not be a next year.

Stephen Hill’s season status remains uncertain

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Rex Ryan was noncommittal about the future of Stephen Hill on Wednesday after the wide receiver didn’t practice again with a knee injury.

“I don’t know. We’ll see. Obviously we’d like to get him out here,” said Ryan, who was unsure about whether Hill will return at all this season. “If he can play and be effective obviously that would be the best thing for us. We’ll see how it progresses.”

Rex Ryan hinted on Wednesday that Stephen Hill's year might be over after suffering from nagging knee problems for most of the season.

The second year wide out sat out against the Raiders on Sunday and Ryan noted that he still has swelling around the knee and is unable to burst out of breaks.

But even before Hill’s knee began acting up the former second round pick was underperforming and underwhelming. He was targeted zero times against the Tennessee Titans, New Orleans Saints, Buffalo Bills, and Baltimore Ravens and has only 342 yards and one touchdown on 24 receptions.

“It doesn’t look good,” said Ryan regarding Hill’s rate of development. “In particular the knee might have a major contributing factor with that. Obviously, when you look at the numbers it looks like he’s not progressing.”

Hill appeared to land in Ryan’s doghouse before the Ravens’ game, when Ryan expressed disappointment in the talented receiver’s lack of production.

If Hill is indeed done for the good, it would mark a lost season for the Georgia Tech product who has yet to shed his “unpolished” label.

Ryan was openly skeptical when former general manager Mike Tannenbaum took the 6-foot-4 receiver in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft despite Hill’s undeniable measureables, which included a 4.36 40-yard dash time.

That decision now looms as a potential major draft blunder as the Jets passed on receivers Alshon Jeffery, Rueben Randle, Mohamed Sanu, T.Y. Hilton, Chris Givens, and Marvin Jones, who all went after Hill.

But there’s nothing Ryan can say or do about it now, diffusing a difficult situation with his patented humor on Wednesday.

“No, it’s early in the process. Nobody is going to give a grade during the season – a draft grade,” Ryan joked, alluding to the “A-plus” grade he handed out to the 2013 class last week.

“But really, by year three, that’s the big one. You’ll know, ‘Hey, this guy really hit it or this guy maybe hasn’t been as good.’ Certainly, by the numbers I understand that you expect a certain amount of production but there are some contributing factors here.”

Speaking off production: Jeffery, who went to the Chicago Bears two picks after the Jets selected Hill at 43rd overall, has turned in a breakout season, compiling 75 receptions, 1,193 yards, and six touchdowns along with a signature 249 yard, two touchdown performance against the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago.

In all fairness, Hill doesn’t have Jay Cutler or Josh McCown throwing him passes and he isn’t lining up with Brandon Marshall, Matt Forte or Martellus Bennett. And Geno Smith is ready to take the blame.

“I’ve got to put the ball in better spots for him and allow him to make those plays,” said Smith. “I think Stephen has done a great job at just working his butt off. He’s a tough, tough hard worker. He does his job every single day to the best of his ability. If I put the ball in some better spots for him, he usually makes the plays for me. It all comes down to me just doing that for him.”

Geno Smith bounces back in win over Raiders

Monday, December 9th, 2013

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – There were 10 minutes left in Sunday’s game against the Oakland Raiders when Geno Smith sensed the pocket collapsing and took off.

He darted across midfield, past a diving defender and along the sideline for 32 yards and a key first down. Just before the play ended, however, he made a telling decision. A decision his running back would later call, “dangerous.”

The young quarterback opted not to run out of bounds and instead lowered his right shoulder – his throwing shoulder – and embraced the contact.

Geno Smith wasn't perfect on Sunday but he kept the Jets in the game, instead of taking them out of it. That's a step in the right direction.

It was a play that embodied the Jets 37-27 win over the Raiders at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, a game that the Jets won, in part, because of Smith’s legs and his refusal to go down without a fight.

“We needed that in the worst way, to say the least,” said head coach Rex Ryan after his team’s first win in four weeks.

The Jets are now 5-2 at home and 6-7 on the season, still alive in the AFC playoff hunt.

