New York Jets: C. J. Spiller

W2W4: Bills at Jets

September, 21, 2013
NEWARK, N.J. -- The Buffalo Bills were one of just three teams to open with back-to-back home games. With a 1-1 record, they travel Sunday to face the New York Jets.

It's the second divisional tilt in three games for the Bills, who were edged in their opener by the New England Patriots. If the Bills can improve to 2-1, they'll keep pace in the AFC East with the Dolphins and Patriots, who enter the weekend 2-0. If they drop to 1-2, then they will sit at the bottom of the division before heading home to meet the Baltimore Ravens.

This game features a matchup of the NFL's top two rookie quarterbacks this season -- EJ Manuel of the Bills and Geno Smith of the Jets -- as well as a reunion of two old friends. Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine coached 11 seasons under Jets coach Rex Ryan, and the two defensive-minded coaches will try to scheme against each other's offense Sunday.

Here's what to watch for:

1. Spiller's impact: Bills running back C.J. Spiller had 325 yards from scrimmage in two games against the Jets last season. After a slow start in the opener, Spiller came on strong last week against the Panthers, breaking open a pair of big runs while eclipsing the 100-yard mark rushing. The Jets boast the NFL's third-best rushing defense heading into Week 3, allowing an average of 59.5 yards through two games. The Bills have the NFL's fourth-most effective rushing offense. Something will have to give on Sunday, which could help decide the game's outcome.

2. How do rookies fare? On the surface, it may seem that Manuel and Smith will be in for a long day, playing against two defenses that have ranked in the top half of the NFL in points allowed through two games. But both quarterbacks have the advantage of seeing the general framework of the other team's defense in practice each week; Pettine and Ryan run essentially the same system. Practice and games are two different animals, so it will be worth monitoring how each quarterback responds to what could be blitz-heavy packages in game action, but you almost have to wonder if the Ryan-Pettine effect is overplayed. Both teams figure to be run-first on offense, but maybe this game will feature more passing than first anticipated.

3. Mario vs. Jets O-line: Jets outside linebacker Antwan Barnes said Wednesday that he expects his offensive line to hold up against Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who set personal and team records with 4.5 sacks last week. Barnes, of course, won't be out there having to block Williams: that duty will fall to Austin Howard, who handled Williams well last season. Williams played a big part in disrupting Cam Newton last Sunday, and if he can get to Geno Smith, you'll have to wonder if it leads to some chippiness after plays between the Bills and the Jets, who had a fracas with the Patriots late in their Week 2 game.

Jets readying for C.J. Spiller

September, 19, 2013
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan may be looking forward to facing rookie quarterback EJ Manuel on Sunday, but there's another Bill who may cause his team more problems: running back C.J. Spiller.

Spiller sliced and diced the Jets for a combined 325 yards in the two meetings last year, and the Jets will have to find a way to slow him down when the Bills visit MetLife Stadium.

"He can take the football and put it in the end zone from anywhere on the field," Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said. "He's dynamic, he's fast, he's explosive, and you have to pay attention to him."

In last year's opener, a 48-28 Jets win, Spiller rushed 14 times for 169 yards (12.1 yards per carry) and a touchdown and caught two passes for 25 yards. The 169 yards are Spiller's career high, and the 194 combined rushing and passing yards are also his career best.

Spiller didn't have as much success in the second game, but he still rushed for 59 yards and caught two passes for 72 yards and a touchdown in Buffalo's 28-9 win. Spiller averaged 7.7 yards per touch last year on 42 touches against the Jets.

"We got to tackle; I think that's the biggest thing," Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said. "I think he had more than 150 yards on us in the first game of the year, and we didn't do a great job of tackling. That's one thing we have to do. We have to make sure we do a great job of tackling their running backs because C.J. and Fred Jackson can give us some problems."

Several Jets mentioned Spiller's breakaway speed as one of the main reasons he's such a difficult running back to face. The Bills use Spiller in the passing game to get him into open space and will even line him up out wide to create mismatches.

The Jets are confident they have enough speed to match up.

"He's probably one of the faster backs in the league, so you have to be able to contain him," Jets linebacker DeMario Davis said. "We have a lot of speed on defense, so I think if we go out and do what we're coached to do, we'll be able to contain him."

Added linebacker Antwan Barnes: "We got guys that can cover him [out wide]."

The Jets have been stingy thus far against the run, as they have held the Buccaneers and Patriots in check. Tampa Bay's Doug Martin averaged just 2.7 yards per carry in the opener, while New England's Stevan Ridley rushed for 40 yards. The Jets rank fifth in the league by allowing just 59.5 rushing yards per game.

"We've been able to get lined up and do our jobs," Davis said. "The coaches put in great game plans. Any time we're able to get lined up and do what our coaches ask us, we're going to be OK."

W2W4: Jets vs. Bills

September, 7, 2012
Are you ready for some Tebow?

After months of anticipation, the Jets open the fourth season of the Rex Ryan era Sunday against the Bills. The last time we saw them in a real game was New Year's Day, and they were fighting among themselves in Miami. The team hasn't changed much since then, but the attitude is better (so they tell us) and they have Tim Tebow as their backup quarterback/Wildcat quarterback/personal punt protector/publicity stunt. (Joe Namath made me add the last one.)

