Archive for November, 2012

Meet Sunday’s Largest Problem: Daryl Washington

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Florham Park, N.J.: Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Jets opponent this coming Sunday has a young, pass-rushing, game-changing linebacker.  Whether it be Chandler Jones, J.J. Watt or Aldon Smith, the Jets routinely go against guys they just can’t seem to get their hands on.

The Arizona Cardinals present to you, Daryl Washington.  The Cardinals second-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft (47th overall) has nine sacks this season, which is one shy of the franchise’s single-season mark by a linebacker and there are five games remaining.  With his 10th sack, Washington would become just the fourth inside linebacker in NFL history to record at least 10 sacks in a season (since the sack became an official statistic in 1982).  He will be the first Cardinals player with double digit sacks since Bertrand Berry in 2004.

Rex Ryan was quick to compliment the success of Arizona's inside lineback Daryl Washington.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen an inside linebacker, have I don’t know, whats he got nine sacks already?” said Rex Ryan.  “So that’s something you don’t see everyday.  A guy with that kind of production blitzing the quarterback.”

Washington is not flying under the radar, either.  Here are some of the Midseason All-Pro lists the linebacker has made: Pro Football Weekly All-Pro, Sports Illustrated.com All-Pro, Yahoo! Sports.com All-Midseason team, CBS Sports.com All-Pro team and even received Fox Sports’ Terry Bradshaw NFL Defensive MVP.

Washington finds his name sixth on the 2012 NFL sacks leaders, behind San Francisco’s Aldon Smith, Houston’s J.J. Watt and Miami’s Cameron Wake—all players the Jets have faced this season.  Let’s look at how they terrorized the quarterback to try and predict what Washington can possibly do.

Aldon Smith: Four tackles, three solo, two sacks, two tackles for loss and one QB hit.

J.J. Watt: Six tackles, four solo, one sack, one tackle for loss, three pass deflections (J.J. Swatt!) and two QB hits.

Cameron Wake (two games): Six tackles, five solo, one sack, one tackle for loss and four QB hits.

You can almost guarantee Washington is going to end up getting to Mark Sanchez more than once, whether it remains in a sack or not is to be determined.  Washington joins Green Bay’s Clay Matthews as the only two defenders in the NFL with at least 14 sacks and three INTs since 2011.

And if you don’t know, now you know.

Game Recap: JETS 27 – RAMS 13

Monday, November 19th, 2012

Jets keep postseason chances alive with win in St. Louis.

After coming off their Bye week and losing big in Seattle, the Jets season seemed to been in a tailspin.  With two blowout losses in three weeks (MIA, BYE, SEA) and an article released that supposedly shed some light on a divided locker room, the Jets found an escape at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.

“Our guys have been working extremely hard and I’m really happy for all of us that it showed,” said Rex Ryan.  “We needed a win obviously, in the worst way.”

Mark Sanchez led a turnover free offense, completing 15 of 20 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown pass, caught by Chaz Schilens in the second quarter.  Bilal Powell rushed for his first career touchdown in the beginning of the fourth quarter and added his second with 8:59 remaining to put the game away.

The Rams bit on the fake Kerley screen that paved the way for Schilen's touchdown catch.

“If you take the positives from this game, build on those, continue to get better and improve, we can become a team that just doesn’t turn the ball over,” said Sanchez.  “That could be our identity, if you want it to be and if you work at it.”

The Rams opened strong with an 86-yard drive that resulted in a Brandon Gibson touchdown catch, but Sam Bradford and the offense couldn’t muster up anything else beyond that point.

After Nick Folk hit a 51-yard field goal, Bradford was intercepted by Eric Smith to the Rams 13-yard line but Folk’s second attempt was blocked as Mike Westoff’s special teams unit continues to struggle.

After trading possessions (one that included a failed fake punt pass by Tim Tebow to Lex Hilliard), the Jets defense created another turnover.  Muhammad Wilkerson sacked Bradford causing a fumble and Bart Scott was the beneficiary, returning the ball to the Rams 28-yard line.

The Jets finally cashed in on a turnover, as Sanchez hit Schilens for a 25-yard touchdown pass.  Jeremy Kerley looked as if he was going to catch a screen, but the Rams secondary bit forward on the Sanchez pump fake, allowing Schilens to get behind the defense for an easy pitch and catch.

The Jets stopped the Rams for consecutive three and outs, mixed with another Folk field goal and headed to halftime with a 13-7 lead.

