New York Jets: rapid reaction

Reax: Green & White features Butt Stumble

August, 3, 2013
CORTLAND, N.Y. -- The New York Jets conducted their annual Green & White scrimmage Saturday night at SUNY Cortland. Here are some quick observations:

What it means: There were some nice individual performances, especially by some of the unheralded running backs and wide receivers, but the glaring takeaway from the night was the Jets still have issues at quarterback. Mark Sanchez delivered a mostly Sanchez-ian performance (until the final play) and rookie Geno Smith didn't play as well as hoped.

QB competition: Sanchez salvaged an awful night on the final play of the scrimmage, hitting WR Stephen Hill for a 57-yard touchdown over CB Ellis Lankster. It was a terrific throw, his best of the summer. Until that moment, Sanchez provided some 2012 moments, throwing an interception (Antonio Cromartie) on an overthrown deep ball, missing an open Clyde Gates in the end zone and falling on his rear end while dropping back to pass -- the Butt Stumble. Sanchez's final stats: 6-for-11, 93 yards, with one sack and one interception.

Sanchez played only one series with the first-team offense. Smith (9-for-16, 77 yards) saw three series with the starters. The rookie didn't make any horrible mistakes, but it wasn't a crisp performance. There were five offensive penalties with him in the game, as he showed his inexperience at the line of scrimmage. He led the offense to only three points.

So, after seven practices and one scrimmage, the QB competition still is anybody's game.

MartyBall: New offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg provided a sneak peek of his plan for the season. The Jets ran a couple of Wildcat plays near the goal line, with RB Bilal Powell taking the direct snap. (Where have you gone, Tim Tebow?) As Ryan said the other day, the Wildcat (and read-option) will be part of the attack. Mornhinweg also used Smith and Sanchez in a moving pocket, running bootlegs off play-action. That's a staple of the West Coast offense. Get used to it. They also ran a few screen passes. Get used to that, too.

Running on empty: Due to injuries and the absence of Mike Goodson, Powell got the bulk of the work with the first team. He had a nifty 24-yard run against the first-team defense, breaking a couple of tackles and almost taking it to the house. Powell was one of the stars of the night, showing nice open-field moves.

Battle for No. 3 QB: Greg McElroy and Matt Simms have been alternating third-team reps in camp, with Simms bidding to unseat McElroy as the No. 3. It doesn't appear that will happen. McElroy delivered a crisp performance, highlighted by a 47-yard touchdown pass to rookie WR Ryan Spadola and a 70-yard scoring pass to WR Vidal Hazelton. The latter came on a busted coverage, leaving Hazelton ridiculously open. Meanwhile, Simms struggled, throwing a third-down interception. CB Eric Crocker made the interception, but he later got burned on the long pass to Spadola.

Cinderella story: There's one every year in training camp. This year's Cinderella is Spadola, a 6-foot-2 wideout out of Howell, N.J. After a few impressive practices, Spadola made the play of the night, outjumping Crocker in the end zone.

Defense: LB Calvin Pace (one sack) stood out on defense, as did CB Kyle Wilson. Rookie CB Dee Milliner saw time with the starters.

Injury Report: As expected, RB Chris Ivory (hamstring) and RB Joe McKnight (head) didn't play. TE Kellen Winslow also was a scratched for an undisclosed reason, probably to rest. LG Stephen Peterman (shoulder) and C Dalton Freeman (ankle) also were out.

Rapid Reaction: Sanchez keeps QB job

December, 5, 2012

Quick thoughts on the Jets' decision to stay with Mark Sanchez as their starting quarterback, which was announced Wednesday morning:

1. This was the safest move for Rex Ryan. It demonstrates the organization's commitment to Sanchez, its willingness to make it work. The Jets have to pay him $8.25 million next year in guaranteed money, and you know that factored into it. If Ryan had promoted Greg McElroy, it would've meant they had given up on Sanchez, the onetime golden boy whom they envisioned as the face of the franchise for many years.


