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Jets at the Bye: A Closer Look at the First Half of the Season

Darrelle Revis

It’s often difficult to closely evaluate a team if you have not seen every minute or every quarter of every game they have played during the season, but that doesn’t stop people from trying.

The New York Jets entered 2011 with some pretty hefty expectations, due in large part to Rex Ryan’s guarantee that the Jets would win the Super Bowl. It’s par for the course from Rex, and much like those that watch every game know this team, those that follow this team know that statements like that are just, “Rex being Rex.”

The Jets have been perfect at home, which is a first for this team under Rex Ryan. In fact, the Jets normally pride themselves on being a good road team, thank to a solid defense that travels well. That philosophy hasn’t really worked out the way they envisioned in 2011 as they dropped three huge losses on the road.

But not to fear: The last two games at home have provided a spark plug to this team and after experimenting with a shift in offensive philosophy, the Jets returned to the things that make them who they are. The 2010 Packers won a Super Bowl after starting 4-3, proving that a slow start never spells impending doom in National Football League.

For many Jets fans, the second half of the Chargers game will serve as a template for success for the remaining nine games on the schedule. Those two quarters offered an optimistic outlook on what we can expect from the Gang Green going forward: A smash-mouth style of football that we have all come to expect from this team in the past two seasons.

It is both good and bad that the Jets have their bye coming off such great win. Bad, being that teams in 2011 are a combined 3-9 this season, thanks in part to a new rule in the CBA requiring that all teams give players four consecutive days off during their bye week. Good, in that the team will get some much-needed rest and time to heal.

Ryan gave the entire team six days off despite the teams post-bye week regression in year’s past. But Ryan explained that:

“The bye is not just for one game; it’s for the rest of the season.”

Perhaps Ryan is looking to be an exception to the 2011 rule.

Before we head into preparation for Week 9,  let’s take a closer look at what has worked for the Jets so far, and what has not.

What Has Worked

1. Takeaways

There are so many stats in the game that can help you determine how effective a team is offensively or defensively, but few things tell the real story like turnover margin and takeaways.

The Jets defense has been very effective in creating turnovers. They have a combined 16 takeaways this season (tied for 1st in the league) with 11 interceptions and five fumble recoveries. They have also forced nine fumbles.

While many claim that this defense is not as dominating as it’s been in years past, those 11 interceptions through seven games (tied for 3rd in the league) are on pace to destroy last year’s record of 12 total interceptions for the year.

Unfortunately the Jets give up the ball almost as much as they take it away; they have 13 total giveaways thus far.

2. Special Teams

The Jets have one of the top-ranked special teams units in the NFL.

RB Joe McKnight is averaging 40 yards per kickoff return and the team’s average starting position after kickoff is the best in the league (27.6 yards).

Something that sometimes gets lost in the discussion? Kicker Nick Folk has been perfect in his FG attempts(10 for 10), making him tied for first in the league in field goal percentage.

3. Red-Zone Efficiency

One of the off-season goals for the Jets was to improve in the red-zone, which largely explains the acquisition of the veteran wide receiver Plaxico Burress. The Jets have been successful 61.9% of the time in the red-zone this season, while QB Mark Sanchez has a 104.6 red-zone passer rating.

While analysts continue to dissect the “anemic” Jets offense, the red-zone efficiency is directly translating to more points on the board: The Jets are ranked 11th in the league for total points scored with 24.6 per game

4. Emergence of New Talent

Newbies Aaron Maybin and rookie WR Jeremy Kerley have made their presence known to both the coaching staff and Jets fans with their impressive play thus far. Maybin, who was re-added to the team after being cut in the preseason, has already racked up three sacks and three forced fumbles in four games. Rex Ryan admitted that they need to find a way to get him more involved so you can expect to see much more Mayhem going forward.

Kerley, who garnered early praise for his special teams play, quickly earned a spot as the No.3 wideout (Over veteran Derrick Mason) after his breakout game in New England. Kerley has been particularly effective on 3rd down and has given Sanchez another reliable receiving option.

Rookie DE Muhammed Wilkerson (and Kenrick Ellis, when he has been active) have also been impressive. Many questions Ryan’s willingness to let Shaun Ellis go to New England, but Wilkerson has proven that he is not only the guy for now but also for the future.

