New York Jets: D'Brickashaw Ferguson

Still not time to tear down O-line

April, 16, 2014
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The New York Jets used to have one of the best offensive lines in the league. Now they need serious help, according to an article by Pro Football Focus Insider.

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Ferguson
The Jets are listed among five teams with "positional frailties" that should be addressed with high draft picks. In their case, it's the line. According to PFF:
"On the surface, this may seem a strange selection given that both D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold are still on board and the team replaced departed right tackle Austin Howard with Super Bowl winner Breno Giacomini.

"However, we are now close to the nadir of a group that was as recently as 2010 the best in football. Things started to go downhill with the departure of the remarkably underrated Damien Woody (who in a fairer world would at least be discussed as a Hall of Fame candidate) and this was exacerbated further by the loss of Brandon Moore and the decline of Mangold and Ferguson. It's just as well Chris Ivory is a tough runner (he ranked tied for third in yards after contact per attempt in 2013, with 3.0) because he got very little help from his linemen this past season: not a single one graded green as a run-blocker."

Mangold
My thoughts? I'd be surprised -- no, stunned -- if the Jets used a first- or second-day draft pick on a lineman. Ferguson and Mangold, both 30, may not be what they once were, but they're still in the top third of the league at their respective positions. Ferguson's cap numbers are so high that he can't be released without serious cap ramifications until 2016. For Mangold, who has less contractual security than Ferguson, that time occurs next year. But I still don't think it's time to start looking for their replacements; they're still two of the better players on the team.

The Jets gave Giacomini a $7 million guarantee, so they expect him to be around for at least a couple of years. At left guard, they suffered through Brian Winters' rookie growing pains, but they remain high on his future. If they were to draft a lineman, it likely would be a right guard. Willie Colon is back on a one-year contract, but there's no heir apparent -- unless you count William Campbell, a former defensive lineman who didn't get close to the field last season as a rookie. Campbell and tackle Oday Aboushi were the "future" picks in John Idzik's first draft. Evidently, they're still down-the-road prospects.

But do you want to know the biggest reason why the Jets won't use a high pick on a lineman?

Too many other pressing needs.

Sunday notes: Jets playing 'Moneyball'

March, 30, 2014
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Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:

1. Penny pinchers: For those not happy with John Idzik's conservative approach to free agency... well, you may not want to read this. It will raise your ire to a new level.

[+] EnlargeIdzik
AP Photo/Bill KostrounJets GM John Idzik has a new style this offseason: less spending, more scouting.
Right now, the Jets have the lowest cash payroll in the NFL -- $86.1 million, according to overthecap.com. We're not talking cap dollars, we're talking actual cash spending for 2014. They're $50 million under the top-spending team, the Baltimore Ravens. The paltry number makes the Jets seem like the New York Mets of the NFL.

In 14 months, Idzik has systematically dumped many of the highest salaries. Their once-top-heavy cap has thinned to the point where only three players have cap charges of at least $7 million -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson ($11.7 million), Nick Mangold ($7.2 million) and David Harris ($7 million). It's telling that the fourth- and fifth-highest cap numbers belong to players no longer on the roster -- Antonio Cromartie ($5.5 million) and Mark Sanchez ($4.8 million).

The Jets flirted with several big-name free agents (Jared Allen, DeMarcus Ware, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie), but missed out, in part, because they failed to show them the money. (Pardon the Jerry Maguire-ism.) What conclusions can be drawn? Either the Jets are cheap or Idzik is budgeting for the future. It's probably more of the latter. Know this: Starting this year, teams are required to spend at least 89 percent of the cap in cash over a four-year period. It looks like the Jets will have some catching up to do in future years.

2. DeSean update: Unless they pull a 180, the Jets won't be a factor in the DeSean Jackson sweepstakes -- a smart move. He's not a fit for them. They held internal discussions on Jackson, with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg giving his blessing. Mornhinweg, who coached him with the Philadelphia Eagles, told people in the organization that Jackson -- known for his bad-boy reputation -- wouldn't be a problem in the locker room. That apparently wasn't enough to sway Idzik, who reportedly hadn't reached out to Jackson's agent as of Saturday. Jackson is scheduled to visit Monday with the Washington Redskins. The Oakland Raiders might be interested as well.

3. On the road again: Idzik has popped up at a number of the high-profile pro days, most recently the Johnny Manziel extravaganza at Texas A&M. He's taking more scouting trips than he did last offseason, when he was new on the job and felt obligated to work from the office as he familiarized himself with the operation and the staff.

