How things can change in a year? Last November Brett Favre & Eric Mangini were the toasts of the town in Jetsville. Now, Favre is the Vikings QB, Mangini is the coach of the Browns and Cleveland is hosting Minnesota in Week One. Without question the Jets will have a very different look than they did when they were being beaten by the Chad Pennington led Miami Dolphins in Week 17 at the Meadowlands.
Today the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez era begins at 1PM in Houston, Texas where the Jets will take the field at Reliant Stadium against the Houston Texans.
Rookie HC Rex Ryan, noted for being the smack talking defensive co-ordinator of one of the best year in-year out overall defenses in the NFL in Baltimore brings a fired up attitude with him that makes him a polar opposite to the tight lipped all business Eric Mangini who was the Jets head coach the past three seasons. Ryan had a lot of talent in Baltimore where guys like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata made his job a lot easier to do but he's quickly added to the existing talent of Kris Jenkins, Shawn Ellis, David Harris, Calvin Pace, Darrell Revis and Kerry Rhodes by bringing in Lito Sheppard and three of his ex-Ravens Marques Douglas, Jim Leonhard and star LB Bart Scott.
If this group can remain relatively healthy and can pick up all of the subtle nuinances of this defense rather quickly they can quickly become not only the backbone of the team but one of the elite units in the entire NFL.
Offensively the newly minted rookie face of the franchise Mark Sanchez already has a few things in place that most rookie QB's don't have. Sanchez will have the luxury of lining up behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL as well as being able to hand off to one of the better 1-2 tandem of RB's in the NFL in the consistent Thomas Jones and the electric Leon Washington. A solid offensive line, a good 1-2 punch at RB and what could be a dominant defense and special teams combination should help Sanchez to limit the number of rookie mistakes typical for most NFL rookie QB's.
On the negative side of the ledger the possible lack of an explosive and consistent WR, the lack of depth at TE and the seemingly never ending search for solid play from the punting spot on the roster are things the Jets will have to overcome if they want to approach last years nine win total this season.
As for today's Jet game plan I'm looking for a blueprint very similar to the one I described above. For the Jets to win they'll need a solid day out of their defense. Slowing Houston's ground game and keeping the Texans in a lot of 3rd and longs would go a long way in keeping Texan WR Andre Johnson from having a big day. Johnson is probably going to get his 8 or 9 catch day no matter what the Jets do but keeping him in front of the secondary thereby limiting him to 80 or 90 yards receiving as opposed to 150 yards would make all the difference in the world.
Offensively the Jets game plan should be as vanilla as possible, it may not be exciting to watch but it should give the Jets their best possible chance for a win today. Fourty touches between Jones and Washington while limiting Sanchez to no more than 20 or so pass attempts would sound about right for today. The Jets best chance of getting a win today would probably be to get ahead early and play defense, asking Sanchez to take the Jets down the field late, while hardly impossible, is probably not the way the Jets coaching staff is drawing this one up today.
Let's call this one Jets 23-19. Gholston WILL register a sack.
In other AFCE games NE 26-Buffalo 17, Atlanta 22 Miami 16.