Archive for October, 2009

Friday Notes from the Complex

Friday, October 30th, 2009
  • The biggest news out of Rex Ryan’s news conference earlier today came in the form of flammable comments regarding injured Dolphins corner Will Allen and loud mouth linebacker Joey Porter. After being informed that Porter had taken issue with a less cutting remark Ryan made about Allen’s injury in a session with Miami reporters, the Jets head coach reacted brusquely. “I don’t care about that,” said Ryan rather pointedly. “If he’s got issues with me about one of their guys being out… I don’t feel sorry for them losing Will Allen. Obviously, I don’t like for any player to be hurt, but if they’re looking for sympathy because Will Allen is out of the game, well, we’ve got Kris Jenkins out and we’ve got Leon Washington out for the season.” The real verbal takedown was still yet to be heard, though. “[Those are] two guys that are Pro Bowl players. No disrespect to Will Allen, but I don’t think he’s going to make a Pro Bowl anytime soon. He’s a decent player,” said Ryan taking a breath. “But whatever.” 
ryan_rams

Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan can't wait for Sunday. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

  • Jim Leonhard shared a few interesting insights regarding his role in stopping the wildcat, and the numerous problems and counters the setup inspires within a defense. “You have to get involved in that run a little more,” offered Leonhard. “I feel like I’m going to be more active. Because it’s rare that they throw the ball [out of that formation].” The tricky possibilities of the wildcat can alter the normal approach of even established players. Leonhard, a standout safety known for strong intuitive play, admitted he might have been overcompensating in coverage, wary of a pass. “One big thing with the wildcat,” continued Leonhard, “is that you have to give them multiple looks. You have to be multiple up-front, otherwise they’ll pick you apart.” The Jets were definitely picked apart that Monday night, ravaged by the Wildcat and a rookie quarterback. The defense was out of sync throughout the game, collapsing completely in the second half. Rex Ryan maintains that the performance was “embarrassing.” Leonhard acknowledged the difficult task New York faces. “It definitely creates a lot of issues you don’t see on a week-to-week basis.” Redemption could be days away for the Jets and Leonhard, who seemed to have a solid grasp on the necessary adjustments. Whether these can be executed will determine a key divisional contest before the bye week. 

leonhard

  • With Ted Ginn Jr. struggling to catch the football, second year man Davone Bess seems to have assumed the role of de facto number one receiver for the Dolphins, despite his yards per reception sitting at a rather paltry 7.2.  Darrelle Revis seemed impressed with Bess’ skill-set. “He’s another Wes Welker,” said the corner. “Catches a lot of intermediate passes.” Bess will be hard pressed fill the big play void being left by Ginn, who, in fact, has fewer grabs than Greg Camarillo. 
  • Kellen Clemens has taken over place holding duties on field goals and extra points. “I’m excited to be contributing,” said the backup, who lost a close competition with Mark Sanchez in training camp.  Long lauded special teams coach Mike Westhoff shared a positive take regarding Clemens on Wednesday. “Steve (Weatherford) has good enough hands, but I don’t think they’re great,” said Westhoff regarding the previous holder.  “He works at it.  He’s diligent.  He does a good, solid job, but there are some inconsistencies.  There is another part of getting Kellen (Clemens) involved.  Kellen has always been our backup.  We contemplated a number of times using Kellen as our holder depending on the different times that we’ve had an array of punters in here.  Some of them were very good holders.  Others frankly were not.  If they had been the punter, Kellen would have been the holder so we had gone that way during training camp.  Kellen is into it.  He wants to do it.” 
  • The Jets and Dolphins share a distinguished history together. When the two franchises clashed earlier this season on Monday Night Football, memories were conjured of the miraculous victory engineered by Vinny Testaverde in 2000, who piloted the Jets from the depths of a twenty three point fourth quarter deficit.  It was, without a doubt, the greatest Monday Night game ever played.

  This upcoming Sunday afternoon showdown may inspire flashbacks as well. It was week three of the 1986 season, when Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino had a quarterbacking duel for the ages, combining for 927 passing yards and ten touchdowns. O’Brien was the last signal caller selected before Dan Marino in the mythical quarterback draft class of 1983. After a superb collegiate career at Pittsburgh was marred by an inconsistent senior season, Marino saw his draft stock tumble. In retrospect, the Jets were not alone in making a terrible miscalculation. Though O’Brien won this battle, his star would burn out quickly. This win may have represented the absolute highlight of his career.

  • Ryan credited Ronnie Brown with what he termed “a great statement”, though his delivery could have been construed as cryptic, for the Dolphins anyway. “I’m just going to quote Ronnie Brown,” said Ryan. “He made a statement that the eleven toughest guys on the field on the field are going to be most successful. I agree with that statement. It’s going to play out on Sunday.”

Previewing the Rematch

Friday, October 30th, 2009

Monday night, October 12th, represented a shift for the New

York Jets. Before the events of this evening, their defense had been a reliable force controlling games, performing exceptionally even in a loss to the explosive New Orleans Saints. Many prognosticators, including this one, picked them to rebound on primetime in Miami.

After all, the Dolphins’ quarterback situation was unsettled, inexperienced Chad Henne replacing starter Chad Pennington.  Their group of wide receivers was disappointing. They blew a game to the Colts at home, a brutal loss. All signs pointed toward the Dolphins being a team entrapped in transition, forced to sacrifice the present for future gains. Surely they would be stymied by a ravenous Gang Green defense. Of course, reality unfurled, leaving the braggadocios bunch from New York humbled, perhaps even embarrassed. Everything, inexplicably, went to hell. Bart Scott missed tackles. The unassailable Darrelle Revis, and approximately thirteen other defensive backs, were toasted deep by Ted Ginn on a momentum turning play. Henne sliced and diced with the cool efficiency of ten-year veteran. Miami even overcame a stunning debut Jets by Braylon Edwards, earning a deserved win on a dramatic final drive, leaving no time for rebuttal. “The attitude in this locker room is that was a game that we felt we should have won,” said Edwards. “That is a game that we felt that we could have won. Going in there and not getting it done hurt these guys. We come back (three) weeks later ready to play these guys again. Like Coach said, we’re ready. We are more than ready. We will play today, we will play tomorrow, we’ll play whenever.”

The Jets could use production like Edwards debut this Sunday

The Jets could use production like Edwards' debut this Sunday

After a week of preparation, the Jets appeared completely flummoxed by Miami’s signature wildcat formation. As Rickey Williams and Ronnie Brown eluded their tackles, racking up yardage, something less tangible was slipping away from Rex Ryan and company. It was their fragile, still developing identity, a smash-mouth brand which could cocoon a rookie quarterback still learning on the job. A week after their first truly dispiriting performance of the season, Mark Sanchez seemed affected by the sudden shift in atmosphere, enduring a hideous showing against Buffalo. That was the Jets’ third straight loss, a losing streak that started at the acceptance stage in Louisiana, before mutating into appropriate panic. The Raiders beat down was reassuring, yet a tenuous achievement.