4. For Pete's sake: I caught up with Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll at the league meetings and asked for a scouting report on right tackle Breno Giacomini, who left the Super Bowl champions to sign with the Jets. Carroll: "Great competitor. Really fierce. A really smart player. Tough. Great finisher. Physical. He's legit. We hated losing Breno. We would've liked to (have kept him), but we couldn't do it. We had no intention of wanting to lose him, but he's one of the guys we had to transition out of the organization. He's worth it (for the Jets). He got paid well and he deserves it."

Translation: We liked him, but not at four years, $18 million.

5. Cro is for the birds: With All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson locking down one side of the field, Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians expects opponents to attack former Jet Antonio Cromartie -- and he's just fine with that.

"I love the fact that there's going to be a lot of balls thrown at him, because I didn't throw that many when I was playing against him," Arians said at the league meetings, expressing confidence in Cromartie's coverage ability.

He'll rue that statement if Cromartie doesn't cover better than he did last season.

6. Sleeper with speed: It was overshadowed by the Jackson news and the Sanchez signing, but the Jets picked up an interesting player Friday -- cornerback Jeremy Reeves. After a four-year career at Iowa State, where he intercepted five passes (two returned for touchdowns), Reeves was eligible for the 2013 draft. But he tore a pectoral muscle, missed his pro day, wasn't drafted and wasn't signed by anyone. After working out on his own for a year, he participated in Iowa State's pro day last week and burned the 40 in 4.29 seconds, according to school officials.

He's only 5-7, 167 pounds (picture Darren Sproles at corner), but that kind of speed -- even if not totally accurate -- turns heads. The Jets have a good feel for Reeves because Jeff Bauer, the director of college scouting, is an Iowa State alum, plugged into the Iowa scene.

7. Flying with the Eagles: Former Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (it feels weird typing that) made a good point in his introductory news conference in Philadelphia: He believes he could thrive in Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense because of past success in the hurry-up. Sanchez was at his best in two-minute situations, when he didn't have to read the entire field and was required to make quick decisions. So maybe there's hope for him in Philly. On the other hand, his career record against NFC teams isn't sterling -- 10 touchdown passes, 21 interceptions.

8. Reality star: Eric Decker's reality show -- "Eric and Jessie: Game On" -- kicks off its second season Sunday night. (Jessie is his wife, a country-music singer, in case you didn't know.) I asked Rex Ryan if he's worried the show could become a distraction for his new wide receiver. He laughed, but his answer was no. Ryan said the show never came up in conversation with Decker prior to him signing.

9. More teams, wealthier coaches: Ryan is in favor of expanding the playoff field. "Absolutely," he said. "When you look at the fact that bonuses are probably tied into it, absolutely." He laughed, but he wasn't joking. In his new contract extension, Ryan can trigger incentive bonuses for 2016 with playoff wins.

10. Changing times: The Jets have 12 draft picks. In Ryan's first three seasons (2009 to 2011), with Mike Tannenbaum as the GM, they had a total of 13.

What we learned on Day 1

July, 25, 2013
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CORTLAND, N.Y. -- A few thoughts from the press box on the opening of training camp:

1. Handwriting on the wall?: Not to be a Danny Downer or anything, but if you believe in reading tea leaves it's hard not to be concerned about the offense. Santonio Holmes isn't close to returning (I hear he could miss the entire preseason, maybe more), Mike Goodson didn't report to camp for an undisclosed reason and Joe McKnight flunked his conditioning test. Mind you, this is an offense that may struggle under ideal conditions. This could be a rough deal, no matter who the quarterback is.

2. Land of opportunity: It was a theme throughout the offseason, and it will be a theme in training camp -- competition. Every job, Rex Ryan said, is up for grabs. Well, not every job. He quickly noted that D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, David Harris and Antonio Cromartie don't have to sweat it. He forgot Muhammad Wilkerson, but Ryan made his point. And it will be a good thing, this competition thing. Nothing drives a team more than knowing that everything has to be earned. My sense is, the Jets became complacent the last two years. That shouldn't be a problem anymore.

3. Enough chatter: For three months, Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith have been asked the same questions: Do you expect to win the starting job? Are you confident? Yada, yada, yada. I got the feeling Thursday they're both weary of it. Can't say I blame them too much. Both quarterbacks have talked a good game, especially Sanchez, but now it's time to perform. The first practice is Friday. This is the fun part; we get to see everything with our own eyes -- unless, of course, Tony Sparano shows up out of nowhere and tries to block our view (see last summer's clandestine Wildcat practice).

Revis impact: Brick restructures deal

April, 26, 2013
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The Jets created $5.1 million in additional salary-cap space by restructuring the contract of LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson, a source confirmed. They needed the extra cap room because of the Darrelle Revis trade and the cap acceleration. The money saved by re-working Ferguson's contract will provide enough room to sign their two first-round picks, Dee Milliner and Sheldon Richardson.

