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October 16, 2014

Here’s How to Fix the Jets

When your beloved team loses 5 straight games through 6 weeks, it’s easy to lose perspective. We all knew this stretch of our schedule would be brutal but, going into the season, I really believed our team had a legitimate chance to compete for a wildcard spot. Under Rex, we’ve had some really tight battles with New England and beaten them with some less talented teams. In my eternal optimism, I began thinking that if we could steal this game in New England, it could spark a run and the season might not be lost. The schedule is obviously much better for the Jets from week 8 on. To try and gain some of this lost perspective and to try and understand just how unrealistic putting a run together might be, I looked at the statistics from the first 6 weeks of the season.

The good news is that the Jets are not that bad. On defense, we are 6th in the NFL in yards/game. We’re 9th against the run and (surprisingly) 15th against the pass. On offense, we are dismal in the passing game (32nd) but solid in running game (12th). Looking at these numbers, you’d think if we could just get the passing game going, we’d be okay. We’ve seen glimpses of it throughout the season (albeit way too brief) so there’s hope that if Geno can play how he played for much of the 1st half of the Packers game, we’d have a chance.

The bad news is that it’s not just about the passing game. In looking deeper into the numbers, I think the issue with our team is mental. It is easy to blame a lack of talent as the culprit for our record but I believe we have the necessary talent to win. I think our team needs to learn how to win. I say this issue is mental because the Jets were competitive in 4 of their 5 losses but couldn’t figure out how to win. The statistics bear this out. The Jets need to play better, on both sides of the ball, in critical situations. Here are three examples of such critical situations and how the Jets stack up to other teams around the league:

On 3rd down conversions, on both sides of the ball, the Jets rank poorly. On offense, the Jets rank 24th converting only 37.6% (Dallas is 1st in the league and converts 56.3%). On defense, the Jets rank 25th and allow conversions 46.7% of the time (Indianapolis is 1st allowing just 29.7%).

In the Red Zone, on both sides of the ball, the Jets rank poorly. On offense, the Jets rank 30th converting TD’s only 38.9% (Atlanta is 1st in the league and convert 75%). On defense, the Jets also rank 30th and allow TD conversions 72.2% of the time (Baltimore is 1st allowing just 35%).

Lastly, the Jets are 29th in the league in the giveaway/takeaway differential with -7 (there are two teams that are +9). The Jets rank 22nd in giveaways with 10 and rank 30th in takeaways with only 3. How many times this year have bad decisions contributed to the giveaway number? How many times on defense did a “sure” interception bounce off of one of our players?

So it all comes down to this:

The Jets need to do a better job in the passing game. This isn’t all on Geno. We need better blocking from the big fellas and separation from our receivers. And yes, we also need much better play from Geno too.

We need to get mentally tough. We need to play as well or better on 3rd down than in the previous two. We need to play as well or better on either edge of the football field as is played in between the 20’s. We need to take care of the football and we need to finish games.

Simple, right?

August 28, 2014

Let’s Make A Deal!

I am sure John Idzik is leaving no stone unturned to try and replenish our CB position. In looking at the available talent on the street, it’s no surprise to me that the Jets haven’t added anyone since they signed journeyman LeQuan Lewis over two weeks ago. I think the only way the Jets can add talent that will impact their CB position is via trade.

Since we need to look to a trade to add talent, I suggest making a run (albeit highly unlikely, borderline delusional) at the Browns’ Joe Haden.

I suggest that we bundle several players on the fringe of our roster as well as a mid-round pick. I’d trade Antwan Barnes, Stephen Hill and Daryl Richardson along with a 3rd or hopefully 4th round pick.

