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TEBOW AT RUNNING BACK: “It’s a possibility”

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

WITH INJURIES TO RUNNING BACKS BILAL POWELL AND JOE MCKNIGHT, REX RYAN HAS NOT RULED OUT PLAYING TIM TEBOW AT RUNNING BACK THIS WEEK.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — There’s a chance we could be seeing Mark Sanchez handing the ball off to Tim Tebow at Gillette Stadium this Sunday.

Back-up running backs Bilal Powell (dislocated shoulder) and Joe McKnight (high ankle sprain) have been held out of practice all week and will not practice on Thursday either, according to Rex Ryan. While he maintained that the two backs will not practice, he withheld any notion that either won’t be playing Sunday. Channeling his inner Bill Belichick, Ryan shared with the media that he has a thought on the status of his banged-up backs, but neglected sharing it.

Rex Ryan wouldn't rule out the possibility of using Tim Tebow at RB this Sunday. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Yes, it’s definitely Patriots Week at the Jets’ Atlantic Health facility.

If Powell and McKnight can’t go by Sunday the only true back-up running back the Jets have is undrafted rookie Jonathan Grimes, who signed with the team prior to the start of the season. Ryan acknowledged that Grimes will be active Sunday, but did not commit in saying he would be the team’s third-down back. The newly-acquired Lex Hilliard has been a great fill-in for the oft-injured John Conner — who was recently let go by way of injury settlement — but has not been asked to do much more than block on offense.

This is where Tebow comes in.

Ryan said “it’s a possibility” Tebow could be used in the running back role in select situations. but didn’t want to speak on contingency plans at the running back position.

“Playing quarterback he knows all the positions. So you can plug him at running back, you can plug him in at tight end. His skill set would be based more on power. He’s not going to be a blazer compared to other running backs, but he’s got power,” Ryan said of Tebow’s running qualities.

Think Toby Gerhart on the Minnesota Vikings — but more hulkish and less elusive.

Remember, Tebow playing running back is only a possibility — an option of utilizing a play-maker in a position where they need a player who knows the offense and who will be mistake-free. Regardless, just another wrinkle opposing teams have to prepare for and another reason to look forward to Sunday’s must-see match-up.

MORNING AFTER REPORT: Running the Show

Monday, October 15th, 2012

AFTER ALL-OUT WIN AGAINST THE COLTS, THE JETS PASSED (OR RAN) WITH FLYING COLORS IN THIS WEEK’S GRADING.

[Removes foot from mouth].

One thing that can be said sure regarding the New York Jets through the first six weeks of the season: when at their best, they look damn good. On Sunday against the Colts they looked damn good in a three phases of the game.

Everything that had been wrong with the Jets — run-blocking, turnovers, communication on offense, the presence of a pass rush, the presence of a running game, red zone ineptitude, you name it — was cured for at least one afternoon. Highlighted by the career-performance by Shonn Greene, the Jets put a complete game together — the type of game that had not been seen since Week 1.

Hell, the Jets would’ve just been happy with a lead. They hadn’t held a lead in their three-game home stand in nine quarters, until Mark Sanchez found Stephen Hill for a five-yard touchdown a minute into the second quarter.

Greene (32 rush, 161 yards, 3 TDs) finally lived up to the bell cow label since becoming the veteran in the Jets backfield. According to ESPN New York, he gained 101 of 161 yards between the tackles on Sunday — a huge testament to the interior offensive play of Nick Mangold, Matt Slauson, Brandon Moore and Vlad Ducasse. Even Joe McKnight reaped the benefits of a prosperous offensive line, gaining 71 yards on three carries before leaving with an ankle injury.

Late last week, our Chris Nimbley asked where the pass rush was. It was easy to spot Sunday as first-round picks Quinton Coples (1.5 sacks) and Muhammed Wilkerson (5 tackles, 1 strip-sack) had multiple impact plays as did Aaron Maybin (1/2 sack, 2 QB hits). But credit Mike DeVito as an unsung facilitator for their success. Sliding over to the middle with injuries to Sione Po’uha and Kenrick Ellis, DeVito absorbed multiple blockers giving one-on-ones for the guys outside.

And then there is Antonio Cromartie. He doesn’t have to take a single snap on offense, to be one of the team’s best scoring weapons. His interception in the second quarter quickly turned into seven points for the offense. This season, the Jets have scored following eight of their takeaways, with seven touchdowns. Entering the game, their 71.4 touchdown percentage after a takeaway led the NFL. He nearly added 12 points of his own after questionable a personal foul penalty on Aaron Maybin and another on a pass interference call on himself.

As they showed on Sunday, the Jets can easily dispose of lesser teams. The question will be how they respond the remaining tough teams on their schedule — starting with New England this week. That aside, take the time to soak up the successes of a well-earned team victory against the Colts.

The War Machine was up and running Sunday -- for a career high 32 att/161 yds/3 TDs. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

PASSING OFFENSE: A

  • After completing 11-of-18 passes (61.1%) for 82 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a rating of 109.0,  Sanchez posted his 14th game with a passer rating of 100+. The Jets have posted an 11-3 record in games in which Sanchez has a 100+ quarterback rating.
  • Sanchez spread the wealth finding seven different receivers. Colts corner Jerraud Powers said they wanted the Jets to beat them with his arm, however Sanchez played mistake-free football with his limited attempts.
  • OVER THE HILL: Stephen, back after missing two games with a hamstring injury, scored a 5-yard touchdown in his return, adding 2 other receptions for 18 yards. Jason, signed a week earlier, caught a 5-yard touchdown and made the most of his only opportunity on the afternoon.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A+

  • Greene posted career highs with 161 yards rushing and 32 carries and matched his career best with three rushing touchdowns. The 161 yards rushing were the most by a Jet since Thomas Jones ran for 210 yards vs. BUF (10/18/09).
  • With his 61-yard run in third quarter, McKnight registered the longest run of career, surpassing his previous long of 18 yards set vs. BUF (01/02/11). The play was also the longest run by the Jets since Jones ran 71 yards for a touchdown vs. BUF (10/18/09).
  • The 252 yards rushing marked the eighth time under Rex Ryan that the Jets have rushed for 200+ yards in a game. The Jets are 7-1 in those contests.

