Recent Hires Speak to Rex’s Desire of ‘Attack-Style’ Offense

January 22nd, 2013

NEW COACHING MOVE ALLUDES TO ‘WILDCAT’ STAYING PUT — AND, PERHAPS, EXPANDING IN 2013.

If at first you don’t succeed — try, try again.

The old phrase can be taken in two ways to describe the Jets signing of quarterbacks coach David Lee; 1. after losing out Lee to the Buffalo Bills last year, the Jets made sure to land Lee in their efforts to revamp their offensive unit and 2. while their version of the ‘Wildcat’ offense was mostly tame in 2012, they are not willing to get off the horse just yet.

After all, the read-option/Wildcat/dual-threat quarterback is where the future of football is heading (if it hasn’t already arrived).

That’s where Lee comes in. Many assumed the hiring of Tony Sparano as the team’s offensive coordinator meant the arrival of the Wildcat offense, which his 2008 Miami Dolphins team debuted to the NFL. We know that Sparano wasn’t the mastermind of the formation. He may have had very little to do with it. It was a combination of Lee, then the quarterbacks coach, and offensive coordinator Dan Henning.

It was Lee who brought the ‘Wildcat’ formation with him to Miami from Arkansas — where he was the team’s offensive coordinator and implemented the then-unusual formation with running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. He would go on to win the Sporting News’ 2008 award as “Innovator of the Year” for his ingenuity.

And what does all this mean for the Jets? The ‘Wildcat” wrinkle may very well ripple to the Pistol package as Rex Ryan continues to show his exploration of new, dynamic offenses. The days of “ground and pound” are over. He said it himself. He wants an attack-style offense — one that brings an unpredictability factor to the table.

“I want a physical, aggressive attack-style football team whether it’s offense [or] defense and all that, unpredictable in all three phases. That’s what I want,” Ryan said in January 8th end of the season press conference.

It was in that presser where he made a not-so-subtle allusion to what style he had in mind.

“My first year when I came in here I talked about having an all-weather offense, not a ground and pound. That year of the ground-and-pound mentality fit our football team. I want to be more of an attack-style team whether it’s running the pistol or running different types of offenses. That’s what I’m looking to do. As hard as we are to attack defensively, I want to be the same way on offense. – Rex Ryan 1.8.13″

He would go on to reiterate how he wants to work with minds who share a similar mentality, whether it’s in the front office or on offense. Cue general manager John Idzik, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and Lee.

Rex Ryan pointed out he wanted minds who shared his same "attack-style" mentality. He got them. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Idzik could pursue former Seattle quarterback Tavaris Jackson — a dual-threat quarterback with limited prior success in the NFL. While in Seattle, Idzik was a supporter of Jackson, who spent this past season as a backup with the Buffalo Bills — with Lee – and would fit into the their slim price range. He also had a hand in the construction of the same Seahawks  team who deployed  a similar read-option/wildcat formation with rookie quarterback Russel Wilson and reached the second round of the NFC playoffs.

Mornhinweg, a quarterback guru known for his offensive play-calling ability (another thing Ryan was looking for), finished in the top ten of total offense in five of the seven seasons he called plays for the Philadelphia Eagles. His quarterbacks for the majority of that time were Donovan McNabb and Michael Vick — two players whose dual-threat attributes thrived in his West Coast-Spread hybrid offense.

***

“The style of play, it’s hard not to respect. You have to love that from an old school football background, we both have that.  I think you appreciate the way he goes about business. They take care of the football, they create turnovers on defense, and they run the football, and they stop the run. They play great special teams,”  Rex Ryan 9.27 on similarities between the Jets/himself & the San Francisco 49ers/Jim Harbaugh.

Many [myself included]  saw the  comparison Ryan talked about prior to their Week 4 matchup  – where the 49ers unveiled Colin Kaepernick and shut out the Jets at home 34-0. Both teams were then-built as a defensive-minded team that played a ball control offense with a read-option wrinkle. That’s where the similarities end however. (Which is ironic, considering Ryan devoted nearly 1,000 words to praise the 49ers.)

“When you look at [the 49ers] and see how multiple they are with their personnel groupings and formations, and shifts and motions, and all that type of stuff, you have to be on top of it,” Ryan said back on September 28th.

The Jets were not.

The transformation of the 49ers, who were a stout 7-1 with ball-control QB Alex Smith (leading the NFL in completion percentage at 70.2) at the helm, happened when then back-up/read-option specialist Kaerpernick was named the starter. It was a ballsy move, one that many clamored Ryan to do with his own read-option backup, Tim Tebow.

That, of course, never assimilated as the Jets finished the season 6-10 ranking 30th in the league in total offense with a quarterback carousel that featured two almost equally inept quarterbacks in Mark Sanchez and Greg McElroy and not the read-option quarterback, Tebow.

The Niners’ offense, on the other hand, turned from averaging 23.6 points per game to 28.5 with Kaerpernick [earning a 76.79 QBR in that span] running the read-option offense for head coach Jim Harbaugh all the way to New Orleans for a berth in the Super Bowl — scoring 30+ points in four games including the playoffs.

