New York Jets: Jaiquawn Jarrett

Examining team needs: Safety

February, 14, 2014
Feb 14
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Rex Ryan needs to revamp his philosophy regarding the safety position. Instead of trying to get by on the cheap, it's time for the New York Jets to invest in the position.

In Ryan's system, the big money goes to the cornerbacks. The safeties are considered interchangeable parts. The Jets haven't drafted a safety in the first three rounds since 2006 (Eric Smith) and they haven't doled out big bucks since Kerry Rhodes (2008) -- both pre-Ryan moves. They splurged a little for LaRon Landry in 2012 ($3.5 million), but it was only a one-year contract. He made the Pro Bowl and they let him walk.

Allen
Landry
The safeties had an alarming lack of big plays last season. The ancient Ed Reed showed up in mid-November and he finished with more interceptions (three) than Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen combined (two). The defense allowed so many long pass plays that Ryan did something that pained him -- he used a two-deep alignment at times. He'd rather wear New England Patriots gear in public than play Cover 2 looks, but he felt he had no choice, especially with his cornerbacks also struggling.

Safeties are important. Just look at the Seattle Seahawks and what they've been able to do with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor. It's time for the Jets to add a playmaker on the back end. Will they? No -- unless Ryan does a 180.

Projected offseason plan: With starters Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen under contract, along with backups Josh Bush and Jaiquawn Jarrett, the Jets are expected to stand pat. Their expectation is that Allen and the backups will continue to develop. Reed, 35, is an unrestricted free agent, but he doesn't figure in the immediate plans. He could be a fallback option if there's an injury down the line.

Free agency: If the Buffalo Bills are dumb enough to let Jairus Byrd hit the open market, the Jets should be all over him. He's exactly what they need, an instinctive ballhawk still in the prime of his career at age 27. He has 22 interceptions in five years and he's familiar with the Ryan system, having played in a similar scheme last season under former Jets coordinator Mike Pettine. Put Byrd in the deep middle of their Cover 1, and everything changes. He'll have a huge price tag (at least $8 million per year), but he'd be worth it. He also could get slapped with the franchise tag for the second straight year. T.J. Ward (Cleveland Browns) would be a terrific Plan B. He's only 27, a player on the rise, but you have to think the Browns, with a ton of cap room, won't let him get away. Then again, they're the Browns, so you never know.

Draft: It would be a major upset if the Jets take a safety in the first round, so forget about Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor, whose stock is creeping up. A second-round possibility could be Northern Illinois' Jimmie Ward. But, like we said earlier, it's not Ryan's style to pick a safety this high.

W2W4: Browns vs. Jets

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
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Rex Ryan will coach his 40th -- and possibly last -- regular-season game Sunday at the Meadowlands.

There have been many indelible memories, good and bad: Three victories over the New England Patriots. The playoff clincher over the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009. The dramatic comeback against the Houston Texans in '10. The Sal Alosi game. The emotional 9/11 opener against the Dallas Cowboys in '11. Victor Cruz's 99-yard touchdown. The Butt Fumble. If you want to include a preseason moment, it has to be the Snoopy Bowl debacle with Mark Sanchez's shoulder injury.

Chances are, Sunday's home finale against the Cleveland Browns won't make the list. It's a meaningless game for two teams that are a combined 1-9 since Week 10. Incentive? The Jets want to win their final two games, avoiding a second consecutive losing season. Could a strong finish save Ryan's job? It's possible, although decisions of this magnitude usually aren't based on a game or two.

"We definitely want to win this for him," defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said of Ryan.

Kickoff is 1 p.m. What to watch for:

1. Two more rides on the Geno-coaster: There's nothing Geno Smith can do in the final two games to dramatically alter the landscape of the quarterback position -- it would be too little, too late -- but a couple of feel-good performances wouldn't hurt, that's for sure. Smith has made minor strides the last couple of games, but he hasn't delivered a "wow" game since Week 5 in Atlanta. The Browns are no pushover (ranked No. 8 in total defense), but they're known for late-game chokes. They've blown three straight fourth-quarter leads, losing to the Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots and Chicago Bears. In fact, they've allowed six touchdowns and three field goals in their last nine possessions in the fourth quarter.

2. A swoon for the "Sons": Muhammad Wilkerson and Richardson -- two-thirds of the "Sons of Anarchy" defensive line -- are mired in a sack slump. They've both gone three straight games without a sack. In fact, Richardson has as many rushing touchdowns (one) as sacks over the last nine games. He's had a terrific season, but he could use one last push to boost his chances of winning NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Outside linebackers Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples have been carrying the pass rush. Coples, coming on strong after a slow start, has quietly notched three sacks in the last three games.

3. Covering Josh Gordon: This should be interesting. The Browns' wide receiver, leading the NFL with 1,467 receiving yards, is a matchup nightmare for the Jets. Gordon is dangerous with the ball in his hands -- 597 yards-after-catch, fourth in the league -- and we all know the Jets' secondary has experienced tackling issues. Presumably, the Jets will put Antonio Cromartie on Gordon, a chance for Cromartie to save some face after a disappointing season. They also figure to give him over-the-top help from Ed Reed. Maybe Reed and Cromartie can avoid colliding into each other. Gordon has the ability to singlehandedly wreck the game for the Jets.

