Monday Notes: Jets Pull Off Overtime Comeback, Move Back into Playoff Picture

A Quick Recap of Last Week in JetNation:

 

After Three Sloppy Quarters, Jets Turn it Around in Fourth to Fuel Overtime Comeback

 

The Jets’ game against the Giants on Sunday had the look and feel of their previous losses in which they stunk it up for three quarters, then turned it on in the fourth. The only difference this time was that they completed the comeback. The game started off slow with back to back three-and-outs, then the Jets were able to put together a promising drive but had to settle for a field goal. Chris Ivory carried the Jets on their first scoring drive, then was virtually phased out of the game being replaced by Bilal Powell. Ivory had three carries for 37 yards, and a reception for nine yards on the first drive. He finished the game with 10 carries for 47 yards and five receptions for 22 yards. The defense only allowed one first down on the Giants’ next possession, and got the ball back for Fitzpatrick and the offense. Other than a 32-yard reception by Quincy Enunwa, the drive was ugly. The offensive line allowed Fitzpatrick to be sacked twice. The next play changed the complexion of the game. The Jets special teams unit gave up their fourth touchdown of the season after allowing Dwayne Harris to return a punt 80 yards for a touchdown. After two more three-and-outs Chris Ivory coughed up the ball for a fumble on the first play of the drive. Luckily for Ivory the defense made a stand and held the Giants to three. The Jets would come back with a touchdown on a 9 play 79 yard drive capped off by a clever screen pass to Bilal Powell for a touchdown. Then came the play that was eerily reminiscent of the 99-yard touchdown reception four years ago. After two short passes to Shane Vereen, Eli Manning hit Odell Beckham Jr. for a 72-yard touchdown pass. The Jets allowed another field goal before halftime making it 20-10 Giants.

The second half started the same way the game began with back to back three-and-outs. Then, with a little help from Tom Coughlin’s decision to go for it on fourth down, Rontez Miles recorded his first interception of his career. The Jets would go on to have a long 12 play 80-yard drive, but ended with a field goal making it 20-13. The defense came up big on the next drive, forcing a three-and-out. Then, on a clutch drive Brandon Marshall came up with the game-tying touchdown reception, forcing overtime. The Jets received the ball first, and drove 61 yards in 13 plays but had to settle for three. Then the defense held the Giants to a 48-yard field goal attempt, which should have been routine for Giants kicker Josh Brown. Brown, who hadn’t missed a field goal on the season, hooked the kick to the left sealing the comeback victory for the Jets. It was a clutch performance from the Jets who finally pulled out one of their late-game comeback efforts. The impact players of the game were: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brandon Marshall, Bilal Powell, Eric Decker, Rontez Miles, and Leonard Williams. The player of the game had to be Ryan Fitzpatrick who has shown real poise and leadership the past two weeks posting 667 yards passing, and six touchdowns with no interceptions. Sending the Jets into overtime, and propelling the comeback, Brandon Marshall’s 9-yard touchdown reception was the play of the game. Other impact plays were: Bilal Powell’s 25-yard touchdown reception, Rontez Miles’ interception, Chris Ivory’s 20-yard rush, and Leonard Williams, Mike Catapano, and Muhammad Wilkerson’s sacks.

 

Jets Move to Sixth Seed in Playoff Race

 

After their stunning overtime comeback, the Jets have moved themselves back into the playoff picture. As of today the Jets control the sixth seed, or the second wildcard spot. If the playoffs were to begin today, the Jets would have a very fitting match up. It would be the sixth seed Jets playing the third seed Patriots. While they may be on the losing end of the rivalry, the Jets beat the Patriots in the playoffs during the 2010-2011 season to get to the AFC Championship game. With many teams in the playoff hunt at 7-5 and 6-6, the Jets will need to ride their momentum to string together some more wins if they want to maintain a playoff berth.

 

Other Notes

 

The Jets were hurting for their star cornerback in Darrelle Revis with Odell Beckham making big plays against a somewhat suspect secondary. Beckham finished the game with six receptions for 149 yards and a touchdown. Beckham’s biggest play came on the 72-yard touchdown reception in which he was wide open in the middle of the field while the defense was in loose zone coverage. It was an ugly play, the three closest Jet players were Marcus Gilchrist, Antonio Cromartie, and Demario Davis. Davis attempted to tackle Beckham from behind, but only ended up getting in the way of Cromartie who had the best chance to bring Beckham down. Gilchrist and Cromartie had no chance once Beckham flipped the switch. Revis is still recovering from a concussion he suffered against the Texans.

