Archive for September, 2011

No Huddle. No Problem?

Friday, September 16th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Sixteen games without a touchdown in the first quarter. That’s  a season’s worth of games without scoring early. The Jets offense enjoys playing from behind — usually saving the second half or simply, like they did last week against Dallas, the fourth quarter. But starting early on offense is the difference between winning late and winning; or worse — falling short of that fourth quarter comeback.

The team is aware of the unwanted streak and, according to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, have been “trying multiple things” to fix it.

“We want to start fast and we know we can start faster, but again, we’re still finding ways to win games and that’s the most important thing. We’re going to continue to look under all different holes and stuff, looking for the right answer. At some point, I really think we’ll get it figured out. Until then, hopefully, it starts this weekend.”

This weekend wouldn’t be a bad time to start as they kick off conference play against the AFC South’s Jacksonville Jaguars. According to Rex Ryan’s scheduling formula, this one counts as a game and a quarter. Confused? Allow me to have Ryan explain it:

“In my strange math, this one counts as a game and a quarter because it’s an AFC team. Your divisional games count as a game and a half. For whatever reason, it always seems like when the tiebreakers come out that math usually works.”

Less Huddle, More Bustle: Sanchez has thrived in the no huddle offense, is that the cure to their first quarter drought? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

But whether it’s a quarter, half or whole game it is imperative that the Jets offense gets out to a fast start Sunday. We’ve all seen Mark Sanchez thrive in an uptempo-style offense. We’ve seen him, albeit in a small sample size, do well in a three tight end set. He’s great on the run — whether it’s off play-action(5-6, 1 TD) or leaving the pocket (3-5, 1 TD) and making a play.

“[The no huddle offense] is something we talk about each and every week. It’s always available,” Schottenheimer said. “Mark [Sanchez] likes it. He’s very comfortable in it. The biggest thing is that nobody wants to live in that world. It’s hard to just live in that world. It’s a tool for us that we can use and we’ll get to it when we need to.”

It may not be a good idea to live in that world, but the Jets should think about starting the game in that world. Running a no huddle offense to can knock back the Jaguars defense from the first snap. Especially against a defense that thrives on production from a stout front seven, keeping them moving and on the field would lead to fatigue and forces the defense to react to the offense. Not the other way around.

Coupled with a slow-starting offensive attack is converting on third downs. Against Dallas they converted less than 50% of the time on third downs. They are two peas in the same pod. If they want to keep the offense on the field longer, they must move the chains more often than half of the time. But Sanchez believes converting on third downs starts on first down.

“We need to convert on third down, whether it’s me throwing a more accurate ball or not getting sacked on the first play, that kind of stuff. You take a sack, I think the stat is like, 12% of the time you’ll end up scoring a touchdown on that drive, so a sack is a drive killer.” Sanchez would go on to say, “We can’t have negative plays on first down. We need to be much better on first down, to convert at least.”

There’s no doubt about this team’s ability — particularly the offense’s — to produce when the pressure’s on. Now is the time for the offense to start applying the pressure.

The Morning After Report: Late Edition

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – After seeing the New York “Cardiac Kids” steal a victory from the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night to open the season it might be smart for people who follow stocks to invest in Pepcid A/C. If last night was any indication of how the 2011 Jets season is going to be, then there are going to be many New York metro citizens stocking up antacid products.

It wasn’t as glamorous as, say, Mark Sanchez’s GQ photo spread and the Jets didn’t always look as confident as, say, Rex Ryan’s personality. But a win is a win is a win. And as legendary coach Bill Parcells said, you’re only as good as your record states — and right now the New York Jets are 1-0, no matter how you chalk it up.

To get this type of win it was going to take all 53 men on the active roster, and that’s exactly what Ryan got from his team — from former practice squad cornerback Isaiah Trufant to former Pro Bowler Plaxico Burress, everyone offered a contribution to this win. The moxie — no — the resolve of this team helps the grade of their overall grades, but their is still plenty to improve upon as they set their attention to their Week 2 opponent, the Jacksonville Jaguars.

PASSING OFFENSE: A-

  • Any questions of Mark Sanchez’s ability to lead this team were answered. His short-term memory loss regarding poor plays is something that is imperative in great QB play.His 335 yards passing were the 2nd-high of his career (336 yards @ DET 11/07/10). His 26 completions were one shy of career high (27 @ Cleveland 11/14/10), while his 44 attempts tied a career-best.
  • The offensive line — which is regarded more for their run blocking than pass protection –  gave up for sacks last night. Not too bad considering DeMarcus Ware was accounted for half of them. Luckily, they wouldn’t have to worry about him until the Super Bowl.
  • Pass-to-rush ratio was roughly 2:1. Makes sense. Of receivers with 4+ receptions (Tomlinson, Burress, Holmes & Keller) not one averaged less than 11.5 yards per reception. That’s a lot of weapons at Sanchez’s disposal.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D+

