Friday, September 23, 2011

Week 3-The Road Trip Begins

The New York Jets handled their business Sunday, smothering the Jacksonville offense en route to a 32-3 victory. The win brings the Jets to 2-0 in the early season, with a trip to the Black Hole in Oakland looming in the late window Sunday. Perhaps the biggest story to emerge from the game was an injury to the Jets All-Pro center and notorious photo bomb specialist, Nick Mangold. Mangold suffered a high ankle sprain against the Jaguars; the team expects him to miss at least the next 2 weeks, which would mean that he would miss at least the Ravens game, and, quite possibly, the Patriots game on October 9.

Rookie free agent Colin Baxter filled in for Mangold, and, while he was effective in pass protection, the entire line suffered running the ball for the rest of the game without Mangold. In fact, through the first two games, none of the Jets' running backs are averaging three yards a carry. The game plan for our opposition thus far has been to try to take away the Jets' running game and force Mark Sanchez to make throws to move the ball. So far, Shonn Greene has been largely ineffective as the primary back, and our offensive line is not winning at the line of scrimmage the way they have been over the last several seasons.

Sanchez has improved his accuracy in the first two weeks, completing 63 percent of his passes so far in 2011. Only five of his passes hit the turf on Sunday, but he made two terrible decisions that led to interceptions. On the first pick, Sanchez tried to force a throw outside the numbers and appeared to never see the underneath CB in the zone coverage. The second pick was a classic Sanchez stare down, trying to squeeze a throw to Santonio Holmes, who was being double teamed. Plaxico Burress would finish without any catches against the Jaguars, although Rex Ryan's attempts to get him involved led to the second biggest story of the game, which was a seemingly unnecessary big hit on Sanchez once the game had already been decided.

The Jets were ahead 29-3 in the fourth quarter and were deep in Jacksonville territory. Ryan chose to throw twice in the red zone in an attempt to get Burress a catch, but the second of these throws resulted in Jaguars DE Matt Roth unloading on Sanchez after he had beaten Wayne Hunter (again). After the play, Sanchez got to his feet with his throwing arm limp at his side, an injury the Jets are calling a bruised throwing arm. No one wants to see their team's starting QB getting knocked around this early in the season, but it seems like as long as Wayne Hunter is playing RT, Sanchez is going to take some punishment and his health from week to week may be in jeopardy. Hunter has been a huge disappointment so far this season. He committed two penalties, gave up a sack, and allowed several hits on Sanchez against a Jacksonville defense that will not get mistaken for the 1985 Bears anytime soon.

There were several bright spots on Sunday. Antonio Cromartie followed up his shaky Week 1 with a stellar Week 2. He had two big kickoff returns, two interceptions, two passes defended, and three tackles. Cromartie even handled it on a reverse that only gained a yard. Since the Jets seem to lack a receiver who can pop the top off of the defense, don't be surprised to see Cromartie for a few more snaps on offense, quite possibly as a target for a nine route. His speed is so dangerous that he can be effectively deployed as a deep threat in certain situations.

Dustin Keller continues to progress into a primary weapon in the Jets offense. Keller had 101 yards on 6 catches against Jacksonville, and he has the effect of busting open the Cover 2 in each of the first two games by being a tough cover in the seam. The Jets offense runs best when Keller is heavily involved. His size makes him a matchup nightmare for the secondary, and he is too quick for a linebacker to cover. The Jets need to make a concerted effort to ensure that Keller gets at least eight to ten targets every week.

The Oakland Raiders were about fifteen seconds from starting 2-0 this season, and the game on Sunday will be a difficult challenge for the Jets. The Raiders philosophy over the last couple of seasons is to heavily involve Darren McFadden and to use their ground attack to control the flow of the game. Maurice Jones-Drew managed 4.9 yards a carry last week when the Jets knew he was going to be the primary offensive threat. They must improve on that number against Oakland. If they can keep the Oakland ground attack in check and Sanchez can play efficiently, the Jets should be able to win in Oakland.

Kickoff against Oakland is at 4 pm Sunday.

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