New York Jets: Vladimir Ducasse

Source: Ducasse signs with Vikings

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse, one of the biggest draft mistakes of the Mike Tannenbaum administration, is officially a goner.

Ducasse, an unrestricted free agent, signed a one-year contract Monday with the Minnesota Vikings, according to a league source. The Cincinnati Bengals showed interest, as did the New York Jets, but Ducasse wanted a fresh start.

Ducasse was the Jets' second-round draft pick in 2010. He was an unpolished player with a small-school background, but the Jets envisioned the former UMass standout as a versatile talent who could start at tackle or guard. He played 50 games in four seasons, but started only five. He started the first four games at left guard last season before losing his job to rookie Brian Winters.

The Jets tried Ducasse at both guard spots and right tackle over the years, but he couldn't crack the lineup until last year's short-lived stint. He played in 2012, rotating with starting left guard Matt Slauson -- a controversial arrangement. Then-line coach Dave DeGuglielmo made it clear his preference was Slauson, suggesting the front office was forcing the coaching staff to play Ducasse.

Tannenbaum, the former general manager, was fiercely loyal to Ducasse. At one point late in the 2012 season, Tannenbaum said, "I think Vlad is going to have a great career."

This much we know: It won't be with the Jets.

Green Day: Chilly start for rookie Winters

December, 4, 2013
12/04/13
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The New York Jets have a Geno Smith situation unfolding at left guard.

If you haven't noticed, rookie Brian Winters is struggling, really struggling. Even though he has started only eight games, Winters tops all guards in the NFL with nine sacks allowed, according to ProFootballFocus.com. For an interior lineman, nine sacks is the equivalent of 19 interceptions for a quarterback, but at least Smith can say he's played every game.

If Rex Ryan wants to do what's in the best interest of the team, as he always says, he'd bench Winters -- if, in fact, he has that power. Look, we know Vladimir Ducasse isn't the second coming of Larry Allen, but he would be an upgrade at the position. For those keeping track, he allowed two sacks in four games before being benched in favor of Winters.

We know why Ducasse isn't playing: He's in the final year of his contract and he'll be playing elsewhere next season. Winters was John Idzik's third-round pick, and the first-year general manager is calling the shots here, folks. Winters is part of the future, so Idzik wants him on the field even if he's hurting the present. Similar politics are playing out at the quarterback position, where Smith has done nothing over the last few weeks to justify his starting role.

Idzik preaches competition, but the playing field isn't always level.

ICYMI: As expected, the Jets placed KR Josh Cribbs (shoulder) on season-ending injured reserve. To replace him, the Jets signed return specialist Darius Reynaud, most recently of the Tennessee Titans. They killed two birds with one signing, as Reynaud can return punts and kickoffs. ... The Jets worked out several players Tuesday, including Reynaud and CB DeQuan Menzie (Detroit Lions, Kansas City Chiefs). ... The Jets dropped only one spot in the ESPN.com Power Rankings, slipping to No. 23. ... Our film review of the Jets' nightmare loss to the Miami Dolphins. Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of botched plays; for mature audiences only.

Green Day: Eye-opening comparisons

November, 7, 2013
11/07/13
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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.

Sunday notes: Santonio Holmes 'is a pain'

October, 6, 2013
10/06/13
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A few Week 5 notes before heading to Atlanta for the bright lights of ESPN's "Monday Night Football":

1. Tone's Time almost over: Back in 2010, when Rex Ryan heard there was a chance to trade for Santonio Holmes, he literally ran up the stairs to Mike Tannenbaum's office and told him to make the deal. I'm sure there have been times over the past three years when Ryan wishes he never made that crazy dash. Holmes is "a pain in the ass," as more than one person in the organization has told me over the years. There are two kinds of PIAs in sports: The kind you tolerate because of their ability to impact games and the kind you dump because the headache isn't worth the pay off. Holmes belongs to the latter group.

His latest foot-in-mouth comment ("I can't throw it to myself and catch it. Otherwise, I would") made splashy headlines. It was a dumb thing to say even though I don't think he meant it as a malicious attack against QB Geno Smith. Maybe I'm jaded because I expect one or two brushfires a year from Holmes. In three-plus seasons, he has created more controversies than 100-yard receiving days (four). His on-the-field production, more than his mouth, is the real issue.

Smith is completing only 44 percent of his passes to Holmes, 60 percent to everybody else, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Three of Smith's eight interceptions have come on targets to Holmes. Maybe he's still hampered by his surgically repaired foot. It's hard to say because you can't get a straight answer. Now he's saying he was 100 percent from Week 1. Clearly, he's not an elite receiver, but he's in the third year of an elite contract -- five years, $45 million.

Landing that deal was one of the greatest stick-ups in recent history. The late and shortened free-agency period in 2011, due to the lockout, gave him tremendous leverage. The Jets paid dearly. The guaranteed money in the deal dries up in 2014. That's when the Jets will say goodbye and good riddance. If you're a diva receiver, you'd better be a dominant diva receiver. Holmes isn't.

2. Goodson not out of woods: RB Mike Goodson served his time for Roger Goodell, a four-game suspension for violating the league's substance abuse policy, but the drug and weapons charges from his May arrest still are pending. His case was sent to a Morris County (N.J.) grand jury in June, and the outcome is expected to be known "imminently," according to a source. An indictment could be handed down within a couple of weeks.

3. Costly lack of discipline: If the Jets keep racking up player fines at their current pace, owner Woody Johnson will have to cut a big check to the league office. According to the NFL's safety policy, a team is required to remit $50,000 to the league if the fine total reaches $105,000, counting the preseason. If it hits $157,000, the team has to pay another $25,000 and must match any subsequent fines for the remainder of the season.