Smith bounced back from his midseason struggles in a big way, completing 64 percent of his passes for 219 yards with one passing and one rushing touchdown.

He kept the Raiders alert with his legs, rushing for 50 yards off designed runs, like his 8-yard touchdown scamper in the third quarter, and extended plays, like his 32-yard breakaway in the fourth.

“I think the difference was just eliminating the indecision in my game,” said Smith. “A lot of things are happening to me for the first time. That’s not to make an excuse, but sometimes I second-guess myself and that always hurts especially a quarterback.”

Smith did throw an ugly interception halfway through the first quarter but rebounded nicely, throwing a 25-yard touchdown to Jeremy Kerley on the next possession. It was the team’s first offensive touchdown in five games and 138 pass attempts.

The rookie did mention he felt like he had something to prove, which played into his decision to take that hit instead of going out of bounds.

“I can’t explain why. It was kind of instinct,” he said. “I think part of it was me trying to send a message to my teammates, to everyone, that I’m their quarterback, that I’m a tough guy, that I’m going to stay in there.”

Ryan wasn’t pleased with Smith’s decision but praised his competiveness.

Running back Chris Ivory, who rushed for 76 yards, including a powerful 15-yard touchdown called the decision, “Kind of dangerous, especially for a quarterback.”

But for once, the Jets young quarterback kept them in a game instead of taking them out of one, and that’s a step in the right direction.

Punter Ryan Quigley pinned the Raiders down at the two-yard line, setting up safety Antonio Allen for a blocked a punt touchdown, and kicker Nick Folk (now 28-for-29 this season) added three field goals.

The defense, the team’s supposed strength, were the weak link, allowing 27 points, 383 yards of offense and two long touchdowns.

The first came on a 63-yard run by Raider’s running back Marcel Reese and the second on a 48-yard pass from quarterback Matt McGloin to Rod Streater. The latter occurred when cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety Ed Reed collided, paving the way for Streater, untouched, to the end zone.

Reed, however, did get his first win and interception as a member of the Jets.

Traditionally, the day after a win this late in the season would be dubbed “victory Monday,” a day for the players to rest.

But Ryan and his team, like their quarterback late in fourth quarter, have opted to lower their shoulder and press on.

“I mentioned it, I looked, and I’m like, ‘Nah, let’s not do that, let’s go to work,’” Ryan said about starting preparation for the Carolina Panthers on Monday. “Everyone’s like, ‘Yeah, let’s go to work.’ And that’s what we have to do.”

Rex Ryan defends struggling rookie class

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Rex Ryan went to bat for his rookie class on Wednesday, calling them an “A-plus” group despite their recent struggles.

“I mean, if that’s not an A-plus class, I don’t know what you’re looking for,” he said of the 2013 draft class, which has seen five rookie starters, including Dee Milliner, Sheldon Richardson, Geno Smith, Brian Winters and Tommy Bohanon.

Sheldon Richardson aside, all the Jets rookie starters have struggled this season, from Geno Smith on down to Tommy Bohanon.

All but Richardson, who is a rookie of the year candidate, have had their share of struggles, however, most notably Milliner and, of course, Smith.

But Ryan isn’t ready to give up on the youngsters just yet.

“For us to be critical of a draft class that has five starters in the National Football League, I think we’re being, I understand it’s the New York media, but this might be a little tough,” Ryan said. “This is a bit of a stretch, I think, to criticize this draft class. I think it’s as strong as I’ve ever seen.”

The merits of their starting status is debatable, however, as only Richardson seemed truly deserving coming out of training camp.

Smith won the starting quarterback job only after Mark Sanchez was injured in that infamous preseason game against the Giants. Milliner was essentially handed the job after missing most of camp due to injury. Winters beat out an embattled Vlad Duccasse and Bohanon started from day one.

Now, all four are struggling and the Jets, who have the seventh youngest team in the league with an average age of 25.6, are paying for it. They’re young, inexperienced and predictably inconsistent.

