AFC East: David Harris

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets wrapped up minicamp -- and the offseason -- with a 90-minute practice Thursday in a light rain. A few takeaways:

Smith
1. Quarterback hiccups: One day after his coaches lavished praise upon him for a terrific offseason, Geno Smith ended on a down note, throwing two interceptions in team drills. One was an ill-advised throw, a pass into double coverage. He was looking for Eric Decker, who was covered by CB Dee Milliner, and it was picked off by rookie S Calvin Pryor. Later, Smith (2-for-6 in team drills) was intercepted by Milliner on a deep ball that went off the hands of Decker. It's important to keep this in perspective. Two turnovers on the final day of minicamp doesn't change anything. As Marty Mornhinweg indicated Wednesday, it's Smith's job to lose. Michael Vick was 2-for-7, with a couple of overthrows.

2. Young ball hawks: Turnovers are always a good news-bad news story in practice. The good news is that the secondary, which produced very few big plays last season, came up big. In addition to Pryor and Milliner, rookie CB Dexter McDougle made a big play, intercepting Vick in a 7-on-7 drill. (Vick seemed upset; there might have been a miscommunication with WR Jeremy Kerley). Afterward, Rex Ryan praised McDougle as one of the standouts in minicamp. This will be the youngest secondary of the Ryan era. The upside is the improved team speed on the back end; the downside is the lack of experience, which will inevitably lead to mental errors.

3. Another Hill to climb: WR Stephen Hill, who could be fighting for his roster spot, finished with a terrific practice. This was a positive offseason for Hill, who needed a jolt after a second straight disappointing season. He worked with the starting base offense, with David Nelson replacing him in some three-receiver packages. Nelson, too, looked sharp, hauling in two completions from Smith. Unlike past years, the Jets actually have some depth at receiver. It'll be interesting to see which players separate from the pack in training camp.

4. Dawan is da man: Veteran S Dawan Landry became the forgotten man in recent weeks, especially with Pryor and Antonio Allen working exclusively with the first team. After practice, Ryan tossed a bouquet to Landry, mentioning him as one of the standouts in minicamp. Ryan also revealed that Landry won an "Iron Jet" award for his exploits in the conditioning program, noting that he reported to the offseason program in superior condition. Funny how that works; they draft a safety in the first round and the aging incumbent shows up looking better than ever.

5. Attendance report: LB David Harris (hamstring tightness) and TE Jeff Cumberland (undisclosed) sat out. As expected, RB Chris Ivory (ankle) didn't participate. With Chris Johnson (knee) also out, Bilal Powell and Alex Green had busy days.

6. Have a nice summer: The offseason program is over. The team won't be together again until training camp. Reporting day is July 23 in Cortland, New York.

NFLN survey/respected player: Jets

January, 16, 2014
1/16/14
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Our NFL Nation network of team reporters polled 320 players across the league -- 10 from each team -- to produce a confidential survey that covered eight probing questions/hot topics. Next up ...

Question: Which player do you respect the most?

Winner: Peyton Manning, quarterback, Denver Broncos.

Our take: Manning was a landslide winner with 86 votes (26.8 percent), accumulating more than three times the number of votes as the second-place finishers, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson (24 each). The Manning-Brady dynamic is interesting. Brady has three Super Bowl rings to Manning's one, yet it's clear which quarterback is more popular among his peers. It makes for interesting discussion fodder, especially with a Manning-Brady showdown in the AFC Championship Game.

I can tell you this: Manning received the most votes (three) among the 10 Jets players who participated in the survey. Two players voted for Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. Five other players, including Peterson, received one vote apiece.

Only two Jets received votes from their peers around the league: safety Ed Reed (five) and linebacker David Harris (one). Obviously, Reed drew attention for his stellar years with the Baltimore Ravens, not his seven-game, hired-gun gig with the Jets. Players weren't allowed to vote for teammates. A total of 78 players received votes in this category.

Green Day: Jets' Pro Bowl possibilities

December, 25, 2013
12/25/13
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Pro Bowl rosters will be announced Friday. The format has changed, meaning the teams will be chosen without regard to conference affiliation. The New York Jets' top candidates are:

Wilkerson
1. Muhammad Wilkerson, defensive end

Stats: Leads the team with a career-high 10.5 sacks.

Analysis: Wilkerson felt he deserved to make it last season, but he still lacked name recognition. That shouldn't be an issue this time, as his national profile has grown. He's the best player on the team and he deserves the Pro Bowl, but there's no guarantee because defensive end is a deep position. In reality, Wilkerson plays as much tackle as he does end, making it harder to accumulate gaudy stats, but he's listed as an end.

Folk
2. Nick Folk, kicker

Stats: Tied for second in field-goal percentage (93.9), having made 31 of 33.

Analysis: You could make an argument that Folk is the Jets' MVP even though Wilkerson won the award. He has been money from Week 1, his only misses coming from 48 yards (heavy wind) and 49 (hit the upright). The problem is that several kickers also are having career years, namely Justin Tucker of Baltimore and Matt Prater of Denver.

Pace
3. Calvin Pace, outside linebacker

Stats: A career-high 10 sacks.

Analysis: This has been a renaissance year for Pace, 33, who spent a few months on the NFL scrap heap last offseason after being dumped by the Jets. He's no longer an every-down player, but the slightly reduced role has helped his stamina. He plays the "Sam" outside-linebacker position in the defense, as opposed to the rush linebacker, so he doesn't get as many pass-rushing opportunities as Quinton Coples. But he has made the most of his chances.

