The New York Jets ended their 2008 preseason campaign with a record of 3-1.
One of the Jets’ primary issues in 2007 has been addressed, as the offensive line excelled in pass protection during the exhibition contests.
However, fans must wonder if the things the team didn’t do well are a cause for concern.
The New York Jets running game failed to get off the ground during the preseason. Outside of Jesse Chatman’s four quarter performance against the Eagles, no running back on the roster established a true stride.
Thomas Jones and Leon Washington combined for a weak 45 yards on 19 carries. That’s not very promising for fans that expected to see an improved rushing attack open up the passing game.
One would hope that the Jets’ game plan during the preseason was to focus on pass protection, and would serve as an opportunity to evaluate a crowded wide receiver position. However, it’s doubtful that the running plays were intentionally drawn up to be ineffective.
Thomas Jones has an improved offensive line with Alan Faneca and his reputation as a mauler. Now with Brett Favre’s arm and speedy receivers to keep a defense honest, fans shouldn’t expect to see Jones staggering forward for minimal yardage anymore.
Leon Washington has always played fairly well against the Dolphins. In four career games with backup duties, Washington has maneuvered around the Dolphins’ defense for 170 rushing yards, 143 receiving yards, and two touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, the first-team defense had spots of inconsistency.
Common belief is that defensive packages in the preseason are very basic and straight-forward, more reliant on an individual’s talent and instinct than it is on stunts and schemes.
Kris Jenkins did break down offensive lines and open the flood gates for some tackles behind the line of scrimmage. However, it appeared the defense would lose leverage when they became too aggressive.
One play against the Washington Redskins allowed Ladell Betts to slide through the cracks for a 16-yard gain as Calvin Pace over-pursued a run.
With Ricky Williams appearing to be back in respectable football form, and Ronnie Brown recovering nicely from his injury, the Jets may have their hands full with a two-headed rushing attack.
Pass coverage was also spotty throughout the preseason. Defensive backs appeared to be a step slow at the point of attack when Derek Anderson dissected the first team secondary in Cleveland. No forced turnovers by the projected starters may be a cause for worry.
Despite that, the defense did play exceptionally well against the New York Giants, but will that be the new norm?
Limiting an offense that scored over 30 points days earlier against the Browns, the Jets rushed the quarterback, stopped the run, and tackled well in the secondary.
The largest positive of that performance is that it happened during the the third week of the preseason where coaches are expected to plan as if it were a regular season contest.
Going into Miami, fans should hope that the defense builds upon their Giants’ gameplan. Allowing the Dolphins to establish their run with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown will only allow Chad Pennington an opportunity to setup the play-action he executes so well.
A Miami defense without perennial thorn Jason Taylor, should be a little easier to move through. Channing Crowder is also a very good linebacker and should be involved in plenty of tackles.
The Jets’ veteran offensive line should be able to crack open enough daylight for Thomas Jones to consistently gain over four yards up the middle.
The Dolphins do not have enough support in their secondary to contain all of the Jets’ receiving targets. And facing a future Hall of Famer in Brett Favre, who loves to improvise, will completely change the defensive approach the Miami Dolphins have maintained for the last six seasons.
New team or not, a player like Brett Favre doesn’t become as great as he is without knowing how to handle a defense.
In some respects, Sunday’s contest has a fairly high probability of being a sloppy offensive game. A lack of chemistry on both sidelines may be evident, but both quarterbacks are veterans that know how to play the game.
Allowing either quarterback to establish a rhythm will be detrimental to their opposition. Safe money should be on the New York Jets hitting their stride sooner than Miami.