Brandon Marshall surpassed 1,000 yards on the season with his fourth team in his NFL career. Marshall’s 1,000 yard season also marks the first time since 2007 that the Jets had a wide receiver hit the 1,000 yard mark. The last wide receiver to hit the mark was Jerricho Cotchery who had a 1,130 yard season. Cotchery is currently enjoying a nice season with the undefeated Carolina Panthers. The Jets’ combination of Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker has proven to be one of the better wide receiver tandems in the league so far this year. The dynamic duo share 142 receptions for 1,863 yards and 18 touchdowns so far on the season.

Todd Bowles is making a name for himself as a no-nonsense head coach. Bowles sat Muhammad Wilkerson for the first quarter. During their post-game interviews neither Bowles nor Wilkerson would confirm the reason as to why Wilkerson was benched other than saying it was an “in-house” issue. During the CBS broadcast of the game it was mentioned that Wilkerson was late to a morning meeting and that was the cause of his benching. If that is the case it goes to show that no one will be spared when it comes to Todd Bowles’ discipline. Bowles’ no-nonsense culture is a huge turnaround from Rex Ryan’s loose regime.

After propelling themselves back into the playoff conversation, the Jets have a couple of “easy” games before playing two division rivals in the Patriots and the Bills. The Jets play the Titans and then the Cowboys before their final two games. The Titans and Cowboys have a combined record of 6-17. The next two games should be very winnable for the Jets, who need a strong finish on their season to make it into the playoff dance. A win over arguably their two biggest rivals would be a perfect way to enter the postseason.

 

 

Jets Complete Comeback, Victorious Over Giants in OT, 23-20

It was a week that featured games between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders, the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets, and the onging battle for bragging rights continued Sunday afternoon as the New York Jets played the New York Giants for the city’s 2015 football crown.

It wasn’t pretty – in fact, it was hideous – but the Jets came away with a hard fought 23-20 victory in overtime.

The Jets drew first blood in the middle of the first quarter. Relying on running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell, the Jets got the red zone but were unable to convert on third and 11. Randy Bullock put one through the uprights from 24 yards out.

Special teams have been a headache for the Jets all season and that continued early in the second quarter as the Jets allowed punt return for a touchdown to Dwayne Harris.

Things got worse for the Jets later in the second. Ivory fumbled the ball deep in Jets territory and the Jets were assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, which allowed the Giants to start on the Jets’ ten yard line. A pass to Hakeem Nicks from Eli Manning looked like it might be a touchdown, but the ball never broke the plane, and the Jets defense held to allow a field goal two plays later.

Late in the quarter the Jets managed to tie the game at 10-10 on a drive in which they had to withstand a 15 yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty because Willie Colon, on the IR and on the bench, was jawing at one of the Giants players. The pass from Fitzpatrick to Powell was Powell’s first career reception for a touchdown.

With only a few minutes left in the half, it looked as though the score would be tied going into halftime, but the Jets allowed Odell Beckham Jr. to score a long touchdown on busted coverage, and then allowed the Giants to get into field goal range on their final drive. In between safety Calvin Pryor saved another touchdown when he broke up a pass to Beckham in the endzone, knocking Beckham to the ground.

After a few more plays and some scuffling, Giants led at the half 20-10.

Almost nothing happened in the second half until the very end of the game, except the Jets and Giants both proved they weren’t very good football teams. An 11 minute, 21 second Giants drive – which in real time lasted about half hour – was continually extended due to Jets penalties, and ended when Manning was picked off in the red zone on fourth down.

And so Gang Green’s comeback began.

The Jets then came down the field efficiently only to run three brutal plays in the red zone and come away with only three points. With 4:30 remaining in the fourth quarter, it was 20-13 Giants.

The Jets forced the Giants into a three and out and took the ball back with 2:30 to go. The drive went rather smoothly, all things considered. On fourth and six, Ryan Fitzpatrick scrambled for the first down, and with the game on the line, Fitzpatrick connected with Brandon Marshall for the touchdown and the extra point tied the game at 20.

The Jets won the toss to begin overtime. On the backs of Marshall, Decker, and Powell, the Jets came all the way down the field, only to stop using them in the red zone. Bullock kicked a field goal, putting the Jets ahead 23-20.

For those who don’t remember the new overtime rules, unless a team scores a touchdown on their first possession, the other team also gets a possession. After forcing the Giants to fourth and two, it looked like it was going to be easy when Beckham kicked the ball for a delay of game penalty and it became fourth and seven. But Beckham made up for it, making a brilliant grab for a 21 yard gain, and the Giants were in field goal range.

The Jets defense, the most reliable part of the team this afternoon in spite of its penalty ridden second half, forced the Giants to a fourth down situation again. After 29 straight makes, kicker Josh Brown missed the 48 yard field goal, securing the Jets overtime victory.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s final line on the day was 36/50 for 390 yards with two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 107.9 rating (which speaks volumes about how bad the Giants defense is).

