By: Mike O’Connor, Staff Writer
Well, this is simple. In a classic, Gang Green Nation-style review, let’s break down what there was to like and despise from Saturday night’s game between the Jets and the Jaguars, and what we can take away from them.
Kahlil Bell- Bell was only signed a week ago, but that didn’t seem to matter when he hit the turf. Bell ran hard and showed off his patience and powerful, precise cuts in Saturday’s win with a two touchdown performance. The Jaguars second and third team defenses simply couldn’t bring down the former Bear until he had gained at least five yards, it seemed. In only a week, he has gone from a street free agent to the favorite to be the fourth running back if they do decide to carry a fourth.
Sheldon Richardson- It might have been hard to pick up on, but Richardson was excellent against the run on Saturday night. He didn’t show us his freakish pass rushing, but he was filling gaps and shedding blocks all over the place, which is evident by his +5.5 Pro Football Focus grade. It’s a bit disappointing that Sheldon hasn’t popped off the screen with his pass rushing ability yet, but it’s so nice to see him develop and play hard versus the run, which was initially a concern of mine for him.
Danny Lansanah- Lansanah had a huge night to follow up a solid performance versus the Lions, as well. His INT showed some great reading of the quarterback’s eyes in zone, and he was all over the field making excellent reads versus the run. After watching David Harris sludge around, it’s refreshing to be able to watch a linebacker who can play the entire field in Lansanah. His versatility, great pre-season play, and intriguing size (6’1, 250) have made him a favorite to become the leading backup inside linebacker to Harris and Demario Davis with Josh Mauga unable to get on the field.
Ryan Spadola/Zach Rogers- If you’re an undrafted free agent wide receiver on a crowded depth chart who’s already proved that they can be an important role player on your team, you’re doing something right. Spadola and Rogers are doing just that. Both have shown the ability to beat press coverage off the line and get open with their speed and surprisingly adequate route running. Spadola’s pre-season performance is already making him very easy to root for and Rogers punt return efforts have made some fans, like myself, hopeful that they will never have to see Jeremy Kerley wave that inevitable fair catch signal ever again. At this point, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where either one misses a roster or practice squad spot.
Muhammad Wilkerson- It shouldn’t be even a bit surprising that he’s playing so insanely well this pre-season. Wilkerson was as equally unstoppable as he was in Week one of the pre-season, and has literally dominated competition 95% of the time.
Nick Folk- It’s safe to assume that the Jets just bring in competition for Folk in training camp every year now out of tradition, because he keeps shutting his competition down. Folk is confident, he’s booming kickoffs, and hitting 54-yard field goals with ease. In this new wave of amazingly consistent and powerful NFL kickers, Folk fits in perfectly all of the sudden.
Bilal Powell- There’s no way I could forget Powell, who had a fantastic all-around game versus the Jaguars. Powell gashed the Jags for 9.7 (!) yards per carry, and was efficient as a pass protector and as the main runner out of the wildcat. Powell took advantage of some excellent rushing lanes, but showed the power and burst he has to get the job done. The Jets have found themselves a high-quality backup who can really do it all.
Clyde Gates- Gates had a quieter night as a receiver and was held without a catch, but that’s not why he’s here. Gates looked stellar returning kickoffs, and dug Joe McKnight’s roster climb hole even deeper. With Gates as an available and speedy kick returner, not only is his value even greater as a improved receiver and special teams threat, but McKnight becomes more irrelevant. The rise of Gates could shift the Jets’ roster a bit.
Leger Douzable- Douzable has really come out of nowhere for me. He used his length to his advantage numerous times, as he knocked down a pass away from his body using nice extension and he shrugged off blocks often to occupy running lanes. I really like what I’ve seen from the journeyman, and he looks likely to stick around if he keeps playing well due to Rex Ryan’s outrageous love for depth on the defensive line.
Mosiss Madu- While not nearly as impressive as Bell or Powell, Madu is made his case heard for a roster spot again on Saturday night. He’s a quick twitch, jump cut runner, and showed the ability to find the edge and break some runs. If the Jets carry four running backs with Joe McKnight being cut and Mike Goodson still M.I.A, Madu could certainly be the last guy if he continues to be a sturdy runner.
Matt Simms- This doesn’t mean a whole lot, but Simms looked great when the Jets finally decided to hand him the reigns in the fourth quarter versus Jacksonville. He has an incredibly strong arm, and uses it to find receiver open in very tight windows. Greg McElroy played well versus Detroit, however, so temper your expectations for Simms. He hasn’t won anything yet.
Tommy Bohanon- While he wasn’t perfect in pass protection, Bohanon still has a solid game in which he flashed a little bit of everything with his skills. He’s versatile, can catch the ball, and he has his fair share of power and shake to run with the ball. He hasn’t made any blatant rookie mistakes, so lets give him credit where it’s due.
