EAST RUTHERFORD NJ - DECEMBER 12: Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets opens up to pass against the Miami Dolphins at New Meadowlands Stadium on December 12 2010 in East Rutherford New Jersey. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
With the Miami Dolphins at New York Jets Monday Night Football game coming up in just a couple of days, I got together with John B from over at Gang Green Nation to find out about the 2011 version of the Jets.
The Phinsider: There has been a lot of talk lately about the Jets wide receivers complaining that the Jets are throwing the ball too much, and that they are disagreeing with the play calling. I think that's the first time I have ever heard a wide out complain about too much attention. What's really happening with this situation, and are the receiver actually correct?
Gang Green Nation: "Nobody aside from those in the locker room will ever really know. The team denies that report, but the beat writer who wrote it is probably the most credible the team has. I'm not sure it's a case that the team is throwing the ball too much as it is how the team is throwing the ball when it does. There was a stat that came out this week that close to 80% of the passes the Jets have thrown have been in the short zone. It is obvious just watching on television that corners are sitting on everything short. They aren't taking advantage of the speed Santonio Holmes has or Plaxico Burress' ability to win jump balls. Teams only have to defend the first 15 yards of the field against the Jets passing attack.
"Sure, you could blame the offensive line. Life without Nick Mangold for two and a half games made things rough. He was back last week, though, and Sanchez had a clean pocket most of the time against what was statistically the worst pass defense in the league. They were still sending receivers short on everything until they had to open things up down two scores in the fourth quarter. I read something this week that Santonio Holmes estimated he has run one double move all season. The Jets aren't trying to get it down the field."
TP: Speaking of throwing the ball, Mark Sanchez has seemed shaky this year, making risky throws when he doesn't need to. Is he turning into the Tony Romo/Jay Cutler/Brett Favre gunslinger type, just throwing it up and hoping the receivers make a play, is it being uncomfortable holding the ball because he knows the pass rush is coming, or is it something else?
GGN: "I think he is the gunslinger type at this point in his career. The good thing for Jets fans is that he is making increasingly more and more plays. Early in his career, most of his chances ended in catastrophe. Now more of the throws he makes end up resulting in big plays. He makes a lot of passes most quarterbacks would not risk. There is a fine line. Some of these throws end up as huge plays for the Jets. Others end up as huge plays for the other team."
TP: Despite being 2-3, Football Outsiders actually has your defense graded as the 3rd best defense in the league. You guys seem to be playing the bend, don't break defense - give up a ton of yards, but suddenly get stingy in the red zone. What's going on with the defense, and what do you expect Rex Ryan to dial up to deal with the Dolphins and new starting quarterback Matt Moore?
GGN: "It started last year in the Playoffs. The Jets' trademark blitzes were ineffective near the end of the regular season so Rex Ryan adjusted and turned the Jets into a unit that plays coverage. They are blitzing less than a third of the time this season. One of their strengths is coverage. In the past they used that strength to send more men at the quarterback. Now they are keeping extra people back and building on that strength. The idea is to eliminate big plays. You can execute one or two plays, but it is very difficult to execute eleven or twelve straight times, especially as you get closer to the goal line, and your wide receivers have less room to operate.
"I would expect this to continue this week. One area this has hurt the Jets is that they have not had a guy capable of consistently getting to the quarterback. Last week Jamaal Westerman, a guy the coaching staff is high on, took over as a starter and registered two sacks. I will have my eye on him to see whether this was a fluke or whether he actually might be the pass rusher this team has been seeking."
TP: What exactly happened in the Derrick Mason benching/trade? It seems like it went from Mason coming to the team and everyone excited to get him, to him criticizing, to bench and traded, in a very short period of time.
GGN: "The team claims he was ineffective. I have a tough time buying it. One of the team talking points was he was having a tough time picking up the offense. That sounds fine until you remember he came from Baltimore, where (cover your ears) Cam Cameron was the offensive coordinator. Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer worked under Cameron in San Diego. The reason Schottenheimer got his job with the Jets was that Eric Mangini wanted to install an offense based on the one Cameron had in San Diego because it gave him problems in New England.
"Beyond this, it is tough to measure what Mason was doing by his numbers. He was the fourth or fifth option on a lot of his passing plays. On top of this, why trade a guy with his track record even if he is not performing? Why not hold onto him for depth?
"My take is the team probably viewed him as a locker room problem because of the incident you mentioned above with the receivers on top of other comments to the press. He was demoted on the depth chart before the game at New England. His replacement, rookie Jeremy Kerley, played very well, catching a touchdown. The team is high on Kerley anyway and only signed Mason just in case Kerley was not ready to handle the slot role. Once Kerley played well, the front office felt there was no reason to deal with Mason's locker room baggage."
TP: Down in Miami, the talk to purely on the "Suck for Luck" campaign, with the fans very quickly transitioning to wanting to lose the rest of the season, so Miami can claim the top spot in the draft. Knowing what the fans and media are like in New York, with the struggles the Jets have had so far this season, how are the fans handling it? If the Jets win this week, what will be the reaction? If they lose?
GGN: "Realistically, the Jets are out of the Luck sweepstakes. They already are two games back, and this team is probably too talented to have the worst record in the league even if it does underperform. The guy on the hot seat is offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. It is really tough to understand what he is trying to accomplish on a week to week basis. It does not seem like he has tried to build a scheme to maximize the talents of his players. Every week there is a different focus. Against the Raiders, the Jets were working the edge with a lot of bootlegs, moving pockets, and outside runs. Against the Ravens, they were a pocket passing team. Against the Patriots, they were ground and pound. The only constant is not using the receivers to try and stretch the field. Some coaches try and nurture their young quarterbacks by building an offense that puts them in a position to succeed. With the Jets, it tends to fluctuate from week to week with some weeks Mark Sanchez taking on Peyton Manning responsibilities calling plays at the line and other weeks the team not asking him to try and test a defense. There is always a bread and butter on a successful offense. There is something a team does well that it looks to build off. I could not tell you what that is with the Jets, and this has been a constant with Schottenheimer going back to when Chad Pennington was the quarterback. The offensive coordinator has not been a popular guy for a long time. The calls for his head have reached a boiling point. They will only get louder with a loss. If the Jets win, it will calm things down a bit, but I think people will wait to see more. Beating a winless team does not necessarily indicate all is well."
TP: Bonus: Given the history of the Dolphins/Jets rivalry, and Miami's inexplicable ability to win in New York recently, what is your prediction for this game?
GGN: "Divisional games are always tough. I will only predict that it will be decided on the last drive."