Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Jets-Raiders Postgame Thoughts

              Now that week 3 is in the books, we can hopefully start to move on from the Jets’ sub-par performance and start to focus on the Jets difficult, but winnable, game against Baltimore next weekend. In the meantime, however, let’s take a look back at the game versus Oakland and try to figure out what worked, what didn’t, and where the Jets will go from here. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

Jets-Raiders Preview

                My teenage years as a Jet fan were spent hating the Raiders with a fiery passion. I didn’t understand how two wide receivers who looked old enough to be my father could so consistently get open and torment the Jets secondary. I didn’t understand how a quarterback who looked even older than his wide receivers could be so consistently accurate, and I didn’t understand why the Jets had so much difficulty beating the Raiders. Even when the Jets did well against the Raiders, heartache followed. One of my favorite Jets memories is John Hall kicking a 53 yard goal in a 2001 week 17 game against the Raiders to send the Jets to the playoffs.

              Of course, the Jets lost to the Raiders the next week in the opening round of the playoffs when Charlie Garner ran for an 80 yard touchdown on 3rd and 11. The next year, I was sure that the Jets were going to the Super Bowl behind Chad Pennington, and there was a 41-0 victory over the Colts to prove it. Of course, the Raiders ended that dream as well. Those Raiders teams were really, really good. My, how things have changed. Over the past ten years, the Raiders have been one of the laughingstocks of the NFL with a litany of awful draft picks and on-field incompetence. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Jets-Jaguars Postgame Analysis

                After taking a few days to review the film of this past weekend’s massacre against the Jaguars, I’ve come to one conclusion: Luke McCown isn’t very good. Just Kidding! Well, I’m serious about him being awful at football, but I did come to a few other conclusions as well. Keep reading after the jump for my analysis on Wayne Hunter, Calvin Pace, Mo Wilkerson, and several other players.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Jets-Jaguars: Postgame Thoughts

                Like most Jets fans, I went into yesterday’s game hoping that Gang Green would be able to take care of business against an inferior team and have the game in hand by the end of the third quarter. The last thing I wanted was another nail-biter. I figured that a blowout win was the least the Jets could do for me if they were going to force me to look at their hideous uniforms for three-plus hours. By the time the game’s first quarter was over, several things were obvious: Luke McCown is not an NFL quarterback, and Mark Sanchez’s performance was going to engender some post-game controversy. With that in mind, I’m going to begin my postgame analysis by taking a look at Sanchez’s performance.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Jets-Jaguars Preview

Whenever I think about the Jacksonville Jaguars, I’m reminded of Matt Damon’s character in Ocean’s Eleven, when Damon has to go into Andy Garcia’s casino. The Jags are so boring and eminently forgettable, that their lack of anything resembling an identity is their most defining characteristic.  Over the last two years, the Jags have made a sustained commitment to mediocrity.  It’s not just their mediocrity that makes them so boring, however. Instead, it’s the fact that with the exception of Maurice Jones-Drew, the team has no one who stands out as particularly exciting or watchable. If you asked most casual NFL fans to name five players on the Jaguars, I’m confident that they wouldn’t be able to do it. Despite the mind-numbing boredom that watching the Jags can cause, they’ve also been a team that can’t be overlooked, as every Jets fan painfully remembers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Anatomy of a Blocked Punt

Since I’m no Johnny Knoxville, I can’t go over the finer points of returning a punt. 

What I can do, however, is go over the key play in Sunday night’s game and analyze how the Jets ended up blocking Matt McBriar's punt and tying the game.

Some more postgame thoughts

Now that the dust has finally settled after the victory over the Cowboys, I’ve had time to watch the game again and take some more detailed notes about what I saw and found interesting. Because I’m not a normal person (normal people wouldn’t spend this much time thinking and writing about a football team whose players were unaware of said writers existence) the plays I find “interesting” might not be the same as yours, but that’s a risk that I’m willing to take.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Postgame Thoughts: Defense

If you missed my postgame thoughts on the offense, you can check them out here. Without further ado, let's get to my thoughts on the defense.

