The Jets and the Jaguars are facing off against each other for the second time this year. No, that was not one of my trademark typos. In the offseason, the 2 teams wanted to trade for then Broncos QB Tim Tebow. Because of Tebow’s “hometown hero” status it is pretty obvious why Shad Khan decided to make a move. However, outside of creating headlines, it is odd that New York made a move, especially after they gave a nice contract extension to starting QB Mark Sanchez (another strange move). The two teams basically offered the same deal to Denver and John Elway let Tebow decide where he wanted to play in the upcoming year. Tebow chose the Jets. Since then both teams have had a terrible season – New York has very little chance to make the playoffs, while Jacksonville is on the track to have the worst year in franchise history – and now they face each other at Everbank Field on Sunday. The Jets are in the middle of a 3-way QB controversy while the Jaguars are coming off yet another blowout loss with a slew of injuries. Who has the edge on Sunday then? Let’s dig deeper.
I have the feeling that the better defensive play will decide this game. At this point many might say “the Jets win this game.” But, as Lee Corzo likes to say, “Not so fast”. Since the Jaguars can count on all the starters besides Daryl Smith and the Jets offense is struggling mightily and will be without TE Dustin Keller & speedy WR Clyde Gates and rookie WR Stephen Hill is listed as questionable, this match up is starting to look promising for home team. Add Mark Sanchez to the mix and a streak of two horrible games may just continue. His reaction at a Jets turnover against the Patriots is hilarious and has become a meme. his three interceptions against the Cardinals led Rex Ryan to bench him in favor of Greg McElroy. To make things worse, McElroy threw a game winning touchdown pass that only made him look better in comparison to Sanchez. Add Tim Tebow to the mix, who has been cleared after he broke 2 ribs against the Seahawks plus the huge media circus in New York, and you have a problem. A big one. Almost everybody (reports say that even owner Woody Johnson) besides Northeast Florida (the numbers of the Tebow related articles in the Florida Times-Union this week were simply pathetic) wanted McElroy to start on Sunday. But the huge salary of Sanchez’s contract and the fact that the Jets are not hosting the game earned a last chance for the USC product. He knows this might be his last chance. If his Jets lose to a 2-10 team, which is 28th against the pass, 31st against the run and ranked 31st overall, he will not get another opportunity next week. No matter how bad the Jaguars defense is this season, the secondary must be careful with the Jets receivers. 2nd year player Jeremy Kerley is having a Cecil Shorts-esque sophomore campaign, but he is not the next Andre or Calvin Johnson. Derek Cox or Rashean Mathis must handle him. Since Keller is ruled out, his replacement will be Jeff Cumberland who is just a guy, and Lowery and Landry must handle him. There is nothing at all that scares you about this pass offense.
The only thing which may be a problem is the running game. Shonn Greene is having a very decent season and we saw last week how bad the Jaguars run defense can be. Although Greene is nothing where a Chris Johnson and Arian Foster or Fred Jackson + C.J. Spiller is talent wise, Stopping Greene is priority Nr. 1 for the defense. The 4th year runner’s backups are Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. They can be tricky because the Jets like to use gadget plays. Former Dolphins head coach, and now Jets offensive coordinator, Tony Sparano brought his tricky Wildcat plays with him to New York. The Jags were terrible against Brad Smith and the Bills in exotic formations last week and expect the Jets will try to take advantage of this. If Tebow can play and is active, I’d use him as a runner this week. This offensive line may be able to bully the Jags’ defensive linemen. Center Nick Mangold is still one of the best and the Jaguars don’t have an effective defensive tackle tandem this year. Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore will most likely be too much for the Jaguars interior defensive line. According to Mike Mularkey, Jeris Pendleton will finally be active on Sunday.I hope he’ll get snaps in run defense because that’s why he was drafted. Since Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu struggled at stopping the run, I want to see what the 28 year old rookie can do on the field.