Some fines don't become public, but this is what we've been able to compile on the Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson ($15,785), Quinton Coples ($7,875), Willie Colon ($34,125), D'Brickashaw Ferguson ($15,000), Dawan Landry ($21,000) and Matt Simms ($7,875). That's a total of $101,660.

Keep in mind, the totals can vary because the players have an opportunity to appeal. Fines can be upheld, partially upheld or rescinded. Nevertheless, after only four games, the Jets appear headed toward a stiff penalty. Unlike Ryan, Goodell doesn't accept push-ups as punishment.

4. Draft drought: Wonder why the offense is shy on playmakers? The last skill-position player drafted by the Jets to make a Pro Bowl was FB Richie Anderson. He was drafted in 1993 and made his only Pro Bowl in 2000. There you go. You can bet it'll be a focus for GM John Idzik in next spring's draft.

5. The Brady bunch: On Friday, Ryan was asked if he has considered making "Brady" the No. 2 quarterback, ahead of Matt Simms, because of his veteran presence. Ryan's response: "Tom or Quinn? Tom would be active." Funny line.

Quite frankly, I'm surprised Brady Quinn hasn't overtaken Simms for the No. 2 spot, based simply on his experience. But it's apparent from listening to Ryan and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg they have a relatively strong belief in Simms. Strong enough to play him if Smith continues to struggle? I'm on record as saying they have to ride it out with Smith, but that doesn't mean they can't give Simms some mop-up work or a chance in the second half of a game if Smith lays another egg. Never rule it out.

6. An ordinary Joe: Are the Jets down on Joe McKnight or what? The Jets are ranked 31st in kickoff-return average and 32nd in field position (average start of drive), and yet McKnight remains unemployed. They've also had issues at running back -- and McKnight remains unemployed. His well-documented problems in training camp irked the organization more than we'll ever know.

7. The Fab Five: Rookie LG Brian Winters, expected to start Monday night for Vladimir Ducasse, will become the fifth 2013 draft pick to claim a starting job. I'm not sure if CB Dee Milliner (injured) still is a starter, per se, because it's hard to figure out what's happening at right corner, but let's roll with the "five" figure. The last Jets draft to produce five starters was 2000 -- Shaun Ellis, John Abraham, Chad Pennington, Anthony Becht and Laveranues Coles. And none of them were full-time starters as rookies.

8. Chief of security: Running backs coach Anthony Lynn worked with Geno Smith all week to help with his ball-security issues. Lynn is the Jets' resident expert, and with good reason. Since 2009, when Lynn arrived, the Jets have lost only 13 fumbles on rushing attempts. That ranks 18th in the league, but that standing is deceiving because they've rushed more times over that span than any team in the league -- 2,203 attempts, according to ESPN Stats & Information. That breaks down to one lost fumble every 169 attempts. If Lynn can't fix Smith, no one can.

9. Welcome to the league, kid: All this talk about rookie quarterbacks prompted me to ask Quinn if he could recall his first game as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns (2007). Because of an injury to starter Derek Anderson, he was thrown into a game against the San Francisco 49ers. It was Dec. 30, and he recalled his feet felt like cement. His first drive ended at the 49ers' 6-yard line after back-to-back drops in the end zone. The receivers that dropped the passes? Kellen Winslow and Braylon Edwards.

10. A career with only one regret: Former DL Marty Lyons will be inducted into the Jets' Ring of Honor on Oct. 13 -- a well-deserved honor for a class act. The other day, Lyons was emotional as he reflected on his career and post-career accomplishments in the community. He harbors only one regret -- Dec. 7, 1987, the night he inadvertently ended the career of Miami Dolphins C Dwight Stephenson, a friend and former college teammate at Alabama. Stephenson, who would become a Hall of Famer, wrecked his knee when he was blocked by Lyons on a fumble return. It wasn't a low block by Lyons, but it occurred away from the play -- and that caused a furor. In some respects, it has haunted Lyons.

"You look back on your career -- college and the NFL -- and you say to yourself, 'If I could have one play back ...' That would be the play I'd want back. I didn't feel like it was a cheap shot, I just wish the result was different. ... Every now and then, you go back to Miami or Alabama, and it flares its head. Some people never let me forget that, but I also have to tell those people, 'I didn't forget it.' I don't need them to remind me. I live with it every single day."

Lyons said he cleared his conscience when he discussed it with Stephenson, who assured him it wasn't a dirty hit. The game leaves scars, not all of them physical.

Ducasse not happy about demotion

October, 2, 2013
10/02/13
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- It's not Rex Ryan's style to bench starters, but he apparently has seen enough of Vladimir Ducasse at left guard.

Ducasse
Ryan confirmed Wednesday he's considering a change. He's poised to name rookie Brian Winters the new starter.

"Well, I'd like to see Brian," he said. "We'll work him in with the ones this week and we'll see how that goes."

After a promising game in Week 2 against the New England Patriots, Ducasse's performance level has slipped. He has a team-high six penalties for 40 yards, and he allowed several quarterback pressures in last Sunday's 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans.

"I'm not going to say I'm happy about it," said Ducasse, a former second-round pick who never has lived up to expectations. "I think I've been doing a pretty solid job, compared to where I was before."

This change was inevitable. Winters, a third-round pick from Kent State, may have won the job in training camp, but he missed a chunk of the preseason with an ankle injury. The coaches like his potential, but he's hardly a sure thing, considering his limited background at guard. He was a tackle at Kent State.

Film Review: Dissecting Geno's mistakes

October, 1, 2013
10/01/13
7:20
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One last look back at the New York Jets' 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans:

Good Geno, Bad Geno: Glimpses of both showed up in the first 13 minutes of the game. Let's start with the bad since it reared its head on the second play, Geno Smith's interception on the throw to Stephen Hill. It seemed fairly straight forward, just an underthrown pass, but there was more to it than that. Smith's first read, I'm told, was Santonio Holmes on a front-side post route. Holmes broke into the clear over the middle, but it was too late. Smith moved off Holmes too quickly, setting his sights on Hill, 27 yards downfield. Smith threw it to the wrong guy. Bad read, bad throw, bad everything. It set a bad tone for the game.

