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Time for Jets to start delivering

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Neil Reynolds | 12:42 UK time, Wednesday, 15 September 2010

As exciting as the opening weekend was in the NFL - with the usual mix of dazzling performances, upsets and controversy - we should try not to read too much into the first round of games.

If the Week One action was truly indicative of what is going to happen for the rest of the season, we would likely see the Super Bowl playoffs take place in January without fancied teams such as the Indianapolis Colts, San Diego Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys.

I do not think that will be the case.

Sure, all those clubs lost in Week One and were disappointing, but they have more than enough talent on their rosters to turn things around and they certainly won't be hitting the panic button just yet.

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan

The New York Jets' Rex Ryan is one of the most outspoken and funniest head coaches in the NFL

Another opening weekend loser with high hopes was the New York Jets. And while they should also not be feeling too sorry for themselves after just one loss, it is time for this group of talented individuals to shut up and start putting up.

The Jets are the fashionable team in the NFL this year. Their off-season signings featured one big name after another as star veterans such as running back LaDainian Tomlinson, wide receiver Santonio Holmes, linebacker Jason Taylor and cornerback Antonio Cromartie opted for life in the Big Apple and a shot at Super Bowl glory.

Television executives in the United States took note of those moves and also recognised the fact that Rex Ryan is one of the most outspoken, funniest and most colourful head coaches in the NFL.

As a result, producers of the annual HBO Hard Knocks series - which offers a warts and all look at life in an NFL training camp - chose the Jets as their team this year and spent every waking hour around the players and coaches over the summer.

What they filmed made for fascinating television but it also made the other teams around the NFL sit up and take notice. After watching just a few episodes while at NFL training camps in the United States, it became clear to me that the Jets were talking the talk long before they had proven they were capable of walking the walk.

This was clearly a team full of the kind of confidence and swagger exuded by their head coach on a daily basis. That's all well and good. There's nothing wrong with a bit of confidence, but you have to back it up on the field. And this team might have been well served remembering they only backed into the playoffs last year when the Colts rested their starters in a key game. They got hot once the post-season began, but the Jets were fortunate to be there at all.

The Jets ruffled a few feathers over the summer by insisting they were going to win the Super Bowl and repeatedly patting themselves on the back for putting together such a great team. One player who took exception to that was Baltimore Ravens Pro Bowl linebacker Ray Lewis, who felt they should actually win a Super Bowl before they started acting like they ruled the NFL roost.

Lewis was instrumental in giving the Jets a wake-up call in Week One, as he led the Ravens to a bruising 10-9 victory at the New Meadowlands Stadium in New York.

That result showed the Jets have issues to be resolved ahead of this weekend's tough match-up with the New England Patriots.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez was mostly unimpressive and has not shown as much growth as the Jets would have liked as he enters his second season in the NFL. Sanchez did not take care of the ball enough in New York last term, throwing 20 interceptions and losing 10 fumbles.

He has worked hard during the off-season and done everything the coaches in New York have asked of him. Yet there were very few signs of improvement during the preseason as he marshalled a stuttering New York attack and he threw for just 74 yards against the Ravens on Monday night.

Getting some confidence into their young quarterback is a major priority for the Jets. But protecting him is also an issue because the Jets really miss veteran guard Alan Faneca, who they released this off-season. Either Vlad Ducasse or Matt Slauson was meant to become an adequate replacement but the former had a terrible training camp and the latter was thrown around like a rag doll at times by the Ravens defensive line.

The running game will be fine in the long term with Shonn Greene and Tomlinson, but teams know the Jets like to run it often (more than 600 attempts last season which led the league) so they will stack the line of scrimmage and dare Sanchez to beat them through the air.

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Brandon Tate makes a 97-yard return for the Patriots who provide the next test for the Jets (UK users only)

And, at the moment, the Jets are very thin at wide receiver given the fact that Holmes will not be back until Week Five after falling foul of the NFL's substance abuse policy.

Defensively, the Jets remain one of the league's dominant units but they did give up too many yards through the air against the Ravens and that group of players was responsible for a large percentage of New York's worrying 14 penalties.

Those penalties might be a sign of a lack of discipline and that will require Ryan to put his foot down and demand his players toe the line. But as a players' coach who wants to have fun himself, can Ryan be tough enough to get the Jets in line?

I think he can, but he will have his work cut out for him. During one preseason training session at Hofstra University in August, Jets defensive backs jogged through their warm-ups eating takeaway cheeseburgers. That is not the kind of image you want to portray in front of 10,000 fans.

