If Fitz Returns, Will Results Follow?

By Glenn Naughton (@AceFan23)

Fitzpatrick threw a career-high and team record 31 TD's in 2015
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a career-high and team record 31 TD’s in 2015

 

If the Jets manage to re-sign quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is set to become a free agent, it will mark the first time since Brett Favre’s lone season with the club in 2008 that the Jets will start the year with an established, consistent veteran under center and the absence of any quarterback controversy.

Following a season in which he threw a career-high 31 touchdowns en route to a total of 10 wins (another career high), the question many Jets fans seem to be asking is, “can he do it again”?

Fitzpatrick proved countless doubters wrong with his 2015 performance, but what are the chances of him putting up similar numbers in 2015?  Better than some might think when you consider a few key factors heading toward 2016, starting with continuity.

While much was made of Fitzpatrick’s history with offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, and rightfully so, it was his first season working with an entirely new offensive cast after being acquired by Jets GM Mike Maccagnan.

As star receiver Brandon Marshall mentioned during training camp, a quarterback can often take several years to develop good chemistry with his receivers, but that didn’t stop him and fellow wide receiver Eric Decker from getting off to a running start with Fitzpatrick in year one as they teamed up to haul in a team record 26 scores (14 and 12 respectively).

We reminded Marshall of his comment regarding chemistry during a recent interview with JetNation.com and he had this to say:

“It does take a couple of years, so you can just imagine that if we continue to work hard and stay healthy…the possibility of what we can do this year if we add a piece here and there, the core is in tact.  He’s our leader, I’m looking forward to seeing how he’s going to take advantage of this off-season, going in as the guy.  You know, it’s gonna’ be special”

Brandon Marshall put up a career high 14 touchdowns in 2015.
Brandon Marshall put up a career high 14 touchdowns in 2015.

Secondly, the likely development of a third receiver/tight end on offense for Fitzpatrick to throw to should be considered.  As successful as the Jets offense was last season (11th in scoring), it lacked a consistent third option behind Marshall and Decker as wide receiver Jeremy Kerley and tight end Jeff Cumberland were largely invisible, oddly by design.

Quincy Enunwa, Kenbrell Thompkins, Devin Smith and Chris Owusu were limited by injuries and inconsistency while second-year tight end/H-back Jace Amaro never saw the field after being placed on Injured Reserve during training camp following a torn labrum.

Enunwa led all Jets Wide Receivers with a 14.3 yards per reception average.
Enunwa led all Jets Wide Receivers with a 14.3 yards per reception average.

As the 2015 season came to a close, Enunwa, whom Marshall described as “one of my favorite teammates I’ve ever played with, he’s a stud and he’s so selfless” came on strong.

Enunwa made key catches in victories against the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots during a five-game winning streak.  Enunwa also showed the ability to make things happen after the catch, averaging a team-best 14.3 YPC among wide receivers, pulling in 22 balls for 315 yards.

The Jets will also hope for Smith and Amaro to get healthy and on track to justify their draft position as both players were chosen in the second round of their respective drafts with high expectations.

Thompkins, who looked impressive at times in limited reps, will likely have the opportunity to make the squad out of camp after being an in-season addition last year.

Owusu’s may be the odd man out as he continues to battle concussions at the pro level after being taken off of several draft boards out of Stanford for that same reason.  Still listed on the Jets roster, at this point, the best choice Owusu could make for himself and his future would be to step away from the game for good.

Another reason for optimism is the emergence of running back Bilal Powell as a threat out of the backfield down the stretch in 2015.

Like Fitzpatrick, Powell is due to be a free agent and it may be even less likely he’ll be donning Green and White next season.  Even still, what he did for the offense as a pass-catcher from week’s 10-15 (32 rec, 299 yds, 2 TD’s) proved invaluable for Gang Green’s aerial attack.

Running back Bilal Powell posted a career-high 388 yards through the air in 2015.
Running back Bilal Powell posted a career-high 388 yards through the air in 2015.

If Powell does in fact depart via free agency, it’s difficult to envision the team moving forward without adding a player with a similar skill set through the draft or free agency.  Perhaps even a trade with a team like the Philadelphia Eagles for the aging but still effective Darren Sproles who is could be made available in the near future.

So while the most critical aspect of continued success for Fitzpatrick and company is the chemistry referred to by Marshall, it’s far from the only reason for optimism if and when Fitzpatrick reclaims his starting spot with the Jets in 2016 where he and Gailey will give it another shot together.  Hopefully going from knocking on the door of the post-season, to kicking it in.

 

Monday Notes: Richardson Avoids Jail Time, Ivory and Mangold Head to Hawaii

A Quick Recap of Last Week in JetNation:

 

Sheldon Richardson Avoids Jail Time, but Awaits Discipline from NFL

 

After missing four games in the 2015 season for failing multiple drugs tests, Sheldon Richardson could very likely be looking at another suspension for the 2016 season. This past Tuesday Richardson pleaded guilty to resisting arrest, a charge that stemmed from an incident in July. Richardson was said to be street racing at speeds up to 143 mph with a 12-year-old child in the car, along with a loaded handgun and an odor of marijuana. With the agreement to a guilty plea bargain, Richardson was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and fined $1,050.00; he will also be on probation. Upon completion of probation the resisting arrest charge will be expunged from Richardson’s record. Although Richardson got off relatively easy with his court case, the NFL might not be as lenient. Since Richardson has already violated the league’s substance abuse policy, it’s highly unlikely he’ll get off without a suspension. The biggest question is a matter of how long he’ll be on the sidelines. It’s a matter the Jets will be hoping is resolved soon seeing as two of their biggest name defensive linemen are pending free agents. Richardson recorded 35 tackles, five sacks, and three tackles for a loss in 11 games during the 2015 season.