Richardson
4. Sheldon Richardson, defensive tackle

Stats: 3.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss.

Analysis: He won't make it as a rookie, but Richardson set a nice foundation. He's one of the leading candidates for NFL defensive rookie of the year. His sack production has tailed off, but he's still excellent against the run. And, oh yeah, he can run with the ball, too.

Mangold
5. Nick Mangold, center

Stats: Anchors the league's sixth-ranked rushing offense.

Analysis: It's not often a four-time Pro Bowl selection flies under the radar, but that has been the case with Mangold. Flanked by a rookie left guard and a rookie quarterback, Mangold has provided leadership and stability for an offense in transition. The Jets average 5.16 yards per attempt on runs up the middle, second-best in the league, according to the NFL.

Howard
6. Austin Howard, right tackle

Stats: Only two sacks allowed, tied for the league lead among right tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.

Analysis: Howard, in his second year as a starter, is one of the most improved players on the team. Good timing, too, because he will be an unrestricted free agent. When the Jets need yards on the ground, they run behind Howard. They have 82 rushes behind right tackle, the second-highest total in the league, per the NFL.

Harris
7. David Harris, inside linebacker

Stats: A team-high 86 solo tackles (according to coaches' tape).

Analysis: The Jets are ranked third in run defense, and that doesn't happen unless the "Mike" linebacker is having a good year. Harris dropped weight last offseason, improving his quickness and pass-coverage ability. He has seven tackles for loss, two sacks and one forced fumble.
One last look back at the New York Jets' 30-20 loss to the Carolina Panthers:

I heard this expression a long time ago (I think it came from Bill Parcells), and it applies to one element of the game: How many times do you need to get hit in the face with a skunk before you realize it stinks?

The Jets got hit with a cornerback blitz on their sixth play from scrimmage, but they did little to stop it -- so the Panthers used it over and over. The Panthers aren't known for exotic blitzes, but they kept sending Captain Munnerlyn off the corner. Why not?

[+] EnlargeCaptain Munnerlyn and Geno Smith
Jeff Siner/Charlotte Observer/MCTCaptain Munnerlyn and the Panthers used cornerback blitzes to get at Jets QB Geno Smith.
On the Panthers' first sack, Munnerlyn was unblocked on a front-side blitz and tackled Geno Smith. On their third sack, Munnerlyn came on a back-side blitz. Running back Bilal Powell picked him up, but it allowed linebacker Luke Kuechly to loop around left tackle -- unblocked -- for the sack out of a six-man rush. On the fourth sack, Munnerlyn came from the back side again. The Jets emptied the backfield, so there was no one to block him.

If Munnerlyn had a few more chances, he might have finished with three or four sacks. It wasn't a well-coordinated effort by the Jets, but a lot of those problems can be attributed to Smith's inexperience. He simply needs to do a better job of recognizing pressure and finding his hot reads.

The Panthers sent extra pressure twice as often as they usually do, surprising the Jets. Against five or more rushers, Smith was only 6-for-12, plus four sacks. He averaged only 2.9 yards per dropback, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Panthers did a nice job with their game plan, attacking a Jets weakness.

Other takeaways:

1. Another Geno hiccup: Smith, explaining his interception, admitted he should've checked down to another receiver instead of forcing the ball into a tight window to Santonio Holmes. The tape reveals that Smith had three wide-open check-down options --Jeremy Kerley, Jeff Cumberland and Powell. This was another example of poor field vision by the rookie. He also got caught up in the moment. The Panthers had just converted a blocked punt into a touchdown, and Smith wanted to reclaim the momentum by taking a risk on third down. Sometimes the quarterback has to know when to fold and wait for the next hand. Instead, he turned Munnerlyn into a hero. It was Smith's fifth pick-six of the season, tying Joe Namath for the team's single-season mark.

2. Bad Geno, good Geno: Earlier, Smith provided a glimpse of good and bad on back-to-back plays. Throwing on the run, he misfired badly on a deep ball to a wide-open Saalim Hakim, sailing a pass about 4 yards out of bounds -- a blown opportunity. On the next play, Smith did a great job of moving in the pocket against a five-man rush, throwing a strike to Cumberland for a 35-yard gain. Such is life with a rookie quarterback.

3. The nightmare screen: This was on linebacker David Harris. The Jets were in man-to-man coverage and Harris got caught peeking into the backfield, biting on Cam Newton's fake screen to the left. That drew him out of position just enough to allow DeAngelo Williams to catch the screen-right and get around the corner. Incredibly, he turned a routine play into a 72-yard touchdown. Safety Ed Reed also fell for the fake and arrived late, taking a bad angle. Cornerback Dee Milliner, who strikes me as a finesse tackler, couldn't get off the block of receiver Brandon LaFell. Milliner looked like he wanted to slow-dance with LaFell.

4. Another cold Winters: Left guard Brian Winters might be a good player some day, but he's having a nightmare of a rookie season. He surrendered one sack, allowed a pressure that contributed to another sack and committed a costly holding penalty in the fourth quarter. Vladimir Ducasse is John Hannah compared to this.