Here are the Jets. Four victories and three defeats, alternating between champs and chumps, now with a chance to reestablish the identity taken away on a humid night in Miami. There is much riding on this duel. For as excellent as the Jets appeared against Oakland, all those temporary accolades will vanish with a home loss to a divisional foe, coming off an atrocious, potentially season killing fourth quarter meltdown themselves.

Indeed, Mark Sanchez played conservative manager and the offensive line continued to bulldoze against beleaguered Oakland, but this progress needs to be converted into consistency, lest the Jets begin to resemble an intriguing blend of talent still a year or two away from making real noise in this league. They will no doubt be bolstered by the return of Jerricho Cotchery, who barely missed the action against Oakland, and will finally line-up across from Braylon Edwards, at close to full strength. The combination could be lethal; Cotchery doing the dirty work on intermediate routes while Edwards stretches the field. And with the Dolphins secondary not operating at peak capacity, missing solid cornerback Will Allen, an aerial show could be order. Rex Ryan always seems slyly confident about his passing game, and Sanchez’s stabilizing afternoon at the Oakland Coliseum, which concluded with him enjoying a Stadium hot dog on the sidelines, could provoke early vertical aggression from the Jets. Sanchez seemed to put the hot dog controversy to rest earlier this week. “I don’t want to give up my hot dog connect,” said the rookie, laughing. “The last thing I will say about the whole deal is that I did not mean it as a form of disrespect. I wasn’t trying to take away from anything the team had going on. People have gotten some laughs out of it and we’ve all kind of joked about it, but it is one of those things that I definitely need to learn from and it was a mistake. It won’t happen again and that’s all there is to say about that.”

That said, the Jets’ defense could very well determine this game. The offense certainly held little culpability for the Monday Night debacle, holding up their end with an impressive second-half. In fact, had Rex Ryan or Brian Schottenheimer possessed an inkling of the defensive disintegration awaiting, they may have opted to air it out early that night. Instead, the defense repeatedly returned momentum to Miami, sealing the game.

 

The group recovered slightly against Buffalo, but were handed a devastating blow when Kris Jenkins suffered a season-ending knee injury. Jenkins was in action that Monday night. Can the Jets really reverse their atrocious week five showing without the most vital cog of their interior line? Other facets will need to camouflage this decided weakness.

 

The Dolphins are a strange team on many levels. They rely on a gimmick offensive package for the majority of their explosive plays, though Ryan is a fan of the wildcat. “I think it’s good.  I think you really see it in the college game.  It’s all that spread and they run that Wildcat.  They run that read play.  It definitely has merit.  Everybody would load the box and get an extra defender in the box and this is one way to counter that.  Now you’d have to put another guy in if you want to overload the numbers.  I think that’s why a lot of teams are running different versions of it.” A key member of their running attack departed from football a few years ago on a personal quest for knowledge, a tact seldom seen from an athlete. They have suffered two inconceivable losses, both at home, to the Saints and Colts. Squandering two games at home in such brutal fashion represents an unforgivable sin in a league not known for leniency. And yet, they still feel like a damn dangerous team. The running game can control the clock. The linebackers are superb. Having a chance to sweep the Jets, in a campaign venturing toward moral victory territory, may provide an additional spark.

 

All that said, I see the Jets winning this one. But it will be close. The absence of Jenkins will become an obvious hindrance. With nothing to lose, Miami will be reaching deep into their bag of tricks. I see the Jets continuing their impressive rushing streak, with Jones and Greene falling short of the spectacular, yet producing enough to curry time of possession toward New York.

Brian Schottenheimer has faith in Greene, and Washington’s absence, though disheartening, could be overcome, should the rookie continue his capable work. “[He]’s Very good. We’ve all felt good about Shonn from the time he got to training camp. He had a big scrimmage for us when we were up in Cortland. He was just in a crowded backfield. He played well against New Orleans. We came in here and did the same thing in the staff room, how do you get three guys carries? It was hard. Obviously nobody is pleased with what happened to Leon (Washington). It was a testament to Shonn to go out there and do what he was able to do without too much work at practice is pretty impressive. His talent speaks for himself,” said the offensive coordinator.

 

Bullish on Greene

Bullish on Greene

 

Mark Sanchez may make fewer mistakes than Chad Henne, who will be dropped into the most hostile environment he has ever faced as a pro.

 “It’s a big game, a division game. We have the bye week coming up next week. We need to put everything we have into this game. It’s going to be a tough game. They are a tough team. It was down-to-the-wire last time, so we know what to expect,” said Thomas Jones.

Concur.

A Jets field goal decides this one late. 

 

New York 27 Miami 24

JETS 38 – RAIDERS 0

Sunday, October 25th, 2009

Bittersweet shutout of Raiders as Jets lose RB Washington for year with fractured fibula.

OAKLAND, CA – Seasoned observes of football are easily able to discern unique talent at the running back position. The results over a full season usually speak plainly enough, but in terms of snap judgment, several specific qualities can be spotted immediately. Perhaps the most vital of these, whether or not the runner is shifty or a pure brute, is the first step explosion required to exploit even the slightest gash in a defense. Certain rookies, fresh legged and reckless, are capable of jaw dropping acceleration at the moment of opportunity. Shonn Greene definitely fits the bill.

Jets RB Shonn Greene scampers for one of two TDs during the Jets 38-0 shellacking of Oakland on Sunday.

Jets RB Shonn Greene scampers for one of two TD's during the Jets 38-0 shellacking of Oakland on Sunday.

On an afternoon where the Jets desperately sought to reassert themselves, recapture the swagger that had defined their success, they lost a key offensive weapon early. Leon Washington was carted from the proceedings with a broken fibula. But, quite fortunately for the road team, who wore stylish alternate jerseys attributed to their bygone “Titans” moniker, a hungry backup was prepared to assume a heavy responsibility. “I thought as a team, it was a great team effort. We were able to ground and pound it for over three hundred yards, for the second straight week,” said Rex Ryan at his post-game conference. “Again we feel terrible about the injury to Leon, but we feel excited about where our offense is at.”

Thomas Jones seemed deeply affected by the severe injury suffered by his teammate and friend, offering an eloquent take after the clock struck zero. “He’s a great teammate and a great person. From the time he got hurt to the end of the game, after every play I’d think about him,” said the tenacious runner. Jones also offered that an incident like this crystallizes why players are always trying to secure the best contract possible. Washington had been embroiled in a salary dispute with management during training camp that he ultimately set aside for another time. “The risk of injury is high, and guy’s just want to feel secure, man,” said Jones, echoing what most players must feel. “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. My prayers go out for his family… he’s one of my best friends.”

There’s no doubt that the Raiders prepared all week for a run heavy Jets attack. Perhaps, after eliminating Washington from the equation, they may have received a respite, forcing Mark Sanchez to assume a burden beyond him. Shonn Greene rose to the occasion however, able to provide healthy support for starter Thomas Jones. New York’s ground-and-pound mentality never came close to being compromised. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer dared Oakland to corral a ferocious rush, and the Silver and Black had no answer, besides being reliably shoved backward. The Jets leaned on the run while driving downfield, finishing their marches with power football.