It was a simple restructuring, as Ferguson still will earn the $8 million he was scheduled to make this season. He converted $6.41 million of his $7.25 million base salary into signing bonus, pro-rating it over the five remaining years of his contract. His base will now be $840,000. He also will earn a $750,000 workout bonus, which was part of the previous contract.

Ferguson's cap number was lowered from $10.7 million to $5.6 million. He became the third veteran to restructure this offseason, joining CB Antonio Cromartie and WR Santonio Holmes, who took a $3 million pay cut.

The Jets got hit with $4 million in extra cap charges by trading Revis to the Bucs. He was due to count $9 million, but it ballooned to $13 million with the acceleration. Soon after they traded Revis, the Jets approached Ferguson, who also re-worked his contract last offseason.

Yahoo! Sports first reported the Ferguson deal.

Jets draft preview: Offensive line

April, 19, 2013
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This is the fifth installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Offensive line

Depth chart: Center -- Nick Mangold, Caleb Schlauderaff; Tackle -- D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Austin Howard, Dennis Landolt, D.J. Young; Guard -- Willie Colon, Vladimir Ducasse.

Departures: LG Matt Slauson (Bears), RG Brandon Moore (unsigned), Jason Smith (Saints).

Total salary-cap charge (positional rank): $25.38 million (rank, first).

Scouting report: The glory days of '09 are long gone; this is a unit in transition. There's a solid foundation with Ferguson, Mangold and Howard, but there will be two new guards. Slauson left in free agency and Moore isn't far behind him. The Jets are searching for more competition at guard, shopping in the veteran-minimum aisle -- i.e. stop-gap players. They took a chance on Colon, an above-average player when healthy -- but he has been ravaged by injuries in recent years with the Steelers.

Right now, Colon and Ducasse are the starters. How's that grab you? Ducasse, a former second-round pick, was given an opportunity to start in each of his first three seasons -- and he failed every time. What makes them believe this year will be different? Howard had his share of hiccups in his first season as a starter, but he displayed enough potential to warrant a one-year, $2 million contract, the amount of his RFA tender. He was the 11th-rated right tackle in the league, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

The last time: G Robert Griffin was drafted last year in the sixth round, but he didn't make the team in training camp.

Potential targets: No team has picked a guard in the top 10 since 1997. Will the Jets buck the trend? There are two candidates -- Chance Warmack (Alabama) and Jonathan Cooper (North Carolina). Both play left guard and both are considered future Pro Bowlers. Warmack is the better power player, Cooper the better athlete, capable of dominating in a zone-blocking scheme. There's little risk with either player, but the question is: Is there enough value in the guard position to warrant a top-10 pick? If GM John Idzik is in a play-it-safe mode in his first draft, it could be a guard. There's some thought that the Jets prefer Cooper over Warmack. They also could find a quality guard in the second round, either Brian Winters (Kent State) or Larry Warford (Kentucky). At tackle, the Jets visited with New Yorker Oday Aboushi (Virginia), a mid-round prospect.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): Guard -- 10; tackle -- 5; center -- 1.

Analyzing the O: Help needed everywhere

April, 15, 2013
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The numbers resemble a zip code: 0, 9, 7, 7, 9. In reality, they represent the Jets' point total in five games last season.

In an era of wide-open passing attacks and high-scoring shootouts, the Jets trotted out a sorry offense that was reminiscent of the Rich Kotite daze. Rex Ryan took some responsibility, claiming he failed to establish an offensive identity, but the problem went beyond that.

[+] EnlargeNick Mangold
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireNick Mangold is one of the few players the Jets can count on offensively.
It's a talent issue. The Jets need playmakers and they need a quarterback who can galvanize his supporting cast. They're lacking in so many areas that it's easier to list their "haves" as opposed to their "needs." They have a left tackle, D'Brickashaw Ferguson. They have a center, Nick Mangold. Every other position has a question attached to it, creating almost an expansion-team feel.

The Jets averaged only 4.6 yards per play, next-to-last in the league. Statistically, it was one of the 10 worst offensive performances in the NFL over the last five years.

As usual, it starts with the quarterback. Mark Sanchez is part of the problem, no longer deemed part of the solution. Thing is, it's not a quick-fix situation. Sanchez's burdensome contract, coupled with a weak quarterback class, puts new GM John Idzik in a quandary: Does he commit to a new quarterback of the future by drafting one of the top prospects from the dinged-up Class of '13 or does he wait until next year and ride out the storm with the Sanchez-David Garrard-Greg McElroy troika?