5. Odds and ends: Rex Ryan took the blame on Mike Tolbert's 1-yard touchdown run. Anticipating a run up the middle, he used what he called a "sell-the-farm" defense. He used six linemen, including four between the inside shoulders of the two offensive tackles. That left a gap on the outside shoulder of the two tackles. The Panthers ran directly into that gap on the left side. Quinton Coples slanted in and was buried. Linebacker DeMario Davis was blocked by a pulling guard, allowing Tolbert to walk into the end zone. ... The Jets' blitz didn't bother Newton at all. Against five or more rushers, he was 7-for-10, averaging 11.9 yards per dropback. He was sacked only once. ... Cornerback Darrin Walls played only one defensive snap and missed a key tackle.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The New York Jets trail the Carolina Panthers at halftime, 16-6. A few thoughts:

1. Competitive Jets: Considering their recent performances on the road, the Jets had to be mildly satisfied to be down only 10 points. In their previous three away contests, they were outscored by a 4-to-1 margin. If they can keep it close, the Jets will be able to keep running the ball. Surprisingly, they ran for 93 yards against the league's top-rated rush defense, confusing the Panthers with a few nice misdirection plays.

2. Killer play: Really, the Jets should be down by only three points, but they suffered a major breakdown with 3:42 left in the half -- a 72-yard touchdown to DeAngelo Williams on a screen pass. The Jets were fooled badly by Cam Newton, who faked a throw to his left and threw right. The defense looked ridiculously slow as it chased Williams. David Harris trailed the entire way. Ed Reed, who bit on the fake, arrived late and took a bad angle. Dee Milliner couldn't get off a downfield block. Talk about embarrassing. The Panthers entered the game with the fewest plays of 20-plus yards in the league.

3. Bad karma: Wide receiver Santonio Holmes, who tweaked the Panthers' secondary by saying it's the "weakest link" of the defense, was forced to eat humble pie, dropping the first pass thrown to him. Hey, it's hard to catch a football with a foot in your mouth. Holmes got an earful from safety Mike Mitchell. Holmes had no catches on two targets.

4. Bad in the red zone: Neither team played well offensively in the red zone, settling for field goals until the big Williams touchdown. Geno Smith didn't commit any turnovers, but he passed for only 59 yards against the secondary that Holmes insulted.

W2W4: Oakland Raiders vs. New York Jets

December, 6, 2013
12/06/13
5:00
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Contrary to what Kellen (The Greek) Winslow believes, the games still matter for the New York Jets.

Despite a three-game losing streak, the Jets (5-7) still are mathematically alive. The bigger issue, though, is the future of Rex Ryan, who has four games to convince his bosses he's the right man for the head coaching job.

Ryan can't afford a loss to the Oakland Raiders (4-8). If the slumping Jets can't defend their home field against the league's worst road team, it'll put a significant dent in Ryan's bid for a 2014 return. Under Dennis Allen, the Raiders are 2-12 on the road. They've lost 12 straight in the Eastern time zone by a combined score of 379-198. They're playing a backup quarterback, rookie Matt McGloin. They have injury concerns at running back. Their roster screams "rebuilding," as they dressed 16 undrafted players in their previous game.

And yet this game could be problematic for the Jets, who never have lost four straight under Ryan. After all, it's hard to win when you can't score.

Kickoff is 1 p.m. at MetLife Stadium. What to watch for:

1. Mettle detector: The Jets invested so much emotionally last week, in what they called a must-win game, that you have to wonder how much is left in the tank. Ryan's teams have always played hard for him, but this will be a gut check. Ryan spent the week trying to boost morale, commending the team's practice performance and lavishing praise upon his draft picks. There was a players-only meeting, with David Harris and D'Brickashaw Ferguson addressing the team. It might have been too little, too late, but we'll see. It would be a mistake to underestimate the Raiders. For all their issues, the Raiders usually come prepared. They have a plus-45 point differential in the first quarter, second in the league.

2. The Gang's all here: For the first time since Week 4, the Jets will have their regular offense intact. The return of WR Jeremy Kerley provides another option in the passing attack, especially in the short and intermediate zones. WR Santonio Holmes is healthier than last week (so they say), so he might actually play more than two snaps. We know the Jets aren't the Greatest Show on Turf, but they're rolling out the best they've got. They have no excuses. "Let's see how we close this thing out when we're healthy," Ryan said.

If they can't break the slump against the Raiders, it could last another two weeks because points will be at a premium next week at the Carolina Panthers. The Jets have gone eight quarters without a touchdown -- 114 plays, an elapsed time of 129 minutes, 36 seconds. They treat the end zone as if it's radioactive. There will be plenty of one-on-one opportunities on the outside, as the Raiders like to blitz and play man-to-man coverage. They've rushed five or more on 44 percent of the opponents' dropbacks, the third-highest rate in the league. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg streamlined the offensive game plan, focusing on the plays they do best -- slim pickings. The Raiders have struggled against slant passes, so look for that.

3. Clock ticking for Geno: The decision to stick with QB Geno Smith, despite his historic struggles, indicates the organization is determined to get a complete evaluation of the rookie. General manager John Idzik doesn't think anything positive can be gained by sitting him. So on we go. Mornhinweg took a different approach this week, imploring Smith to play loose and let his natural instincts take over. Don't be surprised if Mornhinweg calls more designed runs for Smith, who can create a spark with his mobility. He will get blitzed -- a lot. The Raiders will test Smith's recognition skills and the Jets' pass protection.

