The Rex Ryan Era could not be off to a better start. The Jets totally dominated the Texans in the opener today to go 1-0. The victory ended New York's odd year opener hex. This is the first time Gang Green starts 1-0 on an odd numbered year since 1997. If our wildest dreams, we could not have hoped for a better start to the season. This team deserves to get a hero's welcome returning to the local area for the home opener.
More after the jump
Mark Sanchez: We'll start with the franchise quarterback. This was not an ideal place to make his start, against an aggressive defense in a very hostile environment. You have to remember that Sanchez is still young enough that he could have started at Ohio State last night. The numbers tell the story. 18 of 31 for 272 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception is an excellent performance for anybody, let alone a guy who made his last real start eight months ago against Penn State.
Going into this game, the main thought was the Jets would lean on their rushing game and hope Sanchez doesn't lose the game. What happened was just the opposite. The Texans loaded up the box to stop the run game and threw the kitchen sink at the rookie. He responded with the poise of a ten year veteran. When the Texans came after him on third down, he delivered almost every time. On the most pressure packed play a quarterback faces, Sanchez hit over three-quarters of his passes and threw for his only touchdown.
There are two types of mobility for a quarterback. Some quarterbacks like Michael Vick are threats to make big plays on the ground as running threats. That's a nice accessory. The other, pocket mobility, is a necessity. Quarterbacks in this day and age need to be able to buy themselves some time. Sanchez used his feet to prolong plays and kept his eyes downfield, a trait a lot of rookies don't have. The fact the Texans did not sack him is in part credit to the offensive line, but Sanchez handled plenty of breakdowns in his protection with great poise.
You also have to love how he responded to a mistake. With a 17 point lead, he threw a terrible pick 6 in the fourth quarter. The crowd went nuts. The Texans were back in the game. That would rattle many youngsters making their first start. Mark calmly led a touchdown drive on the next series, hitting Dustin Keller on a critical third down to ice the game.
How can you not love the job he did? How can anybody doubt the decision to make him the starter now? He carried the offense when the run game was struggling early. If you told me Thomas Jones would be averaging just over a yard per carry in the third, I would have guessed it was a long day for the Jets.
Rex Ryan's Scheme: This is all we ever wanted, some creativity on defense. Not always lining up with three down linemen and four linebackers. Not always rushing the three linemen and sometimes one of the outside linebackers. This scheme showed great creativity and brought constant pressure to Matt Schaub. It's tough to figure out blocking shemes when the defense is showing different fronts and rushing different guys on every play. We saw everything. There was 4-3. There was 3-4. There was 2-5 with Kris Jenkins blitzing from middle linebacker. The Jets constantly drilled Matt Schaub. Even when they weren't sacking him, Schaub was forced to rush his throws before his men got open. It got to the point he was rushing his throws even when his protection held because he was expecting a pass rush. The Jets don't have big time pass rushers. Football is a beautiful sport because design can make up for a lot. Houston's high powered offense didn't score a point.
Darrelle Revis: A lot of people think Andre Johnson is the best receiver in football. He had 4 receptions for under 50 yards today. His impact on the game was even less than the numbers would indicate. Revis totally took away the Texans' best weapon from them. You may say he's proven he's a top five corner. Let's start including him in the discussion for the best in the game. On the instances where the Texans picked up New York's blitz the Jets still recorded pressures because nobody was open. Revis keyed the defense. It becomes easier to blitz when you know you can trust a guy like Revis on an island because it allows extra time for the rushers to beat blockers.
Kris Jenkins: He was a man among boys, totally dominating Chris Myers. Steve Slaton had only 17 yards on 9 carries. He was a major factor in the pass rush as well. It's a lot easier to effectively blitz when the other team has to dedicate three blockers to one player.
Donald Strickland: The new nickel back showed a real nose for the football, getting his helmet on the ball to force a fumble with the Texans driving in the second, breaking up a couple of passes, and pressuring Schaub on a blitz to force a duck and an interception.
Bart Scott: He was all over the field today. The stat sheet says 2 tackles, but he was in the middle of a lot of plays. I remember a lot of Ravens fans talking about how the Ravens would never let Scott get away. They claimed he'd be a bust once he left Baltimore because he was a system guy. Good thing for the Jets they run the same system he became such a big time player in. He looked great today.
David Harris: Harris was also all over the place. 6 tackles, 1 sack, and 1 pass he broke up because Andre Davis heard footsteps and knew he was going to get drilled.
