QB Mark Sanchez endured the first five weeks of the season without throwing an interception. Since then, he has thrown four (although two weren't his fault). His decision making has improved from last season, which is a good thing, but still needs work.
The young QB has a decent completion percentage (53 percent of passes), but has a bad habit of locking onto receivers and checking down. As a result, Jets are missing big play capabilities which are important (and sometimes the deciding factor) in close games.
Jets will need Sanchez to take more chances down the field to open it back up for their running game and the short passes underneath. If they don't, we will see a lot more zone coverage to take away the passes over the middle, daring Sanchez to throw the ball down the field outside. Teams will watch film of the Packers' game and do exactly what they did to us.
Running Backs: B
RB LaDainian Tomlinson has been a huge lift for the Jets this year. It's clear the "gamble" (is that what A.J. Smith still refers to it as?) by GM Mike Tannenbaum paid off. Tomlinson has 680 all-purpose yards and 5 touchdowns, and has looked every bit as explosive as his 2007 form. He has since slowed down a bit in his last two games and hasn't been breaking tackles, but he could be primed for a big game this week as he faces a favorable matchup against the Detroit Lions.
RB Shonn Greene has been decent in short yardage spots, but has not been breaking tackles or running over people like last season. He had one 23-yard run for a touchdown against Minnesota, which was the only one in which we really saw the "War Machine" emerge.
Would like to see his confidence and swagger of last year return, which were obviously affected by early fumbles in the Baltimore game. We need to see his downhill running return and would like to see his number of carries increase as the season rolls on.
RB/WR Brad Smith has been solid in his role in the Wildcat formation sans a costly fumble when he was indecisive with the football last week. He provides a good "change of pace" threat and keeps defenses on their toes, picking up about 7 yards per carry on average.
Wide Receivers: C+
WR Braylon Edwards has been Jets most consistent receiving threat this year. He has dropped only one ball and has been good when called upon, in receiving roles as well as blocking. The receiver had a quiet game last week but was only targeted four times, and did manage to get wide-open down the field twice (but Sanchez never looked at him).
WR Santonio Holmes has only played three games for Gang Green and has been interesting thus far. He has had problems with dropped passes and fumbles which is uncharacteristic of him, but also come up big at times when Jets needed him (drawing pass interference flag in Denver as well as some key 3rd down catches in that game). He has done a great job running routes and we look for him to improve as the season goes on.
What happened to WR Jerricho Cotchery? Formerly the Jets most consistent receiver, yet he has 5 drops thus far this season (he had two drops all of last two years). He was in a favorable matchup last week against Packers' weak nickel back, and was targeted 13 times as a result. Let's just say it didn't work out. We hope his consistency will return and J-Co will be the guy he's always been for us through the better part of this decade.
Tight Ends: C+
TE Dustin Keller started out the season on FIRE and was a matchup problem for opposing defenses. In weeks 2-4 he had 5 five touchdowns in said games. Since then though, he has cooled off. Teams are playing more packed-in zone coverage looks and taking away the pass over the middle.
If I get into the other three tight ends, this will get long. In short, their blocking has been pretty solid. We shouldn't have four tight ends, anyways. If we had stuck with three, we'd still have RB Danny Woodhead.
Offensive Line: B+
Jets' LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson is having a phenomenal year and is proving worthy of his new contract with his stellar pass protection, and 34-year old veteran RG Brandon Moore has been doing wonders for the run game. Both of them are on pace for Pro Bowl seasons.
LG Matt Slauson started the season off rough with some penalties but since week 3 he has really come into his own and is improving. RT Damien Woody has been beat a couple of times for sacks but is still having a pretty good year overall.
Jets have been very strong in the interior against the run this year. They've been plugging holes and wrapping up tackles. NT Sione Pouha once again has been excellent in Kris Jenkins' place, and DE Shaun Ellis has been doing a great job of bringing pressure on passing downs (3.5 sacks). Jets will need stronger play from guys like DE Mike Devito, though, to generate more pressure on opposing quarterbacks upfront.
