Written By : Manny Barrios of Trash Talk Sports
If I told you after the last game of the preseason the Jets would win their home opener 48-28. You would think I was a bandwagon fan who had no idea what I was talking about. If I told you the Jets would score four offensive TD’S, you would discredit me immediately from being mentally stable.
It was an uncertain opening day atmosphere in the parking lot of MetLife Stadium for the Gang Green faithful. Throughout the sea of green and white jerseys, the topic of discussion was of course the Jet offense. After a preseason that saw them produce just one touchdown on their 37th possession, 199th offensive snap, or in 14 and a half quarters played, confidence in the offense was running thin. If there was any at all. There were plenty of questions that went unanswered during this disgusting stretch on the offensive side of the ball. Just what kind of plan was in place for this dual QB system? Who would they be throwing to? Besides Santonio Holmes, who were the other WR’s we expected to produce at the position? Is Austin Howard the answer at RT? What about this top-secret Wild Cat?
On the defensive side of the ball it was what it has been throughout Rex Ryan’s tenure, stellar. They accommodated the DE position with speed and youth by drafting Quinton Coples with the #16th overall pick providing them with a much needed pass rush, and with the additions of Laron Landry (Washington) and Yeremiah Bell (Miami) they were also able to strengthen the secondary and better compliment Revis and Cromartie over the top at the S position. LB core stood the same with Harris and Scott manning the inside while being flanked on either side by Thomas and Pace, and expectations remained high for cast away 2009 #11 overall pick of the Bills, Aaron Maybin. Maybin was waived by the Bills in 2011 and declared a disappointment due to lack of production and zero sacks, he came in last year and recorded six sacks with the Jets, which just so happened to lead the team. Needless to say, our strength and confidence was in our defense. And for this opening day division showdown against the Buffalo Bills, we needed them to deliver. We most certainly weren’t counting on the offense to do so.
Coming off a disappointing 2011 season in which they started strong but finished just 6-10, the Buffalo Bills improved on their defense and managed to land coveted free agent DE Mario Williams(Texans), along with DE Mark Anderson(Patriots). They also drafted CB Stephon Gilmore out of South Carolina with the #10 overall pick in hopes of setting a corner stone they can build around in the secondary. The upgrades had NFL analysts gushing over the new and improved Bills defense prompting them to rank the Bills as one of the premier defenses of the league. On offense, they seem to be returning with the same cast of characters. Led by Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB and a core of blossoming receivers featuring Stevie Johnson as the #1 Wideout along with six- year veteran Fred Jackson at RB, it seems to many that the Bills are putting together a team they hope to one day be seen as a contender. And their first order of business for the 2012 season was to beat the team with possibly the most bruised ego in all of football, the New York Jets.
Not to sound cliché, but what happened on this Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford New Jersey is why they play the game.
For at least one week, Mark Sanchez and dare I say, a high flying Jets offense, came out and showed just how meaningless preseason football can be. Although he began the afternoon on a sour note with an ill-advised shovel pass for an INT, Sanchez bounced back nicely and led the team on its first scoring drive of the 2012 regular season connecting with Jeremy Kerley in the back of the end zone for a 12 yard Td. Sanchez ended the afternoon 19-27 for 266 yds 3 TD’s and an INT. He connected with rookie wide out Stephen Hill (5 for 89 2 TD’s) and Jeremy Kerley (4 for 45 1 TD). He looked comfortable in the pocket. He was aggressive yet smart and spread the ball as Santonio Holmes, although held without a TD, still managed to put together a solid performance in which he netted four catches for 68yds. The offensive line was immaculate. Rookie RT Austin Howard made All-Pro DE Mario Williams irrelevant. Williams would go on to say he was held all game during his post-game interview. The ground game was somewhat effective as Shaun Green managed to muster up 94yds and a TD on 27 carries.
Of course this would happen after the Jet’s defense set the tone with the first of four turnovers for the day. On Buffalo’s opening possession on a 2ND and 13 from the Jet’s 48, the Jets sent a furious four man rush at Fitzpatrick causing him to stare down his primary target in Stevie Johnson, who just happened to be camped out on Revis Island. #24 took notice jumped the route and came down with the ball at the Jets 39. This seemed to send the Bills into tailspin offensively and despite not recording a single sack the Jets sent enough pressure to confuse and rattle the overpaid Fitzpatrick as they went on to pick him off twice more, one being a pick 6 by Anotnio Cromartie. The defense performed as anticipated and despite a dominant performance there was some concern over the 195 yards they allowed the Bill’s to rush for. It was the offense that made the day at the stadium seem surreal and sent the anxious crowd into a frenzy with a four touchdown performance led by Sanchez.
There were very few questions left unanswered. We now know who the other WR’s are, we also know that Austin Howard is looking to make the best of his opportunity; keeping Sanchez clean was a good way to start a fan base. Oh and the dual QB package, the super secret Wild Cat package was held in check. Tebow produced just 11 yds on five carries, at times even drawing boos from a content crowd. It is notable that he did recover an onside kick when it seemed as though the Bill’s would make a game out of what was at one point a laugher. The Jets special teams also generated a touchdown on a 68 yd punt return courtesy of Jeremy Kerley.
It was nice to have answers, but the Jets are far from any long term solutions. It was evident that the Bill’s defense is under construction and obvious that Ryan Fitzpatrick mat not be the starting QB in Buffalo for much longer with performances such as Sunday’s. I think it is safe to say that the Bill’s were mediocre at best. In other words you can write home about it, but be sure to ask that they keep it to themselves.
As the Jets head into a week two visit with the Steelers the primary concern seems to be the health of CB Darrelle Revis, who suffered a mild concussion in their week one opener. You could slice it up every which way, but in order for the Jets to be successful in containing Mike Wallace, Revis must be on that field and healthy come Sunday. The Steelers are also dealing with their own injuries, LB James Harrison has been experiencing discomfort in his surgically repaired knee and S Troy Polamalu is battling a calf injury.
The Match-up comes down to four crucial points.
Can the Jets D-line apply enough pressure on Big Ben and force him into making some bad decisions with the football?
Can the Jets stop the run? Remember they gave up 195 to the Bills in week one and the Steelers have a plethora of running backs they can send at you.
Can the Jets O-line give Sanchez the time he needs to effectively throw the ball?
The Jets running game. Can they bring the Wild Cat to life and cause confusion within the Steelers D?
The Jet’s now head into a pivotal point of their schedule where they will see the Steelers, Niners and Texans within a four week span. Those are their premier defenses that will test the psyche of Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets offense. They will know who and what they are by October 9th, and by that, I mean, we will know whether they are contenders or pretenders.