Behind Enemy Lines, Part 1

With the Dolphins taking on the hated New York Jets on Christmas night, we checked in with Jets Confidential Publisher Dan Leberfeld to get some insight into the Jets. In Part 1, we examine the Jets offense and the impact of new head coach Eric Mangini.

Q: How different are the Jets from the team that beat the Dolphins back in October?

Leberfeld: I wouldn't say it's that much different. Their success still hinges on the performance of Chad Pennington. As he goes, so goes the team. He's been a little inconsistent over the last month or so. He was great against Minnesota last week, but struggled a week earlier in a loss to Buffalo. One difference of note is that Kevan Barlow is out of the running back rotation. It's now mainly a combination of Leon Washington and Cedric Houston.

Q: How much credit do you give to Eric Mangini for the Jets being in playoff contention?

Leberfeld: He's done a solid job, and deserves credit, but I would give Pennington a little more credit. If he wasn't able to make an amazing recovery from yet another shoulder operation, this team would probably be competing for the first pick in the draft. Nick Saban is one of the smartest coaches around, but without a quarterback in this league, you are toast. Mangini has an answer at quarterback, and Saban doesn't.

Q: 3. Is there any reason to expect the Jets to do anything other than come out in four- or five-wideout formations?

Leberfeld: The Jets will run a lot of spread offense, but they will also try to establish the run. Cedric Houston had a nice game against Miami late last season, and is the type of power back who could have some success against Miami's physical front seven. But do expect a lot of the spread passing game so the Jets can create mismatches in the passing game.

Q: Is there any reason for the Dolphins to worry about the Jets' running game?

Leberfeld: The Jets running game has improved over the last month. The offensive line had three new starters, including two rookies, at the beginning of the year. Now that group has much better chemistry, and this has had a positive impact on the running game. Cedric Houston and Leon Washington form a nice one-two punch. Houston is a rugged power back and Washington a nifty scatback.

Q: How healthy is Laveranues Coles?

Leberfeld: Coles has suffered a lot of injuries this year, but hasn't missed any time. He took a major hit to the back last week in Minnesota from linebacker Ben Leber, and was down for several minutes. He either has a back or rib injury. Jets coach Eric Mangini isn't very forthright with injury information. But he should play with whatever is wrong with him.

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