Smith leads the league in turnovers and has been benched for the equally inexperienced Matt Simms during two separate blowout losses. Putting things into even more painful perspective, Eagles quarterback Nick Foles could throw an interception on his next 50 pass attempts and still have a higher passer rating than Smith, according to ESPN Stats and Info.

Milliner, who stepped into the impossible-to-fill shoes of Darrelle Revis, has drawn the ire of Jets fans, struggling in coverage, misplaying balls in the air, missing tackles and getting benched for Darrin Walls on multiple occasions.

“I understand [Milliner] has had some struggles, I’m not making excuses for him but he’s a rookie corner,” said Ryan. “I don’t know any other rookie corners coming in the league, outside of maybe Revis, that jumped right in. I think we’ve been a little spoiled here with the corner play.”

Winters has also struggled in pass protection and Pro Football Focus recently rated Bohanon as the worst fullback in football. But Ryan isn’t worried.

“That’s okay, that doesn’t mean anything,” he said of the Milliner and Smith benchings. “We do things for different reasons or whatever but that doesn’t mean that these guys aren’t good picks. If they weren’t they wouldn’t have seen the field ever.”

Ryan maintains that all the playing time will ultimately benefit his rookies and the team moving forward.

“A lot of times when you have guys that come into the league, you’re going to make mistakes and all that stuff, but the best way to learn is to get out there and play. I think it bodes well for us in the future.”

Preview: Jets (5-6) vs. Miami Dolphins (5-6)

Friday, November 29th, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Mired in their longest losing streak of the season (two games), the Jets have just five games remaining in the 2013 season to right the ship, prove they belong (or don’t belong) in the playoffs, or start preparing for next year.

Quarterback Geno Smith has been under fire all week. So have the secondary, offensive line, receiving corps, and coaches Marty Mornhinweg and Rex Ryan. But a cure for all those ills would be a win against the division rival Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.

The team's struggles aren't all his fault but, ultimately, the Jets will live and die by Geno Smith.

After building a reputation as road warriors under Ryan, the Jets are struggling away from MetLife this season (1-5), so a return home should do them some good. But then again, this team has been wildly unpredictable.

With a six-team logjam forming for the final AFC playoff spot, Sunday is perhaps the most important test in determining whether the Jets are indeed contenders or pretenders. A loss would set them back significantly. A win would keep them right in the thick of the action.

When: Sunday, December 1, 2013, 1:00 p.m. EST (TV-CBS Radio-ESPN NY, 98.7 FM)

Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

Injury Report (as of Thursday)

Jets:

Did not practice: DB Antonio Cromartie (hip), WR Santonio Holmes (foot/hamstring), TE Kellen Winslow (knee)

Limited: RB Chris Ivory (ankle), WR Jeremy Kerley (elbow), OL Nick Mangold (wrist), LB Garrett McIntyre (knee)

Full practice: OL Willie Colon (calf), DL Kenrick Ellis (back), WR Stephen Hill (knee), DB Dee Milliner (wrist), WR Greg Salas (finger), DL Mo Wilkerson (wrist)

Dolphins:

Did not practice: S Chris Clemons (knee/hamstring), CB Dimitri Patterson (groin), RB Daniel Thomas (ankle), CB Jamar Taylor (hamstring)

Limited: C Sam Brenner (knee), WR Rishard Matthews (back)

Full practice: LB Koa Misi (knee), WR Marlon Moore (hamstring), DT Jared Odrick (knee), RB Marcus Thigpen (wrist), S Jimmy Wilson (adomen)

What to watch for:

‘Sons of Anarchy: Along with having one of the coolest nicknames in sports, the Jets defensive line must have a major impact on Sunday’s game for the Jets to have a chance – and they should. The Dolphins are infamously missing two fifths of their offensive line (Richie Incognito and Jonathon Martin) and have allowed a league-high 44 sacks. The Dolphins running game is 26th in the NFL and the Jets run defense is 1st (by a lot) in the NFL. You do the math. Expect the defensive line, especially Mo Wilkerson, to have a big day. They should be able to keep steady pressure on Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill and hopefully take some pressure off a struggling secondary. Speaking of …

