For all the notice the Jets have received regarding their new attitude, instilled by Rex Ryan and his ultra aggressive defensive philosophies, there existed a definite, tangible improvement on field to balance the hype.
The defense had truly excelled before inexplicably collapsing last week against Miami. Logically, it was far too early to make any definitive judgments concerning the unit, but they did appear radically different. Watching them swarm to ball carriers, pressure the quarterback, and ferociously attack the same infuriating short passes that had baffled their linebackers just a year prior left many fans absolutely certain that this was a special group.
The results were quality, but their method of acquisition ratcheted the excitement up a whole another octave. This was excellence with an attitude. Throw in an emotional week two, home opening win against the heretofore unbeatable rival engineered by the likes of Bart Scott, Darrelle Revis, and trash-talking Kerry Rhodes, and one can understand why the expectations had flown high as Icarus.
The Monday Night debacle represented that proverbial wing clipping, a regression to a more reasonable mean. What’s left to determine is whether that awful performance represents a new trend, or momentary lapse.
Exhilarating as it may have been for the Meadowlands denizens to watch Tom Brady harassed, it was probably equally demoralizing witnessing another divisional adversary, the hated Dolphins, impose their will. With a boisterous crowd backing them, Miami did not bend their style to the whims of Ryan’s hounds. They dared the Jets to stop the wildcat, and the opponent had no answer. Heavily criticized before the prime-time showdown by many analysts, including this one, the Dolphins’ receivers burnt a Jets secondary that had shut down the Saints just a week prior.
All that said, the level of fan morale and media temperature will barely have an affect once that whistle sounds on Sunday. The players and coaches will determine it all, and if the Jets are dispirited, they certainly are not showing it.
This represents an interesting early test for Rex Ryan. The loss to New Orleans, while frustrating, was easily defensible. It could basically be laid at the feet of a rookie quarterback who had an off day. The Miami incident offered way less consolation. That will be the progression from this point forward.
The coach and his methods are lauded when the train is rolling. The Jets have hit a couple of bumps, but, to their credit, they are not wavering. Ryan continues to set the tone. He entered his press conference with a broad smile, and left exclaiming “Ok, let’s go get a win,” exuding high spirited confidence.
With the assemblage gathered before him on the lookout for a sudden shift in temperament, Ryan has maintained his consistency. And, unlike predecessor Eric Mangini, the frequency is dependably buoyant, not monotone. And he’s effectively communicated a clear message to his players. “His demeanor, is basically, it’s a must-win,” said Revis when asked about Ryan’s outlook for Buffalo. “[He wants us to] Get back to the positive things we were doing,” Revis continued. The corner has played his position to near perfection thus far. Revis, though, met with a definite glitch against Ted Ginn Jr. Monday Night. “We have to make the corrections and move on,” he said, referencing the Dolphins loss. “You just have to be a consistent player. In football, the slightest [mistakes] could lead to big things for the other team.”
Eric Smith echoed his fellow defensive-back. “You could tell he was angry, well not angry, more frustrated,” Smith said, when asked to offer an assessment on his head coach’s mood. ‘We did not play to the best of our ability. We’ve got to learn from our mistakes… Just go back to ‘playing like a Jet.'”
An interesting thread in both these quotes rests in the commitment to “get back”. This is a positive sign for New York on a mental level. It shows that Ryan, despite his limited tenure, has established for the players a reliable foundation to rely upon in times of adversity. This doesn’t seem to be a 3-2 team searching for an identity. The identity is there, but recently, the strong play has not. But Revis and Smith don’t seem in desperate search for answers.
As the 2008 campaign spiraled into the abyss, there were rumors of infighting among players and coaches about the defensive game-plan. That kind of chaos is, at the moment anyway, pretty unfathomable. Talent and play-making will decide the fate of the 2009 Jets, but their minds seem right. This is a strength not to be taken for granted.
Lito Sheppard seems ready to return from his quad injury. The malady has dogged him since week two against the Patriots, leaving the capable Dwight Lowery to perform in his stead. While Lowery has been solid, the Jets will no doubt be thrilled to have more support on the field against the Bills’ slumbering, yet talented, receivers.
The injury news isn’t all positive for New York. Jerricho Cotchery’s hamstring problem has continued to be an issue, enough for the wideout to be listed as doubtful for this game. With Brad Smith also banged-up, that Braylon Edwards deal becomes more and more impeccably timed. Donald Strickland and Damien Woody are also questionable.
Dick Jauron’s overall NFL record as head coach is 58-79. Remove the fluky 2001 Bears performance from his resume, a season that saw Safety Mike Brown decide two consecutive games in overtime, ending with a convincing home playoff defeat at the hands of Philadelphia, and that mark looks even worse.
Buffalo will challenge the Jets at the Meadowlands this week, but Gang Green will not be returning the favor at Orchid Park. [the quite appropriately nicknamed “Ralph” considering the Bills’ prospects this year]
The Rogers Centre in Toronto will host the second tilt. With Buffalo suffering terribly at the hands of our recessive economy, there are persistent whispers that the Bills could move north of the border. Considering how their hometown team has performed this decade, some Buffalonian just wiped chicken wing sauce off his face and said “Take ‘Em!’ All joking aside, though, I’d still be stunned if the Bills relocate. We’ll see.
The Bills have designs on playing one regular season game in Toronto through 2012. They have titled it “The Toronto Series.”
Shaun Ellis was dubbed “limited,” but did practice.
Rex Ryan had a few interesting insights to share about the struggling Bills’ offense. He still respects Terrell Owens, despite the former All-Pro’s slow beginning. “I’ve had to go up against him several times,” said Ryan of Owens. “He’s a special, special receiver.” While the Bills’ tendency for dump-off passes is causing mass agitation in their local market, Ryan believes there is a method to Buffalo’s madness. “They’re trying to get the ball to their backs. They have two excellent backs.”
Rex Ryan on T.O. : “He’s a big dude.”
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