EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Forget the final score, a 38-27 win over the Michael Vick led Eagles. Forget that Vick , played with the second team and had a pick and a fumble,was sacked 4 times, and was rusty with his throws and decisions on whether or not to scramble.
The real story is that the New York Jets exited their final preseason game against the Eagles Thursday night with the best outcome they could’ve hoped for. Mark Sanchez in his one drive looked in control and in command, finishing it off with a TD strike to number one WR Jerricho Cotchery (one for now, if Brandon Marshall comes the game changes for this team) and 7-7 tie. A tie in a game where the only victory truly comes from leaving healthy and feeling confident.
The Jets did both.
They may have even found their new Wayne Chrebet, a fan favorite with an underdog sized physique in Division II standout Danny Woodhead who rushed for a 55 yard score and had over 150 yards on the night. It wasn’t just the yards that made you root for the kid it was the electricity he brought given his position as a bubble player fighting for a position in the last preseason game.
These are the types of players who can make one play in a game and spark a flat team. Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum have to recognize the potential in the gritty RB who looks like he’s twelve, and headed back to grade school next week.
On that first drive Sanchez also threw a pretty thirty yard strike to TE Dustin Keller, a second year pass catching threat, who is poised to have a great year as the rookie QB’s security blanket. The rest of the night on offense was Woodhead’s.
On the defensive side of the ball, Vernon Gholston played pleaseantly well, showing off a speed and reaction that was invisible under former coach Eric Mangini. “Mangenius”as he was called during his rookie year in 2006 (when the Jets, with a weak schedule went 10-6 and made a brief playoff appearance after coming off of a 4-12 year during Herm Edwards final days as Jet coach), left Gholston away from the line of scrimmage and out of position during his disappointing rookie year.
With LB Calvin Pace suspended by the league until week 5, Gholston’s presence must be felt in order for the Jets new aggressive style to take shape early on. Under Ryan, the former Raven defensive coordinator, you can expect a ton of pressure and a lot of looks, as the son of defensive coaching legend Buddy Coach hopes to utilize secondary stalwarts Darrel Revis and Kerry Rhodes in the same ball hawking way that has made Raven star safety Ed Reed hall of fame caliber.
The Jets open up next week at Houston against a team with a tough RB on the rise in Steve Slaton, a passing attack that includes star WR Andre Johnson and TE Owen Daniel s and QB Matt Schaub. Schaub despite injuries last year that caused him to miss games, showed the potential for putting up points and 300 yards consistently. An ankle sprain against the Vikings two weeks ago however, on the night of Brett Favre’s Viking debut, has left the Texan signal caller at less than 100 percent already.
The combination of a confident Sanchez and Gholston, aggressive pressure schemes and a somewhat hobbling Schaub, makes Sept 13th’s opener a winnable game. Road wins don’t come easy in the NFL though. Add to the script a rookie QB and a rookie head coaches debut, and the situation for the Jets becomes more unpredictable in Houston .
The ability of both Thomas Jones and Leon Washington to move the ball behind a stellar line, together for the first time since camp started, will determine if the Jets can control the tempo in week one.
A week in which Gang Green embarks on yet another new era: The Rex Ryan era.