Now with this being Ryan’s “fresh start” as Jets head coach — having been given new life by owner Woody Johnson — he’s set to right his wrongs and “implement his will” on this team with a renewed conviction; highlighted by the most recent additions to a team that’s in search of a new identity.

The Jets have attempted to pass less than half the time in three seasons with 48.4% of the plays ran in that time devoted to the pass. In three of the four years Ryan has been the head coach, the Jets have been in the bottom six of pass rate.

Expect all of those facts to change under Mornhinweg. Employing a pass-first, West Coast offensive scheme, the Eagles have continually ranked among the NFL’s most pass-heavy offenses. Philadelphia ranked inside the top 10 in pass percentage in three of the past four years with Mornhinweg calling the plays.

Ryan may not have done many things right over the past two seasons, his subpar 14-18 record shows that, however he has also shown a readiness to not only acknowledge  his mistakes but to right them. The recent moves made by the Jets dictate that.

BREAKING: Jets close to deal with GM Gamble

January 5th, 2013

After an early Saturday morning interview with the Jets, Gamble has cancelled his meeting with the Jacksonville Jaguars to focus more on the Jets GM position.

It looks like the Jets are willing to gamble on Tom Gamble as their new general manager.

Brian Bassett of SNY’s the Jets Blog confirmed a report from Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio that the Jets indeed want to hire the 49ers Director of Player Personnel to replace Mike Tannenbaum.

Woody Johnson's hiring of Jed Hughes to find his new GM -- and keeping the decision out of his hands -- may be the smartest move of the early offseason. (JetsInsider.com Photo.)

In the report Bassett cites a source with knowledge of Jets contracts that says the potential deal is in the $2-3 million per year for three or four year ballpark. Gamble has been labeled by many as the favorite for the job since the search began.

Gamble, perhaps, gives Rex Ryan the best opportunity to keep his job. Historically in this type of situation the head coach has a short term mentality with keeping his job at the top of his priorities while the newly appointed general manager is asked to think long term. Given Gambles’ structuring of the 49ers — a team with a very similar identity to the Jets, except they executed it better — it may be an easy transition for Ryan to grow accustomed to. There is also the personal history from the days where their fathers worked together for the Eagles in Philadelphia.

While Tom Heckert removed his name from the GM discussion Saturday citing concerns about the team’s salary cap, Marc Ross — the Giants director of college scouting — still has his interview planned for Monday. Ross was given permission by Giants GM Jerry Reese to interview with the Jets and he appears to be the minority candidate up for discussion.

A decision may not come for days, however, as front office head hunter Jed Hughes — being paid by the hour — has an invested interest to keep things open. It is also important to note that the Jets have not fulfilled the Rooney Rule, which requires NFL teams to interview minority candidates for head coaching and senior football operation opportunities.

Be sure to check-in to JetsInsider.com for all the latest updates on the Jets GM search plus all other offseason happenings!

Sanchez, Jets lose finale in Buffalo 28-9

December 30th, 2012

MARK SANCHEZ CAN’T FIND END ZONE AS JETS LOCK UP WORST SEASON IN REX RYAN ERA.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Those who subscribed to the logic that Sunday’s regular season finale against the Buffalo Bills would be Mark Sanchez’s final “try out” to the organization — and potentially others — that he can be a starter in the NFL were disappointed as the clock stuck double zero.

The new Sanchez-led offense looked as stagnant as the old Sanchez-led offense with no play speaking louder than his pick-six to Bryan Scott in the first quarter.

Sanchez did nothing to ease the criticism. The 2009 first-round draft pick finished 17 of 25 for 205 yards with an interception — his 18th of the season — and a lost fumble. He also worked an offense that yet again lacked finish, settling for two field goals on three trips inside the Bills 20.

Down 9-7, the Bills went ahead for good when Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s been linked as a possible replacement for Sanchez in 2013, dumped a short pass over the middle to Spiller as he split defenders and then outraced them into the end zone.

In what might've been Mark Sanchez's last game as a Jet, he reminded fans that their won't be much missed. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

The Jets trailed 14-9 at the half despite gaining more yards than Buffalo (204-132), getting more first downs (13-4) and holding a whopping edge in time of possession (23:15-6:45) — pointing to the mistakes of Sanchez as game killers.

That was the recipe for disaster as the Jets failed to score an offensive touchdown for the fourth time this season — losing to the Bills (6-10) 28-9 on the road. The loss gave the Bills a tiebreaker in conference record, securing the Jets (6-10) last place in the AFC East for the first time since 2005 when the Brooks Bollinger-led team finished 4-12.

It was Sanchez’s first start in two weeks after he turned over the ball five times in a 14-10 loss at Tennessee. He got the start after third-stringer Greg McElroy complained of concussion-like symptoms on Thursday. On Wednesday he told reporters that he has “already learned valuable lessons” since being benched.

The lessons learned were not on display Sunday, as he did little to not only help his on future, but that of his first-year offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who’s been rumored to be on the hot seat as well.

On a blistering cold afternoon in a nearly empty Ralph Wilson Stadium it was the imminent change that’s approaching next week — for both teams — that overshadowed the action on the field. Much like the Jets, the Bills could also be looking at a front office facelift after a team that failed to live up to their mega million expectations.