Later in the first quarter, with 2:22 remaining, Smith made one of those plays that makes you think he can be The Guy. On a third-and-10, he hung tough in the pocket and got blasted as he delivered a 25-yard strike to Holmes, who made a diving catch. Late in the game, Smith showed terrific ball placement on a crossing route to Jeff Cumberland, who made the catch and ran most of the way for a 37-yard touchdown. Unfortunately for Smith, the bad plays far outweighed the good ones.

[+] EnlargeKarl Klug, Geno Smith
Jim Brown/USA TODAY SportsKarl Klug and the Tennessee defense made operating tough for Geno Smith this past Sunday.
Interception No. 2: This was another bad decision by Smith. He received nice pass protection on a five-man rush, but he stared down Holmes the entire time, failing to see Kellen Winslow open over the middle. He forced the ball to Holmes, who was blanketed by Alterraun Verner, an emerging talent at cornerback. Verner made his second interception of the day.

Let's not forget the sacks: I'd attribute two of the five sacks to Smith's indecision in the pocket. A quarterback should not be sacked on a screen pass, but Smith let it happen twice, resulting in losses of 14 yards (a near safety) and 14 yards (the Behind-the-Butt Fumble/strip sack/touchdown). On the first one, he was supposed to throw a middle screen to Bilal Powell, but Powell got caught up in the traffic. Smith saw it, but instead of dirting the ball, he retreated.

On the touchdown, the timing of the play was out of sync from the outset, as DT Karl Klug got into Smith's face immediately. Powell was open in the left flat. The play reminded me of the Ziggy Ansah pick-six in the preseason. Unlike Mark Sanchez, Smith ate the ball, trying the ill-advised, behind-the-back maneuver. Bad idea. The result was the same as the Sanchez play -- six points the other way.

Dealing with the blitz: The Jets shouldn't have been surprised by anything they saw from the Titans defense. In the first three games, the Titans sent five or more rushers on 45 percent of the pass plays. Unofficially, they sent extra rushers on 44 percent of the plays against the Jets, who struggled against the five-man rushes in particular -- two interceptions, two sacks. The damning statistic? The Jets allowed four sacks on first down. Not good.

Here's a breakdown of how Smith fared versus the different rushes:

Three man: 3-for-3, 48 yards.

Four-man: 13-for-16, 104 yards, two sacks, two scrambles for 19 yards.

Five-man: 5-for-11, 77 yards, two interceptions, two sacks.

Six-man: 2-for-3, 70 yards, 1 sack.

Eight-man: 0-for-1. (This occurred with the ball at the Jets' 2-yard line. It was a classic jailbreak and, by the whistle, 17 of the 22 players on the field were in the end zone.)

Vlad's Waterloo?: This was the second straight poor performance by LG Vladimir Ducasse, who is on the verge of being replaced by rookie Brian Winters. That change likely will occur this week, according to a source. It might have happened in the preseason, but Winters missed time with an ankle injury. Ducasse played well in Week 2 against the New England Patriots, but he followed with a four-penalty game against the Buffalo Bills. In Nashville, his pass protection was terrible.

Ducasse didn't allow any sacks, per se, but he surrendered pressures that contributed to the Titans' first two sacks. On the first sack, he got caught leaning to his left and was beaten with an inside move by DT Jurrell Casey. On the second sack, Ducasse got turned around -- his back was literally facing the line of scrimmage -- and was beaten by DT Antonio Johnson, who flushed Smith out of the pocket.

By my count, Ducasse allowed three pressures and four QB hits. And, oh yes, he was flagged for a false start and holding (declined).

Odds and ends: The Jets' standing as the No. 1 red zone defense took a hit, as they allowed three touchdowns in four red zone chances. On Delanie Walker's 1-yard touchdown catch, LB David Harris bit hard on a play fake and couldn't get back in time. On Justin Hunter's 16-yard scoring reception at the end of the first half, an absolute killer, the Jets had the perfect call. They used quarters coverage, with a defender on every receiver in the end zone. Problem was, CB Darrin Walls let the rookie beat him in a jump-ball situation.

Upon Further Review: Jets Week 3

September, 23, 2013
9/23/13
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An examination of four hot issues from the New York Jets' 27-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills:

1. Broadway Geno: A week ago in this space, we wondered how Geno Smith would respond to his awful fourth quarter in New England. The answer: The way the Jets had hoped. He became the first rookie in Jets history to pass for 300 yards and two touchdowns in a game. Not even Joe Namath did that in 1965, when the AFL was a wide-open passing league. In some ways, Smith's performance was Namath-esque, because he threw a couple of interceptions (that makes a total of six). But he also demonstrated the ability to attack downfield, as the Jets unleashed a seldom-seen vertical passing game. Smith averaged 11.4 yards per attempt. You can win a lot of football games with that number. He made one big play in crunch time, the 69-yard touchdown strike to Santonio Holmes, and that was enough.

