Sanchez praised, but Jets Offense Continues to Sputter

August 15th, 2012

The Jets offense stumbled out the gates Friday night against the Bengals, recording -3 yards in three plays on the first drive and 38 yards in 11 plays on their second, both resulting in zero points.  Mark Sanchez threw for 21 yards on four of six passing and was sacked twice.

Tim Tebow had success scrambling for yards, but completed four of eight passes with an interception.  Granted the play calling was as vanilla as it gets, the quarterback sacks (McElroy was sacked three times) and turnovers may be a hindering, ongoing problem for this year’s offense.

The struggles continued on Wednesday.

Mark Sanchez

Sanchez had his first multiple-interception day at practice today and would’ve been sacked three times.  Tebow was also intercepted and sacked one time during team drills.

The question marks are beginning to pile up.

Along with the offensive line issues, wide receivers Santonio Holmes (ruled out for Saturday against Giants), Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens didn’t practice today due to various injuries.  Sanchez has had little time with the complete offense in top gear.  Learning a new system is complicated enough and with multiple pieces flip flopping in and out of the lineup, will there be enough time for this offense to gel?

On a positive note, the tune of the week has been how Sanchez is carrying himself on and off the field.

On Tuesday, former Jets quarterback Chad Pennington visited Cortland, N.Y., and had nothing but praise when it came to how Sanchez looked on the field.  “Mark is throwing the ball better than I’ve ever seen,” said Pennington.  “He’s got excellent control with his throws and his ball placement.  He’s definitely gotten better over the offseason and made a point to bring it up to the next level.  Kudos to him because that’s a decision you have to make as a pro, to listen to the criticism and do something about it.”

Cornerback Darrelle Revis reiterated those thoughts today saying, “I think the best thing that he’s been doing is the placement of his balls on deep throws.  He’s throwing them away from the defenders.  He’s putting the ball where it needs to be.”

Linebacker Bart Scott added comments on Sanchez’s new demeanor.  “I think everybody has seen a difference in how he walks, how he handles it if he throws a bad ball, how he carries himself.  Mark’s always been a guy that you can see his emotions and how he’s feeling about himself by his facial expressions,” said Scott.  “I think now he carries himself upright and he sticks that chest out like a peacock and I think that really shows confidence to him, but it also helps and inspires his players because they respond (to him) because he’s their leader, and they’re are going to go as he goes.”

Which do you put more stock in, Wednesday’s positives or Wednesday’s negatives?

Jets v. Bengals Preseason Preview

August 10th, 2012

The Jets finally get to mix it up with players other than their own tomorrow night in Cincinnati.  Seeing the Bengals should bring positive memories, as the Jets posted back-to-back wins at the end of the 2009 season that allowed a run to the AFC Championship game.  The Jets also won their last regular season meeting against the Bengals in 2010, 26-10.

But after a disappointing 2011 season, the Jets have waited a long time to get back on the football field.

There is no reason to over-analyze a Week 1 preseason game, but live action against another team will shed some light on what is to come in 2012.  There are three groups of players to focus on Friday night.

1. Offensive Line

On Wednesday, the Jets rewarded Matt Slauson with the starting Left Guard position to finalize the offensive line starters.  D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Slauson, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore and Wayne Hunter (from left to right) is the group.  The Bengals finished their 2011 season ranked 7th best in total defense and 5th in sacks.  Friday night is a tough early test for an offensive line that had its shares of problems last season.

All eyes on: Slauson, Hunter

To no one’s surprise, Slauson and Hunter are the largest question marks of the offensive line group.

The Jets showed their lack of confidence in Hunter by trying to trade for Panthers Tackle Jeff Otah, but a failed physical sent Otah back to Carolina and gift wrapped Hunter a starting spot.  Hunter took plenty of heat at the end of the 2011 season for being the weak link of the offensive line.  Many people didn’t expect Hunter to have a starting role this season, but his chance at redemption starts Friday night.

Slauson won the competition against Vladimir Ducasse for a starting Left Guard spot.  Slauson has started every game for the past two seasons and didn’t miss one snap in 2011 (other player to do this was Ferguson).  Even so, he is not as highly regarded in comparison to Mangold and Ferguson.  Slauson had multiple surgeries this offseason but has not showed any lingering effects.

2. Wide Receivers

“Probably doubtful,” was the quote Rex Ryan used when asked if Santonio Holmes will be available Friday night.  Jeremy Kerley has been nursing a hamstring injury and has missed the majority of training camp.  With Holmes and Kerley both out, rookie Wide Receiver Stephen Hill gets the nod to be Mark Sanchez’s primary target.  Chaz Schilens, Patrick Turner, Dexter Jackson and undrafted free agent Royce Pollard will be other names rotating spots.