Also, does DE Vernon Gholston still exist?
The ILB tandem of Scott/Harris is arguably the top duo in the NFL, as they are the perfect mix of veteran and young talent. Scott's veteran leadership makes sure the defensive unit is where they need to be every down, plays contain to make sure no big plays break through to the secondary, and has done a good job of getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Harris' closing speed is phenomenal and he covers a lot of ground. This is why he is one of the best pass coverage linebackers in the game, as well as having games where he'll record 8 of 9 tackles.
OLBs Bryan Thomas, Calvin Pace and Jason Taylor started off the season strong until Pace got injured. Since then, the trio has slowed down tremendously. Pace and Taylor combined for 2.5 sacks in the Minnesota game, but since then have been almost nonexistent. The pass rush must get better coming off the edge. As an aside, I will say some of this could be attributed to Pettine scaling back the blitzing a bit.
Safeties have been the Jets strong point this year. FS Brodney Pool has been everything Jets have hoped him to be in replacing Kerry Rhodes. His range allows him to cover a lot of ground and he has been good in coverage also. SS Jim Leonhard is a consistent guy and you always know what you're going to get out of him. Ihedigbo and Eric Smith have been solid when used in the right packages.
The new-look cornerbacks the Jets have fielded this year got off to a weak start because of some communication issues, which was expected. The No. 1 pass defense last year at one point was in the bottom five in passing yards allowed. As Revis gets back to 100%, and guys learn their roles, we look for the secondary to improve as the season goes on. They looked very good in coverage last week, and they have the potential to be scary-good.
While CB Antonio Cromartie has not been the "high risk, high reward" guy we thought him to be, he has been CONSISTENT. Great in coverage and is wrapping up all tackles. Cro has shut down some great receivers and is having a Pro Bowl year. CB Darrelle Revis has not been at full health all season and is certainly not reciprocating his play of last season but we like that to change as his hamstring heals. Nickel back Kyle Wilson has been demoted to Westhoff's special teams unit because of footwork and awareness issues, which is disappointing for sure. Luckily, CB Drew Coleman has stepped up and his been pretty solid in his place. Dwight Lowery has been solid when used in certain roles such as zone and run blitzes.
We're 5-2, so they must be doing something right. Rex has the guys focused and playing hard, and there has been no disciplinary issues with a new-look team that analysts questioned the chemistry of in the offseason.
However, Rex has made a couple of iffy game management decisions in the last couple of weeks, and OC Brian Schottenheimer still has a bad habit of over-thinking games and trying to be too cute in playcalling when he should get back to the basics (Baltimore, Green Bay).
DC Mike Pettine has been doing an excellent job in playcalling with the defense. Only slight issue we would have is his over-use of the "overload blitz" on "3rd and long" downs. It hurt Jets in a couple of games which is why they were allowing so many conversions, but he has scaled back recently. Pettine, with his pressure schemes, is one amazing coordinator.
Special teams guru Mike Westhoff is some sort of super-genius. Can't say enough good things about the job he's done this year.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B+
P Steve Weatherford has been good punting the football and is averaging 45.3 yards per punt. Running it, not so much, in what was a bonehead play to try to run on 4th and 18 last game.
K Nick Folk, sans last week when he missed a clutch kick last week in what was the windiest game of the season for the Jets, has has been exceptional. He has made 13 of 16 field goals this season, a couple of them from distance, as well as all extra points. With the inclement weather starting, though, and pressure situations also becoming more prevalent, his kicking will be something to keep an eye on for sure.
Even with a bad showing last week, Nick the Kick nailed some big ones and was consistent early on. Let's hope he gets it back into gear this week.
Coverage / Returns
Coverage unit has been exceptional this year and they have really done a great job defending against returns. They have been consistent week in, week out.
As far as kick/punt returns go, we have not turned the ball over which is a very good thing. No returns for touchdowns, yet, though, but a couple of big returns and the unit has done its job.