Knowing Idzik, an executive in Seattle last year when the Seahawks found Russell Wilson in the third round, he'll probably wait. One thing could change that: If he feels strongly enough about one of the quarterbacks in the draft and can convince owner Woody Johnson to eat most of Sanchez's $8.25 million guarantee (the likely precursor to any trade), then maybe Idzik can start a new era at the position.

Geno Smith (West Virginia) could be available with the ninth pick, but we're not talking about a sure thing in the Andrew Luck-Robert Griffin III category. You want to be sure when you're picking a quarterback that high. The Jets like Ryan Nassib (Syracuse), but he probably will be picked somewhere between No. 9 and No. 39, their second-round choice.

The Jets should focus on upgrading the skill-position talent. Even though their top three receivers return, they still need a home-run threat for Marty Mornhinweg's West Coast offense. The top receivers are Tavon Austin (West Virginia) and Cordarrelle Patterson (Tennessee). The Jets' wideouts generated only 575 yards-after-the-catch, fourth-worst among receiving corps, according to ESPN Stats & Information. They need a pass-catching tight end to replace Dustin Keller and they could use a between-the-tackles runner to replace Shonn Greene.

Rome wasn't built in a day and the Jets' depleted offense can't be rebuilt in one draft.

Positional analysis: Offensive line

February, 8, 2013
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This is part five in a nine-part analysis of the Jets -- a position-by-position breakdown as we head toward the scouting combine and free agency:

OFFENSIVE LINE

2012 depth chart: D'Brickashaw Ferguson (starter), Matt Slauson (starter), Nick Mangold (starter), Brandon Moore (starter), Austin Howard (starter), Jason Smith, Vladimir Ducasse, Caleb Schlauderaff.

Overview: Opinions are all over the map. According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Jets' line ranked No. 3 in the league last season. Of course, if the line was so good, how did it surrender 11 sacks against the Chargers? Why did OL coach Dave DeGuglielmo get fired? Here's the truth: In 2012, the Jets' line wasn't as good as it used to be in 2009 and 2010, but it wasn't as bad as some portrayed it. They have a solid foundation, with Ferguson and Mangold. The organization is high on Howard, who, despite ups and downs in his first year as a starter, looks to be a keeper.

Free agents: Moore, Slauson, Howard (restricted).

2013 personnel preview: Howard will be back, but there's little chance of Moore and Slauson returning. It wouldn't be a total shock if they're both gone. The Jets won't pay big money for guards, so budget will dictate which direction they go. They groomed Ducasse last season to replace Slauson at left guard -- Ducasse played in 272 offensive snaps (25 percent) -- so you have to think he's the favorite. Ducasse isn't on scholarship anymore because his biggest ally, former GM Mike Tannenbaum, is gone. Moore, who will be 33, would be good on a short-term deal, but he likely will have suitors willing to offer more. There could be a stud guard waiting for them with the No. 9 overall pick -- Chance Warmack (Alabama). But it would be nuts to pick a guard that high.

Salary-cap situation: Ferguson ($10.7 million) and Mangold ($9.1 million) have huge cap numbers, so they could be asked to do simple restructurings. Ferguson did it a year ago, so it's Mangold's turn. He's also due a $3 million roster bonus in the coming weeks. They need to clear some room for Howard, who will command at least a second-round tender ($2 million).

Surprise: O-line ranks third in NFL

January, 28, 2013
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Even the most devout Jets fan might find this hard to believe, but the Jets fielded one of the premier offensive lines in 2012, according to the stats-based website ProFootballFocus.com.

According to PFF, the Jets' line finished third out of 32 teams in its statistical analysis, behind only the 49ers and Patriots. The Jets ranked seventh in pass blocking, third in run blocking and third in penalties, per PFF.

Somewhere, Dave DeGuglielmo is smiling. Well, maybe not smiling, but muttering under his breath, "I told you so." The offensive-line coach, who made his utter disdain for the media quite clear in his three (count 'em, three) group interviews over the course of the season, was sensitive to the criticism heaped upon his unit. Ironically, he railed against stats-based websites for having no clue as to how to grade linemen.

Well, now one of those websites is patting him on the back, basically exonerating the line for the offense's problems. DeGuglielmo's reaction? Don't know; we'll have to wait for the next hurricane. (Inside joke.) The kicker here is that his job is hanging by a thread, with a chance he might not be retained.

Anyhoo, here's PFF's analysis of the Jets' line:

Stud: There were plenty of contenders here, but given some of the guys he kept in check, credit to D'Brickashaw Ferguson (+23.5) for a fine year.

Dud: The run blocking of Matt Slauson (+2.5) left a lot to be desired.