After Calvin Pace forced JaMarcus Russell to cough up possession deep in his own territory on the Raiders’ opening drive, Thomas Jones plowed in a one-yard touchdown. Later, in the second quarter, Shonn Greene rocketed past the line of scrimmage and into the end zone for an eight yard score, the first of his career, but not his last of the game. For Greene’s final punctuation would be spectacular, a thirty-three yard jaunt in garbage time where, once again, his lightening spurring seemed to approach warp speed. When the final statistics could be logged, Jones had compiled 121 yards, and Greene 144. Not to be forgotten was another splendid performance put forth by the offensive line, in perfect rhythm after a slightly inconsistent start to the season. For the second consecutive week, they dominated upfront, brutalizing a hapless Raiders defense that proved powerless even when stacking the box. Bill Callahan and his troops are certainly in the zone, as the Jets approach a pivotal segment of their schedule. “My offensive line did a great job blocking for me,” said Jones. “They were able to maintain their blocks and blow them off the ball.”

As if their superb clock control and mighty ground-game wasn’t enough to secure a win, the Jets defense also imposed their will, making this victory a total team effort. The standout performer was Calvin Pace. In his third appearance since a banned substance suspension kept him on the sidelines through week four, Pace displayed the rare combination of strength and athleticism that made him a sought after prize on the free agent market after the 2007 season. His leaping, sprawling strip of Russell as the game got underway set a definitive tempo that would not waver. Pace would compile three sacks and seven total tackles, scoring another strip while ripping down Bruce Gradkowski in the third. If he can maintain this caliber of play going forward, the whole defense will take on an added, dangerous dimension. “This is a must win,” said Pace after the game, during an on-field interview. “We had to come out here and get one by any means necessary. The offense did their thing with the running game.”

Also encouraging was the continued excellence of the secondary, which, save for an inexplicably poor effort against the Dolphins, has been a consistent highlight. Jim Leonhard placed himself in the right place when he picked off a desperate, ill-advised pass by Russell, who was scurrying away from an onrushing David Harris. The second turnover forced by an aggressive Jets defense in the initial quarter placed the Raiders in a black hole they wouldn’t crawl out of. The Raiders’ best opportunity to compete was snuffed out by Darrelle Revis, who snatched a feathery paint-bound pass intended for Todd Watkins, as the second quarter waned.

Mark Sanchez was placed under a harsh microscope following his disastrous showing against the Bills last week. Sanchez didn’t exactly resoundingly answers his critics, but that was never supposed to be his job in the first place. If everything goes according to plan, Sanchez will play the caretaker role that he executed quite capably today, converting short third downs set-up by the run game with efficient throws, and avoiding careless turnovers.  “I think they wanted to see if they could make me beat them,” said Sanchez at his presser, assessing the Raiders’ defensive strategy. “That might have been their plan. But with the way our running game played today, anybody could play quarterback…. Whatever the plan is, we’ve got to stick with what we do and play smart.”

 Though he could still do a better job protecting the ball, Sanchez’s deft management was exactly what the afternoon required. And while his accuracy was not top notch, Sanchez’s thirty-five yard touchdown pass to David Clowney, who seems to finally be establishing himself a big-play target, solidified the blowout.

For the Raiders, JaMarcus Russell continued his string of awful quarterbacking, pulled out of the game by head coach Tom Cable.

Is the season disintegrating? Three arguments either way, plus notes

Friday, October 23rd, 2009
Sanchez needs to reverse course -- quick

Sanchez needs to reverse course -- quick

It’s a special kind of terror that grips a home crowd when they suddenly, collectively, consider the possibility of an unfathomable loss. The Meadowlands turned into a tomb following Mark Sanchez’s fifth and final interception in overtime against the Bills, and the fans certainly couldn’t be blamed for an overwhelming case of disillusionment. Here were the Jets, laying the groundwork for defeat despite succeeding on several different levels.

Their struggling defense employed a nasty streak, viciously removing Trent Edwards from the proceedings early. Thomas Jones set a franchise record for rushing yards in a single week, flying through gaping holes engineered by the offensive line, who simply dominated.

These strong performances were undone by the play of a rookie quarterback, who never approached anything resembling a rhythm, despite ample opportunity. Sanchez’s overriding responsibility for the twisted proceedings was painfully apparent, as the turgid contest unfolded to a cruel conclusion.

Buffalo stumbled into Jersey following a similarly inexplicable setback at the hands of the Cleveland Browns, who somehow converted two completed passes into a win on the road. As Rian Lindell’s kick sailed through the uprights, a merciful end, a rush of realization may have washed over New York as they limped to the locker room. They had lost three straight. Without an especially atrocious performance by Ryan Mouton of Tennessee, the losing streak could be a season wrecking four. The same Titans who had completely suffocated the Jets following the first quarter in week three had just been totally embarrassed by divisional rival New England Patriots. Kris Jenkins, the most vital ingredient of the interior defense, had taken his last snaps of 2009, felled by a devastating knee injury. An upcoming tilt with the woeful Raiders will be played in their building, on the west coast, where the Jets so often appeared pathetic just a year ago. And the Silver and Black, featuring a signal caller setting the forward pass backward fifty years, shockingly possess momentum after upsetting the Eagles.

The Jets may have been a holding penalty away from fleeing last Sunday winners, but this hindsight thinking obscures their deficiencies. This is a team that can no longer afford critical mistakes, margin of error dangerously narrow. Even with players maintaining their composure and high morale, a once promising campaign rests perilously on the brink.

Which way will it go? Well, there are three solid arguments either way.   

 

Three cases for a tasteless Hindenburg reference

 

Kris Jenkins’ injury: The Jets’ run defense has appeared suspect since a slightly illusory start. This stagnancy will be exacerbated without Jenkins, whose presence fortified the entire line. Despite a commendable performance last week, there were definitely times where the Bills ripped through the Green Curtain, devouring healthy chunks of yardage on the ground in early down situations. While Buffalo met strong resistance in the red-zone, undone by an awful passing game operated by backup Ryan Fitzpatrick, New York’s inability to gain defensive penetration will definitely haunt them against teams with competent air attacks. No matter how strong a talent base the Jets may boast in the secondary, they will be exposed vertically if the interior line is constantly forced backward. Howard Green may be a solid pro, but he simply can’t be counted on to replicate the respect opposing coaches afford Jenkins. The same could be said for Sione Pouha. 

The calamity itself is hardly shocking. The Panthers were weary of Jenkins’ constant leg maladies when they dealt him to the Jets. New York’s depthless defensive line was a very real concern dating back to training camp, but the salary cap practically demands an Achilles heel. There are no perfect teams, and plenty of ruined ones. The Jets may be slipping toward the latter category.      

