Few would’ve thought the biggest goal of the Jets in week 3 would be to avoid a let down. This for a club with a rookie Quarterback and a Defense whose star LB Calvin Pace is out until week 5 due to violating league policy. Yet avoiding a let down is exactly what the Jets must do this Sunday at home against the desperate 0-2 Tennessee Titans. Suprising wins at Houston and over hated rivals the New England Patriots have the Jets residing all alone in the AFC East Penthouse.
The Jets own the only defense in the NFL after two weeks that has not let up a touchdown yet. QB Mark Sanchez has shown in a small two game body of work, that he can make some big throws and not wilt under blitz packages and mope after mistakes. The Jets receivers corps led by TE Dustin Keller, and WR’s Jerricho Cotchery, Chansi Stuckey, the biggest Jet question mark going into opening day, has done a solid job holding onto throws and making the most of their opportunities.
This has allowed the Jet running game of Thomas Jones and Leon Washington the chance to get going, which the duo have done, albeit after two slow starts in the first halves of both games. The story of this team can be summed up in one word though: Attitude. It’s a word that past Jet teams could rarely be described as owning. The 69 Jets had it. The Sack Exchange Jets of 1981 had it. The 1998 Bill Parcells had it. Other than that? Hmmm… Rest assured however, the 2009 version, led by brash head coach Rex Ryan has plenty of it.
The Jets so far this season have talked the talk and walked the walk. Even the recent controversy regarding tampering with unsigned 49ers WR Michael Crabtree has left us with yet another chest thumping Ryan quote. The son of former defensive guru and loudmouth himself, Buddy Ryan, called San Fran’s charges that the Jets were up to no good,”ridiculous” adding that he “wished we were playing them.” The fearlessness of the Ryan is permeating down to the players. They get the message.
The Jets are 2-0 and in sole possession of first place in the AFC East today through a combo of Ryan’s swagger, a punishing attacking defense led up front by LB Bard Scott, David Harris and run stopping king NG Kris Jenkins, and the poise of the young Sanchez. Whether the club is ready to handle championship style consistency in taking on a hungry Titans squad remains to be seen. For this very reason, Sunday is a big early test for Gang Green.
Tennessee has had a rough start in ’09. They first lost a tough road game in OT, 13-10 to the World champion Steelers then fell to Houston 34-31 in week 2 despite RB Chris Johnsons’ 197 yd 2TD performance. Starting 0-2 for the franchise that was 13-3 and held home field advantage in 2008 (before a shocking playoff loss to the Rex Ryan led defense of the Ravens 13-10 in the divisional playoffs), was not part of the plan for coach Jeff Fisher; a well respected head coach who currently owns the longest tenure in one place in the NFL ( Fisher was head coach when the Titans were still the Houston Oilers back in 1994). For the Titans, week 3 is as close to a must win as there can be this early. Starting out 0-3 is a hole that is often to deep to dig out of.
Three Keys to the Game
Jets NG Kris Jenkins vs Titans C Kevin Mawae
The former Jets center during the Bill Parcells era is the key to the Titans ground game. A ground game that saw Chris Johnson break a 91 yard TD run on his way to 197 yard performance against the Texans. Jenkins is a killer and is playing at a high level for such an early point in the season. If Johnson and bruiser Lendale White want to excel on Sunday, Mawae better be able to move Jenkins. If not , Titan QB Kerry Collins may be faced with the unenviable position of having to pick up third and longs against the free for all Ryan will surely be sending his way.
Jets Pass Protection against Titans Pass Rush
The Titans have still not adjusted to the free agent loss of defensive line stud Albert Haynesworth. Yet the pass rush led by Kyle Vanden Bosch and veteran Javon Kearse can still cause havoc. The pass rush needs to be kept away from Sanchez by the gelling O line of D’Brickshaw Ferguson, Damien Moore, Nick Mangold and Alan Faneca. this in order to to allow Sanchez him time to find a receiving corps that has been a pleasant surprise. CB Cortland Finnegan is a tough physical shut down CB who makes plays on the ball so expect the Jets to stay away from his side if at all possible as well.
Rex Ryan vs. Complacency
Championship teams win the TRAP games: games that occur after big, tough, emotional wins. Rex Ryan has a tough task in keeping the energy high for a franchise that historically, can’t enjoy prosperity. So many times under so many coaches , the Jets have taken their foot off the gas at the wrong time. As desperate as the Titans are, if Johnson can be contained, it could be a field day for the Jets defense on Collins. He’s a solid veteran quarterback with an improved receivers corps in speedy Nate Washington Rutgers rookie Kenny Britt, to go along with Justin Gage, but Collins is no Tom Brady. Pressure that produced hurries and inaccurate throws from Tom Terrific last week, will turn into sacks and turnovers this wee.k As long as the Jets can stay motivated like they have been these past two weeks. Sunday is a Trap game for the undefeated Jets, one of the early surprise teams in the NFL in 2009.