The Jets hope to continue their success against San Diego this Sunday at home. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Coming off their bye week, the 2-5 Jets are hoping to turn their season around beginning Sunday when they host the 4-4 San Diego Chargers at 1 p.m.
RB Curtis Martin talked about what the bye week allowed the Jets to do.“The bye came at a perfect time for us,” Martin said. “A lot of us were beat up, but it gave us rest. I think it stopped us from getting a week worse. I think we regrouped, came together as a team, made a few changes and hopefully it will show the second half of the season.”
There has been a more positive atmosphere surrounding practice this week. “We’re playing faster,” Martin said. “You can tell that everyone is fresh; you can tell that some people have healed up. I think that’s the difference, the practice is going much faster.”
The Jets have won their last three games against the Chargers including a 20-17 win in the AFC Wild Card game last year at San Diego. Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer was asked about if he talked to his team about payback in a conference call with the New York media on Wednesday. “We talked about that this morning and I just said, you know, what’s in the past can never be recaptured,” Schottenheimer said. “Why even concern ourselves with it? We’d like to find a way to play a complete game and play well and win, obviously. But it’s nothing to do with anything in the past.”
While the players had four days off last week, the coaching staff remained at Weeb Ewbank Hall hard at work trying to figure out what has went wrong and fix it.
In 2002, the Jets were also 2-5 before heading west to face the 6-1 Chargers. The Jets won that game and went on a hot streak winning the AFC East. The Jets are hoping history will repeat itself.
One of the problems the Jets will try to address is slow starts. The Jets have fell behind 40-7 in the first quarter this season and have had to play catch up. If the Jets can stay with the Chargers, then they will be in good shape in the second half. The offense may have to match point for point as the Chargers are second in the NFL with 27.6 points per game.
“The thing that we have to really guard against early in the game is don't fall behind,” Jets head coach Herman Edwards said. “Because you don't want to fall behind on these guys, because if you do, they can really run the ball. They can take time off the clock. They move the ball methodically down the field, but they also make big, big plays in the passing game. And the runner can make a big play anywhere on the field, whether he runs with it or catches it. That's what we've got to guard against. But we've got our work cut out.”
The Chargers defense is suspect, giving up 335.5 yards per game but only 78.4 of those are on the ground-third in the NFL. “It’s hard to do things, but we have to create things and make stuff happen,” Martin said. “We’re desperate to make plays on offense right now so we have to do something; we have to move forward.”
The Jets will probably be forced to go to the air against the 29th-ranked passing defense that allows 257.1 yards through the air per game. The Jets receiving production is down this season and certainly one of those reasons is because of the quarterback situation but this week would be a perfect time for the receivers to have a breakout game.
“When you have an eight-man protection, you have two guys out,” QB Vinny Testaverde said. “You’re thinking they are going to blitz you and you want to block it up. Hopefully you get two, two on-ones. If they all fall out of there in a zone, we have assignments tow here if you’re a TE blocking, he may leak out into a route so you do get guys out. That’s all built into the protections. Everywhere I’ve been we’ve done that the same way.”
Jets C Pete Kendall will have his hands full with NT Jamal Williams, who has a 70-pound advantage on Kendall. “He’s a short guy that’s heavy, plays with good leverage and he’s quick,” Kendall said. “It’s a daunting challenge for a guy that’s trying to find his way at center to come back and play against a Pro-Bowl guy like that.”
Edwards likes what he saw from his offensive line this week. “They’ve had a good week of preparation. They look more comfortable together. Hopefully it will transition on game day,” Edwards said.
First-round pick Shawne Merriman is solid, tied for the NFL lead with four sacks. Testaverde gave his assessment of the Chargers defense. “They’re very fast, very athletic,” Testaverde said. “We’re going to have our hands full. We definitely need to play a lot better than what we’ve been playing or else we won’t have a chance to win.”