Mark Sanchez’s downward spiral: Before the season kicked off, I wrote a brief column on this blog comparing the rookie performances of Matt Ryan and Eli Manning. Now, both of them are superb passers, rare talents worthy of the “franchise” label. But, as rookies anyway, there was a healthy difference. While Ryan played like a veteran immediately, joining forces with Michael Turner to reinvigorate an entire organization, Manning was absolutely awful, lost and hopeless after taking over for Kurt Warner midway through the 2004 season.

While the Giants began that journey 4-1 with Warner at the helm, their expectations were minimal, and Manning dodged the derision now being heaped upon Mark Sanchez. As Manning turned in the statistical equivalent of barf with each passing week, the Giants circling the drain, media coverage bordered on pitying. After the Jets galloped from the gates 3-0, Sanchez slinging passes and flashing charisma, he would not be party to the same favorable treatment. For the hype was now reality, condensed into solid form. Through his initial travails, Eli Manning’s future was still a dreamlike fantasy, distracting press and fans from his temporary plummet and lending proper perspective. The immediate, swaggering success of the Jets made Sanchez a legitimate target. His future was today. There would be no pity.

 A couple months ago, I wrote that, basically, the Jets were asking Sanchez to play like Matt Ryan, or more realistically Joe Flacco, not Eli Manning. Manning has developed wonderfully, anyway. But for the immediate prize, New York needed something special. They had way higher hopes than the 2004 Giants, or most teams starting a highly drafted rookie at quarterback. I’ll leave the breakdown of game-tape to far more qualified analysts who say the word “football” fifty times per minute, but my simplistic take is this: Sanchez is playing like a rookie. He’s being blindsided by blitzes. He’s being confused by intricate coverage patterns. He’s making awful throws when receivers are open, and awful throws when receivers are well covered. Sanchez may rebound, or he may not. But his performance should not be eviscerated purely because the Jets found themselves in an odd, and unenviable circumstance, owning the talent to compete, without a stabilizing presence at the most critical position.

 Let this be said definitively, however: The absolute worst mistake Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum could make would be rolling the dice with Kellen Clemens, setting aside the development of Sanchez in favor of immediate returns. When that choice in training camp was made, it signaled the start of a new era, not the sound of panic, or a preemptive admission of defeat. 

Lack of balance and cohesion: The swift fall of Mark Sanchez has had a tangible effect on the surrounding machinery, causing a breakdown. Remember that aforementioned, and thoroughly damaging, overtime hold called on Ben Hartsock last week? Was it an isolated incidence of incompetence by an experienced player, or something else entirely, bought on by the circumstances creating overtime in the first place? Think about it this way: Mark Sanchez played so terribly against the Bills that the running game basically needed to be completely self-reliant. It was on Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and the teammates blocking for them to get the job done on offense. And they came agonizingly close. But that constant pressure can summon extremes simply not compatible with sustained precision, even for a game. The adversity can inspire, but that extra motivation can be deadly. Players are keyed up enough right from jump, without one specific group believing they have to secure victory by themselves. This can lead to the abandonment of fundamentals, and yes, killer penalties in the most pressing of situations.

This theory can also be applied to the defense, a group that also needs to stay within itself, aggressive and intelligent, instead of overcompensating. The recent trend of missed tackles could reflect a unit attempting to do too much. Rosters win championships.

 

Three cases for not pouring another glass of whiskey  

 

The potentially explosive tandem of Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery can revitalize the entire offense: It’s true. Braylon Edwards certainly made a memorable first impression against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night, the type of game-breaking threat on offense the Jets have been missing since trading away fleet, fragile Santana Moss after a playoff debacle against Pittsburgh. Edwards was practically invisible against the Bills, but he can hardly be held accountable for his quarterback’s atrocious performance. While Sanchez and Edwards displayed promising cohesion in balmy Miami, they never came close to clicking on a miserable, windswept day on the swamps of Jersey. Whether a vertical passing game could ever blossom for a home team who plays in offensively adverse conditions down the stretch is a question for another day. The more immediate issue of intrigue is whether Edwards and a healthy Cotchery can successfully spread the field and open more passing lanes for Sanchez, who has shown a disturbing propensity to fire passes into traffic.

 Disappointingly enough though, the potentially dynamic duo will not be working at full strength for a third consecutive week. Jerricho Cotchery will miss another game with his hamstring injury. This development is especially dispiriting, considering Edwards could be nullified by all-world corner Nnamdi Asomugha, who may even receive help over the top considering the Jets’ other, lesser options in lieu of Cotchery. 

Really though, the running game will decide this team’s fate: Brian Schottenheimer has been criticized for being pass-happy, especially in third and short situations. With Brett Favre clearly injured last season, the Jets stubbornly relied on his wounded right-arm in December, instead of playing ball-control football. This inadequate management was thoroughly exposed by the Seattle Seahawks in week sixteen, who controlled the clock on a snow specked field and dominated all afternoon. The Jets have often been chided for lacking a definitive identity. The defense took up this mantle for the entire team out of training camp, but the offense itself has remained undefined. The two-headed monster at running back was out of sync before gashing Buffalo. Mark Sanchez and the pass attack seemed to be emerging, but this course has met with a few nasty potholes. Now, more than ever, it is direly apparent that this offense needs to rely on their halfbacks. And this includes getting Leon Washington touches as a pass catcher in space, a skill Schottenheimer has found success with before, but all too often inexplicably abandons.

 Fans may still be hung up on Sanchez’s troubles, especially last week’s woe, but the overall fate of the Jets will be in the hands of Washington and Jones, who both excelled against the Bills. If the offensive line can build on that effort, all hope is not lost. 

The bandwagon is clear, it could be perfect time to get to business: In the vein of the paragraph just above, this could be the perfect time for Rex Ryan to really assert his influence on the team. This isn’t a coach interested in creating an aerial show on offense, though he remains admirably open to stockpiling talent. But for the Jets to win, at least in this specific season, they will be entirely reliant on a down and dirty game plan, force-feeding their halfbacks, leaning on their defense. The team’s strengths will favor the aspects preferred by their head coach, hopefully engendering them with his confident attitude.  

So, which scenario is more likely? I’m tempted to position my opinion down the middle, predict a .500 season. But with the Jets, it never seems that easy. The answer’s either a breakthrough, or breakdown. We shall see.

…………………………………………………

 

Notes   

Rex Ryan had his daily press conference earlier this afternoon, revealing a few noteworthy nuggets of information.

The big news was the announcement of Cotchery’s absence from this Sunday’s proceedings.  “Jerricho (Cotchery) is not going to be able to play this week… I was hoping Jerricho would be able to do it, but to make that trip all the way out there, we feel it’s best for him to stay back and rehab.  That’s what we are going to do and hopefully get him 100 percent next week.  He’s not playing,” continued the coach. “I was hoping [he would].  He was getting better, but at the end we definitely don’t want this happening all the time and (for it to be where) each week we’re wondering if he is going to be up.  We don’t want to make it worse.  If we have a chance to get him 100 percent or near 100 percent, that’s probably the best option.”