4. New faces on D: With the playoffs out of reach, the Jets will try to take a look at some young players for evaluation purposes. Defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman mentioned that he'd like to see more of safeties Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush. Unless they're planning to use a three-safety package, it could mean some bench time for Reed, who probably would find a way to blame the media. On offense, you could see more of wide receiver Saalim Hakim, whose speed is intriguing. The coaching staff can talk about playing the kids, but in reality, the Jets have been riding with them all season.

Jets will use final two games to evaluate

December, 19, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Out of playoff contention, the New York Jets are planning to use the final two games to evaluate certain young players. Reading between the lines, it could mean Rex Ryan feels secure and isn't worried about having to win the final two games to save his job.

Or it could mean nothing. It could mean general manager John Idzik is calling the shots. There are many ways to interpret it.

Bush
"We're going to utilize out entire defensive roster the next couple of weeks and we'll get a chance to evaluate some guys who haven't played as much," defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said, mentioning safeties Josh Bush and Jaiquawn Jarrett among that group.

Thurman emphasized they're still trying to win the games. He acknowledged "it can be difficult" to balance it, adding, "But we have to try to do it. It's something that's important to us, to get a look at these guys on tape in game action against another team's first unit."

There was no official word on whether they will take the same approach on offense, but it wouldn't be surprising to see wide receiver Saalim Hakim, running back Alex Green and tight end Zach Sudfeld in expanded roles.

The Jets are starting five rookies on both sides of the ball, so it's not like the bench is filled with young players starved for playing time.

If Bush and Jarrett see more time, it would appear that future Hall of Famer Ed Reed would have a reduced role. Reed, 35, has played the vast majority of the defensive snaps since signing with the Jets last month.

Statistically, this has been a disappointing season for the defense, which ranks 12th in yards allowed. In eight seasons as a defensive coordinator (Baltimore Ravens) and head coach, Ryan's defense has ranked no lower than eighth -- and that was last season.

In the preseason, Ryan predicted a top-five finish.

"I just assumed that's where we'd always be," he said. "I'd just assumed we'd be there, but to me, it's just the wins and the losses. I think that's the disappointment. That's where the disappointment comes in."

Reed's potential impact on playing time

November, 15, 2013
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Newly signed safety Ed Reed will have a "defined role" Sunday against the Buffalo Bills, said New York Jets defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman, adding: "We’re going to use him in situations where we feel like he can help us be successful."

Reed
Presumably, that means passing situations where he can do what he does best -- play the deep middle in a single-high safety look. Of course, it wouldn't be at all surprising if Reed plays a significant amount of snaps. That would mean more bench time for Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett, who have been sharing the No. 2 safety spot.

Here's a breakdown of how the Jets have divided the playing time at safety through nine games:

Dawan Landry -- 620/626 snaps (99 percent)

Antonio Allen -- 397/626 snaps (63 percent)

Jaiquawn Jarrett -- 234/626 snaps (37 percent)

Josh Bush -- 47/626 snaps (8 percent)

Green Day: Eye-opening comparisons

November, 7, 2013
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This is for all the stat geeks out there -- our bye week respite from the usual morning offering.

The NFL compiles a stat sheet that shows how teams perform when specific players are on and off the field, breaking it down by average yards per pass attempt and average yards per rushing attempt. I think this is a great way to evaluate a player's true value to the team. I've compiled a few for the New York Jets, highlighting positional battles and key storylines. For example:

OFFENSE

Wide receiver Santonio Holmes

Average pass play with him: 6.33 yards.

Average without him: 5.79.

The skinny: This puts to rest the theory the Jets are better on offense without Holmes.

Offensive linemen: Brian Winters versus Vladimir Ducasse

Average running play with Winters: 4.32

Average running play with Ducasse: 3.82

The skinny: Winters, a rookie, has experieced plenty of hiccups, but he still has his predecessor beat.

Tight ends: Kellen Winslow versus Jeff Cumberland

Average pass play with Winslow: 5.76

Average pass play with Cumberland: 4.94

The skinny: The Jets better hope that Winslow, back from his PED suspension, is off his "allergy" medication.

Running backs: Chris Ivory versus Bilal Powell

Average running play with Ivory: 4.01

Average running play with Powell: 3.98

The skinny: Pretty much what you expected here.

DEFENSE

Safeties: Antonio Allen versus Jaiquawn Jarrett

Average pass play with Allen: 6.38

Average pass play with Jarrett: 4.90

The skinny: This surprises me -- a lot.

Defensive lineman Damon Harrison

Average running play with Harrison: 2.72

Average without him: 3.21

The skinny: Big Snacks is a big reason why the Jets have the No. 1 run defense.

Cornerbacks Dee Milliner versus Darrin Walls

Average pass play with Milliner: 5.85

Average pass play with Walls: 6.89

The skinny: Now we know why Rex Ryan keeps going back to Milliner.

Linebacker Antwan Barnes

Average pass play with him: 5.41

Average without him: 6.22

The skinny: His season-ending knee injury has been more costly than people realize.

Film review: Rex outsmarts Payton, Brees

November, 5, 2013
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One last look back at the New York Jets' 26-20 upset of the New Orleans Saints:

Rex outsmarts Payton: The game was billed as Ryan vs. Ryan, but it never was going to be Rex against Rob, the Saints' defensive coordinator. It was really a chess match between Rex and Saints coach Sean Payton, one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. The outcome: Checkmate, Ryan.