PASSING DEFENSE: A

  • Under Ryan, the Jets have now faced four rookie quarterbacks.  In those games, the quarterbacks have combined to complete less than 50 percent of their passes, throwing six interceptions and just one touchdown with a quarterback rating below 50. The Jets have won all four games. Allowing under 300 total yards and under 50 rushing yards, the Jets defense forced four turnovers and registered four sacks, all set or matched season highs for the unit.

Name                     Date       Result     Att      Cmp      Pct       Yds       TD        Int        Sk       Rate

Josh Freeman      12/13/09       L         33        14       42.4      93         0          3          3        12.1

Colt McCoy          11/14/10       L         31        18       58.1     205        1          0          3        88.8

Ryan Tannehill     09/23/12       L         36        16       44.4     196        0          1          0        50.2

Andrew Luck       10/14/12       L         44        22       50.0     280        0          2          4        51.3

Totals                                   (0-4)     144       70       48.6     774        1          6         10       49.9

  • Ellis Lankster registered the first interception of his career when he picked off a Luck pass intended for Donnie Avery in the end zone.

RUSH DEFENSE: N/A

  • The Jets nearly righted all their wrongs Sunday — except for their rush defense. Using only 17 carries split between Vick Ballard, Mwelde Moore and Delone Carter is not an accurate test to earn a grade. Not a negative grade, just was not enough there to garner a grade.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A

  • The special teams unit was highlighted during game introductions after their stellar play last week (highlighted by McKnight’s 100-yard kick return for TD) and kept it going on Sunday. Mike Westhoff’s unit continues to be a viable crutch for the Jets offense as they struggle to find consistency.
  • Lining up in punt formation, Tim Tebow took the snap and passed 23 yards to Nick Bellore to convert on fourth-and-11. It was the third successful fake punt the Jets have run this season, the first by passing. The other two successful fake punts occurred at MIA (9/23/12) and vs. HOU (10/08/12).

COACHING: A

  • Players get credit when the coaches make good moves and the same goes the other way. The big thing I take from this game is that the Jets were finally able to get over the hump. The route by San Francisco aside, the Jets have been a few plays away from being 5-1. This week the Jets execution was on point. Perhaps the offense is finally grasping Tony Sparano’s system.
  • The Jets were penalized 8 times for 110 yards. They proved to be harmless, but definitely an area where the coaching staff must keep an eye on with the youth infusion.

* Stats and information provided by the Jets media relations staff.

PREVIEW: Colts (2-2) vs NY Jets (2-3)

Friday, October 12th, 2012

WILL THE COLTS RUN OUT OF LUCK AT METLIFE STADIUM THIS SUNDAY?

After an up-and-down five weeks — a period in which many pundits predicted the rise of New York’s prodigal back-up quarterback, Tim Tebow as the starter — Mark Sanchez is still the man for the New York Jets. The fourth year starter is in the middle of a career-worst four-game stretch, amidst a complete overhaul of offensive weapons due to injury and at the epicenter of an epic quarterback controversy.

It could be argued that luck has not been on the Jets’ side. The likes of Darrelle Revis, Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller, Stephen Hill, Sione Po’uha — and now safety Eric Smith, who injured his knee in practice Wednesday — all missing at least one game this season. That’s not even including the ever-growing daily injury report that’s beginning to look more and more like a dictionary than a rundown sheet. Now, more than ever, the Jets are living by the mantra “next man up”.

“There’s no doubt. We’re a little beat up.  Again, no excuses. We feel good about our depth,” Rex Ryan said Thursday.

On Sunday no one will argue what side Andrew Luck will be on as his 2-2 Colts come to MetLife Stadium fresh off a landmark victory over the Green Bay Packers for the top pick in this year’s draft.  And unlike the Jets, there is no perceived quarterback controversy in Indianapolis.

Sanchez’s 48.4 completion percentage ranks last in the league, prompting more calls for Tebow to take over. The Jets rank 30th in the NFL with 293.4 yards per game. With fans clamoring for more Tebow, is this the week Tebowmania breaks loose in New Jersey? Ryan remains insistent that if or when Tebow is in at quarterback it will be because he called for it, not anyone else.

“One thing I know about the public, the public wants to win just like we do and I understand that. But the decision of playing Tebow, that’s going to be my decision.  It’s not going to be the public’s decision or anybody else’s. It’s on me,” Ryan said.

Despite the Colts living up to their team name, coming in to the season as the youngest average team in the NFL, their old workhorse Reggie Wayne continues to carry the load. Wayne, who turns 35 next month, continues to prove he’s far from finished. He caught 13 passes for a career-high 212 yards against the Packers, and his 506 yards rank third in the league.

WHEN: Sunday, October 14, 2012 @ 1 pm EST (Can be seen on CBS or heard on ESPN Radio).