The services of Brad Smith will also be unavailable. “Brad is getting better,” said Ryan. I thought Brad was less likely to play than Jerricho and I’m not sure if he’ll be able to play next week.  He’s probably a little more doubtful than Jerricho will be.  I think Jerricho will be up next week.” 

 

The injury wire held more unfortunate news for a team not fighting for it’s athletic life. Lito Sheppard, who returned against the Bills after an extended absence, will not suit up against the Raiders. Sheppard has seen seasons scuttled before due to injury woes, making his acquisition a risk. “Lito Sheppard, we knew he wasn’t going to play,” said Ryan simply, before elaborating. “As far as [him], we have to push him out of this building at night.  He’s trying to do everything he can.  He’s just not ready yet. ”

It’s my opinion that the Jets really need to go all-in with the running game, allow this aspect to determine their success or failure. Rex Ryan, though, may not feel the same way. When asked if the team would run the ball more this week, Ryan deadpanned,  “That’s what I’m telling everybody.  That’s our story and we’re sticking to it.” Who knows? Maybe he’s just messing with the Raiders. Or not. “The thing about the Raiders is they’re not shy about getting in your face and going man coverage,” said Ryan, analyzing their pass defense. “That’s what we’re going to get from them and we’ll probably get it 90 percent of the time.  It’s about winning those one-on-one battles.  You’ve got two excellent corners, one super-corner (Nnamdi Asomugha) and another guy that I think is underrated, (Chris) Johnson.  It’s going to be a big challenge for our guys.”

……………………………………………….

 

Thomas Jones got together with the press and shared a few thoughts on his record setting performance, along with other insights.  “I don’t dislike the media, or doing interviews, or talking. I have no problem doing that. I am just a very focused person. I believe in my routine, it’s worked for me. As soon as practice is over I come in and go to the weight room and I watch film. I am here until 6:00 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. watching film and doing what I need to do to be prepared. That is the way I can be my best on Sunday. It’s not that I run from the spotlight, I’m just one of those people that likes to focus on my job,” Jones said, regarding his relationship with the media.

Jones still has faith in his embattled quarterback. “We have full confidence in Mark (Sanchez). Everyone has days and games where they wish they had played better, but they move on to the next one. He is a rookie, he is learning that. You learn from mistakes. The one good thing about mistakes that you make early is you have a chance to correct them the next week. Mark knows we are behind him 100 percent. He worked really hard this week. I don’t think we’ve simplified things for Mark in particular. We have core things that we can do pretty well.”

He was also asked whether he had a chance to sit back and enjoy his performance against Buffalo. “When you watch the film, you see some good things on film. When you lose the game, the feeling that you have is frustration in not winning that takes over any type of feeling of accomplishment. I want to win, first of all. I will do everything I can in the game to help us win. Any yard that I rush for, or Leon (Washington), or any yards Mark (Sanchez) passes for is to help us win games. At the end of the day it’s pretty much for nothing,” concluded Jones.

Jones has a routine -- and sticks to it

Jones has a routine -- and sticks to it

 

Friday Notes from the Complex: Get Back

Friday, October 16th, 2009
Whether Rex Ryan keeps his sense of humor remains to be seen.

Despite a pair of setbacks, the Jets' future still seems bright enough for shades.

For all the notice the Jets have received regarding their new attitude, instilled by Rex Ryan and his ultra aggressive defensive philosophies, there existed a definite, tangible improvement on field to balance the hype.

The defense had truly excelled before inexplicably collapsing last week against Miami. Logically, it was far too early to make any definitive judgments concerning the unit, but they did appear radically different. Watching them swarm to ball carriers, pressure the quarterback, and ferociously attack the same infuriating short passes that had baffled their linebackers just a year prior left many fans absolutely certain that this was a special group.

The results were quality, but their method of acquisition ratcheted the excitement up a whole another octave. This was excellence with an attitude. Throw in an emotional week two, home opening win against the heretofore unbeatable rival engineered by the likes of Bart Scott, Darrelle Revis, and trash-talking Kerry Rhodes, and one can understand why the expectations had flown high as Icarus.

The Monday Night debacle represented that proverbial wing clipping, a regression to a more reasonable mean. What’s left to determine is whether that awful performance represents a new trend, or momentary lapse.

Exhilarating as it may have been for the Meadowlands denizens to watch Tom Brady harassed, it was probably equally demoralizing witnessing another divisional adversary, the hated Dolphins, impose their will. With a boisterous crowd backing them, Miami did not bend their style to the whims of Ryan’s hounds. They dared the Jets to stop the wildcat, and the opponent had no answer. Heavily criticized before the prime-time showdown by many analysts, including this one, the Dolphins’ receivers burnt a Jets secondary that had shut down the Saints just a week prior.

All that said, the level of fan morale and media temperature will barely have an affect once that whistle sounds on Sunday. The players and coaches will determine it all, and if the Jets are dispirited, they certainly are not showing it.

This represents an interesting early test for Rex Ryan. The loss to New Orleans, while  frustrating, was easily defensible. It could basically be laid at the feet of a rookie quarterback who had an off day. The Miami incident offered way less consolation. That will be the progression from this point forward. 

The coach and his methods are lauded when the train is rolling. The Jets have hit a couple of bumps, but, to their credit, they are not wavering. Ryan continues to set the tone.  He entered his press conference with a broad smile, and left exclaiming “Ok, let’s go get a win,” exuding high spirited confidence.

With the assemblage gathered before him on the lookout for a sudden shift in temperament, Ryan has maintained his consistency. And, unlike predecessor Eric Mangini, the frequency is dependably buoyant, not monotone. And he’s effectively communicated a clear message to his players. “His demeanor, is basically, it’s a must-win,” said Revis when asked about Ryan’s outlook for Buffalo. “[He wants us to] Get back to the positive things we were doing,” Revis continued. The corner has played his position to near perfection thus far. Revis, though, met with a definite glitch against Ted Ginn Jr. Monday Night. “We have to make the corrections and move on,” he said, referencing the Dolphins loss. “You just have to be a consistent player. In football, the slightest [mistakes] could lead to big things for the other team.”

Eric Smith echoed his fellow defensive-back. “You could tell he was angry, well not angry, more frustrated,” Smith said, when asked to offer an assessment on his head coach’s mood. ‘We did not play to the best of our ability. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes… Just go back to ‘playing like a Jet.’”

An interesting thread in both these quotes rests in the commitment to “get back”. This is a positive sign for New York on a mental level. It shows that Ryan, despite his limited tenure, has established for the players a reliable foundation to rely upon in times of adversity. This doesn’t seem to be a 3-2 team searching for an identity. The identity is there, but recently, the strong play has not. But Revis and Smith don’t seem in desperate search for answers.

As the 2008 campaign spiraled into the abyss, there were rumors of infighting among players and coaches about the defensive game-plan. That kind of chaos is, at the moment anyway, pretty unfathomable. Talent and play-making will decide the fate of the 2009 Jets, but their minds seem right. This is a strength not to be taken for granted.   