Chris Ivory led all rushers with 10 carries for 47 yards. Brandon Marshall led the Jets with 12 receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown. Decker followed with eight receptions for 101 yards. Powell had 91 receiving yards and a touchdown.

David Harris led the Jets defense with nine tackles. Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Mike Catapano all registered a sack.

The Jets look to continue their winning ways next weekend against the Tennessee Titans and their freshly drafted quarterback, Marcus Mariotta. Kickoff is at 1:00 PM.

Geno Smith Faces True Test In Carolina

hc-raiders-at-jets-web-1208-20131208-001The New York Jets put up a season high 37 points in a victory over the Oakland Raiders last week keeping their playoff hopes alive.  Special teams did account for a score while the defense set up another but quarterback Geno Smith along with the entire offense was much better than in the their previous three games. 

Smith had a 14 quarterback rating zero touchdowns and six interceptions during the Jets recent three game losing streak.  Questions arose about whether Smith should be benched but a 16 of 25, 219 yards, two touchdown (one passing, one rushing), one interception with a rating of 88.6 performance against Oakland has changed the conversation back to can Smith be the future?

The Jets have three games remaining for Smith to prove that the downturn in his performances against the Bills, Ravens and Dolphins were just growing pains of a rookie who has been inconsistent all year but shown flashes.  New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning had three games (Falcons, Redskins, Ravens) during his rookie year where he had combined completions of 38%, one touchdown, six interceptions and a rating of 21.7, being benched in the Ravens game.  Manning has gone on to win two Super Bowls earning Most-Valuable-Player honors in each.  So the question remains unanswered: Is Geno Smith the quarterback of the future?

Currently the Jets are 1-5 in road games with their only victory coming in week five against the Atlanta Falcons.  The team heads south to play the Carolina Panthers (9-4) this week with the Panthers having the NFL’s number one scoring defense.  They also have the league’s number one rushing defense while accumulating 41 sacks. 

If the Jets are to be successful on Sunday they will need a great performance out of Geno Smith as the offense will have to rely more on passing the ball while facing a ferocious rush forcing Smith to make quick decisions.  This game will be a good barometer which Smith can be measured by because he’ll have to be the focal point of the offense, not just a manager, for the team to have success.

Geno will need a competitive performance to move the ball in a hostile environment against a top defense, something he has not been able to do this season.  Maybe Smith’s down times can just be looked at as the struggles of a rookie if he were able to show progress during this game.  On the flip side Geno might lack confidence while having difficulty completing passes and this will show the team has to consider exploring options at the position during the offseason.

The Jets are in the playoff race and need a victory this week to remain in the hunt but more importantly we’ll get a chance to evaluate Geno Smith under conditions which will reveal what he is and can be as the Jets quarterback.   

Things We Don’t Hear Enough About The NFL And Its Players

All that is being talked about in the NFL right now is players who have tainted the image of the league.  Between the Aaron Hernandez story and the fact that over 30 players have been arrested since the Super Bowl, the media hasn’t taken any time to show stories of the players who are doing good for their communities by giving back, visiting sick children, or just donating their time to camps and local affairs.

The NFL, a tax exempt not-for-profit organization, above all other professional sports really does a great job in offering programs for players to give back.  The NFL “Play 60” program is an excellent way for players to motivate the youth of this country to be active more than just in their physical education classes in school.

The “NFL Punt, Pass and Kick Competition”, “NFL Flag” and “USA Football” are examples of promoting safe game-play for youth football players.  The league has initiative programs such as “Breast Cancer Awareness” (which makes a fortune for Breast Cancer foundations through selling pink gloves, wristbands, cleats, etc., as well as, setting up a Breast Cancer Walk) and “NFL and the Military,” which is highlighted by “Salute to Service” donations.

These are just some of the things the NFL does to give back.  These are the things you may see on TV commercials or during games in season.  However, you don’t hear about all the GOOD that some players are doing for their communities around the league.

Below I’ve highlighted just a FEW players who have been giving back in one form or another.  These players deserve to be recognized for their outstanding efforts in the community.  They truly understand and are thankful for being a professional football player and are showing that they know it’s important to represent themselves, their organizations, and the NFL in the proper manner:

Delanie Walker: Walker is a spokesperson for people against drunk driving.  He recently spoke to the NFL rookies at the Rookie Symposium about the importance of making the right decisions when partying.  He explains the chauffeur service, as well as, the repercussions of just one poor drunk decision.  Walker became a spokesperson against driving under the influence and has had a major role in Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) in the past few months.  Unfortunately, it took a fatal car accident (Walkers Aunt and boyfriend were killed very soon after the Super Bowl) for Walker to become a spokesperson.  Since the incident Walker has been all of the country with MADD and with a panel of people who speak to youth and professionals about the seriousness of driving under the influence.  Walker has done a great job in giving back to his community.

