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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Jets Lay An Egg In Home Opener

   What a difference a week makes. Did Jet fans expect anything different than what we have seen so far in the first two games? We are seeing a rookie quarterback that has tons of talent going through some growing pains. This game is one where the Jets were outplayed at the point of attack but the Dolphins kept handing opportunities that the Jets could not capitalize on. The difference between a Todd Bowles coached team and say a team like the Patriots, is when a stupid turnover occurs, the Pats make you pay for it. The Jets don’t.

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  The Jets were outplayed in every aspect of the game. Everything can be summed up at the end of the first half. The very first time the Jets get the ball over mid-field, they can’t even score as the drive ends at the Dolphins 2 yard line. This answers one of my 5 questions going into the season. Todd Bowles cannot manage the clock or his time outs. This is inexcusable for a fourth year head coach! The second glaring issue is the offensive line, especially in the first half. Except for one or two runs the Jets running game was awful. And think about it, the Jets are putting a rookie quarterback in a position to try and win an NFL game with virtually no running game and a weak offensive line. The Dolphins defensive line and linebackers were teeing off on every play. And except for a good tight end screen to Eric Tomlinson (24 yards) to offset the rush, the Jets had no answer. Speaking of Eric Tomlinson, the New York Jets tight ends cannot block. Unless this is addressed by the coaching staff, Darnold will get hurt. The Jets rushed for a measly 42 yards while the Dolphins rushed for 135 yards. More stunning is the Dolphins averaged 4.4 yards per carry while the Jets averaged 2.2 yards per carry. Both Sam Darnold’s interceptions were on him. At the time I couldn’t agree with what color commentator Rich Gannon said about Pryor not extending himself. However, I looked at that play about 6 times and there is no doubt that Pryor could have given a better effort to watch the ball, extend himself and at least deflect the ball. I’ll have more on Pryor later. Despite his 2 interceptions, Darnold put up some impressive numbers passing 25-41 for 334 yards and a QB rating of 74.6. For the record Ryan Tannehill’s QB rating was 123.1 and his bootlegs killed us! If Sam could have one play back it would probably be when he threw the ball out of the end zone a tad too early with Quincy Enunwa wide open for a sure six.

  Despite how the game looked, give kudos to the Jets defense. They were playing uphill all game. The Jets field position was awful all day. Brandon Copeland played a great game. He was active and credited with one sack and had a sack called back after a penalty on Buster Skrine. Buster Skrine and Morris Claiborne seem to be the weak links on the Jets defense. Skrine has to have the record for the most untimely penalties. Buster Skrine is great for the opposition’s offense. Since the day he signed with the Jets he has had an uncanny knack for keeping the opposition’s drive and momentum going. Can’t we take him off the field on every third down play? Put in Parry Nickerson or Justin Burris? Just tell Skrine the Doctor wants to see him in the tent and keep him in there till the Jets get the ball back. Morris Claiborne is soft. Sometimes there is so much space between the receiver and Claiborne that he is off the TV screen. I’ve seen enough of him. He signed another one-year contract so let’s go out and draft another DB. Or the Jets would show some guts and start Parry Nickerson who is probably the quickest player on the team.

  Give credit to Ryan Tannehill. Coming off lat year’s knee injury he was impressive. Besides that sack fumble, he played solid. His running killed the Jets. He led a very balanced attack and when the Dolphins needed a big play, he either made it with a pass or with his own feet. I was never a Tannehill fan and couldn’t understand why the Miami Dolphins did not trade up to draft a quarterback but the Dolphin hierarchy seems to have evaluated his ability well.