Summary: Everybody wants to poke fun at the Jets, and for some reason the offensive line got caught in the crossfire. It wasn't quite its dominant self in the early weeks of the season, but they finishing playing as well as any team. Nick Mangold and Brandon Moore played angry, while Austin Howard found his feet as an NFL tackle. Still, a line can only do so much to put skill players in position to do good things, and in that regard the Jets are sorely lacking.

Jets give up 11 sacks in loss to Bolts

December, 23, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Only the replacement players were this bad.

The Jets tied a team record by allowing 11 sacks in Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Chargers, the most yielded since a group of replacement players took the field on Oct. 4, 1987, against the Cowboys.

[+] EnlargeKendall Reyes and Greg McElroy
Rich Kane/Icon SMIKendall Reyes picked up 3.5 of the Chargers' 11 sacks of Greg McElroy.
The Jets, regarded as one of the NFL's top offensive lines, had allowed 35 sacks entering the game.

"This wasn't our day," left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "We didn't play and execute in a manner that we were capable of. But it's our job to make sure that doesn't happen."

A combination of porous blocking and quarterback Greg McElroy holding the ball too long made it a long day for the passing game. From the first drive, San Diego brought the heat, forcing McElroy out of the pocket on the second play of the game and then chasing him down for a sack on the third. San Diego entered the game with just 27 sacks, ranked in the bottom half of the league.

Ferguson, along with center Nick Mangold, both talked of having to see the tape to break down where things went wrong. They said the Chargers did a good job bringing different twists that were difficult to pick up, that shouldn't lead to 11 sacks against the Jets' veteran line.

"They had 11 quarterback sacks," Jets coach Rex Ryan said in disgust to open his news conference. "That was great on their part and ridiculous on ours."

As much as the Jets' offensive line struggled, McElroy, making his first career start, admittedly held the ball too long. The second-year pro has the ability to stretch plays with his feet and relied a little too much on that, as he tried to keep plays alive instead of throwing the ball away. He did, however, avoid several sacks by managing to get just past the line of scrimmage.

"He's a tough guy," Mangold said. "He took some hits, which is disappointing, but he kept getting back up, which is a good thing. I think he'll be a good player."

When asked after the game if the Jets were caught off gaurd, by anything San Diego did, an exasperated Ferguson repeated, "I don't know."

"They're a good defense and they had a good plan, but it's our job as offensive linemen to provide protection and we definitely need to do that a little more," Ferguson said. "[I] didn't get a chance to look at the tape specifically, but I just know that it wasn't enough."

"I'm going home," guard Brandon Moore said. "I really don't have any thoughts."

For as bad as things were for the Jets' line on Sunday, they have nowhere to go but up against the Bills in the finale.

"I can promise and guarantee you won't see 11 sacks next week," receiver Braylon Edwards said.

It's all on the line -- really

December, 17, 2012
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NASHVILLE -- The Jets’ best chance to win – Monday night and the remainder of the season – rests on the offensive line.

It’s the only unit that hasn’t been beset by injuries. In fact, not one starter has missed a game, a rare case of continuity for this team.

What’s more, the line is improving, making recent strides in the running game. The question is, what took so long? That’s where there’s a difference of opinion.

Rex Ryan said it took time for the line to get comfortable with Tony Sparano’s gap blocking scheme, designed for a physical, downhill running attack. A year ago, the Jets employed a zone scheme, a finesse system in which the linemen block areas.

Ryan’s theory isn’t popular among the players themselves; they’re not buying the scheme explanation.

“No, we ran gap schemes last year that we were successful with,” said LG Matt Slauson, whose opinion is shared by others.

Slauson attributed the recent success -- an average of 147 yards per game over the last four -- to persistence and rhythm, finding a groove.

“It’s that point in the year where the running game starts to happen,” he said. “Back in 2009 and 2010, we weren’t the No. 1 rushing team in Weeks 1 to 7 or 1 to 8. That’s not how the running game works. It takes a while, beating your head against the wall.”

The Jets’ 11th-ranked rushing attack is anything but dynamic – it’s been six games since they averaged better than 4.1 per carry – but it has allowed them to control the ball, taking pressure off the defense. It’s just the way Ryan wants it. It’s ugly ball, but that’s how defensive-minded coaches like it.

Sparano seems to have found a comfort zone with his play calling, dialing up more counters and misdirection runs in recent weeks. That’s why you see more pulling linemen, especially the guards, Slauson and RG Brandon Moore. Even the tackles, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Austin Howard, are getting more chances to block on the run.

Sparano agreed that the line play has improved, saying the players have become comfortable and know how to react to any defensive look they might see.