  • The offense that embodies the “ground and pound” mentality was pounded on the ground. On sixteen attempts the managed a mere 45 yards, equaling out to an average of 2.8 yards per carry.
  • LaDanian Tomlinson, who I admittedly questioned during training camp, proved his naysayers wrong. He may not be the elusive back he once was (5 attempts, 16 yards), but he’s worth his weight in gold as a 3rd down back and a passing threat out of the backfield (6 receptions, 73 yards).
  • I’m willing to give this rushing attack  a pass going up against a Ryan run defense, even if it isn’t Rex. But going up against Jacksonville next week, the Jets should look to establish the run early on.

The Closer: Darrelle Revis took a page out of Mariano Rivera's book as his late 4th quarter pick sealed the victory for the Jets. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

PASSING DEFENSE: B

  • Tony Romo went away from Revis Island for 99% of the game. The remaining 1%? Well, it cost the Cowboys the game. Revis’s late pick help set-up a Jets win.
  • The pass rush earned four sacks last night — an area that’s often criticized about the defense. Calvin Pace, whom Ryan thinks is capable of 10+ sacks this season, looks to be 100% recovered from a broken foot that hampered him for much of the 2010 season.
  • Mike DeVito recorded his first solo sack of his career last night. The former Maine Black Bear couldn’t have picked a better time, either. It happened as Romo scrambled for the end zone and DeVito jarred the ball loose on the goal line early in the 4th quarter.

RUSHING DEFENSE: A

  • Felix Jones, the Cowboys x-factor in my preview article for this game, amassed just 66 total yards. The team’s total rushing yardage was 64 yards working out to a 2.5 yards per attempt.
  • The return of defensive tackle Sione Pouha help solidify the defensive line. As a defensive captain and anchor, his presence is felt by all.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A

  • Special teams proved to be the difference in this game. Joe McKnight proved that he’s willing to do whatever is asked of him — return man, running back, defensive back and now punt block team — this man can do it all.
  • And what a story for CB Isaiah Trufant. From cut by Seattle, signed by Jets, cut by Jets, re-signed to the practice squad then being brought up on 53-man roster and making an immediate impact returning punt for a TD.
  • This marks the third game-winning kick Nick Folk has had since joining the Jets, and the fourth of his career –  including the postseason. It is also his first game-winner of 50+ yards since he hit a 53-yarder for the Cowboys, beating Buffalo on Monday Night Football (10/08/07)

COACHING: A

  • Special teams coach Mike Westhoff continues to be the Jets ace in the hole. To say he’s a master of his craft is a huge understatement. Westhoff noticed a coverage flaw on the Cowboys punt unit where the upback was lined up three yards closer than he should have been. That left him too jammed up by his linemen and gave McKnight enough time to get his hand in on the ball. Genius.
  • The Jets committed no penalties in the game, something they have done just five times in franchise history. The last time they accomplished the feat was in a 27-7 home win against the KC Chiefs (11/11/01).
  • They erased a 14-point deficit in the 4th quarter finishing the game on a 17-0 run. The comeback marks the first time the club came back from down 14 points in the 4th quarter since the Monday Night Miracle game against the Miami Dolphins. It is the 3rd time in franchise history the Jets have overcome a deficit of 14+ points in the 4th quarter.

Jets Rally Together, Much Like Nation Did

Monday, September 12th, 2011

These past 10 years have shown that America does not give in to fear. The rescue workers who rushed to the scene; the firefighters who charged up the stairs; the passengers who stormed the cockpit — these patriots defined the very nature of courage. Over the years we have also seen a more quiet form of heroism — in the ladder company that lost so many men and still suits up to save lives every day; the businesses that have rebuilt; the burn victim who has bounced back; the families that press on. –Barack Obama, President of the United States of America, 9.11.11

With the offense not clicking to expectations and the defense allowing chunks of yards at a time, the New York Jets seemed down for the count. Down, but not out. Staring at the face of defeat, Rex Ryan, Mark Sanchez and the rest of Jets rallied together to overcome adversity and a 14-point 4th quarter deficit to rise up and defeat the Dallas Cowboys.

On a night devoted to the memorial and remembrance of September 11th, could there have been a better game metaphor to summarizing the collective events of our nation?

Fans likes "Fireman" Ed Anzalone, must've been filled with a whirlwind of emotion after a wild game commemorating the 10-year anniversary of September 11th. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

As the nation stood in shock at the horrific events that occurred that morning ten years ago, we were left at a crossroad — either succumb to the grips of defeat and roll over or rise up from the depths as one and take a tragic yesterday into a tomorrow filled with promise. Adversity builds a bond with those affected. As Americans that bond was fused for us all the moment the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Down, but not out.