4. The In-and-Out Corner: Rookie CB Dee Milliner needs a big play in the worst way. He will remain in the starting lineup despite being pulled last week in the third quarter, his third in-game benching. If the coaches continue to yank him, he'll show up on the injury report with a case of whiplash. Milliner, drafted ninth overall, is a key part of the Jets' future. He needs to finish the season on the upswing, providing some evidence to the organization that it didn't swing and miss. You can bet the Raiders will go after him, but their receiving corps is thin. Their top playmaker in the last game was Andre Holmes, who surpassed his career totals in one afternoon. McGloin is fairly effective when throwing deep. Hear that, Ed Reed?

5. Replacing Josh Cribbs: Cibbs, placed on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle, wore a lot of hats and it will take more than one player to replace him. Newly-signed Darius Reynaud will return kickoffs and punts, with Bilal Powell and Kerley expected to handle the Wildcat role on offense. Reynaud has dealt with ball-security issues in the past, especially on punt returns.
One last look back at the New York Jets' 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins:

The Jets ran 54 plays in the game, and the vast majority were pretty lousy. It would take too long to list all the breakdowns, so we'll start by focusing on one play -- the first one. It ended with a sack, a demoralizing way for a slumping offense to begin a game. Talk about a bad omen. We picked this play because it illustrates many of the ongoing problems on offense.

For a change, coordinator Marty Mornhinweg went into the game with an aggressive approach, looking to throw deep out of the box. Have to like that, right? Unfortunately for the Jets, it all crumbled in less than four seconds, a concern on many levels. Here's what went wrong:

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
AP Photo/Bill KostrounThe Jets beefed up their pass protection Sunday against the Dolphins, and still allowed four sacks.
A. Poor pass protection: QB Geno Smith had three pass rushers in his face -- DE Olivier Vernon (he beat LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson), DT Randy Starks (beat LG Brian Winters) and LB Philip Wheeler (unblocked).

B. Miscommunication: FB Tommy Bohanon chipped Wheeler before running a pass route into the left flat. After absorbing the block, Wheeler proceeded on his merry way, straight up the middle. No one picked him up. With a six-man protection, that shouldn't have been an issue, especially against a five-man rush. RB Bilal Powell, too, leaked out of the backfield. It's possible he was supposed to stay home to block.

C. Wrong receiver: The coaches knew Santonio Holmes wasn't 100 percent because of a balky hamstring, which he aggravated last week in practice, yet they sent him on an 18-yard vertical route on the first play. Clearly, he lacked his usual burst. It would be his final pass route of the day.

D. Bad field vision: Smith looked at Holmes the entire time, never looking to Bohanon, who was wide open in the flat. He didn't have enough time to get the ball to Holmes (3.7 seconds from snap to sack), but he could've thrown it to Bohanon. Instead, he succumbed to the pressure, ducking into the pass rush. Wheeler and Vernon combined for the sack.

One play, so many problems. Welcome to the Jets' offense.

Other takeaways after reviewing the tape ...

1. Geno's second-quarter interception. The Dolphins did a nice job of disguising, and it fooled the rookie quarterback. They put seven at the line of scrimmage, with linebackers Dannell Ellerbe and Wheeler lined up in the A gaps. It looked like a double A-gap blitz, but Ellerbe and Wheeler never rushed. The Dolphins rushed five others, including a safety. The Jets blocked it nicely, giving Smith time in the pocket.

In his pre-snap read, Smith noticed Greg Salas uncovered in the slot and a two-deep safety look. He probably thought the Dolphins were in Cover 2, meaning there would be a soft spot in the middle for Salas on a deep seam. Just before the snap, Ellerbe glanced quickly toward Salas, a barely discernible tipping of his intentions. On the snap, the Dolphins rotated out of the Cover 2 look, leaving Ellerbe in man-to-man coverage with Salas, with a safety over the top. The 245-pound linebacker ran stride-for-stride with Salas, giving Smith no window for a pass. He threw it anyway -- his last pass of the day, as it turned out.

This was a well-executed play by the Miami defense, a great individual effort by Ellerbe and a poor decision by Smith.

2. Live and die by the blitz: The Jets' best defensive play came on a blitz. Their worst play came on a blitz.

In the second quarter, they rushed six, including safeties Ed Reed and Dawan Landry. DE Muhammad Wilkerson beat his man and clobbered QB Ryan Tannehill as he released the ball, forcing a bloop pass in the direction of Mike Wallace. CB Antonio Cromartie boxed him out, basketball-style, and made a nice interception.

In the third quarter, Rex Ryan decided to get aggressive on a second-and-8 on the Jets' 28-yard line, sending seven rushers. That included linebackers David Harris and Demario Davis, who came on a double A-gap blitz. The Jets played zero coverage, meaning no deep safety. It was man-to-man coverage across the board. This time, the Dolphins blocked it and Tannehill calmly tossed a short pass to Wallace, who broke a feeble tackle attempt by cornerback Dee Milliner and raced to the end zone.

3. Serious problem at left guard: Winters continued to struggle in pass protection; the rookie was involved in three of the four sacks. He didn't surrender the sack on the Jets' first play, but he allowed pressure that factored into the play. Later, he was responsible for two sacks by Vernon. Clearly, the Dolphins targeted Winters, lining up Vernon over him on some occasions.

4. Looking for Ed: Reed has received a lot of criticism for his performance, and deservedly so. The play that drew the most attention was his missed tackle on Brian Hartline's 31-yard touchdown -- one of the few plays in which Reed was near the ball. For the most part, Reed appeared reluctant to engage in contact. Look, we all know he's not going to the Hall of Fame because of his tackling ability -- he's no Ronnie Lott -- but at least make an effort. I watched every play on the All-22 tape, and I noticed only two plays in which he was involved in hard contact, both on runs by Lamar Miller.