Entire Starting Offensive Line Besides Stephen Peterman- Just seeing this group stable and almost penalty-free was a huge plus from last week, where things were ugly through every stage of the line. However, the starters really came to play in their extended time on Saturday. Willie Colon was a force opening up massive rushing lanes, and he showed some nastiness when Jaguars’ lineman were getting chippy in the end of the first quarter. Ferguson didn’t disappoint, Austin Howard was good, and Nick Mangold held things down. The protection significantly improved, and even though there were still a number of sacks on Mark Sanchez, most of them were on Sanchez for holding on to the ball far too long.
Newly Numbered Cornerbacks- Darrin Walls, now #30 from last year’s #27, and Ellis Lankster, now #21 form last year’s #26, were flashing their respective true abilities on Saturday night. I’ve raved about Walls before, and rightfully so. Walls made some excellent plays on special teams versus the Jags, and of course, made a couple excellent breaks on passes in coverage while finding the ball early in the play and forcing the incompletion. Walls’ ball skills are still a question for me, which was evident when he broke on an underneath throw from Chad Henne but couldn’t finish the play by coming down with the slightly challenging interception attempt.
Lankster played well in his own ways, by being a sure tackler and solid in both man and zone coverage. He too needs to work on bringing more of the passes he gets to into his hands safely, however, as he also drops an interception. In the end, both corners are impressing from their solid years last year, and they’re climbing the depth chart.
The Safety Situation- Jet safeties haven’t exactly been bad this pre-season or versus the Jaguars, but it’s very concerning to me how the position is shaping out. Dawan Landry has looked okay at best, and he’s the leading starter at strong safety heading into the season. The could work out. However, free safety is an absolute mess. Josh Bush is the best fit to play there, but either Rex Ryan likes others’ fit better there or Bush has simply been bad in training camp beyond our knowledge. Either way, Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett are getting all of the playing time at free safety, and they’re both awkward fits at the position.
Both are better suited to be future strong safeties if they can groom at their young age, or play a third safety role like the Jets worked well with Eric Smith and James Ihedigbo back in the day. Besides, there has been no significant separation between Jarrett and Allen because of their average play this pre-season, especially versus the Jaguars. I’m not buying the hype based off of what I’ve seen from Jarrett, so that leaves the Jets with no indication of who’s playing free safety with the regular season looming.
Quinton Coples- Coples wasn’t exactly bad all throughout the game, but his injury speaks volumes. Coples will be missed for the month that he’ll miss. It’s not his fault, but it really does hurt him and the team if he does in fact miss some regular season-time.
Dee Milliner- It’s being totally overblown how bad Milliner was versus the Jaguars, but it’s true that he wasn’t on the top of his game. He was just a step late on many throws in his direction due to a loss in leverage downfield, and this has been a reoccuring problem for him through Alabama and now in the NFL. He’ll get better, but it will be huge to see how he adjusts next week. He’s still practically locked in as the starter over Kyle Wilson, but maybe he shouldn’t have been proclaimed one by Rex Ryan so early in training camp.
Mark Sanchez- It doesn’t really matter how nice Sanchez’s first couple of drives were when he struggled mightily throughout the rest of the game. I think it’s a telling tale when he’s missing downfield reads completely because he panics and he’s throwing to totally blanketed receivers because he locks into them as soon as he sees one glimmer of hope to squeeze a pass in. These are rookie mistakes, and I’m going to treat him for what he is. For a five-year veteran, he played pretty poorly as the game wore on.
Damon Harrison- Harrison had an inconsistent game, but not necessarily a bad one. He struggled to get consistent penetration on even the second and third team Jaguars’ offensive lines, but he also flashed and uses his first punch to his advantage multiple times. It’s hard to tell what kind of player you’re going to get from Harrison heading into a particular play, because he can blow by somebody with foot quickness and power, or he can get beat off his first step and get totally blown backwards on the play.
The real reason why he’s been labeled as “bad” for me versus the Jaguars was because with Kenrick Ellis’ ongoing health issues, this was his chance to win some of the coaches and fans over to think he could possibly start over Ellis even when he comes back healthy. However, he didn’t run away with that opportunity by any means, and his fit still looks limited in this defense. He’s still a pure nose tackle playing on a defensive front that likes to move even their nose tackles along the line, the the 3-tech often.
Kenrick Ellis- Is it fair to place him here after not playing? Probably not, but I’m going to do it anyways. Ellis simply needs to get healthy and stay healthy. It could be an underrated story this year if Ellis is a liability on the defensive line due to ranging health and time away from the game when he could be improving.
The “ugly” column is one that shouldn’t really be used unless a player really does bomb a game. Well, that’s exactly what happened to David Harris versus the Jaguars. Harris played extended time with the rest of the Jets’ starters, and he looked atrocious, to say the least. Harris was getting blown up by blocks from unlikely suspects, he couldn’t tackle in space, and looks like the slowest player to react and flow to the ball on numerous occasions. I don’t understand how it was possible for Harris to worsen from last year’s disappointing year, but it seems that this is where this is going to go. If Harris doesn’t step his game up to an extend sometime soon, his likely end to his Jets career at the end of 2013 could start to sniff around mid-season instead.