                                         See Sam Pass! See Sam Run! See Sam Win!
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  There were a ton of plays that cost the Jets but I came up with these 6 in no particular order that I thought were key in the Jets loss.
1) Chris Herndon Drop
2) Darnold interception after fumble recovery
3) End of first half clock and time out management
4) Buster Skrine holding on 3rd down sack by Copeland
5) Darnold throwing ball away out of end zone with Enunwa wide open
6) Dolphins 3rd and 19 pass for a first down to keep drive going in 4th quarter

From The Stat Corner

Third Down Efficiency 3/10 - 30%

Third Down Efficiency 6/13 - 46%

Penalties (Number-Yards) 7 - 50

Penalties (Number-Yards) 2 - 10

Time of Possession
Jets         31:35     
Dolphins 28:25

Green Tidbits:
….Just heard Pryor take blame on Darnold end zone INT. He made himself accountable. But he has got to make more of an effort on those 2 other catches. Richard Pryor could have made a better effort….Dolphins DE Robert Quinn was un-blockable today. He is a winner….The one time Sam was over center not in shotgun, I yelled out “screen or draw.” It was a screen for -5….Jets are 90-100 million under the cap. First priorities: offensive line, edge pass rusher, wide receiver, defensive back and running back…..Is there any doubt that Quincy Enunwa is the Jets best offensive threat…..DE Henry Anderson who had a sack is only going to get better…..Dolphin DB Minkah Fitzpatrick who is from NJ has greatness in him…..Where did Darron Lee go today?…..OL Brandon Shell and center Spencer Long were solid…..Hey Jets, kick the tires with Josh Gordon. Josh McCown knows him. And he is a talent…. What is it with the body language of both Todd Bowles and Robby Anderson that bothers me?…..How about there being a more sense of urgency for the Jets under 9 minutes down by 2 scores. Another Todd Bowles coaching faux pas….I can’t take that commercial with the girl in the Steelers jersey screaming. Please, enough already……

What The Jet Scribes Are Saying
Rich Cimini, ESPN
Welcome to the NFL, Sam Darnold -- the real NFL. Six days after his storybook debut, the New York Jets' quarterback faced a legitimate defense for the first time and turned into a mistake-prone rookie in a 20-12 loss to the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. What a buzzkill. This was the Jets' most anticipated home opener in years -- the place was electric at kickoff -- but the masses received a sobering reminder that rookie quarterbacks are prone to growing pains. Darnold wound up throwing for 334 yards and a touchdown, but there were too many hiccups and too many missed opportunities. He made it look easy in Week 1 against the soft Detroit Lions (well, except for his pick-six on his first pass), but it was clear from the outset that the Dolphins had no intention of serving as the foil in another Darnold lovefest. The 21-year-old threw two interceptions (one in the red zone) and mismanaged the clock at the end of the first half, costing the Jets at least a field goal. Every mistake was damaging. The first interception -- a misread -- set up the Dolphins on a short field, gifting them a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Detect a trend? For the second straight week, a Darnold interception put the Jets in a 7-0 hole. Good teams don't do that. In the closing seconds of the first half, Darnold -- with no timeouts left -- made the mistake of throwing to Chris Herndon short of the end zone. He got tackled at the 1 and time ran out, with the Jets unable to line up for a field goal. It was a brain cramp. Darnold should've thrown it away or fired it into the end zone. He made a similar mistake last season in USC's victory over UCLA.
………This was a bitterly disappointing day for the Jets, but it was a good learning experience for their promising young quarterback. Let's be clear: This wasn't his fault; there were breakdowns everywhere. These were tough conditions for any quarterback, let alone a newbie.Darnold battled bad field position, shaky pass protection and a large deficit for the entire day. He got banged around pretty good by the Miami front, which dominated with a four-man rush. The Dolphins didn't do anything exotic to confuse Darnold; they just won their individual matchups and whipped the Jets' offensive line. Continuing a two-year trend, the Jets proved they can't handle prosperity. They've been searching since 2016 for week-to-week consistency. Get used to the roller-coaster because such is life with a rookie quarterback.

                                                Green Rewind's Tailgate Central

Brian Costello, NY Post
The Jets were able to move the ball against Miami through the air, but a lack of a running game and three turnovers killed them. They gained a total of 362 yards, but only 42 on the ground. QB Sam Darnold (25-of-41, 334 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT) did not play poorly, but one interception led to points for the Dolphins and the other came in the end zone, preventing the Jets from scoring. The offensive line had a rough game, allowing three sacks and failing to open up holes in the running game…..The defense did some really good things. It got after Ryan Tannehill, sacking him four times, and held the Dolphins scoreless in the second half. But the unit committed two critical penalties on third down that kept Miami drives alive, was unable to pick the offense up after turnovers and allowed a third-and-19 conversion in the fourth quarter…..It was a nondescript game for the special teams unit after last week’s big game. Kicker Jason Myers missed an extra point, but did hit field goals of 55 and 41 yards. Myers also had three more touchbacks on kickoffs. Andre Roberts (one return, 4 yards) was a non-factor this week…..The Jets coaches had no answers when things were not going their way. The offense could not figure out a way to get the running game going. The team made critical errors that reflect poorly on Todd Bowles and his staff. The Jets had two huge penalties on third down defensively, and how do they give up a third-and-19 in the fourth quarter?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Jet Got Their Man!