5. Added security: Trying to beef up the pass protection, the Jets used more six-, seven- and eight-man protections than usual -- and they still allowed four sacks, which is alarming. The downside to the strategy is that, even when the quarterback has time, he has fewer options. When a receiver gets open, you have to hit him. Smith wasted a great opportunity on the first series, overthrowing a wide-open David Nelson. It was a seven-man protection, affording Smith all the time he needed to make at least a 30-yard play.

6. Rex tweaks defense: Burned by too many long balls, Ryan took a more conservative approach in the secondary, using more two-deep looks than usual. Tannehill wasn't able to throw any balls over the top, but he found soft spots with passes over the short middle. It also probably explains why the Dolphins ran for 125 yards.

7. Odds and ends: It was a rough day for Davis, who missed a tackle on Hartline's touchdown and allowed six completions (seven targets) for 83 yards, according to ProFootballFocus.com ... RT Austin Howard played well against DE Cameron Wake, who was held to no sacks and one solo tackle. ... It went unnoticed because it happened on a sack play, but RB Chris Ivory rag-dolled Wake while pass-blocking. ... The Jets' best chance to score a touchdown turned into a disaster. On a third down from the 2, Ivory had no chance against a nine-man box. Next, Ryan made a bad decision, opting for a field goal. Down 13-0 late in the third quarter, they needed seven points, not three.

Bad defensive day turns into slapstick

September, 29, 2013
9/29/13
11:26
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NASHVILLE -- Can we please postpone the coronation of the New York Jets' defense?

Full of confidence after last week's eight-sack beat down of the Buffalo Bills, the Jets were sliced and diced by Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who combined for four touchdown passes in the Tennessee Titans' 38-13 victory at LP Field.

The final indignity occurred with 7:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, when cornerback Antonio Cromartie, Nate Washington and back judge Billy Smith collided on a 77-yard touchdown pass -- another Jets blooper.

Cromartie said he asked the official, "What the hell are you doing back here?" He said Smith apologized.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Nate Washington
P Photo/Wade PayneJets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, back judge Billy Smith and Titans receiver Nate Washington collide. The result was a 77-yard score for Washington.
That pretty much captured the disastrous day for the Jets.

Truth is, Cromartie was beaten cleanly by Washington, who had to slow down because Fitzpatrick's throw hung in the air like a punt. Once Washington made the catch, the collision occurred with Cromartie and Smith.

"No, he didn't interfere with the play," Cromartie said. "That's on me fully. Me being the number one corner on this team, I need to make sure that I go up and intercept that ball or bat it down."

It was a tough day for the Jets' corners. Earlier, Cromartie slipped on the wet grass and allowed a 4-yard scoring pass to Washington. Darrin Walls, who started in the Dee Milliner-Kyle Wilson slot, allowed a 16-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Justin Hunter. It was a terrific catch by Hunter, but Walls could've played it better. The Titans use Hunter almost exclusively in the red zone, so it shouldn't have been a surprise that he got the ball -- especially in the final seconds of the first half.

"That's a killer," Rex Ryan said. "There's only one play they can run and that's the shot in the end zone. You know it's coming and everybody in the ballpark knows it's coming. The only time they put that kid in the game is to throw the jump ball, and there's a reason he came down with it."

The cornerback spot opposite Cromartie has turned into musical chairs. Walls started for Kyle Wilson, who last week started for Milliner, the struggling rookie who pulled a hamstring in practice. Ryan is running out of competent corners and, frankly, Cromartie was off his game as well.

Give credit to the Titans; they had a masterful game plan. Recognizing the Jets were focusing on running back Chris Johnson, the Titans put the ball in Locker's hands, letting him throw from the pocket. That's what the Jets wanted, but they got more than they expected from Locker, who completed 18 of 24 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns. The Jets underestimated Locker, not known for his passing exploits.

"Maybe that's why it surprised us," rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said.

The Jets were held to two sacks and produced no takeaways for the third straight game. That's simply not acceptable. By the way, the Titans have yet to commit a turnover. In fairness to the defense, it had to play on a short field throughout the game because of Geno Smith's turnovers. The Titans' first three touchdown drives were 18, 26 and 46 yards.

No matter. Linebacker David Harris was visibly irked by the performance.

"Just say we lost," he said. "We got our butts kicked by a better team today. Simple as that."

Asked if the Titans might simply be a better team, Harris snapped, "We lost. Did you see the score?"
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- It's never too early to start banging the drums for Jets-Patriots.

The AFC East rivals meet Thursday night in Foxborough, Mass., and guard Willie Colon already was feeling the vibe after Sunday's 18-17 win over the Bucs. Colon is new to the Jets-Patriots rivalry, but we're talking about someone to experienced Steelers-Ravens. So he knows the deal.

“I’m not new to any rivalry," the former Steelers guard said. "It is what it is. We hate them, they know it and we’re going to go and get them."

And here we go.

Dawan misses: Safety Dawan Landry almost ended up the goat of the game. He missed a tackle on wide receiver Vincent Jackson, turning a 10-yard completion into a 37-yard gain. That set up a go-ahead field goal, Rian Lindell from 37 yards, with 38 seconds left in the game.

"He was open and I missed a tackle, and that's pretty much it," Landry said. "I just missed a tackle."