General manager Buddy Nix, head coach Chan Gailey and quarterback Fitzpatrick are all rumored to be on the chopping block as the off-season commences.

It’s the first losing season in the Rex Ryan regime — a group that will seemingly have a complete overhaul starting from the front office, to the coaching staff, to the player roster. With Ryan’s job appearing to be safe despite 34-30 record that’s seen the Jets go 14-18 over the last two seasons, his general manager Mike Tannenbaum will likely be the first to go. Sean Deegan via SI.com’s Tony Pauline confirmed Saturday that Tannenbaum will be gone as soon as Monday.

With longtime special teams coach Mike Westhoff retiring after 30 NFL seasons (12 with the Jets) and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine turning down a contract extension, the Jets may be looking for three coordinators and a general manager in the coming weeks.

That’s not even accounting for the 12 free agents this team has to decide on including the likes of Dustin Keller, Shonn Greene, Braylon Edwards, LaRon Landry, Mike DeVito and Yeremiah Bell. Throw in the Sanchez situation and Tim Tebow exorcism and the 2013 offseason should, at the very least, provide bigger fireworks than their 2012 season did.

Cromartie, Landry named to AFC Pro Bowl

December 27th, 2012

JETS DEFENSIVE BACKFIELD PREPARED TO SET SAIL TO HONOLULU FOR PRO BOWL.

The Jets defensive backfield was well represented when the AFC announced their Pro Bowl roster Wednesday. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety LaRon Landry were named as Pro Bowl reserves after helping the Jets defense rank second in the league against the pass.

Cromartie’s stellar play as the team’s number one corner in lieu of Darrelle Revis’ season-ending injury sparked the team’s early season success. He blanketed opposing team’s number one receivers, allowing 42.3% of passes to be completed in a Pro Football Focus study. Heading into the season finale Cromartie has 25 tackles, 3 INTs, 1 INT TD and 13 passes defended.

His second invite to the Pro Bowl could prove to be the vindication he promised two seasons ago after the team put him on hold for then-Oakland Raider Nnamdi Osomugha. Rex Ryan missed out on the potential “No Fly Zone” defensive backfield tandem of Revis and Nnamdi, and instead found a locker room leader and lockdown corner in Cromartie. And since Asomugha signed with Philadelphia he has drifted off to anonymity.

“My style of play and his style of play are totally different,” Cromartie told ESPNNewYork.com in August of 2011.  ”I feel I’m more of a playmaker than he is.”

He last was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2007 when he led the league with 10 interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. He was also a first-team All-Pro.

Antonio Cromartie's second Pro Bowl nomination proves he's better than Nnamdi Asomugha, whom the Jets chased two off seasons ago. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“We have some guys definitely deserving of it. I think Antonio Cromartie, obviously, on defense stands out. I’m hoping that Muhammad Wilkerson gets recognized that way. I’m not sure that he will. Sometimes it seems like it takes a couple years, but clearly those guys have jumped out and I think they’re very deserving. LaRon Landry, I think he’s deserving,” Ryan said Wednesday when asked which Jets were worthy of the Pro Bowl.

LaRon Landry earned a well deserved Pro Bowl nod after spending the last two seasons on the injured reserve list with a gruesome Achilles’ injury. In his first full season back, the gamble the Jets took has paid off. Landry is the team’s second-leading tackler and top enforcer in the defensive backfield, delivering gut-wrenching blows. Landry has 72 tackles, 2 INTs, 4 forced fumbles, 7 passes defended and 1 TD through 15 games.

“I wish I could have contributed to the team making the playoffs, but it’s sweet just to come off a two-year injured reserve situation and this organization basically took a chance on me. I knew the type of player I could be when I’m healthy. It’s always an accomplishment that I always wanted and a goal and I’m just happy for that,” Landry said Thursday.

Ryan’s hopes for Wilkerson, however, will have to wait until the Super Bowl as all six AFC defensive linemen are bound for the playoffs. Should a player make it to the Super Bowl he will be exempt from the Pro Bowl, which occurs the week between conference championship games and the Super Bowl, and a replacement will be named. Certainly a case can be made for the second-year lineman out of Temple as a big time snub, who’s anchored a deep defensive line unit for the Gang Green. On the season he has 66 tackles, 5 sacks, three forced fumbles, four passes defended and 1 TD.

“On offense, obviously, D’Brickashaw Ferguson has had a great year, a fantastic year. Nick Mangold’s been a staple at that Pro Bowl, and Brandon Moore. If they don’t get on the team, I expect some guys to receive some votes for sure,” Ryan said.

They didn’t get voted in, but the possible Pro Bowl fate of Wilkerson could be the same for the Jets offensive line — which overcame early season struggles transitioning from Bill Callahan’s zone scheme to Tony Sparano’s gap blocking scheme to hit their stride in the second half of the season. All three were named to the Pro Bowl last year, with Ferguson rebounding from a shaky 2011 season to have a dominant 2012.