Yes! We got one! We got a franchise quarterback. Quarantine him Monday through Saturday when he is not practicing. Notify local police departments in NYC, Bergen County, Westchester County, Nassau County and all the airports. Sam Darnold is to be treated as a diplomat. What a first game! There was actually something positive that came out of his first pass. If the interception did not go all the way for a TD and say Lion Quandre Diggs stepped out at the 12-yard line, it would have been a tough wait for Darnold and the Jets trying to get back on the field. The pick six got Sam and Co. right back on the horse. Of course no fans were happy with that first pass. But that first play, the drive by the Lions opening the second half and the third down reverse called by Jeremy Bates that went backwards were the only bad things to happen to the Jets all night. Otherwise it was all J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS. Darron Lee, Isaiah Crowell, Andre Roberts, Jamal Adams and even more all deserved game balls but it was the 21-year old rookie that stole the show. Darnold was everything we saw in pre-season and more. He rolled left, rolled right, threw long, threw short, ran with the ball. In fact take away that first pass and Darnold was an amazing 16-20. On the Jets second possession after great field position that was set up by return man Andre Roberts, Darnold completed a 3rd down bullet to Quincy Enunwa that did away with the ghosts of Browning Nagle. In the second quarter, just after the two-minute warning, Darnold hit Robby Anderson for a 41-yard touchdown pass that was a great catch by Anderson. That pass did away with the ghosts of Christian Hackenberg. In the third quarter Darnold hit Quincy Enunwa again and this time for a 21-yard touchdown. That pass did away with the ghosts of Geno Smith. Sam Darnold will make the players around him play better. There will more great plays by Sam Darnold and there will be more to come as the season goes on. Sam Darnold showed everyone in the league why the Jets started the 21-year old USC quarterback. Sit back and let’s have some fun. We got our man!

                                           See Sam Pass! See Sam Run! See Sam Win!
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Jets Offense
With Sam Darnold on target, everything else was clicking for the Jets offense. It was a balanced attack that was highlighted by some big plays. Isaiah Crowell who rushed for 102 yards broke one for a 62-yard touchdown. Reliable Bilal Powell added 60 more yards. Quincy Enunwa caught 6 passes for 63 yards and Terrelle Pryor and Tight end Neal Sterling each had 3 catches. As mentioned Anderson had 1 reception for a 41-yard touchdown. The Jet third down efficiency was 42% 6-14. The balance was reflected in the passing/rushing yards which was 180/169. The Jets offensive line which was of great concern going into the game more than held their own. They did get a stroke of luck when the Lions’ Ezekiel Ansah went of the game in the first half with an injury. Nevertheless, the line handled the point of attack well and this unit should get better as the season goes on. 


Jets Defense
Besides Sam Darnold looking great, the defense and special teams kept giving the Jets great field position. To me this was the key to the game. Forcing the Lions quarterbacks to throw 5 interceptions (Stafford/4, Cassel/1) showed how aggressive the defense was throughout the game. Darron Lee finally had a game to remember. With two interceptions, one returned for a TD, the third year linebacker played like the player we heard about when he was at Ohio State. Time had been running out for Lee and he came up big time. Trumaine Johnson, Morris Claiborne and Jamal Adams also had interceptions. Besides Lee, the other Jet linebackers played excellent and so did the secondary. A couple of unsung heroes were linebacker Frankie Luvu and defensive lineman Henry Anderson who seemed to be in the backfield most of the time he was in the game. An observation was that the defense as a whole looked incredibly quick compared to the last couple of years. 