Ryan did tear into his players for that unprofessional showing but he must maintain that tough stance. He cannot allow himself to become such a player-friendly coach that the lunatics end up running the asylum.

I hope Ryan doesn't change his ways. I would still rather listen to him speak at a press conference than an automated cliché quote machine like New England's Bill Belichick.

Ryan can remain as outspoken as ever, as far as I'm concerned. But he might be better served getting his players to quieten down on the Super Bowl talk and concentrate on getting through what is a very tough opening to the 2010 campaign.

I still believe the Jets can get through this tough patch and compete for a playoff spot. But I also feel they have been rightly knocked down a peg or two and should just focus on letting their football do the talking from now on.

Week Two on BBC Radio

We have the aforementioned Jets at home against the Patriots this Sunday from 9pm on BBC Radio 5Live Sports Extra. While it is hard to label any contest as "must-win" this early in the season, this is a massive clash that will impact on the race for the AFC East division crown.

The Jets must run the ball effectively against the Patriots because they cannot allow Sanchez to get into a shoot-out with three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady.

The Patriots will rely on Brady to challenge the Jets' secondary with passes to wide receivers Wes Welker, Randy Moss and Brandon Tate. And if the Patriots can keep the New York running attack in check, they will feel good about their chances following their big opening week victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Jets are coming off a short week and have many offensive problems to solve before Sunday. They don't have much time to work with. For that reason, I'm going with the Patriots to grab an all-important second win and consign New York to a tough 0-2 start.


  • Comment number 1.

    You know, if you're going to write a post on the Jets' off-field antics, you really should mention Ines Sainz's complaint. The harrassment of a former miss universe finalist now Mexican tv reporter is almost deserving of a post on its own... ...

    Anyways, I went Bengals last week, and my Pats won, so I guess I should go Jets this week... I agree with your call that if the Jets running attack is kept in check, then it's probably going to be another good week for the Pats. And you'd think they really ought to be able to do that. But regardless of the result Sunday, I'd still reckon both teams are good for the play-offs, the Jets maybe in hindsight will be thankful to have been brought down to earth in Week 1.

    Chargers, Colts and Cowboys losing to divisional rivals were the bigger losers this weekend. Chargers should probably be okay in their rather weak division, but Colts (now without Bob Sanders) and Cowboys (without a solid O-line) each look like they will have their work cut out.

  • Comment number 2.

    Neil come on, get real here. The people that read your blog probably aren't reading it in passing, they probably have a genuine interest in the NFL.

    The fact that you started with a statement that "Rodgers Will lead Packers to Super Bowl Glory" last week, wasn't quite dumb enough to stop me reading entirely but please temper the hype. Now the GB primary running back is on IR how's it looking? It's a long season, Rodgers himself could be next.

    On the Jets. Shonne Greene had negative yardage, he wasn't and isn't ready (in my opinion) to take all that load from Thomas Jones and Tomlinson is a completely different threat. To hear Ryan yapping on about the 'ground and pound' offense he'll be running is a joke when he just sent the best chance he had of making it happen out of town. I like Rex but he's got the blinkers on because he's saddled with what he's got.

    Put into the mix a QB that hasn't shown anything to suggest there could be a new blend of pass offense and what we're left with is another joke, further compromised by the HBO TV series and the build up of ridiculous expectations through more media hype. Sanchez is a kid on a field of men. He'll have one or two moments but the season will not be a good one.

    Now of course, Jenkins is out for the season, guess you missed that snippet.

    The Jets have a solid defense that will keep them in a bunch of games but their offense is woeful and I'm sure they're second guessing the massive contract they've given to Sanchez.

    Their best moments came when Smith was in at QB in the wildcat!

    Your belief that they can "compete for a playoff spot" is much more realistic than last week's offering. They can be 7 and 8 going into the final weekend and still compete for a play-off spot.

    And those guys that "opted for life in the Big Apple" are living in the leafy suburbs of New Jersey.

  • Comment number 3.

    Colts & Chargers will have no problem reaching the palyoffs. Colts offense run by Manning will have at least a 12-4 record at the end of the season.
    Chargers typically only start playing football in December, so no concerns there either. Also, they lost against a team openeing a new stadium in very bad weather. The Kansas supporters were absolutely amazing all night long!
    Surprised there was no mention of the Bengals. They were a playoff team last year, made some key signings in the off season, and on paper really looked very balanced in both offense & defense. Both T.O & Ochocinco running to the locker room when Palmer is about to throw down a Heil Mary at the end of the half...lmao!