With the Titans, the Jets will face a defensive front that’s better than its numbers might indicate. They’re ranked 23rd in run defense, but they’ve held their last four opponents under 126 yards. They have a young, aggressive front seven, and you can bet Sparano will try to dial up some misdirection plays -- runs and passes -- to exploit their fast-flow tendencies.

W2W4: Jets vs. Texans

October, 7, 2012
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan said he'd rather be playing Summit (N.J.) High School this week instead of the undefeated Texans. Unfortunately for Ryan, his son's school isn't on the Jets' schedule. The Texans (4-0) are one of the best teams in the NFL, and the Jets (2-2) played like the worst in last week's ugly loss to the 49ers.

This is a tremendous opportunity for the Jets to make a statement on a national, prime-time stage -- a chance to mock their naysayers and prove they still have plenty left after losing Santonio Holmes and Darrelle Revis. It won't be easy.

Kickoff is 8:30 Monday night on ESPN. What to watch for (with help from ESPN Stats & Information):

1. The QB drama. The pressure is on Mark Sanchez, who faces the top-ranked defense amid growing speculation that his job is in jeopardy. Sanchez is 2-0 against the Texans, but this will be the toughest test of them all. The Texans have an excellent third-down package (ranked No. 1) because they're able to pressure in a variety of ways. DE J.J. Watt (league-leading 7.5 sacks) is a big reason for that. Sanchez has to protect the ball because the Texans feed off turnovers. He must do a better job of setting his feet, even on short throws. He has completed a league-low 54.9 percent of his throws within 10 yards of the line. If Sanchez gets off to a slow start, he'll hear the chants for Tim Tebow.

2. Run the damn ball. The key to the game -- perhaps the key to the season -- is rediscovering a ground game that once scared opponents. The Texans can be vulnerable against the run; they're allowing 4.3 yards per carry. The Titans' Chris Johnson ran for 141 yards last week. The Jets don't have anyone the caliber of Johnson, but they can get to triple digits if the line does a better job of finishing its blocks. C Nick Mangold, coming off a rare off day, needs to step it up. The Jets are averaging only 2.94 yards per rush up the middle, 29th in the league. Tony Sparano has remained loyal to the slumping Shonn Greene as his No. 1 runner, but don't be surprised if Bilal Powell gets more work on early downs.

3. Defensive discipline. The Jets' beleaguered run defense was no match for the 49ers' gap scheme; now it has to deal with the Texans' zone running scheme. They like to use RB Arian Foster on outside stretch plays, and they do it better than anyone in the league. The Jets must remain disciplined, maintaining their gap integrity. If they get caught out of position, they'll get carved up on cutback runs. They also must tackle better. Last week was a joke -- 17 missed tackles, including a handful by LB David Harris and LB Bart Scott. The Jets are allowing 2.6 yards per rush after initial contact, the second-worst mark in the league. If they can't stop Foster, they'll get torched on play-action. QB Matt Schaub kills on play-action passes, averaging 12 yards per attempt.

4. Say, Watt? The Texans' big dog on defense is Watt, the early favorite for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He has a league-leading 7.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and five tipped passes in Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme. Watt usually lines up at left end in the base (over RT Austin Howard), switching to right end (over LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson) on passing downs. The Jets might have to double him at times; they can't let Watt wreck the game. Opponents have tried but failed; Watt has four straight multiple-sack games.

5. Punch 'em in the mouth: The Jets would never say this publicly, but they've always seen the Texans as a finesse team, a opponent they could push around. Ryan is 2-0 against the Texans, the Jets are 5-0. Considering their no-show performance last week, the Jets seem incapable of bullying anybody, but this will be a good test to see if they have as much fight left in them as Ryan claims. If they don't show up with a nasty 'tude, the Jets could get run out of the stadium. Schaub has won his last eight starts, with an average margin of victory of 20 points.

Jets brace themselves for high-Wattage foe

October, 6, 2012
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- J.J. Watt's numbers speak for themselves.

Through four games, the Texans defensive end has 7½ sacks, 32 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, five pass deflections and two fumble recoveries. He's had at least 1½ sacks each game for unbeaten Houston.

[+] EnlargeJ.J Watt
Bob Levey/Getty ImagesJ.J Watt
"The guy is obviously struggling," Jets head coach Rex Ryan joked.

On Monday night, though, it might not be a laughing matter. The Jets will have to find a way to keep Watt from creating havoc when they host the Texans at MetLife Stadium. Watt leads a defense that has 13 sacks this season, tied for fifth in the league.

"He's a heck of a player and it's going to be a difficult test for us up front," Jets center Nick Mangold said. "Especially since you consider they got a whole bunch of other guys that can rush the passer. It's going to be a challenge and a heck of a day for us."