Sanchez gets starting nod again; McElroy out Sunday

December 27th, 2012

THE JETS THREE-RING CIRCUS HAS A NEW RING LEADER FOR SUNDAY’S SEASON FINALE.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The game of musical chairs continued for the Jets on Thursday and, yet again, Tim Tebow found himself on the outside looking in. Greg McElroy is being evaluated for a concussion and will be out for Sunday. Mark Sanchez, who was benched last week at home against San Diego, will get the starting nod in the season finale.

Rex Ryan said Thursday that “obviously, Tim wasn’t happy about it, as you’d expect”.

While lifting weights early Thursday morning, McElroy developed a headache. He approached head trainer John Mellody of the symptoms and both relayed the news to Ryan.

Rex Ryan gave the starting nod back to Mark Sanchez in Sunday's season finale after Greg McElroy's concussion. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“I was stunned by it,” Ryan told reporters. “I admire his courage and everything else but you have to be truthful and that’s a lesson learned here with the medical staff. I understand the competitive side of Greg but the most important thing is the health of the players. I just feel fortunate something like this showed up without him going out there and putting himself in harm’s way.”

McElroy was expecting to start his second pro game after his first start came as a loss by the hands of the San Diego Chargers last week, who greeted the first-time starter with 11 sacks. He came off the bench to replace Sanchez Week 12 at home against Arizona, in which he led a stagnant Jets offense down the field for the eventual game-winning touchdown.

Sanchez is back in the starting role after being benched two weeks ago following his five turnover performance which thwarted any hopes of making the playoffs. On Wednesday, he said he has already learned valuable lessons out of his current situation and that he’ll be “ready to when he gets his next shot”.

His next shot may be sooner than most expected, however Ryan said his decision to go with Sanchez was two-fold: Sanchez’s past success against Buffalo and the lack of preparation time remaining before the game. The Jets have two practices remaining this week.

In six career games against Buffalo, Sanchez has a 5-1 record while enjoying some of his best statistics (87-158, 1060 yards, 11 TDs, 8 INTs, 55.1 completion %, 78.0 QB Rating).

Ryan sympathizes with Tebow’s tough predicament, saying he can “understand the frustration of not getting to play as much as I’m sure he’d have liked”. Last week, it was reported Tebow was sour about being passed over for McElroy in last week’s game and allegedly gave Ryan the ultimatum of “play me as a real quarterback or don’t play me”. Tebow did not play.

He defended his character on Wednesday saying the report was untrue as Joseph Sudberg reported yesterday.

Evaluating For the Future

December 20th, 2012

WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF THE PLAYOFFS GONE, WHO WILL STEP UP IN 2012 FOR A SPOT IN 2013?

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The playoffs may be out of sight for the 6-8 Jets, but there is still plenty to keep an eye on in the final two games of the season. These last two games, while still looking for the win, will be used to build cases for who should be a Jet in 2013.

And, no, I’m not just talking about the quarterback position.

The Sanchez/Tebow/McElroy carousel aside, there are plenty of other areas the Jets will look to lock-up or move on with key free agents and budding players alike. The Jets have eleven unrestricted free agents in 2013, including key contributors on both sides of the ball like Shonn Greene, Dustin Keller, Mike DeVito, Yeremiah Bell, LaRon Landry, Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore.

“The younger players are certainly going to get an opportunity to play a little bit more – the Quinton Coples, Bilal Powells, Vlad Ducasses. And I think we have been getting them involved throughout the year. So that will continue,” Rex Ryan continued saying on Thursday, “I think Coples you’ll see more of. I’d like to see Kenrick Ellis some more. Absolutely I want to see some of these young guys play. I’m excited about Antonio Allen. There’s been a lot of young guys who’ve stepped up when we plugged them in.”

Weighing the balance of veteran value and importance on grooming youth, Week 15 is the start of a long, involved evaluation process for what will be the 2013 New York Jets. Here’s a look at some players to keep an eye on as the season comes to a close.

Could this be the last time we Shonn Greene and Dustin Keller in a Jets uniform? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

VETERAN FREE AGENTS:

  • Dustin Keller, Tight End — It’s been a frustrating year for Keller to say the least. He’s missed five games this season with a hamstring injury and looks like he’ll be out this week with an ankle injury, after playing in every game for the first four years of his career. Keller has been the team’s leading receiver the last two seasons, but that was with Mark Sanchez at the helm. With Sanchez’s future left in limbo, so does Keller’s. Ryan has always raved about Keller’s athletic skill set, but what he really loves is versatility. And his poor blocking doesn’t help his case in a run-oriented offense. The injury hurts his value, but he may find higher value in a spread, passing offense.
  • Mike DeVito, Defensive End — One of the unheralded leaders of the defensive unit and the team. He’s quietly enjoying what Ryan calls “his best season since I’ve been here” and stood out with a dominating eight tackle performance against the Titans. DeVito told the Star Ledger he wants to remain a Jet, but would find it interesting if other defensive players went elsewhere. When asked about the future of DeVito, Ryan skirted the questioned by gushing about the five-year player.