  • Comment number 4.

    It's really early in the season to make any rash predictions, it's a long, tough road and there are plenty of opportunities for star players to get sidelined. The teams with depth at key positions should fare the best, which means that I don't think the Jets are real contenders.
    As a Vikings fan, it's hard for me to say this, but I do like the way Aaron Rodgers is playing, but again, their strength in depth may be lacking. Just like the Vikes at wide receiver...

  • Comment number 5.

    Come on Neil, you know the pre-season hype is usually the kiss of death. And give Mr Sanchez a little time, it is just the beginning of his second season and as you yourself wrote, his receivers aren´t exactly galactic. I´m sure in a few games time the Jets will have established themselves impressively as the second best team in New York :D

  • Comment number 6.

    Eddie George... You're right - the Ines Sainz issue might be an example of a team living like they are in a frat house, not the NFL. That would particularly be the case if, as reported, Rex Ryan himself was throwing passes in her direction on the practice field so fellow coaches could talk to her. That would be an indication that Rex wants to be one of the boys and not stamp down on boorish and unprofessional behaviour.

    TrotterUSA... I went into all the reasons for predicting SB success for the Packers last week so won't go over that again. I appreciate many readers are really into the NFL but my brief is to try to bring the sport to more casual fans as well. This is the BBC and not, so on occasions there will be more top level comments that are not as in-depth as we all might like. That's why I said players opted for "life in the Big Apple" rather than go into the smallest detail about the fact they are in New Jersey. I also assume you are referencing THomas Jones being in KC now - that was a brave move but they appear really confident in Greene and Tomlinson. We'll see how it pans out.

    I agree with most on here that it is a long season and much will change due to injuries. The Jets suffered a huge loss in Kris Jenkins, same with the Eagles and C Jamaal Jackson and the Packers with RB Ryan Grant. Every year players go down and it's how teams cope with that which is important and interesting to watch.

    Plushpuppy8... You're right, we have to be careful of preseason hype and expectation. And that was kind of the point of the article - the Jets have created this hype around themselves and much of it has been self-generated. I don't know how many times on Hard Knocks I heard Rex Ryan congratulate himself for signing a player or drafting a rookie. I also think it is the Jets who have been telling the media they are going to be great, and not the other way around. I do think they will be a playoff contender but they have to quieten down and get on with playing football.

    Thanks again to all for reading - I do enjoy these little debates as the weekend approaches. Gets me ready for some football!!

  • Comment number 7.

    I dont think Faneca is a big loss in terms of Sanchez development, hes a great run blocker but his pass blocking is pretty poor.

  • Comment number 8.

    To me, there's always going to be a bit of a frat-boy element in the NFL, but when it's distracting from practice the week before a game with a serious conference rival, that's another matter.

    Bigger issue, still, is the Jets running game. Greene is only 2nd year, he basically thrived on the back of Thomas Jones wearing down other teams, it was a really big call to have him start. They also let a Leon Washington go, not sure who thinks LT, aside from his experience, was necessarily an upgrade.

    However the Ravens do have a pretty serious run D, so maybe we could be a bit misled by Monday's result. But if the Jets running game can't turn out around 150+ ypg, they are going to be a lot more beatable this year than last.

  • Comment number 9.

    Not bad analysis but you're missing a cultural issue here.. the Jets, fashionable - never, ever, ever. Not possible, any more than the Mets could be. They could win three superbowls and not be fashionable. Controversial, feisty, arrogant, notorious, laughing-stock as a result of that pathetic performance, for sure. Fashionable, no. And let's be clear. There's no New York in the NY Jets. They're JERSEY through and through (written from New Jersey btw)

  • Comment number 10.

    Neil, I just can't agree with the analyis of the Jets and the suggestion that they need to shut up and play. Sure, Hard Knocks was the Jets decision, but someone will do it each year. It let us hear things that were being said internally, not for the express purpose of public consumption.

    Slauson didn't play anything like as badly as you suggest, one play in the fourth quarter apart, and Sanchez, whilst an easy target, was not the player who imploded against the Saints, Bills and Patriots last year. He didn't turn the ball over and if it weren't for a ridiculous procedural penalty on a beautiful deep ball to Keller and a couple of drops from the usually reliable Cotchery it would be a whole different story. It's also not Sanchez's fault when a wide-open Dustin Keller meanders out of bounds short of a first on 4th down. It's not Sanchez's fault that Greene fumbles when we are about to take a two score lead before halftime and it's not Sanchez's fault that protection broke down on two critical third down plays or that Brick and Woody gathered unnecessary and untimely false start penalties. Yes, he needs to improve aspects of his game, he needs to be more patient and he needs to get the ball downfield (incidentally, not a problem last season), but he's not the bust he's painted by opposing fans and reactionary elements of the media.