WHERE: East Rutherford, New Jersey / MetLife Stadium (capacity: 82,500)

SERIES HISTORY: 67th meeting / Colts lead, 40-26-0

LAST MEETING: Jets 17 — Colt 16, Lucas Oil Field (01/08/11) (AFC Wild Card)

Will Jeremy Kerley be able to follow-up his 90-yard performance from Monday night? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Will Jeremy Kerley be able to follow-up his 90-yard performance from Monday night? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

NOTABLE: Since the conferences were realigned in 2002, New York and Indianapolis have split their six match-ups. The two teams have faced off in the playoffs three times since 2003, with New York winning two-of-the-three contests. The last time the two teams met during the regular season, New York scored 19 unanswered points to snap Indianapolis’ 23-gam regular season winning streak.

HEAD COACHES:

  • COLTS — Bruce Arians / Interim head coach / 1-0
  • JETS – Rex Ryan / fourth season / 34-25 (including playoffs)

INJURY REPORT:

  • COLTSOUT LB Pat Angerer (foot), RB Donald Brown (knee), LB Robert Mathis (knee), DT Fili Moala (knee), G Joe Reitz (knee), DT Martin Tevaseu (ankel)- . DOUBTFUL – CB Vontae Davis (ankle). PROBABLE – LB Dwight Freeney (ankle), RB Mewelde Moore (ankle), C Samson Satele (knee).
  • JETS OUT - CB Darrelle Revis (knee). DOUBTFUL - RB John Conner (hamstring), DT Kenrick Ellis (knee), WR Clyde Gates (shoulder), DT Sione Po’uha (back), S Eric Smith (knee). QUESTIONABLE - C Nick Mangold (ankle). PROBABLE – LB Nick Bellore (shoulder), CB Aaron Berry (ribs), CB Antonio Cromartie (shoulder), TE Jeff Cumberland (ribs), LB David Harris (hamstring), WR Stephen Hill (hamstring), T Austin Howard (back), TE Dustin Keller (hamstring), WR Jeremy Kerley (illness, finger), S LaRon Landry (heel), G Brandon Moore (hip), LB Calvin Pace (toe), G Matt Slauson (knee), LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • Dwight Freeney vs. Austin Howard – According to Pro Football Focus, the right side of the Jets offensive line has had serious problems stopping defenders. Heading in to Monday night’s game Howard had given up an astounding 17 quarterback disruptions, while his linemate Brandon Moore had six disruptions against him. The problem for the Colts has been getting Freeney on the field. He made his season debut last week against Green Bay. He recorded two tackles and a sack in his first game back after nursing an ankle injury. Even though he came up limping a bit after the Green Bay game, Freeney has been a full participant in practice this week and is expected to play Sunday.
  • Dustin Keller vs. Antoine Bethea — The Colts have shut down every tight end they’ve played to this point. In four games they’ve allowed a total of seven receptions, 80 yards and touchdown to tight ends that has included the likes of Kyle Rudolph and Marcedes Lewis. That’s bad news for Keller, who’s looking to play for the first time since a Week 1 hamstring injury. Keller’s been sorely missed, who’s established himself as Sanchez’s go-to target the past three seasons. He said he expects to be a go for Sunday, so expect Sanchez to break in his new toy early.
  • Antonio Cromartie vs. Reggie Wayne — The marquee match-up this week. Cromartie is coming off a stellar performance against All-Pro WR Andre Johnson, but so is Wayne. At nearly 35, Wayne is enjoying the best start to his sure-fire Hall of Fame career. His 36 receptions and 506 yards are both the most he’s amassed in the first four games of the season. Ryan said the key to stopping Wayne is keeping hands on him as much as possible. “It’s kind of hard to get your hands on him. They put him in the slot, they put him in a lot of bunches, they put him in what we call snugs, which is a two-man bunch. They don’t want you to get your hands on him, and that’s something that obviously, we’re going to try to do.  They’re not just going to let [Cromartie] go out there and ‘D him up’ from the line of scrimmage.  They’re going to move him.”

X-FACTORS:

  • Vick Ballard, RB, Colts – Are you asking yourself who the heck this guy is? You should. This year’s fifth round draft pick out of Mississippi State has only averaged 10.5 yards per game. But with Donald Brown ruled out after having surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee. The Jets rank 31st in the NFL against the run, giving up 172 yards per game on the ground. The teeth of the Jets defense already missing Po’uha and Kenrick Ellis, they are nursing injuries to inside linebackers David Harris and Bart Scott.
  • Jeremy Kerley, WR, Jets – At this point, why wouldn’t he be the Jets x-factor? He’s the only big-play threat the team has (aside from Joe McKnight, but it seems he never gets enough touches). The fifth round pick has proven to be an early diamond in the rough for GM Mike Tannenbaum and has been one of the few players on offense to step in Holmes’ absence.

THE PICK: After playing such Super Bowl contenders as San Francisco and Houston, Indianapolis will be a greeted with a warm welcome by the Gang Green faithful. They may prove to be a bigger task than anticipated, however, with the team playing for their head coach Chuck Pagano, who recently underwent treatment for Leukemia. I believe the Jets do just enough of on offense to hold on to the victory. Jets 27 — Colts 23.

CROMARTIE’S CORNER: Stepping up in Revis’ Absence

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

IN THE ABSENCE OF STARS DARRELLE REVIS AND SANTONIO HOLMES, ANTONIO CROMARTIE LEAVES HIS IMPRESSION ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — With Revis Island closed for renovations that has meant Cromartie’s Corner is on shutdown status. For the Jets, that’s exactly what they need from their big-mouth, bigger play-making cornerback/wide receiver.