Landry covered Jackson in the slot, a mismatch, and he arrived a split-second too late. Rex Ryan took the bullet, saying he botched the call.

"I wasn't clear with my communication on that call," the Jets' coach said. "That one mistake almost cost us the game. ... Landry was where he was supposed to be. We didn't have a seam-flat player where we needed one, and that's trouble. We never had someone on the No. 2 [receiver] when we were supposed to. It wasn't clearly communicated from my end, and that was a huge mistake."

No pity: The Jets showed no sympathy for linebacker Lavonte David, whose mindless late-hit penalty on Geno Smith cost his team the game.

"I think they need to tell No. 54 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to catch his own flight home, because that was the worst penalty at the worst time," Jets linebacker David Harris said.

Injury report: Tight end Jeff Cumberland and wide receiver Jeremy Kerley took blows to the head on vicious hits by Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron, respectively, both of which resulted in personal fouls. Cumberland and Kerley were taken to the locker room and were allowed to return to the game and passing concussion tests, according to Ryan. ... Center Nick Mangold hurt his right elbow in the third quarter. He, too, was taken to the locker room, but returned for the next series.

Newcomers contribute: Some of John Idzik's free-agent additions made key plays. Tight end Kellen Winslow caught a team-high seven passes for 79 yards, including a touchdown. Outside linebacker Antwan Barnes recorded a sack. And Landry had an interception. It wasn't such a great start for running back Chris Ivory, who dropped a pass and was held to 15 yards on 10 carries.

Odds and ends: Ryan improved to 4-1 in openers. ... Stephen Hill set a career high with six receptions. ... Robert Malone's 84-yard punt was the second-longest in team history. It was the longest punt since Chuck Ramsey's 79-yarder in 1978. The record is held by Steve O'Neil, who had a 98-yarder in 1969. ... Five draft picks made their debut -- cornerback Dee Milliner, defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (half-sack), quarterback Geno Smith, guard Brian Winters (backup) and fullback Tommy Bohanon (one catch for 21 yards). Rookie wide receiver Ryan Spadola, an undrafted free agent, also played. ... The Jets' running game was brutal. Bilal Powell and Ivory combined for 44 yards on 22 carries. The leading rusher was Smith (47 yards).

W2W4: Jets vs. Buccaneers

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
2:00
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets open the fifth season of the Rex Ryan era Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET). A look at the top storylines:

1. There they go again: For the second time in five years, the Jets will start a season with a rookie quarterback -- this time Geno Smith. (If you can't name the other, you'd best move on.) The last time a team trotted out two rookie quarterbacks in a five-year span was 1977-78, when the Bucs started Randy Hedberg and Doug Williams in back-to-back years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

This is a tough spot for Smith, who hasn't played in two weeks and took only 69 preseason snaps. He will face a rebuilt pass defense (ranked No. 32 last year) that includes cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson. The weak links in the secondary are cornerbacks Johnthan Banks, a rookie, and Leonard Johnson, who covers the slot in nickel situations. There will be hiccups for Smith, no doubt. How he handles them will determine success or failure. He can expect to see some exotic looks from the Bucs, so he'll have to think on his feet. Smith doesn't have to be great. The Jets can win if he's average, but they have no chance if he duplicates his performance of the preseason loss to the Giants.

[+] EnlargeMarty Mornhinweg
AP Photo/Bill KostrounMarty Mornhinweg
2. Trick it up: The Jets have to protect Smith with a strong running game. Unfortunately for them, they'll be facing the top-ranked run defense from last season. The Bucs are led by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who could be a nightmare for left guard Vladimir Ducasse. Look for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to use deception in an attempt to run the ball. Unlike predecessor Tony Sparano, Mornhinweg won't be shy about breaking out the Wildcat, using Bilal Powell and Jeremy Kerley.

You also could see the Pistol formation, a version of the shotgun in which a running back lines up directly behind the quarterback. That creates more play-action opportunities. The screen pass will be huge because it will allow the Jets to slow down the Bucs' aggressive front seven, which will be salivating at the prospect of devouring Smith.

3. Club Dread, an island adventure: Head coach Rex Ryan says the Jets won't make a concerted effort to attack Revis even though he's playing for the first time after major knee surgery. Do we believe him? Revis might not be Revis -- not yet, anyway -- but you get the impression the Jets still are deathly afraid of their former star. The receivers were told to place an extra emphasis on not tipping routes. If there's a tell, Revis will jump the route, and then you're looking at a potential interception.

What the Jets should do is test Revis against the run. Unlike many cornerbacks, he's always been aggressive in run support. Will he be tentative because of his surgically repaired knee? Don't be surprised if they call a power sweep on the first series.

4. Here comes the blitz: You might have heard, but Ryan is running the defense again and he's promising to bring back that 2009 mentality, meaning an array of pressure schemes. He felt the Jets got too vanilla and too passive last season, and he wants to restore the attacking style. Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is an inviting first target. He's interception-prone (39 over the last two seasons), and he starts hearing footsteps if you get to him early. To play that way, New York needs solid cornerback play from Dee Milliner, one of four rookies in the starting lineup. He missed time with an Achilles' injury and could be in for a rough debut.