The Rams only had two possessions in the third quarter: six-plays, 26 yard for a punt and three plays, 1 yard for a punt.  The Jets started their drive with 6:14 remaining in the third quarter and ended after two plays in the fourth quarter.  After a key third down reception by Konrad Reuland for 18 yards, Powell found the end zone for the first time in his career, a five-yard draw touchdown run.

“I try to take full advantage of every opportunity I have to be out there, and I’m blessed to be back,” said Powell.  “The offensive line did a great job and it was two good play calls.”

The Jets defense shut the door on any comeback hopes the Rams had when LaRon Landry knocked the ball loose for Daryl Richardson.  A Greg McIntyre recovery gave the Jets the ball in Rams territory, where Powell ran it in for the second time to secure the win.

The Jets are 4-6 and their next game is on Thanksgiving Day against New England.

Wake Up Call for the Sanchez Apologist

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Florham Park, N.J.: There are plenty of Mark Sanchez apologists for the way he has played this season.  I’ll admit it,  I am one of them.

You’ve heard it ad nauseum: Sanchez doesn’t have the playmakers around him, the offensive line isn’t doing their job, the wide receivers aren’t getting open, etc.

But the excuse heard on television or radio through commentators and ex-quarterbacks alike is how can Sanchez get in a rhythm?  When Sanchez completes a pass and then runs to the sideline for a Tim Tebow run, how can he stay in a groove throwing the football?

You can look for excuses, but Sanchez has been poor protecting the football.

For example: After Sanchez brought the Jets to the Seattle red zone after hitting Jeremy Kerley for 43 yards, the Jets brought in Tebow, then put Sanchez back in on 3rd and six where he winds up throwing an interception right before the end zone.

These are where the Sanchez apologists come in. Ranting and raving that subbing a quarterback out when he completes a long pass play is moronic, let him stay in rhythm. His high turnover numbers are because of this, this happens all the time.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen as often as they would like to hear.

Sanchez has nine interceptions and eight fumbles this season.  Of those eight fumbles, four of them were lost.  Yes, there are examples like the Seattle game, or even the first game of the season against Buffalo, where Tebow entered for a play and Sanchez threw an interception three plays later.

But of Sanchez’s 17 combined ‘mistakes’ (INT + Fumbles), only four have come on drives where Tebow was entered for at least one play.

INT FUM LOST FUM Turnover/Plays after Tebow Entered
Bills 1 - - INT 1/3 plays
Steelers - - - -
Dolphins 2 0 1 INT 2/1 play
49ers 1 1 1
Texans 2 0 2
Colts - - - -
Patriots 1 1 2 -
Dolphins 1 1 1 -
Seahawks 1 1 1 INT 1/5 plays. FUM 1/3 plays

What does this show? Sanchez is simply having a poor year.  It is easy to create convenient excuses—some of which do contribute to Sanchez’s and the team’s poor play this season.  But Sanchez apologists must realize that if the Jets make it back to their 2009, 2010 team form, an improved Sanchez has to be part of the puzzle as well.

Rex Fuels the Fire for Jets Distractions

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

Florham Park, N.J.: Sometimes you have to know when to keep quiet.

Rex Ryan stepped to the podium today and almost, repeat almost, didn’t feed into answering questions about an article put out by the New York Daily News that said about a dozen players anonymously said Tim Tebow simply isn’t good enough to start.

“First off, if a player doesn’t put their name to something [and] it’s an anonymous source I’m not going to comment on specific things that are said in an article that doesn’t have a name to it,” said Ryan.

This is where you expect some St. Louis Rams talk, didn’t you?  Again, almost.

Instead, Ryan stood there and defended everything Tebow related: His snap count, his improved mechanics, bringing him on board in the first place.  Add a few minutes of discussing team chemistry and it is now official that the Jets’ opponents aren’t their most primary concern on a weekly basis.  There was not one question or answer geared towards the St. Louis Rams.

Ryan began with defending Tebow’s work ethic and attitude since joining the Jets.  “Every single day when he hits the field, he works about as hard as anybody I’ve seen,” said Ryan.  “He stays longer than probably any player we have, working on those skills.  He’s a football player and I’ve said that from day one.  We never brought him in here to be the starting quarterback.  We already have our starting quarterback in Mark Sanchez.  I thought I was clear on that the day we brought Tim in here.”

“We ask him, former Heisman trophy winner, first-round pick, a quarterback that led a team to a playoffs, that you know what?  We would like you to be our personal protector.  We think that’s going to give us an advantage in the punting game.”

