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JETS MIDSEASON GRADES: This was worth the wait-Erik Boland

November 5, 2008

The Jets had been muddling along at 4-3 with not a significant victory to speak of and fans gathering en masse on the ledge about whether this whole Favre thing was worth it.

Then Sunday happened.

It was the kind of victory that fans - and players, too - had been waiting for, a "we're relevant in this thing" kind of win that hadn't been achieved in previous statement games against the Patriots and Chargers.

And so one game - Sunday's 26-17 road victory at Buffalo - not only helped pull the Jets into a three-way tie for first in the AFC East, but almost completely changed the overall perception of this team at the midpoint.

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The Jets have 29 sacks through eight games, the same number they accumulated in 16 games in 2007, and they've gone from one of the worst in the league against the run (134.8 yards per game in 2007) to one of the best this season (76.0). General manager Mike Tannenbaum made out like a thief in the night by sending third- and fifth-round picks to Carolina for nose tackle Kris Jenkins, and OLB Calvin Pace has been well worth the money. Nice comeback year from OLB Bryan Thomas. It's far too soon to throw the "B" word (bust) at Vernon Gholston as the No. 1 pick might be one of those late developers, but the Jets also need to stop saying they're pleased with his progress. Another concern: Other than Darrelle Revis, the Jets' secondary has been suspect, particularly when it comes to covering the slot receiver. Rookie Dwight Lowery has regressed after a quick start and Eric Smith, before his concussion, kept making mistakes. Teams have simply stayed away from Revis and safety Kerry Rhodes.


There are doubts about Brett Favre's arm, which may have been dinged in the Jets' victory over the Bengals on Oct. 12, though the quarterback denies having any pain. Deep throws have been in short supply since that game, but Sunday showed that a keep-it-simple, short passing attack, combined with some power running, can be enough to win. Thomas Jones is averaging 4.5 yards per carry after averaging 3.6 last season, but this unit hasn't yet found its identity. Good to see rookie tight end Dustin Keller used a bit more the last two weeks. Favre's sometimes reckless decision-making (15 TDs, 12 INTs) remains a concern and likely will be an issue the rest of the way. The offensive line, inconsistent much of the first seven games, had its best overall game against the Bills.


Some good, some bad from a unit that started poorly but has gotten better in recent weeks. Leon Washington has been exceptional, averaging 27.0 yards per return on kickoffs and 13.0 on punts. Getting fooled on that fake punt in Oakland, with the Raiders deep in their own territory, was a killer, and the kickoff coverage unit has sprung leaks at inopportune times. Jay Feely has missed too many kicks since replacing the injured Mike Nugent, but Reggie Hodges, who replaced the shank-prone Ben Graham, has been a pleasant surprise. His ability to smoothly place the ball after fielding James Dearth's high snap on Feely's game-clinching field goal in Buffalo was the underrated play of the day. Wallace Wright seems to make at least one highlight tackle a week.


Eric Mangini desperately needed Sunday's win, particularly given how his team had played the previous two weeks against Oakland and Kansas City. He's not emotional - at least in public - but that's often overblown to a degree. Bottom line: On Sunday, in a hostile environment against a good opponent, his team played with emotion and discipline. Now the Jets need to show they can do it two straight weeks. Jets fans will probably never fully embrace defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, but his schemes haven't been the problem this season. Although, maybe it's time Justin Miller got a shot in the secondary. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has gotten too cute at times and his game plans haven't always made sense, with Exhibit A not attacking the Chiefs, who have the worst rush defense in the league, on the ground. But Sunday's plan in Buffalo was the best this season and maybe some kind of consistent identity will develop in the second half.


Rams at Jets

1 p.m.

TV: Ch. 5

Radio: WEPN (1050)

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By Jim Thomas



So much for the playoffs. Or as Jim Mora would say: Playoffs?

So much for the big picture. So much for sunny skies. Sunday's 34-13 smackdown at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals was a harsh reality check for St. Louis.