 

Ivory and Mangold Represent the Jets in the Pro Bowl

 

Chris Ivory made his first trip to the Pro Bowl to replace Bills’ running back LeSean McCoy, while Nick Mangold made his seventh appearance replacing Dolphins’ center Mike Pouncey. The Jets had three other players selected to the Pro Bowl as well. Muhammad Wilkerson was slated to attend his first Pro Bowl, but wasn’t able to make the trip due to the leg injury he sustained against the Bills. Darrelle Revis and Brandon Marshall were also selected to the Pro Bowl, Revis declined the invitation due to shoulder soreness and Marshall declined for an undisclosed reason. During the end of the season Marshall admitted to playing through a high ankle sprain which was likely the reason for not attending the Pro Bowl. Both Ivory and Mangold had decent outings, Ivory had one carry for 16 yards and three receptions for 55 yards. Mangold started at center and was targeted on a fake PAT attempt. The Jets would have had five participants in the Pro Bowl.

 

Other Notes

 

While in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl Chris Ivory made some interesting, if not cryptic comments to NFL Network reporters. Although he told them he would like to return to the Jets, Ivory also commented on the cap situation. “I was able to speak to them. They want to bring me back, but like I said, I think it’s about the cap space. That’s going to be the biggest factor as to whether I’m back or not.” The Jets do have a number of big name players becoming free agents this off-season, Ivory being one of them. Unlike last off-season the Jets don’t have a wealth of cap space to make multiple big moves. It’s almost a certainty that the Jets will have to let some of their better free agents hit the open market. Running back is a position that will likely see significant change. Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, and Stevan Ridley are all pending free agents leaving Zac Stacy as the Jets’ lone running back under contract. Even if the Jets acquire another running back via free agency or the draft, keeping at least one of their current free agent running backs seems a sure thing. Coming off a career season, Ivory will be the most expensive out of the three but is also the most established running back of the group.

Along with Ivory, Powell, and Ridley the Jets have some tough decisions to make with a long list of free agents and a limited amount of cap space. The Jets list of pending free agents includes: Muhammad Wilkerson, Chris Ivory, Damon Harrison, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Darrin Walls, Bilal Powell, Stevan Ridley, Randy Bullock, Antonio Allen, Stephen Bowen, Willie Colon, Demario Davis, Leger Douzable, Calvin Pace, Chris Owusu, Kellen Davis, Jamari Lattimore, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Ben Ijalana, and Erin Henderson. The running back, linebacker, and defensive line groups have the largest amount of free agents and each could see big changes in the off-season. It will be hard for the Jets to retain both Muhammad Wilkerson and Damon Harrison although each of them deserve a new contract. This off-season won’t have as many big splash moves as last year seeing as General Manager Mike Maccagnan will have to allocate a good portion of funds to keeping in-house players.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Notes: Rex Leaves MetLife with a Win, Jets in a Slump

A Quick Recap of Last Week in JetNation:

 

Jets’ Late Rally Falls Short

 

The Jets have lost three of their last four games, officially hitting a mid-season slump. The Thursday night game against the Bills was one in which the offense forgot to show up until late in the third quarter. It was an ugly showing from the offense who turned the ball over in three crucial moments. The Jets scored first with a field goal from newly signed kicker Randy Bullock. That was the last time they’d score until the third quarter with four minuets and thirty-nine seconds left. The defense was able to keep the Jets in the game despite multiple turnovers within their own 20 yard line. It was 22-3 by the time the Jets scored again. The Jets drove 80 yards for a touchdown, with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Brandon Marshall. Five drives later, after the defense forced the Bills to punt twice and fail a fourth down conversion, the Jets scored their second touchdown. The Jets closed the gap with a 69-yard drive finishing with a 31-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to Eric Decker making it 22-17. The valiant effort ended with another ugly showing. The Jets were handed a gift with a botched punt giving them the ball on the Bills’ 13 yard line. The drive ended with Fitzpatrick overthrowing Kellen Davis in the back of the end zone on fourth down with three minuets left. The Jets got the ball back with 24 seconds left and Fitzpatrick threw an interception on the first play to put the game on ice.

It was too little, too late for the Jets who failed to take advantage of multiple opportunities to win the game. Getting the ball on the opponent’s 13 yard line and failing to come away with points is inexcusable. It was poor execution by the offense on multiple drives, but also poor coaching by Bowles and his staff. While the defense played a relatively good game, every other phase of the team was lacking. The special teams in particular was horrendous. A fumble by Devin Smith recovered for a touchdown marked the special teams unit’s third turnover this season. It’s hard to find as many impact players as usual for this game. The players who stood out were: Muhammad Wilkerson, Eric Decker, Chris Ivory, David Harris, Demario Davis, and Brandon Marshall. Wilkerson made his impact felt on defense, and stood out more than any other player with six tackles, two sacks, and three quarterback hits. The impacts plays were: Wilkerson’s sacks, Decker’s touchdown catch, Brandon Marshall’s touchdown catch, Harris and Davis’ sacks, and Ivory’s 36-yard reception.