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2. Sanchez will have a short leash Sunday in Jacksonville -- a well-deserved short leash. He has 18 turnovers, including five in the past two games. When he gives the ball away, it demoralizes the offense. If he struggles in the first half, it'll be McElroy time, probably for good. Sanchez needs a positive start to regain the trust of his teammates.

3. This will tell us a lot about Sanchez's mental toughness. For three years, he never had to worry about getting benched. Sunday was his first brush with a possible demotion. Maybe it was a wake-up call. Finally, he knows Ryan means business. If he cracks, the Jets will know he's not their guy.

4. The next two games are on the road, which helps Sanchez, who was booed throughout Sunday's win over the Cardinals. If he redeems himself on the road, it could buy him a little good will for the next home game, Dec. 22 against the Chargers.

5. This shows the organization doesn't see McElroy as the long-term answer. The Jets like his intangibles, especially his smarts, but they still regard him as a developmental player whom they hope can become a solid No. 2 quarterback in the league.

6. Ryan realizes it would've been a tremendous leap of faith to entrust the remainder of the season -- and perhaps his job security -- to a former seventh-round pick who has attempted only seven passes in the NFL. As Ryan likes to say, he's in the winning business -- and he needs wins. He's not likely to get fired, but he doesn't want to take any chances.

7. Tim Tebow wasn't even a factor in this quarterback decision. He has to be wondering, "Why did I want to come to the Jets?" He has a right to be frustrated. They sold him a bill of goods. It'll be interesting to see how they use Tebow this week. Would they dare to deactivate him for his homecoming game in Jacksonville? The Jaguars, hoping for a big crowd, don't want that to happen.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 49, Jets 19

November, 22, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jets became a national laughingstock, falling apart in every imaginable way -- and some unimaginable -- in an embarrassing 49-19 loss Thursday night to the Patriots at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: The Jets (4-7) blew a chance to save their season. A win over the Patriots (8-3) would've vaulted them back into distant playoff contention, but they imploded in all three phases. They allowed 35 points in the second quarter with a series of slapstick plays straight out of the Rich Kotite era -- including 21 points in a span of 52 seconds. All told, they committed a season-high five turnovers. This was the kind of performance that gets people fired.

Cream rises: A short week highlights a coaching staff's ability to rest its players, and get them mentally and physically prepared in a condensed period of time. The Jets weren't into the game, mentally or physically. There were blown assignments on both sides of the ball and they got smacked around by the Gronk-less Patriots, who played without four starters and still schooled their AFC East rival. The Jets played as if they were bloated after a big turkey dinner. This was their fourth loss by at least 21 points, their most lopsided defeat since 45-3 against the Patriots on Dec. 6, 2010.

Tebow Time?: Will Ryan replace Mark Sanchez with Tim Tebow for next week's game? Better question: Does it matter? If Ryan benches Sanchez -- the guess here is that he won't -- it'll be perceived in the locker room as a white flag.

Clearly, the Jets' problems extend beyond Sanchez (26-for-36, 301 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), but he has to take his share of the blame. He wasted a scoring opportunity in the first quarter, throwing an interception from the Patriots' 23. The Patriots baited Sanchez with a zone-coverage trap, and he fell for it. He threw for WR Jeremy Kerley on an in-cut, never seeing S Steve Gregory. That's when things started going south for the Jets.

No Tebow: Tebow, who suffered a rib injury two weeks ago, didn't play at all -- not even on the punt team. The Jets downplayed the injury all week, but listed him as questionable on Wednesday. Why even dress him? Why didn't they dress the No. 3 QB, Greg McElroy?

Second quarter from hell: History probably won't remember that it was a scoreless game after one quarter. The Jets committed three turnovers in the second quarter -- an interception and fumble by Sanchez and a fumbled kickoff return by Joe McKnight. The fumbles were pure folly.

Because of a busted assignment by FB Lex Hilliard, Sanchez ate a handoff and slid for a 1-yard gain. On his slide, he crashed into RG Brandon Moore's rear end (seriously) and coughed it up. It was returned 32 yards for a TD by Gregory. McKnight fumbled the ball straight into the hands of Julian Edelman, who returned it 22 yards for a TD to make it 28-0.