Larry Fitzgerald:  Fitzgerald recently gave 1,000 brand new Riddell helmets to youth football players in his hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota.  Additionally to the helmets, Fitzgerald has brought in the “Heads Up Program” to his hometown to teach athletes the proper way to hit to protect their bodies.  Fitzgerald recently came back from Senegal where he went to help improve their way of life, bring them fresh food, and bring pride to a poverty struck country.  To name a few more things Fitzgerald has done that, he sent to cancer patients, all expenses paid to the Pro Bowl, and creation of the “Larry Fitzgerald First Down Fund,” which helps young children participate in positive activities throughout the year. Fitzgerald has been the model pro and role model for the NFL and it should be recognized more often.  If you wish to give back and help Fitzgerald here’s the link to his website: (LINK).

Santonio Holmes: Holmes had a history of issues in the NFL early in his career, but he’s really turned the corner in his career and has done a lot for the good of society.  Recently, he has supported UStadium’s “Flags for Foundations”  a Flag Football tournament being held on Roosevelt Island.  Fellow bloggers Nick Spano, Frank Vittorino and Charles Raisch are organizing it and Holmes will be there to support it.  Every year, Holmes organizes an event called “Strikes for Sickle Cell Bowling Event” to support Sickle Cell Anemia research.  Holmes created the III and Long Foundation (for Sickle Cell research), as well as, an Ascent School for Individuals with Autism.  For all the league issues Holmes had as a younger player, he really has repaired his image and has done a lot of good for Sickle Cell Anemia, and Autism research.

Paul Soliai: Soliai recently donated $250,000 to his alma mater The University of Utah to help them build a new football complex.  Other players who helped this same cause include Alex Smith ($500,000), Jordan Gross, Steve Smith, Eric Weddle, former Jet Sione Po’uha and Brian Johnson.

Navorro Bowman In March of 2013, Bowman and teammate Ted Ginn Jr. went to Africa to provide hearing aids to people in need.  It’s part of a program that players such as Santonio Holmes, Vontae Davis, and Vernon Davis have taken part in known as “Pros for Africa.”   Bowman also holds his own youth camp for young players where he teaches them everything from proper form tackling to catching passes.

These are only a few of the good stories in the NFL lately.  There are many players who hold or attend youth camps, who visit young sick children, and who make donations to charities that do not want the attention or don’t want people to know that they donated because it’s not important to them.  When Hurricane Sandy struck the East Coast, players came out in droves to help clean up the damage and donate money.  Not many of them wanted the accolades of hearing the media say that they gave money because they felt it was right in the heart to do so (Mark Sanchez, Eli Manning to name a few).

The goal of this article was to give credit where credit is due, to the good guys of the NFL…a distraction from the constant negativity surrounding the league right now.  It was my intention to get these guys names out there to show that for every Aaron Hernandez bringing a black cloud over the league, there are guys like Delanie Walker, Larry Fitzgerald, Santonio Holmes, Paul Soliai and Navorro Bowman that clear the air by giving back to their communities. They have a passion for giving back to society, in this country and in the world, to help people in need through various acts of kindness.

JetNation NFL Power Rankings – Part Three

(Part 1 Link)       (Part 2 Link)

10) Baltimore Ravens

Offense:  The Ravens came a stripped pass away from making the Super Bowl.  Feature RB Ray Rice had 1,364 yards rushing last season and 704 yards receiving.  The Ravens have franchised Rice and he is hoping to get a long term contract with the team.  The Ravens lost starting LG Ben Grubbs to the Saints but replaced him with veteran OG Bobbie Williams.  They also drafted Iowa State OL Kelechi Osemele (#60).  LT Bryant McKinnie has struggled with weight issues, surrendered 8.5 sacks last season and will turn 33 in September.  QB Joe Flacco, may think he is the best QB in the league, but puts up average numbers (3,610 YDS, 57.6 Comp%, 20 TD, 12 INT).  Flacco will be throwing to promising second year WR Torrey Smith (50 REC, 841 YDS) and veteran Anquan Boldin (57 REC, 887 YRDS) but he is turning 32 this season.  They did pick up WR/PR Jacoby Jones and have TEs Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta over 900 yards receiving last season.

Defense:  The Ravens strength is the defense which ranked 3rd (288.9 YDS) last season.  They also has 49 sacks on the year but have lost DE/OLB Terrell Suggs (70 TCKL, 14 SCKS, 7 FF) for probably the entire season with an Achilles tear. They hope rookie DE/OLB Courtney Upshaw (#35) can step in for Suggs.