 

Rex Leaves a Winner, Muddies Waters for Jets’ Playoff Hopes

 

In his first appearance back at MetLife Stadium as the Bills’ head coach, Rex Ryan got his revenge. The Bills played a game in true Ryan fashion, playing gritty and sometimes ugly football. Luckily for Ryan the Jets played even uglier. This was the first of the two times the Jets and Bills will square off this season. After taking round one the Bills increased their playoff chances and hurt the Jets. Instead of making some separation with a win, the Jets now find themselves in the middle of the pack in the playoff race. As of right now the Jets are tied with the Bills for the 6th seed in the AFC, but after the loss the Bills win the tiebreaker. With a number of teams on their heels, the Jets will need to string some wins together in order to secure a spot in the playoffs.

 

Other Notes

 

After T.J. Barnes cleared waivers, the Jets brought him back by signing him to the practice squad. Barnes was waived to make room for safety Ronald Martin who was brought up from the practice squad. The Jets also signed former discus thrower and defensive lineman Lawrence Okoye who had previously played on the practice squad for the 49ers and Cardinals. The Jets will be using Okoye on the offensive line. It’s an interesting move seeing as Okoye has no experience playing on the offensive line, and didn’t play college or high school football. Okoye has an opposing frame though, standing at 6′ 6″ and weighing 304 pounds.

On a kick return backup running back Zac Stacy suffered a gruesome injury. Stacy was rolled up under multiple defenders after being tackled and landing awkwardly on his leg, he had to be carted off just before halftime. After further examination it was revealed that Stacy had broken his ankle on the play. Stacy had 31 carries on the season for 89 yards with one touchdown. It’s not a huge blow for the Jets, who will have Bilal Powell returning from injury soon. Stacy will be the eighth player the Jets have had to place on injured reserve this season. Other players on injured reserve include: Nick Folk, Willie Colon, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Antonio Allen, Jace Amaro, Chris Owusu, and Zach Sudfeld.

Ryan Fitzpatrick had surgery to repair the torn ligament in his left hand thumb Friday morning. As of now, the Jets are expecting Fitzpatrick to start on Sunday against the Texans. Fitzpatrick will have about 10 days to recover from the surgery. The biggest threat for a setback is the possibility of infection if he’s rushed back into action. Fitzpatrick hasn’t shown any signs of a setback since he first injured his left thumb. If Fitzpatrick isn’t able to play on Sunday it’d most likely be Geno Smith at quarterback for the Jets.

The Jets have a “mini-bye” with a 10 day break before their game against Houston on Sunday. The Jets will be hoping the break will be long enough for players to heal up and get back on the right track. More than half of the remaining games should be winnable. Five of the next seven teams the Jets face have a .500 record or worse. The Texans are sitting at a 3-5 record and will host the Jets in Houston on Sunday. It’s a game that the Jets will need to win to regain some momentum heading into the push for the playoffs.

 

 

Jets Fall to Patriots, 30-23

Nov 22, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets center Nick Mangold (74) prepares to snap the ball at the line of scrimmage against the New England Patriots during the game on Thanksgiving at Metlife Stadium. The Patriots won the game 49-19. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-US PRESSWIRE

It was a tumultuous offseason in the AFC East. With New England coming off another Super Bowl victory, the rest of the division got to work. The Bills hired Rex Ryan and solidified their team. Miami picked up Ndamukong Suh and signed quarterback Ryan Tannehill long term. New York, after hiring consultants and an exhaustive search, hired general manager Mike Maccagnan. Maccagnan went out and hired head coach Todd Bowles, spent 87 million dollars on the defense, bringing back Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, traded for Brandon Marshall. Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought in to back up Geno Smith and became starter in camp.

The division was expected to be a dogfight, and after a horrific 2014, the Jets were going to have to prove they were not just better than the annual AFC East champion Patriots, but the Bills and Dolphins as well.

But Buffalo and Miami stumbled out of the gate, and the Jets went into Week 07 looking for a piece of first place in their decade plus battle with Tom Brady and undefeated New England.

It was a valiant effort, but the Jets came away the losers, 30-23.

The game started poorly for the Jets, when on the opening drive they lost four yards on first down and on second down quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick fumbled the football on the Jets side of the field. The ball was recovered by New England, but the Jets made a strong defensive statement. The defensive line was no match for the Patriots offensive line, and the Patriots were held to three yards and a field goal. New England quarterback Tom Brady was pressured and sacked during the four down series.

The Jets next drive went better, featuring several key completions to Marshall and Eric Decker, but it was stalled at the goal line after several questionable plays – throws to Chris Owusu and Jeff Cumberland on 2nd and 3rd and goal, respectively – and the Jets settled for a field goal, with new punter Steve Weatherford holding for Nick Folk.

After stopping New England on another drive rather quickly and easily, the Jets offense again came down the field. This one ended better. After being at the goal line and taking a penalty, Fitzpatrick connected with little used wide receiver Jeremy Kerley for a touchdown. After the extra point, the Jets led 10-3 early in the second quarter. This score was important because it later had a big impact on the Grizzly Canadian online gambling authority for anyone that wagered on the game.

The Patriots tied the game after being set up at the 50 yard line on a bad punt by Weatherford, who was replacing bad punter Ryan Quigley, who was out with a shin injury. Brady, doing his best Fitzpatrick, rushed for a first down and the touchdown after the defense held running back James White and tight end Rob Gronkowski out of the endzone.

New England took a 13-10 lead on their next drive, but it could have been worse. After the Jets challenged a spot, the first down was reversed, and linebacker Calvin Pace sacked Brady on third down. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski nailed the 46 yard field goal.

