Breaking Down the Jets vs the Jaguars
Maybe the Jets really do have a guardian angel that is watching over them. After a number of hard luck losses in 2009, the Jets have found ways to pull out win after win late in games they had almost no right to win, the latest being the miracle against the Cowboys in last week’s season opener.
If they need such a miracle against the Jacksonville Jaguars there will be a lot of question marks surrounding the team.
Jets Offense vs Jaguars Defense
The Jaguars defense is built upon their linebackers, the only real spot on the defense where they have invested in a unit. Former Bill Paul Posluszny was their prized offseason acquisition will man the middle of the defense. When healthy Posluszny has proven to have a good nose for the football and is a tackling machine. LB Clint Session, another player with recent injury history, came over from the Colts and is a very good defender against the run while veteran LB Daryl Smith continues to play the other LB position for the Jaguars. The goal for the Jaguars was to improve their run defense with the LB corps. and thus far it has paid off, holding Titans RB Chris Johnson to only 24 yards. The team should not have much of a pass rush from their front 4. Their best pass rusher, DE Aaron Kampman , is out with an injury and will be replaced by former Dolphin and Brown Matt Roth. Nobody on the team is going to get after the QB. In many ways the front 7 is similar to the Jets with a number of no name players, heavy investment in linebackers, and no natural pass rushers. The secondary sees a few familiar names in CB Drew Coleman and S Dwight Lowery. Neither starts for the team, but both will see time for the Jaguars. Lowery sealed last weeks win over the Titans with a late interception and Coleman had a sack and was very active in the game. CB Rashean Mathis is the best defender in the secondary, but struggles in coverage against better number 1s in the league. CB Derek Cox will likely miss the game pushing the undersized CB Will Middleton into the role of covering a much bigger target. Former Raven Dawan Landry was signed to improve the overall play at the Safety position. He had a strong year with the Ravens in 2010 and will provide both over the top help and assist in stuffing the run.
QB Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense began the 2011 season much in the way they ended 2010. The offense was marred by inconsistency, at times looking unstoppable and at other times looking like they were not ready for a NFL game. The early game woes continued and it seems as if it takes Sanchez nearly a full half to just settle down and let the game come to him. The weapons in the passing game looked solid when they and Sanchez were on the same page as to where they going on the field. WR Santonio Holmes and WR Plaxico Burress both made an impact, while TE Dustin Keller and RB LaDainian Tomlinson had some of the biggest catches of the game. If the Jets can get contributions like that from thee four players all year the offense should produce much more than they have the last two years. WR Derrick Mason will look to get more involved in the offense this week and the Jets may try to get TE Jeff Cumberland more involved in some dual tight end sets. The big concern for the Jets was the lack of a run game and poor play from the offensive line. This was a carryover from the preseason where the excuses were injuries and backups being forced into starting roles. The starters will get a one week pass for last weeks performance, but if they can not hold up against the Jaguars in pass protection there may be a real concern for the season.
The Jets seemed upset that they could not establish the run against the Cowboys and were forced to abandon it early in the game. It is probably a safe assumption that the Jets are going to try to get RB Shonn Greene some touches early in the game and test the Jaguars front against the Jets O-line. If the Jaguars showing against the Titans was for real it could prove a very frustrating start for the Jets, especially if they decide to stick to something that isn’t working just to prove a point about their teams philosophy. Sanchez had a poor game as a rookie against the Jaguars in 2009. Mathis picked him off on the first play of the game on a terrible pass that eventually led to a score for the Jaguars. He threw another crucial interception and had a pass dropped by Braylon Edwards on a two point conversion attempt that may have changed the outcome of the game. The Jets WR’s match up very well against the corners and Burress should present a great mismatch. The Jets had some big passes against this team two years ago and Burress and Holmes are both upgrades over what they had at the time. If Mathis is forced to play the larger Burress, Holmes should be free across the middle the entire game. Burress is also going to draw the safety on most plays leaving players like Keller and Mason open underneath. As long as Sanchez is patient and has time in the pocket, the passing game should win the Jets the game. If he rushes his throws and dumps off to Keller and Tomlinson too early there will probably be a lot of 3rd and long situations.
Jaguars Offense against Jets Defense
Offensively the Jaguars are a throwback to a style that dominated much of the NFL about 10 years ago. The offensive success is predicated on the play of RB Maurice Jones-Drew. Jones-Drew is one of the few backs capable of taking the entire workload for the team both on the ground and through the short passing game. The team seems to want to lessen his touches to keep him fresh for the entire season, but that is much more difficult to do if the team is playing from behind. Jones-Drew embarrassed the Jets defense in 2009 and he made one of the more famous plays of the year when he took a knee rather than scoring a touchdown at the end of that game to ensure the Jets offense never saw the field again. The Jaguars passing game should be extremely conservative. QB Luke McCown is the definition of a journeyman with stops in Cleveland and Tampa Bay before arriving in Jacksonville in 2009. He is just a placeholder until the team makes the switch to rookie Blaine Gabbert. The Jaguars offensive line had some problems protecting McCown, who put the ball on the ground twice and was sacked two times. Tight End could be a concern for the Jaguars. Star TE Mercedes Lewis was injured last week and is questionable. Former Steeler Zach Miller, expected to be a red zone target, missed week 1 with a knee injury and will likely miss this game leaving Jacksonville with limited options. The WR’s may be the least imposing group of players in the AFC.