All eyes on: Schilens, Turner, Jackson

With Holmes being the primary target when healthy and Hill assuming the other starting spot, the Jets will have to find out what talent they have when they reach deeper in the depth chart.  Schilens has impressed early in camp and will fit well when Hill needs a breather.  Turner is another big target (6′5″, 220 lbs) on the outside who will see plenty of snaps against the Bengals.

Jackson will man the slot position while Holmes and Kerley sit out.  This preseason might be his highest exposure point, as Ryan mentioned Holmes will be moving around from the outside to slot position depending on the package.  Jackson has a chance to impress coaches with the extra snaps he will see due to other players being injured.

Lastly, keep an eye out for Antonio Cromartie on the offensive side.

3. Safeties

How Ryan uses the trio of LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith will be interesting.  All three players plan on seeing significant minutes depending on packages and situations.  It will be interesting to see Ryan find the right combinations between the three.  There will most likely be moments where the safety groups looks out of sync, but let Ryan have some time figuring out the formula before the panic button is pressed.

All eyes on: Landry

Landry only played in 8 games in 2011 was still rehabbing his Achilles injury in the beginning of camp.  Ryan says he expects Landry to play in the opener, so watching Landry get through a game pain-free will be a huge plus for the Jets defense.

All in all, it will be hard to judge the offense since it is not at full strength.  It would’ve been interesting to see what packages Tony Sparano has for this offense, with talks of Holmes bouncing around from outside to slot, but that will have to wait.  As long as the Jets don’t look absolutely awful, look forward for this team taking the field again.

Jets WR Chaz Schilens talks matchups, Tebow

July 28th, 2012

Cortland, NY: One offseason addition to the New York Jets roster was former Oakland Raider wide receiver Chaz Schilens.  After playing in only 13 games in 2009 and 2010, Schilens stayed healthy last season catching 23 passes in 15 games.

Schilens, who stands tall at 6′4″ and weights 225 pounds, is a large target that can stretch the field with rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill.  Today at practice he showed he doesn’t mind catching balls in the middle of the field either. The Jets have plenty of versatility at the wide receiver position, where Sparano can create various packages and formations that present the best matchups for the Jets offense.

“I think everyone just has something different to offer, everyone has something they do really well and I think it can present some different matchups,” said Schilens.  “Stephen’s [Hill] going to be playing a lot, Jeremy [Kerley] is going to be playing a lot, Santonio [Holmes] has his position so we all have something to offer and no matter what its going to be something good.”

Jets fans should expect to see Schilens more than originally expected if Kerley doesn’t live up to year two expectations, which are off to a slow start.  Ryan said he was “a little disappointed” in Kerley this offseason in relation to Kerley picking up Sparano’s new offense.  Ryan’s public cry of Kerley needing to “step it up” should be enough of a wake-up call.

Ryan went on to praise Schilens saying, “The best thing he does is when the pads come on.  He is a physical player; he’s one of the top blockers as a receiver in the NFL kind of like a Braylon Edwards.” Ryan mentioned how special teams coach Mike Westoff, who isn’t one to throw around positive claims, spotted Schilens physicality.  Ryan then chimed in on parts of Schilens skill set saying, “He’s done a nice job catching the football, he’s made some deep catches and, obviously, he’s a big target.  I don’t know how tall he is, 6′4″, 6′5″, a big target that runs fast, those are positives.”

WR Chaz Schilens

With or without Kerley’s success, Ryan discussed the variations in which the wide receivers will line up.  “You can put Tone [Holmes] anywhere.  He can do it.  And we’ve got guys pushing for those things.  If that was the case, you can put Chaz [Schilens] outside.  You can put Patrick Turner outside.  There are different things (that can be done).”

However the snaps are divided among the wide receivers, expect Schilens to be in the mix often.

Schilens also has the—insert one of a million words here (however your feelings are towards him)—task of being roommates with Tim Tebow.

“He is just really down to earth and just cool,” said Schilens. When trying to pry information about a possible Tebow flaw, he responded as you would imagine. “Honestly, you’re not going to find anything,” said Schilens. “He loves to workout, loves to work, he’s on top of everything and is a real enjoyable guy, always upbeat always positive.”

The soft-spoken Schilens will have a larger impact than his gentle demeanor suggests.

Keyshawn Johnson talks Sanchez-Tebow, Holmes and Sparano

July 27th, 2012

Cortland, NY: It didn’t take very long for people to notice Jets ex-wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson walk the sidelines of the practice field.  The overall No. 1 pick in the 1996 draft had plenty to say about the 2012 New York Jets, including the addition of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, wide receiver Santonio Holmes and the Mark Sanchez Tim Tebow dynamic.