Analysis:  The Ravens would be ranked higher if not for losing Suggs he is a playmaker and will be missed.  ILB Ray Lewis and FS Ed Reed aren’t getting any younger and while they have played at a high level they have to drop off at some point.  The Ravens o-line is in transition and the receiving core is not very deep.  They were able to beat Pittsburgh twice last season and win the division wonder if there good enough to do it again?  The Ravens are a playoff caliber team with a top 5 defense but may struggle to repeat as division champs.

9) New Orleans Saints

Offense:  How did San Diego ever let Darren Sproles go to the Saints, like their offense wasn’t potent enough, 1st (467.1 YDS, Per).  Sproles had almost 2,700 all-purpose yards and Drew Brees threw for an amazing 5,476 yards last year.  The Saints did lose WR Robert Meachem (40 REC, 620 YRDS) but still have stud TE Jimmy Graham (99 REC, 1,310 YRS, 13TD) drafted WR Nick Toon, former Jets WR Al Toon’s son, and Brees can make almost any WR look above average.  Brees is looking for a long term contract with the Saints as he was given the exclusive-franchise tag.  They also picked up LG Ben Grubbs to replace departed All-Pro Carl Nicks as the line and Brees’s quick release only gave up 24 sacks last season.

Defense:  The Saints had 33 sacks and were 30th (259.8 YRS, per) against the pass.  This is not surprising since most teams were so far behind they had to abandon the run.  The Saints added some veterans to the defense this off-season: DT Brodrick Bunkley, LB Curtis Lofton and LB David Hawthorne.  These pick-ups will help as LB Jonathan Vilma has been suspended for the entire season and DE Will Smith was given a four games suspension for the bounty-gate scandal.

Analysis:  Bounty-gate is bound to take a toll on the Saints season as they have lost their head coach Sean Payton for the entire year.  Their offense will still be top notch given Brees is a coach on the field and new defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is proven.  The Saints talented wise are still the best team in the NFC South but they will be/have been challenged on and off the field.  They have a difficult enough schedule and usually don’t play as well on the road thus winning the division is not a given.

8) Pittsburgh Steelers

Offense:  Job one, keep QB Ben Roethlisberger (4,077 YRDS) healthy.  New offensive coordinator Todd Haley will implement a higher percentage of running plays to do just that.  This will be more difficult as the Steeler’s best RB Rashard Mendenhall will miss most of the season with an ACL injury.  They will look for Isaac’ Redman to fill-in until Mendenhall can return.  The Steelers used their first two draft choices on offensive linemen: #24 OG David DeCastro and #56 OT Mike Adams.  They are hoping both will start this season and improve on the 42 sacks allowed in 2011.

Defense:  They are old and slow yet ranked 1st in yards and points allowed.  They only had 35 sacks last season with James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley each having 9.  NT Casey Hampton is coming off a torn ACL and may not be ready for opening day so the Steelers drafted DT Alameda Ta’amu (#109) in case Hampton is not ready.

Analysis:  The Ravens will miss Terrell Suggs but the Steelers won’t.  His injury just made winning the AFC North easier.  Roethlisberger has plenty of weapons on offense and if the o-line additions workout the unit will be set for a long time.  Defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau is one of the best in the NFL and the Steelers defense, while not dynamic, just seem to get the job done.  If they split with Baltimore the Steelers will win the AFC North.

7) San Francisco 49ers

Offense:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh got the most out of former bust label QB Alex Smith (90.7 QBR).  Harbaugh put Smith into positions to succeed by running the ball (8th, 127.8 YRS, per) effectively and having Smith manage the game as he only threw 5 interceptions last season.  The line did give up 44 sacks as RT Anthony Davis allowed 9.5.  The 49ers let RG Adam Snyder sign with the Cardinals and it appears they will look to third year OL Alex Boone to take his place, although Boone has never started an NFL game.  They did add to their skill positions with WRs Mario Manningham and unretired Randy Moss as well as RB Brandon Jacobs.  They also drafted change of pace RB LaMichael James (#61).

Defense:  The 49ers were ranked 4th in yards(308.2) and 2nd points allowed (14.3).  They have excellent LBs lead by Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman (143 TCKLS).  They were 1st against stopping the run (77.2 YRS, per) and were an impressive plus 28 in turnovers.

Analysis:  The 49ers are the best team in the NFC West no doubt but even with a strong defense wonder if they overachieved some last season and can duplicate that plus 28 turnover ratio.  Alex Smith is a game manager but his line has some question marks and feature RB Frank Gore is 29 and had 282 carries last season, wonder if he’ll wear down some.  13-3 seems unlikely given some very difficult match-ups this season but they will win the NFC West.