As for pass rush, the Jets have allowed 30 sacks so far, but their offensive tackles have started to play better. LT D’ Brickashaw Ferguson will face Jeremy Mincey, who is having a down year this season. Meanwhile, Jason Babin will face 3rd year RT Austin Howard who had a big game last week against the Cardinals. Since Babin has started to settle in with the Jags after a week and a half, it will be curious to see how much better he is at getting to the quarterback this week. When and where Austen Lane takes snaps will be interesting to see. Babin took his starting place and George Selvie is out on Mincey’s side. I would like to see Babin and Mincey starting with Lane and John Chick in the rotation. If they can create some pass rush on Sanchez that would clearly help in limiting the Jets receivers. I expect big games from Cox and Rashean Mathis. Mathis picked off Sanchez in his first play back in ’10. And he is clearly a better option than Kevin Rutland. By the way, next time the Jaguars want to cut a player on Saturday to make room for somebody (they might do again for TE Isaiah Stanback), cut the 2nd year corner instead of poor Will Ta’ufo’ou, who actually plays well when he is on the field…
The reason why I am afraid of this game is the match-up between the Jaguars offense and the Jets defense. That unit is still loaded with playmakers even without Darrelle Revis. Actually that secondary is still pretty impressive without him. And since the Jaguars Nr.1 playmaker, Cecil Shorts, is out due to concussion symptoms the Jaguars will probably start two rookie receivers. Justin Blackmon had 2 really good games against the Texans and Titans, but last week he disappeared against fellow Top 10 pick Stephon Gilmore. And trust me, Antonio Cromatrie is better than him. Rex Ryan declared that Cromartie will cover the Jaguars top pick. Meanwhile it seem Kyle Wilson will cover Kevin Elliott, who has 7 catches for 70 yards in 12 games… The 3rd wide receiver will be Jordan Shipley who has been with the team only 2 and a half weeks (and already blended in with 2 drops last week). The only hope is Marcedes Lewis, who has played well since Chad Henne took over. Since the Jets are struggling on the inside, he and Blackmon can create some problems there. Another plus is that Henne knows this secondary very well and S Yeremiah Bell was his teammate in Miami. The only problem could be LaRon Landry (Dawan’s brother; this will be the first time he has faced his brother in a regular season game), who is outstanding, and came to the Jets during this offseason. Henne is quite effective against the Jets. He is 3-1 overall against New York, throwing 8 TDs and only 3 picks in those games.
Since the Jets are fourth against the pass and 29th against the run, it may be better for the Jags to run the ball. But there is a problem. The Jaguars running game is garbage. Montell Owens is their 4th string RB, who wasn’t even considered last week to start instead of Rashad Jennings. The Jaguars are dead last in rushing and Maurice Jones-Drew is still their leading rusher despite missing half of the games the team played in ’12. He is still 131 yards ahead of Jenninngs, and the rest of team only has 131 yards more on the ground than him. These are pathethic numbers. And now the Jaguars will start Montell Owens (7 carries for 29 yards), who will be backed up by Richard Murphy (NFL debut last week, only at special teams) and Jordan Todman (never played a snap in the NFL). I think LBs Bart Scott and David Harris are already licking their chops.
Other than the Scott-Harris duo at MLB, the Jets have Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples, both of them are promising players who are good run stoppers. I’m sure they will disrupt the shaky interior offensive line. The O-line will be without rookie UDFA LG Mike Brewster who broke his hand against the Bills. This means Eben Britton will get one last chance at LG to prove he is worth keeping in years to come. Against the Bills he struggled. Now he has 1 full week of preparation. Speaking of upcoming free agents, one small advantage could be favoring the Jaguars is Brad Meester. Mr. Jaguar may be playing his last games for the team (or as a pro), but because he is a savvy veteran, he has seen every blitz combination Rex Ryan can throw at the Jaguars (and that will be a lot). Since Meester is calling the blocking schemes, that should help the home team. Another good thing is that the Jets pass rush is not so good. Garret McIntyre, Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas are nowhere near as good as Buffalo or Houston were in the last 3 weeks, although I thought the same about the Titans pass rush and they finished with 7 sacks. Still Eugene Monroe and Cameron Bradfield need to give more time and space to Chad Henne.
Special teams have always been a strength for the Jets. In this season Joe McKnight scored on a 100 yard kickoff return TD, while Jeremy Kerley had a 68 yard punt return TD. Since the Jaguars are really struggling in kickoff return coverage that could be problematic for the home team. If Tebow plays, he will be used in some ST situations as well. Meanwhile, the Jaguars can’t count on the services of Matt Stovall (waived this week) and George Selvie (out with a concussion), and Montell Owens and Kevin Elliott will start at RB and WR. Most likely both of them will contribute, but Owens a lot less than usual. John Bonamego’s unit has lost a lot of players lately (Jalen Parmele, Michael Spurlock) and the new players often commit mistakes like Richard Murphy did adding another 15 yard penalty after a 55 yard kickoff return last week. Since I expect this game will be very close, even one big mistake in special teams can decide the outcome.
Honestly I don’t know what to expect from this game. This is the last chance for Mark Sanchez which can be good for the Jaguars (pressing too much) or terrible (another home game blowout). If either Cecil Shorts or Maurice Jones-Drew would play I’d give the edge to the home team. But since the Jaguars skill players on offense, besides Marcedes Lewis, are either rookies or unproven players facing against a very good defense the chances are not looking good for the Jaguars. This will be the battle of the defenses with 2 QBs with little room for mistakes. I pick the Jaguars because I expect another bad game from Sanchez and Henne’s knowledge about the Jets defense could boost the chances of the home team. Oh and please, please (if he’s active) don’t let Tebow be a factor at all.
Jaguars 17 – Jets 14