Just to recap, Antonio Cromartie believes he’s the best remaining cornerback in the NFL and the team’s best remaining receiving threat — now that Holmes is out for the season.

“I’m focused on being the best corner I can be right now and that is about it. Whenever I get that chance and when my number is being called to play on offense, I will go out there and handle the play,” Cromartie said after Monday night’s game.

At the time when he made these proclamations, he looked more like Miss Cleo than Nostradamus. But now? He may be on to something with all his bravado. And Rex Ryan is buying what the All-Pro Cro has been selling.

“I think when he made those comments, it was because he believes it. And quite honestly he has the athletic ability to be the best corner in the league. We’ve always said he has the most ability than anyone I’ve ever seen at that position. Him and Deion. He’s starting to play that way,” Ryan said Thursday.

Fellow corner Kyle Wilson said it’s nothing new for the guys in this locker room.

“I know what he’s capable of. I know that everybody here knows what kind of athlete he is and what he’s can do on the field. Maybe other people don’t know, but we do,” Wilson said.

Is Antonio Cromartie really the best corner in the NFL? He thinks so. And so does his head coach. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Add wide receivers Brian Hartline and Andre Johnson to the list of players who know what he’s capable of.

Since the season-ending ACL tear for Revis, Cromartie has been nothing short of spectacular. Against the Dolphins he held Hartline to one reception on nine targets — a week later Hartline amassed 200+ receiving yards. And against Johnson, Cromartie didn’t allow a single reception when covering the All-Pro WR — jumping his route for an interception that would sent up the Jets only offensive touchdown on the evening.

“That’s pretty impressive. I’m happy we have Cro, to say the least,” Ryan said.

The job doesn’t get any easier for Cromartie, who draws the tough match-up of Reggie Wayne this week against the Colts — who’s of the notion that age is only a number after a 200-yard performance in their home victory over the Packers last Sunday.

“It’s going to be tough. I think it would be easier if they just sat [Wayne] down where he’s usually been, but recently [the Colts] have been moving him around a lot. It’s hard to get your hands on him. They put him in the slot, bunch sets, snugs or two-man bunches. They don’t want you to get your hands on him,” Ryan said.

Despite the occasional mental lapse, Cromartie has been — by most accounts — the second-best corner in the league. Second only to Revis, of course.

In 2011, Cromartie had the fourth best burnt percentage of all corners with 41.6% — getting burnt only 37 times out of a possible 89 attempts.  [NOTE: Burn percentage tracks how a defensive player performs in defending passes in which he is targeted. A "burn" occurs when a targeted defensive player allows a completed pass, according to StatsPass.] Revis was second with 40.4%. In fact, since joining the Jets he has the third best burnt percentage in that time with 43%, to Revis’ 38.7%. His nine interceptions in that time ranks third in the league — trailing only Devin McCourty and Jason Allen, but only Cromartie ranks in the top three of both statistics since 2010.

On the other side of the ball, Cromartie continues to catch the eye of Ryan. When asked to comment on the remarks by FA WR Terrell Owens that the Jets are more desperate than he is in regards to having Cromartie play receiver, Ryan laughed it off.

“Let’s face it, he was the second best receiver on our team [on Monday]. After he went deep I was like, ‘Shoot, he might’ve sold himself short’.”

Cromartie continues to work with wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal during practice as he did Thursday afternoon. However Ryan still states that he will be used in “emergency” situations, much like how Joe McKnight has been used as cornerback.

“I’m just here to help out as much as possible whenever my number is called on the offensive side of the ball, but my main focus is to be the best corner in the NFL right now,” he said.

No matter what side of the ball he’s on, we know Cromartie will feel confident about it.

NFL Probing ‘cut block’ by Slauson

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

UPDATED AS OF 9:00 pm EST on 10/11/12: The NFL agrees with the Houston Texans that New York Jets guard Matt Slauson’s block on Brian Cushing was illegal. The league fined Slauson $10,000 for a peel-back block on Thursday. Slauson is expected to appeal the fine. Fox Sports Jay Glazer reported update at 6 pm.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The NFL is looking in to the play where Brian Cushing’s season ended for the Houston Texans on Monday night in their 23-17 victory over the Jets.

The play in question came on a 2nd & 7 effort from the Jets 32-yard line with 10:37 to go in the second quarter. With Tim Tebow in the shotgun formation, running back Bilal Powell came from the left far side of the field in motion to take the immediate hand-off from Tebow on a WR sweep.

Cushing, who was in pursuit of the play, trailed in the back field. From the replay offensive guard Matt Slauson came flying in from the bottom left of the screen, diving at the back end of Cushing’s left knee.

Matt Slauson (right) may be getting docked a paycheck or two for his questionable block on Texans LB Brian Cushing. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Powell gained four yards on the play. Cushing would not return to the game, later receiving news that he has a torn ACL and will be held out for the remainder of the season.

On Thursday Rex Ryan received news that the league would be looking into an illegal action by Slauson and reiterated that he doesn’t have dirty players on his team — a sentiment that’s been over shared by many coaches in lieu of the Bounty Gate fallout.

“I know the intent of Matt Slauson was not to injure Brian Cushing. We wouldn’t try to injure anybody.” He continued his defense of Slauson further by explaining the difference between a legal cut block and an illegal chop.

