Week 4 notes on the New York Jets:
1. Green with envy: The Giants won their last two Super Bowls, in large part, because of a franchise quarterback and a dominant defensive line. Clearly, that defensive line is eroding before our eyes. For a change, the best D-line in town belongs to the Jets, whose front three/four is emerging as a premier unit. I'm not saying they'll be playing a home game next February, but it's hard not to be optimistic about the early returns.
"They've got one of the best defensive lines in the NFL," said ESPN analyst Damien Woody, a former Jet. "You don't think the Giants would trade for the Jets' defensive line? The Giants would kill for the Jets' defensive line right now."
The Jets' front should be good because they picked a lineman in each of the past three first rounds -- Muhammad Wilkerson (2011), Quinton Coples (2012) and Sheldon Richardson (2013). Because of salary-cap restrictions, it's rare for a team to invest that much into one position group. Finances eventually could cause the break up of the group, so enjoy it while you can. Damon Harrison, undrafted in 2012, is the low-cost guy of the bunch.
You probably won't see another eight-sack performance anytime soon, but the front's ability to generate pressure seems to have affected Rex Ryan's play calling. This season was supposed to mark the return of Blitzing Rex, but check out the numbers: The Jets have used five or more rushers on only 34.9 percent of the pass plays, the league average, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
2. Naming rights: It's premature to bestow a nickname on the defensive line, but Twitter follower @travisppisani raises an interesting quirk: The line is led by the three "sons" -- WilkerSON, HarriSON and RichardSON. I'll take that a step further. How 'bout "My Three Sons" as a potential nickname? I guess Ryan would be Fred MacMurray, right? I haven't figured out how to get Coples in there, but give me time. That linebacker/line hybrid position is a challenge.
3. Premature celebration: Richardson said he's motivated by people who questioned his ability to play the run. He's doing well, and not shy about sharing his feelings.
"I've been playing the run most definitely exceptionally well," he said. "I made sure I'm sound in that because of my knocks coming into the NFL, which I didn't understand."
Based on overall performance, Richardson is the seventh-rated 3-4 end in the league, according to ProFootballFocus. His grade would be higher if he tackled Fred Jackson last Sunday instead of celebration before the whistle -- "a rookie mistake," he said. "Won't happen again." By the way, the man he replaced, Mike Devito (Kansas City Chiefs), is fourth in the ratings.
4. The Buc stops in 2014: Unless rookie QB Mike Glennon is some sort of savior, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-3) appear headed to a top-10 draft pick -- or maybe higher. Naturally, the Jets will be second-guessed for not demanding the Bucs' 2014 first-round pick in the Darrelle Revis trade.
Before the trade, there were reports saying the Bucs were offering the '14 choice, not their '13 first rounder -- and the Jets were balking. It would be a second-guess on my part if I criticized the outcome because I wrote at the time that the smart play would be take the immediate and known quantity -- the Bucs' No.1 this year (13th overall). They did, using it to select Richardson, who looks like the real deal.
Remember, the Jets will get the Bucs' third rounder as part of the deal, meaning they will have at least three picks in the top 70 if the Bucs continue to tank.
5. Bay Watch: A divorce between the Bucs and demoted QB Josh Freeman seems inevitable. Who could've imagined that Mark Sanchez and Freeman -- the second and third-drafted quarterbacks in 2009, respectively -- would be on the outs after five years? They both showed real positive strides in 2010. Of the 11 quarterbacks drafted in '09, only one still has a starting job -- the Detroit Lions' Matthew Stafford, chosen No. 1 overall.
Freeman will be a free agent after the season. Sanchez is signed through 2016, but likely will be traded or released.
6. Nick the Quick: The Jets return to the scene of their 2012 lowpoint -- Nashville, where they committed five turnovers and were eliminated from playoff contention last Week 15 with a 14-10 loss to the Tennessee Titans. I asked C Nick Mangold what he remembered most about that night, and he replied without hesitation: "I short-armed that snap at the end." They had a chance to pull out a victory in the final minute, but Sanchez failed to handle a low, but catchable shotgun snap from Mangold. The Titans recovered.
Mangold has appeared in roughly 7,000 plays in his career and, by his count, he has botched only three snaps -- one in 2006 (Chad Pennington at quarterback), last December in Nashville and last week (a premature snap to Geno Smith).
"You don't forget them," he said. "I know all of them, biblically."
In Week 2, Devin recovered a fumble and returned it 44 yards. In two meetings last season, Devin scored on a 104-yard kickoff return and, in the Butt Fumble Game, he forced a fumble on a kickoff return -- and the fumble was returned for a touchdown. Jason upheld the family tradition by recording two interceptions in last December's game in Nashville.
The McCourty brothers grew up in Nyack, N.Y., and both attended Rutgers. Maybe this is some sort of payback after being ignored in the '09 draft by one of their local teams.
8. Perspective, please: The Buffalo Bills are a dangerous team in one respect, and one respect only: The Jets usually play so well against the Bills that it creates a false sense of confidence about the team, internally and externally. It happened early last season, and it could be happening now, coming off last week's win. The same people who predicted a 4-12 season are now talking about playoff possibilities. It's a long season, folks. Relax.
9. Johnny on the spot: One thing I've noticed about GM John Idzik: He likes to be near the action -- or maybe I should say the "competition." It was apparent in training camp, where he was on the practice field, lurking near positional drills. In last Sunday's win, he was on the Jets' sideline in the fourth quarter, behind the bench. In fact, there was a TV shot of him, congratulating Santonio Holmes after his game-winning touchdown. I'd like to say Idzik is a Jerry Jones wannabe, but that wouldn't be accurate. Idzik isn't exactly a spotlight guy.
10. The wild, wild East: Things are moving pretty fast in the AFC East -- literally. The Bills average one play every 29.3 seconds (first in the NFL), followed by the New England Patriots (36.9, seventh), Miami Dolphins (37.2, ninth) and Jets (37.7, 11th), according to ESPN Stats. Who knew?