Posts Tagged ‘Wilkerson’

Preview: Jets (3-2) vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-4)

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – This is what football types like to call a trap game.

The Jets, coming off an impressive comeback victory over the Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football, are at home on a short week to take on the winless Steelers.

It seems like a gimme win, a no-brainer, a tune-up before Tom Brady and the New England Patriots come to town.

Not so fast.

Muhammad Wilkerson was dominant against the Falcons but he'll have his hands full as Big Ben and the Steelers come to town.

The Steelers may not have any wins, but they do have two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. They have rookie running back Le’Veon Bell, who is one week healthier. And they also still have a proud, Dick LeBeau-led defense.

But more importantly, they’re hungry and coming off a bye-week, with ample time to do nothing but prepare for Geno Smith and the Jets.

No, this game is far from a gimme, it’s a statement game  for both teams.

It’s put-up or shut time for Pittsburgh (either win or it’s Drowney for Clowney time).

It’s also Smith’s best opportunity yet to prove he’s really for real.

Two weeks ago, Smith was a bust, a turnover prone rookie who many fans wanted to see replaced by the equally inexperienced Matt Simms.

Today, he’s a savior. A young phenom who led a game winning drive in the final two minutes on national television, tossed three touchdowns with no interceptions and completed 80 percent of his passes.

Which is he? A convincing win against a well-prepared Steelers team would go a long way in proving he’s the latter.

A loss in a trap game? Well, then Geno’s back to square one.

When: Sunday, Oct. 13 2013, 1:00 pm EST (TV – CBS, Radio – ESPN NY, 98.7 FM)

Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ

Injury Report (As of Thursday):

Jets:

Limited: Oday Aboushi (knee), Antonio Cromartie (hip, knee), Quinton Coples (ankle), Clyde Gates (knee), Chris Ivory (hamstring), Jaiquawn Jarrett (knee), David Nelson (hamstring), Darrin Walls (shoulder). Did not practice: Santonio Holmes (foot, hamstring), Dee Milliner (hamstring), Kellen Winslow (knee)

Steelers:

Full practice: QB Ben Roethlisberger (right finger), G Ramon Foster (pectoral). Limited: S Da’Mon Cromartie-Smith (hip). Did not practice: WR Markus Wheaton (finger, definitely will not play)

What to watch for:

‘Big Mo’ Wilkerson: Geno Smith will get most of the headlines, especially if he plays well, but Muhammad Wilkerson is without a doubt the star of this team. Wilkerson had Jon Gruden gushing as he dominated the Falcons on Monday night, racking up seven tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and two tackles for loss. “I think he’s right there with the top defensive linemen in this league right now that aren’t named J.J. Watt,” said Rex Ryan on Wednesday. Wilkerson is approaching must-see TV levels – a la Mr. Watt – and against a banged up Steelers’ offensive line, boy, get out the popcorn.

Will the real Geno Smith please stand up: In five games as a professional Geno Smith has 11 turnovers. He also has three game winning drives. So, which quarterback is he? The turnover machine or the clutch rookie with a big arm? Obviously, the answer is: both. He’s a rookie on a steep learning curve who has shown some serious ability, but he won’t be labeled anything other than inconsistent if he can’t put together great back-t0-back performances. The winless Steelers are the perfect test. Let’s see if he passes.

Field position: Through the first five games, Football Outsiders ranks the Jets 28th in the league in LOS/Dr (average starting field position) in the league at 24.23, which is a killer especially for a rookie quarterback. But things definitely started to turn around against Atlanta as the Jets average drive started at their own 41 with three of their six scoring drives starting in Falcons’ territory. On the flip side, the Falcons’ average drive started on their 21. Maintaining good field position will be key moving forward and the Jets might be getting a break in Pittsburgh who ranks dead last in LOS/Dr at 22.56.

X-factor:

Coples therapy: After fracturing his ankle in the preseason, Quinton Coples is using game day work his way back into tip-top condition. Regardless, he’s been relatively quiet in the three games since returning with three tackles and zero sacks. With Antwan Barnes out for the season, Coples needs to embrace his role as an outside linebacker who wreaks havoc on opposing quarterbacks or else people will start to notice his absence. With the stellar play up front by Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison, Coples has been an afterthought but the former first round pick needs to make an appearance sooner or later.

Prediction: The game will be closer than their records indicate, but Rex will have the defense ready to contain Roethlisberger as the Jets eek out a victory, 24-21.

Great expectations: Jets are silencing doubters

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – The Jets were a bad football team a year ago.

Like inventing a new word for bad, bad.

They were 28th in the league in offense, 30th in passing and their usually dominant defense sprung leaks, ranking 26th against the run.