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Jet Special Teams
In my last Green Rewind article I mentioned punter Lac Edwards and how he improved. Not only is he kicking longer than last year but his placement of his punts in the Lion game were excellent. Of his three punts the Lions had to start one drive at their own 10-yard line and one drive at their own 6-yard line. Field position can make or break seasons. Edwards is a good one.
On the punt returns, what can you say about Andre Roberts? This veteran entering his ninth year in the NFL was just outstanding. He averaged 45 yards per return on three punts including one that went for a 78-yard touchdown. Roberts is listed as a wide receiver but make no mistake, he made the roster as a return man. The Jets are the fifth NFL team he is on and he goes back with Todd Bowles when he coached the Arizona Cardinals defense.  

What The Jet Scribes Are Saying
Rich Cimini, ESPN
(Sam) Darnold had just won his first professional start, overcoming a pick-six on his first pass attempt to beat the Detroit Lions, 48-17. No one wants to start his career with a blooper moment, but it showed he can take a punch. That will serve him well as he navigates an early schedule that will test his mettle. Working on a short week, Darnold will face the Miami Dolphins in the Jets' home opener. Then it'll be an even shorter week -- a dreaded Thursday night road game against the Cleveland Browns, who may start blitzing the rookie before the national anthem is finished. From there, it's a road trip to the Jacksonville Jaguars, best defensive team in the NFL. The point is, not every week will be fun for Darnold. Not every opponent will be as clueless as the Lions, who looked utterly unprepared under first-year coach Matt Patricia. Every young quarterback falls into a funk at some point. The mentally fragile get swallowed up by the adversity and the pressure. The tough-minded players fight their way out of it. On Monday night, Darnold showed fight. After the interception, he went 16-for-20, 198 yards and two touchdowns, rallying the Jets to one of their most impressive season-opening wins. Instead of imploding on prime-time TV, he laughed off his rookie blunder.

Manish Mehta, NY Daily News
Just outside the winning locker room Monday night, Chris Darnold had tears in her eyes, Michael Darnold had a smile as wide as the ocean… and their son had the same steady demeanor that he has had for as long as they can remember. Sam Darnold had just won his first NFL game in the most unusual way, turning a glaring mistake into a footnote, but it was nearly impossible to tell any of that by the look on his face. The Jets rookie quarterback flashed an easy smile while hugging his folks before disappearing into the night. Darnold is the sketch of cool, but he’s not too cool for school. He’s calm, but he’s not detached. He’s reserved, but he’s not aloof.

“He’s the same guy every day,” Todd Bowles said the day after the Jets’ epic season-opening 48-17 rout over the Lions. “I think that’s important at the quarterback position. You need to be the same guy every day whether it’s good or bad. Everybody needs to see that…. You know what you’re getting out of that guy. You trust that type of person when you’re the same guy every day. That’s really been the most impressive thing.” Time will tell, but the Jets’ decision to trade up from No. 6 to No. 3 in this year’s draft might ultimately go down as the single greatest decision in franchise history………

…….“It’s great to see,” Bowles said about his young signal caller’s poise. “It’s rare more nowadays…. It’s exciting to see because he’s got an old soul, but he’s young in age. He understands the game very well. He works at it the right way…. It’s a bit more comforting knowing that he’s going to go study.”

Think about it this way: How would you have responded if you made a huge blunder in the first few seconds on your first day of work? Would you have sought shelter? Or would you have been emboldened by the moment? Darnold’s pick-six on his first career snap actually calmed him down.

“Oh my God…” cornerback Mo Claiborne said. “I’ve been seeing this from this guy since he arrived here.

“He’s just fearless. It seems like nothing really gets to him. He keeps the same attitude, the same look on his face.”

Darnold couldn’t be a more respectful person, but, man, he’s an assassin on the field. Maybe the pick-six was meant to be, because if you didn’t believe in Darnold’s mental toughness before Monday night, you certainly do now.

“I practice with him every day. He has that ‘It’ factor,” cornerback Trumaine Johnson said. “He’s a gamer. Coming from a pick-six first ball, you don’t see rookie quarterbacks do what he did… I’m proud of him.”

