The Jets' first seven games are in the books, and our heroes are able to go into their bye weeks on a euphoric high after a comeback victory against the San Diego Chargers. However, the Jets will need to work on a few things to maintain their momentum after the bye. Jump with me for the keys to a successful bye week.
Getting Healthy: After Nick Mangold went down, Jets fans witnessed a three game stretch that was as horrid as any during the Rex Ryan era. This leads me to believe that Nick Mangold is the most irreplaceable player on the Jets (along with Mark Sanchez). Much was made of Brian Schottenheimer's ineptitude and Sanchez' struggles, but both were a direct effect of Mangold's injury. Since Nick's return, the offense has solidified and has looked downright excellent. However, Mangold was a step slow against the Chargers, so the week off will be a great opportunity to further heal. Other Jets that are nursing injuries include: David Harris (ankle), Kenrick Ellis (ankle), Mike DeVito (knee), LaDainian Tomlinson (flu), and Plaxico Burress (general creakiness). None of these injuries are serious, and all of these guys could come back looking refreshed and ready to make a push for the playoffs and the Super Bowl.
Causing Mayhem: Aaron "Mayhem" Maybin has looked fantastic thus far. Nobody is going to confuse him for a run-stopper, and his arsenal of moves to get the quarterback is very limited. However, he has a motor unlike any player that I have ever seen. His light physique makes him an easy player to initially neutralize, but his determined spirit allows him to recover and still get to the quarterback. Check out the play where he sacked Philip Rivers. He was taken to the ground on a cut block by Ryan Mathews, but hustled enough to get to the quarterback. Right now it looks like he has playing off pure desire, but the bye week will give him a chance to better learn the playbook. Also, it will give the coaches more time to experiment with his role in the defense, and I am confident that we will see a slightly refined Aaron Maybin coming out of the bye. These two quotes appear to support my opinion:
"I can’t really speak on what happened in Buffalo, but he’s a guy I think may have matured some," Pettine said. "And I think just putting him into certain roles and not exposing him to too much, I think, will be good for us early on. Then, as I think he becomes more and more comfortable, we’ll see him on the field more."
He (Maybin) said that having this type of support makes him want to work even harder. He is now watching more film than he ever did. "I’m more a student of the game," he said.
Picking Up the Pieces: Like every other team, the Jets have experienced a substantial amount of turnover this season. Recently, Derrick Mason and Bryan Thomas were replaced by inexperienced players (Thomas because of injury, Mason because of ineffectiveness/grumpiness). Jeremy Kerley has stepped in seamlessly as the slot receiver, but Jamaal Westerman and Josh Mauga have struggled slightly in replacing Bryan Thomas. Thomas' value was in stopping the run game, and neither of his stand-ins have proven very potent in setting the edge. It looked to me like neither of these players were being used properly, so the bye week will be essential in figuring out how to replace Bryan Thomas using these two guys (or somebody else). It will prove vital for the rest of the year, because that position is key for the run defense.
Getting to Know Plax: Until last week against the Chargers, it looked like Mark Sanchez and Plaxico Burress could not find common ground. They were not on the same page, and were missing easy throws very often. Against San Diego, Plax performed to his abilities, catching 3 TD's. We have all seen exactly how glorious it can be when these two players are clicking, and I for one was left wanting more. This QB-WR combination will need to keep working, because Plaxico's size could be very important later on in the year, when scores will become harder to come by.
Helping Schotty: Tom Moore's presence last Sunday certainly did not go unnoticed. Whether it was a coincidence or not, the Jets' offense looked very crisp, and delivered a performance as good as any this year. John B. wrote a great piece about Moore's influence on the Chargers game, and I agree with him wholeheartedly. Moore probably wasn't directly calling plays, but his advice led to some very positive things. Tom Moore's continued mentoring of Schotty can only improve the Jets offense, and can certainly increase their chances for a playoff run.
On a side note, it looks like these "Keys to the Game" FanPosts have become a weekly occurrence, for better or worse. Many of you have probably noticed that my username is basketball-influenced, so I will now be writing under the username Jeff W. (because this is a football blog, after all). Thank you guys again for all the support and comments.