The Jets no longer have to deal with Willis McGahee in Buffalo but rookie RB Marshawn Lynch is no cupcake.
Two weeks ago, as the Jets prepared to take on RB Willis McGahee and the Baltimore Ravens, questions circulated regarding how head coach Eric Mangini and the team’s defense would be able to stop the infamous Gang Green killer. Now, New York finds themselves three days away from a match-up with McGahee’s former team.
The last time the Jets faced the Bills, they were trounced, 31-13 at home. On the back of McGahee’s 125 yards rushing, Buffalo managed to torch the Jets on the ground, pounding the ball up the middle and off the tackles all game.
Now, with starting QB J.P. Losman out for Sunday’s game, the gameplan for Buffalo will probably be the same; featuring their running back both on the ground and through the air on screen plays.
The new weapon that the Jets will need to limit: Marshawn Lynch.
Granted, the name recognition and track record of Lynch’s may not rival that of McGahee’s. However, taking a look at the California alumnus’ stat line in the first three games of the season (228 yards on 57 attempts, including two touchdowns), New York may not be able to breathe easy knowing that McGahee is out of town.
“He’s a guy that is more and more involved each week, gets better and better each week as he works with the offensive line,” Mangini said of Lynch. “He’s a very good player that’s going to get more dangerous as time goes on and as he learns more.”
Aiming to subdue Lynch’s big-play ability on the ground (he averaged over six yards per carry last year in college en route to 1356 yards rushing) will be the Jets’ front seven.
Much has been made regarding the three linemen and four linebackers in the box for New York through three games. Specifically last week, Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown totaled 112 yards rushing after only 65 yards on the ground the first two weeks combined. And while Gang Green may have taken home the victory, the numbers alone that Miami totaled on the ground raises an area of concern for the 3-4 defense.
“He’s a very good runner and he has a lot of potential,” LB Eric Barton said. “I think he’s the total package. He can get those tough yards, but he’s also very loose and very fast.”
Thus, while the Bills may look battered and lowly, stationed at 0-3 on the year with a myriad of players inactive for the game, the test of the Jets will be slowing any sort of attack, including up the middle or around the edges.
“We’re preparing for anything,” DT Sione Pouha said. “He’s a player that can make plays, and he’s definitely an asset to their offense.”
Teams often avoid trying to guess what their opposition’s strategy is going into a match-up. If anything is close to being definitive regarding this weekend’s match-up with the Bills, though, CB David Barrett hit it on the head.
“I definitely know they’re going to run the ball, so we have to be ready for that,” Barrett said.
Practice players at a premium
Mangini continues to stress the importance of players developing on the practice squad and young players on the 53-man roster each press conference.
“Something I’ve been very happy with throughout the course of training camp and now into the season, something I really believe in, is a program we have with the younger players where they work with coaches after practice,” Mangini said. “You don’t lose track of those players.”
Pointing to WR Wallace Wright and TE Joe Kowalewski examples of moving up in the ranks last year, Mangini’s most prominent player this year that has utilized his time on the practice squad as best as possible has been second-year RB Stacy Tutt.
“I’d say a good example of that program is Stacy Tutt,” Mangini said, “who last year played [about] 14 plays, was on the practice squad, got bumped up a little bit, played a little bit, and this year he’s already at 53 plays.”
The work of players such as Tutt, Kowalewski and Wright will be key on Sunday, specifically against the Bills’ exceptional special teams.
Offensive cadence an issue?
Working on becoming more comfortable with each other, the young Jets offensive line has been working lately on their communication with one another in preparation for a road game at the Bills’ loud Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“You want every [offensive lineman] to be part of the process because there’s so much information going on inside,” Mangini said.
Nick Mangold, the team’s center, seemed comfortable with how the team has been working with one another through three weeks.
“I think we’re getting better at saying what we want to say as quickly as possible,” Mangold said.
The team’s center will look to work with the rest of the team’s front five to pave holes for RB Thomas Jones against a porous Bills’ rush defense that has allowed more than 500 yards in three weeks of action.
Cotchery anxious to break out against Bills
Already beginning to hit a groove this season with both Pennington and QB Kellen Clemens, WR Jerricho Cotchery appeared ready as ever in the locker room to make a big splash on the field against Buffalo.
“I need to get open, and I hope to continue to do that,” Cotchery said. “I still get those one-on-one opportunities [with teams paying more attention to WR Laveranues Coles] and I’m more than happy with that.”
Last year against the Bills, Cotchery had two of his quietest games, receiving for under 40 yards in each contest.
With a high percentage of his small number of catches highlight-worthy, questions regarding how TE Chris Baker has been utilized have hit Mangini non-stop during press conferences. Mangini said that while Baker is a great option, there are other players with good hands that Pennington can find.
“I think there’s a lot of players that do good thing with the ball in their hands,” Mangini said. “But it can’t just be solely based off that. You have to really evaluate what you’re doing, what they’re doing, and go through the progression so that you don’t turn a good play into a negative play because you’re trying to force it into a coverage.
Baker will be opposed by a watered down Bills linebacker corps this week, as three of the team’s linebackers are out for the game.
Conduct on the road
Following reports that WR Roy Williams of the Detroit Lions did not tip a pizza delivery man, Mangini was asked as to how his players are instructed to act while on the road.
“I’d like to think that our guys are very good guys, who understand the importance of taking care of the people that take care of them,” Mangini said.
New York Jets
Full participation in practice
FB Darian Barnes (shoulder), CB David Barrett (thigh), LB David Bowens (hand), RB Thomas Jones (calf), TE Joe Kowalewski (shoulder), DT Sione Pouha (foot)
Limited participation in practice
WR Jerricho Cotchery (shoulder), CB Andre Dyson (foot), G Brandon Moore (shoulder), QB Chad Pennington (ankle), DT Dewayne Robertson (knee), S Eric Smith (thigh)
Did not participate in practice
LB Cody Spencer (illness)
Full participation in practice
WR Sam Aiken (groin), CB Terrence McGee (ribs)
Did not participate in practice
QB J.P. Losman (knee)
LB Paul Posluszny (LB), G Jason Whittle (hamstring), DE Ryan Denney (foot), LB Keith Ellison (ankle), LB Coy Wire (knee)