Defensive Line: I have a huge man-crush on Ropati Pitoitua, and I make no apologies for that fact. Ever since I first saw him block out the sun on a football field in 2009, I thought that he would be able to play a significant role for Jets defenses in the future. Last night, with the most extensive playing time of his NFL career,  Pito did not disappoint, as he was a constant force against the fun. He plugged holes, showed good lateral quickness, and generally disrupted the Cowboys’ offensive gameplan. Sione Pouha and Mike Devito continued their unheralded stellar play against the run, as the Cowboys abysmal rushing line from last night suggests. Muhammad Wilkerson made his NFL debut last night, and most fans, including myself, were very curious to see how he would perform. The short answer: like a rookie.

At times, Wilk was blocked far too easily by Cowboys Tight Ends, but on other plays, Wilk showed off the length and athleticism that prompted the Jets to use their first round pick on him. I expect Wilk’s first year to be filled with ups and downs, but if he can play like he did last night while showing occasional flashes of the talent that he has, I won’t be unhappy. Of course, the Jets d-line didn’t contribute much by way of the pass rush, but does that really surprise anyone? To Mike Devito’s credit, he made what might have been the biggest play of the game when he chased down Tony Romo and forced a fumble on the one yard line.

Linebackers: As bad as Bart Scott is against the pass, (and he’s pretty bad. That missed tackle on John Phillips made my eyes bleed) he is equally adept against the run. Although his contributions were most obvious on his big 3rd and 1 stop on Felix Jones, Scott was effective for all of last night’s game, as he continuously flung himself into the Cowboys’ line. David Harris was David Harris. Very, very good with no wow plays, but no mistakes either. The only think I didn’t like from him was the botched zone that led to Dez’s big catch on the game’s first series. What was that I saw from you last night Calvin Pace? Was that a semblance of actual pass-rushing moves I saw from you last night? I think it was! Although the pass rush was nowhere close to where I’d like it to be, both Westerman and Pace showed more “wiggle” than I have seen from them in the past. Who knows, maybe a fully healthy Pace will be able to do wonders for the pass rush. One other thing that Pace did that made me happy was adjust after the game’s first play.

In the pre-season, the Jets were constantly victimized by bootleg passes to running backs as the outside linebackers forgot about their coverage responsibilities. The same thing happened on the first play last night, but the problem was fixed and it didn’t happen again. Good coaching and good adjustments. Bryan Thomas was his usual steady self. He didn’t have a great game, although he almost ripped a handoff out of Tony Romo’s hand. That would have been awesome.

Secondary: I’ll be the first person to admit it: being a Jets fan has made me spoiled. Not just a little spoiled, either. I’m talking about My Super Sweet 16 spoiled. What am I talking about, you might ask? Not Super Bowl wins, that’s for sure. HA! Everyone knows Super Bowls are dumb. What I’m talking about is watching the best cornerback on the planet practice his craft. In 2009, Darrelle Revis redefined what it meant to be an elite cornerback. It didn’t mean that the person he was guarding would have a bad game; it meant that the person he was guarding could have his hands cut off and it wouldn’t have mattered. Revis wasn’t just great; he was other-wordly. What does this have to do with last night’s game? After the game, my first thought was that Revis didn’t play that well. Once I stopped to think about it, I realized how absurd of a statement that was. Revis allowed one catch for 26 yards to Dez Bryant after Bryant had abused Antonio Cromartie. 

But it wasn’t that one catch that bothered me. Instead, it was the fact that Reis allowed a ten yard completion to Kevin Ogletree on a 3rd and 10. When that play happened, I was totally shocked. Darrelle Revis got beat…by some team’s third receiver? Seriously? Maybe he thought the play was blown dead or something. Sure, Revis got the interception to set up the game winning field goal and shut down Dez Bryant for the vast majority of the game, but last night I gave his performance a 6/10. After repeatedly punching myself in the face, I realize how absurd that is. Even though it might be impossible for Revis (or anyone) to duplicate his 2009 season, there’s no reason that he can’t still be the best cornerback in the NFL and still give up an occasional catch to a shitty wide receiver. As for Antonio Cromartie, the stats will show that he gave up two touchdowns, and watching the game tells us that he hates physical contact more than a BYU RA, but I will argue that most of the criticism directed at him is a function of how spoiled we are from watching Darrelle Revis.

