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DOLPHINS 30 – JETS 9

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

Sandy overshadowed by early Miami Hurricane at Met Life as Jets are embarrassed by division foe.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ: After talking a big game during the week, the Jets were a no show today when push came to shove.  A division rival came into their building and wiped the floor with them.

The Jets head into their Bye week with no answers in sight after the blowout loss to the Miami Dolphins, led by the team’s backup quarterback Matt Moore.

“To say I never saw this coming, that’s an understatement,” said a dejected Rex Ryan.  “This one is a tough one to accept.  We have to find a way to get better.  I’m blown away by it.”

To put it simply, the Jets bark didn’t match their bite.

“At home, divisional opponent, before the Bye week, I mean you name it,” said Sanchez.  “It was set up for us to really go into this Bye week feeling good, get back to .500 and be right where we want to be in our division and now we made things difficult for us.”

After losing starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the first quarter with a left quadriceps injury after a sack by Calvin Pace, the Dolphins didn’t skip a beat with backup quarterback Moore.

“A backup’s job is to come in and fill in the starter’s shoes,” said LaRon Landry, who was in the thick of verbal jabs thrown during the week.  “He did a phenomenal job, finished the game and got a W.  Can’t talk too bad about him.”

The war of words during the week revealed its consequences on the first drive, when Cromartie pushed Reggie Bush after a 19-yard run to put the Dolphins in Jets territory after the personal flag penalty.

“I didn’t lose my composure,” said Cromartie.  “I was just calling him a punk and that’s exactly what he is [Bush].”  Cromartie also revealed that he dislocated his pinky finger bone during a play Bush was involved in earlier in the game.  After a field goal by kicker Dan Carpenter, the Dolphins caught the Jets off guard, recovering an onsides kick.

After trading three and outs between the aforementioned Tannehill injury, the Jets special team unit reared its ugly head for a second time when Rob Malone’s punt was blocked.  The ball was recovered by Olivier Vernon in the end zone for a touchdown.

Looking to bounce back and regroup, Sanchez was strip-sacked by Nolan Carroll on a corner blitz.  The Dolphins’ Daniel Thomas ran in for a touchdown six plays later to make it 17-0 with 14:08 to go in the second quarter.  So much for running high on emotion after Dennis Byrd’s pregame speech.

“It happened quick,” said Sanchez.  “The offense had barely been on the field.”

Even with plenty of time to chip at the lead, the Jets offense couldn’t muster up many positive plays as their first three drives in the second quarter were of the three and out variety.  After another Dolphins field goal, the Jets went into their no huddle offense and marched down the field quickly.

The Jets coaching staff was ill-prepared for Sunday's game against the Dolphins.

But for the third time in the first half, the special teams unit floundered.

Nick Folk’s field goal was blocked with 47 seconds remaining in the half and the Jets were down 20-0 at the break.

“They had a big edge in special teams this week, which is an area where we usually dominate,” said Ryan.  “Blocked punt, onsides kick, blocked field goal.  You name it.  Those things don’t happen to us but, they did today.”

The Jets came out and scored three points on their opening drive in the second half, but the Dolphins quickly squashed any thoughts of a comeback.  After a 57 yard kickoff return, Moore drove his team the rest of the way in six plays and threw a four-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Fasano to put the game out of reach.

“We just didn’t finish.  We just have to go back and watch the tape and just keep on building.  It’s a tough pill to swallow.  It sucks.  Going into a game, you have to be able to adapt to bad situations and we didn’t adapt fast enough.  They came out firing at us and we were behind the 8-ball.”

Sanchez’s final numbers were 28/54 for 283 yards, one touchdown, one interception, one fumble and a 65.6 QB rating.

“He had his moments,” said Ryan.  “There were other moments, not so much.”

“Speaking from the offensive side, we didn’t get it going early, we just sputtered around there for awhile,” said Sanchez.  “We repped just about every one of those pressures.  Coming off a Bye week they had some wrinkles and tweaks and stuff that’s natural, but nothing we couldn’t handle and we just didn’t handle it.”

The Jets cannot seem to find any middle ground.  It either looks like a well put together product (i.e. against New England) or a completely out-of-sync mess (MIA and SF).  But this dud couldn’t have come at a worse time, as the Jets will have to field more Tim Tebow questions, even though Ryan has been persistent about Sanchez being the starting quarterback.

“No I did not,” answered Ryan when asked if he ever thought about putting Tebow under center.  “I just never felt it was the time to do it.  Mark’s our quarterback.  I just thought he gave us our best chance to win.  I believe in all of our players and I believe in Mark.  I think Mark has proven he can win in this league.  That’s my opinion and that’s the one that matters.”

“There’s nothing you can do about it,” said Sanchez of the ‘Tebow’ cheers in the second half.  “It’s a grown man’s game, you got to play tough.  They want results, we’re not playing well so they call for somebody else.  It doesn’t matter, I just happen to be in this spot.  That’s the way it goes, but I don’t really think about it.”

Dustin Keller and Chaz Schilens were quick to defend their quarterback after the game.

“That chant is BS,” said Schilens, who caught the only touchdown for the Jets in garbage time.  “I think the fans are out of place. They’re pissed. They have a right to be pissed.”

Keller followed the same sentiment.  “I feel like fans should have their starting QB’s back 100 percent until they make some sort of change.”  Keller also added, “I’m a big Tebow fan but I’m not a big fan of screaming to get the backup in.  I feel like fans should have his back.”

There are going to be a ton of views, opinions, facts and over-exaggerations written, voiced and thought during these two long weeks before the Jets step back on the field.  Only time will tell to see if the Jets can weather the storm.

Around the Locker Room for Dolphins Part II.

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Florham Park, N.J.: The Jets prepare to face their second consecutive AFC East team, the Miami Dolphins, for the second time this season.  The Jets are looking to be 3-1 in the division heading into their Bye week.

Rex Ryan let us know that the Jets have not swept the season series against the Dolphins since he became head coach.  A fact that may seem surprising considering Ryan’s early success and the turmoil the Dolphins have gone through in recent years.

