New York Jets: 2013 Week 4 NYJ at TEN

Rex's push-up plan not working

September, 29, 2013
NASHVILLE -- So is the answer more push-ups?

For the second straight week, the New York Jets were an undisciplined football team, committing 10 penalties for 66 yards in a 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans Sunday at LP Field. That makes 30 penalties in the last two games.

If you want to take the glass-half-full approach, you can say they cut the number in half. Rex Ryan was in no mood to look at it that way.

"Ten penalties? How 'bout that?" he said sarcastically. "Obviously, we've got to do a heck of a lot better job than that. ... Apparently, I was wrong on the penalties -- at least it's going to take longer than I thought. But it's going to get fixed. Hell or high water, it's going to get fixed."

The most frequent offender was wide receiver Ben Obomanu, who was flagged three times -- unnecessary roughness, illegal shift and holding. (The holding penalty was declined.)

The other culprits: LG Vladimir Ducasse (false start and a declined holding), LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson (false start), CB Darrin Walls (defensive holding), LB Garrett McIntyre (personal foul), RG Willie Colon (illegal use of hands), TE Jeff Cumberland (illegal shift), DB Ellis Lankster (out of bounds on punt) and QB Geno Smith (delay of game).

The most alarming part? Five were pre-snap penalties, indicating a lack of awareness and focus.

It looks like Ryan needs to step up his penalty-prevention program.

Bad defensive day turns into slapstick

September, 29, 2013
NASHVILLE -- Can we please postpone the coronation of the New York Jets' defense?

Full of confidence after last week's eight-sack beat down of the Buffalo Bills, the Jets were sliced and diced by Jake Locker and Ryan Fitzpatrick, who combined for four touchdown passes in the Tennessee Titans' 38-13 victory at LP Field.

The final indignity occurred with 7:06 remaining in the fourth quarter, when cornerback Antonio Cromartie, Nate Washington and back judge Billy Smith collided on a 77-yard touchdown pass -- another Jets blooper.

Cromartie said he asked the official, "What the hell are you doing back here?" He said Smith apologized.

[+] EnlargeTennessee's Nate Washington
P Photo/Wade PayneJets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, back judge Billy Smith and Titans receiver Nate Washington collide. The result was a 77-yard score for Washington.
That pretty much captured the disastrous day for the Jets.

Truth is, Cromartie was beaten cleanly by Washington, who had to slow down because Fitzpatrick's throw hung in the air like a punt. Once Washington made the catch, the collision occurred with Cromartie and Smith.

"No, he didn't interfere with the play," Cromartie said. "That's on me fully. Me being the number one corner on this team, I need to make sure that I go up and intercept that ball or bat it down."

It was a tough day for the Jets' corners. Earlier, Cromartie slipped on the wet grass and allowed a 4-yard scoring pass to Washington. Darrin Walls, who started in the Dee Milliner-Kyle Wilson slot, allowed a 16-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Justin Hunter. It was a terrific catch by Hunter, but Walls could've played it better. The Titans use Hunter almost exclusively in the red zone, so it shouldn't have been a surprise that he got the ball -- especially in the final seconds of the first half.

"That's a killer," Rex Ryan said. "There's only one play they can run and that's the shot in the end zone. You know it's coming and everybody in the ballpark knows it's coming. The only time they put that kid in the game is to throw the jump ball, and there's a reason he came down with it."

The cornerback spot opposite Cromartie has turned into musical chairs. Walls started for Kyle Wilson, who last week started for Milliner, the struggling rookie who pulled a hamstring in practice. Ryan is running out of competent corners and, frankly, Cromartie was off his game as well.

Give credit to the Titans; they had a masterful game plan. Recognizing the Jets were focusing on running back Chris Johnson, the Titans put the ball in Locker's hands, letting him throw from the pocket. That's what the Jets wanted, but they got more than they expected from Locker, who completed 18 of 24 passes for 149 yards and three touchdowns. The Jets underestimated Locker, not known for his passing exploits.

