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Christopher Gardella Game Previews

Jets vs. Pats – Week Two Preview

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New England Patriots (1-0) at New York Jets (1-0)
 

By Christopher Gardella

Bill Belichick didn’t think that Eric Mangini should be the next “HC of the NYJ� when the job was offered to him this past off-season. He wasn’t telling Mangini this out of spite but rather as a warning to the young coach. Coaching jobs are scarce in this league; if you mess up once, it’ll be a long, long time before you get another chance. Heck, you may never get another chance.
 
Belichick was speaking from experience with his wisdom to the young Mangini. And who could blame him? Belichick played with fire in Cleveland and was left with third-degree burns as a result. He didn’t want his longtime friend and co-worker to go through the same experience.
 
Mangini promptly ignored his mentor’s advice and is now roaming the sidelines as the head coach of the New York Jets. Was it a mistake? Is Mangini ready to be an NFL head coach?
 
It’s still too early to tell, but Sunday will be a good indicator as to whether Mangini is ready for the Big Leagues. In an early battle for first place, the New England Patriots square off with the New York Jets at the Meadowlands in what promises to be the rebirth of a dying rivalry.
 
PATRIOTS OFFENSE VS JETS DEFENSE
 
When Chad Pennington drops back to pass on Sunday, there might be a smidgen of jealousy on the part of Tom Brady.
 
Ridiculous, you say. Brady has three Super Bowl Rings, has been voted to the Pro Bowl three times, and is the king of New England. What could Pennington possibly have that make Brady jealous?!
 
How about wide receiver Laveranues Coles?
 
Since becoming the starter in 2001, Brady has never had a legitimate #1 receiver in his offensive arsenal. True. However, Brady has always had several quality receivers to choose from, but this year that isn’t the case. Deion Branch and David Givens are gone, leaving Brady with, quite possibly, the worst group of wide receivers in the NFL.
 
Brady’s options at wide receiver include: 1st round University of Florida bust, Reche Caldwell; Social Security collecting and part-time defensive back, Troy Brown; University of Florida rookie, Chad Jackson (see: Reche Caldwell); and ex-Raider, Doug Gabriel (who does more celebrating than catching).
 
A bright spot in the Patriots’ receiving corps comes in the form of 3rd year tight end Ben Watson. With little help at the wide receiver position, Tom Brady will be looking for Watson deep on seam patterns in the middle of the field. Victor Hobson, whose responsibilities include covering the opposing team’s tight ends, doesn’t have the speed to keep up with Watson – Kerrie Rhodes does, however, and may be charged with covering Watson.
 
In week one, the Patriots running game got off to a fast start, rushing for 183 yards. With the passing attack struggling, Bill Belichick called on Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney to pound a weak Buffalo defense into submission. The usually pass-happy Patriots may have hinted at a philosophy change with their week one performance. The days of Brady throwing the ball 35+ times a game could be long gone, especially behind a questionable offensive line.
 
Despite holding Tennessee to 86 rushing yards last week, the Jets showed they were vulnerable to the run early. Chris Brown was having success against the Jets in the first quarter when Jeff Fischer dumped the running attack, entrusting the game to quarterbacks Kerry Collins and Vince Young. Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney are a more formidable duo than Chris Brown and Travis Henry, which could cause problems for the Jets defense. The Patriots will try to pound the Jets between the tackles, where the Jets are most vulnerable. Both Dillon and Maroney are between-the-tackle type runners who match up well against the Jets’ front seven. Belichick will try to neutralize Jonathan Vilma’s speed by making him shed blocks to get to the ball carrier. It will be up to Dewayne Robertson and the defensive line to control the line of scrimmage, freeing up Vilma and Co.
 
JETS OFFENSE VS PATRIOTS DEFENSE
 
In his first game back from his second rotator-cuff injury, Chad Pennington threw for 319 yards and two touchdowns. The Tennessee defense isn’t the ’85 Bears, but it’s a nice start for a player everyone wrote off.
 
The running game, however, didn’t fare as well. Despite the ineffectiveness of the Derrick Blaylock and Co., offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer refused to abandon the rushing attack. This gave the Jets a healthy, balanced attack that kept the Titans defense honest throughout the game. The Jets will try to ignite the running game again this week, but that doesn’t figure to be easy against a stout Patriots’ defensive line. Kevan Barlow has been putting in overtime at the Jets’ facilities and will see an increased number of carries this week. Even if the Jets continue to struggle running the ball, expect Schottenheimer to remain persistent.
 
To say that Bill Belichick has given Chad Pennington headaches over the years would be an understatement. Their last three meetings have resulted in seven Pennington interceptions to only one touchdown. In the past, Belichick has formulated game-plans to exploit Pennington’s lack of arm strength. By dropping several defenders into the middle of the field, Belichick forced Pennington to throw the ball outside the hash marks, which often led to interceptions. However, this year Pennington’s arm seems to be stronger than in the past. Against Tennessee, Pennington had no problems hitting his receivers along the sidelines on out-patterns. His arm looks healthier than it ever has, which could play into Belichick’s game-plan. Pennington showed no hesitation throwing the deep ball in week one; for the Jets to be successful on offense, they’ll need him to show the same gunslinger mentality in week two.
 
Belichick is going to try to rattle Pennington by sending a variety of blitz packages at him. The Jets’ offensive line struggled picking up blitzes at some points during the preseason – the Patriots’ 3-4 alignment makes things even more difficult for the Jets’ two rookie linemen. The Jets would be wise to protect Pennington with an extra blocking tight end and/or running back.
 
MATCHUP TO WATCH
 
D’Brickshaw Ferguson VS Richard Seymour: It’s not everyday you line up against a four-time Pro Bowler, but by the time this season is over, it’ll feel like it.
 
PREDICTION: Mike Nugent redeems himself by kicking the game winning field goal.
 
Jets 24-21
 

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