Sunday’s game at MetLife stadium was a roller coaster ride in every sense of the phrase. From a stifling run defense, to a sloppy first half by Dee Milner, to a Jets safety, to back to back turnovers by Geno Smith, to a poised drive resulting in Geno’s first touchdown, to the Jets kicking the go-ahead field goal, to the game being over with 34 seconds remaining, and finally, to Nick Folk’s game winning field goal, the game was as exhausting as it is to try and read this run-on sentence in one breath.
You can say what you want about how much the Jets “didn’t deserve” to win the game, but I don’t care. A win is a win, and Geno Smith made the heads-up and athletic play to put himself in position to get that penalty. With that, here are my overall thoughts on the Jets performance in week one.
The rookie looked as good as I could have expected him to in his first NFL game. After a great completion to start his career, Geno had a shaky performance in the first half. He had one bad fumble on a sack, and a horrible interception on an airmailed dump-off to Chris Ivory. He recovered well however, and led the Jets down the field at the end of the half, throwing his first NFL touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow, Jr. And speaking of Winslow, if he can stay healthy all season he could be in for a big year as Geno’s safety valve.
In the second half, Geno played much smarter and did a much better job protecting the football. If you had told me following the Giants preseason game that Geno would throw for 256 yards, one TD, one INT, and a passer rating of 80.6, I would have signed up for it any day of the week. Most importantly, none of Geno’s passes found their way into the hands of #24 in red, which would have been a horrible sight for Jets fans to see.
Geno showed great poise on the final drive, completing a long pass over the middle to Winslow and getting the team on the ball quick enough to stop the clock. Then, on the Jets final offensive play, he showed surprising maturity by playing situational football. Seeing that there was nothing open down field, he tucked the ball, got up field, and went out of bounds. Had the Jets not been sent the gift-wrapped the late hit penalty, with 7 seconds on the clock they still would have had enough time to run a quick sideline route and get the seven more yards needed to get Nick Folk into field goal range. The rookie’s crafty scramble also got them within distance of a last second Hail Mary, where with tall receivers like Stephen Hill and Kellen Winslow, they would have had a good chance to come down with it
-Front 7 Shines
I truly think that this is going to be Rex’s best defense in New York. The Jets’ biggest flaw the past few years has been their run defense, but in this game, the big boys with their hands on the ground (and the steadily improving linebacker crew) were incredible, holding Doug Martin to 65 yards on 24 carries. That gets even more impressive when you realize that 17 of those yards came on one carry during the Bucs last drive.
To reiterate: the Defensive line was simply outstanding! Muhammad Wilkerson lived up to the hype he has been getting all off-season, and Sheldon Richardson dazzled in his professional debut recording seven tackles and a half sack. Damon “Snacks” Harrison was a monster in the middle, and Kenrick Ellis was no slouch himself. The most impressive thing to me, however, was that they did all this without the help of Quentin Coples, who despite being moved to Rush Linebacker, should still be considered a part of the D-Line. If he can return full health, this defensive line just may be the best in the NFL.
As I mentioned above, the Jet linebackers looked pretty great themselves. After one week, Rex Ryan looks like a genius for all the faith he put in DeMario Davis. David Harris looked like the linebacker who (before last season) Bill Barnwell called the best run-stuffing middle linebacker this side of Patrick Willis. To top things off, the gamble John Idzick made on Antwan Barnes seems to be paying off, with the ex-Chargers speedy pass rusher recording his first sack as a Jet in his very first week.
-Questionable Pass Defense
At times the Jets pass defense looked absolutely horrible; other times it looked reminiscent of last year’s unit, which ranked 2nd in the NFL. Millner looked horrible in the first half but settled down in the second. Cromartie was abused by Vincent Jackson several times, but he also had flashes of the player who was one of the best corners in the NFL last year. With Tom Brady and the Patriots coming up next week, the Jets better hope they can gain some much needed consistency here.
-Horrid Run Offense
Big Green’s run offense was horrific on Sunday: (1) they relied too much on the “Wildcat”, (2) Bilal Powell flunked his starting opportunity, and (3) Chris Ivory did nothing with the limited carries he was given. Having said that, I am not going to get myself all heated-up over our perceived lack of rushing prospects just yet. The Bucs had the number one ranked run defense in the NFL last year for a reason. In my mind, the Jets need to give Ivory more touches and push Powell into the third down role that he is better suited for. I anticipate we will see the running game have a much better week against the Pats on Thursday Night.
-Shaky Offensive Line
The pass-blocking was nothing to write home about: Geno had a Bucs player in his face almost the entire game. The run blocking was even worse against last year’s top-ranked run defense. Powell and Ivory couldn’t get any running room, and were constantly getting met at or behind the line of scrimmage. This group was a unit that I had a lot of faith in going into the season and they need to play dramatically better for the Jets to have a chance of beating the Patriots.
There is no telling what the rest of the season has in store for the Jets, but with the performance of the young players, and the defensive line in particular, there is a lot to be excited about for the future. Seeing as experts across the board expected Gang Green to be horrible this year, that is all I could ask for.