5. Their least-favorite Martin: The top priority is containing running Doug Martin, who has the ability to wreck the game. The Jets see him as another Ray Rice, a double threat (1,926 yards from scrimmage last season) that can exploit them on the perimeter as a runner and receiver. Covering backs is an issue. In the preseason, linebackers David Harris and DeMario Davis allowed nine receptions for 92 yards, according to ProFootballFocus. This could be a big problem. Look for the Bucs to attack the edges, especially when outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre is in the base.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 37, Jaguars 13

August, 17, 2013
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Rookie QB Geno Smith didn't play because of a sprained ankle, leaving Saturday night to Mark Sanchez & Co. Much like he was in the preseason opener, Sanchez was sharp except for one horrendous interception. Despite a terrible night by the first-team defense, the New York Jets won 37-13 over the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: The burning question is, will Rex Ryan put an end to the quarterback competition? Sanchez could've made it an easy call by playing a clean game, but he was intercepted in the end zone on a third-and-goal from the 3. Ryan hates red zone interceptions. He might start Smith next week against the Giants, which would prolong the Jets' QB competition.

Oh, no, not again: For some reason, Sanchez can't avoid disaster. He came out on fire, hitting six of his first eight passes, including a 23-yard TD to Jeff Cumberland. He was actually cheered by the home crowd, but he reverted to 2012 Sanchez with the red zone pick. The crowd turned on him quickly. A week ago, he gave six points to the Lions with an interception for a touchdown. This time, he took away at least three points from the Jets. Actually, make that six. On the final play of the first half, Sanchez held the ball too long on a third-down incompletion, eliminating a field goal chance -- an inexcusable brain lock.

Surprisingly, Sanchez (13-for-23, 169 yards) played three quarters, the last of which behind the second-team line -- always a risky proposition. With Smith out and with Greg McElroy (ankle) limited to emergency duty, Ryan didn't want to use Matt Simms until the fourth quarter.

Dead zone: Sanchez's interception wasn't the only blunder in the red zone. The starting offense went 0-for-3 inside the 20. It ran five plays inside the 10 and came away with no points on those two drives.

"Brutal" defense: The first-team defense looked as bad as it ever has under Ryan, who probably would use the word "brutal" (or worse) to describe it. The Jets were ill-prepared and confused, diced up by Blaine Gabbert, who killed them with quick throws out of the hurry-up offense. The book is out on the Jets defense: pick up the tempo, get the ball to the receivers and backs and let them make plays. The Jaguars went 80 yards on seven plays for a touchdown on their first drive. On their second possession, it was 18 plays, 75 yards and a field goal.

LB David Harris, who dropped weight to improve his coverage ability, was exposed. So was rookie CB Dee Milliner, who allowed two completions and got an earful from Antonio Cromartie on the sideline. Cromartie wasn't great, either, missing an open-field tackle. Later, he made a nice tackle behind the line. Gabbert (13-for-16, 165 yards, one TD) left the game with a sprained right thumb; that saved the Jets defense more than any adjustments it made.

Coples hurt: OLB Quinton Coples suffered a right leg injury in the second quarter and limped to the locker room for a likely X-ray. He was hurt while batting down a pass in the face of QB Chad Henne. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury. The Jets can't afford to lose Coples, whom the defensive coaches believe is the key to the defense. He was replaced by Antwan Barnes.

Here's Ivory: RB Chris Ivory, finally recovered from a hamstring injury, made his Jets debut. He didn't start, but he came in early and finished with 13 yards on six carries. No, it wasn't a great night, but he showed his potential on an 8-yard run by plowing through a couple of defenders. Ivory lacked burst on outside runs, probably because he's still working his way back into football shape. All told, the running game was much improved. The Jets rushed for 176 yards, including a 37-yard run by Bilal Powell. Backup Kahlil Bell provided a late spark, scoring two TDs.

Audition for Braylon: WR Braylon Edwards, hardly a lock to make the team, played only one snap in the first half. That usually doesn't bode well for a veteran. Edwards saw significant action in the second half and showed he's still capable of being a useful possession receiver, finishing with three catches for 49 yards.

What's ahead: The Jets play the Giants in their annual summer bash.

Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 29-32

January, 29, 2013
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The AFC East blog continues its second annual "Walker’s Fab 40," where we rank the top players in the division.

On Tuesday we take a look at Nos. 29-32:

Talib
Talib
No. 32: Aqib Talib, CB, New England Patriots

2012 stats: 40 tackles, two INTs

Analysis: Talib was a nice surprise for the Patriots, who made a cunning move to acquire the often-troubled corner in a midseason trade. Talib focused on football in New England and showed many of the physical tools that made him a former first-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Talib is athletic with good size. He showed he was big enough to battle with sizable receivers and fast enough to stay with quicker players. The Patriots realized this and played a lot more man-to-man coverage after acquiring Talib. More proof of his importance was how much New England's pass defense fell apart after Talib injured his thigh in the first quarter of the AFC Championship Game.

Spikes
No. 31: Brandon Spikes, LB, Patriots

2012 stats: 92 tackles, one sack, five forced fumbles

Analysis: Spikes is one of the hardest hitters in the AFC East, as evident by his five forced fumbles. He is also known as an enforcer whose hits have caused concussions in the past. Spikes brings toughness and a much-needed mean streak to New England's defense. The Patriots were ranked ninth against the run in large part due to the physicality of the front seven. Spikes does struggle in pass coverage and is a bit stiff in open space. That was made apparent a few times this season, along with his struggles guarding tight ends in the AFC title game loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But Spikes brings much more pros than cons to New England's defense.