To know how effective Watt has been this year, one just needed to listen to Ryan gush about him Wednesday. The Jets coach said Watt would be the defensive player of the year thus far, and relayed a story about how his brother, Dallas defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, talked about how he wanted the Cowboys to draft Watt last year. Rex Ryan said he told his brother that Watt would be a great pick.

The second-year end has certainly been all that he was hyped up to be, as he has helped transform Houston's defense into one of the most stout units in the league. Houston is tops in yards allowed per game, third-down efficiency and points per game. Having Watt bringing pressure on quarterback helps the team post such great numbers in those categories, and he was recently named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for his efforts.

"The person that lines up against him will definitely have a challenge," Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson said. "He's a good player."

Ferguson complimented Watt as a talented player who plays hard, and said Houston's line is technically sound and plays together. Ferguson and right tackle Austin Howard will have the unenviable task of trying to slow down Watt as he moves around on the defensive line in Houston's 3-4 system.

The Jets struggled against San Francisco's relentless pass rush this week and could have another rough week if they don't figure out a way to stop Houston's attack on Monday. While Watt has produced eye-popping numbers, Ferguson wasn't concerning himself with the stats.

"Not really focused on that," Ferguson said. "(It's) great that he has talent and great he can do some nice things, but we go out there, we analyze film, we analyze tape and then we play our game."

In-depth look at Howard's performance

August, 27, 2012
8/27/12
4:20
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Some final observations on Sunday night's 17-12 loss to the Panthers:

Austin Howard, starting for the demoted Wayne Hunter, allayed the organization's concerns at right tackle. By my evaluation, after studying the video, Howard didn't allow any QB pressures while playing with the starting unit -- a total of 21 drop-backs. Here's a breakdown of how he fared in different pass-protection situations:

Isolated vs. pass rusher -- 13 plays. On nine of the plays, Howard blocked DE Charles Johnson, the Panthers' best pass rusher. He was on an island, left alone versus a guy making $76 million over six years. Howard held his own, showing nice lateral quickness on Johnson's outside rushes. Johnson had a knee scope in the offseason and he said recently he's still not 100 percent, so maybe that was a factor.

'Chipping' help vs. pass rusher -- Four plays. On the Jets' first play, Howard got big-time help from FB John Conner, who blasted Johnson while leaking out on a pass route. It was like the Jets were trying to send a message, telling the Panthers they weren't going to allow them to do what the Giants did to Wayne Hunter the previous week. NBC's Cris Collinsworth, on the game telecast, picked up on that immediately. Conner chipped Howard's man on three other occasions.

Double team vs. pass rusher -- One play. They used Howard in tandem with RG Brandon Moore to block DE Antwan Applewhite.

"I thought Austin Howard had a nice game for us," Rex Ryan said. Moore added, "I didn't hear the coaches yelling at him, so he must have done pretty good."

BAD GAME MANAGEMENT: I have no idea why the Jets chose to eat the ball at the end of the first half. With 1:11 on the clock, they got the ball at their 25, with three timeouts remaining. This was a perfect chance to work on their hurry-up offense, but they ran Shonn Greene around left end and threw a nothing pass to Greene, content to take a 10-9 deficit into halftime.

Obviously, the score didn't matter, but they wasted a good teaching opportunity. The previous week, they got a two-minute chance against the Giants, but they went three-and-out. So, yes, they could've used the work.

"It was kind of an iffy situation," said Ryan, explaining the decision. He said they didn't feel the urgency in that situation because they knew the starters would begin the second half. Nevertheless, it didn't show a lot of confidence in the players.

TINY TIM: Backup QB Tim Tebow has provided an occasional spark, but his preseason passing numbers are about as ugly as ugly gets -- 13-for-34 (38 percent), 151 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions and seven sacks. Tebow won't play in the final preseason game, so those numbers aren't getting any better.

"It was kind of good news, bad news," Ryan said. "At times, Tim looked terrific, (he) absolutely did. He did energize the crowd ... I don’t know how many quarterbacks can stand back there and get away from the rush (and) buy time like he was able to do. I was impressed with it, and there was one ball, he threw it so hard, I was just glad it never hit a cheerleader, to be honest with you."

BOTTLE THIS: For one fleeting moment, the Jets' offense was flawless in its execution. It came on Shonn Greene's 18-yard run. The play was well-blocked, with C Nick Mangold delivering a hook block on NT Sione Fua. RG Vladimir Ducasse finished off Fua, pancaking him. LG Matt Slauson and LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson executed a combo block on rookie DT Nate Chandler. Wayne Hunter, in as an extra blocker, neutralized DE Greg Hardy. Greene picked the perfect hole and hit it for 18. Now if they can do that more consistently ...