“Big game, obviously this is a critical game.  You look at it this way, it’s a divisional game,” said Ryan.  “We always say it’s a game-and-a-half, but it is huge.  The fact we haven’t swept Miami in the past, it would be quite an accomplishment.  Obviously, we know we’re going to get the very best Miami has.  They’re going to be well-rested coming off the bye.  They’ve won two games in a row.  They have to be feeling pretty good about themselves, without question.  The last game was anybody’s game.  We were fortunate enough to win that game, so I think this is going to be a big game, without question.”

Mark Sanchez downplayed the sweep concept saying, “It happens to be the second time we play them, so we’re just trying to win the game.  Whether that means we beat them 10 times before or not, whether we split with them or not, we want to win the game.  In this case, obviously it means a sweep, so fine.  I’m not really thinking about that.  I know it means a lot to Rex, but we’re just going out there trying to execute, convert third downs, be good in the red zone, do a lot of what we did last week and just finish the game.”

A player who found himself in the thick of some key plays last Sunday against the Patriots was Kyle Wilson, who has shifted all of his attention to the next game.  “We on to the next one,” said Wilson.  “We’re all about Miami, the past is the past.”

Kyle Wilson has put last week behind him and is focused only on Miami.

Wilson continued about Miami, saying, “Everybody knows that [Rex never sweeping Miami].  It’s just a division rival so we know what type of game were getting.  Everybody in here has been working hard this week and doing what they need to do to put us in the best position.”  When asked about their first meeting against Miami, Wilson said, “They did a good job running the ball and I think on defense we didn’t do a good job on stopping them on third down.  At least those two aspects of the game we are preparing for.”

Lastly, Wilson spoke of Dolphins rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s improvements from Week 3 to now.  “If you look at numbers, definitely his completion percentage.  That just shows what they have been doing their offense, how it has changed to help him out a little bit.  We’re going to try and make him uncomfortable.”

On the other side of the ball, Joe McKnight quieted some critics playing through ankle pain, and looking good doing so, in last Sunday’s game.

He received praise from his head coach this afternoon, when Ryan said, “Absolutely, he’s a tough guy.  Let’s face it.  Last year, he had a hyperextended elbow, and then he had a shoulder separation, and he played in the game.  He still played.  He is a tough guy.  There’s no doubt.  Was I surprised that he gave it a shot?  Not really, knowing Joe.  But the fact that he did, I think showed all of his teammates the kind of commitment and toughness that he has.”

Joe McKnight impressed coaches and teammates when playing well through injury last Sunday.

McKnight assured us he will definitely be ready for this Sunday against Miami.  “I’m playing this week.  We have a bye week coming up.  I’ll rest on the bye week,” said McKnight.  “This is an important game because we can still be in second place and still be in the position to take the division over.  We need to go ahead and win this game and put this team behind us.”

Tim Tebow chimed in the matchup against Miami, saying, “”I feel we are a much improved team, I feel we have been getting better every week.  I believe we will continue to do that and this is a big game for us.  Going into our bye, being able to even things up, it definitely means a lot to us.”

The most encouraging words of the day also came from Tebow, saying while coming close to beating New England was positive, it wasn’t enough.  “It definitely lets you know you can play with anybody and beat them and we didn’t play near as good as a game as we could have or should have,” Tebow said.  “You don’t play these games to feel good, you play to win.  There aren’t many moral victories, but you do find some confidence in it for sure.”

Tactical Tuesday: Tannehill Handling the Pressure

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

After starting the season 1-3, including consecutive ’should have been wins’ against New York and Arizona, the Miami Dolphins avoided disaster by winning two in a row against Cincinnati and St. Louis.  Although the Dolphins defense is the main reason the team finds itself with the chance to win most games, rookie quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been impressive, while seemingly improving each week.

It is common to hear that the largest obstacle for a rookie quarterback is to adjust to the ’speed of the game’.  Picking up blitzes and reading coverages against NFL athletes takes some getting used to and dealing with some growing pains is a part of that process (Andrew Luck vs. Jets for a recent example).

Defensive Coordinator Mike Pettine might want to hold back on the blitzes when they face the Dolphins on Sunday.

But it seems the opposite is true for Tannehill, who seems to have success when the quickest of decisions are being made under pressure.

Here are notes for Tannehill against the blitz.

Week 7: BYE.

Week 6: 17-14 Win vs. St. Louis Rams

According to Ben Volin who writes for The Palm Beach Post, on downs where the Rams sent at least five pass rushers, Tannehill completed 11-13 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns.  Through Week 6, Tannehill leads the NFL in yards thrown against at least five pass rushers with 828.

ProFootballFocus confirms Tannehill’s success, stating Tannehill’s quarterback rating was 130.6 during the 14 plays where the Rams blitzed, totaling for 104 yards and a touchdown on 10-12 passing.

Week 5: 17-13 Win vs. Cincinnati Bengals

The Bengals only blitzed on 9 passing plays, but Tannehill didn’t turn the ball over and picked up a road win.  Out of his 17 completions during the game, seven different receivers caught a pass after concerns that Tannehill had been locking on to wide receiver Brian Hartline too often.

Week 4: 24-21 Loss vs. Arizona Cardinals

Again using information recorded by Volin, the Cardinals sent at least five pass rushers on 25 of 44 passing plays.  Tannehill picked it apart, completing 16-25 for 306 yards and a touchdown.  According to Volin who credited ESPN STATS Inc., this was most yards against the blitz by any quarterback over the past five seasons.

Week 3: 23-30 Loss vs. New York Jets

We all watched the game and know what happened.  Tannehill took advantage of Rex Ryan’s defense after losing Darrelle Revis and dropped a ball into a window in overtime that nine times out of 10 would’ve given the Dolphins a comeback victory.  Tannehill did throw an interception for a touchdown to LaRon Landry in the beginning of the second half, but most viewers had to be impressed with how Tannehill took advantage of the secondary when the loss of Revis created an opening.  Miami’s kicker Dan Carpenter was the Jets best defender.

Week 2: 35-13 Win vs. Oakland Raiders

According to Armando Salguero from the Miami Herald, Tannehill was blitzed 13 times during the demolition of the Raiders and his numbers were pedestrian.  Overall he was 8-13 against the blitz, but the encouraging statistic was completing 5-6 against the blitz in the second half, which shows early signs of being able to adjust mid-game.