Atrocious offense: The Jets were utterly clueless on offense. They tried to run the ball on the Patriots, who own the 30th-ranked pass defense. Coordinator Tony Sparano kept hammering away. They squandered two short-yardage situations, the latter at the goal line, stubbornly trying to run inside against mammoth NT Vince Wilfork. Clearly, Sparano has no faith in Sanchez. How 'bout another draw play, Tony?

Defense exposed: QB Tom Brady (18-for-28, 323 yards, 3 TDs) did a masterful job of exploiting the weak links in the Jets' pass defense. He victimized nickel back Ellis Lankster on a 3-yard TD pass to WR Wes Welker and he picked on slow-footed LB Bart Scott, who got torched on an 83-yard TD pass to RB Shane Vereen. Scott got "picked" by Welker on the play and couldn't close ground fast enough, allowing Vereen to turn a short pass into a score. S LaRon Landry also got beat on a 56-yard scoring pass to Edelman.

What's ahead: The benefit of playing Thursday night is a mini-bye week. The Jets have nine days off before facing the Cardinals (4-6), who host the Rams on Sunday.

Rapid Reaction: Dolphins 30, Jets 9

October, 28, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jets ate their words, with hot sauce provided by the Dolphins. They were outcoached and outplayed in every phase of the game, falling 30-9 in an uninspired effort Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The only thing that could've made it worse was a touchdown by Reggie Bush.

What it means: After a week of trash-talking, the Jets embarrassed themselves, dropping to 3-5 with their second straight loss. They lost to a backup QB in Matt Moore, who replaced the injured Ryan Tannehill (quadriceps/knee) in the first quarter. The stakes were huge, but Rex Ryan failed to get his team ready, mentally or physically. The Dolphins (4-3), winners of three straight, were refreshed coming out of their bye week and burned the Jets with several wrinkles. The Jets' season is on the verge of imploding, if it hasn't already.

Tebow Time? Mark Sanchez's job security will be the hot topic for the next two weeks, as the Jets head into their bye. He was rattled by the Dolphins' pressure, throwing an interception, losing a fumble, missing open receivers and getting sacked four times. The Jets had a chance to regain some momentum in the third quarter, but Sanchez's third red zone interception of the season ruined the opportunity.

The crowd chanted for Tim Tebow in the second half, but the Jets stuck with Sanchez (28-for-54, 283 yards), even though he brought absolutely no spark to the offense. At 3-5, how long will Ryan keep Tebow on the bench? Tebow played only five snaps on offense, including four as a wide receiver. Why? What's the point? Apparently, the Jets see Tebow as nothing more than a decoy.

Kicking themselves: The Jets' special teams were garbage. Repeat, garbage. There were breakdowns in virtually every unit, directly costing them 10 points. They allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown, and a 35-yard field goal was blocked. So much for Nick Folk's perfect season. Wait, there's more. They fell asleep on a surprise onside kick, giving up the ball after the Dolphins scored a field goal on the game-opening drive. They also allowed a 57-yard kickoff return, setting up a Miami touchdown in the third quarter. Welcome to Mike Westhoff's worst nightmare.

Sparano's pain: Jets offensive coordinator Tony Sparano was schooled by his former team. The Jets' offense produced only 107 total yards in the first half, with four three-and-outs and two turnovers in seven possessions. They were ill-prepared for the Dolphins' third-down blitz package, the best in the league. The Jets surrendered sacks on back-to-back series in the first quarter, failing to pick up safety and slot blitzes.

At times, the players seemed confused, not knowing the play call. This was the eighth game of the season; no excuses for an utter lack of cohesion. When they fell behind by 24 points, there was no sense of urgency. Where was the hurry-up offense?

