Chris Steuber: What has been the Jets’ biggest problem starting the season 1 – 4?
Dan Leberfeld: The Jets defense has been a big problem. The 3-4 defense is supposed to be a great system to stop the run, but that hasn't been the case with Gang Green. One problem is Dewayne Robertson is too small to be a 3-4 nose tackle. He would be great in Tampa's 4-3 because of his quickness, but this system usually requires a bigger guy. And aside from the run defense issues, the Jets have been generating very little pass rush. They have just three sacks in five games. They lack a dynamic pass rusher. On offense, they have had trouble running the ball, and this has put too much pressure on Chad Pennington to be a gunslinger, which isn't his strength. On special teams, their kick coverage has been inconsistent, and Mike Nugent has missed field goals in the last two games. Those are some of the major reasons they are 1-4. ?
Steuber: Is there a concern about Chad Pennington’s decision making this season? He’s thrown just six touchdowns to five interceptions?
Leberfeld: I don't think it's a decision-making issue. Pennington is one of the best decision making quarterbacks in the league. It seems like the Jets route selection is becoming a little predictable, and the defensive backs and constantly jumping the routes. Also, the lack of a running game is taking away from Pennington's excellent play-action skills. And since they are having a hard time selling the play-action, the spaces are tighter to throw into. ?The Jets need to run the ball a lot better if they want to get the best out of Pennington. ??
Steuber: Laveranues Coles seems to be the one major weapon for the Jets offense this season. How crucial is he to their success?
Leberfeld: Coles isn't getting the credit he deserves this year. He’s playing like a top five receiver right now. He has made a number of sensational catches this year in traffic. When there is a ball up for grabs in traffic, he will not be denied. He might have the strongest hands of any receiver in football. And his toughness is unreal. Coles and Pennington have great chemistry - they are truly on the same page. Coles is the Jets top offensive weapon.
Steuber: Has Thomas Jones been what the Jets expected or has he been disappointing?
Leberfeld: Jones is still shaking the cobwebs off after missing most of training camp and the preseason with a calf injury. He has had only one standout game thus far, a 125-yard effort against a Dolphin team without Zach Thomas. Jones seemed pissed after the last game, leaving the locker room before the media arrived. This after getting just 13 carries against the Giants. Jones is definitely one of those backs who get stronger the more carries he gets. And the Dolphin game was the only contest he was allowed to get into that kind of groove, toting the ball 25 times. Expect the Jets to try to feed him the ball a lot more against the Eagles.
Steuber: The Jets defense hasn’t been able to stop the opposition all season. What is the problem?
Leberfeld: The Jets are playing the 3-4 defense without the proper pieces. They have an undersized nose tackle, and a small inside linebacker starting in Jon Vilma, who is better suited for a 4-3. The Jets are getting pushed around too much up front. It's going to take a few more drafts and free agency periods to get the parts they need. The pass rush has been a huge disappointment. Outside linebacker Bryan Thomas and Victor Hobson are serviceable players, but neither is gifted in the pass rush department. The Jets could really use a player like Quentin Groves in the next draft.