Secondary blues: From 2009-2011, Football Outsiders had the Jets pass defense ranked in the top four of the NFL, holding the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in ‘09 and ‘11, respectively. Even without All-Pro Darrelle Revis for much of 2012, they were ranked in the top 10. But this season, they’re ranked 16th, giving up 11.33 yards per pass, which is well below the league average. Cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner have struggled mightily and the acquisition of Ed Reed has yet to pay any real dividends. Making matters worse, Cromartie may not play with a hip injury. The deep ball has plagued the Jets all season and, although he has been quiet for much of the year, Dolphins wide receiver Mike Wallace had a breakout, 127-yard receiving game against the Carolina Panthers last weekend. Something has to give.

Marty ball: The Jets have run a league-high 32 wildcat plays this season, a testament to their trust or lack thereof in their young quarterback. If Ryan and Mornhinweg don’t want to make the move to Matt Simms or David Garrard they need to take the leash off Geno and see how he fairs. The only reason to play him at this point is to see what you have moving forward. But that evaluation is incomplete if he’s split out wide, catching passes for six plays a game or handcuffed and unable to take chances down field. At this point, the Jets seem ready to live or die by Geno, so let’s see what he can do.

X-factor: It’s no secret that Geno Smith has struggled this season, but he’s not the only one to blame on offense. The pass protection has not always been up to snuff and the receivers, especially Stephen Hill, aren’t doing their jobs. If the team wants Geno to succeed, everyone has to contribute.

Prediction: If we’ve learned anything about the Jets this season, it’s that when everyone is counting them out they turn around and prove us all wrong. They’ve had success at home this season, the defensive line should wreak havoc, and the Dolphins haven’t scored more than 23 points all season. Jets win, 17-13.

Secondary issues: Geno not the only problem

Wednesday, November 27th, 2013

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Geno Smith might be the poster boy for the Jets’ struggles this season – the guy that gets the headlines and elicits the most talk radio debate – but he’s not the only one to blame.

No, the Jets have a secondary problem, namely, problems with their secondary.

Geno Smith will get most of the coverage this week but he's not the only one to blame. The Jets secondary has struggled mightily this season and it's becoming an issue.

“The big play is the Achilles’ heel of our defense,” said head coach Rex Ryan before playing the Baltimore Ravens, a game in which the Jets secondary gave up two pass plays over 60 yards.

“That’s it, that is what’s preventing us from being an elite defense right now,” he added. “Obviously, we’re playing the run better than anybody in the league and it’s not close.”

And Ryan is right. In almost every context, the Jets have the league’s best run defense. They’re holding opponents to 2.85 yards per rush, which is tops in the league by almost a full yard, and Football Outsiders ranks them first in rush defense by nearly 10 percent.

But once the ball is in the air, particularly deep down field, the Jets struggle mightily and it’s becoming too hard to ignore.

From 2009-2011, Football Outsiders had the Jets pass defense ranked in the top four, holding the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in ‘09 and ‘11, respectively. Even without All-Pro Darrelle Revis for much of 2012, they were ranked in the top 10.

But this season, Football Outsiders have the Jets ranked 16th in pass defense, giving up 11.33 yards per pass, which is well below the league average. They struggle against opponent’s No. 1 wide receiver, allowing 84.9 yards per game, and are nearly last in the league (30th) against opponent’s No. 2 wide receivers.

If only the Jets had a shutdown corner, you know, the type of player who could take away the opponent’s No. 1 weapon. Maybe someone with his own island?

Not to say that the loss of Revis is to blame for the secondary’s problems this year or that the Jets wouldn’t do that deal a thousand times over if it meant getting Sheldon Richardson in return. But it’s clear that Ryan’s once dominant secondary is in sharp decline.

Looking for some type of solution, Ryan had the secondary running “Buddy Ryan” pass defense drills all last week to help them with the deep ball. It didn’t work.

