Jets TE Chris Baker is emerging as a touchdown maker. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Weeks 1 and 2 both highlighted a multitude of problems for the Jets from all facets, including offense, defense and the special teams. The offensive line struggled, coverage downfield of wide receivers was inconsistent and the team had trouble defending kickoffs.
However, the simplest, most visible problems faced by New York in the opening games all derived from impact players having trouble getting going. And after big weeks from RB Thomas Jones, OL D’Brickashaw Ferguson and TE Chris Baker, Gang Green found themselves in the win column.
Through two weeks, all the press surrounding this trio had been either negative or non-existent. Ferguson and the rest of the line were having trouble fending off the rush, leaving quarterbacks Kellen Clemens and Chad Pennington extremely vulnerable.
After stopping DE Jason Taylor all day, clearly Ferguson found his groove.
“When Brick did have opportunities to block him on his own, I thought he did a nice job,” Mangini said. “I think Brick has improved steadily as he continues to work on the areas he’s identified he needs to improve in.”
Jones couldn’t seem to buy a big gain, and his end-of-the-game boxscore lines often left much to be desired.
Looking at the newspaper and seeing over 100 yards for the back, clearly Jones found his groove.
“I think the offensive line did a great job and the wide receivers did a great job blocking down the field,” Jones said. “I get stronger with the more carries I get over the course of the game.
“You start to get a feel for the game and you get a feel for how the defense is playing,” he added, referring to the drive that featured Jones and the running game. “It felt good.”
Baker, meanwhile, had scored a touchdown, but his blocking had been below par.
Speak with Mangini, Jones, or the fans that saw the tight end make an incredible catch in the end zone, and its clear Baker, too, found his groove.
“There have been some difficult balls that he’s comes down with [this year], and that comes back to concentration,” Mangini said, “and really comes back to how he runs the route.”
Often, all it takes is a sparkplug manifesting amongst a team’s best players for a team to hit its stride and begin winning. While one win may not seem like much, even veterans such as DE David Bowens know how essential it is to end a losing streak, but keep getting better.
“I think the major focus right now is improvement,” Bowens said, “because we’re playing a Buffalo team that hasn’t won yet, so they’re hungry for a win,” similar to how the Jets were last week.
Next on the agenda for the Jets will be the hobbled Bills, one week removed from a shellacking courtesy of the New England Patriots. Through three games, the Bills’ defense has allowed a mediocre 79 points and an eye-popping 1375 total yards of offense, including 532 on the ground. If Jones can hit a groove again, and likes of Ferguson and Baker can open some holes and make some plays, Gang Green may find themselves to the scoreboard often.
“This [week] is definitely that something that can give us confidence in the running game as far as the offensive line and the running backs,” Jones said.
Again, one win, while excitable, does not define a season. Mangini and the rest of the Jets, thus, will look toward this week to build on their 31-28 victory over the rival Dolphins this week, and prepare for their trip to Buffalo where the team will have a shot at moving to .500 on the season, and 2-1 in the difficult AFC East.
Mangini announces Players of the Week
During his usual bits of “housekeeping,” the Jets head coach announced the team’s four players of the week.
The most notable of the four was KR/RB Leon Washington. After a very quiet week against the Ravens, Washington was clearly amped at the opportunity to get back on the field and make an impact for the then-winless Jets. A kick return later, Washington did just that.
“Coach Mangini talks it about it all the time, how you take advantage opportunities when opportunities are given to you,” Washington said. “The more you can do, the better.”
The young running back also spoke about his influences while in the locker room, pointing to former Jet RB/KR David Meggett as one of his role models as an athlete, a guy who helped his team as often as he could from whatever position was necessary.
Another player that received Player of the Week honors was Jason Trusnik for his efforts on the practice squad in emulating Miami’s Taylor leading up to gameday. Mangini suggested that the honors could foreshadow future returns for the linebacker. Mangini said practice players are “crucial
“Practice player of the week to me is always the most important award we give out, and its crucial because you’ve got t0 give the offense and defense the looks so they can really get a sense of what they’re going to see on Sunday,” Mangini said. “We’ve had a lot of practice players in the past who have gone on and made the team’s active roster.”
Rounding out the players of the week were Jones on offense and CB David Barrett on the defensive side of the ball.
Troubles defending screen
The most prevalent hole in the Gang Green defense against the Dolphins, specifically late in the game, was New York’s inability to defend the screen pass. Mangini mentioned that the team will work on the play during the week, but it will still be a normal week of practice for the team.
Safety Kerry Rhodes echoed Mangini’s remarks, putting into light how often the team will work on the play in practice, and the chances of them seeing the screen against Buffalo.
“The NFL is a copycat league, so [the opponent] see plays working that are successful and they’re going to come back with it,” Rhodes said. “I’m sure we’ll run 1000 screens to get it right.”
One takeaway not enough
While finally tallying a takeaway was key for the Jets, it was not as satiable as people may believe, because it was simply one turnover, according to Rhodes.
The Jets defense will look to build on the team’s first interception of the year this week against inexperienced Buffalo QB Trent Edwards, who will replace the injured J.P. Losman.
Four-hundred just a number
Glancing at the boxscore and seeing over 400 yards in the allowed category for the New York defense may have appeared disheartening, but according to Mangini, did not spell doom for the future, as points are more important than yards in football.
Bowens added to Mangini’s remarks, targeting the isolated instances in which the Dolphins gained the yardage.
“It all came in the fourth quarter,” Bowens said, referring to the yardage.
He went on to say that since the screens came at unexpected times, they led to excess yardage as well.
The Jets return to the practice field Wednesday in preparation for their upcoming match-up with the Bills and, as always, Jets Insider will have full coverage.