Lousy coverage: The Jets geared up to stop the Dolphins' running game, but they ended up getting gashed in the secondary. There were miscommunications and blown coverages throughout the game as Moore -- in his first action of the season -- passed for 131 yards and a touchdown. CB Kyle Wilson was dreadful, giving up a 37-yard catch to the No. 4 receiver, Marlon Moore. There was a busted coverage on a 30-yard pass to Jabar Gaffney, and somehow 5-foot-8 CB Isaiah Trufant got matched up against 6-4 TE Anthony Fasano on a 4-yard TD.

Silver lining: Well, at least the Jets didn't get embarrassed by Bush, the reason for the war of words leading up to the game. They held him to 59 yards on 14 carries.

What's next: This will feel like the longest bye week in team history, considering the implosion. The Jets return to action on Nov. 11 for a tough road game against the Seahawks.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 23, Dolphins 20 (OT)

September, 23, 2012
MIAMI -- The Jets overcame a 10-0 deficit and the loss of star CB Darrelle Revis (knee) to beat the Dolphins 23-20, on Nick Folk's 33-yard field goal with 6:04 remaining in overtime. They caught two huge breaks. Dan Carpenter missed a 48-yard field goal attempt in OT. And Folk's initial attempt was blocked, but he got a second chance because Dolphins coach Joe Philbin had called a timeout to ice Folk.

What it means: The Jets (2-1) showed plenty of heart in a virtual must-win. Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes, whose relationship blew up on this field this past New Year's Day, enjoyed their most prolific day together -- connecting for 147 yards. Holmes' 48-yard catch set up Folk's game winner. But don't put too much stock in the win. The Jets have serious issues, especially on offense.

Deserted island: Revis' knee injury appeared serious. He was carted off minutes after his left knee buckled while trying to tackle RB Daniel Thomas on a reverse screen. The All-Pro cornerback was in severe pain, the worst of all possible scenarios for the Jets' defense. Losing Revis for an extended period almost is the equivalent of losing a starting QB, as Rex Ryan relies heavily on Revis' rare man-to-man coverage skills. It would be devastating. This was Revis' first game after suffering a concussion two weeks ago.

Gloom over Miami: The Dolphins also lost their best player -- RB Reggie Bush, who suffered a knee injury late in the first half and didn't return. The Jets couldn't stop Bush, who ran for 61 yards. The Dolphins got too conservative without Bush, not trusting rookie QB Ryan Tannehill.

Tony's revenge: Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, fired by the Dolphins in December 2011, snuck out of Sun Life Stadium with an ugly but satisfying win. The Jets managed an eight-play, 53-yard touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter, ending with Sanchez's touchdown pass to Jeremy Kerley for 7 yards on an all-out blitz. In overtime, they eeked out a field goal on a do-over. Their touchdown drought, which began last week, went six quarters before Kerley's score. The Jets squandered two goal-to-go situations, managing only three points.

Way off the Mark: Sanchez (21-of-45, 306 yards) pulled it out after 55 minutes of bad quarterbacking. Give him points for resilience, but he still made far too many mistakes. He threw two interceptions (the first was an awful throw in the end zone), and looked rattled at times. He overthrew two wide-open receivers, rookie Stephen Hill and Chaz Schilens, on plays that should've been touchdowns. To his credit, Sanchez pulled himself together in crunch time.

Hill Street Blues: After an impressive opener, Hill has been exposed. He went without a catch for the second straight game, dropping a sure TD pass in the first half -- an absolute killer. He suffered a leg injury late in the game. He should've been benched before then, but the Jets don't have a capable veteran replacement. Holmes (nine catches, 147 yards) was the only weapon; he snapped a streak of 27 games without a 100-yard receiving day.

Big-play defense: Well, at least we know the Jets' defense is capable of making a big play, forcing two turnovers at the start of the third quarter. S LaRon Landry scored on an 18-yard interception return (the first of his career) and Revis scooped up a fumble deep in Miami territory. The plays occurred within eight seconds of each other. It was almost as if the defense, frustrated by the lack of offense, came together at halftime and decided to take over the game. This is dangerous territory. If it continues, it could create a split between the two units, an issue last season.