A horrid Jets “drive” allowed the Patriots to start close to field goal range, but a never-say-die kind of effort from linebacker Demario Davis to tackle Gronkowski probably saved three points, because Brady’s next pass was incomplete and he was sacked by Sheldon Richardson on the last play of the half.

New England added to their lead with another field goal at the start of the second half. Calvin Pryor limped off during the series and didn’t return, and the Jets defense bent but didn’t break at the goal line.

The Jets offense responded on the next drive. Starting at their own 20, they went down the field, converting on key third down plays and with Chris Ivory, who, in spite of not being himself, soldiered on, gaining yards, and eventually catching a short pass and running into the endzone to put the Jets up 17-16 near the end of the third quarter.

Brandon Marshall, Ryan FitzpatrickThe defense ended another Patriots drive in a short manner, and the Jets offense started again. They ended the third quarter with a big completion from Fitzpatrick to Marshall to get the Jets past midfield. They should have had another touchdown, but after a day of dropped passes on both sides of the ball, Marshall dropped a pass at the goal line on third down and the Jets had to settle for three points, going up 20-16.

The Patriots responded with a touchdown drive of their own, going up 23-20 with about 7 minutes to play. Brady completed a touchdown pass to Danny Amendola. During the series, defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson left the game with a left arm injury. He later returned to the game.

It was interesting end to the fourth quarter. The Patriots scored another touchdown on a complete brain fart by the Jets defense – nobody covered Gronkowski. The Jets got the ball back, Nick Folk kicked a field goal, recovered an onside kick, and then were called for a penalty to end the game.

Even the defensive fourth quarter, which is the worst quarter this defense has played this year, was survivable if the Jets had converted in the red zone. Early in the game when they threw to Cumberland and Owusu instead of Marshall and Decker, and then the Marshall drop in the fourth. A lot of this game could be placed on offensive play calling, which was questionable to bad. For some reason, throwing to Chris Owusu, Devin Smith, and Jeff Cumberland instead of Marshall and Decker in key offensive situations multiple times was bad.  Throwing down the middle with no timeouts. The use of timeouts in general was bizarre.

The other downside of this game was how banged up the Jets were by the end. Nick Mangold left the game late in the fourth with what appeared to be a head injury. Pryor was banged up. Buster Skrine had been banged up earlier in the game. Richardson was hurt.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was 22/39 for 295 yards with 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions, plus the lost fumble, and a QB rating of 97.7. In spite of an apparent leg issue, Chris Ivory led all rushers with 41 yards on 17 carries. Fitzpatrick rushed for 29 yards. Eric Decker led Jets receivers with 6 receptions for 94 yards. Marshall followed with 4 receptions for 67 yards. This shows mobile betting is also a trend because the stats are reported everywhere.

Marcus Gilchrist led the defense with 10 tackles. Tom Brady was sacked three times by Sheldon Richardson, Calvin Pace, and Muhammad Wilkerson. The Jets didn’t force any turnovers.

There were some positives to take away, but in the end, a loss is a loss. The Jets look to get back in the win column against the Oakland Raiders next week. Kickoff is at 4:05

Inactives Report: Quigley Out, Weatherford Reutrns

Punter Ryan Quigley will be inactive as expected. Newly signed punter Steve Weatherford will be taking care of punts today. Quigley was run into a couple of times against the Redskins and apparently sustained a leg injury. Weatherford rejoins the Jets after being released by the Giants at the beginning of the season. From 2009-2010 Weatherford served as the punter for the Jets.

Other inactives include: T.J. Barnes, Bryce Petty, Kenbrell Thompkins, Bilal Powell, Jarvis Harrison, and Ben Ijalana

Today T.J. Barnes will be inactive for the defensive line instead of Stephen Bowen. Last week Bowen was inactive while the Jets faced his former team, but will be active today. It was a somewhat strange move, but made sense at the time due to Sheldon Richardson’s return. This week it’ll be Barnes sitting on the bench though. Normally a coach will let their player have a crack at their former team, not Bowles though.

Only two quarterbacks are dressed for today’s game against the Patriots: Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Geno Smith. Bryce Petty won’t be active today. As long as Fitzpatrick can continue to lead the Jets and play smart football, he’ll remain the starter. The only way Geno will see any time on the field would be due to an injury. As for Petty, the Jets are likely trying to bring him along slowly but surely. They don’t want to rush him into action unnecessarily. It will leave time for him to develop and become more familiar with the game on a pro level.

Kenbrell Thompkins will not be active to face his former team either. Thompkins was signed to replace suspended WR Quincy Enunwa. If there was a time to use Thompkins it’d probably be against his former team, but Thompkins likely hadn’t learned much of the playbook and wasn’t ready to go for today’s game. That leaves the Jets with only five active receivers: Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, Devin Smith, and Chris Owusu. Owusu was limited all week, but will dress for today’s game.

The Jets decided not to activate Stevan Ridley from the PUP list to face his former team. Ridley himself admitted he still wasn’t 100%. With Bilal Powell also out today, that leaves the Jets with only Chris Ivory, Zac Stacy, and Tommy Bohanon as their active running back/fullbacks. Chris Ivory will see the most of the workload as usual, with Stacy coming in for relief.

Per usual, both rookie Jarvis Harrison and Ben Ijalana won’t dress for today’s game. Harrison and Ijalana have been the only two locks on the inactives list this season. The other five spots have been in a rotation with some new faces here and there. It’d be a bad thing if the Jets had to activate either Harrison or Ijalana because it would mean there were multiple injuries to the offensive line, a worst case scenario.