The new faces on the field will not have the largest impact on this season according to Johnson.  “I thought the biggest offseason acquisition for me was Tony [Sparano],” said Johnson, “I don’t care about Tim Tebow and all these other kids [Stephen] Hill, I think that was the biggest acquisition.”

Johnson stressed head coach Rex Ryan will be able to leave the offense up to Sparano, and will be able to focus all his efforts into Ryan’s specialty, the defense.

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“I think Rex is more in-tune with the defense as opposed to trying to manage the offense and defense,” said Johnson.  “When you have two minds like Tony and Rex—one guy running the offense, one guy running the defense—but overall controlling the team, you’re going to be real good.”

Jokingly, Johnson had to throw in that, “I would never play for a defensive coordinator, it’s a nightmare.”  Good ol’ Keyshawn.

Johnson wasn’t shy when reminiscing on his playing days, sharing insight he would give Holmes on how to deal with media pressure.  It is no secret Holmes’ behavior is under the microscope this season after his actions at the conclusion of the 2011 season.  Holmes seems to have moved on with his positive quotes today, saying, “I think [trust issues] were all over the place with all the receivers and quarterbacks. That was last year. We’re moving on from that.”

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Johnson wants Holmes to handle the media differently this season, including channeling the negative comments into positive play.  “I read every freaking clip that there was and laughed about it because some of the stuff is right and some of the stuff is completely wrong.  I went about my business and practiced everyday, played everyday,” said Johnson. “My advice to him is don’t pay any attention.  Go out there and play, let the play speak for you and at the end of the day you can tell them you know what.  You just got to let it roll off your shoulder.”

Lastly, Johnson shared his views on having a two quarterback system involving Sanchez and Tebow.  “If you’re telling me that you’re going to split the reps 50/50, you’re not going to be very successful.” But when asked about Sanchez being the main signal caller and Tebow running the wildcat, he expressed it could work.  “That’s fine, Brad Smith ran the wildcat and so did [Jeremy] Kerley a year ago.”

“But to think that a guy is going to play a whole quarter, you’re going to play a whole quarter, another guy is going to come in a whole quarter and whoever has the hot hand in the third quarter finishes the fourth, you’ll never win.”

I don’t think anyone can argue that, now gimme the damn ball.

Jets Trade for Tackle Jeff Otah

July 23rd, 2012

Today the Jets have announced they have traded a conditional draft pick for Carolina Panthers Tackle, Jeff Otah.

Otah was the 19th overall pick in 2008, but has only played in four games in the past two seasons.  He missed all of 2010 with a knee injury and played in two of six games in 2011 because of reoccurring knee issues.

According to reports, Otah will make $1.1 million and is in the final year of his rookie contract.

A large question mark heading into 2012 was how the Jets would handle the Right Tackle position.  Last year’s offensive line had Mark Sanchez sacked a career-high 39 times last season, and Wayne Hunter was deemed scapegoat.  It seemed that Hunter was going to have a chance to redeem himself with an assumed starting position by lack of competition by backup Tackle, Vladimir Ducasse.

Pending a physical, this low-risk, high-reward move can pay off in a big way for the Jets if Otah can play the way he did in his first two seasons in Carolina.  Even if Otah is not 100 percent, he still may be able to produce more than a healthy Hunter.

Sounding Off: Defense Edition

July 17th, 2012

The recent years of the New York Jets defense reminds me of Amare Stoudemire and the New York Knicks.

In 2010, Stoudemire was given a monster contract, five years almost $100 million, to revitalize basketball in the mecca.  He didn’t disappoint in his first year, averaging 25 points, 8 rebounds, just under 2 blocks per game and a first round playoff trip.  The excitement he injected into the Garden paved the way for players like Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler to want to play in New York, to be apart of something special.

The 2009 Jets defense was dominant: First in yards per game, first in passing yards per game, first in points per game and I’m finished with statistical ramblings.  After a trip to the Conference Championship game and a “players coach” leading the way, the path was set for other players to want to come and play for the Jets.

Stoudemire’s second year had fans questioning if he was worth the money.  Wondering why his jump shot wasn’t the same and nitpicked everything from his defensive capabilities to his very questionable choice of hairstyle for this year’s playoff series against the Miami Heat.