"Maybe that's why it surprised us," rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said.

The Jets were held to two sacks and produced no takeaways for the third straight game. That's simply not acceptable. By the way, the Titans have yet to commit a turnover. In fairness to the defense, it had to play on a short field throughout the game because of Geno Smith's turnovers. The Titans' first three touchdown drives were 18, 26 and 46 yards.

No matter. Linebacker David Harris was visibly irked by the performance.

"Just say we lost," he said. "We got our butts kicked by a better team today. Simple as that."

Asked if the Titans might simply be a better team, Harris snapped, "We lost. Did you see the score?"

Struggling Jets must stick with Geno Smith

September, 29, 2013
Geno Smith Wesley Hitt/Getty ImagesGeno Smith added yet another moment of ignominy to Jets lore: the Around-the-Butt Fumble

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If Mark Sanchez was healthy, the New York Jets would have one salacious quarterback controversy. But his injured right shoulder won’t be healed until November (if then), so they have little choice but to ride with Geno Smith.

Better take a Dramamine.

After Sunday’s 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans at LP Field, Smith approached many teammates in the locker room, basically telling them, “It won’t happen again.” It will, of course, because he’s a rookie, and rookies have days like this. He handed 28 points to the Titans with four turnovers, and introduced a new term into the franchise’s long history of blooper plays -- the Around-the-Butt Fumble.

At 2-2, it would be a panic move for the Jets to bench Smith in favor of Matt Simms. They’d be going from little experience to no experience. Afterward, Rex Ryan eliminated any doubt, saying Smith will start next week against the Atlanta Falcons.

Unless he pulls a Greg Schiano and flip-flops, Ryan is making the right call by sticking with Smith. It’s a no-brainer, really. This season is all about Smith, finding out if he’s good enough to make him the centerpiece of the franchise. There may come a time to check out Simms, but not now.

So turn down the volume on the “We Want Simms” drumbeat.

The next chapter of this soap opera is waiting to see how the kid from West Virginia University responds to adversity. He has to get better, right?

Smith offered a scathing self-evaluation, describing his performance as “piss-poor.” Hard to argue with that. He threw two interceptions and lost two fumbles because of careless ballhandling, evoking memories of some Sanchez-ian gaffes.

Smith scored points for creativity, trying to switch the ball to his left hand -- behind the back -- while getting bulldozed by defensive tackle Karl Klug at the Jets’ goal line. Note to young quarterbacks: Don’t try any trickeration when there’s a 280-pound human attached to your body.

Naturally, Smith fumbled, and it was recovered for a touchdown to make it 31-6. The game probably was out of reach anyway, but that one moment -- that one brain cramp -- showed a young player overwhelmed by the moment and the day.

“It was kind of one of those tough situations,” Smith said. “My only reaction was to swing my left hand around and grab it before I fumbled it. I couldn’t get it around.”

Sanchez, watching from the sideline in street clothes, could empathize. At least now maybe his Butt Fumble can be put to rest.

How bad was Smith? He was sacked, lost a fumble or threw an interception on nine of his 42 drop-backs, bringing his turnover total to 11 -- eight interceptions and three fumbles. He’s tied with Eli Manning for the league lead in turnovers. In fact, Smith has more turnovers by himself than all but one team -- the New York Giants, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

A livid Ryan was in no mood to use the rookie-growing-pains alibi.

“How many times are we going to make that excuse?” he asked. “One of these days we’re going to have to learn from them, and it better be soon. The team we’re going to play next [the 1-3 Atlanta Falcons] is a pretty good darn football team, so we better learn in a hurry. It has to get better.”

Smith was intercepted by Alterraun Verner on the second play of the game, underthrowing a deep ball to Stephen Hill, and he was cooked right there. He never regained his composure, rattled by the Titans’ relentless blitzing.