Todd Bowles and the Jets would have you believe it’s just another game, but the Jets go up against their bitter rivals for the first time this season with the division lead on the line. It’s a game with big implications for the AFC East. The Jets coming in at 4-1 have a chance to hand the 5-0 Patriots their first loss of the season. It will take consistent play from the quarterback position, a good run game, and of course good defense. The last two are usually pretty common for the Jets, so their fate may rest on the shoulders or arm of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

 

Inactives Report: Colon, Powell Suit Up, Bowen Inactive

Both Bilal Powell and Willie Colon will be active for today’s game against the Redskins. Somewhat of a surprise that the Jets chose to keep ex-Redskin Stephen Bowen inactive. Bowen wasn’t listed with any injury before the game and has suited up for every game before today. It’s most likely due to Sheldon Richardson’s return to the lineup, but you’d think they would play Bowen against his former team.

Other inactives include: Ben Ijalana, Bryce Petty, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Marcus Williams, Jarvis Harrison, and Chris Owusu

The Jets will only dress two quarterbacks today with Geno Smith backing up Ryan Fitzpatrick. If Geno Smith doesn’t take the field for another game, and with Fitzpatrick’s age it’s highly likely that Bryce Petty could be the future for the Jets at quarterback. In which case, it’d be wise not to rush Petty into action. The Jets have done that with other rookie quarterbacks in the past and it didn’t exactly work out.

Chris Owusu is still recovering from his knee scope surgery, but will likely make his return soon. The number three spot is still up for grabs, and Owusu was the favorite before his knee injury. Unless Devin Smith can step up, or Jeremy Kerley can find his way back up the depth chart, the number three spot could be waiting for Owusu’s return.

Both Jaiquawn Jarrett and Marcus Williams will be inactive for today’s game. Jarrett is dealing with a knee issue and Williams is dealing with a hamstring. Marcus Williams has been a real surprise so far this season, he’s tied for the lead in interceptions with Darrelle Revis and leads the team in passes defended. Under usual circumstances that would merit a promotion to a starting position, but with such a loaded secondary Williams is only getting time in sub packages. Even with limited time, Williams is making his presence felt and could be a key player for the Jets in the future.

No Surprise as both Ben Ijalana and Jarvis Harrison will be inactive again today. Not much to say here, you can expect to see both of their names on the inactives sheet for the remainder of the season barring a series of injuries on the offensive line. Mentioning the offensive line, Willie Colon will return today but Brian Winters did an admirable job against the Dolphins when he stepped in for Colon.

The Jets have a chance to go 4-1 against a depleted Redskins team. The Redskins have a number of starters out for today’s game including star wide receiver DeSean Jackson. The Jets will need to remain focused to avoid another trap game scenario. The Jets are coming in off a bye week, and are well rested. A win against a mangled Redskins team would be a good way to pad their win column before heading to Gillette Stadium to take on the 4-0 Patriots.

Fitzpatrick, Jets Fans Wait for Third Option to Emerge

By Glenn Naughton

 

Off to a 3-1 start this season, the New York Jets have surprised observers around the league as a 4-12 team in 2014 has a chance to equal their win total from last season with a win over the Washington Redskins in Sunday’s week five meeting at MetLife Stadium.  Not many pundits pegged the Jets to come out of the gate this hot, so now the experts, and Vegas odds-makers have taken notice.

The team’s hot start can be attributed to a stout defense that tops the NFL, allowing just 13.8 points per game, a running game that ranks 8th in the league (127 yards per game) and the steady play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick who has thrown 7 touchdowns and 6 interceptions while completing just over sixty percent of his passes.

Far from spectacular, Fitzpatrick has done what’s been asked of him thus far, but a look at the numbers show that the signal caller is relying heavily on wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker to move the chains as the duo has been targeted 43% by of the time by Fitzpatrick.  While the Jets are likely to stick with that formula for as long as it’s working, the emergence of a third reliable target could make life a lot easier on the bearded one.

Ideally that third target would be speedy rookie Devin Smith who missed training camp and the early portion of the season while he recovered from a fractured rib and punctured lung.  Smith has managed to get on the field in each of the Jets last two games but a lack of chemistry with Fitzpatrick, with whom he’s had very few reps, has been a clear obstacle in the very early going.  Smith is worth keeping an eye on this Sunday and beyond as the bye week would have given him the most extensive opportunity to get some reps with Fitzpatrick thus far.

Quincy Enunwa has struggled early on but could become a factor as he gets more comfortable in Gailey's offense.
Quincy Enunwa (L) has struggled early on but could become a factor as he gets more comfortable in Gailey’s offense.

Another option of course is second-year player Quincy Enunwa who has been the primary H-back since the team lost Jace Amaro for the season with  a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Drafted as a wide receiver out of Nebraska, Enunwa’s stellar pre-season has allowed him to see extensive action up to this point, but things haven’t gone so well.

In four games this season Enunwa has six receptions for 77 yards while struggling to hold on to several passes that were right on the mark.

Fitzpatrick and Enunwa looked to be developing some chemistry during training camp at Florham Park so it makes sense that Enunwa is fourth on the team with 14 targets behind Marshall (44), Decker (19) and Smith (15).  As he gets more comfortable in the Jets new offense with additional reps from Fitzpatrick, Enunwa has a chance to be a big part of what the Jets are doing on offense moving forward.

While Gailey’s offense has been productive early on, the downside to  his scheme is that the team’s best slot receiver, and an ideal third option on most teams, Jeremy Kerley, doesn’t fit what the Jets are trying to do.