[+] EnlargeMuhammad Wilkerson
Rich Schultz/Getty ImagesMuhammad Wilkerson sacked EJ Manuel twice in Sunday's win over the Bills.
2. Paging Rex, spill on Aisle 3: Rex Ryan has a lot of stuff to clean up. The Jets have committed 34 penalties, including a franchise-record 20 Sunday, and they're minus-six in turnover margin -- but they're off to a 2-1 start. Go figure. Tom Coughlin would love to have these problems at 2-1. Of course, the Jets won't keep winning if these issues persist. Ryan needs to figure out a way to tidy up the mess; expect a heavy emphasis in practice this week on penalty prevention. It was a team breakdown, as the offense was responsible for 11 penalties, the defense nine. The worst offenders were CB Kyle Wilson (four for 49 yards) and G Vladimir Ducasse (four for 35). If it weren't for one declined penalty and one offsetting, the Jets would've tied the league record at 22. Ryan contributed to the meltdown with an ill-advised replay challenge on a potential first-down spot. Note to Ryan: There's only a 40 percent success rate on those type of challenges this season. Ryan had no challenges remaining in the fourth quarter, and he could've used one on a possible fumble by EJ Manuel.

3. Get the quarterback: Essentially, that was Ryan's message to the team in the Saturday night meeting. The defense heeded his message, recording eight sacks. The last time the Jets made eight sacks in a game was 1988, when the quarterback was Matt Simms' dad, Phil. Fortunately, Matt wasn't around to see that beatdown; it was three months before he was born. The Jets haven't been a big sack team under Ryan, who usually has to manufacture pressure with clever schemes, but the trend is turning. With Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples and Sheldon Richardson rushing the passer -- first-round picks from 2011 to 2013 -- Ryan has the horses up front to frighten quarterbacks. Manuel, who came into the game with a growing reputation for being calm under pressure, was hit 16 times and rattled by the pressure. Wilkerson recorded the first multisack game of his career.

4. From third-string to lifesaver: Before training camp, Bilal Powell was projected as the No. 3 running back, behind Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson. It changed quickly when Ivory hurt his hamstring and Goodson didn't show because of off-the-field issues. Powell ran with the opportunity, won the starting job and saved the Jets Sunday with a career day -- 149 rushing yards, including 109 in the second half. His day began on the bench, as Ivory got the start. He lasted only four plays before he injured his "good" hamstring, setting it up for Powell. He's the most underrated player on the team, a steady, if not flashy runner who grinds out the yards. With Ivory likely to miss time, Powell will be a very important player over the next few weeks.

Jets set franchise record with 20 penalties

September, 22, 2013
9/22/13
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The New York Jets were flagged a franchise-record 20 times.

The last time a team won with that many penalties was in 1951 when the Cleveland Browns overcame that many flags according to Elias Sports Bureau.

Oh, and there were two other penalties against the Jets but one was wiped away by offsetting penalties and another was declined by the Bills.

“What can I say about that?” tight end Kellen Winslow said of all the penalties. “Especially that one (fourth quarter) drive. I mean come on. It was beyond ridiculous. The league needs to take a look at that because that can’t happen. Let us play, ya know? Every play was like a call. It must have been six or seven calls. Come on, you got to let us play a little bit. I’ll leave it at that.”

Here’s each penalty:

FIRST QUARTER
1. WR Santonio Holmes is flagged for offensive holding (10 yards) on a first-and-10 at the Buffalo 32.
2. OL Vladimir Ducasse is flagged for a false start (5 yards) on a second-and-3 at the Bills' 3.
3. TE Jeff Cumberland is flagged for offensive holding (10 yards) on a second-and-3 at the Jets’ 27.

SECOND QUARTER
4. Ducasse is flagged for a face mask (15 yards) on a first-and-10 at the Jets’ 15.
5. DL Muhammad Wilkerson is flagged for defensive offside (5 yards) on a third-and-4 at the Buffalo 26.

THIRD QUARTER
6. CB Antonio Cromartie is flagged for defensive pass interference (9 yards) on a third-and-5 at the Buffalo 18.
7. OL Willie Colon is flagged for offensive holding (10 yards) on a first-and-10 at the Jets’ 41.
8. Ducasse is flagged for offensive holding (10 yards) on a first-and-10 at the Buffalo 21.
9. Ducasse is flagged for a false start (5 yards) on ensuing play on first-and-20 at the Buffalo 31.
10. CB Kyle Wilson is flagged for defensive pass interference (24 yards) on a first-and-10 at the Buffalo 48.
11. TE Kellen Winslow is flagged for offensive pass interference (10 yards) on a first-and-10 at the Jets’ 48.

FOURTH QUARTER
** On a third-and-six at the Bills’ 24, Wilson is flagged for defensive holding but Buffalo’s Stevie Johnson is flagged for taunting for offsetting penalties.
12. Wilson is flagged for illegal contact (5 yards) on the next play on a third-and-six at the Buffalo 24.
13. Wilson is flagged for a personal foul (5 yards) on the next play on a first-and-10 at the Buffalo 29.
** DL Sheldon Richardson is also flagged for illegal use of hands but the Bills decline that penalty.
14. Wilson is flagged for a personal foul (15 yards) on the next play on a first-and-10 at the Buffalo 34.
15. Holmes is flagged for an illegal shift (5 yards) on a first-and-10 at the Jets’ 36.
16. LB Quinton Coples is flagged for defensive offside (5 yards) on a third-and-10 at the Buffalo 34.
17. Coples is flagged for defensive offside (5 yards) on the next play on a third-and-5 at the Buffalo 39.
18. Wilkerson is flagged for defensive offside (5 yards) on a third-and-4 at the 50.
19. WR Stephen Hill is flagged for a false start (5 yards) on a second-and-8 at the Bills’ 41.
20. QB Geno Smith is flagged for a delay of game (5 yards) on a fourth-and-3 at the Buffalo 36.

Vladimir Ducasse finally showing skills

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Vladimir Ducasse can't escape the 2010 NFL draft.

As he evaluated himself this offseason and went over his goals for this season, the 2010 second-round pick couldn't help but acknowledge the expectations that come with being selected 61st overall.

Ducasse
"I was drafted here for a reason, they believe in me," Ducasse said Wednesday. "I have to bring the confidence in myself up to the best of my ability."