He’s doing a great job for us this year. Obviously, there’s going to be situations on futures of players and those will be addressed. But he’s done a tremendous job for us – and not just as a steady player, but as a run-stopping playmaker as well.

  • Bart Scott, Linebacker — Not a free agent in 2013, but given his decline in play — likely due to age and struggles dealing with a toe injury — Scott’s $6.9M owed next year is a bloated figure. He’s been hammered by fans for the lack of walk after all his talk, but still, Scott hopes to remain a Jet. He told the Daily News that he’d be willing to take a pay cut to stay with the team. Should he return, he’ll likely platoon at middle linebacker with 2012 third rounder Demario Davis.
  • Bryan Thomas, Linebacker – Fighting age and injury as well, Thomas appeared to multiple reporters as “frustrated” with the uncertainty of his future. Mike Pettine said Thursday that the thought of Jets linebacking corps as we know it could be playing their final games has crossed his mind.
  • Yeremiah Bell, Safety — The ten-year veteran will be 35 in March and is leaving no doubt he wants to play in 2013 for his eleventh season. He told the Star Ledger that he “definitely playing” and “wants to come back” next year. He, along with fellow free agent-to-be LaRon Landry, has anchored the safety position with 83 tackles while locking down the defensive backfield after the loss of Darrelle Revis. It would be interesting to see what a year of a unit like Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Landry and Bell could do.
  • Shonn Greene, Running Back – He’s not pretty. He’s certainly not flashy, but Shonn Greene — very quietly — is putting together a nice season. Early struggles — much of which can be attributed to the offensive lines transition from a zone scheme to gap-based scheme — led to fans crying for his head, but over the last four games Greene has been a different player. In a near 50/50 split in carries, a demotion for Greene, he’s averaged 80 yards a game and 4.6 yards per carry. His smash-mouth style embodies Ryan’s style of play and has been a model citizen in the locker room.
  • Matt Slauson, Guard — After a breakout 2011 season in which he admirably played through a gruesome shoulder injury that was torn in two places and never missed a game, Slauson has grown to be a malcontent over the course of the 2012 season. His play has been average — neither stellar nor poor — yet he continually found himself in a positional battle with Vlad Ducasse; a move that offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo alluded to as coming “high above him”. He also got swirled in the storm of the anonymous player ripping Tebow, where his remarks were included in the Daily News’ article. If what DeGuglielmo was alluding to is indeed true, Slauson’s days as a Jet are numbered with the reigns going to Ducasse, for better or worse.

YOUTH MOVEMENT:

  • Quinton Coples, Defensive End — He’s recently proven to be worth the 16th overall selection in the draft. His interior presence has been complimented by the attention former high school teammate Muhammad Wilkerson receives, but it’s provided a glimmer of hope in the future of a team filled with uncertainty. Special teams coach Mike Westhoff said Thursday that he believes with Coples and Wilkerson anchoring the line, the Jets could have something special for years to come. The difference in Coples has been the way he practices during the week, according to Ryan.

I just think now he’s hitting his stride a little bit. He’s more familiar with expectations here – how we do things. And then we try to use him multiple ways – initially, I think that hurt him – now I think that has helped him, where we can take advantage of the type of skill he has. Obviously, he’s going to be a huge part of what we do here in the future. It’s rare to get a guy with his height, weight, speed and to see him really understand how to practice has been the difference. He really knows how to practice. He’s flying around there loose footballs. His technique is getting much better.

  • Bilal Powell, Running Back – He’s earned his keep in 2012, that’s for sure. After an eye-opening training camp, Powell has burst on to the scene in the second half and looks to keep it moving in the foreseeable future. Moving from barely used, to a 60/40 split to a now near 50/50 split in carries Powell has been a difference-maker in the team’s near miss of the 2012 playoff run. He’s been over four yards per carry in each game over the past three and has gained 246 of his 405 yards on the ground in his last five games.
  • Vlad Ducasse, Guard — He may have gotten off on the wrong foot with the Jets in his early career, but like it or not, it appears Ducasse will get his opportunity to be the starter next year — even if it’s to the dismay of DeGuglielmo. Couple the desire to see Ducasse succeed with Slauson’s outward unhappiness with the platoon, it should spell for the Year of Vlad part two.
  • Antonio Allen, Safety – Coaches have been raving about the seventh round pick from South Carolina, and his brief playing experience has been impressive. Westhoff shared that Allen has been one of those young players whose audition has been going well and that, with a little gain in weight, he could be used in a variety of roles. With both of the team’s starting safeties free agents, the a good grade from the front office on Allen could prove to be a savvy, cap-saving move.

With McElroy starting, who’s the No. 2 now?

December 20th, 2012

REX RYAN IS NOT READY TO NAME HIS BACK-UP QUARTERBACK FOR SUNDAY.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — There’s been nine months of unremitting debate whether Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow should be the starting quarterback for the New York Jets. For the past three days, however, the debate has involved Sanchez and Tebow but not to be the starter.

That job belongs to Greg McElroy. For now.

“Greg got every single snap in practice. He’s starting and the ball is in his hand. You approach the situation as he’s your starting quarterback and he is, so let’s see what he can do,” Rex Ryan said Thursday.

