Jets Aren’t Dead, Texans Just Simply Are the Best
Jets Nation prepared for last night’s game, virtually with their hands over their eyes. Coming off their worst performance in years against the stout 49ers, with injuries piling up and a wide receiving corps that has a total of 20 career touchdowns, and a miserable running game, the Jets were poised to present a repeat performance.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the Meadowlands – the Jets took a page out of the Patriots playbook. Despite their spirited effort, though, the Texans showed that they might be the best team in the NFL, supplying constant pressure and capitalizing on opponent’s mistakes.
The Texans possess the key ingredients for a long playoff run – a very solid quarterback, a top flight running back, and a stubborn and aggressive defense lead by an outstanding youthful leader in JJ Watt. This is a team that does not make mistakes, but when they do, they have the talent to compensate on the other side of the ball.
One gets the feeling that Matt Schaub might be in the upper echelon of NFL quarterbacks if he had to. What would his numbers look like if he had, say, Shonn Greene behind him instead of Arian Foster? He uses an unmatched efficiency to generate a good pace, and more than adequate scoring, for his offense. When you have a workhorse like Foster to complement your arm, you don’t need to set Drew Brees-like records or compare yourself to either Manning. If you pass for 200 yards, it’s more than enough most times to win.
When a commentator talks about a player in his second year and uses the phrase “Hall of Fame caliber” you would normally roll your eyes. But JJ Watt appears to be one of the best of his generation. He singlehandedly (and I mean with a single hand) swatted the Jets’ efforts to upset the Texans last night, displaying athleticism, aggressiveness, leadership and a play-making ability that you almost never see. The Texans defense has the potential to be great, not just this year, but for years to come, almost simply because of Watt’s presence.
As for the Jets, they did what undermanned teams need to do – they were aggressive (perhaps too much so given the failed onside kick), they used players in different positions (Antonio Cromartie as a wide receiver), and they found ways to score (Joe McKnight’s kickoff return). We saw a different version of Tim Tebow last night. Though he threw one pass (a good pass that should have been hauled in), we saw him impact the game again on special teams and he brought high energy to a team most people had on a gurney before last night.
As for Mark Sanchez, though his numbers did not sparkle, his interceptions were both of tipped passes, and he was resilient in leading his team. He’s beginning to carry himself well and one gets the sense that he and Tebow are really on the same page (the page that says the Jets can win with Sanchez starting and Tebow filling other roles and they cannot win with Tebow under center and Sanchez on the sideline.). The addition of Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller to the lineup can provide a necessary boost for Sanchez as well.
The young inexperienced Jets need to minimize mistakes, play penalty-free football, and continue to be creative and aggressive. Giving teams new looks on offense every week may be good enough to keep defenses on their toes. One wonders how soon Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight are going to get chances to win the top spot at running back. The Jets will need one of them to either emerge or push Greene to a higher level of prominence.
One clear need for the Jets, if they want to even flirt with playoff contention, is for their defense to get pressure on the quarterback. Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples need to provide a greater push – and Rex Ryan needs to blitz more effectively and more often – to allow the secondary to forget about the injury to Darrelle Revis.
There are plenty of “what ifs” for the Jets; but at least the what ifs replaced the funeral dirges most played for Gang Green before last night’s game.