Antwan Barnes – Pettine loves “Barnesy”. After coaching him in Baltimore, Pettine wanted him back on his squad. Prior to the 2011 season, when coaches began contacting NFL free agents, Pettine’s first call went to Barnes. Unfortunately the timing didn’t work out for the Jets that year as they were strung along by Nnamdi Asomugha and weren’t signing anyone until they Asomugha made his decision. Barnes waited as long as he could but ultimately resigned with the Chargers prior to Asomugha signing with the Eagles. Now, finally a Jet, Barnes is getting healthy but, with the addition of Babin, Barnes becomes tradeable.

Stephen Hill – We all know about Mr. Hill. His physical tools are off the charts but he has yet to figure out how to translate it to production on the field. Sometimes guys like this benefit from a change in scenery (and coaching). Hill is a very hardworking and likable guy. Pettine was a coordinator with the Jets when we traded our 5th and 7th round picks to move up four spots in the second round to draft Hill. With the suspension of Josh Gordon, the Browns are obviously very thin at WR and are in a position to take a gamble on a guy like Hill.

Daryl Richardson – With the Jets having three players solidly ahead of Richardson on the depth chart, Richardson is in danger of not making the 53 man active roster. Richardson is too good not to be on an active roster. The Browns have two new runners at the top of their depth chart – former Arian-Foster-back-up Ben Tate and 3rd round pick rookie Terrance West. With the uncertainty of two unproven, new players, I’m sure the Browns would welcome some additional talent and experience in the backfield.

Most teams would not consider trading a player of Joe Haden’s caliber (and I suspect the Browns won’t either) but the Browns drafted CB Justin Gilbert with the 8th overall pick in this year’s draft. They also spent a 4th round pick this year on CB Pierre Desir and a 3rd round pick last year on CB Leon McFadden. In addition, Pettine has his old guys from the Jets CBs Isaiah Trufant and Aaron Berry and S Jim Leonhard to help bolster his secondary. Losing Haden would obviously weaken their secondary but hopefully the net addition of these other contributors would tip the scales for the Browns.

Like many coaches, Pettine has shown that he likes to bring in “his guys” (he also has Jamaal Westerman on his roster). I think Barnes is the jewel in the deal for the Browns but with his health a question mark, it’s doubtful the Browns would bite. However, by throwing in a 4th or even 3rd round draft pick next year and by taking on Haden’s healthy $67 Million contract, the Browns might just go for it. What do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

December 16, 2013

The Jets are Still Alive in the Playoff Hunt – So You’re Saying There’s A Chance…

NImageope. Not even as the eternally and irrationally optimistic Jets fan that I am, there’s no chance the Jets will make the playoffs this year. There’s even less of chance than we had in 2009 when Rex Ryan prematurely proclaimed that we were eliminated after our week 15 loss that year.

Despite this acknowledgement, I couldn’t help but look at all the stars that would need to align. Basically, there are 9 games that need to go a certain way. I grouped them into one of the following three categories of likelihood: probably, toss-up, and doubtful. In this crazy NFL, valid arguments could be made that I don’t have any of these games in the right category but that would just further another point that I’ll make shortly. However, first let’s waste a little more time and look at the games:

The Jets will beat Cleveland next week
The Patriots will beat the Ravens next week
The Packers will beat the Steelers next week or the Browns will beat the Steelers in two weeks
Toss Up
The Lions will beat the Ravens tonight
The Bengals will beat the Ravens in two weeks
The Chiefs will beat the Chargers in two weeks
The Bills will beat the Dolphins next week
The Raiders will beat Chargers next week
The Jets will beat the Dolphins in two weeks

As I mentioned, a valid case could be made that many or even all of these games are in the wrong categories. So let’s just assume that all of these games are a 50/50 proposition. If we proceed with that assumption (and the assumption that I correctly remember how to calculate probabilities), that would mean the Jets chances of making the playoffs are 1 in 512! Even Jim Carrey wouldn’t like those odds.

Here’s what I’d like to see in the final two games… I want our team to show improvement, play well and WIN. Draft position is highly overrated and a crapshoot at best. I want wins to build on for next year. Sit Santonio Holmes and any other players that aren’t anticipated back next year and work on building a winning culture.