Revis tops list of Scouts Inc.'s ranked Jets

August, 21, 2012
8/21/12
5:19
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Scouts Inc. and ESPN Insider's Matt Williamson have ranked players at all positions in the NFL heading into the 2012 season and the Jets are led by shutdown corner Darrelle Revis. Revis is ranked fifth overall and is one of five Jets in the top 200. Here's how Gang Green fared in the rankings:

QB: Mark Sanchez: No. 31 QB

QB: Tim Tebow: No. 34 QB

RB: Shonn Greene: No. 29 RB

WR: Santonio Holmes: No. 159 overall, No. 24 WR

TE: Dustin Keller: No. 12 TE

OT: D'Brickashaw Ferguson: No. 96 overall, No. 9 OT

C: Nick Mangold: No. 38 overall, No. 1 C

OG: Brandon Moore: No. 193 overall, No. 10 OG

OG: Matt Slauson: No. 50 OG

DE: Muhammad Wilkerson: No. 43 DE

DT: Sione Pouha: No. 20 DT

LB: David Harris: No. 49 LB

CB: Revis: No. 5 overall, No. 1 CB

CB: Antonio Cromartie: No. 29 CB

S: LaRon Landry: No. 35 S

S: Eric Smith: No. 36 S

S: Yeremiah Bell: No. 49 S

K: Nick Folk: No. 18 K

P: T.J. Conley: No. 23 P

You can see all the rankings here (Insider).

QUESTION: What do you think of these rankings? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Breaking down the pass-pro woes

August, 19, 2012
8/19/12
2:01
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In two games, the Jets' pass protection has been abysmal. Check out these numbers: In 56 drop-backs, they've allowed 12 sacks. The starting unit has surrendered five sacks in 20 drop-backs. At that rate, Mark Sanchez will be a regular in the ER.

After breaking down the tape from Saturday night's horror show, the thing that jumped out was that all three sacks allowed by the first-team offense came on four-man rushes. The Giants didn't trick it up. It was their vanilla versus the Jets' vanilla, and we all know who had the best ice cream. You'd like to think that O.C. Tony Sparano would've made adjustments in a regular-season game, providing help with a tight end and/or running back.

The weak link was RT Wayne Hunter, who allowed 2.5 sacks -- and it would've been 3.5 if it weren't for a Giants neutral-zone infraction that had nothing to do with the play. Truth be told, there might have been another sack; Hunter stumbled while blocking Justin Tuck, but Tuck got tangled up with him and couldn't make a play.

Analyzing the sacks:

1. Jason Pierre-Paul beats Hunter. This was a basic four-man rush vs. a five-man protection. Hunter will get the blame for the sack, as JPP tossed him aside and dropped Sanchez, but LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson also played a role. He got beat by Osi Umenyiora on an outside rush, forcing Sanchez to step up and into JPP.

2. Tuck/Umenyiora beat Hunter/Ferguson. Once again, the Jets' five-man protection got beat by a four-man rush. Once again, Hunter got beat to the outside, this time by Tuck. Ferguson did a good job on Umenyiora, but Umenyiora changed direction and cleaned up from behind when he saw Sanchez step up in the pocket. Sanchez should get some blame because he held the ball too long (the play took 4.8 seconds). On the plus side, Sanchez protected the ball with two hands as he navigated the traffic. He didn't do that consistently last season.

PENALTY: Tuck beats Hunter. He beat Hunter, but the Jets caught a break because the sack was nullified by offsides on Umenyiora. The Jets went to an empty look for the first time, and their five-man protection didn't hold up.

3. Pierre-Paul beats Hunter. This was pretty simple: Hunter got bull-rushed by JPP. It was a four-man rush against a five-man protection.

4. Adewale Ojomo beats Austin Howard. This happened at the start of the fourth quarter, when both teams had their backups in the game. Howard, playing left tackle, actually got called for holding as he tried to fight off Ojomo, but Ojomo beat him anyway. QB Tim Tebow didn't help matters by holding the ball too long.

5. Will Hill beats air. This was one of the few times the Giants actually blitzed. Hill was unblocked on a backside blitz and he dropped Tebow, his former college teammate, from the blindside. Tebow was visibly frustrated, perhaps with RB Joe McKnight, who leaked out of the backfield on a pass route instead of picking up Hill.

6. Matt Broha beats Robert Griffin. The rookie right tackle couldn't handle Broha's speed. The undersized rookie end beat him with an outside rush.

7. Ojomo beats the interior. The Giants rushed six, with Ojomo coming on an inside stunt. He was unblocked, knifing between C Caleb Schlauderaff and RG Matt Kroul.

Hey, look at the bright side: Vlad Ducasse didn't get mentioned once in this post-mortem.

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