Sometimes, great receivers make great plays on very good cornerbacks, and that’s something that we need to accept. I would still rather have Cromartie than most second cornerbacks in the NFL. (unless, of course, we could somehow clone Revis.)  I continue to like what I see from Kyle Wilson. Last year, his early struggles probably destroyed his confidence for much of the season, but he improved as the season wore on. As bad as Wilson was last year, it didn’t seem as if his struggles came from an inability to cover. Instead, he simply seemed unable to find the ball when it was in the air. Although he hasn’t been directly challenged yet, his coverage last night was very good and I think he will be a solid nickel back this year. It remains to be seen how effective he will be as a blitzing nickel back, but I have high hopes.

Now on to the safeties: yuck. Eric Smith, just do better covering Jason Witten, okay? I know that there wasn’t much pass rush on the play, and I know that Witten is one of the best tight ends in the league but just do better. Please. On a side note, nice (insert adjective for likeable, undersized white player) play by Jim Leonhard to track Witten down and push him out of bounds, which set up Devito’s forced fumble. I think it was pretty obvious that the Jets were going to struggle covering tight ends this year, so one play down the seam isn’t terrible.

Thanks for reading, and please check back tomorrow and during the week for more of my thoughts on the Jets. I plan on breaking down the snaps distribution of the Dlinemen, along with a breakdown of the blocked punt. Stay tuned!  

Postgame Thoughts: Offense

Heading into last night’s game, I was worried that the Jets would repeat their opening performance from the 2010 season: I didn’t want to see the Jets come out flat and immediately fall into a hole that they would be ill-equipped to dig out of.  Of course, the Jets decided to go in the opposite (the same??) direction. They looked uninspired to start the game, as the Cowboys drove down the field with ease with the worst play of the first series being Dez Bryant easily splitting the attempted zone of Bryan Thomas and David Harris for a 42 yard gain. The Jets’ offense wasn’t able to put a drive together until the end of the first half when they were trailing 10-7, but Sanchez’s touchdown pass to Keller made the score 10-7 at halftime.

In the 2nd half, Sanchez played much better, although he was also kind enough to remind us that “Bad Mark,” the player who completes half of his passes and haunts the dreams of every Jets fan, is still lurking somewhere under the surface of the new and improved QB heading the offense. With the Jets down by two touchdowns Sanchez made an excellent throw to Plax for a score; if Sanchez can figure out how to properly use Burress’ size, that combination could be dangerously effective, like the pistol Plaxico needed for protecition. Eventually, the Jets tied up the game on a blocked punt before Tony Romo was kind enough to gift the Jets an interception which led to the game winning Field Goal. Much more in-depth analysis will be coming throughout the week, but for now I will take a look at the different positions, and how the players performed. 

Quarterback: As previously mentioned, Sanchez showcased some of the bi-polar quarterbacking that makes him such an enigmatic player. On what was essentially a pick-six, Sanchez stared down his intended receiver (Dustin Keller), failed to see the defender who was standing RIGHT in front of Keller, and threw a pass that led to the second easiest interception of the game (thanks Tony Romo!) On the Jets’ last possession of the game, he stared down Derrick Mason and almost threw another interception that would have killed the Jets’ chances of scoring. Enough with the negatives though: For much of the game, Sanchez looked like a different quarterback; one who had finally taken that elusive next step and was going to be able to pull a Greg Jennings and put the team on his back. Sanchez made several plays that really impressed me, but perhaps none more than his 3rd and 10 completion to Dustin Keller with 6:52 left in the 4th quarter. Sanchez showed excellent escape ability while keeping his eyes down the field, and then he made a perfect throw on the run. Those are the kind of plays that elite quarterbacks make on a consistent basis.

One other thing about Sanchez that I find interesting is how much better he seems to play when he’s in a no-huddle offense. Without knowing the details of the Jets’ offense, I can’t make any kind of intelligent guess as to why that is, but I can say that I would like to see the Jets use the no-huddle a bit more. Of course, that might make it more difficult to use the “ground-and-pound” that Rex  espouses, but I’ll take any kind of offensive success I can get.