August 15, 2011

What’s the Biggest Question for the Jets Offense this Season?

How much better is Mark Sanchez v.2011 versus Mark Sanchez v.2010?  With all the free agent frenzy that occurred and the questions about who will be better Burress or Braylon, Mason or J-Co, the biggest opportunity for the Jets offense to improve is quite possibly this year’s performance of our number 6 versus last year’s performance.  In Sanchez’s first year, he was, frankly, a liability.  As fans, we were rooting for him not to lose the game.  Last year, he improved tremendously.  He showed that in crunch-time, when it matters most, he has nerves of steel.  He won us a bunch of games last year.  This year, if he can even out his performances and play the way we all know he can throughout the game, we will be a much better team.  Sanchez has acknowledged, after studying each game last year, that he needs to start games faster.  If he can do that, not only will we not need to pull out so many last minute victories but we’ll have an excellent chance of winning the division and more.

Is Wayne Hunter ready?  Damien Woody has left tremendous shoes to fill.  He will truly be missed.  I know in the past that Rex has called Hunter the best back-up OT in the league but I really hope Hunter ready to become a full-time starter.  Running right has always been a staple of our offense.  If Hunter isn’t ready, it would wreak havoc with our offense.

Who is Plaxico Burress?  I go back and forth on this one.  When I think of the kind of fool it takes to tuck a loaded gun into a pair of sweatpants to head out to a club and then to literally shoot yourself in the leg, I want no part of him.  However, when I think of the debt he’s paid and hear him speak, I think that he certainly deserves a second chance.  Then I think back to all the drama when he was a Giant with being late for meetings and getting fined and I think, why expose ourselves to these shenanigans.  However, when I think of how diametrically different Tom Coughlin’s and Rex Ryan’s styles are and how Coughlin could probably drive Tebow to swear, I think maybe Burress will be different under Rex.  As much as I go back and forth on Burress as a guy, I do the same with him as a player.  Part of me thinks that he’s been away too long at too old an age to just pick up where things left off.  Then the other part of me thinks, here’s a rare athlete with a one year contact with a whole lot to prove.  Given our well documented issues in the red zone and Burress height, I think he was worth the gamble but this is one of the big questions we have on offense this year.  Let’s also hope Burress stays healthy enough for us to find out.

What impact will Tom Moore have?  Play calling is a thankless job.  Unless you’re the team holding the trophy at the end of the year, there will always be critics.  As an avid football fan, I appreciate great play callers and offensive schemers such as Sean Payton.  Fundamentally, I am a huge proponent of a strong running game.  I drink the Ground and Pound Kool Aid.  However, Schottenheimer’s play calling and offensive schemes have left me scratching my head more than a few times.  For many reasons, I have not advocated for a new Offensive Coordinator.  I think one of the Jets’ biggest strengths coming into this season in particular is the stability of the organization, it’s staff and core players.  That said, I love the idea of adding an offensive guru to mix and am very hopeful that he will have a big positive impact.

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August 15, 2011

What’s the Biggest Question for the Jets Defense this Season?

Can we stay healthy?  We’re returning 10 of 11 starters on a defense that was ranked 3rd last year is great.  However, we don’t have much depth at the linebacker position and an injury there could be devastating.

Can we cover big TE’s?  While I think Eric Smith improved his game significantly last year and Jim Leonard is an excellent leader, our Safeties really struggled last year covering TE’s, especially big ones.  To win the division this year, we’re going to have to deal with New England’s 6’ 6″ Gronkowski.  I hope our Safeties and coaches are up to the task.

Will Kyle get his groove back?  As a 1st round pick, the expectations were high for Kyle Wilson as he came into camp last year.  He played well early in the year but seemed to lose his confidence after the Miami game.  With Drew Coleman playing at a high level, it was hard for Wilson to work his way back on the field.  However, after an offseason working with Darrell Revis and another year under his belt, big things are expected of Wilson.