Week 1: 30-10 Loss vs. Houston Texans

Tannehill didn’t have a pretty start to his NFL career, throwing three interceptions in a loss against one of the league’s best defenses.  Tannehill had trouble moving on to his second and third options on passing plays and was caught locking on to his primary target.

From Week 1 to Week 6, there has been steady improvement from the rookie quarterback.  He has taken his lumps early, but is seemingly learning from each negative experience.  Week 8 against the Jets will be an interesting matchup as first and foremost, these teams have played once already.  Secondly, Ryan is known for his defensive schemes and blitzes, which might not be the way to attack the Dolphins franchise quarterback.  The game plans from the two games will be different from a Jets defensive perspective, as the team is fully adjusted to life without Revis.

PREVIEW: JETS (3-3) @ Patriots (3-3)

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Sunday will be installment number eight of the Jets vs. Patriots rivalry since Rex Ryan has been head coach.  The overall record is 3-4 (including playoffs) in the favor of the Patriots, and the Jets have dropped two straight since their playoff road victory in 2010.

Although the rosters have gone through changes, Ryan’s philosophy towards the game has not.  To Ryan, the headline is Ryan vs. Belichick, whether you want to hear it or not.

“When I look at him [Coach Belichick], I see him as the best coach in the league,” said Ryan.  “I’ve said that from the day I took the job, but again, he’s going to get my best.  If it was just between Belichick and me, he’s going to win that battle.  I recognize that.  It’s not going to be by a lack of effort on my part.  He’s going to get everything I’ve got.”

“I want to compete against the very best.  I’m not worried about competing with somebody down here, I want to compete against the guy that’s up here.  That’s eventually where I want to get one day.  If I’m fortunate enough to get there, that’d be great.  Maybe people (will) want to compete against me the same way.”

A key matchup on Sunday will be the Jets safeties against the Patriots tight ends.

But you won’t find Belichick buying into the coaching showdown.  “The only thing that matters is this weeks game and that’s all we’re focused on.  We’re not really that concerned about what did or didn’t happen some other year or some other game,” said Belichick.

If Ryan can’t beat Belichick alone, he will need his offense to attack the 28th ranked passing defense in the NFL.  The Patriots are allowing 288.8 yards through the air, something Mark Sanchez will try to take advantage of when given the opportunity.

“We’ll see (and we’ll) take what they give us,” said Sanchez.  “We have to be sharp in the passing game.  If it calls for a long ball, we have to be prepared for it.  We just have to be efficient whether it’s underneath, intermediate or down the field.  The same thing in the running game, we have to be able to sustain drives, convert on third down and be sharp.”

Even though the Patriot’s secondary gives up yards in bunches, their front seven has shut down the opposition’s rushing attack again and again.  “There’s no doubt they have an excellent front seven,” said Ryan.  “They have those front seven guys and they always do a good job stopping the run.”

The Patriots have the sixth ranked run defense, allowing 82.7 yards per game on the ground and only conceding two rushing touchdowns.  They held Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch to 41 yards on 15 carries, Denver’s McGahee to 51 yards on 14 carries and Buffalo’s running back tandem of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson for a combined 62 yards on 21 carries in their last three games.

But when you think you have the Patriots pegged, expect the unexpected.  “I think that’s what makes him so good,” said Sanchez.  He’s so multiple, not only with his schemes, but (with) his personnel.  He can change up coverages (and) schemes from week-to-week.  It’s something that you just deal with, but you tip your hat to the guy.  He’s a heck of a coach and that’s why he has been so successful for so long.”

Here we go.

WHEN: Sunday, October 21, 2012 @ 4:25 pm EST (Can be seen on CBS).

WHERE: Foxboro, MA / Gillette Stadium (capacity: 68,756)

SERIES HISTORY: Patriots lead 53-52-1

LAST MEETING: Jets 16 — Patriots  37

NOTABLE: Only second time team is 3-3 since Tom Brady has taken over at quarterback.

HEAD COACHES:

  • JETS — Rex Ryan / Fourth Season with Jets / 35-25 (career, including postseason).
  • Patriots – Bill Belichick / 13th Season with Patriots / 192-104 (career, including postseason).

INJURY REPORT:

  • JETS — DOUBTFUL – DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), DT Sione Pouha (back), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder), S Eric Smith (knee). QUESTIONABLE — WR Edmond Gates (shoulder), C Nick Mangold (ankle), RB Joe McKnight (ankle). PROBABLE — WR Stephen Hill (hamstring), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), WR Jeremy Kerley (finger), S LaRon Landry (heel), G Brandon Moore (hip), LB Calvin Pace (shoulder), QB Mark Sanchez (back), LB Bart Scott (toe), G Matt Slauson (knee), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring).
  • PATRIOTSOUT — RB Brandon Bolden (knee), S Steve Gregeory (hip), LB Tracy White (foot). QUESTIONABLE — DT Ron Brace (back), S Patrick Chung (shoulder), WR Julian Edelman (hand), TE Rob Gronkowski (hip), TE Aaron Hernandez (ankle), LB Dont’a Hightower (hamstring), G Logan Mankins (calf,hip), C Nick McDonald (shoulder), CB Sterling Moore (knee), T Sebastian Vollmer (back, knee), WR Wes Welker (ankle). PROBABLE — Kyle Love (knee).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • Jets Ball Handlers vs. Patriots Turnover Ability – The Patriots are tops in the league when it comes to creating turnovers.  It is just one of the defenses that has a knack for forcing fumbles at the right time.  Whoever it handling the ball for the Jets, whether it is a wide receiver, quarterback, wide receiver or tight end, they must hold on to the football.
  • Sanchez and 60% — As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Sanchez has a 3-1 record against the Patriots when completing over 60% of his passes.  With their poor pass defense, Sanchez should have one of his easier throwing days.

