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Christopher Gardella Game Previews

Jets vs. Titans: Game Preview

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By Christopher Gardella 

The once green, healthy, cathartic leaves no longer glisten in the sunlight following an afternoon shower. No, no, they don’t. In fact, they are beginning to show their age. The parched leaves begin to wrinkle, and they’re turning an auburn color; a clear indicator that their death is soon coming. The breeze picks up, but the leaves no longer have the strength to defend against the wind. They lose the battle and fall to their annual death.
 
I see children cheerfully boarding school buses, holding Superman lunchboxes in hand as parents’ bid farewells.  
 
The water tastes different. It’s got a cleaner, crisper, more refreshing flavor to it. And, and, the air….the air, it, it smells different. Yes, it too feels cleaner and healthier. In fact, it’s invigorating.
 
I’ve gotten this feeling several times before.
Every year it’s the same thing.
It can only mean one thing.
 
FOOTBALL SEASON IS HERE.
 
More than eight months have passed since the New York Jets participated in a game that actually meant something. Eight months ago, the Herman Edwards-run New York Jets had a very different look than the Eric Magini-run New York Jets of today.
 
New management has come to town with a no-nonsense approach. No veteran is sacred, no job is safe. All-pro center, team captain, and fan favorite Kevin Mawae was one of the first to feel the wrath of the new regime. Once considered an indispensable piece of the Jets offensive line, Mawae was promptly cut when Eric Mangini arrived at Weeb Ewbank Hall. This Sunday in Nashville, the New York Jets get to see the Titans and Kevin Mawae for the first time since giving Mr. Mawae his walking papers. To say that Mawae will have a chip on his shoulder this weekend would be an understatement.
 
The Jets 4-3 base defense of yesteryear has departed with Herman Edwards’ bags to Kansas City. In is the 3-4, which relies heavily on stout lineman occupying offensive blockers, freeing up the defense’s linebackers to make plays. Although Mangini has refused to adhere to one specific defensive philosophy, he has shown a preference for the 3-4 in preseason competition.
 
Chad Pennington has been named the starter for opening day despite Eric Mangini’s refusal to reveal his entire depth chart. Jeff Fischer has taken a seat at Eric Mangini’s game of “NFL Poker� and has refused to name his starting quarterback for Sunday’s game. With the choices consisting of Raiders-reject Kerry Collins, career backup Billy Volek, and the raw Vince Young, none of Fischer’s options at quarterback are particularly enticing. Mangini has promised full preparation for all three quarterbacks, calling Fischer’s silence “a really solid decision.�
 
 
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
 
Despite trading for Kevan Barlow, the Jets running back situation is still very much up in the air. Derrick Blaylock showed ability in the preseason but will likely split carries with Barlow, who is more formidable at picking up the blitz. The Titans are going to try to rattle Pennington early by sending multiple defenders at him — Mangini will do his best to protect the fragile Pennington, which means Barlow will see the brunt of the action at running back.  Establishing the run is high on the list of priorities for Eric Mangini. The Jets are starting two rookies on the offensive line, which is unsettling for any quarterback, particularly for the oft-injured Chad Pennington.
 
Brian Schottenheimer’s offense did not display much downfield passing in the preseason, and for good reason. It’s difficult to pass downfield when protection schemes break down quicker than they should. Expect a short to intermediate passing attack that is heavy on three to five-step drops from Pennington. Asking the offensive line to protect Pennington for more than three or four seconds is unrealistic and dangerous at this point. Pennington, who has attempted only 34 passes since recovering from his second torn rotator cuff, is going to have to fight off the rust early to make quick reads against a blitzing Tennessee defense.
 
 
WHEN THE TITANS HAVE THE BALL
 
Jeff Fischer’s refusal to name his starting quarterback is anything but a good sign for the Titans. Billy Volek’s horrid performance in the preseason and Kerry Collins’ propensity to make mistakes makes it unlikely that the Titans are game-planning to beat the Jets through the air. Instead, they’ll attempt to attack the Jets’ weaknesses by pounding the ball inside the tackles with running back Chris Brown and Travis Henry. Both runners are bruisers who will wear the defense down if given the opportunity.
 
When the Titans do pass, expect to see Bryan Thomas coming off the corner on blitz packages. The 1st round disappointment has moved from defensive end to outside linebacker in the 3-4 alignment and will get a chance to show off his 4.5 speed from the OLB position.
 
 
MATCHUP TO WATCH
 
NT Dewayne Robertson vs C Kevin Mawae
 
Make no mistake, Kevin Mawae was irked when the Jets cut him this past off-season.
On Sunday, he’ll be looking for blood, and the man lining up right over him will be no other than Dewayne Robertson. Expect lots of holding, trash talking, and perhaps a scuffle or two.
 
PREDICTION Jets 16-10

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