This week, with the New York Jets heading to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots, I spoke with Ricky Keeler of Foxboro Blog, and the two of us interviewed each other about our respective teams.
Ricky asked me a few questions about the Jets’ recent struggles, and where they go from here, among others things. Check out my answers over on Foxboro Blog, or read below to see my thoughts, including a possibly insane prediction about Sunday’s game.
Ricky Keeler: Under Rex Ryan, the Jets have been known for being a ground and pound team. Lately, they have been ground and pounded. What is wrong with the Jets’ running game?
Jon Presser: The offensive line is in shambles. Under offensive line coach Bill Callahan, the Jets had the top-ranked offensive line in 2009 and 2010, and it showed in their punishing ground-and-pound running attack and deep strikes down the field to their wide receivers.
This season, the Jets are really feeling the loss of right tackle Damien Woody to retirement, as well as the injury to All-Pro Nick Mangold. Not only that, but right guard Brandon Moore is not 100% recovered from offseason hip surgery, and their top backup lineman Rob Turner is out for the season with a broken leg.
With undrafted rookie Colin Baxter playing the majority of the season at center, the entire offensive line has been out of sync other than D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who has quietly emerged as one of the best left tackles in football.
Mangold, who also makes the protection calls at the line of scrimmage, is dealing with a high ankle sprain and will try to play this weekend. Even him at 80% health is a major upgrade and should eliminate a lot of the confusion as far as the protection issues that the Jets suffered from dearly in the Baltimore game.
RK: Mark Sanchez has been throwing the ball a lot this season. Can the Jets go to the Super Bowl with Sanchez throwing the ball 40 times a game?
JP: Honestly, I don’t think it’s a huge concern. It goes back to the offensive line. They won’t win if Sanchez has to get rid of the football quickly every snap, but they won’t win the Super Bowl with him throwing 15 passes a game either. They need to strike a good balance that is predicated on running the football more effectively and giving Sanchez time to survey the field and find the open man.
Sanchez’s best games in his young career (he’s still just 24 years old) have been in the postseason, especially his performances against the Patriots and Steelers last January.
I’m far more concerned with the playcalling of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer than the play of Mark Sanchez. But if he’s getting pressured on nearly every down like he did against the Ravens, the offense will be in trouble. He struggles under pressure, and he is a completely different quarterback when he’s got a clean pocket, as many QB’s are.
RK: You wrote an article about the injury of Bryan Thomas being out for the year for the Jets. With Ellis in NE, how does the injury of Bryan Thomas hurt this defense?
JP: Ellis played more of a three-point stance defensive end/tackle spot under Ryan, while Thomas spent most snaps in a stand-up outside linebacker role. It hurts the Jets because Thomas was very good at setting the edge and funneling running plays back towards the middle of the field. The in-house options the Jets have on their roster are more of the designated pass rusher-type players and struggle in run support.
Luckily the Jets have the personnel to scheme around it and hopefully it won’t be too big a problem. It does make the Jets a little less versatile though, as Thomas was an unsung, reliable piece of the puzzle. The Jets worked out former Patriot Tully Banta-Cain a few times in the past few weeks but have declined to sign him thus far.
RK: What is the one matchup you are looking forward to seeing this weekend?
JP: I’m really interested in seeing the Jets pass defense go against Brady. As we all know, the Jets got the better of the Patriots the last time these two teams met, as Brady looked confused and rattled in the unique, unpredictable schemes the Jets came up with.
If I had to guess, I think we’ll see Darrelle Revis spend some time on Wes Welker, but also move around to cover whoever the Jets deem is the primary read on each pass play. Revis is athletic enough to cover any wide receiver the Patriots have, and physical enough to cover Rob Gronkowski if they need him to.
Of course, Revis is just one person. I’d expect Brady to exploit the other parts of the Jets defense far more than he tests Revis. So Antonio Cromartie, Jim Leonhard, Brodney Pool, Kyle Wilson, Eric Smith and Donald Strickland will need to be on top of their game to keep the Brady bunch in check.
RK: X-Factor for the Jets?
JP: It’s Nick Mangold. He’s considered by many to be the best interior lineman in all of football and a potential future Hall of Famer. If he suits up, the Jets will have a chance to do serious damage against a Patriots defense that seems to be susceptible to giving up a lot of yards and points so far this season.
RK: Give us a pick. Do the Jets go up to Foxboro and snap their 2 game losing streak? Why or Why not?
JP: I hate predicting because there’s so many factors that can affect the final outcome, but I believe if Nick Mangold plays, the Jets have a very good chance of winning this game. The Jets defense and the Patriots offense are both elite units who will battle all day. But whoever wins the battle on the other side of the ball between a struggling Jets offense and a struggling Pats defense may be the team that ends up getting the W.
It’s obviously a huge game for each team, and if the Jets lose they will have to deal with the media freaking out about the sky falling at 2-3. I think the Jets will find a way to steal one and get back into the AFC East race. Logic says otherwise, but the Jets weren’t supposed to win last January either. Call me a crazy optimist, but I think the Jets win if Mangold’s in there.