Archive for October, 2012

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?