“It’s a legal block. We’re a team that doesn’t cut [block] very often. Sometimes we’ll cut on a second level and things. [Cushing] is an active guy. You try to get him to pad off things like that. It’s an unfortunate thing,” Ryan said. “With the zone running teams, you can take a look at Houston. They almost cut every single run. It’s a technique that you teach. It’s not dirty, it’s just a technique. That’s almost every single run on the back side that they’ll do that. Like I said, with us, clearly, it was a thing that was unintentional.”

A first-round draft pick in 2009, Cushing was named the Defensive Rookie of the Year. He made 133 tackles that year, the second-most in the AFC behind Baltimore’s Ray Lewis (134).

Cushing again led the Texans in tackles last season (114) and also intercepted two passes and forced two fumbles. He’s only missed four games in his three seasons, all to serve a suspension for a positive test for a banned substance.

MORNING AFTER REPORT: The Good, Bad & Ugly

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

The good news is the New York Jets showed progress on both sides of the ball last night. The bad news was the same old story for both sides of the ball: third-down efficiency, stopping/using the rushing attack and overall inconsistencies.

The 23-17 loss to the undefeated Houston Texans could be viewed as a moral victory in a losing effort — where we can take away many positives from their Monday night performance. The Jets (2-3) are, seemingly, through the tough five-game stretch in which they faced the Steelers in Pittsburgh while hosting Super Bowl contenders San Francisco and Houston.

Although many would have taken the 2-3 start prior to the season, what has transpired through first five games that leave the state of Jets Nation weary moving forward.

The GOOD: Mark Sanchez has found a connection with his now veteran receiving target, second-year WR Jeremy Kerley. Additionally, TE Jeff Cumberland had a career game — posting his first career touchdown on a 27-yard seam route in which Sanchez put the ball right in his bread basket.

The BAD: Late in the game Sanchez put a ball right in Cumberland’s break basket, only for the ball to the fly through his hands and into the hands of the Texans’ defense — sealing the victory for Houston. Additionally, the offense has only two TDs in their last 49 possessions largely due to their inefficiencies in the ground game.

The UGLY: The defense continues to be burnt by the ground game — albeit Arian Foster, who became the third fastest player to gain 5,000 yards from scrimmage. Additionally, incorporating two new players in the skills positions (Lex Hilliard and Jason Hill) brought route confusion and substitution problems on offense.

PASSING OFFENSE: C-

  • There were moments where Sanchez looked to be getting in a groove on offense — their lone touchdown drive being one, he found Kerley and Cumberland each for 27-yard completions. The problem was tipped passes. He had as many tipped passes (3), two of which were for interceptions, as he’s had touchdowns in his past four games.
  • Sanchez was held under 50% completion rating for the fourth straight game — statistically marking the worst slump of the Jets QB’s career. A contributing factor has to be the revolving door at receiver. He hasn’t had the same group of starters at the skill positions since Week 2.
  • Vlad Ducasse continues to under-perform, who struggled — like everyone did — versus J.J. Watt. His inability to keep any hands on Watt late in the first half allowed Watt to disrupt Sanchez’s passing lane which led to his first interception.
  • Starting for the second time in his career, Kerley finished as the game’s leading receiver, catching five passes for 94 yards. The five receptions tied his career best (vs. NYG, 12/24/11), while his 94 yards receiving established a new career high, surpassing his 79 yards receiving vs. NE (11/13/11).

WESTHOFF TO THE RESCUE: Once again the special teams unit keeps the Jets in the game. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

RUSHING OFFENSE: F

  • The Jets were outrushed by the Texans 169-69. They continue to get no push from their run blockers up front and get little from their jumbo packagers with OL Jason Smith.
  • Bilal Powell continues to average four yards a carry — a standard benchmark for a decent ground game. They seem to be phasing out Shonn Greene (2.8 YPC — worst in the NFL) as far as snaps — but he looked effective late in the game. Is it time to let Powell start and switch Greene as the 3rd down/change of pace back?
  • Although he wasn’t always effective, Joe McKnight saw significant field time after being “traded” back to offense. Credit the coaching staff and Tony Sparano for doing their best to utilize their playmakers.

PASSING DEFENSE: C+

  • Antonio Cromartie is living up to his self-anointment as the best remaining corner in the league. He shut down Andre Johnson, not allowing a reception when matched up opposite the perennial All-Pro wideout. On his interception, he read the eyes of Johnson and at the last second turned, jumped the route and made an acrobatic play on the ball which sparked the offense for their only score on the evening.
  • The secondary, which was introduced as a unit to start the game, bit hard on Matt Schaub’s play fakes — which is arguably the best in the league. That was the case on the Texans’ first TD drive, mostly due to Houston running effective ground plays out of the same formations — forcing the defense to respect the threat of a run.
  • They were gashed for big yardage whenever Houston ran an up-tempo/no-huddle type offense. They were able to capitalize when Houston had a slower tempo.

RUSHING DEFENSE: F

  • The good new was the Jets didn’t give up 200 yards of total rushing offense, but that’s about the most of it. Plenty of times Foster had the choice of which alley he wanted to choice with the Texans’ offensive line dictating the line of scrimmage time after time. For example on Foster’s 46-yard run up the gut, it was Kenrick Ellis who slid right and then proceeded to slip and get pancaked, leaving his gap assignment wide open Foster to gain entry.
  • The team’s constant over pursuit on the run aided in Schaub’s play fake success — the top-ranked passer on play action this year.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B

  • McKnight’s kickoff return marked the 11th consecutive season, all under Special Teams Coordinator Mike Westhoff, in which the Jets have had a kickoff return for a touchdown, setting an NFL record. McKnight joins RB Chad Morton, CB Justin Miller, RB Leon Washington and WR Brad Smith as players with multiple kickoff returns for the Jets under Westhoff.
  • Westhoff’s kickoff coverage units left the Texans with an average kickoff drive start of their own 10-yard line on their three kickoffs.

