It's the Cowboys and the Jets on Sunday night, and the NFL will truly start for us. We've been looking at the Jets from our view, but we needed to go behind enemy territory to see what they think about their team. So John, the leader over at Gang Green Nation, SB Nation's Jets blog, answered five questions about the New York Jets.
Blogging The Boys: What's new or different about the Jets offense?
Gang Green Nation: A lot is new. Plaxico Burress replaces Braylon Edwards at one receiver slot. Derrick Mason replaces Jerricho Cotchery as the third receiver. Wayne Hunter takes over for Damien Woody as the full time right tackle. Hard Knocks hero John Conner takes over at fullback for Tony Richardson. Shonn Greene is going to be the full time running back this year as LaDainian Tomlinson slides into a third down role.
I think Mason, Conner, and Greene are all well suited to at worst replace the guys the team lost. Burress and Hunter are the question marks. I cannot imagine many people expect Burress at 34 to be as productive after two years away from the game as Edwards, a receiver in his prime, was in 2010. I think the Jets will focus more on tight end Dustin Keller in the passing game to try and compensate.
Hunter has very big shoes to fill. Woody has been one of the best right tackles in the league. Hunter actually saw a lot of time late last year as Woody was hurt. After some brutal performances against the Texans and Dolphins, he played reasonably well. His best game was against Chicago, where he stonewalled Julius Peppers with little help. He is a definite downgrade, though, particularly in the run game.
Four questions to go...
BTB: What's new or different about the Jets defense?
GGN: The defense remains relatively steady, which is amazing considering how many free agents there were in the secondary. The only losses in the back were reserve safety Dwight Lowery, who was traded to Jacksonville and reserve cornerback Drew Coleman, who also signed with Jacksonville. The team signed Donald Strickland to replace him. Strickland was with the team in 2009 so everybody in the back of the defense knows the scheme well.
The only starter the team lost was Shaun Ellis, who leaves some rather big shoes. He was playing at a high level against the run and as a pass rusher. Despite having ample salary cap room, the team did not make much of an effort to keep him. He will be replaced by first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson and Ropati Pitoitua, a 6'7" 315 pound athletic lineman who tore up camp and the preseason.
BTB: What's the talk been like in NY about the battle between the Brothers Ryan? We're just getting used to Rob Ryan's bravado and the way he answers questions. How do you feel about Rex's way of doing business since he's been a Jet?
GGN: I think all of the brevado and media stuff is unfortunate in a way because it prevents people from realizing what an excellent football coach Rex Ryan is. He has won around two-thirds of his games and been within a game of the Super Bowl both years in New York, which is incredible when one considers he has had inconsistent play at the quarterback position. He turned the defense from one in the middle of the pack into a top rated one overnight. He has taught guys like Sione Pouha and Mike Devito how to play with consistent technique and turned them from mediocre rotation players into high quality starters. He is not stuck in his own tendencies either. Ryan clearly likes to attack, but he saw his blitzes were not working near the end of last season. He adjusted and went to a scheme based heavily on coverage in the Playoffs to great success.
Opposing fans now acknowledge the Jets are a difficult matchup, and their team will need to play at a high level to win. When was the last time before Ryan that anybody ever said that about the Jets?
BTB: What are the major injuries/problems that you guys are worried about?
GGN: The Jets were fortunate enough to escape preseason with few injuries. John Conner's tweaked ankle was probably the most significant lingering concern heading into this game, but indications are that he will be good to go.
I think the thing that worries most Jets fans is the lack of a bona fide pass rusher. The team generates tremendous pressure, but it is mainly through scheme. There really is no guy who can get to the quarterback on his own.
BTB: For the Jets to be successful this year, what do they have to improve on from last year?
GGN: In order to take the next step, the passing game has to get more consistent. The Jets allowed 10 points or fewer in three of their five losses last season. It was just the passing game could not do anything right in those games.
I think people can be too hard on Mark Sanchez. It is important to remember he only had 14 starts in college so he was very raw entering the league. Unlike a lot of young quarterbacks, he did not have the benefit of making mistakes in obscurity on a bad team. He was placed on a team built to win now in New York. He is still growing as a player. Sanchez was better in 2010 than he was in 2009. He engineered five game winning drives, including one in the Playoffs. He has a 95 passer rating in six Playoff games. He has shown he is a guy who raises his game in the big spots.
Now it is time for him to become more consistent. The path to the Super Bowl in the AFC is a lot easier with home games. Winning three on the road is possible, but you would prefer avoiding that path if possible. In a division with the Patriots, the division title and home Playoff games probably requires 12-13 wins, and that means all facets of a team must click consistently. The Jets have the run game and the defense. Sanchez needs to take a big step.
Our thanks to Gang Green Nation for the knowledge.