Drew Brees put up his fantasy numbers, throwing for 382 yards (the most against the Jets in the Ryan era), but he was rattled at key moments in the game. He was confused by the Jets' different looks, forcing him into rare mistakes -- taking two delay penalties and burning three timeouts in the first quarter. On the first timeout, he was befuddled by a 2-4-5 alignment. When he came out of the timeout, it was a 3-3-5 look by the Jets -- and a delay of game penalty.

This wasn't a blitz-heavy game plan by Ryan. In fact, the Jets sent five or more rushers on only 19 percent of Brees' 53 dropbacks, slightly below their average. They didn't have to blitz because Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples overmatched the Saints offensive line.

[+] EnlargeMuhammad Wilkerson
Robert Deutsch/USA TODAY SportsThe Jets' Muhammad Wilkerson was able to put steady pressure on Saints quarterback Drew Brees this past Sunday.
After watching the tape, I noticed a clever wrinkle: On some passing plays, the Jets used a defensive lineman in a spy-type role. Instead of rushing, a lineman peeled back and hovered around the line of scrimmage, reading Brees' eyes. Coples said afterward that the game plan was to obstruct the B gaps, meaning the guard-tackle gaps. In their scouting report, they noted how Brees -- listed generously at 6-foot -- liked to throw through the B gaps instead of the middle. I think the Jets used a defensive lineman as a roving shot blocker, hoping to deflect the ball or at least block his vision. This was a big point of emphasis in practice, as the coaches were constantly on the pass-rushers to get their arms up against the "5-foot-10 quarterback," as they referred to him.

On Brees' first of two interceptions, Coples was the rover, lurking behind a three-man rush. At the last second, he rushed, getting one of his long arms in Brees' face as he released the ball, which was intercepted by Demario Davis after an on-ball deflection by S Dawan Landry -- a great play all around. Other times, I saw NT Kenrick Ellis and DT Sheldon Richardson peeling back instead of rushing.

Two impressive sequences jumped out. In the third quarter, they sacked Brees on back-to-back plays. How often does that happen? Wilkerson split a double-team for the first sack. On the second, Brees tried a quick count, but he outsmarted himself because TE Jimmy Graham was isolated on LB Calvin Pace. Graham is a great receiver, but he doesn't do blocking. Pace beat him cleanly for a sack.

The second impressive sequence occurred at the end of the game. Brees had the ball at his 19, with 1:58 on the clock. He has made a career of game-winning drives. Not this time. He threw four straight incompletions, one uglier than the next. On first down, the Jets had one down lineman and five others standing at the line. It looked like a blitz, but it was a ruse because they rushed two and dropped nine, including Coples, who lurked in the spy role. CB Antonio Cromartie was a safety on this play, another wrinkle.

Overall, it was a brilliant game plan by Ryan.

The art of deception: Obviously, the Jets were committed to running the ball, hoping to exploit a defense that had allowed a league-high 4.8 yard per carry. Here is an amazing stat: QB Geno Smith passed for only one yard in the first quarter and none in the fourth.

Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg did a fantastic job of using the read-option to exploit the Saints' aggressive front seven, which tends to over-pursue. On Chris Ivory's 27-yard run in the first quarter, they used the read option out of the Pistol formation. OLB Parys Haralson, influenced by the option, over-ran the play, leaving a gaping hole for Ivory.

On Josh Cribbs' 25-yard pass in the second quarter, the Jets ran a triple-option type play out of the Wildcat. Cribbs took the direct snap, faked to Bilal Powell and sprinted right with a run-pass option. He threw a dart to TE Zach Sudfeld, the Jets' best pass of the day.

I loved the two touchdown runs at the end of the second quarter. It was a great set-up by Mornhinweg, who used virtual mirror-image plays to outfox the Saints. On Ivory's three-yard scoring run, they were in shotgun, with Ivory to Smith's left -- the strong side, along with the tight end (Sudfeld) and two receivers (Stephen Hill and David Nelson). They ran a weakside play, with Ivory blasting off right tackle, behind key blocks by RG Willie Colon and RT Austin Howard.

After Cromartie's interception, the Jets got the ball back in almost an identical situation -- ball at the 3. They used the same personnel package, except they flipped the formation. Ivory went to the right of Smith, along with two receivers (Nelson and Greg Salas). The Saints probably were thinking it was a run to the left. It sure looked like as they ran Ivory to the left on a play-action. LBs David Hawthorne and Curtis Lofton bit hard on the fake. Smith used the read-option. He pulled the ball out of Ivory's belly and kept it himself, putting a nice, open-field move on DE Cameron Jordan for the touchdown. Actually, Jordan read it well, but he was faked by Smith and had no back up because Hawthorne and Lofton were out of position.

The Jets finished with 198 rushing yards. Ivory got the headlines, but the coaches did a nice job of exploiting the weaknesses in the Saints' run defense.

Geno's signature moment: The play that had people buzzing at One Jets Drive was a 6-yard scramble by Smith at the start of the third quarter. It wasn't enough for a first down -- it was a third-and-10 play -- but it got them into field goal range, as Smith avoided a big loss.

DE Tom Johnson blew past LG Brian Winters and had a clean shot at Smith, who eluded him with a nifty step-back move. Smith took off and gained six valuable yards, allowing the Jets to take a 23-14 lead after the field goal.