Will Jamal Westerman shine as our Designated Pass Rusher?  Westerman was poised last year to take on a bigger role but that was thwarted when Jason Taylor danced onto the scene.  Now that Taylor is back where he belongs, Westerman will get his shot.

How good is Calvin Pace?  With one foot tied behind his back, Calvin was still a force to be reckoned with.  Ryan assessed Pace’s foot as “only 20 percent healthy” by the end of last season.  Pace, now healed, is poised to have a monster season.

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August 15, 2011

What’s the Biggest Special Teams Question for the Jets this Season?

Who will be Mike Westhoff’s new wonderboy?  While we will all surely miss one of my favorite Jets, Brad Smith, it will be interesting to see who Mike Westhoff molds into the next Chad Morton/Justin Miller/Leon Washington/Brad Smith.  Early money certainly points to Jeremy Kerley.

Can Conley step in for Weatherford?  Last year, Weatherford tied the record for the most punts inside the 20 in a season with 42.  Pinning opponents deep is obviously a tremendous help to an opportunistic defense.  Also, will he buy his teammates shake-weights and if not, will how will the teams conditioning be affected?

Which Nick Folk will be kicking for the Jets?  The former All-Pro or the guy that missed more than 1 of 3 between between 18 – 28 yards?

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August 11, 2011

Who Will Make the Jets 53 Man Roster?

It is rare that this early in camp, there are so few questions about the roster but in looking at the Jets’ newly released depth chart, I’ve come up with what I think will be their 53 man roster.

In terms of the breakdown of numbers of players by position, I think the Jets will make a few adjustments as compared with last year.  The biggest of which is, I think the Jets will carry an addition Offensive Lineman at the expense of carrying one less Defensive End.  The other changes are more subtle.  They are as follows:

  • one more Safety at the expense of a Cornerback
  • one more Wide Receiver at the expense of a Tight End
  • one more Running Back at the expense of a Full Back

I believe the biggest competitions are going on are at Wide Receiver and Inside Linebacker.  The locks at WR are obviously Holmes, Burress, Mason and Kerley.  Last year, we carried 5 WR’s.  I think this year, there’s a good chance that 6 will make the 53 man roster.  I expect Patrick Turner and Scotty McKnight to round out the WR corp but it is by no means a lock.  Both Courtney Smith and Michael Campbell have shown promise.  Plus Logan Payne is currently listed ahead of McKnight, Smith and Campbell on the depth chart.  Dan DePalma is currently the biggest WR long-shot to make the squad.  Plus has been reported that the Jets have added another WR to the mix – undrafted FA Cordarol Scales from Fort Hayes State.  I’m not sure what he’ll add but the WR competition will certainly be one for us Jets fans to focus on during the preseason games.

At Inside Linebacker, I believe the only two locks to make the squad are our starters from last year.  Behind Harris and Scott there are currently six players competing for probably two spots.  I think Josh Mauga is probably the front-runner with Nick Bellore next in line.  Brashton Satele and Joey LaRocque are also in the mix while Matthias Berning and David Harron are both long-shots to make the squad.

Knowing how much Rex’s relies on Cornerbacks, it might seem odd that I think he’ll go with one less than last year.  However, I’m also suggesting that he carries one more Safety.  Dwight Lowery is among the five Safeties I’m suggesting will make the team.  If need be, Lowrey could return to his old position at Cornerback.  There are however, three CB’s in camp that are competing for a roster spot.  They are Julian Posey, Ellis Lankster and Richard Taylor.  If one of these three CB’s make the squad, then Safety Emanuel Cook probably will not.  According the Jets recently released depth chart, Donald Strickland is ranked fifth, FIFTH!, among the Cornerbacks.  Having five starting-caliber corners on one squad is a luxury.  It will be fun to see what exotic defensive schemes are made possible with such an embarrassment of riches.

My take on who will make the Jets 53 man roster