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith still beat former All-Pro cornerback Antonio Cromartie with 60-yard pass and both rookie Dee Milliner and the newly acquired Ed Reed saw Joe Flacco drop a 66-yard dime right in between their outstretched arms.

Cromartie is clearly not himself, either because of a nagging hip injury or natural decline. Reed was brought in merely as a stopgap and Milliner has struggled so publically that he’s been benched for Darrin Walls on more than one occasion.

But both Ryan and his players believe a turnaround is coming.

“For us, it comes off as, they see us as this and we know we’re something different,” said Walls. “We take it as a challenge. We know we’ve given up the deep ball in the past couple games and that’s one thing we want to stop. We want to burn that fire out and give them something else to talk about. Now it’s the deep ball, so we have to take care of that.”

And how can they be so confident?

“Because I’ve seen it and done it,” said Ryan.

Jets can’t bounce back in ugly loss to Ravens

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

BALTIMORE, MD – A new streak ended and an old one endured in Baltimore. And that means bad news for the New York Jets.

After falling to the Baltimore Ravens, 19-3, on Sunday, the Jets failed to follow a loss with a win for the first time all season and dropped to 3-17 when facing a reigning Super Bowl champion.

Geno Smith had an opportunity to silence a few doubters against the Ravens. Instead, he added more fuel to the fire.

The Jets, now 5-6 on the season, were downright awful on offense, managing only 220 total yards – including a paltry three yards in the second quarter – going 1-12 on third down with three turnovers.

Shades of Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and Tony Sparano.

Rookie Geno Smith didn’t do himself any favors, completing just nine passes for 127 yards with two interceptions and a 22.3 percent passer rating. Smith now leads the league with 18 interceptions.

For the record, wide receiver Josh Cribbs, who threw two passes out of the wildcat, ended the day with a higher passer rating – 70.8 – than Smith, who until deep into the second quarter was the team’s leading receiver.

Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg went with a heavy dose of the wildcat throughout the game, opting for Cribbs and running back Bilal Powell instead of Smith, an unspoken indictment on his rookie quarterback.

“[The problems] have to be corrected and it starts with me,” said Smith. “I’ll take it upon myself to be the first one to say that I didn’t play well.”

Even though the buzzards were circling around Smith all game – and will be all week – head coach Rex Ryan stayed with him all game and remained committed to him after it.

“It’s on all of us,” said Ryan after to falling to 0-3 against his former team. “We have to get better. We have to get better in a hurry and we know that.”

Ryan was pressed after the game about the future of his young quarterback but remained adamant that the loss wasn’t all on Geno.

And it wasn’t.

The Jets receivers dropped a number of passes in key situations, which Ryan said “jumped out” to him and the pass protection was porous, allowing three sacks and four quarterback hits.

“I’m not going to talk about one individual, starter or backup,” said Ryan. “I want to watch the tape first.”

The Jets secondary also struggled, allowing two pass plays of at least 60 yards, including a 66-yard touchdown, from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones, a play that put the game out of reach with five seconds left in the third quarter.

All week, Ryan called for improvement in the secondary, running “Buddy Ryan drills” in practice to prevent big plays, which he called “the Achilles’ heel” of the defense.

Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith also burnt cornerback Antonio Cromartie for a 60-yard completion in second quarter, adding on to the long list of blunders for the All-Pro corner this season.

Adding insult to injury, Cromartie left the game late in the fourth with a hip injury.

The run defense was again superb for the Jets, bottling Ray Rice up for 30-yards on 16 carries, and holding the Ravens to 67 total yards on the ground, a 2.2 yards per carry average.

Nick Folk was the only other bright spot for the Jets, nailing his only field goal attempt, a 27-yarder in the first quarter. He is now 23-for-24 this season.

Moving forward, the Jets will prepare for next week’s game against the division rival the Miami Dolphins while facing two awful realities: they’re now on the outside of the AFC playoff picture looking in, and they have sure-fire quarterback controversy on their hands.

When asked if he thinks he’s the quarterback to lead the Jets to the playoffs, Geno Smith responded: “I know I am,” adding, “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Jets fans just hope that light isn’t an oncoming train.