It is easy to forget how great the punting game has been when the team sits at 3-6, on the verge of missing the playoffs for the second straight season.

Rex Ryan said Tim Tebow's effectiveness has mostly shown itself in the Jets' punt game. Is that worth the distraction?

Even though Ryan has made it clear Tebow was not brought on to the team to be a starting quarterback, he discussed Tebow’s improvements as a passer.  “I really think his hard work is paying off,” said Ryan.  “Fundamentally, I think he’s improving.  I think when you look at it statistically, he’s thrown one incompletion this year and that ball actually should’ve been caught.”

There has been Jets conspiracy theorists who say Ryan was forced into bringing Tebow on the team and that the men in management brought Tebow in more for ticket sales than winning.

“I absolutely wanted Tim here,” said Ryan.  “I was very honest from day one and have never gotten off of that.  I know how tough it is to prepare for.  I think he gives you an opportunity that, if a team maybe isn’t as ready to handle it, that you can do some things with him.”

“The personal protector thing is I knew that would give us an edge.  That’s what we were looking to do.  Not just have a backup quarterback, but being able to do other things and contribute in other ways.”

Mark Sanchez also had a lot to say about the anonymous attack on Tebow.  “We talked about it as a team and that’s really all I’ll say about it,” said Sanchez.  That’s too bad, I didn’t see that one coming.  Tim’s been great.  He’s a great football player, that’s why we brought him here to try to help us.  So he’s doing everything he can.”

When asked what impact the story had on the team, Sanchez replied, “It really didn’t affect many guys.  Of course, (it affected) Tim.  I can tell you I’ve been in those shoes.  So, if anybody knows what it feels like, it’s me.  He’s mentally tough enough to handle that, I know it.  He’s a grown-up.  He’s a young man, he’s smart, he’s strong, mentally and physically, and it really won’t bother him.  That’s all you do in that situation is, keep working hard, keep trusting the guys around you (and) keep playing.”

Sanchez would not take this development as a show of support for himself.  “I don’t know either way.  Guys know that I’m the starter, that’s nothing new.  The team has said that, other players have said that.  But at the same time you don’t have to go overboard and blast a guy.  He works his butt off so just be supportive of all of us.  That’s the coaching point really.”

Team Chemistry

The end of the Jets 2011 season was ugly.  As the season spiraled out of control on the field, it reportedly did the same off the field, as it was found out that there were a multitude of chemistry problems inside the locker room.  With anonymous players talking about one another, it is only natural to think those chemistry problems of old are back in the spotlight.

“I don’t think we have the same problem.  Even back then, I think that was probably a little more over-exaggerated than the rift was in the entire locker room,” said Ryan.  “I don’t think it existed the way it was portrayed, but I do recognize that there was something wrong there and I made it my personal agenda to go out and fix it.  If I’m going to be judged on this team, will it come together or not, that’s fine with me and I’ll be here a long time.  Will it be 100 percent that you’re going to have total belief in this guy and everybody?  I don’t know if that holds water in the entire league.”

One player who did not remain anonymous was Matt Slauson and Ryan was okay with that.

“I have no problem with Matt Slauson because he put his name on it,” said Ryan.  “I don’t agree with everything Matt said.  I agree with the fact that we have a starting quarterback.  I think it’s interesting, my understanding is [Slauson's comments] were made much earlier this season.  It’s not like it was a recent comment.”

“I feel I have nothing to hide.  I will never say, ‘team you have to do this or have to say that,’ that’s not me.  Quite honestly, I feel extremely confident that this football team is coming closer together.”

Rex addressed the anonymous comments with his team.  “Did I address it?  I absolutely addressed it because I think it’s a cowardly thing.  If you’re not going to put your name to it, I think that’s about as cowardly of a thing as there is.”

Sanchez agreed saying, “You hear about it and nobody put their name on it.  I said it was a cowardly thing last year.  I said I don’t think its professional.  My feelings really haven’t changed on it, whether it’s me or anybody else, it’s just not cool.”

When it comes down to it, Ryan could’ve squashed this non-issue that when you think about it, is fairly obvious, and did not.  Do you enjoy every one of your co-workers?  Every player on the roster has to like every player and coach?  This was Ryan’s moment to show he has control of this football team and squash a non-issue.  Instead, the players will have to answer questions on Ryan’s comments about the situation.

As easy as it is to like Ryan’s personality for being as open to the media as he is, for once it would’ve been nice to hear “no comment.”