At 2-6, the Rams remain mathematically alive, but any realistic hopes of postseason football for the first time since 2004 went out the window in that horrendous second quarter against the Big Red. MORE RAMS

And take it from coach Jim Haslett, it was horrendous.

"That last four minutes before the half was probably the worst football I've seen in a long time," Haslett said. "You've got missed tackles. You have an interception that goes through your hands for a touchdown. You can't get out of your own way on offense. ..."

And suddenly, a 10-7 deficit mushroomed into a 24-7 hole.

The way the Rams responded after Marc Bulger's interception was returned for a touchdown by Antrel Rolle looked very much like the old Rams. The Scott Linehan Rams.

"We didn't handle it very well," Haslett said.

So what happens next? Is there any hope?

"We're in a situation right now where we just lost two games in a row, we're going on the road to play a good (New York Jets) football team, with maybe the best quarterback (Brett Favre) that ever played the game," Haslett said.

"You're down, you're injured, you've got a bunch of nicks and bruises, and who the heck knows who's going to play. ... This should be a great challenge for us to see if we go up and respond."

Otherwise, it could be an ugly afternoon in the Meadowlands, perhaps foreshadowing an ugly second half of the season. The Rams made it clear in September that they weren't responding to Linehan. Now comes a true test of how they respond to Haslett.

"We had a chance to get back in the race in our division," defensive end Leonard Little said after Sunday's loss.

"It's really disappointing," said running back Steven Jackson. "We have so much talent in this locker room."

Based on the past year and half, there's obviously not enough talent to win on a consistent basis. Over the next eight Sundays, many Rams will be playing for their jobs, be it returning to St. Louis or returning to the NFL next year. Haslett is playing for his job as well, at least when it comes to returning as head coach in St. Louis in 2009.

For his part, Haslett wants to keep the focus narrow over these final eight weeks.

"We're not going to change our approach," he said. "The most important thing is that we go try to get a win this week. ... I don't think you can look ahead, you've just got to take it one game at a time. It changes every week. Your personnel changes, the game changes, the situation changes every week. It's just how you handle it."

The Rams must try to handle it against a Jets team that is fourth in the league in rush defense, third in sacks, is coming off a gut-check victory at Buffalo and is now tied for the AFC East lead at 5-3.


Running back Samkon Gado, a Nigerian native who gained attention with the Green Bay Packers in 2005, was signed to the active roster Tuesday.

"He's our No. 2 running back as of now," said Billy Devaney, the Rams' executive vice president of player personnel.

The Rams feel Gado is bright enough

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Jets midseason report card: Gang Green is halfway there



Tuesday, November 4th 2008, 10:20 PM


Brett Favre and Eric Mangini (below) are pumped about a first-place tie in the AFC East.

Weissman for News

Despite questionable play calling, occasional defensive lapses and Brett Favre's dirty dozen (interceptions, that is), the Jets reached the midpoint in a three-way tie for first in the AFC East. If somebody had offered that to Eric Mangini in August, he would've jumped at the chance to be even with the Patriots at the turn.


The Jets are lucky to be in this position, having benefitted from a huge break (Tom Brady's injury) and terrific timing. They were able to deal with their growing pains (read: Favre's transition) while facing mostly inferior opponents. It has been choppy, but say this: They hung around, finally finding themselves in Sunday's win at Buffalo.

You can almost see where this is going. The Jets, and possibly the Dolphins, will be battling for a playoff berth in the final game, when Chad Pennington returns to the Meadowlands. That would be cool.


Favre is the ultimate enigma. They've won because of him and in spite of him. His presence has changed the culture around the team, but legend or no legend, the turnovers (14) and poor decisions have to stop. A former GM, studying tape, noticed a slight change in his delivery, causing him to think Favre's shoulder/arm is hurting. Say this for the gray gunslinger: He makes those around him believe. That's big.