 

The return of their other starting corner could bolster a suddenly faltering defense

The return of their other starting corner could bolster a suddenly faltering defense

 Lito Sheppard seems ready to return from his quad injury. The malady has dogged him since week two against the Patriots, leaving the capable Dwight Lowery to perform in his stead. While Lowery has been solid, the Jets will no doubt be thrilled to have more support on the field against the Bills’ slumbering, yet talented, receivers. 

The injury news isn’t all positive for New York. Jerricho Cotchery’s hamstring problem has continued to be an issue, enough for the wideout to be listed as doubtful for this game. With Brad Smith also banged-up, that Braylon Edwards deal becomes more and more impeccably timed. Donald Strickland and Damien Woody are also questionable. 

Dick Jauron’s overall NFL record as head coach is 58-79. Remove the fluky 2001 Bears performance from his resume, a season that saw Safety Mike Brown decide two consecutive games in overtime, ending with a convincing home playoff defeat at the hands of Philadelphia, and that mark looks even worse.  

Buffalo will challenge the Jets at the Meadowlands this week, but Gang Green will not be returning the favor at Orchid Park. [the quite appropriately nicknamed "Ralph" considering the Bills' prospects this year]

The Rogers Centre in Toronto will host the second tilt. With Buffalo suffering terribly at the hands of our recessive economy, there are persistent whispers that the Bills could move north of the border. Considering how their hometown team has performed this decade, some Buffalonian just wiped chicken wing sauce off his face and said  ”Take ‘Em!’ All joking aside, though, I’d still be stunned if the Bills relocate. We’ll see. 

The Bills have designs on playing one regular season game in Toronto through 2012. They have titled it “The Toronto Series.” 

Shaun Ellis was dubbed “limited,” but did practice.

Rex Ryan had a few interesting insights to share about the struggling Bills’ offense. He still respects Terrell Owens, despite the former All-Pro’s slow beginning. “I’ve had to go up against him several times,” said Ryan of Owens. “He’s a special, special receiver.” While the Bills’ tendency for dump-off passes is causing mass agitation in their local market, Ryan believes there is a method to Buffalo’s madness. “They’re trying to get the ball to their backs. They have two excellent backs.” 

Rex Ryan on T.O. :  ”He’s a big dude.”

Friday Notes from the Complex: First Quarter

Friday, October 9th, 2009

It sure can fly by. The Jets are through the first quarter of their season, and off to a strong start. Here are ten observations, predictions, and descriptions gleaned from this initial act. 

1. Sanchez is an original  

After watching Mark Sanchez play his first games as a New York Jet, I am at a loss to conjure a legitimate comparison, in terms of style and approach, with another quarterback in this league. Of course, most passers possess distinctive qualities cementing their individuality, but Sanchez’s multifaceted strengths are truly unique. He is athletic, able to bounce around in the pocket and occasionally dodge the pass rush, but he holds the ball far too long. He can scramble, but doesn’t seem to intuitively sense his own fragility beyond the line of scrimmage. He has a strong, accurate arm, but is often guilty of overthrowing his targets. At this early juncture, Sanchez’s strongest attribute has been his fearlessness, which borders on recklessness. At times Sanchez very vaguely reminds me of Jeff Garcia, though his arm is superior, and Garcia was probably quicker, in his prime anyway. Whether or not Sanchez will convert this dynamic talent into consistent excellence remains to be seen, but the kid’s shown more than enough to justify his role as starter. The fact this was even a question seems implausible now, but it may have taken a disappointing training camp by a more seasoned Kellen Clemens for Sanchez to get his shot. Abysmal performance against the Saints not withstanding, Sanchez will not be returning the job anytime soon. 

 

Mark Sanchez has held his own. 

 

2. The Offensive Line has been underwhelming 

It’s a quiet story, simmering around the edges, but the offensive line, loaded with high draft picks and massive salaries, has been handled far too easily by opposing defenses. This issue would be viewed as far more pressing had Tennessee not been undone by their own sloppiness week three, handing the Jets a win. The Titans imposed their will on Nick Mangold and company after the first quarter, harassing Mark Sanchez and stuffing the run. The win hid these difficulties, but again the rookie was assaulted in week four, this time by the blitz happy New Orleans Saints. For whatever reason, despite spending another year together, the group seems out of sync, slow in reacting to more intricate blitzes. With Sanchez showing a disturbing propensity to lose the football after being hit, this weakness could prove toxic if not improved upon. And considering the past production of Leon Washington and Thomas Jones, the merely solid output of the ground game has been a letdown, as well. 

3. Jerricho Cotchery is a number one receiver

Case closed. Cotchery excelled while carrying an inexperienced crew of pass catchers. Though Chansi Stuckey was showing improvement before being dealt, other teams didn’t have to think twice about double-teaming Cotchery. With Braylon Edwards in the fold, Cotchery could have more open field to work with after catching the ball, catering to his skill at piling up yards after pulling in receptions.  

4. Rookie quarterback or not, the Jets are all in

After adding three key pieces to the defense during the offseason, this statement may have been self-evident. But the decision to start Mark Sanchez had many marking this down as a rebuilding campaign for gang green. Those predictions have already been proven wrong, and the acquisition of Edwards shows, without a doubt, New York’s commitment to achieving something special immediately under Rex Ryan. 

5.  Eric Smith is a very valuable backup 

Smith was key against New England, as he totally shut down Ben Watson, and followed up that excellent game with an interception of Kerry Collins against Tennessee. His competence in coverage allows Ryan to liberally blitz other defensive backs. He may be a liability playing four quarters, but Smith could be an effective weapon if employed in situations tailored to his strengths. 

6. Schottenheimer’s play calling could come under scrutiny 

When Eric Mangini was fired, his offensive coordinator’s role in formulating a suspect game plan overly reliant on an obviously injured quarterback was largely forgotten. Rex Ryan opted to keep Schottenheimer on his staff, and with good reason. The guy is obviously a bright football mind, and highly regarded around the league. He was offered the Dolphins head coaching after a successful first season with the Jets and Chad Pennington. But as a seemingly endless sequence of third and short situations went awry for the Jets last week, those lingering memories of ’08’s collapse may have begun to resurface. If the Jets get too pass happy with a rookie pulling the trigger, they leave themselves susceptible to losing time of possession, which would play right into the hands of Miami this Monday.

7. Bart Scott is an elite linebacker 

Well, many readers probably just let out a big “Duh!” in regards to this one. But your writer must admit that watching Bart Scott play every down has redefined my perception of him as a player. Say what you will about his tendency to talk trash [which means nothing to me, personally] the guy is a force on the field. Bart Scott wreaks havoc. His lockdown performance covering Steve Slaton week one was simply masterful. This high caliber of play has been there every week, especially against the Saints, whose explosive running back cell was kept in check. There’s nothing defensively beyond the capabilities of Scott, pass rushing, coverage, tackling, he can do it all, and well. This is the best free agent signing by the Jets in a long while. 

