The Jets defense will have to be ready for the possible return of talented Eagles' RB Brian Westbrook this Sunday.
The big talk this week has been the problems the Jets are having at quarterback as well as the team's underperforming running game.
One subject that hasn't been mentioned much is the Jets' inability to stop the run. With the Eagles' Brian Westbrook looking like he is going to return to action this week, the Jets defense will have their hands full with the do it all running back.
Westbrook missed the Eagles last game against the Giants with an abdomen injury and with two weeks off, Eagles head coach Andy Reid says his star running back is ready to go.
“He is a great football player and one of those guys who make the NFL fun to watch. He does a whole lot of things for us offensively,” Reid said. “He wanted to be out there worse than anybody, the two weeks has helped him with the injury.”
And with Westbrook back in the lineup the Jets defense will have to play with consistency, which is something that has been missing and something that head coach Eric Mangini has requested them to look for.
“Westbrook is an explosive, dynamic player. He accounts for over half of their offense and can hurt you in so many different ways,” Mangini said. “This [our defense] is a very intense and very focused group. We need to be focused and that will lead toward positive things.”
The Jets defense will need to find some consistency if they hope to keep their season alive. Westbrook (5-10, 203) is big threat on ground, especially on third down. In any third down situation, the Eagles will looking to find #36. And so far this season the Jets defensive front seven has had problems stopping the run.
In week three Gang Green let Dolphins RB Ronnie Brown run all over them. He had 112 yards rushing and two touchdowns to go along with 99 yards receiving and a score. The next week against Buffalo the Jets defense was able hold RB Marshawn Lynch under control as he was only limited 79 yards and a score.
After defense took a step forward in their run defense, they took a step right back as they surrendered 156 rushing yards to the combination of Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward in last Sunday’s loss to the Giants.
If the Jets can’t stop the run on Sunday, the defense will be in for long day. Westbrook is as tough as runner as they come and Reid has so many ways to get him the ball. The Eagles can also switch gears by putting in RB Correll Buckhalter who averages 5.3 yards per carry. And the Jets can’t forget about Donovan McNabb, at age 30, McNabb still has the ability to move around the pocket.
Media gets time with Schottenheimer
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer spoke to media yesterday after the Jets practice and he admitted that the Jets running game is not where he wants it to be. Schottenheimer noted that teams have committed to stopping RB Thomas Jones, which has paved the way for the passing game.
“Number one, the running game is not where we want it to be. I think we can get better. We are working hard to address and fix it,” said Schottenheimer. “We have had positive gains but we’ve also too many negative runs. That comes down to too many different brake downs by different people.”
Also Schottenheimer silenced the Chad Pennington critics. Pennington has opened the door for criticism for throwing a “soft ball”. Pennington threw two key interceptions against the Giants as well as a key pick against the Bills. Despite these uncharacteristic interceptions Schottenheimer said Pennington is still his man.
“Playing quarterback is about being able to throw the ball accurately. I believe Chad has done a great job and he throws a good deep ball,” Schottenheimer said. “The most important thing to me is that the football is accurate and on time and sometimes a ball can be thrown too hard.”
Mangini Pleased with Yesterday’s Practice
Mangini was pleased about the way practice went yesterday. They spent time on third down and the red zone. One aspect that Mangini really liked was that his team got the opportunity to practice in unfavorable conditions. With rain and heavy winds happening while the Jets practice, they were able to practice in conditions that aren’t able to be simulated.
“What I really liked yesterday was it was the first day we had to deal with the element. That’s always an adjustment. The rain is coming down. Running with the wet football, catching football and the center-quarterback exchange,” Mangini said. “As we transition into the winter and the elements become more of a factor, it’s good to have a day like yesterday.”
Smith More Flexible Than Thought
It seems like during every Mangini press conference their always questions asked about Jets WR/QB Brad Smith. In Friday’s presser the media learned that Mr. Flexibility is more flexible than thought. Smith has lined up at wide receiver, running back and quarterback. Smith also returns kicks as well as key player for Jets on kick coverage. But one place that people didn’t he has tried to play is safety.
Mangini said that he has worked Smith and WR Jerricho Cotchery at cornerback and safety. Just like Troy Brown in New England, Mangini said he feels comfortable using Smith and Cotchery on the other side of the ball if he needed to.
Fireman Ed’s Rehab
With the Jets in a two game losing streak, Gang Green will need all the support it can get from its fans. But their biggest fan might not be there. Fireman Ed Anzalone has what coach Mangini describes as a “leg injury” and has not been to any home games this season. As reported by Jets Insider.com a few weeks ago, Anzalone had knee surgery just before the season and has been working on rehabbing and trying to get back to the game on Sundays. Mangini as he is with his uniformed players, didn't give much info on Fireman Ed.
“We’re going to have to analyze it pregame, work him out and see what he’s doing in terms of his cheering and getting the crowd going,” Mangini said. “If he can’t go it’s another great opportunity for someone else to step and get the crowd going.”
JI has learned that Anzalone still has at least a few more weeks if not longer before he can return to action in the stands.
Sunday is the Battle of the Aussie Punters
When the Jets and Eagles kickoff on Sunday, the game in Australia becomes the battle of the punters. Jets punter Ben Graham and Eagles punter Sav Rocca are from Australia and have played in the Australian Football League. Both punters have the ability to kick the ball out of the stadium. Graham and Rocca are good friends and when Rocca first came to the NFL, he seeked out Graham for his advice about the transition to the NFL.
“Since, he has been over here, we have caught up on numerous occasions. It is important for him, but also for his family, to understand what my family went through,” said Graham. “A lot of people take it for granted that a player comes over, makes the team and goes to work. There is a lot goes on.”
S Erik Coleman practiced with the team again but his status is up in the air for Sunday. Neither Mangini nor Coleman said anything about his playing status for Sunday…P Ben Graham continued his good week of practice. After booming some 65-yard punts yesterday, Graham did so again today…DL Mike DeVito got some one-on-one coaching from defensive line coach Bryan Cox. After a pass rushing drill Cox pulled DeVito aside and showed the rookie a different technique on how to rush the passer.
Injury Report (as of 10/11/07)
New York Jets
Full participation in practice
FB Darian Barnes (thigh), TE Jason Pociask (back)
Limited participation in practice
T Anthony Clement (thigh), S Erik Coleman (concussion), WR Laveranues Coles (knee), DE Shaun Ellis (foot), WR Justin McCareins (ankle), QB Chad Pennington (ankle), DT Dewayne Robertson (knee), S Eric Smith (thigh)
Full participation in practice
CB Lito Sheppard (knee), TE L.J. Smith (hernia), LT William Thomas (knee), RB Brian Westbrook (abdomen)
Limited participation in practice
G Todd Herremans (knee)
Did not participate in practice
S Brian Dawkins (neck), WR Greg Lewis (Ankle)