Brian Costello, NY Post
They have been teased by young quarterbacks who look like they could be the one. They have been fooled by one-game wonders who made them dream of finding that elusive franchise quarterback. They have been burned by the career flameouts of Browning Nagle, Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. The scars are still there. You can feel that this week, as the biggest question going around Jets fans’ heads is: To Believe or Not To Believe? That is the question with Sam Darnold, the Jets’ rookie quarterback who showed resiliency Monday night when he bounced back from throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown on the first play of his career. He put that play behind him and threw two touchdowns and played a big role in the Jets’ 48-17 win over the Lions. It is OK, Jets fans. You can buy in. This kid is for real. Now that is not to say, off of one game, we should compare him to Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers. There will be plenty of hiccups to come this season. As for the future, so much else has to go right for Darnold to realize his potential. But the foundation is there. Darnold is different. That is not just based off Monday’s game, but off what he has shown since the draft in April. He is more mature than Sanchez, Smith or Nagle were. He is a more instinctive player than any of them. His poise is something that is rarely found in someone who only reached the legal drinking age three months ago…..

…..One game is not enough to put Darnold in Canton. There are so many things that could go wrong. The Jets must still build around Darnold. The Jets’ failure to do that around Sanchez doomed him. Darnold must stay healthy, of course. Chad Pennington looked like he was the answer before the injuries piled up. But Darnold has traits that can’t be coached. He has talent that should make Jets fans excited about the future. If he stays healthy and the Jets do this right, they have their guy.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Five Things To Watch Monday Night

The Jets start the Sam Darnold era Monday night in Detroit against the Lions. This is one of the most anticipated opening games for Jets fans in a long time. All eyes will be on the 21-year old USC first round pick that miraculously fell to the Jets on draft day. Jet fans as well as most NFL fans are anxious to see if the Jets drafted another Matt Leinart or John Elway or something in between. With Darnold and a renewed franchise enthusiasm, the Jet players are optimistic that they will surprise people and turn heads their first three game that come within 10 days. Here are five things I will be watching for on Monday night.

1) Pass Rush
Make no mistake the Jets coaching staff knows their deficiencies and this is one of them. I’ve been told since Kahlil Mack was traded to the Bears, the Jets have had everyone and their mother into Florham Park for a last minute tryout to make the team as a pass rusher. The Lions are not the Patriots but give Matthew Stafford time and he will rip up the Jets defense. I had mentioned it but look for the Jets to play three safeties (without Marcus Maye-injured ankle) with Jamal Adams or JJ Wilcox playing as a hybrid linebacker who will rush the QB on passing downs probably more than Todd Bowles would like but the options are limited. Getting a pass rusher will be a priority in next year’s free agency and the draft. The good news is Todd Bowles is a very good defensive schemer so this will give the Jets a puncher’s chance.

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2) Offensive Line
I’ve been screaming about the offensive line for more than five years and have witnesses. Last year there were some good moments but there were a lot of horrendous ones also. In 2017 the Jets were 24th in the league in total offense and allowed 47 sacks. There has to be improvement this year especially with a 21-year old rookie quarterback at the helm. The good news is the Jets are improved at the center position with free agent Spencer Long who seems to be a huge upgrade over Wesley Johnson. Tackle Brandon Shell has improved every year and Jet fans can expect more improvement this year. The bad news is the Jet offensive line has not not played a snap together in the pre-season. The Detroit Lions have edge pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah (12 sacks in ’17, 14.5 in ’15) who can be a handful. Bilal Powell is an excellent blocker for a back. Expect Sam to keep him home in the backfield to help out on some passing downs.

3) Sam Darnold
I’ve seen the replay of the Eagles Carson Wentz injury last year and only hope Sam Darnold watched it a few times. Wentz went diving in the end zone which looked wide open only to have two players come in at incredible speed and the result was Carson Wentz has still not played since. Hey Sam, NFL players are incredibly quick! Please no headfirst slides! The Jets hierarchy thinks Sam Darnold is the one we’ve been waiting for. I have a lot of faith in Jeremy Bates and he will only do whatever is in the best interests of the Jets and Sam Darnold. One of Darnold’s best attributes is extending plays. This should bring a lot of smiles to the Jets receiving corp. Against the Lions, look for Bates to give Darnold simple pass plays like a few roll outs just to get his feet wet and in rhythm. I do expect him to open it up a bit as the game goes on. Keep an eye on the Darnold-Anderson combination. Anderson can stretch the field and he finally has a QB that can reach him.

