While the regular season is still a little less than a month away, the return of actual football games means that we're going to start rounding into regular season form here on BRB. That means that you'll start to see the return/debut of weekly in-season features. This is one of those features.
Throughout the season, we try to do a Q&A about the upcoming opponent via exchanging questions with a writer from said opponent's blog. Through SB Nation's network of blogs, we're fortunate to have a tremendous opportunity to pick the brain(s) of knowledgeable fans each week. Thus, this weekly feature, known as "Pre-Game Recon" around these parts, was born.
The first preseason game tonight--a Monday Nighter, no less--brings us the Jets fanatics over at Gang Green Nation. One of their lead dogs, John B, was kind enough to field five (5) questions from me; I reciprocated and fielded five from him, which will be posted over at GGN sometime today. John's responses to BRB's queries are after the jump.
BRB: Mark Sanchez had more games under 250 yards passing (9) than over 250 (6) in 2010. Despite having Braylon Edwards, Santonio Holmes, and Dustin Keller, Sanchez had six games without a TD pass, and four of those games were losses. His career per-season completion percentage, Y/A, TD%, and INT% (among others) are even worse than Vince Young's. Point being, while Sanchez is lauded as a "winner" and seems to be a fan favorite, is there any rumbling among the fanbase that, maybe, a better QB is what the team needs to get to the next level?
GGN: I think it is completely fair to say he's a winner. That is not just an empty cliche like "game manager" at least as far as Sanchez is concerned. He led five scoring drives last year in either the last two minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime to win games. He also has a 95 passer rating in 6 Playoff games. The list of quarterbacks to outplay Tom Brady in a playoff game is not too long, and that is what Sanchez did in the divisional playoffs last year. I think there is definitely something to him being at his best in the most important moments.
There is a bit of a rumbling that the team needs to get a better quarterback. The thing is that quarterback is an improved Mark Sanchez.
Let's put things into perspective. He was the starter from the first day as a rookie. He only started 16 games in college, so he was even more raw than the average rookie. How many rookies come in and light the league on fire? A lot who eventually become good quarterbacks stink as rookies. Peyton Manning set the single season league record for interceptions as a rookie.
Most rookies who struggle play on bad teams, so nobody notices. Sanchez played on a team in New York built to win now, so people might jump on him a little quicker. What I know is that we saw a better quarterback in his second year than his first. It might not have shown in certain statistical areas, but anybody who watched the team would likely tell you he was a better player who made more plays. Odds are he will continue to improve. A lot of guys improve as they get more seasoned, and remember that Sanchez was less seasoned than most when he entered the league.
With that in mind, I do not think comparing his numbers with a guy who has been in the NFL for five years like Vince Young is necessarily apples to apples.
BRB: With the release and subsequent retirement of Kris Jenkins (who Texans fans remember well, as he completedly owned Chris Myers when our teams met to kick off the 2009 season), what changes, if any, should we expect to see in the Jets' defense?
GGN: Jenkins tore his ACL in the opener last year and missed more than half of 2009 with the same injury, so the Jets are used to life without him. Sione Pouha stepped in at the nose and has done very good work. Jenkins is a playmaker who makes a lot of plays in the backfield while taking two blockers with him. Pouha is more of a traditional nose tackle who just holds the point and keeps his linebackers clean. He's effective at that, though.
I think the big change on the defensive line will be replacing Shaun Ellis with Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets' first round pick. Ellis was a really good all-around player. For my money, he was one of the top five 3-4 defensive ends in the league last year. His numbers forcing hurries and the rushing stats to his side indicate it. A lot of people are high on Wilkerson, but he has some big shoes to fill right off the bat.
BRB: As Texans fans, we're all very familiar with Tom Moore from his time in Indianapolis. I know it's only been a couple weeks worth of practice, but have you noticed--or heard--of him having an impact on what the Jets are planning to do on offense this season?
GGN: He will be a consultant and will reportedly doing a lot of work evaluating film from home, just pointing out some things he spots. I am not sure how big of an effect he will have, but there have been some reports of him offering his thoughts on how the Jets can utilize Dustin Keller like the Colts did with Dallas Clark in the passing game. Keller is really fast and athletic, and a lot of people think he has been underutilized.
BRB: Everyone knows the big guns on the Jets. Tell us some of the lesser known guys who will play a role in how the Jets do in 2011 to watch for on Monday night.
GGN: I will give you one guy on offense and one guy on defense.
My guy on offense is the aforementioned Keller. This is his fourth year in the league. It is the fourth year people are expecting a breakout campaign. He got off to a really big start last year. Then he fell off a bit when Santonio Holmes returned, possibly a victim of "too many mouths to feed" syndrome. Keller is really fast. He causes matchup problems because few linebackers can keep up with him. He has also been frustratingly inconsistent and dropped too many passes. He will probably see more balls his way with Braylon Edwards in San Francisco. The Jets will look for him to elevate his game.
My guy on defense is Mike DeVito. He was forced into a starting job by Kris Jenkins' injury last year and did a fantastic job. He doesn't do anything that jumps off the page. He is just an excellent run defender who holds the point, ties up blockers, keeps his linebackers clean, and tackles guys who come his way.
BRB: What are some of the position battles to keep an eye on as the Jets continue through the preseason?
GGN: The Jets are in a good spot because they are set at most spots on the field. The biggest battle is probably at right tackle between Wayne Hunter and Vladimir Ducasse to replace Damien Woody. Hunter filled in capably for Woody last year when Woody was injured late in the year, although you and your readers might remember Mario Williams taking him to the woodshed last season. Ducasse was a second round pick out of UMass but looked very raw in preseason and did not see much action.
Since 2008, the strength of the Jets team has been the run game because of the offensive line. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, Brandon Moore, and Damien Woody were all arguably among the five best at their respective positions. Losing Woody hurts. Hunter might be capable, but the Jets did not become a dominant running team with simply capable blockers. They had a bunch of guys who would go out and decisively win their matchups. For this reason, I think Jets fans should hope that Ducasse makes a big leap this year and is ready to take the spot. He is really big and athletic. He has the potential to be excellent. It is a matter of how refined his technique gets.
Thanks to John for taking the time. Head on over to Gang Green Nation to see what Jets fans are saying about tonight's matchup.