COACHING: C

  • Although the onside kick failed, I credit Ryan for having the grapefruits to go for the jugular and attempt to capitalize on momentum. I think he realizes he’s going to need those type of big plays in all three phases to have success through the remainder of the season.
  • Tim Tebow finally got the opportunity to run some sort of passing offense. I liked his use in the red zone, although I’d like to see him more on a series-to-series basis rather than the play-by-play format they’ve used to this point.

TEXANS 23 – JETS 17

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Sanchez, Jets can’t run with Foster, Texans

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A week after the Jets’ lifeless 35-0 performance against the San Francisco 49ers, New York showed a pulse Monday Night.

The pulse, however, was not enough to overcome the Houston Texans — or their own miscues. Mark Sanchez threw two interceptions, both coming at costly times for the Jets, who found themselves in the thick of a game that everyone had counted them out of before losing valiantly, 23-17.

The first came after a thriving drive that stalled at the 14-yard line following the intended pass for Jeremy Kerley getting tipped at the line by J.J. Watt and intercepted by Brice McCain with 14 seconds remaining in the first half and the Jets trialing 14-7. The second came just prior to the two-minute warning, with the Jets trialing 23-17, when a ball went through the hands of Jeff Cumberland and into the hands of [texans defender].

“J.J. Watt got his hands on a few passes tonight. That’s the way it goes,” a subdued Sanchez said after the game.

Joe McKnight's (above) 100-yard KR TD highlighted an up-and-down game for the Jets, who lost 23-17 on Monday. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Trailing 23-7, McKnight took a Shayne Graham kickoff end-to-end for a 100-yard scamper and giving hope to the fan base with just over four and half minutes to play in the third quarter. The return set a record for most consecutive seasons with at least one kickoff return for touchdown with eleven.

“I thought we had the momentum after that. I thought the momentum was in our hands, but we just
have to finish. We have to play all four quarters,” McKnight said.

On the ensuing kick-off, the Jets attempted and nearly recovered a sneaky onside kick — a move that Rex Ryan said was “all him”.

“That was me all the way. I came here to win. That’s it. Whatever it takes. Faking a punt in your own territory, going for it on fourth down in your own territory. I came to win,” Ryan said.

In return they got a healthy dose of the Texans All-Pro runner.

Foster found plenty of room to run gaining 152 yards and a touchdown on 29 carries. With the Jets boasting the league’s worst rushing defense, he was able to break off big gains of 46, 21, and 13 yards as the bell cow for the Houston offense. He would become the third fastest player to compile 5,000 yards from scrimmage after an eight yard gain late in the fourth quarter, behind Edgerrin James & Eric Dickerson.

Coming into the game with only 1 touchdown in their last 34 offensive possessions, the Jets had a few flashes of brilliance of their own. In what only took 1:47 to unfold, Sanchez connected on a pair of 27-yard passes; one to Clyde Gates to left and Jeff Cumberland over the middle for the score — the first of his career.

Tim Tebow, who worked out in fury with quaterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh during pregame, attempted his first deep pass of the season to Jason Hill. It was the fifth offensive play for the Jets that drew a rousing cry from fans before falling out of the hands of the newly-acquired Hill.

Tebow would later convert a 4th & 1 to start off the second quarter on a quarterback keeper up the gut.

The Jets (2-3) now look ahead to visiting the Indianapolis Colts, who are riding high after a come-from-behind victory over the Green Bay Packers.

JETS OFFENSE: Is short really all that simple?

Thursday, October 4th, 2012
“It’s a screen. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. You invite the rush and you throw it right over
them. He made a pretty good play. They always try to tip it and usually that ball always goes right
through.” – Mark Sanchez 9.30.12

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — In the case of passing the football, does short always precede simple?. That’s what old football adages have taught us.

According to Rex Ryan, he believes the old adage to still hold true today.

“You have to look at a lot of these guys with higher completion percentages and see where they’re throwing the ball. Behind the line of scrimmage and things like that. Obviously those are a lot easier to complete than down-the-field throws,” he said.

Is it that obvious? His quarterback’s numbers suggest that the ease of keeping it short and simple aren’t as straightforward as his head coach might be suggesting.

On throws of ten yards or fewer Sanchez, who has the league’s worst completion percentage since the start of the 2011 season, is also, statistically speaking, the worst passer in the league — completing 54.9%. The play highlighting the discussion was Patrick Willis’ interception on a screen play early in the third quarter of last week’s 34-0 drumming at the hands of the 49ers. The interception came just after the start of the second half with the Jets still very much in the game.

By comparison Sanchez’s Texans counterpart, Matt Schaub, ranks twelfth in the league in passes completed by ten yards or fewer — finding his target nearly 71% of the time.

Mark Sanchez's 54.9 completion pct. on pass of 10 yards or fewer is the lowest in the NFL. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Is his low completion percentage on shorts throws just a by product of his overall low completion percentage? Does all of that fall in conjunction with the lack luster play that’s been surrounding this offense post their Week 1 explosion?

Sanchez isn’t making an excuses.