The Jets defense had a very difficult time against the Dallas Cowboys passing attack. CB Antonio Cromartie just seemed to be a ¼ step behind his assignment while TE Jason Witten abused the safeties and linebackers in coverage. Even All World CB Darrelle Revis gave up a few uncharacteristic completions. The Jets were able to create some pressure with their blitz packages and in particular LB Bart Scott seemed to be used much more in a pass rushing role than he has been in the past. Scott has the ability to rush the passer and could be used much more in that role in 2011. The run defense looked very good with both Scott and LB David Harris giving the guys up front strong support. DE Mike DeVito forced a key fumble and quietly had a good game. Rookie Muhammad Wilkerson was relatively quiet, but made no glaring mistakes as he learns the NFL game. It is possible that rookie DT Kenrick Ellis could be active against a team that should run the football often.
The defense wants to send a message with this game. Many of the players who were picked on in 2009 are still on this club and want redemption against Jones-Drew for that game. They also want to maintain the aura of being one of the best defenses in the NFL. The Jaguars offense really plays right into the hands of the Jets. They are a run heavy offense and the Jets usually eliminate that part of the game. Unless the Jaguars far fall behind they are going to continue to run, no matter how many 3 and outs it produces. Jacksonville may try to bounce Jones-Drew outside to take advantage of the lack of speed of the Jets linebackers and could test Wilkerson’s side as he is still learning how to seal an edge. They may try a short passing game to both Jones-Drew and WR Mike Thomas, hoping to catch the somewhat speedy Thomas get lost among the Jets linebackers. If Lewis does play expect him to be the primary focus of the passing game due to the Jets problems covering the position the last two years. Still the Jaguars should not score enough to where one bad coverage against the tight end will prove to be a backbreaker. If the Jets can eliminate the run it is hard to imagine the Jaguars moving the football at all.
The new kickoff rules were a mixed bag for most teams. Players ran the ball out of the end zone and were often stuffed before they reached the 20, but there were also a number of big kickoff returns for scores. It will probably take a few weeks before the special teams coaches get a better idea of when and when not to run the ball out of the end zone. It is unlikely that this game will have any big returns from the Jets. Jaguars K Josh Scobee has a big leg and will have a good chance of kicking out of the end zone on every try. Scobee battles accuracy on field goals, but was 2-2 last week. P Matt Turk has one of the weaker legs in the NFL and may not be the ideal match for a team playing a field position type game on offense. The Jaguars return game is not expected to be a factor.
K Nick Folk solidified his hold on a starting job with his game winner against the Cowboys. Folk’s kickoffs were hit or miss in week 1, but that game winning FG would have been good from 60 yards. P TJ Conley put two punts inside the Cowboys 10 and didn’t do anything negative in the game. Cromartie, a very dangerous open field runner, looks to be the kick returner for the team, but did not do much against the Cowboys. Rookie WR Jeremy Kerley looked shaky on punt returns and another game like the Cowboys game and the Jets may see if S Jim Leonhard can return punts again. Joe McKnight had the huge punt block to turn the game and the Jets seem to always be a threat in that area of the game.
Jack Del Rio is only the coach of the Jaguars because they are one of the few NFL franchises that seems to struggle with money and they do not want to pay a coach to sit at home. Del Rio has done little with the team and handled the departure of QB David Garrard horribly. The Jaguars rarely beat good football teams and have been a terrible road team the last few seasons. Del Rio’s entire resume hinges on an upset playoff win on the road in Pittsburgh in 2007 followed by a close gae against the undefeated Patriots.
Though Rex Ryan was happy to come away with a win last week he was clearly unhappy with how his team played, specifically on defense. The team came out and played so poorly on both sides of the football that the preparation for the game seemed to not be there. During the game, however, the coach did a great job. They switched gameplans on both sides of the football because the initial plan was not working. Had the Jets stuck to the original matchups the end result may have been much different. Ryan needs to have his team ready to start fast this week and finally get an easy win.
In the last few years it just seems as if these are the kinds of games that give the Jets trouble. They are home and a heavy favorite to win. They are the much better team, but somehow that often means nothing to these Jets who play better as an underdog. It is a trend the Jets have to reverse. You can not go week after week in tough nail biters and expect to hold up for the entire season. The key to winning a division isn’t just in winning games, but often in how you win games. When you start blowing teams away it gives you a psychological edge against teams, especially in your own building. It also allow you to play ¾ of a game seriously and let down for those last 15 minutes. Nobody expects the Jets to be prolific on offense like New England or Indianapolis, but at their peak they often had teams beat before the teams stepped foot on the field. The Jets have to begin to gain that edge if they want a home playoff game.
The Jets can turn this into an easy game by keying on Jones-Drew early and attacking the defense through the air with a controlled passing attack. The Jets can work on their running game after they build up a lead. Focusing too early on “ground and pound” is going to have the potential of taking the home crowd, who is already spent from the Dallas game, out of the game and give Jacksonville the confidence they need to play a close game. The Jets have to force the Jaguars into a passing contest where the complex defensive scheme will cause confusion for McCown and give him a really rough day. If the Jets see Gabbert come out onto the field in the 4th quarter it means they did their job on the day.
These are the type of games that the Jets have to win if they want to win the division. You can have a slip up against a team like the Ravens. You can’t have a slip up against a team like the Jaguars, even this early in the season. With a big trip to the west coast next week you just want to put this game away early and start getting ready for a trip that is never easy. If the Jets really believe in themselves and are as good as we all think they are they will win this game handily.
Jets 27 Jaguars 10