In a year where the story has been the rise of the young, talented quarterback — the story in New York is not about the blooming McElroy, but the catastrophic collapse of their two somewhat young, semi-talented quarterbacks.

Since leading the Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship appearances, Sanchez has failed to take the next step as he’s led the league in turnovers since 2011 with 50 — an issue that was magnified in his five-turnover Monday Night performance that fumbled the Jets playoff chances. Couple that with a 10-13 record over his last 23 games and a loser in five of his last eight and it’s hard to argue with the former fifth overall pick’s demotion.

Could Sunday, in McElroy's first pro career start, be Sanchez and Tebow's last game in New York as Jets? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“I respect Coach’s decision. Obviously, I want to be out there playing, so I don’t necessarily agree with it,” Sanchez said Wednesday. “There’s a ton of emotions going through your mind. I guess at the forefront it’s just disappointment. You’re upset. I’m frustrated with my play and some of the decisions I’ve made.”

Tebow’s situation is a horse of a completely different color. While it could be argued that Sanchez was over-used, an adversely similar case could be made that Tebow has been underused — or better yet, misused. Promised to get a shot at competing for the starting job prior to the start of training camp, Tebow got his chance in the second quarter of Week 14 — a five-play series which included two runs for 13 yards, a sack for a loss of two, a delay of game penalty and an incompletion to Jeremy Kerley. This came after Tebow missed the three previous games with cracked ribs despite being cleared to play by the team’s doctors and, seemingly, being relegated to a special teams sideshow in the Jets three-ring circus act.

“Obviously, I’m a little disappointed [with not being named the starter],” Tebow said Wednesday. “I don’t think anybody knew exactly what was going to happen [before the season]. Just tried to do what was best in their mind and we just tried to work together as a team. Obviously, everybody’s a little bit disappointed with how the season has turned out.”

Ryan has left open the possibility of dressing all three quarterbacks on Sunday, but will release his number two starter “when he’s ready” to.

“When I’m ready to let you guys know, I’ll let you know that. I’m not ready to do that yet,” he said.

For both Sanchez and Tebow, Sunday may very well be their final farewell game in MetLife Stadium as multiple outlets are reporting that the front office is open to moving their quarterbacks elsewhere.

A report Wednesday in the New York Daily News indicated that Tim Tebow, who spent this season as Sanchez’s backup, would likely request a trade or ask for his release if he did not get a chance to play in the final two games. ESPN New York cited league sources as saying that the Jets plan to part ways with Tebow after the season.

When asked if he has requested a trade, Tebow responded, “I have not. We’ll talk about that after the season though,”. He later added that he “just believed that [he] would get an opportunity to try to compete as a quarterback and get opportunities”.

The Daily News later reported the Jets could also explore trade options for Sanchez, although making a deal might be difficult since he is due a guaranteed $8.25 million for 2013.

“Look, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals of me being here, not being here, whatever. We’re focused on this week. So any question about what’s going to happen next year, are you going to be a starter ever again, I’m not even going to go there … [How the season has unfolded] is different than what I expected back in August, but it will somehow work out and make me better and stronger,” Sanchez said.

With the presumed death of the Sanchize and Tebowmania in the same week — just days before the end of the Mayan calendar — maybe it really is the end of the world.

PREVIEW: NY JETS (6-7) @ TITANS (4-9)

December 15th, 2012

THE NEW YORK JETS PUT THEIR PLAYOFF HOPES ON THE LINE AGAINST THE TENNESSEE TITANS ON MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL.

In a game that’ll more than likely not live up to a “Clash of the Titans” label, the Jets — formerly the Titans of the New York — take their playoff hopes on the road to play the Titans of Tennessee on Monday Night Football. Winners in three of their last four, the Jets will look to extend their recent winning ways and offer clarity to a cloudy AFC playoff picture.

They will attempt to do so by duplicating Rex Ryan’s formula that triggered playoffs runs in 2009 and 2010 — dominating the box score in three categories: rushing attempts, completions (or completion percentage) and turnovers. The result isn’t an aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but has recently resulted in wins. Over the past four games the Jets have run the ball 155 times for 586 yards or 146.5 yards per game and in their three wins they had 40+ rushing attempts.

The statistics belong to running backs Shonn Greene and Bilal Powell, who’ve are certainly deserving of praise, but it’s the offensive line that’s sparked their success.

“We’re able to move people off of the football and we’re opening up some running lanes,” Ryan said Friday. “I think that’s obviously been good for us. It’s probably a key for our success, being able to run the football.”

Ryan’s defense feasted on two stagnant offenses as they put up gaudy numbers against Ryan Lindley and Chad Henne-led teams. On Monday, the Titans will present a more difficult task for a defense that’s beginning to catch steam — now ranking eighth overall in total defense.

Chris Johnson (1,047 yards, 4.7 yards per carry) embodies the type of running back that has burned the Jets in the not-so-distant history. His shifty, cut-and-go running style could prove difficult against a defense that still has to prove they’re past their tackling issues from earlier this season. Despite the defensive clamp on the Jaguars, led by potential Pro Bowlers Muhammed Wilkerson, LaRon Landry and Antonio Cromartie, they did allow 92 yards and a touchdown to fourth-string running back Montell Owens — a performance highlighted by a nifty 32-yard touchdown run.