5. The Secondary

This should not require too much explanation as the Jets overall pass defense is ranked in 2nd the league. And Cornerback Darrelle Revis, who is already putting together an MVP caliber season, is a big reason why. Revis has 10 passes defended and four interceptions thus far and has gained more total yards off those interceptions than the opponents he has defended.

While Antonio Cromartie offers a feast or famine performance from week to week, Kyle Wilson’s progression as a player has added another option on the outside, forcing opponents to concentrate all of their options on the middle of the field (which might explain why they are ranked 2nd and not 1st, as their safeties still have some room for growth).

If the Jets can further improve against the run, opponents will have no choice but to pass on 3rd and long, where they will be sadly disappointed to discover they have little success.

What Needs to Improve

1. First Down efficiency

To put it plainly: It stinks. Until the second half of the Miami game, the Jets seemed doomed to face a season filled with 3-and-outs. The offense has to get off to a better start and move the ball down the field.

2. The Safeties

Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith have had been equal parts brilliant and liability.

The Jets safeties are rather undersized and not as “athletic” as some of the prototypical players at their position. In spite of that, Mike Pettine has explained that he is comfortable with his two safeties and their ability to dissect opponents, particularly when you are matched up against more complex offenses like the New England Patriots twice a year. However, with the tight end landscape changing as well, Smith and Leonard are often over-matched.

The Jets have been integrating Brodney Pool into the packages with more frequency and it seems to be working. The hope is that with more time, the roles and responsibilities will become more defined, which will translate to more success.

3. Running Game

There in little doubt that the running game was hindered by the early troubles with the offensive line and the injury to Nick Mangold. The last few games have shown the Jets are capable of not only running the ball to balance the offense, but that “ground and pound” might actually exist somewhere in there.

Shonn Greene ran for a season high 112 yards against San Diego, a vast improvement from his performance earlier in the season. It has become apparent that despite having veteran LaDainian Tomlinson on the field, the success of the Jets rushing game relies primarily on Greene and Greene alone. The running back’s breakout game brought sighs of relief that this guy might finally be growing into the player we all hoped he would be.

While the Jets rushing attack is still ranked only 28th in the league, they seem to be running in the right direction.

4. Run Defense

With the slight shift in personnel in the off-season and several injuries, the normally stout Jets run defense has fallen to 26th in the league (they were 3rd in 2011).

The total yardage numbers are slightly skewed by the fact that it’s actually big plays that the defense has had trouble with: The Jets have allowed 23 plays of 20-plus yards, and only four teams have given up more rushing touchdowns on defense. Either way, this defense is still giving up an average of 126.9 rushing per game and that has to improve.

In the last 2 games the run defense has done a much better job containing the edges but the loss of Bryan Thomas at OLB is an obvious concern. While Jamaal Westerman and Aaron Maybin have played well and provided the defensive line with some much-needed speed, they simply are not as stout against the run. Guys like Kenrick Ellis and Muhammed Wilkerson will have to come along and lend a helping hand to the veteran players.

5. Using Offensive Weapons

It was a relief to see Plaxico Burress finally get involved in the offense but Burress was essentially added to this team to provide a red zone threat, not to move the chains. Now it’s time to regularly involve the other members of the passing game to actually get into scoring position.

Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller have been intermittently targeted, which seems odd given that Keller was such a huge factor early on and Holmes was given a big fat contract over the summer.

I wont allow the inconsistent statistics from these guys to be entirely blamed on the play-calling and Sanchez (who is perceived to be keeping these guys from getting the ball). The Jets are fifth in NFL with 14 drops. So, perhaps the playmakers could actually hold on to the ball when it comes their way?

About Kristine Reese

Kristine Reese is an actress, singer and freelance writer living in New York City. She is a regular contributor to Sports of New York, the lead New York Jets writer for Aerys Sports, the lead writer/creator of content for the Hard Ninety Activewear blog and the sole contributor to her own sports blog, gridirongirlnextdoor.com. You can follow her on Twitter @kristinereese or visit www.kristinereese.com for more information.

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One comment for “Jets at the Bye: A Closer Look at the First Half of the Season”

  1. New Post: Jets at the Bye: A Closer Look at the First Half of the Season http://t.co/6KK1hnQp

    Posted by Sports of New York | October 31, 2011, 1:08 am

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