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N.Y. Jets vs. St. Louis Rams preview: Gang Green is fighting a losing cause

jetshel042611_optBY SAM HITCHCOCK
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
COMMENTARY

Before the season, the consensus around the league was that the AFC East had been given two beautiful, lavishly wrapped, prodigious gifts by landing the NFC West and AFC South as the two out-of-conference divisions they were scheduled to play. Unfortunately, the preseason NFL strength of schedule ratings proved to be quite misleading, as is nearly always the case.

The Seattle Seahawks and St. Louis Rams (NFC West) have proven better than anticipated. Both teams possess a good defensive line, a very potent running game with powerful blocking, and a young quarterback.

It seems appropriate that the New York Jets would face the Seahawks and Rams in back-to-back weeks, as both teams are ascending while the Jets are descending. (The Seahawks dominated the Jets 28-7 last Sunday.) It has become obvious that General Manager Mike Tannenbaum lacks visual acuity for talent (none of New York’s off-season moves have worked out), while this week’s opponent, the Rams, are making good off of finding the prized “diamond in the rough.”

The Rams’ No. 1 receiving threat is the twice cut, dynamic slot receiver Danny Amendola. Amendola demonstrated his toughness and grit last Sunday, returning from a painful collarbone injury to dominate San Francisco’s secondary. Amendola connected on 11 catches off 12 targets, gaining 102 yards (61 YAC).

On the other side of the ledger, the Jets’ offense manufactured zero points last week. Quarterback Mark Sanchez completed 40 percent of his throws, and on the season he ranks 32nd in ProFootballFocus’s qualifying quarterbacking rankings. The most disturbing aspect of Sanchez’s performance was that he actually received good pass protection. Against a very aggressive and speedy pass rush, the Jets’ starting o-line held Seattle to one sack and one hit, an impressive performance when one remembers what Seattle did in the first half against Green Bay’s offensive line on Monday Night Football.

Nevertheless, Sanchez’s inability to complete rote throws coupled with his loose protection of the football, have shown he is not starting material. His interception in the end zone, his fourth red-zone interception this season, was directed towards tight end Dustin Keller but failed to get there due to poor timing and a lack of arm strength. Seahawks’ cornerback Richard Sherman easily intercepted it, and worst of all, wideout Stephen Hill was all alone in the end zone but Sanchez failed to spot him.

Sanchez has been dreadful, but it is not all his fault. The castigating Tannenbaum section of this article is over, and now is the part that questions the Jets’ coaching staff. The Jets have a shortage of playmakers on offense, so why would they possibly want to make Sanchez’s job harder by employing wide receiver Jeremy Kerley on only 54 percent of their snaps? Kerley is the Jets’ sole dynamic threat in the passing game, but has received a big decrease in playing time.

Check out this link to a 2009 article in The New York Times by football guru Chris Brown about Rex Ryan’s success against the Wildcat when he was the Ravens’ defensive coordinator.

The section Shutting it Down features this gem of a quote: “Last season, with Ryan as defensive coordinator, the Ravens shut the Wildcat down better than any other team the Dolphins faced. And yet when asked about this series, Ryan did not rant about how it was a fad or a gimmick. Instead, his comments reflected that he was able to stop it because he had the wisdom to respect it: ‘I think it’s a good weapon, I do. And you’re talking to the guy that stopped it not once, but twice last year,’ said Ryan.”

The quote is so prophetic it is almost Shakespearean. Who would have guessed?

So what should the Jets expect against the Rams?

They should expect a defense that will pursue and bring heavy pressure thanks to two strong edge rushers in Chris Long (he had one sack, one hit, and eight hurry ups against the 49ers) and Robert Quinn, along with a man coverage pass defense. The Rams have a forceful run game and the combination of Stephen Jackson and change-of-pace back Daryl Richardson should give the Jets’ ersatz rush defense fits.

Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson had the only impact for New York against Seattle, as he disrupted the interior of the offensive line and held off the Seahawks’ rush game as much as he could. Ultimately, it will come down to the Jets’ ability to prevent the Rams’ offensive linemen from reaching the second level.

Everyone with a microphone in the business of football is casting aspersions at the Jets, but they can only point a finger at themselves because they are culpable for this mess. The locker room is once again divided, and the play on the field is even worse.

Sanchez has the worst completion percentage in the league, and his yards-per-pass attempt is a ghastly 6.33. Shonn Greene is not an NFL caliber starting running back, as he delivered another pitiful performance, stumbling to 3.9 yards per attempt and not even breaking a tackle on his 15 carries (PFF). The Jets’ linebackers are a step slow in the run game and in pass coverage, and their pass rush continues to linger as a problem because they cannot consistently put quarterbacks under duress and collapse the pocket (although to be fair, they did sack Seattle’s Russell Wilson four times last week). With no Revis, teams like the Seahawks can use their big-play wide receivers (Sidney Rice) to exploit man coverage on weaker defensive backs like Ellis Lankster.

The Jets offense has flatlined, and ultimately the pressure from their lack of point production causes the defense to fight a losing cause. The Jets have looked like uncomfortable itinerants on the road, and this week in St. Louis will be no different.

Rams 20, Jets 10

 

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