The more we see Marshall, Decker and Enunwa being used in the slot, it’s clear that Gailey wants bigger targets in the middle of the field with his speedsters on the outside.

Kerley fits neither profile, so he’ll continue to sit and wait for spot duty to get on the field and make plays as he did in his lone game against the Philadelphia Eagles in which he made a diving grab of a Fitzpatrick pass early on, before scoring his only touchdown on the season later in the contest.

Chris Owusu, another training camp standout, is due to return from a knee injury in the near future.  A speedy prospect who opened a lot of eyes late last season and again in this year’s home opener when he beat Pro-Bowl cornerback Joe Hayden on a 43 yard reception, Owusu has done little since as he’s spent the past several weeks recovering from knee surgery.  His skill set is quite similar to Smith, so whether or not he’s active on game day remains to be seen

The tight ends meanwhile, have been largely invisible up to now, accounting for a paltry 10 yards on two receptions.  With that being the case, a sudden emergence from Jeff Cumberland is unlikely at best.

In the coming weeks, as teams look to find a way to slow down the duo of Marshall and Decker, Fitzpatrick hopes to find a third pass catcher who can keep the offense flowing as the reborn journeyman, on pace for career highs in touchdowns and interceptions, attempts to lead Gang Green to their first playoff berth in four years, and the first playoff appearance of his eleven year career.

 

 

 

Inactives Report: Decker Active, Colon Out

No surprises here as Willie Colon, Jeff Cumberland, and Darrin Walls were all ruled out before today. Colon suffered a sprained MCL in last week’s game against the Eagles and will likely miss two to three weeks. Cumberland is going through the concussion protocol while Walls is dealing with a hamstring issue. The Jets activated undrafted free agent Wes Saxton from the practice squad to back up Kellen Davis at the already thin tight end position.

Other inactives include: Jamari Lattimore, Chris Owusu, Ben Ijalana, and Jarvis Harrison

Yesterday the Jets upgraded Trevor Reilly to questionable, and downgraded Lattimore to doubtful. Reilly was originally considered to be out with a finger infection, and Lattimore is being evaluated for a concussion. There wasn’t any information given on when Lattimore sustained the concussion.

Chris Owusu is recovering from a knee scope surgery and won’t be back for another week or two. This will likely mean we will see more of rookie Devin Smith than we normally would. It won’t be as much as last week (Smith was targeted nine times by Fitzpatrick) but he will still get a fair share of snaps nonetheless. Owusu had seemingly taken the number three wide receiver spot from Jeremy Kerley who’s snap count should also drop with the return of Eric Decker today.

Ben Ijalana and Jarvis Harrison are both inactive again today even with Willie Colon out and Brian Winters starting at right guard. It’s unlikely we’ll see either of them active this season unless a worst case scenario unfolds. The only way one or both of them will be active is if injuries continue to mount on the offensive line.

The Jets have their first division game today at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Kickoff will begin at 9:30 EST and 6:30 PST. The Jets can put themselves in prime position in the AFC East with a divisional win against the Dolphins today at 3-1 or fall to 2-2 with a loss.

 

IndyStar Writer Gregg Doyel Talks Colts With JetNation.com

Brandon Marshall and the Jets look to take on a Colts secondary that struggled to contain Tyrod Taylor in week-one.
Brandon Marshall and the Jets look to take on a Colts secondary that struggled to contain Tyrod Taylor in week-one.

 

By Glenn Naughton

 

As the Jets prepare for their week 2 match-up against the Indianapolis Colts, JetNation.com reached out to Greg Doyell who covers the Colts for IndyStar.com.  Doyell was happy to offer his perspective on the Colts’ opening day loss to the Bills, some key matchups against the Jets, and the Colts contentious front office situation.

Glenn Naughton: Gregg, first of all I’d like to thank you for taking the time to speak with JetNation.com.

Gregg Doyel:  No problem Glenn, thanks for having me, I appreciate it.

GN: The first thing I have to ask as  Jets fan Gregg, isn’t so much about this week’s match-up, but please tell me that the fans of Indianapolis appreciate what they have in having gone from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck at the quarterback position while Jets fans have gone through the likes of Bubby Brister and Mark Sanchez.

GD: You know what?  On the one hand they do, but you can never have enough.  No matter how much money you have it’s never enough.  The Patriots, no matter how much they win, they keep cheating.  It’s never enough.  No one is ever satisfied.  Colts fans have one super bowl, which is one more than most teams.

I’m not trying to be mean but I know it’s more than the Jets have won in over 20 years.  I think, no I know, they’re disappointed.  They look back and they had Peyton Manning for all that time, and Andrew Luck now, so they know how lucky they are, but they also know they really haven’t cashed in on this lottery ticket.

11-5, 12-4, 13-3 is fun every year, but when you look back over 20 years and you only have one ring you say “wait, something’s wrong here” but yeah, that’s where they are.

The Jets let Johnny Manziel out of their grasp a few times against Cleveland and should expect more scrambling from Andrew Luck.
The Jets let Johnny Manziel out of their grasp a few times against Cleveland and should expect more scrambling from Andrew Luck.

GN: The Colts lost in week one so it’s only one loss but it may have come as somewhat of a surprise since it was to Buffalo who did win nine games last year, but I’m sure a lot of fans looked at the match-up and said “Tyrod Taylor against Andrew Luck, that’s a win”, but obviously they lost which had to come as a surprise to some people.