Here's a breakdown of Jets-Bills:

1. Where's Tim? It wouldn't be a surprise if Tebow gets on the field for 18 to 20 snaps, counting offense and special teams. The most drama, of course, involves the Wildcat. They're capable of using Tebow in any number of ways, but they're counting on his running/improvisational ability to spark an offense that managed only one touchdown in the preseason. Look for Tebow in the red zone and in short-yardage situations, another bugaboo from the preseason. At times, QB Mark Sanchez will come off the field. They won't hesitate to let Tebow throw. If he gets a zero-coverage look -- no safety in the deep middle -- Tebow will let 'er rip.

2. Super Mario. RT Austin Howard makes his second career start. In his first start, a meaningless game for the Eagles in 2010, he had to block the Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware -- and he allowed two sacks. This time, Howard gets DE Mario Williams -- another killer. What's next, an old-timer's matchup against Deacon Jones? There's a lot riding on Howard vs. Williams -- the game and GM Mike Tannenbaum's reputation as a talent evaluator. Howard might surprise. He's a powerful man and could neutralize Williams' bull rush. But Williams is remarkably quick off the ball for a 292-pound man and he will cause problems with his outside rush. Tony Sparano can't leave Howard on an island or it could wreck the game.

3. Marksman. The Jets, no doubt, will look to establish their ground game, but Sanchez can't ignore the Bills' young corners, Aaron Williams and rookie Stephon Gilmore. They like to play aggressive, press coverage, so it'll be critical for Santonio Holmes and rookie Stephen Hill to beat bump-and-run at the line. Sanchez will go after Gilmore, especially if it's a Gilmore-Holmes matchup. Gotta keep Holmes happy; they don't want a repeat of last season. If Sanchez gets time, he should be able to do some damage. In his last four games against the Bills, he has eight TD passes, only two INTs.

4. A return trip to the island. You think Darrelle Revis will be motivated for this game, or what? He'll see a lot of Stevie Johnson, who enhanced his reputation last season with two good, but hardly great games against Revis -- a total of 11 passes for 159 yards and one TD. The Jets say Revis won't be matched exclusively against Johnson, but we'll see. By far, he's their No. 1 threat in the passing game. It makes sense to put Revis on him and let everyone else key on RB Fred Jackson, the cog in the Bills' AFC-leading rushing attack.

5. The oh-no-huddle. The Jets expect to see the no-huddle from the Bills. Makes sense. In their first preseason game, the Bills went no-huddle and didn't run the ball for the entire first quarter. This poses two potential problems for the Jets, who struggled last season against no-huddle attacks: Obviously, conditioning could be an issue, especially in the September heat. Secondly, it could allow the Bills to exploit certain matchups, especially if they use Jackson and RB C.J. Spiller at the same time. Spiller, who has receiver-quality skills, can split out -- and that would be a real headache for the Jets, whose linebackers and safeties have trouble in space.
The Bills always have one of the best special teams units in the game and will provide a good challenge for Gang Green this weekend. First-round pick C. J. Spiller returned a kickoff for a touchdown against New England last weekend and Roscoe Parrish is one of the best punt returners in the game. Punter Brian Moorman is also one of the best in the league.

Special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff met with the media Friday and discussed a variety of topics. While he didn’t delve into much about Buffalo’s special teams, other than talking about their tendency to draft top returners from college and praising Buffalo’s returners and unit as a whole, here are some of the highlights from his talk.

OH SNAP: Westhoff praised second-year long snapper Tanner Purdum’s technique, saying he could always snap, but the questions were always whether he could block. He also applauded his work habits.

“He’s got better and better and we’ve really challenged him going all the way back to the minicamps,” Westhoff said. “We made it very difficult for him, every day and he’s reacted very well. He’s got stronger. We have him on a special program to get him stronger and he’s improved it.”

UP AND AWAY: Westhoff said that punter Steve Weatherford has improved his directional punting, his hang time is better and he’s been more explosive this year. Weatherford is averaging 46.2 yards per punt, and he has a long of 61 yards in 14 attempts.

While Westhoff didn’t make a direct correlation, he said he’s seen a more explosive Weatherford this offseason following his cardiac ablation procedure. Weatherford had the procedure done in the offseason to prevent irregular heartbeats, as he missed Jets Wild Card round victory over the Cincinnati Bengals because of the medical condition.

Westhoff said Weatherford has been able to move forward with his workout regiment, compared to previously “take two steps forward and a step back.” He started noticing in March that his punter “looked different” in the offseason. Westhoff said Weatherford has gone from averaging 4.3 seconds of hang time in practice to 4.65 to 4.7 seconds.

“He’s able to maximize his abilities and he’s done it in the games and he did in the preseason so hopefully he’ll continue,” Westhoff said. “But to me it’s a matter of I see how he’s improved physically, that’s what I’ve seen but the whole package has been a good package. (The punts) not all perfect, he doesn’t hit them all perfect, but he’s done a nice job.

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT: Eric Smith’s blocked punt against Miami on Saturday was the result of practice, practice and more practice. The special teams unit had seen that the Dolphins were a little aggressive and the Jets practiced that scenario and Smith ended up with the block. Westhoff said Brad Smith set it up for Eric Smith.

“Eric Smith is a very gifted athlete. He just has a knack and I don’t think I’ve been around anybody that worked harder at practice of doing it every single day when he rushes,” Westhoff said. “He gives our guys fits. Who ever we try to get to block him has a hard time. Every day he works at it. “

JOKE TIME: Speaking of Brad Smith, Westhoff had the line of the day about the Jets Mr. do-it-all.

Said Westhoff: “Brad leaves, I’m leaving.”

Westhoff added that Brad Smith allows the team to do to a lot of things, and any time he has a football in his hands, he’s a dangerous weapon. He also praised him as a return man.