Odds and ends: Winters made a key block in the second quarter, pulling to the right on Ivory's 52-yard yard. Winters got a piece of Lofton, who ended up missing the tackle in the hole. Sudfeld, not known for his blocking, delivered a key block as well. Hill, invisible in the passing game, made a nice downfield block. ... There was confusion on Graham's 51-yard TD reception. S Jaiquawn Jarrett raised both arms before the snap, as if to say, "What do I do?" He ended up getting torched on a double move. ... I have no idea what Ryan was thinking on the Jets' final possession. They got the ball on downs at the Saints' 9, with 1:21 to play. The Saints had one timeout left. Three kneel-downs and it was over, but the Jets ran two plays and called a timeout before having Smith take a knee. What was the point of risking a fumble? Made no sense.

W2W4: Patriots vs. Jets

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
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Rex Ryan wanted his players so focused and well-rested for the New England Patriots that he told them to skip household chores for a week. On Sunday, we'll find out if the couch-potato approach worked.

It would help if they could hold on to the ball.

That has been the biggest difference between the New York Jets and Patriots over the last few years -- ball security. During their current five-game losing streak to the Patriots, the Jets are minus-11 in turnover margin. They give it away easier than day-old cheesecake at a bake sale. Can they reverse the trend? Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at MetLife Stadium, where the Patriots (5-1) will try to win their 13th straight AFC East game. The Jets (3-3) need a win to stay in the thick of the division race.

What to watch for:

[+] EnlargeGeno Smith
Mark L. Baer/USA TODAY SportsGeno Smith had a rough first game against the Patriots, going 15-for-35 passing with three picks.
1. A second look for Geno: Rookie QB Geno Smith should fare better this time around. Then again, it can't get worse than the first meeting in Week 2, when he threw three interceptions in the final 11 plays. His familiarity with the Patriots, coupled with a full week to prepare (Round 1 was on a Thursday), is bound to help. It's all about game management. Smith won't see a lot of pressure schemes from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who will test the kid's patience by forcing him to dink and dunk. The Patriots may take a more conservative approach than usual if CB Aqib Talib (hip) doesn't play. Statistically, there's a big drop-off when he's off the field. Talib intercepted Smith twice in the first game.

2. Hey, Marty: Run!: Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg tried to establish a ground game last week, but he gave up after a quarter. This time, he needs to stick with it. The Patriots have gaping -- repeat, gaping -- holes in their front seven with DT Vince Wilfork and LB Jerod Mayo done for the season. DT Tommy Kelly also could miss the game, meaning they will start two unheralded rookies at defensive tackle -- Joe Vellano, an undrafted free agent, and Chris Jones, cut by two other teams. If C Nick Mangold and RG Willie Colon don't control the point of attack, something is wrong. Of course, this will require a commitment from the pass-happy Mornhinweg. The Jets will miss Mike Goodson's outside speed, but they won't need it if Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory can hammer away inside the tackles.

3. Frustrating Brady isn't enough: Can anybody remember the last time the Jets intercepted Tom Brady? It was Oct. 9, 2011: CB Antonio Cromartie picked Brady on the final play of the first half. Since then, he has gone 163 passes against the Jets without an interception. That's ridiculous. In Week 2, the Jets proved a dominant effort versus Brady doesn't mean much without turnovers. They held the Patriots to nine first downs, yet they couldn't create any takeaways and lost, 13-10. The Jets need a big day from their corners, especially Cromartie, who admitted he's having only a "C year." Cro & Co. need to be ready for a lot of quick screens, which puts a premium on tackling. Brady's receiving corps has 16 drops, the third-highest total in the league.

4. Dealing with Gronk: This changes things. Assuming TE Rob Gronkowski plays -- he was cleared Friday by doctors -- the Patriots now have a major weapon at their disposal, especially in the red zone. Their red zone efficiency sagged without the 6-foot-7 Gronk, Brady's favorite target. Since 2010, his completion percentage to Gronkowski is 72.2, about 10 percent higher than to other receivers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In his last two games against the Jets, Gronkowski caught 14 passes for 191 yards and two touchdowns. If the Jets show as much respect to him as they did to Tony Gonzalez two weeks ago, you can expect double-vice coverage in the red zone. S Jaiquawn Jarrett also was heavily involved in the Gonzalez plan. Would the Jets put Cromartie on Gronk in certain situations? Just a thought.

5. Feed the green beast: The Jets, trying to establish a true home-field advantage, want their fans to be loud and green. Ryan asked fans to wear green, creating a "Green Out" effect. OK, fine, but it would help to grab the attention of the wine-sipping, shrimp-eating masses if they jumped to an early lead. The Jets have led for only 52 minutes in six games, half of which came in the win over the Buffalo Bills. A dynamic, game-changing play in the first quarter would help immensely. Maybe this is where Josh Cribbs becomes a factor. Maybe he can add some sizzle to the special teams. A big play on defense would help, too, but the Jets are allergic to takeaways. In fact, they've gone 207 passes without an interception. They can't be taken seriously as a top-tier defense unless they make some plays.

Practice report: Still no Holmes

October, 9, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes (hamstring) didn't practice Wednesday. He was wearing a sweatshirt and shorts during the portion of practice open to the media.

Holmes suffered a strained hamstring Sept. 29 during the Jets' loss to Tennessee. Holmes did not practice last week and it appears he will not suit up Sunday against his former team, Pittsburgh.

Cornerback Dee Milliner (hamstring) did individual work off to the side during practice. He suffered a hamstring injury Sept. 25 during practice and has not practiced or played since. It's too early in the week to know whether Milliner will have a chance to suit up Sunday.