6) Detroit Lions

Offense:  QB Matthew Stafford finally was able to stay healthy and proved why he was the #1 overall pick in 2009 with 5,038 yards passing and 41 touchdowns.  The Lions will be looking to get more out of their running game 29th (95.2 YRS) as second year RB Mikel Leshoure should be back from an Achilles injury that cost him his rookie season and Jahvid Best (4.6 YRS per carry) only played six games due to a concussion but is expected to return.  The Lions WR core is excellent led by Calvin “Megatron” Johnson (96 REC, 1,681 YRS) and TE Brandon Pettigrew (83 REC, 777 YRS).  The offensive line gave up a respectable 36 sacks last season considering the amount of passing they did but LT Jeff Backus gave up 8.5 sacks and will be 35 this season.  The Lions use their first draft pick #23 on OT Riley Reiff who could start at RT or play LT if necessary.

Defense:  The Lions have a talented defense especially on the line.  If they can keep from being arrested, see Nick Fairley, too often maybe the team can improve on their 41 sacks from last season.  The Lions are hoping third year CB Aaron Berry can replace the departed Eric Wright but Berry was recently arrested as well on DUI charges.  They also drafted DBs Dwight Bentley (#85) and Chris Greenwood (#148) to help their secondary.  The Lions defense ranked 23rd (367.6 YRS, per) in 2011.

Analysis:  The Lions have a talented team, their offense should be top notch and more balanced.  The defense needs to stay focused and stop hanging around with law enforcement, in a bad way.  The Lions defense had a rough time slowing the best offenses in the league as the Packers and Saints (twice) put up big numbers.  If the Lions want to compete for a championship their defense will have to step-up against the better offenses.  The Lions have the Packers and Bears in their very difficult division and it will be hard to beat out the Packers for the NFC North title but they should obtain a playoff berth again.

5) Houston Texans

Offense:  The Texans had one of the best offensive lines last season as they led the league in rushing (153 YDS, per).  RBs Arian Foster and Ben Tate had over 2,100 yards rushing combined.  The only problem is they have to replace the entire right side of the line as RG Mike Brisiel signed with Oakland and RT Eric Winston was released “failed physical” although it was a salary cap move, later signed with the Chiefs.  They hope OG Andre Caldwell, OT Rashad Butler or rookie OG Brandon Brooks (#76) can replace the lost linemen.  QB Matt Shaub should be back after a Lisfanc fracture ended his season after 10 games.  He will have All-Pro WR Andre Johnson to throw to as long as he is on the field since he only played 7 games last season.  The Texans don’t have much at WR after Johnson, they drafted WR Devier Posey (#68) and Keshawn Martin (#121).  They’ll be looking for more than 39 receptions 492 yards from veteran Kevin Walter and they hope second year receiver Lestar Jean can contribute.  TE Owen Daniels led the team with 54 receptions for 677 yards.

Defense:  The Texans are just loaded on defense even after losing DE/OLB Mario Williams, who only played 5 games and they never missed him, and trading LB DeMeco Ryans.  They drafted DE/OLB Whitney Mercilus (#26) to replace the departed Williams while second year DE J.J. Watt (68 TCKLS, 5.5 sacks) looks to improve on an impressive rookie year.  The Texans defense was 2nd (285.7 YDS, per) last season and there is no reason to think they won’t be at least as good.

Analysis:  The Texans do have some questions on the o-line and at WR depth but the offense was 10th in points scored (23.8) last season and will be formidable.  Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips’ defense should be excellent as they have playmakers all over the field.  The AFC South is weak with Tennessee being the only team with a chance to be above .500.  The Texans will win the AFC South and be in the hunt for the #1 or 2 seed in the AFC.

4) New England Patriots

Offense:  The #2 ranked offense (428 YRS, per) from 2011 goes out and gets WR Brandon Lloyd who had almost 1,000 receiving after spending most of the season with the Rams and their terrible offense.  Lloyd knows offensive coordinator Josh McDaniel’s system since he played for him at Denver while McDaniels was the head coach.  The Pats picked-up WRs Jabar Gaffney and Donte’ Stallworth also adding RB Joseph Addai to replace departed BenJarvus Green-Ellis.  They are also looking for big things out of second year RB Stevan Ridley.  They did lose LT Matt Light to retirement but have OTs Nate Solder or Sebastian Vollmer as a replacement.  The pass heavy Patriots line only gave up 32 sacks last season.

Defense:  Their defense was 31st (411.1 YDS) per game, 31st in passing yards (293.9) but only 15th in points (21.4) last season.  The Pats went hard after defenders in the draft picking DE/OLB Chandler Jones (#21) and ILB Dont’a Hightower (#25), six of their seven picks were used on defense.  They also picked up DL Jonathan Fanene, DE/OLB Trevor Scott, CB Will Allen, former Jets DB Marquice Cole along with safety Steve Gregory.  Second year CB Ras-I Dowling is returning from a hip injury that cost him most of his rookie season.  The Pats lost DE Mark Anderson and his ten sacks and DL Andre Carter (10 sacks) remains a free agent, reports say Carter is seeking a long term deal from the Patriots, but he is still recovering from a season ending injury.