It's been a long and often rough journey for Ducasse to his current role as the starting left guard, but he's performing well in his first chance at extended playing time. Jets head coach Rex Ryan said he believes the proverbial light has finally gone on for the 25-year-old.

"Obviously, a second-round pick, you want the light to come on sooner than later, but we knew with his limited football background, it would take some time," Ryan said. "Obviously, he's done a really good job."

Ducasse had become the poster child for the previous regime's failures in the draft: a high draft choice who barely got on the field and hadn't contributed much. He entered this season fighting for an expanded role with the team after just one career start in his first three years.

The guard entered this summer in a battle with rookie Brian Winters for the starting left guard spot, but an ankle injury to Winters derailed the competition and gave Ducasse the upper edge. Ducasse has started each of the first two games, and has played in every offensive snap thus far. While Winters may be the future, Ducasse isn't going down without a fight.

Ryan acknowledged that the Jets haven't made life easy on Ducasse by making him learn both guard and tackle positions in the four years he's been on the team.

"We put him at guard and I'm like 'he's earned that spot,'" Ryan said. "And that's why he's in there."

Thursday, Ducasse faced a tough challenge in New England's premier defensive tackle, Vince Wilfork, and held his own. Ryan complimented Ducasse for his performance, saying he was physical. Ducasse credited his teammates for collectively doing a stout job against Wilfork.

"I'm looking at it like it was a group effort," Ducasse said. "It wasn't an individual effort. Communication was good. Everybody was on the same page, so that's why we accomplished what we accomplished Thursday night, even though we lost the game. We took another step."

Sunday notes: All rookies not created equal

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
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A Sunday without Jets football doesn't mean a Sunday without notes:

1. Double standard: In Idzik World, every player is in a week-to-week competition. (Note: See QB Geno Smith.) Okay, we get it, but how does he explain this? Despite missing the entire offseason because of shoulder surgery, and showing up a few days late to training camp because of his contract, rookie CB Dee Milliner (No. 9 overall pick) was elevated to a starting role after three days of practice. He replaced veteran Kyle Wilson, a serviceable player. He also got the job ahead of veteran Darrin Walls, who was praised by Rex Ryan for his play in camp. Milliner was hardly stellar, but he remained a starter even though he missed two preseason games, playing in only 84 defensive snaps.

Milliner
Clearly, he wasn't ready. Milliner was uneven in the opener, allowing a touchdown pass, and he struggled so much against the Patriots that he was benched at halftime. He may have busted the coverage on the Patriots' only touchdown, and he was saved by replay on what appeared to be another touchdown. Frankly, I'm surprised Ryan responded with a quick hook (not usually his style), but good for him. It teaches accountability. The day after the game, he wouldn't commit to Milliner as a starter for next week, letting the rookie twist in the wind. Maybe Ryan realizes they erred in anointing Milliner so quickly. It was very un-Idzik-like.

2. Positive signs: The Jets may not win a lot of games, but they will be competitive. With good defense and a solid running game, they can overachieve as long as they get game-manager performances out of the quarterback position. All Smith had to do was throw two interceptions, not three, and they might have upset the Patriots.

3. Johnny Scout: Idzik was in College Station, Texas, Saturday to check out the Texas A&M-Alabama game, according to the New York Daily News. A lot of talent and big names in that game, starting with Johnny Football. But maybe Idzik was there to scout more than Johnny Manziel, AJ McCarron & Co. Could it be that he also had his eye on Alabama coach Nick Saban?

4. What's up with Brick?: This has been an uncharacteristic start for LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson. He already has two penalties (only three in 2012) and he has allowed one sack and seven quarterback hurries, according to Pro Football Focus. A year ago, he surrendered two sacks and 19 hurries. But the most atypical moment was his ejection for throwing a punch during the end-of-game melee in Foxborough. It was stunning because Ferguson is one of the most even-tempered players I've ever met. His outburst, clearly born of frustration, reminded me of Shaun Ellis flinging his helmet in the final seconds of a home loss to the Patriots in 2008. Sometimes you just can't take it anymore.

5. Another stunner: I'm trying to figure out which was more shocking, Ferguson throwing a punch or LG Vladimir Ducasse pancaking DT Vince Wilfork on Bilal Powell's touchdown run? I'll say this for Ducasse: He played a nice game against one of the best interior lineman in the league.

6. Hidden gems: Interesting note about the Jets' starting lineup. They have almost as many former seventh-round picks and undrafted free agents (six) as former first-round picks (eight). The undrafted group consists of RT Austin Howard, TE Jeff Cumberland, NT Damon Harrison and LB Garrett McIntyre, and the seventh-rounders are S Antonio Allen and FB Tommy Bohanon. That's a tribute to former GM Mike Tannenbaum and his staff. At the same time, it could be a knock because it didn't do better with first-round picks.

7. Mark of class: Mark Sanchez has displayed an occasional lack of maturity over the years, most recently with the embarrassing half-naked home video that made the Internet in July, but he has handled ShoulderGate with total professionalism. He has every right to question the organization for its missteps along the way, but he's taking the high road, saying all the right things.

8. Welcome to Mark's world: Patriots QB Tom Brady got a taste of what it was like for Sanchez last season, throwing to a bunch of backups and no names. One of the best quarterbacks in history was held to Tebow-esque numbers, proving that even the great ones need help. But there was one thing Brady didn't do that Sanchez did 26 times last season -- he didn't commit a turnover.

9. Colorful solution: Look, we all know the Jets' receiving corps has drop issues, dating to last spring, but you can't say they've been avoiding the matter. Receivers coach Sanjay Lal created a practice drill to help with concentration. He painted the tips of footballs with different colors, and the receiver is required to shout out the color as soon as he identifies it. Maybe they should try to sneak some paint brushes into the huddle on game day.