“Have I missed some throws this year? Absolutely. When I look at the tape there’s a bunch of throws each game, a handful of them that you want back. Those are the ones I can control. The other ones after that, we have to be in the right spot. I have to control what I can, and that’s meeting with these guys extra and make sure we’re on the same page so there’s no questions going into the game. They’ll be in the right spot and leave it to me to deliver the ball.”

The ‘they’ Sanchez is referring to isn’t only his receivers, it’s the offensive line as well. Second-year quarterback Greg McElroy told Jets Insider that staying on the same page with your offensive line is huge in making sure the short passing game stays simple.

“A lot of reaches happen quicker on shorter passes. Say, for instance, you have a quick gain combination. That’s going to be out of a three-step drop formation. So you just have to make quicker decisions and ensure the line is keeping the defender’s hands down,” McElroy said.

From a defensive standpoint safety LaRon Landry believes a shorter pass is harder to defend.

For me, I’d rather cover a deeper ball because they have to get past me. I have the speed to run with somebody. It’s predominantly a three-step drop on short passes. Once you make your pre-snap reads, you scoot up a bit to read the quarterback but still keep your eye on your man. In order to see the screen pass, you have to have good eyes – to see the guards pull, read your keys, things like that.

Eyes are also an important tool on the offensive end regarding the short pass. The ability to see through the waves of defender’s arms at the line of scrimmage, particularly being under center and releasing the ball closer to the line of scrimmage, can be difficult. Texans defensive end J.J. Watt has been one the most adept linemen in batting the ball down at the line of scrimmage, logging five passes defended in four games.

Again, Sanchez is only concerned with what he can control. And that starts in practice, where he missed only one completion on Wednesday — an important stat to keep in mind considering the new, young receivers in this offense.

“I think those practice throws matter. I think we have to take advantage of those throws. [If] you hit them in practice, then you usually hit them in the game.” He continued, “the important thing is just to be in the right spot at the right time, whatever it says on the piece of paper. If it’s 15 yards, it means 15, and whether you’re press, whether the guy’s off, it’s first-and-ten, third-and-ten. You have to be in the right spot.”

So is the old phrase short and simple, in regards to the pass, really all that easy? For McElroy, the answer is simple.

“Yeah I think it’s easier to complete shorter passes. To tell you the truth, I’ve always thought the closer the receiver the easier it is to be accurate.”

MOURNING AFTER REPORT: Back to the Drawing Board

Monday, October 1st, 2012

An all around awful performance by the Jets in a home shut out loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. There’s no way around it. The Jets were outplayed, out-executed, out-hustled and out-coached by Jim Harbaugh’s group. Too add injury to insult, the Jets lost their best offensive weapon, Santonio Holmes, to a non-contract knee injury  — a play eerily resembling Darrelle Revis’ torn ACL injury suffered just last week.

But back to the insults for a moment.

The Jets weren’t just outplayed, they were outplayed like a Jet. Since Rex Ryan has taken over the reigns as head coach, he’s emphasized the phrase ‘play like a Jet’. What exactly does that entail? A strong rushing attack, efficient quarterback play, a top-five defense and strong special teams play. Well, the team can learn a lot from this game tape and not just from their own play. Harbaugh regurgitated what it meant to ‘play like a Jet’ and shoved it back down the throats of the Jets.

And it didn’t taste any better going back down.

“We have to look at it from a schematics standpoint and determine if we’re putting our players in the best position to be successful. I don’t know that answer right now,” Ryan said after the game.

One hundred forty-five yards of total offense is not the answer.

Colin Kaepernick, Alex Smith and Frank Gore knew the answer the Jets are missing. The 49ers beat the Jets at their own game — a run-oriented offensive attack with Smith efficiently completing passes when asked to. Lack of personnel and the misuse of that lacking personnel has been a growing pimple for this team that is finally starting to show it’s ugly head.

The Jets defense, which practices against a Wildcat offense daily, was not ready for Kaepernick running wild on them. After the game, the second-year QB out of Nevada called running against the Jets defense “easy”. He had one snap on the season prior to Sunday’s game.

Asked if he thinks defenses are expecting to run the ball when he’s in on offense, Tim Tebow  bluntly replied, “Yeah”.

Ryan said on Monday that changes have to be made to put their players in the best position to perform. But will not concede that the change to be made is at quarterback … yet.

“I think Mark is the answer.  Again, time will tell.”

Until then, the Jets will continue to be a team in disarray.

How much longer can the tandem of Rex Ryan & Mark Sanchez last? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

PASSING OFFENSE: F

  • Could Mark Sanchez be the worst QB in the NFL? Completion percentage-wise, yes. He’s last in the league completing less than 50% of his passes (49.2%), with his whopping 44.8% performance on Sunday. That’s worse than any of the five rookies starting this year and second-year starters like Blaine Gabbert and Kevin Kolb.
  • Is Sanchez a viable leader of this team? Everyone talks about the poor body language of Cam Newton, but what about Sanchez — a fourth year guy? Two instances that stuck out to me: 1) Following a dropped ball in the flat by John Conner, #6 can be seen sulking for one of two reasons: a) Conner dropped the ball or b) that he was being taken off the field for Tebow. 2) After the game his refusal to take the blame for an interception on a screen (which has happened multiple times last season), calling it an “unlucky play”, was followed by him stating that he’d like to see Holmes hold on to the ball following his injury. How can he, in one breath, say the interception he threw was “unlucky”, yet in the other give a little dig to Holmes, who was injured?
  • The Jets did not convert a third down after midway through the second quarter.
  • The injury to Holmes combined with on-going injuries to Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill does not help Sanchez’s case, but doesn’t absolve the issue either. The x-rays were negative on Holmes left knee, but the MRI has yet to return. Early prognosis is he’ll mix the next few weeks.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F

  • A net total of 45 rushing yards. They averaged 2.6 yards per run. Insert joke involving the words “ground” and “pound” here.
  • Are we close to seeing a change at running back? Bilal Powell started the game, despite Shonn Greene getting the majority of the touches. Greene’s last three games: 11, 19 (in OT) and 11 attempts. The problem isn’t getting Greene out of the game, but who will replace him? Powell had just four touches and Joe McKnight seems to be phased out on offense. Are they expecting the newly signed Jonathan Grimes to step in?

