From The Other Side

The Dolphins open the regular season Sunday against the Jets, and we turned to Jets Confidential publisher Dan Leberfeld to get the lowdown on the opponent.

Q. The big story obviously is Brett Favre; how has he looked and what kind of year are you expecting from him?

Dan Leberfeld: In limited action, Favre has looked OK. After arriving via trade in early August, he saw limited action in the second and third preseason games. He didn't play in the fourth. While he has been inconsistent in practice while learning the offense, one thing is pretty clear watching him — at 38, he still has a howitzer for an arm. Against the Giants in the preseason, he threw a rocket 50 yards down the sideline to Jerricho Cotchery for a touchdown (that was called back by a penalty). Favre can clearly still play on a high level, but his biggest challenge is learning an offensive system that is a lot different than anything that he's played in before. For his entire time in Green Bay, Favre played in a West Coast offense. The Jets' current system is very similar to the system that San Diego plays and the offensive playbook the Dolphins used last year under Cam Cameron. Favre has admitted that learning this system has been a major challenge. It could be rough sailing over the first month of the season for Favre as he continues to get the plays down.

Q. Do you think the Jets are that much better off with him rather than Chad Pennington?

DL: Had they acquired him in March, I would say they would be better off, but not getting him until early August, I'm not sure. Chad knew Brian Schottenheimer's system like the back of his hand, and Favre is going to be playing catch-up all year. Generally it's very risky business to acquire starting QBs in training camp because NFL systems are so complex now. Also, it takes a while for receivers and quarterbacks to get on the same page. So the bottom line is this: I think Favre is a better QB than Pennington because he can make all the throws, but with short notice, I don't know if he's better. But with all that being said, Pennington needed to get out of New York. He wasn't allowed to make mistakes anymore. Every pick was blamed on his suspect arm strength (even if the play had nothing to do with that). The karma was bad for Chad in New York. He needed a change of scenery. Going from a place where every mistake was put under a microscope to a place where he's now a godsend was just what the classy Pennington needed.

Laveranues Coles obviously was very upset about Pennington getting cut; could this actually affect his play on the field?

DL: No. The story has been blown out of whack by the media. Sure, Coles was upset when his best friend on the team was traded, but he and Favre are cool. The fact that Coles hasn't talked to the media since Pennington's release has led some reporters to speculate that he's still upset about Pennington's departure. This isn't entirely true. While Coles is probably still a little unhappy about his buddy's departure, he's not speaking to the media now because of ... the media. Instead of just giving him a little space for a week to blow off steam, some reporters made a big deal about Coles not addressing reporters. In fact, New York Post scribe Mark Cannizzaro wrote that Coles was acting like "a teenager." Shots like that contributed to a longer media boycott. On the field Coles is going to be fine.

Q. From this vantage point, the Jets running game just doesn't appear that impressive; is that a wrong assumption?

DL: Once again, this is a media-created story. Why can't people understand that the preseason is a dress rehearsal to get the kinks out? What is so hard about this concept for some reporters to get their brains around. The Jets have a new offensive line coach (Bill Callahan) and two new offensive line starters (LG Alan Faneca and RT Damien Woody). So the preseason was all about the new starters getting comfortable with their line mates, and all five starters getting used to the changes that Callahan made, and his coaching philosophy overall. If the Jets running game is still struggling in late September, get back to me then. The criticism you are hearing now is from people looking for a story.

Q. The offensive line features big names like Ferguson, Mangold and now Faneca; how is it looking?

DL: I would be a hypocrite if I said they looked great based on my last answer. Honestly, at this point, I have no idea how they look. You really can't tell much in practice, and during their limited stints in the preseason. We will see how this works out a month or two into the season. Obviously on paper it looks a lot better. Left guard and right tackle were problematic positions for the Jets last year, and the front office seems to have fixed those issues with the additions of Faneca and Woody. The big question mark entering the season is left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who gave up over 20 sacks in his first two years. That is too much for a fourth pick of the draft left tackle. One problem for Ferguson so far has been his lack of ideal weight for the position. He has often played at under 290. But this off-season, he got much bigger and stronger. We will see if the added weight and strength, and a new partner on the left side in Faneca, will help him take the next step. The addition of new line coach Bill Callahan should also help this group. He's one of the top offensive line minds around.


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