Safety Jaiquawn Jarrett was not working during the portion open to the media. He was riding a stationary bike. Jarrett was not listed on last week's injury report, but Jets head coach Rex Ryan will provide an update on the safety when he meets with the media later.

The Jets were also without tight end Kellen Winslow (knee), defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis (back) and wide receiver Clyde Gates (knee). Ellis missed for a personal reason, while Gates was present during the open portion but did not work. Winslow was not on the field.

The Jets also made roster moves, signing defensive tackle Terence Barnes to the practice squad and releasing defensive tackle Junior Aumavae.

Jets game recap: What we learned

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
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Ten takeaways from the Jets' 27-20 win over the Eagles:

1. Looking like Geno: I left the stadium early Friday morning thinking it'll be Geno Smith at quarterback when the Jets open against the Bucs. Mark Sanchez (shoulder) still hasn't resumed throwing, and I know there was some thought that he'd already be throwing by now. He has five days to make a rapid recovery, because I think the powers-that-be will want to make a decision by Wednesday. If Smith starts, he'll need every practice rep.

[+] EnlargeMatt Simms
Hunter Martin/Philadelphia Eagles/Getty ImagesJets QB Matt Simms completed a strong preseason with his effort on Thursday against the Eagles.
2. Son of Phil shines: Matt Simms was so good that Rex Ryan hinted after the game he could keep four quarterbacks. I think that might be more about the injuries to Sanchez and Greg McElroy (knee) than a reflection of awesome quarterback depth. Listening to sports radio on the way home, it's amazing to me that so many people want Simms to be the Week 1 starter. Yes, it was a strong preseason, but it came against second- and third-string players. Simms hasn't taken a first-team rep all summer. Perspective, please.

3. Tone's dress rehearsal: Not only did Santonio Holmes participate in another pre-game warmup, but he did it in full uniform -- another baby step. The sense I get is that the Jets are hoping Holmes (foot) can play in the opener. As we've come to learn, Holmes may have a different opinion.

4. Hold on, Vlad: OK, I admit it, I drank some of the Kool-Aid on Vladimir Ducasse. After his start against the Giants, and the subsequent release of Stephen Peterman, the Jets gave the impression that Ducasse finally realized his potential. But against the Eagles, rookie Brian Winters started at left guard, with Ryan later revealing that Ducasse and Winters are locked in a competition for the starting job. So let me get this straight: Ducasse, a three-year veteran, is neck-and-neck with a rookie who's played only two preseason games? I think we know where this is headed.

5. Safety dance: Ryan said the safety competition between Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett is "too close to call." Both made plays Thursday, including an interception for a touchdown by Allen. It sounds like Ryan may not declare a winner, noting it could go week-to-week based on the opponent. But here's the trouble with that: Allen and Jarrett are similar players, both "box" safeties. So, too, is Dawan Landry. This could be trouble against a spread offense.

6. Good grief, Jason: Everybody is entitled to a bad night, but this was a really bad night for LT Jason Smith, who let more people pass him than a crossing guard. He made Wayne Hunter look like Anthony Munoz. Speaking of Hunter, he's available and the Jets need a backup swing tackle. Kidding.

7. Making a late push: Players that really helped themselves heading into the final cut -- Simms, RB Kahlil Bell, LB Ricky Sapp, LB Nick Bellore, LB Danny Lansanah and DE Leger Douzable. CB Mike Edwards played well on kick coverage, but he was too tentative on kickoff returns.

8. Head scratcher: It was strange to see Kyle Wilson in this game, considering Ryan bubble-wrapped almost every starter and key reserve. In theory, Wilson could be an opening-day starter, considering first-round pick Dee Milliner (calf) still is recovering from an injury. Milliner said he expects to play, but they'd still need Wilson in the nickel. Ryan said he used Wilson because he wanted to give him a chance to return punts and kickoffs, and he figured he might as well let him play cornerback, too. Something smells fishy.

9. Oh, Zach: The Wes Welker wannabe had a solid camp, but Zach Rogers may have cost himself a chance by muffing a punt and alligator-arming a perfect pass. Still think he has a chance for the practice squad.

10. Not-so-chipper Chip: If you're Eagles coach Chip Kelly, how can you feel comfortable with your backup QBs? Nick Foles and Matt Barkley were a combined 19-for-44. Simms threw 44 passes, too, except he completed 33.

Observation deck: Jets-Eagles

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The New York Jets' quarterback competition took a night off, as neither Mark Sanchez nor Geno Smith played Thursday night in the final preseason game. Matt Simms got the call and led the Jets to a 27-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: The Jets finished the preseason at 3-1. Big deal. No one will remember their record in 24 hours. The focus shifts immediately to opening day and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There are a myriad questions for the Jets, starting with the quarterback position: Smith or Sanchez? Sanchez (shoulder) remains day-to-day and should know more about his status when he meets with the medical staff over the weekend.

No Geno: That the Jets didn't play Smith suggests they believe there's a good chance he will be the opening-day starter. The rookie could've used the work -- his preseason consisted of 3½ quarters -- but it would've been too risky to expose him to potential injury. Coach Rex Ryan bubble-wrapped almost his entire starting lineup. The only projected starters/key reserves that saw action were Vladimir Ducasse (started at right guard), cornerback Kyle Wilson and safety Antonio Allen. Why play Wilson, a virtual starter? It was very curious and, no doubt, will fuel speculation about his future. Were the Jets showcasing him for a trade? Wilson has been a first-round disappointment, but he has value because of his versatility.

