In preparation for Monday night's game between the Dolphins and Jets, John B, of Gang Green Nation, and I have exchanged some questions to get to know each others team better. You can head over to GGN on Friday to see my responses to his questions about the Dolphins. John's responses to my Jet questions are below.
You're now four games into the "Mark Sanchez era" in New York. What have you seen from Sanchez that you like and what concerns you most about him?
I’ll give you two for both. The first thing I like is that he’s adjusted well to pro defenses. You see a lot of rookie quarterbacks in over their head, totally baffled by the different looks they see for the first time. Not so with Sanchez. He’s made his share of mistakes, but they haven’t been as a result of the defense confusing him. I’ll give credit to the schooling he got at USC. College teams running pro type offenses are a novelty in these days. They taught him well.
The second thing I like is how he’s bounced back from adversity. There have been times in every game where he made a mistake. He could have started doubting himself. After an interception against the Texans, he led a touchdown drive to ice it, hitting a big third down pass. He had an awful first half against the Pats and led the team to victory in the second. There were some midgame struggles against the Titans, but he finished strong. Even in an ugly performance against the Saints, he responded to two consecutive killer turnovers by leading a scoring drive before the half to at least get the Jets back in the game.
Two bad things. First are the turnovers. He’s given it up way too much, and there have been occasions where defenders have helped him out by dropping interceptions, or he was lucky his guy was closest on a fumble. These are rookie mistakes like staring down receivers. He also leaves the ball exposed to pass rushers. Coaching and experience will help correct these things, but they can spell doom for a team trying to win now.
He also is way too wreckless leading with his head, whether it’s diving with the ball, taking on a defender, or trying to make a tackle after a turnover. You don’t want your $50 million quarterback doing stuff like that.
The big news is obviously the trade that has sent Braylon Edwards to the Jets. What are your thoughts on the trade? And does Braylon's attitude worry you at all? Most importantly, what kind of impact do you think Braylon will make right out of the gate?
I’ve never been a huge Edwards guy, but it’s tough not to like the trade. The Jets gave up next to nothing. He’s definitely better than Chansi Stuckey and is the deep threat the team lacked. There are two things that make me hopeful. The first is the change of scenery. This locker room has helped transformed former problem children like Kris Jenkins. The second is the fact the Jets didn’t give him a new contract. That means he’s playing for a new deal and knows if he wears out his welcome with a second team, the perception is going to be it’s his fault.
The Jets claim he’ll dive in head first. I’ll wait and see on that one. By the end of the year, I’m hoping he’ll contribute big. I’m not sure that will happen right off the bat. He has to get adjusted to his new surroundings, teammates, and playbook. It might be an easier adjustment than usual considering Cleveland’s offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was Brian Schottenheimer’s quarterbacks coach the last two years. I’m sure there are similar elements to the two offenses. Still, Daboll cut his teeth with the New England system, and Schottenheimer runs San Diego’s offense so I doubt they’re exactly the same. There’s going to be some kind of a learing curve. My guess is Edwards primarily runs vertical routes to keep the safeties deep in the first few weeks.
The attitude and off field issues are definite concerns. So is his tendency to drop the ball. There’s a reason he was available for all of his talent. At the end, considering the low price, this is definitely worth taking, a low risk high reward gamble.
It seems like the Jet fans I know are split on how they feel about Thomas Jones. He had a very good year last year but has been average at best in 2009 - averaging just 57 yards per game and 3.8 yards per carry. Why is he struggling and is it time to get Leon Washington and Shonn Greene more carries?
There are a lot of factors. First is the rookie quarterback. Teams are loading up the box to try and take away the run. The vaunted offensive line also hasn’t been great in run blocking. Still, Washington and Greene have been more productive when in there. Maybe it’s Jones. Maybe it’s not. The bottom line is that when there aren’t many holes, you need to either be able to make defenders miss like Washington or run with authority to grind yards out like Greene. We haven’t seen much of Greene, but he looked really good last week. I’d like to see more of him.
The Jets have really gotten after the quarterback in 2009 - blitzing play after play and forcing the quarterback to get rid of the ball early. Now Calvin Pace returns after his four game suspension. How much will he be used right out of the gate and what kind of impact do you think he'll have on NY's already fierce pass rush?
It definitely will help. Pace is probably going to start right away in place of Vernon Gholston. Gholston’s shown improvement, but it’s been modest. He’s held his own in one on one matchups and hasn’t been a liability unlike last season. Still, he didn’t get to the quarterback much. Pace is the best pure pass rusher on the team. I’m not sure he’s necessarily a guy defenses have to game plan around, but he’s more likely to win his matchups and get to the quarterback, which will certainly affect the pass rush.
It’s really the scheme that makes this defense, though, so I think the difference Pace makes will actually be less than it might have been in the scheme the Jets ran a year ago. It was less deception based and more execution based. There the outside linebackers were primarily responsible for generating a pass rush, while it comes from all angles with this defense. It’s still going to make the team better, though.
How do you see Monday night's game playing out? Who wins and why?
On paper the Jets are probably better, but who knows in a road divisional game on Monday night? It’s going to be a close game decided in the fourth quarter. I won’t venture a guess beyond that.