After a down season and the Jets missing the playoffs in 2011, the questioning and nitpicking had begun.  Whether it was parts of the defense being too old, the secondary being not as good as projected or not creating enough pressure without blitzing, the grace period of bringing the Jets into relevancy is clearly over.  The Jets defense was the main cog of putting the new regime of the Jets on the national map, just as Stoudemire did with Knicks.  They both need to be realigned on the right path.

It is time for the Jets to reload and be dominant again.

What any fan wants to see is ownership bringing in players that address weaknesses from the previous year. It is hard to hate on ownership this year when talking about defense.

The Jets were fifth in the NFL in passing yards allowed per game, but it seemed as if every gut-wrenching, game-changing play was made over the middle where Eric Smith or pre-injury Jim Leonhard were a step too slow.  The addition of Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry are calculated risks that have great upside.  Becoming more athletic is rarely a bad thing, while Eric Smith is still on the roster as a veteran player who knows the system for specific situations.

Everyone knows what you are getting when talking about Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis, assuming he is on the roster, so the largest concern left is the third CB spot.  The secondary spotlight this season will be on Kyle Wilson, the third year man who Jets fans have watched go through his growing pains over the past two seasons.  He improved from year one to year two, so expectations for year three are obvious; make sure there is no debate for who should be playing in that position.

Unlike the secondary, the Jets linebackers are a familiar group with the addition of third round, Arkansas State ILB, Demario Davis.  David Harris, Bart Scott, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas will assume starting roles in 2012.  The most interesting cases are what Scott and Thomas have left in the tank and how Aaron Maybin plays after his out-of-nowhere success.  Speed in an alarming deficiency just from typing out the names of starters, which obviously relates to pass coverage.  Perhaps Davis will have a larger, ready now role than anticipated.

The most interesting defensive unit is the defensive line.  Rex Ryan creative juices will be flowing all season creating ways for their six lineman to cause havoc while staying fresh throughout the year.  Muhammad Wilkerson and rookie DE Quinton Coples will have large impact roles even with little NFL experience.  Sione Pouha will again hold Ryan’s notorious nose tackle spot, and subbing in will be Marcus Dixon, Kenrick Ellis and Mike DeVito who all received playing time last season.  The amount of packages and combinations Ryan has to work with should highlight his creativity.

Unfortunately that group does not have one outstanding pure pass rusher, which seemed to hurt the Jets last year at critical points in the game.  It seemed the Jets were exposed when it was third and short and teams knew Ryan had to blitz to get pressure, opening up holes in the defense.  Ryan’s exotic blitz schemes don’t bother me, but when it is a short down and distance and quick passing teams know its coming, it is a bad position to be in.

Quick recap

Most improved unit: Secondary

Potential for ‘this won’t end well’: Linebackers

Chance to have largest impact: Defensive line

Sound off: Which are your most improved, least confident, largest impact defensive groups?

Sounding Off: QB Edition

July 10th, 2012

After coming off the PUP list myself, I am ready to spend all season with covering the most interesting team in sports. Breaking a bone in my foot and spending the celebratory grace period of graduating on the couch staring outside at the sun has not changed my views on the 2012 New York Jets.

Just like those Jets teams that marched to consecutive AFC Championship Games with a dominant defense and relentless running attack, consistency is key for keeping this blog in order. There will be times where I will take you above and beyond what you expected, sort of like Mark Sanchez throwing an 18 yard perfect back shoulder fade to Braylon Edwards in PEYTON MANNINGS HOUSE to move on to the next round.

Did anyone forget that happened? It was only two seasons ago. Sanchez is “the guy” for this team.

Bringing in Tim Tebow only deters Sanchez growth. I do not see how people can see that situation any differently. If we are under the assumption the team’s goal is to win the Super bowl, does anyone actually think 10 plays of Tebow Wildcat is the answer from where the Jets were only two seasons ago?

Instead of the first team offense learning new OC Tony Sparano’s system with the maximum amount of reps possible, each player receives less to learn packages for a secondary offense. Forget all the side stories about Sanchez confidence issues; the bottom line is the starting offense could be practicing more together than they would if Tebow were not around.

Especially the offensive line, which the majority said had a down year last year, could be focusing on being all-in on the new offense but has their attention divided.

Reports around the web have stated Sparano is the right choice for this Jets for getting his players to pay attention to details. He is a highly intense guy who you can hear screaming standing on the sideline at Jets OTA’s and it seems like a perfect match for Sanchez. If Sparano can have Sanchez master the offense and be confident in every move he makes, he will shed the non-mature, emotionally unstable tags he unfairly wears and will be in position for success.

Sound off on this: If Sanchez throws three interceptions in the first regular season game and the Tebow rumblings start, do fans really want that? Do you want to throw away the last three years and start over with Tebow as the starter?