Tough dude, Simms: Battling for the No. 3 QB job, Simms was absolutely terrific. Undaunted by a seven-sack first half, Son of Phil completed 33 of 44 passes for 285 yards and no turnovers, although there were a couple of near-interceptions. He went 25-for-27 in one stretch, shades of his dad in Super Bowl XXI. He showed toughness, poise and accuracy. How can he not make the team? Greg McElroy (knee), who didn't play, should be worried about his roster spot. Newly signed Graham Harrell didn't play, but could factor into the equation.

Porous pass protection: The Jets had better hope their starting offensive linemen stay healthy, because the backups are shaky -- and that's being kind. They could be in the market for a backup swing tackle because veteran Jason Smith, who re-signed last week, played quite possibly one of the worst games ever by a lineman. Facing the Eagles' backups, Smith -- the No. 2 overall pick in 2009 -- allowed at least three sacks. He was pulled at halftime, the best thing to happen to Simms all night.

Defensive stand: The Jets' No. 2 defense dominated Chip Kelly's No. 2 offense. LB Ricky Sapp, LB Danny Lansanah, DE Leger Douzable, LB Nick Bellore and S Jaiquawn Jarrett were among the standouts.

Kicking competition: It was a draw between incumbent Nick Folk and challenger Dan Carpenter. Folk was good from 28 yards, Carpenter from 43. Each recorded a touchback on his only kickoff.

What's ahead: Now comes the bloody part of the business. Teams must pare their rosters to 53 by 6 p.m. ET Saturday, meaning the Jets have to slice 22 players over the next 48 hours.

W2W4: Jets vs. Eagles

August, 28, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets close the preseason Thursday against the Eagles at MetLife Stadium -- the annual backup bowl. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Stories to follow:

1. Quarterback drama on hold: Mark Sanchez (shoulder) is out and, although the team hasn't made it official, rookie Geno Smith also will sit. This is a smart move by coach Rex Ryan. Really, it's the only move. Sure, Smith could use the work, as he showed in throwing three interceptions and taking a safety Saturday against the Giants, but it makes no sense to expose him to potential injury. After all, Smith could be the opening-day starter, depending on Sanchez's recovery. Ryan messed up last week with Sanchez, and he knows another blunder of that magnitude would put him in Woody Johnson's doghouse. (Probably the most luxurious doghouse in the neighborhood, though.)

2. The Simms spotlight: Matt Simms, who entered camp fourth on the depth chart, will start under center against the Eagles. He'll probably play most of the game, considering Greg McElroy (knee) is out. This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Simms, son of Giants icon Phil Simms. He's having a terrific preseason, sporting a 137.5 passer rating, and could conceivably dislodge McElroy from the No. 3 job. Simms is rough around the edges, but he has the best arm on the team and the coaches love his moxie. Newly signed Graham Harrell, who arrived Wednesday, will be available for relief duty. The Eagles will start No. 2 QB Nick Foles, a former pupil of new Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. If the Jets were concerned about Sanchez's health to the point where they felt they needed a veteran, it would fuel heavy Foles speculation.

3. Position battles (other than quarterback): Placekicker and free safety remain open. PK Dan Carpenter was signed this week to compete with incumbent Nick Folk, who imperiled his spot last week with a missed field goal in OT. Jaiquawn Jarrett, a former second-round pick of the Eagles, is expected to start at free safety, but Antonio Allen is leading the competition.

4. Cinderella lives in Jersey: WR Ryan Spadola, an undrafted rookie from Howell, N.J., via Lehigh, is the feel-good story of the summer. He's inching his way up the depth chart and has an outstanding chance to make the 53-man roster. Spadola leads the team with 169 receiving yards on seven catches, including a 70-yard play Saturday that set up the game-winning field goal in overtime. He's battling veterans Ben Obomanu and Mohamed Massaquoi for the fifth receiver spot; there's also a chance the Jets could keep six. It would be a stunner if Spadola is cut.

5. On the line: This will be an important game for the three draft picks on the offensive line -- LG Brian Winters (third round), OT Oday Aboushi (fifth) and G Will Campbell (sixth). Aboushi and Campbell are on the bubble and need to play well to make the team. Aboushi's chances were hurt with last week's return of veteran backup Jason Smith. Campbell, making the transition to offense after playing defensive line in college, looks bound for the practice squad. Winters, uneven last week in his debut, could push presumptive starter Vladimir Ducasse as the season progresses.

A safety grows in Brooklyn

August, 17, 2013
8/17/13
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Jaiquawn Jarrett came out of the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, and attended Fort Hamilton High School. He moved to Philadelphia for a few years, playing for Temple and the Eagles -- a second-round pick in 2011. Now he's back in New York, a Brooklyn kid whose wait-till-next-year story is happening this year.

[+] EnlargeJaiquawn Jarrett
AP PhotoJaiquawn Jarrett
Jarrett is expected to start at free safety Saturday night for the Jets at MetLife Stadium. If he plays well against the Jaguars, he can nail down the starting job, beating out Antonio Allen. Jarrett was considered a long-shot candidate at the start of training camp, but he has impressed the coaches with his studious approach -- that, and he hit everything that moved last week against the Lions.

"The kid is hungry," secondary coach Tim McDonald said.