10. Pee-Week rivals: C Nick Mangold and QB Brady Quinn go back a long way. They played against each other in the fifth grade, when Quinn's travel team in Columbus, Ohio, made the 70-mile trek to Dayton to take on Mangold's team. Quinn said his team was so loaded that it had to leave the Columbus area to find worthy opponents. It found one in Mangold & Co., a team that also included Packers LB A.J. Hawk. Quinn lost. Twenty years later, their lockers are side by side. Kind of cool, huh?

Film review: Analyzing Geno's mistakes

September, 14, 2013
9/14/13
11:40
PM ET
Geno Smith Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY SportsGeno Smith held onto the ball way too long against the Pats.
Some observations after reviewing the Jets' loss to the Patriots:

Geno's hat trick: Rough night for Geno Smith, obviously. Let's take the interceptions one by one:

1. This was the costliest interception because it came at the Patriots' 27; the Jets already were in range for a potential game-tying field goal. A few things went wrong. DE Chandler Jones beat LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson with an outside rush. Jones was behind Smith, still not close enough to sack him, but his presence influenced Smith, who escaped the pocket. This was a case of happy feet, as Smith still had time. Once flushed, he should've kept the ball; he could've beat DT Vince Wilfork to the corner. Smith spotted Santonio Holmes, who was open for a split-second. Smith tried to thread it through a few defenders, but the ball was behind Holmes and picked off by Aqib Talib. Bad decision, bad throw.

2. Smith stared down Clyde Gates the entire play -- a rookie mistake. Gates had a step on his man, CB Alfonzo Dennard. Against a single-high safety, there was a window for Smith, but he telegraphed it and threw a split-second too late. Dennard made a nice play, jumping the route.

3. This ended the game and precipitated the melee along the Patriots' sideline. Smith called this a "terrible" play on his part, but there may have been a miscommunication with WR Stephen Hill. Hill ran a 20-yard route and Smith threw it at 18 yards. This was a good play to run against a double-high safety look, but Smith and Hill didn't seem to be on the same page. Game over.

Four sacks allowed: Offensive linemen always get the blame for sacks, but sometimes it's not their fault. (Man, I sound like our old friend, Coach "Guge.") You could make a case that all four sacks allowed by the Jets fall into that category. Smith continued his tendency to hold the ball too long. The receivers also had trouble getting open against the Patriots' press coverage. Consider:

1. Ferguson was beat on a wide rush by DE Michael Buchanan, but the play took 5.1 seconds, according to my stopwatch -- too long for a quarterback to hold the ball.

2. LG Vladimir Ducasse was beat by Jones on a play that took 3.5 seconds. Hill beat his man on a slant, but the quarterback failed to pull the trigger.

3. Jones was chipped by Holmes and beat Ferguson for the sack, but a lack of pocket presence was a contributing factor. Smith was all over the pocket and didn't see an open Holmes in the left flat. He held the ball for 4.1 seconds.

4. RT Austin Howard got beat by an outside rush from DT Tommy Kelly (it's never good when a tackle lets a 310-pounder out-quick him), but Howard didn't get much help from Smith. RB Chris Ivory was open to the right, waving his arm, but Smith never saw him.

A freebie for Brady: The Patriots' only touchdown came on a blown coverage. The Jets appeared confused by the Patriots' personnel package. On a third-and-2, they used three wide receivers and one tight end -- and the tight end was LT Nate Solder, who was identified as an eligible receiver. Tom Brady, perhaps sensing the Jets weren't lined up properly, took a quick snap and ran a hard play-action fake that sucked the defense to the line of scrimmage. WR Aaron Dobson, lined up in a tight wing, was uncovered for a 39-yard touchdown reception.

It's possible that rookie CB Dee Milliner, who was lined up on the weak side, was supposed to be on the strong side, covering Dobson. Milliner didn't cover anyone and reacted quickly as soon as he saw Dobson with the ball, one of those "uh-oh, that's my man" reactions. If it was Milliner's mistake, it was one of several in the first half, resulting in his benching in the second half.

Heating up Brady: Aside from the busted coverage, it's hard to quibble with the Jets' defensive performance. They frustrated Brady like we've never seen him. At one point, he was screaming at teammates on the sideline. Brady and his patchwork receiving corps were completely out of sync, but they managed to avoid interceptions. I'm surprised Rex Ryan didn't blitz more often, trying to pressure Brady into bad decisions. By my count, he sent more than four rushers on only 12 of 40 dropbacks.

Ryan has shown in the past he can contain Brady with an emphasis on coverage, not pressure, but I thought he'd change it up because of the Patriots' lack of weapons. Again, the defense was fantastic, but it didn't create any game-changing plays. Considering the state of the offense, the Jets need their defense to create turnovers, shortening the field.

PatriotsWilliam Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY SportsWillie Colon (No. 66) shoved referee Carl Cheffers during Thursday's melee. A major no-no.
The melee: Since I mentioned it, let's review the ugliness.

Clearly, it was a late hit by C Nick Mangold, who could get fined, but it looked worse than it should've been because Talib was showboating and made like a ballet dancer, trying a spin as he went out of bounds. Patriots coach Bill Belichick was one of the instigators, as he got into Mangold's face. Ferguson received a mini-push from behind by Wilfork, and that set him off. Two officials tried to pull Ferguson away, and one -- head linesman Kent Payne -- lost his balance and fell on his rear end. Ferguson took a swing at Dennard, who was on the ground in the scrum. Ferguson was ejected for throwing a punch.

LG Willie Colon, arriving on the scene, shoved referee Carl Cheffers, who lost his balance and nearly went down. You can't make contact with an official; that's a big no-no. He immediately threw his flag, resulting in Colon's ejection. A few seconds later, Colon did it again. He was being pushed away from the scene by back judge Todd Prukop and side judge Laird Hayes. Colon threw his arms up, making additional contact.