Kyle Wilson has stepped up admirably in the absence of Darrelle Revis, living up to Ryan's hopes when they made Wilson their top selection in 2010. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Continuing their recent success on stopping teams on third down (2-for-31 in their last two games) will be key against the likes of Johnson and second-year quarterback Jake Locker (142/247, 57.5 cmp%, 1,735 yards,  9 TDs/9 INTs). His big arm and ability to make plays with his feet is reminiscent of Ben Roesthlisberger. Unfortunately for Titans, so is his durability questions. Locker’s missed five games this season with a shoulder injury.

Ryan said Friday he has his Jets ready and focused for the Titans and not potential playoff scenarios. That’s a good idea because a loss in one of their final three games all but officially eliminates them from the NFL’s second season.

“Our whole thing is it’s all about this opponent [Tennessee]. I’ve said it the last several weeks. It’s just about what we have to do, and that’s to find a way to beat Tennessee. That’s the way it has to be. That’s the position we’re in. All the other stuff aside, we know that we have to win this game. That’s 100 percent of where our focus is.”

WHEN: Monday, December 17, 2012 @ 9pm EST (Can bee seen on ESPN or heard on ESPN Radio).

WHERE: Nashville, Tennessee / LP Field (capacity: 69,143).

SERIES HISTORY: 41st meeting, Titans lead all-time 22-17-1.

LAST MEETING: Jets 24 — Titans 17 (9/27/09 @ Meadowlands Stadium).

NOTABLE: The Jets have won five out of the last six meetings, dating back to 1998.  The lone Titans win during that timeframe was a 10-6 victory on Dec. 23, 2007 at LP Field. This week’s game marks the second all-time matchup between the Titans and Jets on Monday Night Football.  On Monday, Dec. 1, 2003, the Jets defeated the Titans at the Meadowlands by a final score of 24-17.

HEAD COACHES:

  • JETS – Rex Ryan / fourth season / 34-27 regular season / 4-2 playoffs
  • TITANS — Mike Munchak / second season / 13-16 regular season

INJURY REPORT:

  • JETS — DID NOT PRACTICE - CB Aaron Berry (hamstring), WR Edmond Gates (concussion), WR Stephen Hill (knee), TE Dustin Keller (ankle), S LaRon Landry (heel). LIMITED – WR Braylon Edwards (hamstring), DT Sione Pouha (back), RB Bilal Powell (shoulder, toe), LB Bryan Thomas (chest). FULL - TE Jeff Cumberland (wrist), DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), DT Damon Harrison (ankle), C Nick Mangold (shoulder), RB Joe McKnight (ankle), G Brandon Moore (hip), LB Calvin Pace (shoulder), QB Mark Sanchez (back), LB Ricky Sapp (ankle), LB Bart Scott (toe), G Matt Slauson (knee), QB Tim Tebow (ribs)
  • TITANS — DID NOT PRACTICE – LB Colin McCarthy (concussion), DE Scott Solomon (knee), WR Damian Williams (hamstring). LIMITED – DT Jurrell Casey (knee). FULL - WR Kenny Britt (knee), CB Michael Griffin (neck), RB Chris Johnson (ankle), QB Jake Locker (left shoulder), T Michael Roos (knee), DE Kamerion Wimbley (toe).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • D’Brickashaw Ferguson vs. Kamerion Wimbley – After a rocky 2011 season in which he allowed eight sacks, Ferguson is now the only remaining tackle in 2012 to not allow a sack. A rock solid performance for the veteran anchor on a resurgent offensive line. He’ll have his hands full on Monday, however, as Wimbley will be looking to improve on his low sack total (5).
  • Kyle Wilson vs. Titans’ no. 2 WR — It won’t matter if it’s Nate Washington or Kendall Wright, Ryan has faith in Wilson to get the job done.

“He’s been tremendous. This is the guy we signed up for when we drafted him. He kind of had some growing pains and he’s really stepped it up in those areas. Also, being a full-time starter is something he has always had that type of skill set [for]. Kyle has to take on that burden [because of] the fact that they’re not going to throw [to Antonio Cromartie]. It’s coming at [him] and he’s really answered the call,” Ryan said.

  • Jets Punt Protection vs Titans Punt Block Team – An odd match-up to watch, I know. But Kristian Dyer of New York Metro had some interesting food for thought. “Jets have had punt protection issues and the Titans can capitalize. The Titans are third in the league with a 1.79 % punt block percentage,” Dyer tweeted Friday. Something to keep an eye on as Mike Westhoff’s usually stellar special teams have been lacking in 2012.

X-FACTORS:

  • Bilal Powell, RB, Jets — Ryan said he should be ready to go after X-rays revealed that he did not have a fracture in his toe as reported earlier in the week. Powell had a career-high 19 carries on Sunday and single-handedly drove the Jets offense downfield for their eventual game-winning score in the third quarter. Mark Sanchez said his maturation on the field is undeniable.