The focus on offense for the Chargers is RB LaDainian Tomlinson, arguably the most electrifying running back in the NFL. He’s fifth in the league with 728 rushing yards and first with 10 touchdowns. The Jets are 30th out of 32 teams in run defense, allowing 140.6 yards a game. “He’s a gifted player,” Schottenheimer said. “We’re working with him each week to find different ways to utilize him.”
Tomlinson has also thrown three touchdown passes, the same number of TD passes Jets quarterbacks have thrown. In a conference call with New York media this week, Chargers QB Drew Brees was asked if he feels threatened by Tomlinson’s TD passes. “He’s stealing my TD passes,” Brees joked. “The guy is as talented as they come. I think it’s pretty cool that he has three TD passes this season and has a perfect 158.3 QB rating. He’s my model QB. I strive to be like him. The perfect QB rating.”
“Most of these guys are wide open,” Jets CB Ty Law said. “I don’t see him zipping the ball in there; it’s not that type of play. They give him the types of plays to where they try to offset you, try to fool you and someone breaks wide open, and he has a good enough arm to make the throw. We just can’t have a break down in the coverage and come up too soon before we realize it’s a toss with a pass. We just have to be disciplined.”
However, Tomlinson was shut down in a loss to the Eagles this year because the Eagles offense was able to stay on the field, didn’t allow Tomlinson to get outside and was able to tackle him.
“They’re going to make plays,” Jets LB Jonathan Vilma said. “They made plays last year against us. It’s a matter of minimizing those plays, not getting down defensively if they make a play, and coming back and making a play ourselves.”
Edwards talked about the Jets approach to stopping Tomlinson. “Don't let him get going,” Edwards said. “And that's the problem. They get him the ball a lot of different ways, not only running it, but throwing it out of the backfield. Now all of the sudden they split is out, throw it to him; throw a little hitch to him, guy misses a tackle and he starts running. All of the sudden it's third and long and it's funny, sometimes they are third and six and they run draws. Most people get booed for that. They run a draw and he gets 12. Because you're playing pass, why would you run a draw? Why wouldn't you, with that guy. You've got everybody rushing the field. He misses the first line of guys, he's in the backfield. He's back in the back end making people miss. So he's a very talented player, he really is. He plays with a lot of energy. He's a tough guy. He's tough. You hit him and he gets right up. He's a tough football player.”
In three career meetings against the Jets Tomlinson has carried 57 times for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He has not had an 100-yard rushing game against the Jets.
TE Antonio Gates is sixth in the league with 43 catches and six touchdowns. “He’s a special talent; very good athlete,” Brees said. “(As a) third year player he is still learning, still developing and becoming a better player everyday. All the stuff you guys see on game day, we see in practice all the time. It’s nothing new to us, the same with LT. Obviously, he’s a great match-up. We feel like if teams are bound and determined to try to shut down Gates, obviously we are going to still find ways to get him the ball. We have other guys to worry about on the field too.”
Gates was a former college basketball standout and has made the successful transition to pro football. Jets LB Victor Hobson talked about what Gates brings from basketball to football. “Just body position,” Hobson said. “When the ball is in the air, knowing how to go up and get it.”
“I anticipate he'll get better,” Edwards said of Gates. “You see he's improved from last year to this year, his routes, blocking is getting better. He's a gifted guy, he really is. He's a gifted football player, but he's unique.”
Drew Brees is the highest-rated third down passers in the NFL (5 TD, 1 INT, 105.1 rating). “I think he's a very good quarterback,” Edwards said. “I don't think he gets credit for how he plays, because there's a runner and the tight end that make so many big plays. But he orchestrates a lot of that, the quarterback. He makes goods decisions with the ball. He's done that, made good decisions with the ball. He doesn't get sacked a lot. Keeps his feet moving around the pocket, can make all of the throws. He's very, very comfortable in their offense, very, very comfortable in their offense.”
The o-line is anchored by Long Island native RT Shane Olivea. They have allowed only 12 sacks despite starting four different units in eight games to due injuries.