Naturally, the league is reviewing the matter. Colon and Ferguson figure to be fined, and there could be suspensions as well. Colon would appear to be in the most danger of being suspended; it would be crushing for the Jets if Colon and Ferguson are suspended. An ejection doesn't automatically mean a suspension.

W2W4: Jets at Patriots

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
11:48
PM ET
The New York Jets play their first division game Thursday night against their top nemesis, the New England Patriots. Kickoff is 8:25 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. The top storylines:

1. Don’t feed the beast: Patriots coach Bill Belichick has fielded some mediocre defenses in recent seasons, but his unit has an uncanny knack for creating turnovers. In fact, it has forced at least one in 28 consecutive games. This will be the major factor Thursday, especially with rookie Geno Smith at quarterback. Under coach Rex Ryan, the Jets are 3-0 against the Patriots when they’re equal or better in the turnover battle and 0-6 when they’re on the minus side. Seems pretty elementary, doesn’t it? For Smith, the key is to avoid third-and-long situations. That’s when Belichick gets creative with his schemes.

[+] EnlargeVladimir Ducasse
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty ImagesJets guard Vladimir Ducasse figures to get a stiff test from New England's defensive line.
2. Protect the middle: The Jets had some issues last week with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' inside blitzing, especially on stunts. This is an area to watch because the Patriots, led by mammoth defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, are strong up the middle. Left guard Vladimir Ducasse, who allowed one sack and a few pressures in the opener, will be a marked man. The Patriots would be crazy not to put Wilfork over Ducasse, who will need help. But it won’t be easy to slide protection to the middle, because New York has to be concerned with the defensive ends, Chandler Jones and Jet killer Rob Ninkovich, a strip-sack waiting to happen.

3. Don’t bail on the ground game: Let’s be real, the Jets will struggle to run the ball, but they have to stay committed to a balanced attack to protect Smith from being one-dimensional. If he drops back 40-plus times, they’re in trouble. Even if the running game isn’t productive, they have to stick with it. Can offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg do that? He called only 23 runs in the opener compared to 44 pass plays -- hardly a balanced attack. Now New York will be without a small element of the rushing attack: wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (concussion), who provides a perimeter threat when the Jets use him in the Wildcat.

4. Target Brady: The Jets were so afraid of the Patriots’ passing attack in the most recent meeting (the Thanksgiving fiasco) that they used five or more defensive backs on 56 of 65 snaps -- even when the Patriots were in their base offense. This time, Ryan might take the opposite approach, emphasizing pressure over coverage. With New England quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite weapons either injured or gone, the Jets should pressure him throughout the game, figuring they’ll be able to play man-to-man against his patchwork receiving corps, assuming Danny Amendola (groin) is out. Brady has never been so vulnerable. If Ryan doesn’t go after him, he’ll be missing the chance of a lifetime.

5. Chug energy drinks: The Jets will need plenty of vigor to handle the Patriots’ up-tempo offense, especially if temperatures remain unseasonably hot. The Jets struggled against the Jacksonville Jaguars’ no-huddle in the preseason, and the Patriots will go to school on that. Ryan’s defense will have to be on point with its communication. Otherwise, there will be blown coverages. Key question: Is Brady comfortable enough with his revamped supporting cast to execute a no-huddle attack? It could be tough to orchestrate on a short week. The Jets won’t be disappointed if they don’t have to play fast-break football.

Film review: Pressure bothered Geno Smith

September, 9, 2013
9/09/13
2:45
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Because of the short week, it'll be an abbreviated film review. A look back at some of the key elements from the Jets' 18-17 win over the Bucs:

Smith
Struggles versus pressure: QB Geno Smith was 19-for-28 for 201 yards and a touchdown when facing four or fewers rushers, but his production dripped significantly when the Bucs sent extra pass-rushers. When under pressure, his completion percentage dropped from 80.8 to 25.0, according to ProFootballFocus. The Patriots aren't a big blitzing team, but you have to figure they'll go to school on that.

On Mason Foster's strip sack at the Jets 5, the Bucs rushed six players. The Jets were in position to block it, with a seven-man protection, but LG Vladimir Ducasse couldn't hold off Foster. There were no "hot" receivers in his view, so Smith had to eat it. He has to do a better job of keeping two hands on the ball. Foster had another sack in the second quarter, a loss of 18. The Jets did a horrible job of protecting Smith against a blitz. RB Bilal Powell missed a block. Powell, Ducasse and RG Willie Colon made like bowling pins, falling down as they attempted to block the Bucs' middle stunts. They ended up on top of each other -- not a good look.

Later, Ducasse allowed a pressure/hit on a Smith pass that was nearly intercepted in the end zone by Darrelle Revis. You think Ducasse will have Vince Wilfork lined up over him on Thursday night? You bet. On his interception, an overthrown screen pass to Chris Ivory, Smith was hurried and threw off his back foot.

Geno's first touchdown: Everything clicked on Smith's 7-yard scoring pass to Kellen Winslow. It was a well-designed play by offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, who deployed Stephen Hill, Ryan Spadola and Winslow in a bunch formation to the left. Winslow ran a pivot route, stopping on a dime and re-directing his route toward the post. The pass protection was terrific. By my stopwatch, Smith had 3.1 seconds from snap to delivery -- a good amount of time.

No Joshing: Rex Ryan cooked up one of his signature pressure schemes, forcing QB Josh Freeman in an interception. The Jets put six men on the line of scrimmage, but rushed only four -- two linemen, plus S Antonio Allen and slot CB Isaiah Trufant. The Bucs had trouble picking it up, and Trufant -- all 5-foot-8 of him -- pressured Freeman into throwing wildly over the middle. It was interepted by S Dawan Landry, who was playing center field.