X-FACTORS:

  • Tom Brady, QB, Patriots — Although it is easy to assume Brady does everything perfect, this year has not been usual for the Patriots.  The Patriots three losses have been by a combined four points, and although it may not be fair to place those losses on his shoulders alone, maybe some late game magic has worn off.  Since this Patriots team has not been able to close games late, maybe a lead in the fourth quarter could be enough for the Patriots to trip over themselves again.
  • Safeties vs. Patriots TE’s — It is not a secret that the Patriot’s passing attack runs through their two tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.  The Jets play at safety has certainly improved since last year with Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry.  The physicality of this matchup should be something you will not be able to take your eyes off of.

THE PICK: I personally believe there is not enough talent in the Jets secondary to be able to guard the weapons of the Patriots.  Also, if the Patriots use their no huddle and ‘trap’ some of the slower linebackers on the Jets into defending the spread, no-huddle run the Patriots use, it could be a very, very long afternoon.  Patriots 27 – JETS 20.

Sanchez vs. New England Patriots

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

Florham Park, N.J.: Let’s not waste time about how “big” or “important” this game is for the New York Jets.  We get it, it’s New England.

No need for Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick comparisons, or how Rex speaks as if him and Belichick will be on the field taking snaps on Sunday.

Let’s point out something that, may be obvious, but at the same time, isn’t.

Since Ryan has been the head coach of the New York Jets, the Jets are 2-4 against the Patriots in the regular season, 1-0 in the playoffs, bringing the total record to 3-4 against their division rival.  Almost an even split.

Why does it feel like the series is lopsided?

That 45-3 loss on Monday Night Football might have had more than a one game impact in people’s minds.  “I think it’s a little closer than maybe the general public realizes,” said Ryan.  “The fact we got slaughtered 45-3 probably tilted that a little bit.  I think we’ve played a little closer games than maybe what it looks like on the scoreboard at the end of the game.”

Anyways, as encouraging a sign it is to be near .500 against a division rival who has captured the division crown every year since Ryan has been at the helm, it is also encouraging to know Mark Sanchez has played some of his best football against New England.  His game chart against New England is as follows:

Comp/Att (%) TD INT W/L
2009 G1 14/22 (63.6) 1 0 W
2009 G2 8/21 (38.1) 1 4 L
2010 G1 21/30 (70) 3 0 W
2010 G2 17/33 (51.5) 0 3 L
2010 G3 16/25 (64) 3 0 W
2011 G1 16/26 (61.5) 2 0 L
2011 G2 20/39 (51.3) 1 2 L
Totals 112/196 (57.1) 11 9 3-4

Sanchez is 3-1 against New England when completing over 60% of his throws.  The Jets are 2-0 this season when Sanchez completes 60% or better, with wins against Buffalo (70.4%) and Indianapolis (61.1%).  Sixty percent completion percentage is a good number to keep in the back of your mind when watching on Sunday.

The total numbers may seem pedestrian, but Sanchez’s 54.7% career completion percentage is under the 57.1% he has throwing against New England (including playoffs).  His completion percentage against any team he has played three teams or more is, you guessed it, the best when facing New England (Chart below).

Comp/Att Comp. Percentage
Buffalo 87/158 55.1
Houston 54/100 54
Miami 120/233 51.5
New England 96/171 56.1

New England’s pass defense is currently ranked 28th in the NFL.  “The numbers usually aren’t great from their defense, but what they do is they play complimentary football,” said Ryan of the Patriots defense.  “You can say it’s a bit of a don’t break mentality, but they create turnovers.”  For the Jets to win, look for Mark to win it with his arm, the opposite strategy of last week, where the Jets seemed to get their running game back on course.  “That is what we are striving for,” said Sanchez.  “To be able to rush the ball the way we did and pass the ball efficiently.  Whatever it takes to win.  If it takes a late game comeback, we have to have that in our bag too.  We have to be able to do it all.”

The statistics say Mark Sanchez will have to win the game with his arm on Sunday against the Patriots.

It is certainly encouraging to see Sanchez respond after getting back some offensive weapons in Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller, but Sanchez must stay away from that game-changing momentum turnover that we have seen a little more often than we would like.

“One of the stresses every week is try to control the football and control time of possession,” said Sanchez.  “We have to be balanced.  But if we need to throw it, we’ll throw it.  Whatever we do, we need to be efficient.”

“We will take what they give me and have to be sharp in the passing game,” continued Sanchez.  “If they call for a long ball, we have to be prepared for it, but we just have to be efficient whether it’s underneath, intermediate or down the field.  We have to be able to convert on third downs, sustain drives and be sharp.”

“Usually they get off to fast starts,” said Tim Tebow of the Patriot’s offense.  “When they get off to a fast start and you’re playing from behind, you can’t ground and pound and have to be forced into passes.  They’ve always done a great job in bending but not breaking.  Letting you drive down the field but eventually they will force you into a mistake.”

With a stout Patriot’s run defense, Sanchez will need to continue his success against New England through the air.  Sanchez has shown he can do it before, he needs to show he can do it again.

Tactical Tuesday: New England Patriots Ground Attack

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

After dismantling the Indianapolis Colts and their rookie quarterback Andrew Luck, the Jets prepare for their bi-annual showdown against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.

Anyone who has a pulse knows the Patriot’s offense is effective, to say the least.  The Patriots were (and currently are) ranked in the top 10 in scoring in the past eight seasons, including 2008, when Matt Cassel took over due to injury.

When tracing back memories of Brady and Co. throughout the years, it is easy to remember the 50 touchdown, eight interception, MVP season (Holy).  Or even the ultra-efficient 36 touchdown, four interception, MVP season (Moly).  There are plenty of stats and evidence demonstrating how good the Patriot’s aerial attack has been in the most recent past.

But be prepared for what you will see this coming Sunday, because it will not be what you are used to seeing.  The New England Patriots are a running football team.

Lets look at some stats.

Pass Yds/Game (Rank) Rush Yds/Game (Rank) Scoring (Rank) Rushing Attempts (Rank/Attempts) Rush Attempts/Game
2005 2nd 24th 10th 18th/439 27.4
2006 12th 12th 7th 6th/499 31.2
2007 1st 13th 1st 9th/451 28.2
2008 12th 6th 8th 4th/513 32.1
2009 3rd 12th 6th 10th/466 29.1
2010 11th 9th 1st 10th/454 28.4
2011 2nd 20th 3rd 17th/438 27.4
2012 3rd 4th 1st 1st/217 36.2

Since 2005 (arbitrary start point for anyone curious), the Patriots have ranked in the top three in the NFL in passing yards per game five times.  It wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume 2008 would’ve been part of that list, if not for the aforementioned Brady injury.