Jarrett was cut by the Eagles in the middle of his second season -- a stunning move. Teams don't cut high draft picks, not in their second season. Jarrett is one of only two second-round picks from 2011 not with his original team. The Jets invited him for a workout and signed him last New Year's Eve to a reserve-future contract -- the last act of the Mike Tannenbaum administration.

"There could be a thousand things I could say that went wrong [in Philadelphia]," said Jarrett, declining to name any of them.

Did the Eagles make a mistake or are the Jets so desperate for safety help that they're overrating his skills? Here's the take of one AFC scout: "He's an over-drafted player. I don't see a starter in my eyes, but he may have to be there. He's physical and will support the run, and he can be heady, but he's not the guy that will add range, ball hawking or speed to your back end."

The Jets believe they found something. Rex Ryan was so thrilled with Jarrett that he promoted him, on the spot, immediately after last week's game in Detroit.

But, still, a former second-round pick on the street? Makes you wonder.

"It happens every now and then," McDonald said. "Atmosphere ... attitude ... circumstances. I know one thing about the kid: The kid's got character, so it wasn't anything that had anything to do with his character. I'm excited about him. I think we got ourselves a pretty solid football player."

Rex Report: Demario Davis no bust

August, 12, 2013
8/12/13
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Somehow, Rex Ryan got it into his mind that second-year LB Demario Davis was labeled a bust. Hey, sometimes coaches take a perceived slight and turn it into a rallying point. On Monday, Ryan delivered a strong defense of Davis, predicting a big season for the former third-round pick.

"Really, okay, we'll see if he's a bust," Ryan said. "Now he gets to prove it. The guy can cover, he can run, he can blitz, he can do all. ... He is everything we thought he was, but that will be proved out as this year goes on. That will definitely be proved out.

Davis, who backed up Bart Scott last season, is slated to start at inside linebacker. He will get more preseason reps than other starters because he needs game experience.

NO GUSHING: Other than his horrendous interception for a touchdown in the opener, QB Mark Sanchez has played reasonably well over the last week to 10 days. Reminded of that, Ryan gave a positive, if not enthusiastic evaluation of Sanchez.

"He's had some good days, and he's strung some good days back-to-back-to-back, so that's been encouraging," Ryan said. "The one day when everyone had a bad practice, he had a great one, so that was good."

And that was that.

CUP OF JOE: Ryan was asked if he's exasperated by Joe McKnight various issues -- dehydration, traffic arrest, migraines, etc. Ryan gave a tactful answer, but it wasn't hard to read between the lines: His lack of dependability could cost him.

"These are young men and ... some things come up," Ryan said. "There's nobody that's perfect. But where he's at from a reliability standpoint ... durability is a big thing in this league, so there's no question about it. Has Joe had his moments here? Absolutely he has. When you look at it from a statistical standpoint, Joe averaged over six yards a carry last year, has led this league in kick return [average]. So we know when he's healthy, Joe can be a good contributor for our football team. But right now we've just got to get him healthy."

J.J. GETS A SHOT: Ryan didn't hand the starting free-safety job to Jaiquawn Jarrett, but he said Jarrett will start Saturday against the Jaguars.

"He'll start this week, but I'm not talking about for the season," Ryan said. "I mean, there's some great competition there, there's no doubt. Both those guys played well, but Jaiquawn, I'm like, 'You know what? Let's put him out there, let him work with the [starters] as well, where he gets communication with [Dawan] Landry, and then Antonio [Allen] will get communication with [Josh] Bush and we'll just see what happens.'"

What we learned in Detroit

August, 10, 2013
8/10/13
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- Observations from the press box after the New York Jets' 26-17 loss to the Detroit Lions in the preseason opener:

1. A Rex-storm: I think people are getting carried away with Rex Ryan's admission that he missed plays on offense -- including a lot of Geno Smith -- because he was too busy with the defense on the sideline. Granted, it was highly unusual for a head coach to admit such a thing; most coaches would've talked around it by saying, "I need to watch the tape." But let's remember one thing: It was a preseason game. If it had been the regular season, yes, he'd deserve criticism.

Presumably, Ryan is using the preseason to fix a defense that has seven new starters. When the real games start, he'll be in head-coach mode, managing the entire game -- at least he'd better be. He took a heavy-handed approach with the defense in 2009 and 2010, and that didn't stop the Jets from making the playoffs, did it?

2. MartyBall: It serves no purpose to question play calling in the preseason -- coaches are in an experimental mode -- but it's worth noting that the Jets called 42 pass plays and only 16 runs against the Lions. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg is known as a pass-happy coach, a style that usually doesn't marry well with defensive-minded head coaches. Just saying.

[+] EnlargeJeff Cumberland
AP Photo/Scott BoehmJeff Cumberland scored in the first quarter. Last season, the Jets' offense didn't produce a TD until the fourth preseason game.
3. Off the Mark: I watched Mark Sanchez's pick-6 over and over, and I still can't believe he made that throw. Rookie fullback Tommy Bohanon has to do a better job of leaking out of the backfield, but he was on his knees -- knocked over by ex-Jet C.J. Mosley -- when Sanchez lobbed the pass. Sanchez, backpedaling in the face of pressure, panicked.

But let's give credit where it's due: On the 26-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Cumberland, Sanchez made a fantastic read. He recognized 3-by-2 coverage on the weak side, knowing the Lions had no deep help on the strong side, where Cumberland ran a seam route. Sanchez showed nice anticipation, releasing the ball a split-second before Cumberland broke away from the linebacker. As I noted Friday night, Sanchez has moved into the lead for the starting job.