4) Special teams
When thinking of the Jet special teams, I yearn for those days when the Jets had Leon Washington and Brad Smith with Mike Westoff calling the shots. Since those days the Jets ST have been abysmal. The pre-season continued this pattern. The cover schemes and return game are just not working. Can someone tell me if the Jets lead the NFL in fair catches on punts? This has got to change and coach Brant Boyer has got to a better job. If it was me I would put more starters on the special teams just to have better personnel. Special teams is an incredibly important part of a team and the Jets have got to do something for long term improvement.


5) Todd Bowles
He has got to prove to Jet fans and me that he is a real NFL coach and not just a defensive coordinator wearing head coach head gear. Bowles' on the field decision making has been awful. His two minute drill thinking is beyond bad. He seems very indecisive and does not know how or when to use his time outs. His math is embarrassing not knowing when to go for one point or two points after a touchdown. But his team plays hard for him. Still he has the quarterback this year who will lead some comebacks and Todd Bowles has got to control the clock. If he doesn’t, the Jets will have no choice but to look for another head coach. 
                                                See Sam Pass! See Sam Run! See Sam Win!
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Green Tidbits
…..As bad as the Jets special teams have been, punter Lachlan Edwards had a solid second year upping his average to 46.6 per punt from 43.1. Don’t forget his QB rating in 2017 was 118.7 (1-1, 31 yards)…..Newly acquired linebacker Avery Williamson looked impressive in pre-season. Hope his sure tackling carries into the regular season…..I’m liking safety Terrance Brooks better than JJ Wilcox and Doug Middleton for depth. He is an excellent closer on running plays…..Speaking of safeties, when you see rookie Parry Nickerson (#43) on the field, look for him to blitz…..I’m as big a Jermaine Kearse fan as anybody. But taking away personalities and based solely on talent, Terrelle Pryor should be starting at WR opposite Robby Anderson…..Eric Tomlinson is listed as the starting tight end on the depth chart. I like Neal Sterling better and want to see Chris Herndon…..Don’t panic Jet fans if Sam is running for his life in Detroit. Takes 2-4 games for offensive line to get in sync if they haven’t played together…..If DB Rashard Robinson is still on the team after his suspension, I’m moving to Boston…..Hope I’ve been wrong about rookie Trenton Cannon and he breaks two for TDS on Monday…..If rookie defensive lineman Nathan Shepard is anything, than Leonard Williams will be a beast this year…..

                                            Green Rewind's Tailgate Central

What The Jet Scribes Are Saying
Rich Cimini, ESPN
 It was a quiet preseason for Robby Anderson, who made only three catches for 23 yards, but he's ready to explode as he enters his third season. Anderson is thinking big (more on that in a second), but his immediate goal is to help Darnold, his rookie quarterback.
"I'm very comfortable, but I want Sam to be comfortable," Anderson said. "I want to be Sam's blanket, to make him look good and make the offense look good."
Except for one mugging-for-the-camera moment last season, the soft-spoken Anderson isn't your typical receiver in that he's not a self-promoter. He's the most exciting player on the Jets' offense, and he's ready to build on his 941-yard breakout year. He's on a grand mission.

"When you reach 1,000 yards, I think that's how you solidify yourself as a true No. 1 receiver -- a true NFL receiver -- and that's the thing I'm setting out to embrace and work for and achieve."

…..ArDarius Stewart, who is serving a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs, could get squeezed out when he returns. The Jets already have six receivers, and the 2017 third-round pick failed to distinguish himself in the preseason. His fate could hinge on potential injuries in the first two games. Signing quarterback Davis Webb to the practice squad was a nice, no-risk move. Best-case scenario: He does enough on the practice field to stick around for the rest of the season and emerges as Darnold's backup in 2019. Worst case: He stinks and they cut him, no strings attached. No harm, no foul.