GD: Oh yeah, it was shocking.  You know, losing on the road on the NFL to a team that had a winning record shouldn’t be all that shocking, but to be down 24-0 as the Colts were, and to look bad, I mean, you can lose, but to lose the way they lost…uncompetitive.  That loss was  jolting and jarring.  Nobody saw that coming.  As time passes it makes sense.

The Bills are good.  I’m not sure they’re good enough to win that division, but just the fact that I’m saying I’m not sure means they’ve come a long way at least in my opinion.  I never dreamed that a week ago I’d be saying ‘I’m not sure they can win it’  but they’re good.  The Bills at the end of the year could be 12-4 and it wouldn’t be shocking and they’re still talking about it on the radio.

Wait until they get Marcel Darius back.  They demolished the Colts offense which was one of the best in the NFL last season and they added Andre Johnson, Frank Gore and Phillip Dorsett in the first round and the Bills demolished them without Darius who might be their best defensive player.

GN: That actually brings me to my next question.  It’s interesting that the Colts got the Bills and Jets back-to-back because you have a guy in Antonio Cromartie who played for Todd Bowles in Arizona last season and Rex Ryan before that.  Cromartie said during the off-season that both defenses were very similar and both the Jets and Bills have great fronts.  With Damon Harrison coming off of a very strong performance, he ill be manned up on Khaled Holmes who really struggled in the opener for the Colts.  How does Indy get ready to take on the Jets after what they saw from Buffalo?

GD: Well, what they learned against Buffalo is that they can’t handle all of this pressure yet.  What they were doing schematically wasn’t getting it done.  I’m not saying that now they can handle it, but you don’t know what you don’t know until you find out you don’t know.  They knew they were going to get blitzed by Rex Ryan, but now they know they weren’t ready for it.  Now they can take a week knowing they’ll see it again.  Even if they didn’t have a similar scheme, the Bills gave the blueprint to beat Andrew Luck and of course it helps that they have a great front.  I suspect they’ll be more competitive, but at the same time the Colts offensive line has been a question-mark for everyone. Outside of Costanzo, the other four guys are unknowns.  Time might show that they’re a good line, but right now on paper, they’ve got four question-marks out of five, and now the Jets are about to bring some heat.

If this game goes badly for the Colts, I’ll be surprised, but I won’t be shocked because I’ve already seen it go bad once against Buffalo.

GN: I think that’s a prevailing thought among Jets fans right now.  You can’t expect to go on the road and beat

A healthy dose of Chris Ivory can go a long way in keeping the Colts offense off the field.
A healthy dose of Chris Ivory can go a long way in keeping the Colts offense off the field.

Andrew Luck who’s going to have some sense of desperation to avoid an 0-2 start, so while not everyone expects them to win, I don’t think anybody will be shocked if they do because the Jets defense should be able to keep them in the game.

Another player I wanted to ask you about was Darius Butler.  I know he struggled last week and gave up a big touchdown to Percy Harvin.  How do you see him matching up against bigger receivers in Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, or a player who not everyone is familiar with but a speedster like Chris Owusu who runs in the 4.3’s and had a big 43-yard reception last week?

GD: I really like Darius Butler.  I don’t know him very well but I know him a little bit and I like him.  However, not to be disrespectful to Darius, but I just don’t think he’s very good.  I think he’s good in certain situations.  In the slot, against smaller receivers he’s good.  However, playing against top receivers, it’s a mismatch.  If the Jets can get a guy like Decker on him, that’s a match-up the Jets are gonna’ win.

GN: One big factor this week is the status of TY Hilton who is reportedly day-to-day.  Is that what you’re still hearing now and do you expect him to play?

GD: I’d be really surprised if he’s anything other than a game-time decision.  If he’s not a game-time decision then he’ll been ruled out.  I don’t think he’s gonna’ play because the Colts have shown that they’re very conservative with injuries.  A lot of teams are, but one example is Robert Mathis.  He had the achilles issue a year ago, hasn’t practiced in two or three weeks, has ramped up his intensity and he wants to go and they’re telling him “We know you want to play but we value you too much”.  So with Hilton, they just gave him a ton of money and he’s a little guy, so it doesn’t pay to rush him back on the field.  Jim Irsay said the other day that TY is going to miss a couple of weeks so if I’m a betting guy, I say he’s not gonna’ play.

GN: If TY is out, a couple of young guys, Dontae Moncrief and Phillip Dorsett are other options at receiver.  How are the Colts feeling about them right now?  Did they impress in the pre-season and how are they viewed up to now?

GD: Indy’s not feeling as good about those guys as they were a week ago.  I know I, as a writer, I’m not as high on Dorsett as I was a week ago either. It’s not because of what Dorsett did or didn’t do on Sunday against the Bills which was muff a punt, but as a receiver, the Colts don’t think much of him yet.  Before TY Hilton got hurt, Dorsett only played one snap against the Bills.  He led them in catches in the pre-season because if you’re on him he’ll go past you, and he gets big cushions since he’s so fast so he caught a lot of short passes.  Right now though, they don’t think he’s ready.  With TY Hilton out this week, Pagano was asked if Dorsett was ready and he didn’t say that he was, but just said, “It doesn’t matter if he’s ready, he has to play”.

With Antonio Cromartie dinged up, Marcus Williams should see plenty of action against some of the Colt's young receivers.
With Antonio Cromartie dinged up, Marcus Williams should see plenty of action against some of the Colt’s young receivers.

GN: What about Andre Johnson?

GD: You know what, maybe last week was an aberration so we’ll see, but he looked old.  Granted he his old in football years, but he’s never looked old until last week.  If he’s hit that wall, that’s not something you come back from so if TY Hilton isn’t playing, there’s not much to get excited about for these receivers.