Focus on 2009-2011.  After the Patriots dominating season, where they were defeated by a piece of gum on David Tyree’s helmet, and the Cassel season (where the high rush rank is self explanatory), the Patriots were ranked 10th, 10th and 17th.  The rush attempts per game were very average as well, averaging 28.3 per game in those three seasons.  In the most recent complete season, 2011, those numbers reached lows of 438 total rushing attempts and 27.4 rushing attempts per game.

Rex Ryan should be prepared for the run on Sunday against the Patriots.

But it seems Belichick has realized his uneven ways and is perfecting the balancing act.

Although it has only been six games, the Patriots rushing numbers have climbed to the top of the NFL ranks.  Between the combination of Stevan Ridley, Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen and Brandon Bolden, New England’s rushing attack ranks fourth in the league in yards per game and first in rushing attempts.  Again, it is only six games, but the Patriots are running the ball almost nine times more per game than last season.

But with the change in philosophy comes growing pains, as the Patriots awkwardly sit at the .500 mark (3-3).

In their three losses, the Patriots have had more passing attempts than rushing attempts two times—vs. Arizona and at Seattle.

The three highest rushing attempt totals for the Patriots are 34, 35 and 40.  Two of those have come after losses (35 at Tennessee Week 1).

The Patriots win when they run more than they throw (excluding Baltimore) and they usually run more after losses.  I’m no rocket scientist, but expect a heavy dose of run against the Jets on Sunday.

Rex Ryan Has Final Call on Starting QB

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

Florham Park, N.J.: When the Jets decided to acquire Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos this past offseason, talking heads around various sports media outlets claimed there was a quarterback controversy.  Before practice, let alone games, were even played, Rex Ryan had to field questions on the leash length on Mark Sanchez and when the inevitable takeover would happen.

Ryan gracefully announced Sanchez was, “their guy” over and over for whoever asked.

The season just passed the quarter mark, and Ryan is answering those same questions over and over due to the lack of production from Sanchez thus far.

“I’m not going to deal with what ifs because I’m telling you right now he’s our starting quarterback this week, barring injury, and I feel really confident in Mark and you’re right I’ve never wavered on that,” said Ryan at his press conference today.

Ryan made it clear that no outside forces will impact personnel decisions for his team.

But the media-driven story line of Tebow taking over the starting quarterback role will not die out, as week in and week out Ryan must field questions on how bad it has to get before Tebow is allowed to get a chance.

But Ryan keeps it cool as usually, saying “I got no problem.  I got no problem answering questions each week, I don’t.  You guys know me.  He’s our starter, what do you want me to say?  He’s our starter this week, he’s our starter.  You can take answer A and answer B and come up with C, I guess.”

With the media-driven Tebow storyline, there comes the running sentiment that the suits upstairs in management have the final say on how the story will play out.  It is sometimes believed that ownership has more of an interest in selling tickets in comparison to winning games, and this would eventually lead to Tebow being placed as the starter if this Jets season spirals out of hand quickly, but believe what you will.

In an interview on CNBC, Woody Johnson backed Sanchez, saying “We think he’s that good. He really is that good. I wouldn’t look at the numbers too seriously … A quarterback’s job ultimately is to win games. Mark Sanchez has proven that he can do that. He pulled out a game a few weeks ago in the last couple minutes when we played Miami.”  Johnson also said that they plan to keep Tebow for all three years of his contract and answered “absolutely” when asked if they planned on keeping the most famous backup quarterback in the NFL.

But Ryan might have squashed all theories that involve management deciding who the quarterback of the Jets will be, as he made it clear that those are, and will be, his decisions.  Ryan was asked that because of Tebow’s polarization, does that effect decisions such as putting him in at the end of the 49er’s blowout (noting it’s common for a team to put in their backup if the game is out of hand) because a media firestorm might ensue, which the team might not recover from.  In short, has Tebow’s polarization had an effect on any of his coaching decisions thus far.

“No,” said Ryan.  “None whatsoever.  During that game that never…none of those thoughts have ever…we picked him [Tebow] up because we thought, and we know, that Tebow’s a good football player.  He can bring our team certain elements that we thought were missing the year before.  I think that’s it.  One thing about the public is that the public wants to win just like we do, and I understand that.  But, the decision of playing Tebow is going to be mine decision. It’s not going to be the public’s decision or anybody else. It’s on me and quite honestly, I think I’ve learned through the years to tune out the public a little bit because it’s probably a good thing.  Sometimes they’re not real flattering as I’ve learned to walk off the field and keep earmuffs on.”

Ryan concluded talking about how Tebow’s presence can possibly effect the play of Sanchez.  “The way I feel about it, we answered that question when we drafted Mark,” said Ryan.  “Playing in this market, not every quarterback can play quarterback in this market.  You mentioned bringing Tebow in, obviously with his popularity and all that, that could be a distraction or whatever but quite honestly, Mark views it as Tim’s a good teammate.  That’s the way it is.  Mark knows he’s our quarterback, he hits the practice field everyday to get better and I think that’s what really drives Mark.”

Yes, Ryan has said each and every week that Sanchez is and will remain the starter, but it was helpful to hear Ryan tell us that no outside pressure will effect his decision making.  The worst case scenario for this franchise would be if management was pressing the coaches to make personnel decisions, and as we take Ryan at his word, it seems as if Ryan is steering the ship.

Whew.

PREVIEW: Texans (4-0) @ NY Jets (2-2)

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

It was only 2009 when Mark Sanchez stood up from taking a knee, pumped his fist and walked away with the game ball after receiving his first NFL win in his first NFL game in Houston.

Those were the days, huh?

The Jets look to get back on the saddle after being exposed in every which way last Sunday against the San Francisco 49er’s.

The road to recovery doesn’t get easier as the Jets take on the undefeated Houston Texans on Monday night.

