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That’s right, we’ve gone to the other side. For this Sunday’s Jets match-up we decided to see what those Jets bloggers think of the upcoming game. John, over at Gang Green Nation, was kind enough to take some time to give us his answers to our most pressing questions: his thoughts on the Jets’ season so far, whether Darrelle Revis is the real deal or not, how this Sunday’s game will shape up, and how much Rex Ryan can eat (hopefully no motorcycles this time!). So let’s get to it!
SoB: With key, season-ending injuries on both sides of the ball to Leon Washington and Kris Jenkins, who has stepped up most to fill those voids?
GGN: Honestly, they’re still looking for answers. You simply don’t replace playmakers like Jenkins and Washington. Officially Sione Pouha starts for Jenkins. He’s done a nice job controlling the point of attack, but he doesn’t have the quick first step and power Jenkins does to consistently get into the opposing backfield and blow up plays. Thomas Jones has taken more carries and has gotten stronger as the season has gone on. Shonn Greene has also gotten into the mix, but the Jets really miss Washington’s ability as a receiver, to make guys miss, and make big plays. If anybody, the Jets probably look to Braylon Edwards to replace the big play ability, but the offense loses its most explosive player without Leon.
SoB: After being completely neutralized last time out, how do you see Tom Brady matching up against the Jets this time? Will the last performance factor into the coaching / play calling decisions on Sunday or will the Patriots stick with their usual strategies?
GGN: Based on what I know about the Patriots, they really aren’t married to any philosophy. It seems like Bill Belichick doesn’t mind adjusting his approach from game to game. Since the New York pass rush neutralized Brady last time, I would guess the Pats leave in extra blockers this time, which is funny because the Pats in the past adjusted to New York’s blitzes with the approach they took in the first game, spreading the field and trying to get the ball out quickly. The Jets have a really good secondary, but a quarterback as good as Brady will always find a window as long as he has enough time. Same thing with New England’s receivers. They’ll eventually get open. The game may come down once again to whether the Jets can get to Brady.
SoB: Sebastian Vollmer has played exceptionally well against pass rushers such as Dwight Freeney and Joey Porter. What success can we expect out of Marques Douglas and Calvin Pace this week?
GGN: The Jets have good players in the front seven, but their defense is based as much on scheme as on guys winning matchups. Pace is solid, but he’s not an elite pass rusher. I don’t think the Jets are going to count on Vollmer losing his matchups. I think it will be the same concept as in the first meeting, overwhelm the Pats with more blitzers than they have blockers and hope one of them gets to Brady before somebody gets open. Vollmer can only block one guy on a given play.
SoB: In Week 2, we saw Darrelle Revis completely shut Randy Moss down. Do you see him doing that again or do you think that was more because it was Brady’s second game back from offseason surgery?
GGN: Revis has been playing out of this world this year. I think it was Revis. The week before he completely took Andre Johnson out of the game against the Texans. At this point, I’m not sure there’s a receiver in the league who can get open consistently against Revis. I think the Pats are going to have to replicate the success they had looking underneath with Julian Edelman in the first game, and now they have Wes Welker back, which will make life even tougher on the other corners.
SoB: With Jim Leonhard is out this week, Eric Smith will start next to Kerry Rhodes. Smith was used as a blitzer 17 times in Week 2, but clearly won’t be able to play like that again this week with Leonhard out. How will the Jets defense compensate?
GGN: Smith was used a lot in subpackages as a blitzer and a cover man underneath. He’ll take on Leonhard’s role as more of a traditional cover guy. He’s struggled with this role in the past. He’s not particularly quick so any time he’s matched up with Ben Watson, Brady should look that way. The reason the Jets signed Leonhard was they didn’t feel anybody on the roster, including Smith, was really starter material. His play has improved vastly this year in his new role. We’ll see whether he’s up to it. I’m not sure the Jets are going to change their approach. They need to get to Brady. Attacking is how they’ve been effective against the Pats in the past so a lot is going to be placed on the secondary.
SoB: What’s your assessment of the job first-year head coach Rex Ryan has done with the team? Do you see him as a long-term fit in New York?
GGN: I’ll surprise you and say I think he’s been very good. I know he rubs a lot of opposing fans the wrong way, and I understand that. The man’s a really good football coach, though. One of the biggest complaints I heard about this team a year ago was the coaching staff didn’t properly utilize the defensive talent. That performance has vastly improved this season. He’s come up with some very good gameplans and adjusted well when things haven’t worked. His players also seem to love his confidence in them. I’ve also noticed big improvements in guys like Pouha, Smith, and Mike Devito. The scheme is built around the strengths of the players. These guys aren’t being asked to fill predefined roles that don’t suit their abilities like Eric Mangini had them do.
The team has struggled lately, but overall I’ve been impressed with the new head coach. I think long term he’s a keeper.
SoB: What were your expectations for the Jets heading into this season? Have they met those expectations so far?
GGN: This is just about where I expected them to be at the start of the year. I thought with a rookie quarterback, the Playoffs would be a reach in this division. The Jets have a lot of talent in their starting corps but not a ton of depth as some key positions. I was expecting them to be around .500 and competitive in every game.
Now, my expectations went up after the 3-0 start so the recent struggles have been disappointing. I would have expected this had you asked me at the start of September. If you had asked me at the start of October, I’d be disappointed for the Jets to be at 4-5.
SoB: How many foot-long Subway sandwiches can Rex Ryan eat in one sitting?
GGN: Probably more than Belichick.
And there you have it, straight from the source! Thanks John for your great answers and insight. Now let’s see how the game turns out!