Tebow time: After heavy criticism for not using Tebow, the Jets finally integrated him into the offense -- as an H-back, not a quarterback. He took a season-high 14 snaps on offense -- 11 as an H-back, three in shotgun. This time, the Tebow package did more harm than good. He actually lost 5 yards on a goal-line play in which he was tackled after looking to pass into the end zone. Clearly, the Jets' grandiose plans for Tebow are a bust. His biggest play came on special teams, when he took a direct snap on a fake punt and ran for a first down to sustain a drive that ended with a field goal.

What's next: The schedule gets tougher, as the Jets return home to face the formidable 49ers.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 48, Bills 28

September, 9, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jets welcomed the Bills to their circus big top, and they turned the visitors into the clowns Sunday at MetLife Stadium. It was a 48-28 victory for the Jets in the season opener, setting a franchise record for most point on opening day.

What it means: They shut up their critics for at least a week. This was a huge win for the Jets, who needed positive momentum after last season's meltdown and a disappointing preseason.

Wildcat a dud: After all the build-up, all the ridiculous hype, the Jets' Wildcat was a bust. It produced little and fooled no one. At one point, Tim Tebow was booed as he trotted off the field. All told, he played nine plays on offense -- two in the Wildcat (with Mark Sanchez split out) six in the read-option (Tebow as the quarterback) and one at tight end. The eight plays with Tebow under center produced only 22 yards. Talk about a buzz kill. The Jets, no doubt, will say that other components of the offense flourished because the Bills had to spend time on Tebow prep. Tebow finished with five rushes for 12 yards.

Mark answers: QB Mark Sanchez (19-for-27, 266 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT) began the game as if he were begging for a quarterback controversy, a ridiculous flip-pass interception, but he regained his poise and played exceptionally. Afforded excellent protection, Sanchez picked apart a suspect Buffalo secondary, throwing three scoring passes (two to rookie Stephen Hill). He made quick decisions, looking totally at ease in the new system. Sanchez needed to have a big game, and he delivered.

Tony ball a hit: Maybe Tony Sparano really was saving his good stuff for the regular season. After a one-touchdown preseason, the Jets actually looked like they knew what they were doing. They amassed 384 total yards, controlled the ball for 31:18 and, most important, neutralized the Bills' new and improved front four. Stat of the day: Sanchez was not sacked. Except for some poor choices on when he used Tebow, Sparano called a solid game and even showed some razzle-dazzle with a flea flicker in the third quarter.

Complementary football: You're going to hear Rex Ryan use this phrase an awful lot this season, and Sunday was a prime example of all three units working together. Yeah, Sanchez got the ball in the end zone, but he was helped enormously by the defense (three takeaways) and special teams (Kerley's 68-yard touchdown on a punt return). Ryan couldn't have scripted it any better. In fact, the Jets scored 24 of their first 34 points off turnovers. There were interceptions by Darrelle Revis, Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie, who returned it 40 yards on a awful read by an overwhelmed Ryan Fitzpatrick. There also was a forced fumble by S LaRon Landry, who impressed in his Jets debut.

Awesome D: The Jets' defense lived up to the hype, making Fitzpatrick afraid of his own shadow. The key to beating the Bills' spread offense is to disrupt the timing, and the Jets did just that. They did it. They didn't have any sacks, but they got plenty of pressure, with LB Calvin Pace and Landry leading the way. The coverage was terrific. Revis, with something to prove against Stevie Johnson, shut down his nemesis, holding him to four catches for 55 yards.

For a Harvard guy, Fitzpatrick (18-for-32, 195 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs) did a lot of dumb things. On his third interception, he was fooled by a Cover-2 look (the Jets rarely play Cover-2) and he gift-wrapped a pass to Cromartie, who channeled his inner wide-receiver and did a front flip into the end zone. No doubt, the Bills were hurt by the loss of RB Fred Jackson, who left in the second quarter with a leg injury. His replacement, C.J. Spiller, had a career day, rushing for 169 yards.