Thomas Jones is having a sneaky good year. Can you believe he's the second-leading rusher in the AFC with 601 yards? Jones hasn't been dominant (only two 100-yard games), but he's getting to the second level more consistently than last season. Leon Washington might be the team MVP

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Offensive MVP: RB Thomas Jones

Defensive MVP: NT Kris Jenkins

Special teams MVP: KR Leon Washington

Most improved: WR Chansi Stuckey

Least improved: WR Brad Smith

Biggest surprise: OLB Bryan Thomas

Biggest disappointment: OLB Vernon Gholston

Best rookie: CB Dwight Lowery

Best free-agent: OLB Calvin Pace

Worst free-agent signing: TE Bubba Franks

Best-kept secret: RG Brandon Moore

Best coaching move: Lightening the practice load. The players say they're happier and fresher.

Worst coaching move: Calling three straight runs near the Patriot goal line, and getting nowhere.

Best moment: Aug. 6: The day of the Brett Favre trade.

Worst moment: Sebastian Janikowski's 57-yard FG in OT, ending loss in Oakland.

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New York Jets Inside Slantby Sports Xchange

Updated: November 5, 2008, 2:40 AM EST add this RSS blog email Print Looking for interesting sound bites on what it means to be tied for first place at the halfway point of the NFL season?

Well, then stay away from the Jets, because they seem largely unmoved by their situation, only a year removed from a 4-12 disaster. Of course, that attitude is just the way coach Eric Mangini likes it, as per the example he sets in his mostly sleep-inducing news conferences with the media, which are that way by design.

"I think it's a good place to be," he said of the Jets (5-3) being in a three-way tie for first in the AFC East with Buffalo and New England entering New York's game against visiting St. Louis (2-6) on Sunday. "Obviously, I'm happy with where we are in relationship to the rest of the division. To me, it's more being pleased with the way that we played on Sunday (at Buffalo) and the style that we played with, having a complete effort, finishing the game, all three phases, and finishing the game and it being complementary football.

"That's what we need to consistently do to win," he added. "It's a tough division and we face tough teams every week, so that's what I'm looking for each time we go out."

"We're not worrying about that or focusing on that," defensive end Shaun Ellis said Monday when asked about the AFC East landscape, which also includes last-place Miami just one game behind at 4-4. "We can't worry about first (place) or who's winning or who's losing. We just have to keep a steady approach and keep going to work and practicing hard and taking it from there."

"Getting caught up in where we are right now really doesn't matter," right guard Brandon Moore said. "This next game is the most important game. ... Nobody will remember (today's standings) in December when it's all said and done in the final game against Miami, (but) it feels good where we are right now and we know there are still some steps to be made in a competitive division."

That's certainly the level-headed mindset Mangini wants his players to take at this point, and it does make sense.

"Yes, of course being here for a couple years it feels good to be in the hunt with our goals still being out in front of us as far as the things we want to accomplish," Moore added. "But as far as being in first place, it's a competitive division, that was one game, that was one step in that direction and (we're) looking forward to next week."

"We're definitely improving," nose tackle Kris Jenkins said, "and I don't think people can look at us like we're the Jets of last year. This is a new year and we're a new team."

And what's scary for upcoming opponents is that Ellis doesn't believe the team has peaked.

"It seems like we haven't put it all together," he said, "or (that) we can play a whole lot better than we've played. It's very encouraging for us to know that we haven't put it all together and once we do, it will bring good things. ... We don't want to have any letdowns. We want to keep improving and getting better."

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New York Jets' midseason awards

by Dave Hutchinson/The Star-Ledger

Tuesday November 04, 2008, 6:41 PM

Joe Epstein/The Star-Ledger

Jets running back/returner Leon Washington has brought versatility and big-play potential to the offense.Star-Ledger Jets beat writer Dave Hutchinson offers his picks for the team's standouts through the first half of the season.


No, it's not Brett Favre. The choice here is mighty mite Leon Washington. He ranks fourth in the NFL in punt returns (13-yard average) and has set up three touchdowns and two field goals with electric returns. He ranks sixth in kickoff returns (27-yard average), but his biggest return may have been catching the ball out of bounds against the Bills. He also has rushed for 168 yards (4.9 average) and two TDs and caught 24 passes for 195 yards and a score.