Another lowlight occurred when he was scrambling in the open field for a first down, holding the ball with one hand and inviting what occurred next -- a tomahawk chop by linebacker Zach Brown, who slapped the ball loose. His second interception was a bad decision, forcing a ball into blanket coverage on Santonio Holmes, who was beaten to the ball by Verner.

Then came the Around-the-Butt Fumble.

“I’m extremely disappointed with the way I took care of the ball,” Smith said.

Smith wasn’t the only goat. The Jets committed 10 penalties (that’s 30 in two weeks) and allowed four touchdown passes, so there was plenty of blame to go around. Ryan tried to emphasize that point. Sensing the media was picking on Smith in the postgame news conference, the coach insisted, “I think we’re unfairly criticizing one man.”

His teammates -- the ones who spoke, that is -- supported him, saying the right things. Holmes and Calvin Pace, veteran leaders, left without speaking to reporters.

“We believe in the guy,” Kellen Winslow said of Smith.

Do the Jets have a choice?

They are paying the price for mismanaging the quarterback competition in the preseason, resulting in Sanchez’s injury. So now it’s Smith or bust, trying to figure out a way to make him better. Marty Mornhinweg could help by calling more running plays. They actually ran well against the Titans, but the aggressive playcaller kept dialing up passes.

In the meantime, prepare for a bumpy ride.

“[The mistakes] are correctable,” Smith said, “and they will be corrected.”


Wilkerson: It was a clean hit on Locker

September, 29, 2013
NASHVILLE -- Muhammad Wilkerson knocked Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker out of the game in the third quarter with a potentially serious hip injury, but the New York Jets' defensive end insisted it was a clean hit. He said one of the officials told him so.

"If it was late, they would've thrown a flag," Wilkerson said after the Jets' 38-13 loss at LP Field. "They didn't throw a flag. The ref told me it was a clean hit. I took my one step and that was that."

On the CBS telecast, analyst Dan Dierdorf said Wilkerson struck Locker in the chest with the crown of his helmet. If the league sees it that way, Wilkerson likely would be fined.

Locker absorbed the blow and fell awkwardly, immediately clutching his right hip. He was motionless on the ground, silent, on his back. Nearby, defensive end Sheldon Richardson dropped to one knee.

"I always say a prayer when guys go down like that," Richardson said.

The Titans didn't waste any time, immediately summoning for medical help. He was carted off the field, giving a thumb's up as he left. The Titans gave no immediate update, except to say X-rays were negative.

In two-plus quarters, Locker (18-for-24, 149 yards) torched the Jets, throwing three touchdown passes -- a career high.

Locker Room Buzz: New York Jets

September, 29, 2013
NASHVILLE -- Observed in the locker room after the New York Jets' 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans:

Steamed Rex: Rex Ryan was furious, and he didn't mince words. He began his postgame news conference by saying they were beaten in every phase, including coaching. He added, "It shocked me. I never expected that the game would turn out like this. Shocked. I don't know what else to say." He wasn't overly critical of rookie quarterback Geno Smith, instead spreading the blame everywhere.

Growing pains: Before the media was allowed in the locker room, Smith approached individual players and, according to linebacker Antwan Barnes, told each one, "It won't happen again." Minutes later, Smith faced reporters, calling his four-turnover day a "piss-poor" performance. Later, Smith was seen walking to the team bus, limping noticeably on his still-tender right ankle. He was staring at his smartphone as he walked through the bowels of the stadium.

Silent treatment: Santonio Holmes and Calvin Pace, two of the so-called leaders on the team, left the locker room without talking to reporters. Holmes, who injured his right hamstring, was limping. Pace wasn't injured; he just put on his headphones and bolted past reporters, none too eager to discuss an awful defensive performance. You expect veteran players to face the music after a humiliating loss.