Football Outsiders ranked the Jets 27th in total DVOA and they missed the playoffs for the second straight time in the Rex Ryan era.

But that was last season, and like a decaying zombie corpse that just won’t die (no matter how many times you beat it over the head with a shovel), the Jets are finding out that the stench of the buttfumble will be hard to outrun.

“A lot has been said about this football team,” Ryan said before the season started. “There are a lot of non-believers out there.”

Rex Ryan is quietly proving why the Jets are far from the worst team in the league.

And there still are. But after a surprising 2-1 start, it’s time to entertain the possibility that the Jets are, well, a decent football team.

On Thursday, Ryan was confronted with that possibility when asked why he hasn’t chosen to revel in the team’s recent success.

“We’ll see,” he said with a smirk and a nod of his head, the old defiant Rex bubbling up to the surface. “There’s a long season ahead. I think I know what it’s going to look like but we’ll see.”

Yes, it’s a small sample size and, yes, one of those wins came on a last minute penalty and the other in spite of a team-record 20 penalties, but the Jets look vastly improved in several key areas, most notably on the defensive line and at quarterback.

A season ago, nose tackle Sione Pouha struggled with a back injury and the run defense suffered along with him – not so this season. In three games, the Jets defensive line is second best in all of football according to Football Outsiders, allowing an average of 79 rushing yards per game, which includes a 59-yard run by Bills running back Fred Jackson on a missed tackle.

Otherwise, the Jets have been dominate against the run, with undrafted nose tackle Damon Harrison being an impressive surprise amongst first round talent in Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson.

Despite his one solo tackle against the Bills, “Snacks” was moving blockers all over the place, grading out as one of the top defensive tackles in the league by Pro Football Focus.

Then there’s Eugene Smith, who despite seven rookie-type turnovers, has done just enough to get the Jets offense off the ground.

Last season, Mark Sanchez was the worst quarterback in the league. And not like the hyperbolic, talk radio, Skip Bayless kind of  “worst.” Literally, he was the worst quarterback in the league, ranking 36th in total QBR behind the likes of Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Cassel.

Think about that. Worse than Brandon Weeden.

Sure, Geno has benefited from the return of Santonio Holmes, an improved offensive line and Marty Mornhinweg’s system, but his QBR through three games is almost double that of Sanchez’s and is currently better than Robert Griffin III, Eli Manning and Sam Bradford.

It’s clear now, Smith is a big upgrade over Sanchez. He has the ability to extend plays and take shots downfield. The 331 pass yards he hurled against the Bills didn’t seem like a fluke and if he continues to improve the offense could be miles better than a year ago – let’s face it, it already is.

The Jets know what’s been said about them, from circus-talk to 32nd in the power rankings and dreams of Jadeveon Clowney.

“We knew that people weren’t going to give us much of a chance,” said Leger Douzable, another surprising member of that improved defensive front. “We want for people to continue to not give us a chance because we love proving people wrong.”

Well, the Jets might not be sneaking up on people for much longer. Football Outsiders has their current mean win total at 8.7 after 50,000 simulations, meaning the Jets are shockingly projected to be in the 8-9 win range – within playoff striking distance.

Currently, Football Outsiders has the Jets playoff probability at 35 percent (which is up 14.7 percent from last week) and while that may not be realistic, it’s clear now, and for the foreseeable future, that the Jets are no longer a laughing stock.

“People are starting to talk about us,” said Douzable. “But we don’t want to listen to that we just want to get better.”

Jets set to rebuild around talented trio of d-linemen

Friday, June 14th, 2013

Florham Park, NJ – It’s after the third and final day of minicamp and the New York Jets’ locker room feels like a high school hallway on the last day of class. Most players shower and hit the road, no doubt ready to start their pre-training camp break. Most, that is, except for defensive end Quinton Coples and rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson who keep the energy high, bouncing around and joking with teammates.

“You guys were great,” Coples quips to a group of reporters. “Great questions.” With a year under his belt, Coples has officially come out of his shell. His confidence, or what some might call cockiness, on the practice field is evident, even drawing a playful kick in the behind from All-Pro center Nick Mangold.

Richardson, who the Jets drafted with the 13th overall pick this year, has been loud from the get-go. He is one of the last to leave, his voice bellowing across the locker room and interrupting a media session with potential signee Kellen Winslow.

Coples and Richardson, along with the much more reserved Muhammad Wilkerson, represent the foundation of a young, talented, and confident Jets defensive line. And it shows.

“We’re just going to be a wrecking ball, man,” says Richardson. “I feel confident about our defense right now. We’re going to sack some people.”

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