NT Kris Jenkins isn't only the defensive MVP, he's the team MVP. He has changed the entire identity of the Jets from one of a smallish, lightly regarded outfit to a big, physical one. When you think Jets, you think Kris Jenkins. Jenkins, 6-4, 360 pounds, has 27 tackles (six for losses), three sacks and six quarterback pressures. He has been a difference-maker in the run defense, which is ranked fourth in the NFL (76 yards per game, 3.1-yard per attempt), and the pass rush, which is ranked second in sacks with 29.


This one is tough. Starting cornerback Dwight Lowery, a fourth-round pick, was the runaway winner a couple of weeks ago but things have changed. With Darrelle Revis having turned into a shutdown corner, teams are going hard at Lowery and he has been overwhelmed. He was finally benched last week against the Bills. Still, he has been better than LB Vernon Gholston (sixth overall pick), who can't even get in the game, and TE Dustin Keller (30th overall) who hasn't had the impact that was anticipated (13 catches, 147 yards, two TDs).


Several good candidates. QB Brett Favre, NT Kris Jenkins, LB Calvin Pace, LG Alan Faneca, RT Damien Woody. Favre may prove to be the guy if he stops throwing the ball to the player wearing the other colored jersey, and Pace is a terrific player. Faneca has been solid and Woody has been a pleasant surprise, having had just five career starts at right tackle before this season. Our pick is Jenkins. See Defensive MVP.


We like the 92-yard interception return for a score by S Abram Elam, the backside block by RG Brandon Moore on RB Leon Washington's 60-yard TD run and the one-handed catch for a game-winning TD by WR Laveranues Coles. But the winner here -- drum roll, please -- is the gorgeous fourth-and-one, 40-yard TD pass from Favre to WR Jerricho Cotchery off a beautiful play-action fake against the Cardinals.


Almost any one of Favre's NFL-high 12 interceptions (three returned for TDs) would qualify. The future Hall of Famer has made some horrendous decisions with the football. But none was worse then his interception against the Chiefs when he soft-tossed the ball over the middle while backpedaling to a double-covered Chansi Stuckey and Chiefs CB Brandon Flowers returned it 91 yards for a touchdown.


Bold? You want bold. Let's see, how about the Jets' season comes down to the final home game against Chad Pennington and the Dolphins, the Jets' worst nightmare, and the Jets win a nail-biter to earn a playoff berth.

See more in Print edition stories

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New York Jets: Dead Zone Offense

Why do the Jets continue to move the ball down the field, only to get gun-shy once they hit the red zone? As soon as they sense where they are on the field they go into the dead zone offense...

by Mike Sullivan (Contributor)

0 86 reads

November 03, 2008

As soon as they sense where they are on the field they go into the dead zone offense.

It seems like they feel comfortable knowing they are in field goal range.

Any defensive coordinator must know what is coming then.

It's either run between the tackles or a wide receiver screen. I believe they have thrown one fade route in the Cardinal game, which is also a minimum risk play.

Brett Favre didn't remember if he ever threw a fade pass before that one.

Favre has played his career throwing into the middle of the end zone. Why don't the receivers cross in the back of the end zone or the tight ends sit down at the goal line?

The coaching staff must change their philosophy inside the dead zone. I cannot recall any other legitimate contending team, other then the Super Bowl Ravens, being scared to go for the gusto.

Jets fans would roar when the ball is on the 18 yard line and Favre play fakes to Jones and sticks one in the gut of the Keller!

It's Brett Favre; he's a gun-slinging legend. Let the man throw the ball.

I hate to harp on things after a solid win but I feel this team can do so much more.

It has to fall on the coaching staff. Either Mangini needs to tell Schottenheimer to open it up, or Schottenheimer needs to go to Mangini and demand more rope on his lifeline.

A solid, but somewhat nondescript win on the road could have been a statement game that shouted, "Here we come!".

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The New York Jets: Lead By Kris Jenkins, They Are For Real.

Believe it, the New York Jets are a good football team and are a serious contender in the AFC. Despite being considered heavy underdogs, the Jets showed they were the far superior team to the Bills

by Joe Caporoso (Contributor)

Believe it, the New York Jets are a good football team and are a serious contender in the AFC. Despite being considered heavy underdogs, the Jets showed they were the far superior team to the national media's darling "up and coming team," the Buffalo Bills.