Houston has defensively dominated all of their opponents so far.  Let’s look into some of their league rankings:  First in total defense, second in passing defense, tied for fifth in sacks and first in scoring defense.

Rex Ryan and the rest of the coaches have to put their players in situations where they can succeed.

Mark Sanchez spoke about the Texans’ defense saying, “They’re tough. J.J. Watt looks great. (Brian) Cushing, former roommate and good friend of mine, looks good. In the secondary, a really improved group with (Johnathan) Joseph and (Kareem) Jackson, so it’s a heck of a group. We’re going to have our work cut out for us, just like every week. We’re excited about the challenge.”

Their offense has kept pace, ranking second in the NFL in scoring and supplying what is widely regarded as the best rushing attack in the league in Arian Foster and Ben Tate.

“When you look at (Arian) Foster, I don’t know what his average is, carries and all that stuff, but I don’t know how many guys are on pace to run the ball more than he is, and I’m talking about ever, in this league.  They just give it to him, he’s a work horse,” said Rex Ryan on the Texans’ star.

The Jets are in the bottom half of the league in rush defense and anyone who has watched the team can tell this is not Rex Ryan’s best group of tacklers.  This week the Jets also received the unfortunate news of Santonio Holmes missing the rest of the season with a foot injury.

If you had a bad feeling last week, there’s a chance it could look worse on Monday.

But the Jets understand they have to play with what they have.  This is the roster until the end.  No excuses, buckle up, because it will be a grind.

“I know how resilient this group is and really, quite honestly, how tough this group is.  Sure we wish that those two guys were still here, Darrelle and Santonio still playing. But for us, it’s, ‘Hey, who’s up next? We’re going to go on.’  We’re all about our team.  It’s about the decal on the side of the helmet.  You’re a New York Jet.  We expect certain things from you and here we go.  Did it go our way this past game? Absolutely not, but I’m eager to get back out there on Monday,” said Ryan.

Sanchez reiterated what his head coach preached, “I think it’s just another opportunity. Nobody expects it to work. Nobody expects it to go right. Nobody expects us to win, and that’s fine. I’ve been in situations like that before. I’m confident I can handle it, and there’s only one way in my mind to go about it, and that’s really attack it.”

It will take a complete team effort for the Jets to take down the NFL’s best team at the quarter mark.

WHEN: Monday, October 8, 2012 @ 8:30 pm EST (Can be seen on ESPN or heard on ESPN Radio).

WHERE: East Rutherford, NJ / MetLife Stadium (capacity: 82,500)

SERIES HISTORY: Jets lead 5-0

LAST MEETING: Jets 30 — Texans  27

NOTABLE: Matt Schaub is 8-0 in his last eight starts dating back to last season (missed playoffs due to injury).

HEAD COACHES:

  • JETS — Rex Ryan / Fourth Season with Jets / 34-24 (including postseason).
  • Texans – Gary Kubiak / Seventh Season with Texans / 52-50 (including postseason).

INJURY REPORT:

  • JETS — OUT – CB Darrelle Revis (knee). QUESTIONABLE – RB John Conner (hamstring), WR Stephen Hill (hamstring), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), S LaRon Landry (heel), RB Joe McKnight (illness), DT Sione Pouha (back), CB Aaron Berry (ribs), LB Bart Scott (toe), S Eric Smith (hip, knee), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring).
  • Texans — QUESTIONABLE – S Quintin Demps (thumb, forearm), WR Lestar Jean (knee), G Wade Smith (knee), RB Ben Tate (toe), G Antoine Caldwell (ankle, knee), DT Shaun Cody (back), TE Owen Daniels (thigh), WR Andre Johnson (groin), S Shiloh Keo (neck), DE Antonio Smith (ankle).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • Jets Coaching Staff vs. Jets Roster – The biggest question the Jets coaching staff has to answer at this point in the season this: What can they do to put the players they have in the best possible position to be most effective?  The talent level on the roster may not be at the level people have been accustomed to in comparison to the past few years, but it isn’t as awful as the way they’ve been recently portrayed.  The coaches gave the players Monday and Tuesday off, partly to regroup as a staff and create a plan that will be more effective.  Monday against the Texans is the first step of seeing where the team is headed for the rest of the season.
  • Secondary blitzes vs. Texans O-line — If the Texans have a weakness, it is their depth at wide receiver.  After Andre Johnson, there aren’t many threats that require special attention.  Kevin Walter is a nice player and Owen Daniels is a favorite target of Schaub’s just like any other tight end-quarterback combo, but the wide receivers beyond Walter are: Keshawn Martin, DeVier Posey, Lestar Jean and Trindon Holliday.  There is a reason you never heard of these players, even in the world of fantasy football.  This may be a way Ryan can get creative and create pressure or even send secondary blitzes to help with their powerful run attack.

X-FACTORS:

  • Chaz Schilens, WR, Jets — The Jets have to lean on someone to extend drives on third down or pick up a big play when called upon.  After proving to be the most successful wide receiver in the offense against San Francisco, let’s see if he can keep continuing to improve with Sanchez and the rest of the offense.  The Jets are waiting around for someone to (trying not to use the most overused term in sports, step up) mesh with Sanchez with Holmes gone, maybe Schilens can be that guy.
  • Jets Linebackers vs. Texans rush attack — There really hasn’t been a game where the Jets linebackers have dominated a game, or even played well enough to dictate the game.  This group will have a consistent rushing attack thrown right towards them and they can either dictate the game flow or allow the Texans to play to their liking which is use the run to open up play-action.

THE PICK: Professional athletes have too much pride to just roll over when things aren’t going their way.  I know the difference in talent level is visible, but after being called out for ‘quitting’ against the 49er’s, I think the Jets reach down deep and pull out an effort that at the very least will have fans feeling positive.  Texans 21 – JETS 17.

Last Words: If the Jets lose, there is no reason to pile up to say how bad of a season this will be.  When everyone looked at the schedule before the season started, wasn’t this a possibility from almost any reasonable thinker?

49ERS 34 – JETS 0

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Sloppy, banged up Jets are no match for NFC elite Niners. Team is embarrassed at home.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - The Jets lined up against the 49er’s in MetLife Stadium and played in one of the worst performances in their franchise’s history.