Where's Mario? The Bills scored a free-agent coup, signing DE Mario Williams for $100 million, including $50 million guaranteed. How's that investment looking now? Williams was shut down neophyte RT Austin Howard, who never had started a game at the position. GM Mike Tannenbaum, who took a lot of heat for botching the Wayne Hunter situation, has to be feeling pretty good about his decision to go with Howard. Howard got some help -- new OT Jason Smith played at least 10 snaps as a jumbo tight end -- but him the credit.

What's ahead: The Jets hit the road to play the Steelers (who open at Denver tonight) in what will be an extremely difficult test.

Rapid Reaction: Jets 27, Bengals 7

August, 21, 2011
WHAT IT MEANS: Rebounding from a so-so performance last week, the New York Jets improved in all phases and defeated the helpless Cincinnati Bengals, 27-7, on a rainy Sunday night at New Meadowlands Stadium. Plaxico Burress was the star, but this was more than a one-man show. Midway through the preseason, the Jets (1-1) have to feel good about themselves. And there appeared to be no major injuries.

LIKE OLD TIMES: Burress made his Jets debut and gave the rain-soaked fans what they wanted -- a moment to talk about. The moment came with 51 seconds left in the second quarter, when he made an over-the-shoulder, 26-yard touchdown catch. With his back to Mark Sanchez, Burress threw his 6-foot-5 body into a dive, securing the high, arching pass as he skidded across the wet turf.

With that one play, Burress announced his return to football. After nearly two years in prison, he was back, demonstrating the kind of athleticism you wouldn’t expect from a 34-year-old receiver that spent that much time in the big house. It came against a backup cornerback named Fred Bennett, but that didn’t matter. It was all about body control, hand-eye coordination and sticky hands.

Burress played 30 of 32 plays in the first half, finishing with three catches for 66 yards. Translation: A smashing debut.

SANCHEZ ROCKS: After an efficient but largely non-descript performance last week, Sanchez (12-for-20, 173 yards, two TDs) delivered some big plays in the passing game. The protection was better this week, thanks to the return of All-Pro C Nick Mangold. He led the offense to two touchdowns (drives of 16 and 99 yards) and a field goal in seven possessions, wrapping up the night with a 10-play, 99-yard touchdown drive.

Until then, the Sanchez-led offense was like the weather -- blah. In fact, the Jets started 0-for-6 on third down. The turning point was a 43-yard pass to a wide-open Dustin Keller, providing good field position after being backed up at their 1. From there, Sanchez hit Keller on a third-down catch, setting up the Burress highlight-film catch.

WIDE-OPEN OFFENSE: For the second straight week, the Jets relied heavily on a three-receiver attack. In fact, they used their “11” personnel package (3 WRs, 1 TE, 1RB) on 19 of 32 plays in the first half. With Derrick Mason (knee) sitting out, they used Burress, Santonio Holmes (16-yard TD) and rookie Jeremy Kerley in three-wide packages.

NO GROUND AND POUND: By placing an emphasis on the passing attack – a necessity, given the new parts -- the running game was out of sync. LaDainian Tomlinson got the start with Shonn Greene (foot) out of the lineup, and the 32-year-old looked a bit sluggish. He rushed for 16 yards on nine carries. Tomlinson got a lot of work, appearing in 31 of 32 plays in the first half. Joe McKnight and Bilal Powell didn’t see significant time until the second half.

OPPORTUNISTIC D: The Jets roughed up the offensively challenged Bengals, intercepting three passes -- Eric Smith, Jim Leonhard and Brashton Satele. The three turnovers set up 17 points for the Jets, and that was pretty much the story of the game. Keep in mind, the Bengals no longer have Carson (I Wanna Retire) Palmer at quarterback. They started rookie Andy Dalton and replaced him with journeyman Bruce Gradkowski.

WELCOME MAYBIN: Bills castoff Aaron Maybin, the 11th overall pick in the 2009 draft, made his presence felt in his Jets debut. After only three days of practice with the team, Maybin recorded a strip sack on Bengals third-string QB Jordan Palmer. Hey, that might have been enough to grab a spot on the 53-man roster.