Jets, Sanchez look to buck trend in Seattle

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Home field advantage is an interesting topic.

We all understand it exist in college sports.  Where 18, 19 and 20-year-old player’s performances can be affected by a group of jumping, chanting, body-painted people.  But what about professional sports?

We have seen road teams band together and pull off the so-called upset in more than one occasion.  Most recently, the 2012 World Series Champion San Francisco Giants faced an 0-2 National League Division Series deficit after losing the first two at their own ballpark, before sweeping the next three games in Cincinnati to move on.

For the NFL, there is that other NY/NJ team that always seems to bring their “A” game on the road.  You have probably had a friend or two tell you about their recent success, you know, the winning Superbowls thing…

Anyways, whether you believe in home field advantage or not, the “12th man” of the Seattle Seahawks CenturyLink Field has had tangible effects on opponents.

From the Seahawks website:

“CenturyLink Field has established itself as the loudest stadium in the NFL.  Its 2.36 false starts per game is the highest average in the National Football League since 2005.  On gameday the 12th MAN produces as much as 112 dB, nearly as much noise as a Boeing 747 when the opposing team is on offense, but quiets down to an amazing 87 dB when the Seahawks’ offense takes the field.”  Since 2005, there have been 113 false start penalties by opponents, which tops the NFL.

“It’s about as tough of a venue as there is to play in the National Football League, so let’s have at it,” said Rex Ryan.

And it’s not just the crowd, this Seattle team has a physical, aggressive defense that has disrupted a few top tier NFL quarterbacks.

“These are two really big corners and the one safety is a giant,” said Ryan.  “It’s an interesting group.  They have a big, physical defensive line with two extremely productive and athletic edge rushers, so that’s a big challenge.”

Mark Sanchez also praised Seattle’s defense saying, “They have great edge pass rushers and they’re tough in the middle as well.  They have a great front seven and then, their backend, safeties and corners, are probably the most physical in the league.  They are some of the toughest guys we’ll play.  They have great speed and good ball skills, they find the ball in the air.  This is one of the best groups we’ll play all year.  They’re a sound, disciplined team and that’s no surprise with their head coach.  It’s going to be good for us.”

The Seahawks are 4-0 at home this year with wins against Dallas, Green Bay, New England and Minnesota.  Lets look at the quarterback numbers for those games.

Tony Romo: 23/40, 251 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT, sacked once, 38.3 QBR, 74.1 passer rating, seven points scored

Aaron Rodgers: 26/39, 223 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, sacked eight times, 54.3 QBR, 81.5 passer rating, 12 points scored

Tom Brady: 36/58, 395 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, sacked once, 72 QBR, 79.3 passer rating, 23 points scored

Christian Ponder: 11/22, 63 yards, 0 TD, 1 INT, sacked four times, 11.1 QBR, 37.3 passer rating, 20 points scored

Whether its completion percentage, turnovers or points scored, one area of a quarterback’s game will be effected by this Seattle defense/crowd combination.  It is not normal to make Brady misfire on over 20 passes.

Will Sanchez accomplish what Romo, Rodgers and Brady could not?

“On defense, all they are is the 4th rated defense in the National Football League,” said Ryan.  “They have a huge secondary.  They look huge.  I don’t know how else to put it.  I think they average 6 foot 3 inches, 220 pounds in the secondary.  The biggest corners look like Antonio Cromartie.”

Per usual against a tough crowd and a top ranked defense, red zone success and limited turnovers are obvious keys to stay in the game.

“Especially when you get in the redzone, that’s where you have to be sharp and at our best and we haven’t been this year.  So those things just have to get cleaned up and whatever we can do to fix it, we have to try and do it.  We’ve identified some of those things, and that’s where our emphasis will be.  We just have to keep playing smart and really take care of the ball and don’t hurt ourselves.”

One interesting trend to pick out from the chart above is Rodgers being sacked eight times, but still (basically but not in reality) winning the game.  We all remember how that became the infamous moment for the replacement refs, so lets assume Green Bay won that game.

Rodgers took eight sacks, he didn’t force throws under pressure or play any ‘Hero Ball’.  Sometimes offenses have to accept the sacks and move on to the next play.  Not turning the ball over is more valuable than a loss of yards on one play.  Rodgers had zero touchdown passes but zero interceptions—Sanchez doesn’t have to be a hero on Sunday, but his patience and risk/reward determination will be tested in a major way at Seattle on Sunday.