As Jets that bond was fused following a costly interception to close out the third quarter. They couldn’t win the game by the offense alone, it needed to be a collective effort from everyone — from superstars to blue collar players to the back-ups. And rebuilding the foundation of a shaken up nation took the collective efforts from all walks of life — from the haves and have nots, from those separated by race or religion.

Ryan told his players that it was going to take a 53-man effort to pull off a comeback of this size. And he meant that literally. From newly signed off the practice squad Isaiah Trufant returning a blocked punt for a touchdown or the oft-maligned Joe McKnight blocking the punt to Darrelle Revis picking off Tony Romo late or Plaxico Burress mounting the comeback with a 26-yard touchdown.

Burress surmised a similar thought to a metaphorical feeling of the day and the game.

“What this day symbolizes, September 11th, 10-year anniversary. We kind of emulate what this city is all about, just sticking together, being resilient, [persevering] through everything that was going on. We kind of got off to a slow start on offense, but the second half we came out and made some plays. Defense did a great job getting some stops, a big special teams play, a blocked punt. [And] we were able to get the win.”

Perseverance. How fitting of a term to describe a game that stood for so much more than just a home opener. Safety Jim Leonhard, who has overcome a hellish leg injury ahead of schedule, saw a similar comparison.

“Rex came in and said it was a team win and everyone stepped up. The city stepped up. The city stepped up 10 years ago and this was really a celebration of what’s gone on in the last ten years. We were glad we could pull out a win. We kept fighting, just like they kept fighting.”

Down, but not out. The phrase was embodied last night. The phrase was epitomized 10 years ago.

PREVIEW: Dallas Cowboys (0-0) @ NY Jets (0-0)

Friday, September 9th, 2011


FLORHAM PARK, N.J. —
Can’t think of a better way to top Thursday night’s NFL season opener? Tune into the Sunday night Game of the Week featuring “America’s Team”, the Dallas Cowboys, visiting the New York Jets in what will undoubtedly be a very emotional night. Celebrating the 10th anniversary of September 11th, the Jets will be honoring those who gave their lives to ensure our country is safe.

But like a good lasagna, this game has many layers. Of course there is the sibling rivalry between the Jets head coach, Rex Ryan, and the Cowboys defensive coordinator and fraternal twin, Rob. Their gamesmanship on defense, while it may look similar offers different wrinkles, will be like two skilled chess players masterfully trying to one up each other. And what about the quarterback match-up? Tony Romo is looking to rebound after having an injury-plagued 2011 –   eventually leading to their 6-10 record. Mark Sanchez has had all the publicity of an elite quarterback, but will he transform his game from not losing to winning? Add in the regular season return of Plaxico Burress and this game has all the fixings of a great Game of the Week.

Now, the question is, will the game be a shootout like the Packers-Saints game? A Ryan-Bowl game  giving up a combined 70+ points?! I don’t think so.

WHERE: East Rutherford, N.J. / MetLife Stadium (capacity: 82,500)

WHEN: Sunday, September 11, 2011 @ 8 p.m. EST (TV – NBC/Radio 1050 AM ESPN Radio)

HEAD COACHES: Rex Ryan, Jets — third season 20-12 (regular season)/ 4-2 (postseason); Jason Garrett, Cowboys — first full season 5-3 (as interim regular season) 0-0 (postseason).

OVERALL RECORD: 7-2, Cowboys lead; last meeting — Cowboys 34 – Jets 3 on November 22, 2007.

NOTABLE: The Cowboys have won three of the last five games between the two franchises. In each of the Jets three losses, New York has failed to score more than seven points. In the team’s two wins, the club has scored 22-or-more points.

INJURY REPORT: (As of Friday 9/9/11)

  • Jets — OUT: OL Rob Turner (ankle), WR Logan Payne (wrist)/PROBABLE: QB Mark Burnell (calf), FB John Conner (ankle), WR Santonio Holmes (illness), WR Plaxico Burress (ankle), TE Jeff Cumberland (Hamstring), DE Marcus Dixon (knee), DT Kenrick Ellis (hamstring), WR Derrick Mason (knee), RB Joe McKnight (illness), RG Brandon Moore (Illness) DL Ropati Pitoitua (ankle), DL Sione Pouha (knee), CB Darrelle Revis (hip).
  • Cowboys — OUT: TE Martellus Bennett (ankle), CB Terrence Newman (groin), WR Laurent Robinson (hamstring)/QUESTIONABLE: C Phil Costa (knee),  CB Mike Jenkins (neck/knee), T Tyron Smith (knee)/ PROBABLE: RB Tashard Choice (knee), DE Marcus Spears (groin), LB Bradie James (Ankle), WR Miles Austin (hamstring).