Earlier this week, Edwards was asked how frustration it is for his coaching staff to spend so much time on a game plan and it not working. “It is very difficult to be quite honest,” Edwards said. “When you're winning, it's a lot easier, it's a lot easier. You have a lot of energy when you're winning. Everybody has energy when you're winning but when you're not, very, very difficult, for everybody, for players, coaches, and that's why there's about 14 teams that are probably feeling this way that don't have a winning record right now. And that's what the league is about. You've got to withdraw all of that. You've got to understand it, for me, staying positive, keep trying to find something good and that's what you've got to do. You can't let your guard down.”
-The Chargers lead the all-time series 17-12-1. The last time the teams played in New Jersey was 1994 when the Chargers won, 21-6.
-The Chargers are second in the league inside the red zone having scored 20 TD’s in 28 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line (71.4 percent).
-Under Edwards, the Jets are 12-4 in the month of November. “I just think that for us, the way we kind of go through the procedure of training camp and build the way we go, but it's a little different this year,’” Edwards said. “We're not beat up, for one, and we're fresh, we're a fresh team in November. We're still fresh. We're not all beat up. A lot of teams are beat up by November. And we haven't been beat up. We've got a good routine in November. The schedule has something to do with that, too, probably. I'll put that in there. We've got on some rolls in November, we really have. We've got on some pretty good rolls in November, and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
-The Jets have gone 308 minutes without a TD pass, the second longest drought in team history. They went over 400 minutes in 1968, the season when they won the Super Bowl.
-RB Curtis Martin is one touchdown shy of 100 total touchdowns for his career. He would become the 17th player in NFL history to accomplish the feat.
S Kerry Rhodes vs. TE Antonio Gates
The Jets did a nice job shutting down Gates in the two games against the Chargers last year and rookie S Kerry Rhodes has a big challenge trying to contain Gates. Rhodes will need the help of the rest of the secondary and linebackers to stop Gates. Gates had 10 catches for 145 yards and three touchdowns last week. Rhodes has one interception this year.
THREE KEYS TO A JETS VICTORY
The Jets offensive line certainly has not lived up to expectations this season and has allowed 25 sacks. Pete Kendall will have his hands full with NT Jamal Williams and the rest of the o-line needs to give Testaverde time to find his receivers and complete throws.
-CONVERT ON THIRD DOWN
On third down this season, the Jets are only 33.3%. When the Jets can’t convert on third down, it forces the defense to be on the field much longer and also gives the high-scoring Chargers offense more chances.
LaDainian Tomlinson is one of the best running backs in the game and is tough to stop but the Eagles showed that he can be stopped. The defense can not allow him to get outside and also cannot miss tackles.
The Jets desperately need a win but the Chargers are too tough to stop as the Jets fall to 2-6:
RB Curtis Martin (knee), WR Justin McCareins (Achilles) and QB Vinny Testaverde (Achilles) practiced this week and remain probable. G Brandon Moore (sore pectoral muscle) was added to the injury report today and is probable.
-RB Derrick Blaylock (ankle): Out
-QB Jay Fiedler (shoulder): Out
-S Oliver Celestin (knee): Out
-RB Curtis Martin (knee): Probable
-WR Justin McCareins (Achilles): Probable
-QB Vinny Testaverde (Achilles): Probable
-G Brandon Moore (pectoral): Probable
-TE Ryan Krause (foot): Out
-RB Andrew Pinnock (Calf/shoulder): Doubtful
-CB Drayton Florence (ankle): Questionable
-LB Steve Foley (abdomen): Questionable
-LB Randell Godfrey (neck): Questionable
-G Mike Goff (ankle): Questionable
-C Nick Hardwick (ankle): Questioanble
-K Nate Kaeding (back): Questionable
-S Terrence Kiel (ankle): Questionable
-T Roman Oben (foot): Questionable
-WR Eric Parker (ankle): Questionable
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