You have to begin with the defense and you have to begin up front with Kris Jenkins, who was the team MVP on Sunday and probably the team MVP for the entire season thus far.

Simply put, he was a beast against Buffalo. They had absolutely no answer for him up front, as he recorded 2 sacks and lead the Jets complete stuffing of the Bills rushing attack.

I've heard a lot about Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson, and this Bills running offense but they were embarrassed by the Jets on Sunday. 30 yards on 17 carries speaks to how far this Jets defense has come, never mind the fact they were playing without inside linebacker David Harris.

Darrelle Revis also had his best game as a pro on Sunday. The guy is currently one of the five best corners in the league and if you disagree with that statement, you haven't watched him play. He had a strip sack and recovered the fumble he caused, setting up a Jets field goal and then iced the game with an interception in the end-zone late in the fourth quarter.

More importantly, he completely shut down Lee Evans, who didn't make a single big play all game. At safety, Kerry Rhodes stuffed Fred Jackson on a key fourth and one and saved a potential touchdown by knocking away a pass to Evans. Yet, it was the Jets other safety who had the game-turning play as Abram Elam returned an interception 92 yards for a touchdown. Elam has been very good this year, and should remain the starter over Eric Smith.

A few other notes on defense, rookie Dwight Lowery was benched in the second half in favor of David Barrett. Lowery has been getting picked on because he is opposite a lock-down corner and has struggled a bit recently. It will be interesting to see how the reps are divided up the rest of season.

On offense, the offensive line had its best game. They ran the ball when they had to, and showed they could be a smash-mouth team. Thomas Jones has had a borderline pro-bowl season, as he continued to play strong running for 69 yards on 12 carries with a touchdown. He also contributed 6 catches for 38 yards.

Leon Washington had his weekly big play, ripping off a 40 yard catch on a screen pass. Most importantly, the Jets were great in short yardage situations, converting a few big ones late in the fourth quarter which helped ice the game.

Give Brian Schottenheimer credit for his two play calls on third and one on that last Jets drive. The first play, was a quick pass in the flat to Jones and the second one was a handoff to Tony Richardson, his first of the year which the Bills couldn't have been expecting.

Brett Favre played a Chad Pennington like game, managing the short, controlled passing attack. He did show some nice zip on a few slant routes and did a good job stepping up in the pocket a few times and hitting Laveranues Coles over the middle. He made a costly mistake obviously with the interception but responded by going 5 for 5 on the Jets next drive.

It is time to give the coaching staff some credit. They had the Jets ready to play and had a sound game plan on both sides of the ball. The Jets have put themselves in good position to make a strong run at the AFC East crown.

After watching yesterday's game, I know the Jets are the superior team to Buffalo. They have already beat Miami on the road, which means the last thing left standing is to go to New England and get a victory. The Jets can't look past the Rams this week however, even though a huge game at Gillette Stadium on national television is looming.

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In the first of hopefully many blogs about past New York Jets, I'm proud to start off with Don Maynard, the Jets' first legend.

Born in Crosbyton, TX, Maynard played his college ball at Texas Western College where he was a two-time all-conference running back and track star. He was drafted by the New York Giants in 1957 and was converted to wide receiver, but after one year he was released, having only five catches for 84 yards.

The Giants thought he was nothing more than an average player (of which they had enough) so the move made perfect sense considering the Giants had just won the Championship and didn't need Maynard anymore.

Maynard then played a year in the Canadian Football League, but when the newly formed New York Titans offered him a contract, he accepted and became the first ever New York Titan, and his life would never be the same.

Author Poll

Is Don Maynard a Top 10 Receiver Of All Time

Yes No vote to see results In his first year as a Titan, he had 72 catches for 1,265 yards, which was truly amazing for a guy whose team went 7-7 and, like today, their QB situation wasn't good.

For years to come, Maynard was a great wide receiver with good numbers on a bad team

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