Analysis:  The AFC champion Patriots are primed for another run at the Super Bowl as they may have the best offense in the league.  They will have to improve on a poor pass defense and might need to carry the offense, for once, during the tough post-season stretch.  The Patriots will win the AFC East the only question is will they get a post-season bye week?

3) Philadelphia Eagles

Offense: The Eagles finished 4th (399.1 YRS) in total offense in 2011.  They have signed WR DeSean Jackson (58 REC, 961YRDS) to a long term contract, so maybe he’ll try harder now.  They also locked up RB LeSean McCoy, 1,309 yards rushing, 315 yards receiving last season.  They did lose LT Jason Peters to an Achilles injury but replaced him with former Bill’s LT Demetress Bell.  TE Brent Celek had a solid year (62 REC, 811YRS).

Defense:  The Eagles had 50 sacks last season but were 16th against the run (112.6 YDS, per).  They used their first three draft picks on defensive players: DT Fletcher Cox (#12), LB Mychal Kendricks (#46) and DE Vinny Curry (#59).  They also acquired MLB Demeco Ryans from Houston since he didn’t fit the Texans 3-4 defense but Ryans excelled in the 4-3.

Analysis:  The “Dream Team” turned into a nightmare fast last season but Philly seemed to get it going down the stretch.  Maybe the new additions needed sometime to gel and the lack of off-season preparation hurt them.  They can move the ball on offense and can get to the QB on defense so why didn’t they make the playoffs last season?  A minus 14 turnover ratio doomed the Eagles as they gave the ball up to often especially in the red-zone.  They have a difficult schedule and play in the division with the champion Giants and improved Cowboys but they have enough talent to challenge for a championship if they can hold onto the ball.

2) Green Bay Packers

Offense: QB Aarron Rogers and his 4,643 yards passing and 45 touchdowns led the Packers to the #1 scoring offense in the league, 35 points per game average.  The Packers gave up a surprisingly high 41 sacks given Rogers abilities.  LT Marshal Newhouse allowed 11.5 sacks alone and will likely start at LT again as the Packers released former LT Chad Clifton and second year OT Derek Sherrod is still recovering from a broken leg.  The Packers also lost center Scott Wells but replaced him with veteran, long time Colt, Jeff Saturday (age 37).

Defense:  As good as the offense was the defense was bad.  The Packers ranked 32nd (411.6 YDS) and only had 29 sacks in 2011.  They spent their first six draft choices on defensive players and are hoping DE/OLB Nick Perry (#28) can be a pass rushing threat taking blockers away from DE/OLB Clay Mathews who only had 6 sacks last season as teams focused on him after 13.5 sacks in 2010.

Analysis:  The Packers were an impressive plus 24 in turnover ratio as they had 31 interceptions to their opponents 8.  The offense is elite and with Rogers at QB they will have limited turnovers as he had a 45-6 TD-to-INT ratio.  The defense usually plays with a lead so don’t expect them not to give up yards but will need to improve the pass rush and overall performance if they want to win the Super Bowl again.  The Lions and Bears are tough competition in the NFC North but Green Bay is just too good and will be entering the post-season with a week-off.

1) New York Giants

Offense:  Where would the Giants be without QB Eli Manning (4,933 YDS, 61% COPM, 29TD), well they wouldn’t be Super Bowl Champs.  Manning carried the Giants offense as they ranked last in rushing yards per game (89.2).  The Giants used their first draft selection on RB David Wilson (#32) hoping he and RB Ahmad Bradshaw (659 YRS), who was missed time to injury last season, can carry the running game.  They did lose longtime RB Brandon Jacobs and WR Mario Manningham to the 49ers. WR Hakeem Nicks (76 REC, 1,192 YRS) is dealing with a broken foot luckily the Giants drafted WR Rueben Randle (#63) and are hoping second year receiver Jerrel Jernigan can replace Manningham and fill-in until Nicks is full healthy.  They also lost TE Jake Ballard (38 REC, 604 YDS) but picked up TE Martellus Bennett from the Cowboys.  The o-line only gave up 28 sacks last season, thanks in part to Manning, and they will look to replace former RT Kareem McKenzie and want to keep LT Will Beatty healthy for the season.  Second year OT James Brewer is in the mix to replace McKenzie.

Defense:  The Giants had 48 sacks in 2011 led by Jason Pierre-Paul’s 16.5.  The Giants fought injuries all season last year but got healthy when the playoffs began.  They have an excellent d-line with depth and they are hoping second year DT Marvin Austin can contribute as an injury prevented seeing any action last season.  They picked-up often injured LB Keith Rivers in a trade with the Bengals but he was the #9 overall pick in 2008 and could be a real steal if healthy.  They will need to improve on the 27th defensive ranking (376.4 YRS, per) if they want to repeat as champs and will need to remain healthy to do so.