KEY MATCH-UPS:

  • DeMarcus Ware vs. Wayne Hunter – Ware is arguably the most intimidating pass rusher in the league, recording 10+ sacks in each of the past two seasons. Hunter is in his first year starting on offensive line. He’s be quoted as looking forward to the tough match-up, but will he be thinking the same thing once they line up opposite of each other. Protecting Sanchez is a must, and with a thing offensive line, outside of the starters, Hunter can’t afford to not step up to this gigantic challenge.
  • Jets Veteran WRs vs. Cowboys Banged Up DBs – While this is still a ground and pound team, expect the Jets to air it out early and often –  testing the durability of their secondary. Whether it’s their ailing starters, Michael Jenkins and Terrence Newman, or their untested back-ups it should spell for a strong passing day for the Flight Men and Sanchez — as long as the offensive line gives him the time in the pocket.
  • Jason Witten vs. Jets safeties - Yes, the Cowboys strengths are outside — Miles Austin and Dez Bryant –  but so are the Jets — Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Having said that  expect Romo to fall back on his safety valve, tight end Witten. Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith had trouble all last year defending big, pass-catching TEs. While both Leonhard and Smith enjoyed a fine preseason, questions still remain about their coverage against play-making TEs like Witten.

Mark Sanchez has been getting the hype as an elite QB, but will he elevate his game from not losing to winning game for the Jets in 2011? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

X-FACTORS:

  • Jeremy Kerley, WR/KR, Jets – Can you picture a better x-factor for the Jets? This guy’s speed is electric –  in traffic or in open space. With all the attention on Burress, Holmes and Mason this jack-of-all-trades should find some single-coverage and open space to put his speed to use, especially given the Cowboys banged up secondary. Let’s not forget that Kerley is one of the featured players in the team’s Wildcat packages. In the return game, his skill set is very similar to that of the Packers Randall Cobb –  a guy who the Jets evaluated before the NFL Draft. Special Teams coach Mike Westhoff has entrusted this rookie with his faith and he knows that on any give play Kerley is likely to have an explosive, game-changing play.
  • Felix Jones, RB, Cowboys – Jones is a fantasy stud in the making with his shiftiness between the tackles and his ability to catch the ball out of the back field. Against a stout Jets run defense, I don’t expect Jones to make his impact on the ground. However, I can see him doing damage catching the ball in the flats, beating the Jets slow outside linebackers. In the preseason that was an area they were weak at (see Bradshaw, Ahmad in Game 3). A healthy Calvin Pace along side Bryan Thomas bodes well for the pass rush and the run defense, but they are both a bit sluggish in coverage –  leaving them susceptible to getting big plays from screens and passes in the flats to their running backs.

THE PREDICTION: Cowboys 14 — Jets 24

  • The emotions of representing New York on September 11th will prove to be more than enough motivation for the Jets to come out on top in their home opener. Sanchez should capitalize against the Dallas secondary, finding  Holmes and a sure-handed Mason for scores. The running game is always good for 100+ yards as I suspect Shonn Greene to pick up from his preseason form of averaging over 4.5 yards per carry. The defense remains stout, although Romo targets Cromartie early and often, likely hooking up with Bryant and Witten for scores.

Flight Boys to Men

Friday, September 9th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — This Sunday the Jets and their playfully named receiving core, the Flight Boys, will be cleared for take off against the Dallas Cowboys in front of a packed home crowd at MetLife Stadium. But are they really ‘boys’ anymore? At 27 entering his sixth season in the league, Santonio Holmes is the youngest of the big three receivers. And with the additions of Plaxico Burress, 34, and Derrick Mason, 37, — who may be young at heart, but are hardly considered ‘boys’ — it’s time for the Jets’ receivers to re-introduce themselves.

They are the Flight Men.

And that is no knock on the receiving core, either. The amount of experience this receiving core has –  let’s not forget one of Mark Sanchez’s favorite targets Dustin Keller, who is entering his fifth year in the league — should alleviate the inconsistencies this offense showed last year. And with Holmes being the longest tenured receiver on this team [albeit one year], he’s taking it upon himself to ensure that his newly acquired teammates will be up to speed and produce early on.

“I’m pretty much teaching the guys about our system. Every time the coach goes to correct those guys, I tell the coach, ‘I got him’. He can probably learn moreso hearing it from his fellow wide receiver,” Holmes said.

It’s going to take that extra work with his fellow savvy veterans to avoid a poor opening game like last season, a game Holmes was not a part of. It’s going to be important to start off fast offensively, while not shooting themselves in the foot once they enter the red zone.

