After dropping a heartbreaker to the Bears at home last Sunday, the Jets return to the Meadowlands this weekend to take on the Houston Texans and hopefully return to their winning ways. Jets rookie-T D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the fourth-overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, will play a big role in trying to put Gang Green back above .500 as he goes head-to-head with the top pick from that same draft, DE Mario Williams.
Ferguson has started all ten games this season as the Jets’ left tackle and has done a decent job to date. While occasionally having trouble with penalties, Ferguson has played consistently well against some of the toughest defensive-ends in the league. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t appear worried about his impending match-up against Williams.
”There are a lot of number one draft picks that you play against, it’s just that maybe they’ve been in the league a couple more years than you have,” explained Ferguson. “It’s not like this is the first time this has ever occurred.”
Despite his apparent calmness, Ferguson is hardly taking his opponent for granted. “He’s an excellent player,” he said of Williams, quickly adding that “I’m going to have to work really hard and do the things necessary to be successful.”
Williams, much like Ferguson, got off to a slow start to begin his NFL career. Recently, however, he has begun to play up to his full potential, recording 4.5 sacks over the Texans’ last seven games. With six games left to play in the regular season, Williams has a good chance to break the NFL record for sacks by a number-one pick during their rookie season, needing just two sacks to tie the record. That record, incidentally, is held by the NFL’s all-time sack leader: DE Bruce Smith.
Williams isn’t the only impressive rookie-defender the Jets will have to contend with, either. Rookie-LB DeMeco Ryans, who was selected by Houston in the second round of the 2006 draft, has been putting up spectacular numbers all season and is considered a top-contender for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Ryans is tied for the NFL-lead with 70 solo tackles and has 85 total tackles, which is good for sixth in the league.
The Jets have also become increasingly-successful at bringing pressure during recent weeks, and they’ll need to continue to do so to stand a chance against the Texans’ passing game. Houston QB David Carr currently leads the league with a 69.5 percent completion rate, including a record-tying 22 consecutive completions in a loss to the Bills last Sunday.
Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini and D-Coordinator Bob Sutton may need to mix up their defensive packages more than in recent weeks, however, because Carr believes that he and his star receivers can take advantage by breaking big plays. Carr even went so far as to say that he wanted to see the Jets send a lot of blitzes so he could “get some shots.”
Carr’s primary targets are rookie-TE Owen Daniels and WR Andre Johnson. Daniels leads the team with five touchdown grabs, which is tops amongst NFL rookies. Johnson is in the top five in nearly every major statistical category for receivers, and he currently leads the league with 74 receptions. Johnson is on pace for 130 receptions, which would be second-best in NFL history.
Gang Green’s best shot to contain Johnson is star-CB Andre Dyson. In his first year with the Jets, Dyson has done an excellent job in coverage and has filled the void left by CB Ty Law beautifully. His only downfall is that he has had trouble avoiding injuries, and last week against the bears was no different; Dyson injured his neck during the game and is listed as questionable for the game against Houston.
On offense, the Jets need their running game to show up early and in a very big way. RB Kevan Barlow received very few carries against the Bears as RB Cedric Houston made his return from a knee injury and played a great game. The dispersal between the two should be relatively equal against the Texans.
RB Leon Washington will continue to be the go-to guy on third downs despite his poor performance against Chicago, where he ran for just 22 yards on 13 carries. Washington took the majority of handoffs in third down drills during Thursday’s practice.
Most importantly, the Jets’ success (or lack thereof) will depend on the play of QB Chad Pennington. Pennington had only of the worst games of his career last week, throwing for just 162 yards and two interceptions in the team’s shutout loss at home.
“I think that’s just part of sports sometimes and part of being human is that you’re not going to have your best games every week, and part of being a professional is learning how to work through that and trying to find ways to win as you’re cleaning some things up,” Pennington told reporters earlier this week.
You know,” he added, “that’s my most important goal: finding ways to win when things are not going as well. When things are not clicking like they were earlier in the season, finding ways to get those W’s to put us in good position.”
He’s absolutely right. For the Jets to stand a chance against the Texans and keep their playoff hopes alive, Pennington needs to help his team do exactly what he said: win.
-The Jets lead the all-time series with the Texans, winning the only two meetings between the teams. The two teams last faced off on December 5, 2004, when the Jets beat Houston 29-7.
In that game, Jets’ RB Curtis Martin led all runners with 134 yards on just 23 carries, including a four-yard touchdown run. Martin also caught a touchdown pass thrown by Chad Pennington. The Texans’ Andre Johnson led all receivers with 125 receiving yards.
-With all the attention of the Jets’ secondary focused on Johnson, look out for WR Eric Moulds to potentially have a break-out day on Sunday. Moulds is in his first year with Houston, having spent the first 10 years of his career with the Buffalo Bills.
Moulds has 83 receptions against the Jets in his career, amounting to 1130 yards and five touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns came just last season as Moulds recorded a touchdown-grab in each of the two meetings between the AFC-East rivals.
-The last time these teams met, Chad Pennington threw one pick in addition to his two touchdowns. The interception was made by Texans CB Dunta Robinson, who recorded his first NFL-touchdown last week on an interception against the Bills.
-Houston’s defense is steadily improving as the season progresses, especially against the run. While still far from perfect, the Texans have held opponents to just over 100 yards per game over the last five weeks. Against the Bills last week, Houston allowed just 70 yards rushing.
-Texans Head Coach Gary Kubiak has faced the Jets five times in the regular season during his career and has a 3-2 record against them. Those games occurred between 1995 and 2005, during which time Kubiak was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the Denver Broncos.
Kubiak’s offenses averaged nearly 400 yards per game against the Jets, mainly because of the balanced attack he put together. Under Kubiak, the Broncos averaged 148 yards rushing and nearly 250 yards passing against the Jets.
New York Jets
-FB B.J. Askew (Foot): Questionable
-CB David Barrett (Hip): Questionable
-CB Andre Dyson (Neck): Questionable
-RB Cedric Houston (Knee): Questionable
-RB Kevan Barlow (Calf): Probable
-LB Matt Chatham (Foot): Probable
-WR Tim Dwight (Thigh): Probable
-OL Pete Kendall (Knee): Probable
-WR Justin McCareins (Foot): Probable
-DL Rashad Moore (Hand): Probable
-QB Chad Pennington (Calf): Probable
-DE Antwan Peek (Knee): Doubtful
-QB David Carr (R Shoulder): Probable
-FB Jameel Cook (Knee): Probable
-WR Andre Johnson (Thigh): Probable
-LB DaShon Polk (Knee): Probable
-T Ephraim Salaam (Ankle): Probable
-DE Anthony Weaver (Knee): Probable
-DE Mario Williams (Foot): Probable
Game time is at 1:00PM on Sunday, local TV on CBS 2 and local radio on 1050 ESPN radio and WCRN 104.3 on Long Island. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com after the game for a complete recap!