PASSING DEFENSE: C+

  • The one unit on either side of the ball that performed admirably — which is ironic being that they were without Revis. Antonio Cromartie backed up his claim as the best remaining cornerback in the league.
  • Kyle Wilson was targeted early and often by Smith and the 49ers. It worked out well as Smith wasn’t as accurate as he has been — missing a few open receivers. He will be tested week-in and and week-out by opposing teams until he proves he can stay with receivers. He was beat on the first step quite often, failing to rotate hips and keep up with the likes of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham — as he was regularly a step or two behind.
  • The sacks by Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace were really made by the secondary. On both plays the coverage was so good, Smith had no where to go and the defense had time to collapse the pocket.

RUSHING DEFENSE: F

  • The Jets are the 31st ranked rushing defense in the NFL and gave 245 yards on the ground — both career lows for a Ryan-led defense.
  • The problem goes deeper than just poor tackling — too often players aren’t in the right position to make a play on the ball. The defensive line is not shedding blockers early enough leading to arm tackles and the second-tier defenders look to be standing upright — not the right stance to be making tackles.
  • I’ve probably given too much credit to this d-line in regards to stopping the run. While up to this point they have produced decent run stopping numbers, their backside and edge containment remains to be an issue with good cut-back running backs — leaving a lot of extra yards to be gained on the weak side.

SPECIAL TEAMS: N/A

  • Ryan loves to have a strong special teams unit to help decide the outcome of games. But field position didn’t play a role in this game, thus garnering a non-gradable performance.

COACHING: F

  • Harbaugh embarrassed the Jets coaching brass by flaunting a more explosive Wildcat offense and, more importantly, effectively using the Wildcat. My early impressions of the use of Tebow is this: they’re scared of putting him in — in fear of rallying cries from media and fans alike. Tebow presents this coaching staff with a lose-lose situation: When they don’t play Tebow they hear about it. When (or if) they do play Tebow they hear about it. Are they trying to protect the interest of Sanchez? If so, they are hurting their overall product by doing so.
  • But on that note, why not give Tebow a shot when the game was out of reach? What are they going to lose? If Sanchez is still their guy, aren’t they risking injury by keeping him out there in a meaningless game?
  • On that same notion, why not pull the starters on both sides of the ball? A big problem I have with Ryan is his unwavering loyalty to under-producing veterans. And with both starting units under-producing this week, why not give the youth an opportunity to get some reps in a real-time game? By him leaving the starters in, does it not send the message that no matter how bad they do there are no repercussions?

TWO-MINUTE DRILL: Tidbits from MetLife Stadium

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — In less than 90 minutes Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets will look to protect their house against an intimidating San Francisco 49ers team led by their second-year head coach Jim Harbaugh.

If history is any indication to the future, the Jets will have their hands full with the 49ers. San Francisco leads the all-time series 9-2, with a 5-1 record when traveling to New York. What’s the best chance for Gang Green to pull out the upset at home? Don’t give up three touchdowns. Their previous two wins came when they were able to hold the offense to 14 points.

With kick-off looming, here are a few stats that may decide the game if they can execute.

Jason Smith (above) was used heavily in the team's jumbo set vs. MIA. But was it effective? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

1. Through three games, the Jets have produced six pass plays of 25 yards or longer an amount that is tied for fourth in the AFC. Sanchez currently ranks second in the AFC in average gain per pass attempt (9.85). For the season, he has completed eight passes of more than 20 yards.

  • That’s been the book on how to beat this ‘Niners defense in the early going of the season. This means Jeremy Kerley (two receptions of 40+ yards) needs to be a factor this week.

2. New York has scored 31 points off of six take-aways this season. Conversely, the Jets have only allowed seven points off of four give-aways through the first three games of the season.

  • Alex Smith rarely throws an interception – prior to last week’s pick by Josh Robinson, Smith had gone 248 straight passes without turning it over through the air. And if the NYJ offense does turn it over, rarely has it turned in to points.

3. The Jets have six rushing plays of 10+ yards this season. The problem is, Tim Tebow has the longest rushing play from scrimmage this season with 22 yards. No running back has a run of more than 15 yards. Conversely, the Jets have given up four runs of 15+ yards, including runs of 49 and 56 yards.

  • The Jets ran jumbo packages of six or more offensive linemen 33 times against the Dolphins last week. The results were less than aesthetic. They ran the ball 25 times for 56 yards from their big sets.

4. Believe it or not, the Jets rank fifth in the NFL in offensive third down efficiency – extending drives on 46.5% of the time. And ironically enough, the ‘Niners defense are allowing the 23rd-best third down conversion rate – 45.2%.

  • The Jets offense benefitted from the replacement refs, extending drives 10 times on penalty calls through three games. But with no scab refs this week, the Jets will have to make the 49ers respect the run – whether it’s effective or not. In their two wins this season, both have come when the offense has rushed the ball 30+ times in the game.