“Obviously, we didn’t play very well. I don’t know whether we were pressing. I know we missed some plays early. We had a fumble early that kind of caught up off-guard. We didn’t play very well and we didn’t coach very well. I don’t think that’ll be ” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said of last year’s opener against the Baltimore Ravens.

A part of the Flight Boys last year, Santonio Holmes and his veteran receivers are now the Flight Men in 2011. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Last year’s game did have former Jets wideout Braylon Edwards, who was one of the leaders of the Flight Boys and also had his fair share off-the-field drama, who is now no longer with the team. Whether it was his DUI case or lawsuit stemming from a Cleveland bar fight that involved members from LeBron James’ entourage, it could be argued he took away from his and the offense’s on-the-field successes.

That is not the case this year, given the maturity and veteran presence of this team, when the opening kick-off is returned (or maybe downed is more likely) they will be focused on the task at hand.

“You know you’ve got a task at hand. Take the time out to give respect to those who lost their lives, to those who were [affected by 9/11], to those who volunteered and everything else,” Derrick Mason said about dealing with the emotions of September 11th on Sunday. “Give your time and your prayers and then after that, you have a task at hand and that’s to go out there and play football.”

And staying focused on producing on offensive side of the ball is the top priority for this team. Despite a revamped Cowboys defense — thanks to Rex Ryan’s twin brother, Rob, taking over as the team’s defensive coordinator — the Jets should take advantage of a hurting Dallas secondary. Both starting cornerbacks for Dallas are currently injured, with Mike Jenkins limited in practice this week due to neck and knee injuires and Terrance Newman unable to practice due to a groin injury, spelling for a mismatch in the favor of the Jets — on paper at least.

“We’re aware of everything that is being reported. We have our plan. We’ll go into the game plan with what we want to do, and then we’ll adjust from there. Fortunately for us, looking at all the preseason film, the guys that probably are going to line up and play, played. In this case, we can actually say, ‘OK, here’s this guy covering this route. Here’s how he handles motions,’ so that’s a benefit for us,” Schottenheimer said.

Having that type of preparation coupled with facing a banged up or second string secondary will only help an already potent receiving core get an extra leg up on their competition.

“Some teams want to try to shove the coverage and get up over the top. If you do that, you isolate someone on the backside, whether its the tight end like Keller or Mason or somebody like that. That starts this week and it will continue to grow throughout the course of the next couple of weeks, but game plan-specific, that hasn’t changed and we’ll try to feature some [favorable] match-ups,” Schottenheimer said.

Last season, the Flight Boys were about flash and style. The Flight Men? Well, like Mason said, they’re about just focusing on the task at hand. And the task at hand now? Making a strong statement Week 1 against a banged up Cowboys defense.

Home Opener is More Than Just a Game

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — Where does one draw the line where a game is no longer just a game? Where a game symbolizes the collective feeling of not just a region, but an entire nation. Where the “heroes” that are celebrated on the field take a backseat to those heroes who gave their lives that allowed us to take joy in a game.

This Sunday a line will clearly be drawn as it notably marks the 10-year anniversary of the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center. The Jets will be playing host to the Dallas Cowboys, “America’s Team”, in what will surely bring a mixed bag of emotions to those in attendance and watching at home. The excitement of opening the 2011 NFL season, after an off-season that left many in limbo, will be met with the somber memories of a day that is burned in to the memories of Americans across the country.

Rex Ryan said the game feels like it’s the most important game he’s been a part of – and that’s including a Super Bowl and three AFC Championship games. “[I feel a responsibility] for this whole region, this whole area.  I know it’s football and we’re not talking about life or death or anything like that, but I don’t know, that’s kind of how I’m taking it. It’s my job,” he said.

Rex Ryan said he feels more pressure about playing on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 than any other game he's coached. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Having a cousin, Matthew Russo, who served as a New York fire fighter during that time adds to him feel that sense of responsibility to represent a region that has a constant reminder of the carnage that occurred ten years ago.

“We were getting ready to practice and so I’m watching it, and right when I was watching, the other plane hit the second tower. I was like, “Oh my goodness.” So that’s what I remember, and I was thinking about my cousin who (was) a New York City fireman,” Ryan said.

Russo has since retired from the fire department, according to Ryan.

Of course, the ten-year anniversary is no more important than, say, the third or fifth or seventh, but it is important that every generation understands just how tragic of an event it was. For rookie Muhammad Wilkerson, he represents one of the younger age groups who could actually comprehend the severity of the issue.

“On that particular day I was in middle school –  eighth grade, I believe. I was sitting in math class,” Wilkerson said. “My condolences go out to all the families that were effected by those events. On Sunday night we’re going to go out and show the country that we’re New York’s team.”

To give the team an idea of what they will be playing for and who they will be representing, Ryan took them to Ground Zero after the team’s annual luncheon at Ciprini on Wall Street. For some, like LaDanian Tomlinson, it was a humbling chance to see first-hand not only the damage, but the promise of a brighter future.