4. The new Geno: Rookie QB Geno Smith played almost exclusively in the shotgun at West Virginia, so there was some question as to how he'd respond to playing under center in a traditional offense. There were no noticeable hiccups in the game. In fact, he was 3-for-3 for 27 yards under center and 3-for-4 for 20 yards from shotgun.

5. Rough debut: RG Willie Colon was a solid player for many years with the Steelers, but he got off to a shaky start in his Jets debut. He was called for two penalties, and that's noteworthy because he was the Steelers' most penalized offensive player last season -- 12 penalties. That's a crazy amount for an interior lineman. Colon also allowed the pressure that caused Smith to have a pass batted at the line.

6. Uh-oh, Oday: I think OT Oday Aboushi, a fifth-round pick from Virginia, is on the roster bubble. Aboushi got beat by rookie DE Devin Taylor on a strip sack of Greg McElroy, and he also was flagged for two penalties (one declined). The Jets are looking for a backup swing tackle. Aboushi is a candidate for the job, but so is J.B. Shugarts, a first-year player from Ohio State. Shugarts played 36 snaps in the game, more than any offensive lineman.

7. Big Mac under attack: You have to admire McElroy's moxie, but, man, he takes a lot of hits. He was sacked three times and absorbed what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit on one play -- it wasn't called. McElroy said he was fine after the game, but he also said he was fine after last December's beatdown inflicted by the Chargers, and that turned out to be a concusssion. Either way, it looks like he has locked up the No. 3 job. He made nice improv play on his 9-yard touchdown pass to Zach Rogers.

8. J.J. is dy-no-mite: The coaches went into the game buzzing about former Eagles S Jaiquawn Jarrett, eager to see him in a game setting after impressive work on the practice field and in the classroom. He responded nicely and has leap frogged Antonio Allen on the depth chart, according to Ryan. Jarrett was a second-round pick in 2011, so you know the physical talent is there.

9. Silver-lining playbook: Looking for a positive from the game? The Jets scored two offensive touchdowns. A year ago, they didn't score one until the fourth preseason game -- and that came from the third-team offense.

10. Calling all runners: The Jets lost RB John Griffin (broken leg) for the season, testing their backfield depth, but they expect Chris Ivory (hamstring) and Joe McKnight (head) to practice Sunday. For Ivory, it would his first full practice of camp.

W2W4: Jets at Lions

August, 9, 2013
8/09/13
6:00
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The Jets open the preseason Friday at the Lions. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. Here is what to watch for:

1. Quarterback battle, Round 1: Mark Sanchez starts, Geno Smith relieves. Sanchez figures to play a series or two with the starters before yielding to the rookie, who might get a series with the first unit. Smith will stick around and play with the backups as he attempts to convince the powers-that-be that he's ready to take over the team. The focus is on Smith, but it'll be interesting to see Sanchez in Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense. He loves the system. We'll see if it loves him back.

2. The rookies: The Jets could open with three in the starting lineup -- DT Sheldon Richardson, CB Dee Milliner and FB Tommy Bohanon, the only fullback on the traveling roster. Incumbent Lex Hilliard didn't make the trip with an undisclosed injury. Milliner is rusty, which is to be expected. He missed the offseason and the first few days of camp, so his conditioning and technique still need work. Just for kicks, Rex Ryan should let Milliner cover Calvin Johnson for a couple of plays. Now that would be a welcome-to-the-NFL moment. Rookie LG Brian Winters (ankle) didn't make the trip, hurting his chances of winning a starting job.

3. Empty stable: Chris Ivory (hamstring) and Joe McKnight (head) are out, so the workload will fall to Bilal Powell. There's some concern among the coaches that Powell is being overworked, so don't expect a super-heavy work day. John Griffin and Chad Spann will see some carries as well. Mornhinweg, known for his pass-happy philosophy, will have no problem throwing it all over Ford Field.

4. Mega Who? When the Jets drafted WR Stephen Hill last year in the second round, they made the mistake of comparing him, from a size-speed standpoint, to another Georgia Tech alum -- Johnson, aka. MegaTron. Hill is nowhere close to Johnson, but he has made strides on the practice field, especially with his technique. Now he has to take it to the game. With Santonio Holmes in limbo, they could be relying on Hill to be their No. 1 receiver.

5. New-look defense: They have seven new starters, so there's bound to be growing pains. They could show up in the secondary, which was overhauled in the offseason. The only returning starter is CB Antonio Cromartie. The Lions like to spread the field, and they have a quarterback (Matthew Stafford) who can get the ball anywhere on the field. This should be a nice first test for the Jets' sub packages. Watch LB Demario Davis; he brings a pass-coverage dimension to the linebacking corps.

6. Q's debut: Former No. 1 pick Quinton Coples plays his first game at outside linebacker. It has been a quiet camp for the former lineman. Part of that could be attributed to the position switch. But the coaches also want him to play with a greater sense of urgency. The feeling around the team is that Coples is the key to the defense. If he thrives in his new role, the defense has a chance to be really good.

7. Safety in numbers: The most unsettled position is free safety. Antonio Allen has received most of the reps, but he's hardly a sure thing. Former Eagle Jaiquawn Jarrett has impressed the coaches with his approach and he could sneak in and grab the job.

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