    Baltimore won the game and have received nothing but praise thereafter. Nobody seems to care that despite all the passing yards they still couldn't do better than 1.4ypc. One point four yards per carry for one of the league's supposed best rushing attacks!? That doesn't warrant a mention? What about the fact that despite converting about 60% of third downs they still only managed ten points and would have managed only six if it weren't for two very soft penalties on their touchdown drive?

    Shonn Greene is a talented young back who started in all of the playoff games last year, not riding anyone's coattails. The passing game will get there. There is no point spending an entire summer and camp building a scheme only to blow it up because things didn't go well in one game, a tough, tight game against a great defense and a potential Super Bowl contender at that.

    Whilst you're talking about the Jets, it would be nice if any Jets fans reading this would check out the new UK Jets fan club which launched on Monday Night!

  • Comment number 11.

    Sachez only played 15 games for USC before he was drafted. it shows when it comes to throwing the ball

  • Comment number 12.

    this is the season that sanchez gets found out.

    also, just like to give some respect to the Hawks for doing bad things to the 49ers. could be one of the few times i see them win this season before old Pete loses the plot.

  • Comment number 13.

    Great game for the Ravens to win, on the road against last years best defense.

    The defense were superb through-out, although it has to be said were never really tested. The ageing "losing a step" Ray Lewis still looks like a great player and can read offenses better than any other player in the NFL. We did an excellent job of mixing up our blitzes and coverage.... i can't remember the last time I watched the Ravens play as much 8 man zone coverage.
    The Ngata sack was a highlight but showed the naivety of the Jets offense. Ngata has got a great reputation and is constantly double teamed so for the Jets to leave Slauson versus Ngata one on one is a nightmare waiting to happen.

    Offensively we did a good job controlling the clock and after Flacco's iffy start he was excellent. Boldin ran the wrong route so can take a lot of the flack for the pick. Some scary moments when we were backed up late in the 3rd but we kept calm and ended up winning the field position battle after Joe hit Boldin for a big gain. Excellent job of rotating Mason, Boldin and TJ onto Cromartie and Wilson rather than leaving one of them stranded on Revis island. I am not worried about the rushing stats, the Jets played to stop the run and we needed to keep the clock moving and trust the defense.

    Iain, mentions of the Jets taking points off in your post yet no mention of MaGahee fumbling to take points of the board or Heap not cathing what should have been a TD.

    As for Sanchez, poor no 2 ways about it. Whether it was the gameplan that was poor or he was too scared to turn the ball over making the play; he didnt have a good game. Gruden mentioned it numerous times in commentary, he has to be prepared to try and make a big play rather than constantly check-down.

  • Comment number 14.

    "Gruden mentioned it numerous times in commentary, he has to be prepared to try and make a big play rather than constantly check-down."

    I'll defend a second year QB on this count, this is as much a criticism of coaches and play-calling. And even then, when the Jets were never more than 4 points down and doing generally pretty well on D, getting intercepted on a big play is going to draw a helluva lot of criticism too!

    The crux of the issue though is that if the Jets can't get their running game functioning, then Sanchez will have to take more risks. That was part of the story Monday, and mainly that's credit to the Ravens D who were excellent.

    It's a big reason why this weekend holds so much intrigue, when the Ravens face a more balanced, and definitely more dangerous passing offense, and the Jets face a less formidable run D but arguably a more dangerous passing attack.

    Both Jets-Pats and Ravens-Bengals look very tight calls, but all four teams should be play-off contenders even if they happen to start 0-2.

  • Comment number 15.

    "I'll defend a second year QB on this count, this is as much a criticism of coaches and play-calling. And even then, when the Jets were never more than 4 points down and doing generally pretty well on D, getting intercepted on a big play is going to draw a helluva lot of criticism too!"

    Fair point but they were down at the end of the 4th quarter I can't remember Sanchez trying to air it out. Constant short throws and check downs versus the Ravens D is asking for trouble...... Ray Lewis on Dustin Keller?

    I agree on your final comments, the Ravens and Jets are going against 2 very different teams this week. Both should have more success on the ground but will get their secondary tested.
    The Ravens haven't been great versus the Bengals lately and I'm not sure Sunday will be any different.


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