8. David Harris is an elite linebacker 

Yes. Many Jets fans were slow to embrace Harris. He was seen as the replacement for Jonathan Vilma, who was beloved during his brief New York tenure. Harris’ mind-blowing performance as a rookie was overshadowed by a terrible Jets season. His success last year, again, was not recognized properly because of a nightmarish finish for the team. He’s also had to battle through a few injuries. All that has congealed into a perception that does not match reality. And the reality is, David Harris is a total tackling machine, and could be the best draft pick made during Eric Mangini’s coaching tenure.  Jonathan Vilma didn’t have the New York career he seemed destined for, but the man in his stead just may be better. 

9. Jay Feely has been absolutely money 

Without much fanfare, the Jets may have the best special teams unit in football. 

10. Mystery man Shonn Greene can run a little 

Greene was basically forgotten for the first three weeks, a confounding afterthought. Last week’s cameo displayed why the Jets traded up to acquire his services. Greene can become a major factor very quickly.

………………………………………

Jerricho Cotchery was held out of practice today with a hamstring injury. “It’s still bothering him some,” said Rex Ryan at his presser. “I’m not definitely not ruling him out [for Monday], but he’s not 100 percent healthy.” 

David Clowney was excused from practice for what Ryan termed “personal reasons.” Clowney did not miss the entire session. 

In light of Cotchery’s malady, Ryan jokingly longed for a recently dealt receiver. “We had a clause in that trade to bring Stuckey back,” cracked the head coach. 

Ryan continued expressing his gratitude for gaining another weapon in Calvin Pace. “The gazelle is back,” he said with a smile. 

This column earlier addressed the offensive line. It’s interesting to note that Ryan has a very different point of view. ‘I’m definitely happy with our offensive line,” he said resolutely. “Sometimes you’ve got to credit the other team.” Ryan also alluded to other teams stacking the box to blunt the Jets rushing attack. He was confident Braylon Edwards, with his big play ability, could make other teams pay for taking that tact. “I think so,” Ryan said, before quickly correcting himself. “I know so. The proof’s gong to be in the pudding.” 

Rex Ryan on the wildcat: “It’s a pain in the tail.”

Previewing Jets-Dolphins

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The extrapolation approach represents a tricky tact when analyzing the National Football League, entirely due to the unpredictability governing any given game. A gambler can factor in variables such as momentum, positional match-ups, weather, home field advantage, anything under the sun to draw conclusions, and still be betrayed by a fluke bounce or terrible officiating call.

There was a hilarious scene on “The Sopranos” one time, where Furio, the foreign enforcer, berates a bar owner who lost his place on a bet because of a missed extra point. The guy is in hysterics, eyes bawling, cursing the Vikings’ kicker who ruined his life, while an unfeeling Furio throws a drink in his face. Ah… what a show. The point is, one never knows in football. It defies explanation with regularity. The Bengals’ heartbreaking loss to Denver back in week one was stunning, the result of a wild finish that wouldn’t occur ninety nine times if the Broncos had a hundred chances to manufacture a miracle. Equally improbable was Cincinnati bouncing back and winning three straight. So, why bother with predictions? Well… I have to. And this Monday Night showdown could have me falling into the trap. [Furio! Hear me out! It was a sure thing!]

In my mind, this one is definitely tilting toward the Jets. They will be highly motivated after being dealt their first loss by the Saints. The defeat was a setback, for sure, but didn’t compromise their identity one bit. The defense was stout, stifling a high-powered offense operating within their home confines. The running game, while not explosive, was steady, consistently setting up third and short opportunities that were simply squandered. Basically, the disappointing outcome could be attributed to a rookie quarterback having a substandard game in a hostile environment. Frustrating as it may have been for Jets fans to witness, especially with the defense providing such strong support, this kind of performance was inevitable for a novice. Joe Flacco wasn’t exactly torching the opposition early in ‘08, either. The Jets were beaten, but not embarrassed by New Orleans.

If New York needed even a slight placebo after being outplayed for the first time in ‘09, two major additions to the roster should provide a spark. Calvin Pace, ultra athletic outside linebacker and able pass rusher, will return from a four game suspension for using a banned substance. Pace will unseat Vernon Gholston, who, despite praise from coaches applauding his intangible contributions, wasn’t exactly making his preseason critics look foolish. Fact is; Gholston, for all his obvious talent, will probably be a long-term development project. Pace can change games immediately, especially rushing the passer. “My plan is to go out there and put more pressure on the quarterback,” said Pace when asked about his outlook for the game. “You can’t do that enough. Stop the run, especially this week with two great running backs. Go out and do the same thing I did last year. Cause some turnovers, fumbles and go out and be an impact player.”

After analyzing this game, Matt Waters feels pretty strongly about a Jets rebound, usual caveats about NFL unpredictability aside.

After analyzing this game, Matt Waters feels pretty strongly about a Jets rebound, usual caveats about NFL unpredictability aside.

Head Coach Rex Ryan seems thrilled to have Pace back, eager to utilize his abilities. “Calvin is a tremendous player, there’s no doubt, and that’s not being disrespectful to the men that were filling in for him because I thought they played well in his absence,” said Ryan earlier this week.  “This is a unit I feel that can be tremendous, and we’ve said that from day one.  We’ve got depth, and right now it’s unfortunate we’re having to use it.  We’re having to use the depth at the back end that we talked about, we’re having to use the depth at the outside linebackers, but now with Calvin back, I’m excited about that.  I really am.” 

Pace was a major signing preceding ’08, and now has a chance to reestablish his value. The combination of he and Bart Scott attacking an offensive line could be devastating. It’ll be a major concern for Miami on game day.

The other fresh ingredient will be Braylon Edwards, the prodigiously talented wide receiver who has struggled with consistency in his brief career. Edwards is the league leader in drops dating back to last season, and has been accused of possessing less than stellar character. Recent incidents, like slugging 130-pound friends of LeBron James, have done nothing to alter these perceptions. In terms of immediate impact, Edwards can affect this contest just by stretching the field vertically. Ryan was thrilled with the acquisition. “Again, our goal is to win a Super Bowl.  I have a great appreciation for Mike (Tannenbaum) because he’s always trying to make our football team better.  And when this opportunity presented itself, again, you make a move based on will this give us a better chance to have a shot at our goal?  This move’s really going to help us.”

Edwards benefits from having experience in an offense extremely similar to the one he’d just been exiled from. “I think I was lucky and fortunate that Rob Chudzinski was the former offensive coordinator in Cleveland,” said Edwards after the trade. Especially because he spent some time in San Diego and worked under Schotty (Brian Schottenheimer). I know a lot of the terminology. I was able to pick it up and really move today as opposed to pointing in this direction, that direction.”

 Edwards’ big play potential could open wider running lanes for Thomas Jones, who has not yet resembled the excellent running back from last year. 

With all these favorable circumstances lined up, the Jets seem like a sure pick. After all, a defense that nearly blanked Drew Brees should be able to dominate a troupe headed by Chad Henne.

