Thursday night’s preseason finale will present a multitude of challenges for a defense still in the process of developing its chemistry and finding its way in a new scheme.
As if the stable of weapons quarterback Donovan McNabb has at his disposal weren’t enough for Gang Green, the unit must now deal with newly-signed backup Michael Vick, and the inevitable Wildcat package the Eagles coaching staff has put together for the former Pro Bowler.
For a defense that’s given up at least one big play in each of its preseason games, this will be undoubtedly their toughest test to date. Vick is set to see significant action, with the Eagles most likely throwing the kitchen sink at Bart Scott and the boys.
“It just gives you something else to play around with and stay up and study longer for,” safety Kerry Rhodes said. “It always gives defenses a challenge just because of the aspects of doing it. It’s something extra that you have to study at the end of the day.”
While Thursday’s game will be a tough test for the star-studded defense, it is without question a necessary one. The Wildcat was made famous by the Miami Dolphins, the AFC East winners in 2008, and some of the Jets’ chief competition for a playoff berth in 2009. What’s more, the NFL is by definition a copycat league; you’d be hard pressed to find a team that doesn’t have at least a small package of Wildcat plays in their arsenal. So the fact they will be tested by the man it seems the formation was made for will be the ultimate measuring stick.
Rex Ryan’s defense in Baltimore shut down the Dolphin offense in a 27-13 drubbing in the AFC playoffs’ wildcard round, so if anyone knows how to neutralize the Next Big Thing in the NFL, it’s him. With Kris Jenkins now healthy plugging the middle, and speed and discipline at the linebacker position, the Jets have the personnel to shutdown the ‘Cat any time it’s thrown at them. What will truly be interesting to see is if the defense has jelled enough at this point to realize that potential Thursday.
STICKING WITH STUCK
Ryan eluded today that WR Chansi Stuckey has locked up the #2 wideout spot behind Jerricho Cotchery. His four catches for 69 yards and a TD against the Giants on Saturday was the clincher while his biggest competition David Clowney didn’t touch the ball.
Although Ryan said the #2 will be a position “by committee” he said that Stuckey will be “the guy he’ll throw out there first”.
LITO’S OK BY REX
The Giants threw at new Jets cornerback Lito Sheppard with aggression in Saturday night’s game, forcing the former Pro Bowler into two pass interferance penalties, and rendering him toast on the dropped deep ball thrown to Giants wide receiver Steve Smith. What some consider cause for concern, head coach Rex Ryan and Lito see as absolutely nothing to worry about.
“They were going at him, no question,” Ryan said at today’s news conference. “For Lito, I think it was more of the fact that they were going away from [Darrelle] Revis. All he is is, what, a two-time Pro Bowl corner? Again, I’m glad he’s on our team.”
“We got a gift on that one deep one he dropped, which was a little confusing,” Lito said. “But other than that, you count, what, 25 yards on nine throws over there? That equals a loss to me. They can throw the ball over there. I expect it. I’m prepared for it. Until we make them do otherwise, we’re going to see if they can beat us like that. But obviously it didn’t work last week.”
The Jets traded for Sheppard to have a bonafide corner opposite Darrelle Revis, who is entering “We don’t throw to his side” territory as his career progresses. So Sheppard is going to be getting thrown at… a lot. If he’s up to the task, then we are looking at the best cornerback tandem in the game, period. If he’s not, and the Jets find a situation in which they can’t get to the quarterback, it could spell for a long season for the former Eagle.
Just how good has versatile running back Leon Washington been this preseason?
Leon leads all NFL players in total yards through the preseason’s first three weeks with 381 yards, encompassing his returning, rushing, and receiving yards from scrimmage. We are seeing Ryan’s commitment to getting this man the rock, and it is paying off in the early going, to say the least.
Regarding his contract extension, there’s been no new news lately. However, now that Washington’s agent Alvin Keels has finally gotten his biggest rookie signed when OL Andre Smith inked with the Bengals this past weekend, look for Keels to start giving Leon some serious attention.
The Jets will practice again tomorrow morning, with only the first 40 minutes of the workout open to the media. Check back to JetsInsider for all your post-practice updates.