Ryan tried a similar blitz late in the game, and it backfired. On a third-and-10 from the Bucs 37, the Jets rushed five, including Trufant and Allen. Vincent Jackson was uncovered in the slot and Freeman recognized it immediately, throwing quickly to him. Trufant was caught in no man's land and seemed indecisive, not sure whether to continue his rush or drop into coverage on Jackson. Afterward, Ryan took the blame, saying the call wasn't communicated clearly. Landry came from the deep middle to cover Jackson. It should've been a 10-yard completion, but Landry missed the tackle. Jackson went for 37 yards.

Demario Davis saved the game, running 25 yards and chasing down Jackson at the Jets 26. If it weren't for Davis' touchdown-saving tackle, the Bucs probably would've won, 21-15.

W2W4: Jets vs. Buccaneers

September, 6, 2013
9/06/13
2:00
PM ET
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets open the fifth season of the Rex Ryan era Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at MetLife Stadium (1 p.m. ET). A look at the top storylines:

1. There they go again: For the second time in five years, the Jets will start a season with a rookie quarterback -- this time Geno Smith. (If you can't name the other, you'd best move on.) The last time a team trotted out two rookie quarterbacks in a five-year span was 1977-78, when the Bucs started Randy Hedberg and Doug Williams in back-to-back years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

This is a tough spot for Smith, who hasn't played in two weeks and took only 69 preseason snaps. He will face a rebuilt pass defense (ranked No. 32 last year) that includes cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson. The weak links in the secondary are cornerbacks Johnthan Banks, a rookie, and Leonard Johnson, who covers the slot in nickel situations. There will be hiccups for Smith, no doubt. How he handles them will determine success or failure. He can expect to see some exotic looks from the Bucs, so he'll have to think on his feet. Smith doesn't have to be great. The Jets can win if he's average, but they have no chance if he duplicates his performance of the preseason loss to the Giants.

[+] EnlargeMarty Mornhinweg
AP Photo/Bill KostrounMarty Mornhinweg
2. Trick it up: The Jets have to protect Smith with a strong running game. Unfortunately for them, they'll be facing the top-ranked run defense from last season. The Bucs are led by defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who could be a nightmare for left guard Vladimir Ducasse. Look for offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to use deception in an attempt to run the ball. Unlike predecessor Tony Sparano, Mornhinweg won't be shy about breaking out the Wildcat, using Bilal Powell and Jeremy Kerley.

You also could see the Pistol formation, a version of the shotgun in which a running back lines up directly behind the quarterback. That creates more play-action opportunities. The screen pass will be huge because it will allow the Jets to slow down the Bucs' aggressive front seven, which will be salivating at the prospect of devouring Smith.

3. Club Dread, an island adventure: Head coach Rex Ryan says the Jets won't make a concerted effort to attack Revis even though he's playing for the first time after major knee surgery. Do we believe him? Revis might not be Revis -- not yet, anyway -- but you get the impression the Jets still are deathly afraid of their former star. The receivers were told to place an extra emphasis on not tipping routes. If there's a tell, Revis will jump the route, and then you're looking at a potential interception.

What the Jets should do is test Revis against the run. Unlike many cornerbacks, he's always been aggressive in run support. Will he be tentative because of his surgically repaired knee? Don't be surprised if they call a power sweep on the first series.

4. Here comes the blitz: You might have heard, but Ryan is running the defense again and he's promising to bring back that 2009 mentality, meaning an array of pressure schemes. He felt the Jets got too vanilla and too passive last season, and he wants to restore the attacking style. Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is an inviting first target. He's interception-prone (39 over the last two seasons), and he starts hearing footsteps if you get to him early. To play that way, New York needs solid cornerback play from Dee Milliner, one of four rookies in the starting lineup. He missed time with an Achilles' injury and could be in for a rough debut.

5. Their least-favorite Martin: The top priority is containing running Doug Martin, who has the ability to wreck the game. The Jets see him as another Ray Rice, a double threat (1,926 yards from scrimmage last season) that can exploit them on the perimeter as a runner and receiver. Covering backs is an issue. In the preseason, linebackers David Harris and DeMario Davis allowed nine receptions for 92 yards, according to ProFootballFocus. This could be a big problem. Look for the Bucs to attack the edges, especially when outside linebacker Garrett McIntyre is in the base.

Simms named Jets' backup QB for Sunday

September, 4, 2013
9/04/13
7:52
PM ET
New York Jets coach Rex Ryan announced Wednesday that Matt Simms is the team's backup quarterback for Sunday's game against Tampa Bay, ahead of recently signed veteran Brady Quinn.

Simms
The Jets have clearly been impressed with Simms as the Jets kept him over Greg McElroy, who started a game last season. With Mark Sanchez out this week with his right shoulder injury, Simms will be the backup to Geno Smith. Simms, the son of former Giants legend Phil Simms, has yet to throw a pass in the NFL.

In other depth-chart news, Antonio Allen will start alongside Dawan Landry at safety, while Vladimir Ducasse will be the starting left guard. Allen, a 2012 seventh-round pick out of South Carolina, beat out Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush to earn the starting spot.

"Coming out of college this was one of my goals," Allen said. "I didn't get drafted as high as I wanted to but I knew by my second year I wanted to be starting in this defense."

Allen said he immersed himself in learning the team's scheme, and made sure he performed when he was on the field during the preseason. With the Jets losing both of their starting safeties in the offseason, he knew there was a grand opportunity and he was able to seize it.

"It's a great accomplishment," Allen said. "Happy I did everything I wanted to do this offseason, this camp. Just excited to get out there and play with the guys."

Ducasse, the team's second-round pick in 2010, has been a disappointment thus far in his career as he's been a backup player. This will be his first chance at extended playing time, although it's expected that rookie Brian Winters will eventually take over.

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