“I think earlier in the year, he would even say there were a couple cuts here and there where he could have done this and he could have done that. Now he’s hitting them and making some big gains out of them. He looks like he’s getting more confident out there.”

  • Jake Locker, QB, Titans – I mentioned earlier how I see Locker as a poor man’s Big Ben. At 6-3/235 pounds his thick frame means defenders simply can’t bring him down with arm tackles, yet his 4.59 (40-yard) speed has helped him be the Titans’ second-leading rusher. Locker loves to rollout to extend plays and isn’t afraid pull the ball down and run for yards. The Jets defensive line, alas Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, has been dominant as of late and will focus on keeping pocket containment a high priority against Locker.

THE PICK: It won’t be pretty, but don’t expect much more of their games to be. Another week to prove Ryan’s formula right as the Jets will narrowly rush their way to a victory before a later Titan turnover seals the game for Gang Green. JETS 24 — TITANS 10.

    BRAYLON EDWARDS: Passed Physical, Hopeful to Play Monday

    December 13th, 2012

    BRAYLON’S RETURN TO JETS IS A WELCOMED ONE, BUT WILL HE BE READY TO CONTRIBUTE ON MONDAY NIGHT?

    FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Braylon Edwards is back sporting green and white, but will be limited in Thursday’s practice with a hamstring injury.

    The Jets claimed Edwards off waivers Monday, who was last played for the team in 2010, picking up the remaining $164,000 on his $875,000 contract with the Seahawks. Pete Carroll said Tuesday the team waived the All-Pro receiver after team doctors said he wouldn’t be available to play for the next three games.

    Rex Ryan said that he’s “optimistic” Edwards will be ready to play Monday night at Tennessee after passing a team physical and added, “obviously, we felt different [than the Seahawks did]“.

    Citing the learned curve of catching up with a new offense, Ryan wouldn’t divulge how much he expects Edwards to play, but hopes for a repeat performance from his first career game as a Jet.

    Braylon Edwards has "been going crazy" with excitement since re-joining the Jets, according to Rex Ryan. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

    “He’s a guy that’s played in the league a long time. He’s a smart guy. So hopefully he’ll pick it up fast. I know Sanjay has been spending a lot of time with him. When we did make that trade [in 2009], it was funny, we were wondering how much he’ll be able to play. And he played a ton for us that game,” Ryan said. “All I want is for him to have the type of game the last time we picked him up – which was scoring a touchdown and setting up two others. If he can do that we’ll be OK.”

    A jovial Rex gushed about Edwards repeatedly saying “I like Braylon as a player and a person”, despite the receiver’s recent negative comments in which he called the Jets ‘decision makers’ “idiots” on Twitter.

    “There are times where you make a comment, not that I’ve ever done this, and you’re like ‘Ooh, that came out wrong,’ but I’m happy to have him back. There’s not one person in that locker room who’s perfect with a comment here or there,” Ryan said.

    Edwards was warmly welcomed in the locker room, exchanging hugs and pleasantries with his teammates — old and new. Perhaps none happier than quarterback Mark Sanchez, who’s 10 career touchdowns with Edwards are three more than the combined touchdown total of his current starting receivers — Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill and Chaz Schilens.

    “I think that’s big for the quarterback to have a rapport with the receiver. All the receiver has to do is run around and catch the ball. For a quarterback there’s a comfort level. I think that’s why we brought him in. He does have some chemistry with the quarterback,” Ryan said.

    Fans and media members alike have been publicly clamoring for the return of the original Flight Boy since — well, since he left in 2010. Ryan mentioned he always liked they way Edwards has played and attributes much of their 2009-10 playoff success to him, yet the team waited until Week 14 to reunite with troubled yet productive receiver.

    “Each time there’s different circumstances. Even when he left here, I’ve always liked Braylon. There’s all type of guys you wish you had, but that can’t happen every time.”

    Ryan expects Powell, fractured toe, to be ready

    December 13th, 2012

    SECOND-YEAR BACK BILAL POWELL SUFFERED A FRACTURED TOE IN SUNDAY’S VICTORY.

    FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Bilal Powell will be held out of practice Thursday after suffering a fractured toe in Sunday’s 17-10 victory against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

    “I think he’ll be okay. I’m no trainer or doctor, but I feel like he’ll have a chance to go,” Rex Ryan said.

    RB Bilal Powell will be held out of practice with a fractured toe, but Rex Ryan expects him to be ready Monday.

    Coming off a 71-yard, one-touchdown performance in which his 19 carries was a career high, Powell has been a key cog in the return of the team’s ground game. He accounted for all seven plays of the Jets game-winning fourth quarter drive, gaining all 31 yards before pounding the final four yards up the middle for the score.

    One of the surprises on offense this season, Powell’s emergence has Jets fans conjuring up memories of their run-first offense of yesteryear. Over the past four games the Jets have run the ball 155 times for 586 yards or 146.5 yards per game. The result has been three wins and re-birth in the playoff hunt.

    In those four games the Louisville product has accounted for 54 rushes for 218 yards and four touchdowns, seeing his role increase by the week and earning a near 50/50 split in carries with starter Shonn Greene.