“When you go there, there’s a certain aura that you have when you stand there and you just imagine that day and just the chaos and everything that so many families and people went through. It just gave you that feeling you’re special. You’re lucky to be standing on that spot but at the same time you’re special because you get a chance to do something that a lot of people don’t get to. It was very humbling.”

Humbling was a reoccurring word to describe the experience for many of the Jets, who all have an understanding and deep appreciation for representing New York in a game that will be devoted to remembering the lives that were lost that day. Jamaal Westerman tweeted this: “Went down to the World Trade Center. Humbling”.

“Very humbling experience just walked out to see Ground Zero. A really heartfelt experience. God bless everyone,” Antonio Cromartie tweeted.

On a night that is usually reserved for giving praise to the players and their performances, Sunday will be a night where their performances will be dedicated to honoring those who gave their lives on that tragic night ten years ago.

Aaron Maybin: Not Even a Maybe

Monday, September 5th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – The odds were stacked against him. A big name that had yet to live up to his even bigger expectations – after all he did come out of Linebacker U – came to an organization that has been known for their defensive prowess and was asked to learn on the run.

Aaron Maybin, who was nicknamed Aaron “Maybe” by the Bills faithful after never posting a sack in his two years in Buffalo after being selected eleventh overall, was quickly compared to the Jets former first round pick turned draft bust, DE/OLB Vernon Gholston – who ironically also never posted a sack in his three years with the Jets. But that’s really the comparisons end with the two players. Gholston, an alleged bull rush from the edge, appeared to be chiseled from stone – a brute, physical monstrosity. Maybin used a combination of speed and power to beat offensive lineman on the outside — at least that’s what he showed at Penn State.

When Maybin was pulled from the scrap heap by G.M. Mike Tannenbaum, a move we’ve become accustomed to seeing from “Trader” Mike, he was given the tough task to come in and learn Ryan’s complex defensive scheme while outshining players who’ve spent, at the very least, the off-season studying the system.

Calvin Pace (above), Bryan Thomas & Jamaal Westerman are similar types of OLB, so why couldn't the Jets find a spot for Aaron Maybin? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

He wasn’t asked to do too much, just line up outside and get to the quarterback. And that much he did. He led the team in sacks with two and a half in the preseason, highlighted by a standout performance in the preseason finale against the Philadelphia Eagles where he recorded a 1.5 sacks and nearly missing out on another.

After the game many had thought, myself included, that his performance was enough to earn a spot on the 53-man roster, which he initially made. However he received the unfortunate news that he would be cut from his second team in a month, to make room for waiver wire pick-ups center Colin Baxter (San Diego Chargers), safety Andrew Sendejo (Dallas Cowboys) and receiver Mardy Gilyard (St. Louis Rams). The linebacking core was one of the deepest positions on the Jets roster, as they kept eight linebackers, three of whom have zero NFL experience.

Was he given his fair shot? Maybin is ineligible to be on the practice squad where he was active on the Bills’ roster for at least nine games last season. It’s true; the Jets are deep at the outside linebacker position with Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas, and Jamaal Westerman. But all three are slow off the edge, offer a tad better coverage and stop can stop the run. And as far as Westerman goes, it appears he was given a spot solely out of Ryan’s affinity for him. To this point in 2011, I haven’t seen enough from Ryan’s self-proclaimed DPR (designated pass rusher). But those three players play the same type of game. Maybin’s speed off the edge could have been a nice change of pace for a defense where the pass rush was one of the weak points last year.

Most likely, it was Maybin’s lack of size that may have kept him off the team. He reported to Jets’ training camp 15 pounds under his preferred weight of 255 pounds, due to what he called a “sickness”. Perhaps Ryan feared that the numbers he put up in preseason against most team’s second unit wouldn’t be duplicated against bigger, more skilled offensive lineman.

His raw talent coupled with his cheap salary should be enticing enough to see a decent return on their investment.

Only time will tell if the move proves to be a moot topic or if Ryan’s defensive strong-minded ego got in the way of hitting it big on a roll of the dice. But either way it’s an uncertain time for Maybin. Did he show enough to get yet another shot from another time? Will the Jets bring him back in the coming weeks? There’s only one answer to both of those questions as of now: Maybe, but maybe not.

The Morning After Report: Preseason Finale

Friday, September 2nd, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, NJ — It wasn’t pretty by any means, but the Jets closed out their preseason with a home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night. However, last night was more about the individual performances than how the team as a whole performed, as Rex Ryan said in this post-game press conference last night.

