I did a two-part interview with Jonathan Carroll, the tastefully named blogger of our Chicago Bears blog, BearsHeadquarters.com, of the Rant Sports network of NFL blogs.
He does a series of interviews with bloggers of the Bears’ opponent each week, so I took the time to answer some questions about the Jets upcoming matchup with the Bears. Part 1 of my interview can be found over at Bears Headquarters, and I’ll have a transcription of the Q & A after the jump.
Jonathan – BearsHQ: What do Jets fans think of Rex Ryan? Is he becoming a distraction? Do you think he’s involved with TripGate?
Jon – Jets Report: I think Jets fans, at least 99% of them, love Rex Ryan and think he’s one of the best things to ever happen to our organization. He’s respected not only for being a great football coach, but because of his no-nonsense approach and likability. He’s just a regular guy, just like us. He always says exactly what’s on his mind and his straight-talk is a breath of fresh air in a world of vague, bland, boring football coaches.
I don’t think any of the recent off-the-field stories have become that big of a distraction for Ryan or the team. The owner, GM, players and fans fully support Rex Ryan.
As far as “TripGate” goes, if he says he knew nothing about it, I believe him. I’ve never heard him do anything other than tell the truth, sometimes to a fault, as his honesty and bravado are loved by those who are with him, and hated by those who are against him.
Jonathan – BearsHQ: What do you think of the Chicago Bears?
Jon – Jets Report: I think the Chicago Bears are a much better football team than I would’ve thought in the preseason. The first few weeks of the season I found myself questioning their legitimacy, especially after the Calvin Johnson game in Week 1 and the dismantling at the hands of the Giants a few weeks later.
However, 10-4 speaks for itself. They’ve beaten Philadelphia and Green Bay, they have a terrific defense and special teams unit, and a talented offense. The only thing that can derail them is inconsistency on offense, especially if Jay Cutler is getting pressured and hit like he did against the Giants.
Without looking at game film, in the limited times I have seen the Bears play since then, it appears Mike Martz has done a good job adjusting his offense to better protect Cutler and get the ball out of his hands quicker. Luckily for Chicago, the Jets actually struggle to generate pressure on opposing quarterbacks more than you’d think, which is why Cutler may seem some exotic defensive fronts to try to confuse him and the offensive line protection schemes.
Jonathan – BearsHQ: What players scare you on the Bears? Who should Bears fan be concerned about on the Jets?
Jon – Jets Report: Devin Hester for the Bears and Brad Smith for the Jets are equally terrifying with their return abilities. If I’m not mistaken, Hester returns punts, not kicks so he can avoided, whereas the Jets use Smith on kicks but not punts. The Jets say they’ll be kicking away from Hester all game, but as we saw on Monday night, just a slight miskick one time can be deadly.
Smith is dangerous for many of the same reasons. Both the Jets and Bears possess some of the best coordinated special teams return units in the NFL. Smith went untouched on his opening-kickoff return touchdown against the Steelers last week.
As far as guys who the Jets can’t really neutralize, there are a few guys on both sides of the ball that are going to be tough to face. Brian Urlacher, Johnny Knox, Matt Forte Julius Peppers, and Israel Idonije are among those guys. Cutler is hit-and-miss, and although I respect his statements about how he won’t avoid Darrelle Revis, I would hope for the Bears’ sake that he doesn’t try to overly test Revis to prove a point, ala the DeAngelo Hall game.
For the Jets, despite injuries in the secondary and a lackluster pass rush, the defense is still ferocious as any in the league. One guy to keep an eye on is defensive tackle Sione Pouha (pronounced see-own-ee bo-ooh-ah) number 91. He’s been playing at a Pro Bowl-level since filling in for the injured Kris Jenkins both this year and last year. He and linebacker Bart Scott are some of the unsung heroes of the Jets 4th-ranked run defense. They do not put up big stats, but they do the dirty work.
Other guys to be concerned about are WRs Santonio Holmes and Braylon Edwards, cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, and the offensive line in general.
Jonathan – BearsHQ: Are you concerned about the health of Mark Sanchez?
Jon – Jets Report: I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t. There seems to be a discrepancy among what exactly the extent of the injury is and how much it will affect him going forward. At first, just basing it on the way he played so well through the injury on Sunday, Rex Ryan was “99% sure” that Sanchez would play this week.
Today, after he personally witnessed Sanchez not having a lot of “zip” on the ball, he said that he’s only 80% sure he’ll play, contingent on Sanchez’s arm strength improving throughout the rest of the week.
However, it is has to be noted that he has not suffered a setback, and that he’s progressing about as expected from his original diagnosis. Rex Ryan is not a doctor, and he tends to be overly optimistic on player injuries, as is his nature of positive thinking.
For what it’s worth, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said that he expects Sanchez to play, and that Ryan may have only seen Sanchez warming up, as Schottenheimer noted that Sanchez threw a crisp curl route downfield at one point in practice.
Bottom line is, Rex will do what is best for Sanchez and what is best for his team. The Jets have the luxury of being able to win games without the quarterback doing very much, as well as an easy path to the playoffs. They need to win just one of their remaining two games (they face Buffalo in Week 17) or have the Colts or Jaguars lose one of their remaining two games to get into the playoffs. If that means Mark Brunell has to play against the Bears or Bills, I don’t think it’ll necessarily cost the Jets a playoff spot.
Jonathan – BearsHQ: What’s a better show…Sopranos or Boardwalk Empire?
Jon – Jets Report: Well, I actually am more of a Showtime guy than an HBO guy. I’ve heard good things about some of those shows, but I’ll take Dexter over anything on TV.
Jonathan – BearsHQ: Prediction???
Jon – Jets Report: I think it comes down to whichever offense can execute their game plan most effectively. The defense and special teams for both teams are elite units in this league, so I believe the winner is going to be the team that can get their offense into a rhythm and get some points on the board.
Assuming Mark Sanchez plays, the two quarterbacks will have a lot of a say in who wins this game. They’re both capable of leading their teams to easy victories, and also to costing their teams games they should easily win. This isn’t going to be an easy game for anyone, though. I think the Bears win with home-field advantage, 17-14.
Part two of my interview, in which I ask Jonathan some questions from the Bears’ perspective, will be posted tomorrow.