FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – There was no beating around the bush Wednesday for Jets head coach Rex Ryan.
“We’re in need of a win bad,” said Ryan. Damn right they are.
Losers of three straight and coming off an ugly home defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, Sunday’s tilt in the “Black Hole” is a must-win game, in every sense of the term.
Weeks ago, the October 25 showdown in Oakland appeared on the calendar as a “gimme” game for Gang Green. But after losing defensive tackle Kris Jenkins for the season and with the confidence of quarterback Mark Sanchez floundering, Sunday’s game looks like it will be anything but a walk in the park for this Jets team.
The 2-4 Raiders are coming off their most impressive performance of the season, a 13-9 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. Sunday, a Raiders defense which was referred to as scrimmage-quality by Giants’ linebacker Antonio Pierce a week before, shut down the high-powered offense attack of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Donovan McNabb and company were limited to 286 yards of total offense and kept out of the end zone all day. McNabb was sacked six times, as he struggled against the variety of zone coverages and blitzes thrown at him by Oakland defensive coordinator John Marshall.
“I just thought we played with a higher intensity level,” said Raiders DE Richard Seymour in his conference call with the New York media Wednesday. “In previous weeks, we came out and I don’t think we had the type of energy that we had last week.”
“Obviously Philly likes to throw the football, so we knew we had to come in and get after McNabb. And it’s just the opposite this week. We know they’re gonna come in and try to run the football, so we have to be prepared for that. I’m sure they’ll mix in some play action passes and do some different things. But I think the message out of there is that they don’t want to put too much on Sanchez’s plate. Even though he’s a really good young player, they don’t want to overwhelm him at this point.”
While offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will do his best not to overwhelm Mark Sanchez on Sunday, the same can’t be said for the Raiders defense.
Seymour and veteran defensive end Greg Ellis will do their best to create havoc and force more bad decisions from Sanchez. “We have to come after him early and often,” said Seymour.
Despite being losers of three straight, Rex Ryan believes that the team hasn’t taken a step back and that their goals are still in sight.
“The fact is right now we’re 3-3,” said Ryan. “We’d feel a lot different if we had won our last three and lost our first three. But right now we’re still 3-3, at the end of the day. We still have a chance to accomplish everything we wanted to as a football team. It’s right in front of us, there are ten games left.”
Right now the Jets need to buckle down and do something they haven’t done in three weeks; win one game.
“For us to get there and to reach those things, we’ve got to win one in a row,” said Ryan. “Our focus has to be on the Oakland Raiders and that’s it. You can’t look down the road and make an assumption here or this or that. You’ve just got to focus on this football game and go out and do whatever you can to win this game.”
Big shoes to fill at nose tackle
With Kris Jenkins on the shelf till 2010, the Jets have an immense void to fill in the middle of their defense. LB Bart Scott believes that while losing Jenkins hurts right now, it could end up paying dividends down the road.
“It’ll be tough, but that’s football,” said Scott. “I’ve played with a lot of great players and they’ve went down. It’s an opportunity for other guys to step up and when you come back next year, it makes the team that much stronger. You just hope that it doesn’t hurt you this season.”
In 2005 with the Ravens, Bart Scott was one of the “other” guys who stepped up. When Ray Lewis injured his hamstring early in 2005, Scott was thrust into a starting position for the first time in his career. Scott did not disappoint, turning in a breakout season with 92 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles.
“I wouldn’t be standing here right now, you guys wouldn’t even care who I was with these microphones, if Ray Lewis didn’t blow his hamstring out in game six in 2005. I would never have been discovered. I would never have got an opportunity; I would’ve been labeled as a special teams player. I always remind those young guys on the practice squad or whatever, that when their opportunity comes, you have to take advantage of it. So this is an opportunity for a young guy to seize the moment, to become a star, to become a starter to change their stripes.”
Safety Kerry Rhodes is confident that his defensive teammates will rise to the occasion in Jenkins’ absence.
“We’ll have to figure out ways for other players to step up for us,” said Rhodes. “And we have players that can do it. Nobody can replace Jenkins but we have guys that are capable of getting it done and being effective for us.”
While wide receivers Jerricho Cotchery (hamstring) and Brad Smith (quad) were dressed during today’s practice, neither participated in team drills. Braylon Edwards (quad), Shaun Ellis (knee) and Donald Strickland (ankle) were also limited during today’s practice. Rex Ryan stated that Edwards is receiving treatment on the quad but should be fine for Sunday’s game in Oakland.
Talking to Cotchery after practice, it sounded like he is anything but a sure thing for Sunday. Jerricho acknowledged that today was “one step” but the team doesn’t want to risk anything with the hamstring. All indications point to him missing his second straight game this week.
Meanwhile, it appears that CB Lito Sheppard may have aggravated his quad injury during Sunday’s game against Buffalo. Sheppard, along with OT Damien Woody (knee) took in Wednesday’s practice from the stationary bikes. Ryan expressed in his news conference that he was “not confident” that Sheppard will go on Sunday
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