So sure, the rushing attack averaged below 2 yards per carry. And OK, the offense might not have posted more than 200 total yards. And who cares the defense made third string Eagles running back Dion Lewis look like a potential first round pick in most people’s fantasy football drafts. I know the Official JetsInsider.com Morning After Report is usually reserved for grading the team’s performance, but today we will look at who stood out on each side of the ball —  making a case for them to make the 53-man roster by the time the Dallas Cowboys come to MetLife Stadium to open the season on what will be a memorable night on September 11th.

Danny Woodhead reached a cult-status level last year among Jets fans before being a cut by the team, only to turn into a break out player for the rival New England Patriots. Who will be this year's Woodhead? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

OFFENSE:

  • Robby Felix, Offensive Line — Outside of the starting offensive lineman, who combine to build one of the best starting units in the NFL, their depth is one of their most glaring weak points on this team. Felix has been a standout, if only by default, due to the downright awful play by second-year lineman Vlad Ducasse and the injury sustained by utility lineman Rob Turner.
  • Matt Kroul, Offensive Line — A former defensive lineman turned right guard, Kroul — like Felix — just might retain a spot by default. A thin second unit coupled with the selfless act of making the transition from defense to offense makes Kroul standout against others. He’s definitely a work in progress, but his team-first attitude is something that rubs off on younger guys and Ryan has got to love that in a player.
  • Jeff Cumberland, Tight End — A big, athletic target in the red zone and he has the benefit of working with twin TE guru Tom Moore (see Clark, Dallas & Tamme, Jacob). As he showed last night he has the versatility to play fullback/H-back in a pinch, which is promising if starting fullback John Conner can’t stay healthy this year.
  • Scotty McKnight, Wide Receiver — The all-time leader in receptions for the University of Colorado and childhood best bud of Mark Sanchez has too much luck on his for him not to make this team. I know, the receiving core is loaded with talent (P. Burress, S. Holmes, D. Mason, J. Kerley, P. Turner), but he showed off his soft hands last night, coming in cold and catching his first touchdown pass of his professional career. And keeping Sanchez happy doesn’t hurt either.

DEFENSE:

  • Nick Bellore, Middle Linebacker — This rookie out of Central Michigan has caught the eye of his coaches early on, but has sparked the attention of Jets fans within the past week —  posting a nice breakout game in Monday’s MetLife Bowl against the New York Giants.  And last night against the Eagles he proved it was no fluke. He showed get instincts and knack for having a nose for the ball, seemingly getting in on every play. He’ll learn a great deal from David Harris about the position and in the mean time his ball-hawking skills could help Mike Westhoff and the special teams unit while sparingly seeing time on the defensive side of the ball.
  • Aaron Maybin, Outside Linebacker — A first round pick cast aside as a bust by the Buffalo Bills (?!), Maybin was plucked from the scrap heap and given new life with the Jets. He was at a disadvantage than the rest of the borderline players given his late arrival to camp, but his pure pass rush ability has been enough to get him by so far — as he led the team in sacks this preseason with two and half. Ryan brushed aside the question of whether Maybin has done enough to make the team, but you have to think his raw talent is enough to give him a shot to get to know the defense and really be turned loose.
  • Eric Lankster, Cornerback — He definitely helped his cause, returning a tipped interception 67-yards for a score — probably the most exciting play in an otherwise dreadful game. Ryan has always put an emphasis on the cornerback and edge rusher positions in his complex 3-4 defensive scheme and having someone with his type of speed and play-making ability is a great tool to keep in his tool box.
  • Josh Mauga/Eddie Jones/Garrett McIntyre/Matthias Berning, Linebackers – Someone has to be cut or put on the practice squad from this linebacking core, and it’s too bad because all have impressed in some way or another. Mauga, the veteran of the group having spent last year with the team, has experience on his side. Jones has become a local celebrity, of sorts, among Jets fans for his under-the-radar above average play. McIntyre caught the eye of Ryan from day one of training camp, but will that be enough to secure him a spot on the 53-man roster? And Berning offers an intimidating presence in the middle of the defense, laying hits on the Eagles that were felt up in the press box. That man has some power.

Cuts That Have Already Been Anounced: QB Drew Willy (intended to be signed to practice squad), RB Chris Jennings, OT Pete Clifford, S Byron Landor, TE Keith Zinger,  S Davon Morgan, DL Lorenzo Washington, OLB Eddie Jones, WR Dan DePalma, WR Michael Campbell, LB Joey Larocque, OL Nevin McCaskill, OL Dennis Landolt.

Unfortunately for the Jets, and as Ryan has stated before, the Jets trash will for sure be some other team’s treasure before the season starts. Does Danny Woodhead ring a bell? He’s the shining example of the amount of talent that this team has from top to bottom. This year’s Danny Woodhead? He could OLB Eddie Jones. As stated before he was a fan favorite, much like Woodhead, and is a beast of a player.