Brian Schottenheimer: Say what you will about the guy (and I certainly have on this site). He called a great game. He had a lot of simple passes early, particularly on third down to build Sanchez's confidence. Screens helped to counter Houston's aggression on the rookie. 19 touches on offense for Leon Washington is a very encouraging sign he is making fundamental changes. Also he did most of the work getting Sanchez ready for this game. The quarterback looked totally prepared. His mentor deserves a lot of credit for that.
The Seminole Formation: Leon Washington is more dangerous than Brad Smith in the open field. Smith isn't much fo a thrower. I'm glad to see Leon taking the snaps out of this formation. He's the better weapon. Again, this shows Schottenheimer is making a real effort to properly utilize Leon's ability. Even when Washington isn't getting the ball, he forces defenses to keep an eye on him to open things up for others.
Leon Washington: 84 yards in his 19 touches. This is the start of a breakout season.
Jerricho Cotchery: Remember how he was supposed to be totally shut down as defenses made him a focal point. He isn't good enough to be a number one. 6 catches for 90 yards.
Dustin Keller: Speaking of breakout seasons, this matchup nightmare went for 94 yards on his 4 receptions, including the critical 40 yard grab on third down after the Houston touchdown. He beat a defensive back in man coverage badly. He's going to become a favorite Sanchez target.
Chansi Stuckey: Mr. Opening Day caught another touchdown down the middle. This time he got open and had an easy grab. This was much more simple than the jump ball from Brett Favre last year in Miami.
Jamaal Westerman: The training camp standout had his first career sack.
Sione Pouha: Kind of under the radar, but I noticed Sione won a lot of his matchups and kept Houston's run game at bay when Jenkins was out. Last year, Sione constantly got pushed off the ball. Maybe Rex's attack system has lit a fire under him.
Thomas Jones: The final numbers looked great, but TJ struggled early on. The Texans loaded up the box to force Sanchez to throw. The blocking wasn't great either. Still Jones didn't make guys miss or break tackles. Please don't take this to mean I thought he had a bad game. Part of being a running back is pounding to wear down the defense late. He did that and went off in the fourth quarter. When the game was competitive, though, he was pretty quiet.
Run Blocking: Again, the line wore down the Texans and dominated in the fourth. They also faced a lot of tough fronts. Still, the Jets didn't want to have to be in a position where Sanchez had to win the game. Luckily, he did just that.
The Interception: When you have a 17 point lead in the fourth, you can't force passes, especially when Tony Richardson is open in the flat. It's all part of the learning experience. With any rookie (or some seventeen year veterans for that matter), there will be plenty of moments where you want to bury your head in your palms. Again, the important thing wasn't the mistake. It was how he bounced back. I was also impressed with how he laid out his body hustling to try and make a tackle. In the end, you need to be lucky. The Jets largely were today. The Texans weren't able to turn other bad throws into interceptions. In the end, this isn't all that important, just part of the process.
The Dive: I love seeing heart from the franchise quarterback, but Mark shouldn't be diving head first with 5:00 left in a 17 point game.
Leon Over TJ on Third Down: There were too many third down cases where Leon Washington was in the game to block. Either have him in as a receiver or put the bigger, better blocker, Jones, in. Leon missed a blitz pick up that got Sanchez whacked.
John B: I apologize to all fantasy teams I torpedoed by telling you to sit Sanchez, Cotchery, and the defense. At least I told you to play Jones. I promise a cowriter does the fantasy advice next week.
- Kris Jenkins sat a lot more than we were used to last season. It seems like Rex realizes how he wore down and wants to keep him fresh. Good idea. If Pouha plays like he did today, the Jets won't miss a beat.
- Just think of what the defense will look like when Shaun Ellis and Calvin Pace get back. The Jets just dominated a good offense without them.
- Let's not go too crazy. Sanchez is still a rookie quarterback. There will be plenty of bad days. There will be games when he makes more throws like the interception and less like the touchdown. Just be sure to think back to today when this happens. Today showed his potential. Soon all of his games may be like this.
- Vernon Gholston didn't make a huge impact, but he did make a few tackles and held his own in matchups on the line. He's still a work in progress, and this was an improvement. Not what you'd want from a top ten pick, but adequate for now.
- Last year's 9-7 record was a bitter failure. This year, the Jets might end up with a worse record and have a successful season. It all depends on whether Sanchez and the defense can come together like they did today and build a foundation for the future. They don't need to look this good to have a positive outcome.
Well go crazy and let this sink in. No team is ever as good as it looks at its best or as bad as it looks at its worst. Not everything will always click like it did today. The Pats still have the most talent in the division, but we saw the long term potential of this team. One day, most games may look like this. Maybe that day will be this year. Maybe it won't. Either way, the Jets showed today that it should be a fun year.
Bring on the Pats.