GN: One final question that relates indirectly to Monday’s game and that’s the relationship between Head Coach Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson.  There’s a lot of talk about Pagano being on his way out if he doesn’t win a Super Bowl.  You wrote a piece on it recently as well.  How does the team prevent this from becoming a distraction on the field?

GD: There’s really no way to stop it unless they do one of two things and one of them they’re not going to do, which is to fire Pagano.  If you want to stop the noise you fire the head coach.  Now that creates all kinds of other problems and distractions and that’s stupid so I’m not saying they’re going to do that.

The other option is to give him a contract extension.  It’s kind of unfathomable, although it’s becoming more and more common in the NFL today, but you have a guy who is 33-15 in three years.  He made the playoffs his first year, won a playoff game in his second year, won two playoff games his third year.  Hard to believe he enters his final year with no contract.

The Broncos though, they fired John Fox after four years and 46 wins.  The 49ers let Jim Harbaugh go but when you have a great quarterback like Fox did and like Pagano has, you don’t get a lot of rope anymore.  You better win or they’re gonna’ find somebody who can.  So now, Pagano is coaching for his career, and the best thing Grigson did was draft Andrew Luck, and everybody knew he had to do that.  If a choice has to be made after the season, I think the one to go is Pagano.

GN: With that Gregg, thank you so much for joining JetNation.com and keep up the great work with IndyStar.com

GD: Glenn, there are a lot of options in the Indy market so thanks for reaching out to me to talk a little football.

 

*You can follow Gregg Doyel on twitter at @GreggDoyelStar

Jets Roll Browns For Opening Day Victory, 31-10

After a long and tumultuous offseason, the New York Jets returned with a new general manager, new head coach, improved units on both sides of the ball, and it all combined into an opening day 31-10 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

The Jets managed a first down on their opening drive, and nearly kept alive but a good hit on shiny, new wide receiver Brandon Marshall knocked the ball out and Cleveland started their first drive.

It was a long drive, eating up about 10 minutes. The Jets defense couldn’t get off on third down, but they made a play in the red zone. Cleveland starting quarterback Josh McCown ran towards the endzone and laid out trying to break the plane, but safety Calvin Pryor and linebacker Demario Davis both crushed him on the way. The hit by Pryor knocked the ball out, and the hit by Davis flattened McCown. It wasn’t a dirty hit, but McCown was fully extended and landed on his facemask.

McCown then left the game to be evaluated for a head injury and didn’t return, ruled out with a concussion.

After the Jets failed to convert on 4th and 1, Johnny Manziel entered the game for Cleveland, and on a poor play by cornerback Antonio Cromartie and safety Jaiquawn Jarrett, threw a 54 yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin.

The Jets responded. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 54 yard 3rd down completion to wide receiver Chris Owusu, and then the shenanigans began in earnest. Fitzpatrick overthrew Marshall and the ball was intercepted, but on the return Marshall managed to knock the ball out on the tackle, picked it up, and ran to Cleveland’s nine yard line. Running back Chris Ivory’s subsequent touchdown run was called back for holding, and the score finally counted on take two, when Ivory danced into the endzone again.

The Browns kicked a field goal to take a 10-7 lead, but the Jets, who were still in the game but having a shaky half in terms of execution, ran a very effective series with about two minutes to go. Fitzpatrick threw to wide receiver Eric Decker in the endzone to go up 14-10 with 26 seconds left in the half, and led going into the third.

Maybe new head coach Todd Bowles had some strong words for his team in the locker room at the half, or maybe they just shook off their opening day jitters, but New York’s second half was far better than their first half.

Cleveland opened with a drive that ended abruptly when corner back Marcus Williams, in for Cromartie, who left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter and didn’t return, picked off Manziel. On the ensuing drive, Fitzpatrick hit Marshall for a sideline toe drag catch and a touchdown pass. The Jets led 21-10. Later in the quarter, kicker Nick Folk, in his first non-extra point appearance, added a field goal to pad the lead, 24-10.

The Jets scored again off a Johnny Manziel fumble in the fourth quarter, leading 31-10 with 10:38 to go in the game. The tackle was by defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson. Cornerback Darrelle Revis, making his triumphant return home, recovered.

There was a frightening moment in the fourth quarter when Jets’ rookie linebacker, Lorenzo Mauldin, appeared to have twisted his neck on the play Manziel fumbled. He was stabilized, put on a stretcher, and taken to a local hospital by ambulance. At the time of this recap, the extent of his injury is unclear.

Manziel fumbled again on the next drive, on a strip sack by linebacker Trevor Rielly and recovered by linebacker Quentin Coples.

The Jets held the Browns scoreless for the rest of the game, and Jets fans could walk away feeling pretty good about how the team responded to an uneven first half with a stellar second half.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s line on the day was 15 of 24 for 179 yards with two touchdowns, one interception for a QB rating of 96.7. He wasn’t sacked.

Chris Ivory led all rushers with 20 carries for 91 yards and two touchdowns with a long run of 19 yards. Running back Bilal Powell followed with 12 carries for 62 yards. Marshall led Jets receivers with six receptions for 62 yards and one touchdown, followed by Owusu, who had four receptions for 55 yards. Decker had two receptions for 37 yards and one touchdown.

New York’s defense forced five(!) turnovers today. They forced thirteen all of last season.

The Jets play next Monday Night in Indianapolis against the Colts. Kickoff is at 8:30 on ESPN.