Dansby
No. 30: Karlos Dansby, LB, Miami Dolphins

2012 stats: 131 tackles, one sack

Analysis: Dansby has been known to say over-the-top things. For example, Dansby says he will be a Hall of Fame linebacker. Dansby is not that good, but he's solid enough to land at No. 30 in "Walker’s Fab 40." Dansby is stout against the run and doesn't miss many tackles. He had four double-digit tackle games this past season, and his tackle production actually increased late in the year despite an arm injury. But if Dansby wants to be one of the all-time great linebackers, he needs to make more big plays for the Dolphins. Just one sack and zero interceptions are not enough.

Harris
No. 29: David Harris, LB, New York Jets

2012 stats: 123 tackles, three sacks

Analysis: Harris continues to be a rock while the rest of New York's linebackers showed their age in 2012. Harris recorded 123 tackles, which is the most for him since 2009. Unfortunately for Harris, other linebackers like Bart Scott and Calvin Pace didn't step up their games, and New York's usually stout run defense suffered. The Jets were an awful 26th against the run. Expect a lot of turnover in New York under new general manager John Idzik. The Jets will get younger and cheaper next season. But Harris is one of the few high-paid veterans who is a keeper.

AFC East has most overpaid players?

September, 27, 2012
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Forbes released its list of the most overpaid players in the NFL. Unfortunately for the AFC East, a number of those players are in the division.

Four of Forbes' 10 most-overrated players reside in the AFC East. The list includes two linebackers, one cornerback and a wide receiver.
The fact that three of these four players are with the Jets is not good. Harris, Holmes and Cromartie are solid players, but are they franchise players to build a team around? I don’t think so.

The Jets have a lot of big contracts tied to several players. The team is built to win now. But with stud corner Darrelle Revis out for the season, it will be up to these three high-priced players to step up for New York.
Here are the most interesting stories Monday in the AFC East:
  • Miami Dolphins rookie head coach Joe Philbin says he doesn't regret trading Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall to the Chicago Bears this offseason.
Morning take: Philbin did not want to put up with the headache Marshall can bring while trying to establish a new program. But it's clear Philbin could have used Marshall’s talent. Miami’s current group of receivers has little playmaking ability.
Morning take: New England hasn't looked in synch offensively, but this group hasn't received much playing time, either. The Patriots will go into the regular season a little bit rusty due to lack of reps in the preseason.
  • The New York Jets suffered several injuries in Sunday night's preseason game, including to linebacker David Harris (ankle) and tight ends Dustin Keller (hamstring) and Josh Baker (knee).
Morning take: The tight-end injuries are most concerning. Keller is very important and needs to be ready for the Bills in Week 1. Baker may be out for a significant time.
  • Is quarterback Tarvaris Jackson an upgrade over Vince Young for the Buffalo Bills?
Morning take: I’m not big on either as a quarterback. But the Bills must see something in Jackson that they might not see in Young. Their quarterback cuts will be interesting.

Walker's Fab 40: Nos. 13-16

February, 16, 2012
2/16/12
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We are getting down to the very best players in the AFC East.

Here are "Walker’s Fab 40" Nos. 13-16:

Pouncey
Pouncey
No. 16: Mike Pouncey, C

Team: Miami Dolphins

Stats: 16 starts

Analysis: It's difficult to make a big impact at center. But Pouncey left an impression in Miami during his rookie year. Miami's 2011 first-round pick paved the way for Dolphins tailback Reggie Bush to have his first 1,000-yard season. Pouncey has a rare combination of size, speed and athleticism. His footwork is something you just don't see from most centers. Pouncey isn't as good as his twin brother Maurkice, but he's close. Both will be anchors for their respective teams for many years.

Holmes
Holmes
No. 15: Santonio Holmes, WR

Team: New York Jets

Stats: 51 receptions, 654 yards, eight touchdowns

Analysis: Do not be fooled. Despite a down year and chemistry issues, Holmes is still one of the top 15-20 receivers in the NFL. That was good enough to land Holmes at No. 15 in the division for "Walker's Fab 40." Holmes didn't get many opportunities to make big plays, but from my view he got open a lot. Oftentimes New York's protection didn't hold up or quarterback Mark Sanchez failed to make the throw. The combination wore on Holmes to the point that he imploded at the end of the season. But the issue was never talent -- Holmes is a former Super Bowl MVP. The issue is harmony and being on the same page with the offense and quarterback.

Harris
Harris
No. 14: David Harris, LB

Team: Jets

Stats: 86 tackles, five sacks, four interceptions

Analysis: Harris is another one of my favorites to watch in the division. He's one of the few quiet players on New York's defense, but Harris’ play speaks volumes. Despite not having the big name, Harris was New York's best linebacker last season. Harris was probably the most consistent player on the Jets' defense, outside of Pro Bowl corner Darrelle Revis. Harris stays around the ball and has a knack for making big plays. He is one of the most underrated players in the NFL. But this week Harris gets the respect he deserves in "Walker's Fab 40."

Ferguson
Ferguson
No. 13: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, LT

Team: Jets

Stats: 16 starts

Analysis: Ferguson had arguably his most up-and-down season, but he still made the Pro Bowl in 2011. Good left tackles are hard to come by. The Jets have many issues, but at least this isn't one of them. New York has a solid trio of offensive linemen in Ferguson, guard Brandon Moore (No. 37) and Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold (ranking TBD). The Jets need to do a much better job of coaching this group up and getting the best out of them.

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