One play that particularly impressed me was a throw that Sanchez didn’t make. In the third quarter, the Jets ran their fake-draw to a quick slant play that they normally run so effectively. This time though, the Cowboys were prepared and there was a defender sitting in Sanchez’s throwing lane. Instead of forcing a throw and an almost certain pick, Sanchez pumped fake, and ended up throwing an incompletion. It’s not a play that will show up on the stat-sheet, but it was a vital play.

Running Backs: Call me crazy, but I’m thrilled with what I saw from our running backs last night. No, not from Shonn Greene. In Greene’s defense, there weren’t many holes for him to run through, the offensive line played poorly, and Greene got most of the yards that were available to him. What I’m really happy about, however, is how excellent LT looked last night as the 3rd down back. Last year, I thought that the Jets were giving LT too many carries when Greene was clearly a more explosive option. I can only assume that the Jets finally saw my hundreds of message board posts restating that same fact, and finally decided to put LT in the role he was suited for. LT showed excellent hands (no surprise) great awareness of the first down marker (duh) and enough burst to make teams take notice of him when he is on the field. Based off of last night’s performance (and LT’s incredible HOF career) I feel confident saying that LT is one of the top third down backs in the NFL.

Tight Ends: Hello Jeff Cumberland. It’s nice to see what you can do in a real game. Everyone who follows the Jets closely read glowing reports about Jeff Cumberland’s freakish athleticism last year. Naturally, we began to assume that the next Antonio Gates was waiting in the wings, ready to be unleashed on hapless defenses when the time is right. While he might not be the best tight end in NFL history (yet) it seems obvious that Cumberland will be a useful weapon for the Jets offense during the season. On his 33 yard catch, he ran past linebackers like they were standing still. Of course for all of the hype surrounding Cumberland’s performance last night, he wasn’t the best Tight End on the Jets. Instead, that was the often forgotten man, Dustin Keller. Keller was Sanchez’s most reliable target last night, with five catches for 61 yards. He ran excellent routes, created space for himself on the aforementioned 3rd and 10, and showed off his ability to consistently find the soft spot in a zone defense. Although it took a while for Sanchez to look for Keller, Keller played an excellent and complete game.

Wide Receivers: Not surprisingly, Santonio Holmes is still awesome. Although he was blanketed for much of the night, he showed off some of his open-field skills on a long catch and run. As good as Holmes is, though, most Jets fans weren’t worried about his performance. After watching Holmes last season, every Jets fan knew what a good player he is. For all of the certainty that Jet fans felt about Holmes, though, they were equally unsure about Plaxico Burress. What kind of shape would Plaxico be in? Did he receive the Michael Vick rejuvenation treatment while he was in prison? Would he even be able to stay on the field? In the first half, Chris Collinsworth made an astute point: Plax is different from any receiver that Mark Sanchez has ever worked with before.

Instead of having a normal catch radius, Plax has an intrusive reach that would make George Orwell proud: his arms are everywhere and any ball thrown near him is catchable. Sanchez showed that he was a quick learner when he threw a touchdown to Plax. The beauty from this play came from its lack of beauty; it wasn’t a perfectly thrown ball like so many of Sanchez’s touchdowns in the past, but it didn’t need to be. As long as the ball got beyond the reach of whatever Lilliputian Cowboys defensive back happened to be covering Plax, Plax was going to catch it, and he did. I look forward to Sanchez and Burress continuing to team up to terrorize opposing defenses.

Offensive Line: Yuck.  In all fairness, we have no right to get annoyed at Wayne Hunter for the way that Demarcus Ware both literally and figuratively dominated him. That would be like a fan of another team getting annoyed that their mediocre receiver couldn’t get separation from Darrelle Revis. Having said that (Larry David alert) it was still incredibly frustrating to watch Sanchez have so little time on so many plays. Last year, Wayne Hunter was manhandled by Mario Williams, and this performance seemed eerily similar. Hopefully Hunter can improve significantly and rapidly, because most passing offenses require more than half a second of time for their quarterback to make a throw. Hunter was not alone in his poor play last night, however. Oh no! this was a communal festival of suck, and there were plenty of blown blocks and cement feet to go around. Hopefully the line can improve, and quickly, because every Jet fan was counting on this unit being a strength, and that was clearly not the case last night.