To make matters worse, the Jets—who have already lost their defensive star Darrelle Revis for the season—lost their offensive star, Santonio Holmes with a non-contact foot injury after making a sliding catch in the 4th quarter.

“I was going to say we got our butt kicked, but we got our ass kicked,” Rex Ryan said after the game.  “Here’s the recipe for getting your ass kicked: Two for 13 on third down, that’s 15 percent, four turnovers, a blocked punt when they rushed one guy and giving up 245 yards rushing.  How’s that for a recipe?”

Players shared the same frustration their coach showed in the locker room.  “Everybody should be pissed the way we just got our ass whooped at home,” said Antonio Cromartie.

Even another dismal game by QB Mark Sanchez, Coach Rex Ryan says he's standing by his man. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

“The biggest thing is everyone has to do their job, but do it better,” said Yeremiah Bell.  “You know what it is, you’re telling me.  It’s tackling, it’s third down.  We know what to do but it’s on each individual guy to go out there and get it done.  We know where we are hurting at, that’s not the thing.  It’s just executing.  It’s becoming a real problem and something we have to take care of right now.”

Chaz Schilens, who was the Jets most effective offensive weapon, said it’s just a case of needing to be better.  “Honestly, when we were out there we executed on drives and then they went horribly wrong,” said Schilens.  “We get back out there and start to drive and it would go wrong.  It seemed like we executed to a point then shot ourselves in the foot.  If we would’ve done what we were supposed to do it wouldn’t have been that score, at all.”

LaRon Landry showed the same frustration saying, “I hate losing.  Any competitor would hate losing.  I wish I had pads on and I wish I could start over, but you can’t do that.   Any loss is a tough loss, even more so when you’re at home in front of your fans.

Mark Sanchez finished the game 13/29 for 103 yards, throwing one interception, losing a fumble and finished with a 39.9 quarterback rating.  “It’s upsetting, frustrating.  This is not the way we imagined this way going and just left too many opportunities out on the field,” said Sanchez.  “It just wasn’t our best.”

The Jets traded punts in the first half until 49er’s backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick rushed for a seven yard touchdown out of a Wildcat formation.  When asked if the 49er’s caught the Jets by surprise Kaepernick said, “Maybe a little bit.  We’ve never shown it before, but you still have to play defense.”

(Colin Kaepernick called running on the Jets “easy.”  If this doesn’t put them on notice, nothing will).

The Jets had two possessions in the first half with good field position but couldn’t capitalize.  They went three and out starting at their own 45-yard line and Sanchez was strip sacked on a drive that started on the 49er’s 47-yard line.  “It was a huge mistake on my part,” said Sanchez.  “I know we were in field goal range, that’s why it looked cloudy with my read.  Guys weren’t open so I took off to gain a couple of extra yards to make an easier field goal and I let go off the football.”

A David Akers field goal put the 49er’s ahead 10-0 at halftime, where the wheels fell off for the Jets.

The Jets started the second half gaining 25 yards in three plays, but a Sanchez screen pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage and intercepted.  “You invite the rush and throw it right over them.  He made a pretty good play they always try and tip it and usually that ball goes right through.  That sucked that was tough,” said Sanchez.

After two more Jets three and outs and defending a short field, the Jets defense finally caved allowing a 48-yard touchdown drive capped off by a fourth and one touchdown run by Frank Gore.

The next Jets drive dragged into the fourth quarter, where Holmes caught a four-yard pass and let go off the football while grabbing his leg due to injury.  Carlos Rogers picked the loose ball off the floor and returned it 51 yards for a touchdown while the Jets watched another one of their playmakers lay in the ground in pain.  A punch to the gut to this Jets team.  “He fell down and I was just going to tag him down,” said Rogers.  “Next thing you know, the ball popped out and I just tried to scoop it.  I guess I surprised myself because it took me two or three times to scoop the ball.  Once I got it, there was a parade of defenders there and I just took it in.”

The Jets special teams added the final straw, as Robert Malone’s punt was blocked which soon led to a Kendall Hunter rushing touchdown to create the 34-0 final score.

Sanchez’s job security is safe, as both him and Ryan both shot down the notion that his job is in jeopardy.

If any positive encouragement is needed, look no further than Tim Tebow (who threw and completed his first pass with the Jets) to wrap up this game recap.

“It could be one of the best things to happen to us all season, you know?  When you have defeats like this, were you get beat up and beaten in every phase, it’s something you can rally behind and motivate you.  Different teams that I’ve been on have had losses like this and I feel we have rallied back because you don’t want to feel like this again.  It kind of puts you on edge a little bit.  When you’re in meetings you’re a little more focused, on the practice field you’re going a little bit harder, you go in the weight room and you’re lifting a little bit more.  I think it could be the best thing that happens to us all year.”

Thank you Tim, everyone needed some encouraging words.

Time for Jets Draft Choices to Shine

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

The NFL Draft is an interesting time of year for every team.  Whether players are drafted for immediate impact or are drafted on potential, the time it takes for a drafted player to have an every game impact varies.

But first, a quick laundry list of impacted areas as a result of the Darrelle Revis injury: Corners guarding better receivers than they are used to (Cromartie guarding No. 1’s, Kyle Wilson guarding No. 2’s), safeties having to pay attention to the side of the field Revis would normally be, defensive linemen having to put more pressure on quarterbacks who can now throw sideline to sideline without fear, getting the defense off the field on third down, the offense having to be more efficient with longer drives to keep defense fresh, offense being ready win a shootout against certain teams, Rex Ryan’s defensive schemes, and I am sure there are plenty more points to add to this list.

Many parts of this New York Jets team will be magnified from here on.  A lot will be learned about the quality of personnel on this football team.  In an odd comparison, Revis was a giant makeup kit.  The team will be ‘au naturel’ the rest of the way.

Which brings us back to the drafts since Ryan has been Head Coach (post Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene—2010 and forward).  The effectiveness of Jets’ management and their personnel decisions thus far will be dissected like the frog in your high school science class.  It is not all about when everything is at their best, but how effective plans B, C and D are when something goes wrong (ala 2008 Patriots with Matt Cassel).