5 Players to Watch in Pre-Season Finale

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — The final pre-season game is upon us, which means the regular season opener is rapidly approaching. The starters of this Jets team might as well kick their feet up and spark a stogie. But for the rest of the players, this is the game where they can prove their worth to their teammates and coaches, earning themselves a spot on this 53-man squad, as Chris Nimbley pointed out in his preview article for tonight’s game.

To the fan’s this game often seems boring and unnecessary. But an argument can be made that this game, the fourth and final game of the pre-season, is the most important of all. Position competitions are settled, depth charts are rounded out and hopes and dreams are made and broken by the sounding of the final whistle. By this time tomorrow, player’s will either have met their goal of playing in the National Football League or will have to go back to the drawing board and re-work their game.

Kyle Wilson is just one of the players to watch for in Thursday's Jets-Eagles pre-season finale. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Here are five players/match-up battles to keep an eye on tonight as the pre-season comes to close after the Eagles and Jets close out their exhibition series.

  1. Joe McKnight vs. Bilal Powell, Running Back — Second-year RB McKnight seemed to have exercised his rookie demons this year and is out to prove that he is not only a player in the league, but can outshine his peers in the process. To this point this pre-season, he has done exactly that: leading the Jets in rushing and averaging over four yards per carry in the process. He’s even getting the attention from QB Mark Sanchez: “We have a great group being in that three-wide personnel (package) with Dustin at tight end and LT (LaDainian Tomlinson) or Shonn (Greene), or even Joe McKnight.  We have a tough group to stop.” Powell is trying to supplant McKnight for that third running back slot, and the team has given him plenty of chances to do so, leading the team (along with McKnight) is attempt this pre-season. A bruiser between the tackles, Powell has shown the power to be a force around the goal line.  Expect to see healthy doses of both Powell and McKnight tonight, but also expect McKnight to win this head-to-head match-up — possibly challenging an aging LaDanian Tomlinson as the team’s third-down back.
  2. Matt Kroul, Offensive Lineman — Kroul, who was trying to beat offensive lineman last year, is trying to do the same this year, only this time for a spot on the offensive line. He’s been on the defensive line since his high school days, but that hasn’t stopped him from making the change to help the team and help himself in the process, in hopes of making the roster. He has a history of wrestling, so the art of blocking is not too far out of reach for him. In Monday’s game against the New York Giants, he block helped spring Powell’s 1-yard TD run, that secured the win for the Jets. With the injury to Rob Turner and the inconsistency surrounding second-year lineman Vlad Ducasse, a little insurance on the offensive line is ideal and may be easier for Kroul to find his niche on this team. After all, Brandon Moore found his after making the same transition.
  3. Nick Bellore, Inside Linebacker –Bellore, a rookie out of Central Michigan has impressed Rex Ryan early on in training camp. Bellore had a standout game against the Giants on Monday night, recording a sack and having a knack for winding up where the ball is. Playing behind defensive mainstays like David Harris and Bart Scott makes breaking in to a starting role nearly impossible — barring an injury, but I believe Bellore has shown enough in training camp and pre-season to solidify a roster spot on this team. Ryan always loves the hunger, unheralded players, just ask Scott about that.
  4. Garrett McIntyre vs. Aaron Maybin, Outside Linebacker — One was undrafted and written off. The other is a former first pick and written off as a bust. Both McIntyre and Maybin have something to prove. As of the current moment, it’s McIntyre’s spot to lose as he’s listed ahead of Maybin on the depth chart and will be starting in place of Calvin Pace in tonight’s game against the Eagles. Maybin needs to have a career game, a Penn State-esque game, to make this team. Otherwise he may find himself on the outside looking in, again. Maybin has shown flashes of brilliance in practice and in his pre-season reps at rushing the passer, but his lack of time to know the system is his glaring disadvantage at this point to the second-year outside ‘backer out of Fresno State.
  5. Kyle Wilson, Cornerback — We all know his name at this point. A New Jersey native and first round pick out of Boise State, he was bogged down with high expectations and rushed into a bigger role, due to injuries to Darrelle Revis. The pressure mixed with a tough rookie transition led to a lack of self-confidence, something that is necessary in this league — particularly at a position that’s as one-on-one as the cornerback position is. This year, he has shown up to camp with a renewed sense of self-confidence yet humbled by the events of last year. He feels comfortable at the nickel back position and it showed in Monday’s game against the Giants, making a huge 3rd & 1 stop on the goal line to set up an eventual stuff on a 4th & goal play — one of the bigger moments in that game. His spot is secured but keep an eye on him tonight as he will be supplanting Revis as the team’s number one corner tonight, going up against the 6-3/222 lb. Ridley Cooper for the Eagles.