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Manish Mehta, NY Daily News
Lost in Todd Bowles’ stoicism and boring public persona is this undeniable fact: The man is a defensive schematic wizard able to mix and match his personnel to keep up with the league’s ever-changing offensive trends.
Consider veteran “free safety” J.J. Wilcox, who could be an X-Factor this season thanks to the coaching staff’s ability to properly identify him to fit an underplayed yet key role in today’s NFL.
Wilcox is set to be the “Money Linebacker”, a hybrid linebacker/safety designed to combat pass-friendly offenses. The rise of the 11 Personnel grouping (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) has prompted savvy defensive coaches to identify versatile, smart players athletic enough to cover tight ends/running backs and strong and instinctive enough to survive in the box.
It’s a way to have the same advantages of a true nickel defense without sacrificing much size. The Jets will use the 6-2, 212-pound Wilcox in passing situations on second and third downs as part of their Speed Package. It’s an innovative plan that Bowles utilized in Arizona with the versatile Deone Bucannon, who turned into a full-time linebacker. Wilcox, who spent his first four seasons as a free and strong safety with the Cowboys before a one-year stint in Pittsburgh, has the intellect, instincts and size to fill this new role. Although Wilcox is listed as a safety, he’s been spending time in both the linebacker and safety meeting rooms as he learns a new position.

“The more you can do,” Wilcox said, “The better.”

It’s no secret that the NFL has become a more pass-happy league. Just look at the growing number of plays in 11 Personnel. The league average for 11 Personnel has spiked from 34 percent in 2008 to 58 percent last year, according to Pro Football Focus. That’s a 71 percent increase over the past decade. Rams head coach Sean McVay, arguably the league’s best offensive tactician, used 11 Personnel on a league-high 80 percent of his snaps last season. The Lions, who will face the Jets in the season opener on Monday night, were second at 74 percent in 2017. Wilcox got his first extensive game experience in his new role in the preseason finale in Philly. The results were pretty fantastic: An interception, forced fumble, three tackles and a pass breakup in 24 snaps.

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Brian Costello, NY Post
The Jets’ starting offensive line did not play one snap together this preseason. The unit’s members barely practiced together. Now, they face Ezekiel Ansah and the Lions on Monday night.The biggest question mark facing the Jets offense on Monday may not be their 21-year-old starting quarterback, but the unit blocking for him. Injuries in training camp prevented the starters from working together. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum did not play a snap in the preseason and barely practiced in training camp after suffering a sprained foot. Right guard Brian Winters had back tightness that kept him out of one preseason game and cost him a week of training camp.
The Jets linemen and the coaches say that the group has had time to jell and they are not worried about any confusion on Monday night.

“We’ve been around each other quite a bit during this whole process,” Beachum said. “So, we can’t get into this excuse making that people on the outside are trying to bring into the locker room right now. For us, we’ve got to go out and perform. We’re professionals. Every one of us across the offensive line has played games in the National Football League. When our number is called upon, we know we’ve got to execute and perform.”

The injuries to their starters made the Jets offensive line look particularly vulnerable in the preseason games. It gives Jets fans reason to worry about the season and if Sam Darnold will have time to operate. But the Jets feel confident that with Beahcum and Winters back in the lineup, they will be fine.

“I’m very optimistic,” offensive line coach Rick Dennison said. “I think they’ve done a good job. They’ve worked hard. Obviously, it’s the start of the regular season. There’s a little bit of unknown, but I feel good about their efforts. I feel good about the guys.”

With Darnold at quarterback, there will be more focus on the offensive line and how it is doing protecting him. It is reasonable to expect the rookie quarterback to need an extra tick to make a throw than a veteran would. The offensive line is going to have to hold its blocks a little longer, but the players are not thinking like that.

“You can’t get into that ebb and flow type of game where you need to change your game because somebody else is in the game,” Beachum said. “As offensive linemen, we have to stay steady. We have to be consistent. When the play is called and when our number is called, we have to find a way to execute.”
Beachum could face the toughest challenge of all the linemen against the Lions. Ansah, who had 12 sacks last year, has been lining up on the left side of the offense, so Beachum could get a heavy dose of him. New Lions coach Matt Patricia surely has some tricks planned that he did not show in the preseason, and that might mean moving Ansah around.