Every draft choice may vary in terms of development time, but these Jets draft picks need to have a major impact for the team right now.

Where the light shines brightest: Kyle Wilson—First Round, 29th Overall in 2010.

Sometimes the obvious has to be stated.  Wilson will play as the No. 2 cornerback behind Antonio Cromartie who fills the void at No. 1 left by Revis.  Wilson had an interception in the opener against Buffalo, but hasn’t created much noise since then.  “I just feel like I’m going to go out there and I’m going to continue to do my job,” said Wilson.  “Each year has gotten slower and I think that’s because of knowing what to look for and just having that experience. There’s nothing like being out there on the field.”

First it was Austin Howard, now Kyle Wilson must thrive in the 'next man up' role for the Jets.

Wilson will see Kyle Williams and Mario Manningham this coming Sunday and plenty of Kevin Walter when the Jets face the Houston Texans.  Without judging too early, the date to circle is October 21st when the Jets go to New England.  Let Wilson get acclimated to his role before deciding if he is good enough for the Jets to move forward with him in that position.  A re-evaluation after the Patriots game seems appropriate.

Spotlight No. 2: Bilal Powell—Fourth Round, 126th Overall in 2011.

Heading into this season, talks of ‘ground and pound’ smothered Jets camp as new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano made us feel like Thomas Jones and Tony Richardson were going to be in the backfield.  Through three weeks, the Jets’ running game has been one of the more disappointing—or misleading—part of the season.

After carrying the ball 27 times for 94 yards in the opener, Greene has had 30 carries for 63 yards combined in the past two games (under three YPC for the season thus far).  His three and four yards of plodding leaves fans and coaches wanting more from that position.  But the game against the Miami Dolphins showed us all a little more Powell then we expected to see by the third week of the season.

Powell rushed 10 times for 45 yards (4.5 YPC) and caught two passes for 24 yards.  Yes, he had a dropped pass or two that caused some head-scratching, but realizing the upgrade in speed was easy.  The lack of success from McKnight makes Powell being placed as the second RB an easy decision.  Don’t be surprised to see more of a 50/50 split between Greene and Powell in the coming weeks, and perhaps further down the road, closer to 60/40 in favor of Powell.

Twin Spotlight No. 3 and No. 4: Muhammed Wilkerson—First Round, 30th Overall in 2011.  Quinton Coples—First Round, 16th Overall in 2012.

It’s no secret that the Jets have not had success rushing the passer this season, with or without blitzing.  Wilkerson is coming off his best game of the season against Miami, recording nine tackles with six of them being solo.  But even so, Wilkerson has only one tackle for loss this season and has only five tackles in the previous two games combined.  Putting pressure on the quarterback in a 3-4 scheme is tough without blitzing and Ryan mentioned today that the defense plans to be more aggressive without Revis, but the porous run defense has been alarming. The sack numbers are not there for the defense as a whole, but the individual tackle for loss numbers tell the same story—the defensive linemen aren’t beating their men.  Another deflating quality that we saw against Pittsburgh is that when the Jets have been getting pressure, they haven’t been bringing down their opponent.  The defensive tackling as a whole has been an issue.

Rookie defensive end Quinton Coples must start making an impact for the Jets.

The same goes for Coples.  Coples has been almost silent this season, recording only four tackles in three games.  He had a strong preseason, but as we know with the well-documented offensive preseason struggles resulting in a 45-point outburst against Buffalo, the preseason really doesn’t matter.  It is too the point where you sometimes forget Coples is even on the field at times. Ryan hasn’t played Coples against some of the bigger offensive lines because of his size and if that’s the case, finding positions where Coples can be successful on the field will be a challenge that Ryan has to answer.

It doesn’t seem as if the Jets will ease Wilson into his role.  As mentioned before, Ryan mentioned the coaches might have to be more aggressive with their calls to create pressure with Revis out.  Sounds like Wilson will not babied into his role.  He won’t be on an island, but if more blitzes are being called he won’t have a ton of help.

Wildcard: Joe McKnight—Fourth Round, 112th Overall in 2010.

The news out of Jets practice today was that the former running back will be concentrating on his defensive efforts from this point forward.  McKnight wore the defensive green jersey today in his first practice doing defensive drills with the defensive back group.

“We’ll do that this week with Joe McKnight,” Ryan said on him playing corner.  “He’ll have a role on offense, but we’re also teaching him how to play corner.  Not quite a full-time capacity, but he’s going to be over there a ton in the meetings and everything else.”

“He has the necessary skills to be able to play corner.  He’s got the speed, the size, the athleticism, the ball skills.  Everything you look for in a corner.  So, I don’t think there’s any reason not to think that Joe McKnight couldn’t be a corner.”

McKnight weighed in on the situation that unfolded today.  “Yeah, I was surprised, but it was a decision to make the team better.  I’m all for it.”  McKnight continued, “I have the athleticism, I just have to work on my technique.  There’s a lot of athleticism in the cornerbacks in this league, you have to have the technique take over.”

“This is how I found out, Rex walked into the room and said I was traded, I got traded to the defense.  Ever since then, I’ve just been working on the defense.  I’m not doing a lot of stuff, just keeping it small and really simple for me, so I can go out there and just play.  I just want to play, I’m tired of watching from the sideline.”

Antonio Cromartie chimed in on his secondary teammate, saying, “Right now we are just trying to make sure he knows the basic stuff of our defense.  It seems, the way he plays corner, it comes to him naturally.”

Get used to seeing Joe McKnight on the defensive side of the ball.

Ryan continued, saying “It’s just going to take time, obviously, but I think with Dennis Thurman and Jimmy O’Neil over there, I think we got great teachers of the game.  It’ll be interesting.  I would not bet against Joe McKnight becoming a good corner.”

To what capacity McKnight will be used has not been said, but if any play-making ability comes out of this experiment, what else could you really ask for?  The McKnight experiment is not there to replace Revis, but to close the gap on his absence.  If a McKnight play in the secondary, special teams or offense can swing a game in the Jets favor, it may wind up being the spark that propels the Jets into a playoff spot.  Do not expect McKnight to have an immediate defensive impact.

A true grade of the job management has done evaluating talent will reveal itself throughout this 2012 season.