Rapid Reaction: Titans 38, Jets 13

September, 29, 2013
NASHVILLE -- A few thoughts on the New York Jets' 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans at LP Field:

What it means: The Jets (2-2) blew a chance to stamp themselves as a legitimate early-season surprise. They were outplayed and outcoached, committing costly mistakes at every turn. Clearly, last week's win over the Buffalo Bills, which looked pretty on the stat sheet (save for the 20 penalties), was a mirage. The Jets were not ready for this game mentally or physically -- and it started with rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who committed four turnovers. That led to 28 points for the Titans (3-1). He received little support. Continuing their lack of discipline, they were guilty of 10 penalties for 66 yards.

Stock watch: Smith took a major step backward -- and that's an understatement. I didn't think a quarterback could play as poorly as Mark Sanchez did last December against the Titans (five turnovers), but Smith did just that. Rattled by the Titans' relentless blitzing, Smith lacked poise, accuracy, pocket presence, situation awareness -- you name it. He was intercepted twice (eight for the season), putting him at a 32-interception pace. He also lost two fumbles, including one at his own goal line that was recovered for a touchdown. That play highlighted Smith's inexperience. Under duress, he actually tried to switch the ball to his left hand with a behind-the-back move. He has 11 turnovers in four games, a 44-turnover pace.

No doubt, fans will be screaming for Matt Simms. That would be a panic move by Rex Ryan and would serve no purpose. You have to ride this out with the rookie, finding out if he is the future. If Sanchez was healthy, it would be a different situation. But he's not, so be prepared to ride the rookie roller coaster.

Locked out: The Jets accomplished their No. 1 defensive goal, containing running back Chris Johnson (15 carries for 21 yards), but they left themselves vulnerable to the pass by using their base defense at times against the Titans' three-receiver sets. Jake Locker executed a controlled passing attack that neutralized the Jets' pass rush and exploited deficiencies in the secondary. He set a career high with three touchdown passes before being carted off in the third quarter with a right hip injury.

The Raiders 2.0: Ryan always has prided himself on having a low-penalty team, but that reputation is getting torched. He placed a huge emphasis on the penalty problem in practice (pushups for everyone), and it did no good. Many of the penalties were of the pre-snap variety, indicating a lack of focus. Ugly stuff.

Receiver problems: The Jets lost their starting wide receivers to injuries, as Stephen Hill (head) and Santonio Holmes (hamstring) didn't finish the game -- injury to insult.

What's Next: Now the Jets head into the difficult portion of their schedule: a Monday night road game against the Atlanta Falcons (1-2), who play the New England Patriots Sunday night.

With Milliner out, Walls starts at cornerback

September, 29, 2013
NASHVILLE -- As expected, rookie cornerback Dee Milliner and running back Chris Ivory -- both with injured hamstrings -- were among the New York Jets' inactive players Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

The Jets announced before the game that Darrin Walls will start at cornerback, opposite Antonio Cromartie. This doesn't come as a huge surprise, but it doesn't reflect well on Kyle Wilson, who started last week for the demoted Milliner. Wilson might have lost the job because of his ill-timed implosion in the fourth quarter, when he lost his poise and committed a penalty on four straight plays.

Wilson is expected to play in the nickel package.

Without Ivory, the Jets went into the game with only three running backs -- Bilal Powell, Alex Green and rookie fullback Tommy Bohanon, who is capable of playing tailback in a pinch. The team didn't immediately announce who will replace Milliner, who was used as a nickel back last week after being demoted in the previous game.

The Jets' other inactives are quarterback Brady Quinn, guard Will Campbell, tackle Oday Aboushi, tackle Ben Ijalana and linebacker Ricky Sapp.

For the Titans, receiver Kenny Britt, the former Rutgers standout, is inactive. He's suffering from a rib injury. He also has fallen out of favor with the coaching staff and, according to ESPN Insider Adam Schefter, is on the trading block.

The Titans' other inactives are former Jets running back Shonn Greene, linebacker Patrick Bailey, center Brian Schwenke, tackle Byron Stingily, defensive tackle Sammie Hill and defensive end Lavar Edwards.