The Dolphins arrive into this game with new life after trouncing Buffalo last week. They will surely be pumped on a Monday Night in front of a full house, with the chance to officially resurrect their season. They have Channing Crowder, a young linebacker just now being recognized as a force by mainstream fans and media, who totally loathes the Jets’ coach. They have a phenomenal duo of running backs that could help them control the clock. The Dolphins lead the league in rushing for a reason, capable of owning time of possession just as they did against Indianapolis, a superb team. 

But it’s not going to happen. Vegas has this a pick ‘em. That is insanity. This just seems too obvious… The Jets will not have to fret about Miami’s under whelming group of wide receivers. Darrelle Revis will be on an island all night. This will free Rex Ryan to send the house at Chad Henne with regularity, not to mention stacking the box against Brown and Williams. Braylon Edwards will benefit the running game immediately, his presence precluding Miami from pinching the line of scrimmage. 

 No blown extra points to worry about here. Put your business interests on the Jets… you know… if you’re into that kind of deal.  Just don’t blame me if you find yourself in this situation…

 Knock, knock.

New York 27 – Miami  10

Friday at the Complex: Jenkins profile, plus notes

Friday, October 2nd, 2009
With the secondary banged up, the Jets will need a strong effort from their defensive line, including team leader Kris Jenkins

With the secondary banged up, the Jets will need a strong effort from their defensive line, including team leader Kris Jenkins

What Kris Jenkins did to Chris Myers on the afternoon of September 13th would be considered downright illegal in most places. But the violent head slap administered by the Jets nose tackle, lightening quick and immediately followed with a devastating bull rush, occurred within white lines, and instead of an assault and battery victim, Myers became fodder for a particularly memorable early season highlight. Such is the National Football League, where efficient modes of viciousness are interpreted as technique, and the subtle art of one man absolutely bowling over another is practiced daily. 

Kris Jenkins’ method at that instant was reminiscent of Reggie White, the late, great Defensive End who thoroughly dominated the nineties.  This unique talent has earned Jenkins millions, and made him an integral part of the rising Jets’ defense.   

After an impressive tenure with the University of Maryland, Jenkins was drafted in the second round by the Carolina Panthers. In 2001, his rookie year, the franchise sunk to a subterranean level, chalking up a win opening week before dropping fifteen straight en route to the worst record in the sport. Carolina would reverse their fortunes with incredible quickness, reaching the Super Bowl in 2003 under John Fox. Jenkins had a major hand in the proceedings, becoming a household name, the staple of a ferocious defensive line. 

The stat sheet confirmed Jenkins’ immense impact. He made Pro Bowl appearances in consecutive seasons, even became the first player to block an extra point that would have decided a game in regulation. [The Panthers won this contest, against Tampa Bay, in overtime. You don't lose after that...]

Jenkins’ ascension to superstardom was interrupted by a dispiriting string of injuries. When the Jets offered two draft picks for his services following the 2007 campaign, the Panthers acquiesced, cutting ties with a vital piece of their NFC Championship team.

The Jets’ were worried enough about excessive size hampering Jenkins’ health to insert weight clauses into his new contract. Converted to nose tackle within Eric Mangini’s defensive scheme, Jenkins was healthy and productive before noticeably wearing down late in the season. His performance defined the whole unit. When Jenkins excelled, the run defense was stout, and a depthless secondary sufficiently supported. When he struggled, the fortunes of the entire defense submarined. And If wily head coaches like Mike Shanahan could implement schemes completely nullifying Jenkins, the results were downright disastrous for New York.

In 2009, Jenkins has way more support. And yet, with the revelation today that valuable corners Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland will be absent for this Sunday’s highly anticipated matchup with the New Orleans, the burden on Jenkins is once again a very heavy weight. 

“This is definitely one of the best,” said Jenkins after practice today, when asked to analyze the Saints diverse running game. The Saints will boast two dangerous halfbacks this Sunday, despite leading rusher Mike Bell’s unavailability due to a sprained MCL. Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas still comprise a formidable duo. Not to mention Heath Evans, a superb fullback. “Those two and Reggie… he’s such a threat,” continued Jenkins. He went on to assess the opposing backfield’s greatest strength, their ability to make plays in the passing game. “It really makes them two-dimensional. There’s no doubt we’re going to have to play a complete game on defense.” 

Jenkins is no stranger to the Louisiana Super Dome, dating back to his time with the Panthers. “It’s very hostile,” he said, before reiterating “It’s a very hostile atmosphere. You’ve got the Mardi Gras element. But it’s also a fun place to play, as an opponent.”

With the Panthers now in the discussion, Jenkins was invited to draw comparisons between elite defenses of bygone Carolina glory with present company. “It’s too early,” he quickly responded. “It’s the third game. I’m not an expert at this defense, [though] it’s the same type of style. Same type of get in-and-disrupt style.” 

No doubt, the Jets have been tested by some quality runners and offensive lines in the initial battles of 2009. Steve Slaton and the Texans were highly touted before week one, with good reason. The Patriots of recent vintage have been airing it out, even opting to rely on Matt Cassell last season instead of their rushers, despite his inexperience. But Fred Taylor seems to have gas left in the tank. And last week, Chris Johnson consistently exploited even the slightest daylight. There will be no rest for the Jets this week, either. “I think it makes us better,” said Jenkins. “The stiffer the competition, the more you have to focus. We’re being challenged every week. After we get the film, it’s like who we playing this week? Really? Damn… The game’s get bigger and bigger, and the opposition tougher and tougher.” Judging from Jenkins’ tone, and the results, the Jets seem to be relishing this ride. Onto voodoo…  

………………………….. 

Bart Scott and the LBs will have to be on their game in coverage

Scott and the LB’s will need to be on their game in coverage.  

The Saints’ proclivity to feed their halfbacks with a steady stream of passes is a fact not lost on Kerry Rhodes, who implied the front seven will be tested. “Secondary wise, [we have to] limit their receivers, and let the guys up front deal with the halfbacks,” said the safety. 

The major news arising out of Rex Ryan’s presser was the announcement of Sheppard and Strickland’s absences. “Lito Sheppard and Donald Strickland are not going to play,” said Ryan, flat out. “They are out. They will not play this week. I was hoping we’d be able to get them back and they are doing a lot better… [but] they’re not ready to go at 100 percent. We think we could probably play them right now if we had to, but I don’t think it’s fair to them.” 

On the positive side, Ryan did seem adamant that the players currently listed as probable would all suit up and be available. “Everybody else [probable] should play. On that list you have: [Larry] Izzo, [Kris] Jenkins, [Jim] Leonhard, Sione Pouha, [Darrelle] Revis, [Kerry] Rhodes, Matt Slauson, Damien Woody, and Wallace Wright… they are all going to play.”

When asked whether he found the task of coaching against Sean Payton “fun”, Ryan retorted, “I’d probably classify it different. It’s fun to be challenged after the fact. I can say, ‘oh yeah, it was fun.’ You were challenged, but you wish you didn’t have to go through with it.” 

The head coach claimed the Jets thought about signing a cornerback this week, but ultimately decided to stick with the current plan.