Analysis:  On paper the Giants (9-7, 2011) are not the number one team but you don’t play games on paper.  The saying is “To be the champs you have to beat the champs” and since the Giants have the Lombardi Trophy they are ranked first until someone proves why they should not be.  Nine victories will probably not win the NFC East this season but the Giants will battle for the division’s top spot and could make a run at another championship.

 

Video Analysis: The Safeties Role In The Jets Defense

All Jets fans remember the 99 yard touchdown catch made by Giant’s wide receiver Victor Cruz which may have very well sunk the Jets 2011 playoff hopes.  With the safety position being a concern video analysis of the Cruz play helps in understanding specific defensive formations along with the safeties responsibilities and what the Jets will be looking for when addressing this position.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFTJwKw5Trs

The Giants were in an obvious passing situation so the Jets put in their dime defensive personnel (2 safeties, 4 cornerbacks). The Giants came out in a 3-by-1 look which means 3 receivers to one side 1 receiver to the other.

The Jets showed, cover 1 man-free, which is a defensive formation Rex Ryan likes to run because it allows for bringing pressure. One safety, Brodney Pool (#22), is in the deep middle of the field and is responsible to cover sideline to sideline not allowing any receiver to get over top of him. The cornerbacks are man to man on the receivers and another player will be responsible for covering the running back.

Looking at either video before the ball is snapped shows the cover 1 alignment, so what are the options and how do the safeties play a role?  Pool is the deep safety but the other safety, Eric Smith (#33), is free to do a variety of things. He could blitz and a linebacker could cover the running back, he could cover the running back allowing the Jets to use the front five to rush the passer, one of the cornerbacks could blitz and Smith would pick up the vacated receiver, he could drop back deep covering half the field while Pool moves to cover the other half or Smith could play zone coverage in the middle of the field underneath Pool while a linebacker covers the running back, better known as cover 1 robber.

Eli Manning (#10) realizes the coverage as soon as he sees the defense and assumes blitz. Notice the running back Ahmad Bradshaw (#44) stays in to pass protect and never going out on a route. Just before the play begins Smith backs out and Pool moves to his right providing over the top support for Darrelle Revis (#24) covering Hakeem Nicks (#88).

The Jets do not send the blitz instead they drop out of cover 1 and into a different coverage, cover 2, two deep safeties responsible for half the field each providing over the top support to the man coverage underneath, known as cover 2 man under. Linebacker Josh Mauga (#53) spies Bradshaw, so now all potential receivers are covered with 2 safeties deep.

Manning originally looks at Nicks but realizes he is now covered high and low, if you watch Revis he forces Nicks to the outside and trails him underneath knowing he has Pool to help up the field. Donald Strickland (#30) presses tight end Travis Beckum (#47) pushing him outside where he now has help from Smith.  Once Manning realizes the defense is now cover 2 man under he looks towards the three receiver side where he hits Victor Cruz (#80), covered by Kyle Wilson (#20), on an out-route after Ramses Barden (#13) cleared Antonio Cromartie (#31).  While both Wilson and Cromartie miss-tackle Cruz it was up to Smith to save the touchdown but he moved to far towards the middle of the field putting him out of position to make the stop.

The Patriots often run the same 3-by-1 formation as the Giants but with 2 wide receivers and 2 tight ends (Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez).  Since the personnel has two tight ends it is not always possible to play a pass based dime defense since the run is more probably.  The Jets would more likely have their nickel package on the field meaning one less cornerback. 

If the Patriots come out in a 3-by-1 formation the corners will cover the wide receivers and Gronkowski would be the single receiver in the Nicks location, so a corner will cover him. If Hernandez is where Beckum lined up a safety or linebacker would have to cover him man to man if the defense were cover 1 man free.  Eric Smith on Aaron Hernandez is a mismatch that Tom Brady would exploit all game long so a better man coverage safety would have to take Hernandez forcing Smith to play deep zone.

So what does all this mean and what will the the Jets be looking for in a safety?  They will want the ‘tweener type’ safety, a player that can cover man-to-man and has ball skills like a cornerback.  He’ll have to be a good tackler with excellent range while in zone coverage not only to breakup/intercept passes but to chase down receivers after the catch.  Versatile players that are interchangeable and can succeed in the various situational roles safeties have, whether in coverage, supporting the run or going after the quarterback.

Hopefully the Jets can find safeties which fit their defensive strategies and avoid season changing big pass plays like the one Cruz made against the Jets.

New York Jets News – 03/11/12

Here is some NY Jets news and notes from around the web: