Friday Insider Report: Reverse

Against a secondary appearing unimpressive on paper, the Jets’ passing game exhibited more than enough incompetence in their first game to warrant serious worry. Had all the momentum established during last season’s playoff run vanished? Was the callous dismissal of run blocking mensch and line captain Alan Faneca bound to prove a detrimental maneuver, for a team which seemed finally on the verge of establishing a definite identity? Without Thomas Jones available consistently for twenty plus carries, could the clock be as effectively controlled? And most importantly, with more responsibility obviously being foisted onto his shoulders, would Mark Sanchez, whose downright fanatical quest for improvement during the offseason drew raves from both inside and outside the organization, succumb to an unfair burden?

As he audibled with the maniacal zeal of Peyton Manning injected with adrenaline, Sanchez fed fuel to his doubters in week one against the Ravens. Seemingly switching every single play at scrimmage with a disconcerting growl sounding, “kill!”, only to ultimately play right into the hands of a cunning Ravens defense, it appeared the Jets may have seriously erred. It’s a league of snap reaction feeding frenzies, and nothing sprinkles plasma into the water quite like an embarrassing prime-time, curtain raising defeat.

Sure, the Jets had only been defeated by a single point, but for a team hyped to the heights of nausea before the season, the basic aesthetics of the game were unacceptable. Hype is designed to beget big plays, memorable performances, satisfied fans, and a satiated media. New York may have simply played mediocre, but they looked far worse. And without a reliable set of established standings to lean on, image is everything at the birth of a season.

The agreement was mostly mutual throughout the land. Although Antonio Cromartie had collected penalties with dispiriting ease, and Kyle Wilson had gotten exposed when singled up, not to mention Kris Jenkins being lost for the campaign on a freakish fit of terrible luck, if anything were to throw this Green and White train completely from the tracks, it was the discombobulated offense. Brian Schottenheimer was under fire. Mark Sanchez was once again labeled a liability.

 Here were cast-iron proclamations, a few no doubt echoed in this column space, which aren’t easily altered. Indeed, it would take a mountain of evidence to convince critics.

So, naturally, the Jets had into week four 2-1. Mark Sanchez has yet to throw an interception, while flinging six touchdowns. The offense line has drawn an unacceptable amount of flags, but they have encouragingly stepped forward in two consecutive second-halves, where a suddenly rejuvenated LaDainian Tomlinson has taken flight. The mild disappointment accompanying Shonn Greene’s statistical output could easily be mitigated if he, sharing a balanced workload, explodes down the stretch, mimicking 2009. And what of Dustin Keller, the tight-end who crystallized week one’s letdown with his inexplicable decision to step out of bounds before the first down marker on a last ditch completion from Sanchez? Keller, a gifted athlete and charismatic personality, is fast emerging as a legitimate star after shredding an overmatched corps of Dolphins linebackers and defensive backs on Sunday Night football. His dominating first half harkened a prime level Tony Gonzalez, or the rookie version of Jeremy Shockey.  He flashed that rare combination of attributes associated with number one options, and Sanchez may have actually risked danger constantly locking onto number eighty-one, as the game flowed onward.  But Rex Ryan is impressed with Keller for reasons besides his receiving abilities. “I think the number one thing that jumps out at me is the way that he’s blocking. I think that’s something. He’s always had great receiving skills. Before I got here, when [Brett] Favre was the quarterback, you knew he had great receiving skills, but the blocking, I think, has really come on. It looks like Mark and him have a great connection, like he knows where he’s going to be. Mark knows how he’s going to break his route off, so those guys are clearly on the same page.”  

With this kind of adept assemblage, it can now be labeled downright panicky overreaction, all that doom and gloom. But the key has been Sanchez. If he were ineffective, weapons like Braylon Edwards, whose alleged irresponsibility has provided a sole blight in the aftermath of that unfortunate Monday Night, or the incoming Santonio Homes could have stagnated, or become decoys for a team attempting to force a ground and pound philosophy, instead of correctly adapting to their personnel.

Why is this man smiling? Blink and you may have missed the Jets' offense elevating from weakness to, at least temporarily, team strength.

 And the personnel can clearly make huge moves. All of a sudden, a fascinating shift has taken place, a potentially temporary condition, ever so noticeable all the same. The Jets’ offense has become the most reliable cog in their machinery, their suspect pass defense, without Darrelle Revis, severely damaging their overall defense. Kyle Wilson is being seriously pressed by Drew Coleman, and while the latter certainly deserves credit, fighting for a larger role and earning the start this Sunday, one imagines this was not the ideal cornerback situation envisioned by either Mike Tannenbaum or Rex Ryan.

Three games into a year that is still wide open, possibilities limitless, the Jets’ championship recipe is becoming quite clear. Get back Revis and Pace. Return the defense to the realms of 2009. Maintain the offense’s rapid development, while also determining a clear dynamic between Tomlinson and Greene. Stay healthy. Book the parade. For Jets fans, it must be tantalizingly simple to envision. But as we have already witnessed, that fleeting feeling could slip away just as easy with one game, and next up is Buffalo.

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Aside from the due praise heaped on Keller, Rex Ryan also shared some thoughts regarding newcomer Trevor Pryce, and corner Drew Coleman.

Rex on Pryce:

 How did he look in practice? “He looked like Trevor to me. When I was watching him on tape, the big thing when you have a veteran player is, can they move anymore? Can they run? He definitely showed that on tape he can still move. We’ll see. He won’t play as many snaps this week as he normally would because he got here late. We’ll have some things dialed up for him, for sure.”      

A funny anecdote about Tony Siragusa, as it relates to Pryce’s playing time: “I could give him the [Tony] Siragusa deal I gave him once. When he held out, I said he’d play 15 snaps. We were playing Pittsburgh and it was about 100 degrees on the field opening day… He had 15 snaps and we were shutting them out. He goes, ‘What’s that about? 15?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s 15. Let’s go.’ [He said] ‘I thought you said I was only going to play 15 snaps.’  I said, ’15 plays a quarter.’ I forgot to mention a quarter in there, I guess.”

On Drew Coleman starting: “Really, I think Drew has earned the start. I think Kyle [Wilson] has looked really good this week, but I think Drew has earned it. He started off on the bottom of the totem pole and worked his way up. You have to earn it and I think he’s done that.”

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