Behind Enemy Lines - Part 3

Warnest.com's Chris Steuber asked Jets Confidential's Dan Leberfeld five final questions about the Jets before this weekend's big game. Leberfeld discusses head coach Eric Mangini, D'Brickashaw Ferguson, and the emergence of Leon Washington.

Chris Steuber: How has D’Brickashaw Ferguson developed since being drafted 4th overall in 2006?

Dan Leberfeld: Ferguson had a bad rookie year, giving up 10 sacks. However in year two, he has taken a real positive step. While he did give up a sack in week one to Jarvis Green that led to a Pennington injury (ankle), he has been pretty solid this year. He shut out Jason Taylor in week three and did a terrific job on Osi Uymenyora last week, giving up one late sack. Considering how much the Jets passed and how well Osi is playing (Eagle fans know that), Ferguson deserves a great deal of credit for his game against the Giants. I don't know if Ferguson is ever going to be a great tackle because he's a little undersized, but I think he's going to be solid.

Steuber: When Justin Miller went down with a season-ending knee injury it appeared that the Jets return game would suffer, but Leon Washington has been outstanding. How big of a threat is he on special teams?

Leberfeld:
There has obviously been no drop-off. Washington has returned two kicks for touchdowns this season. He has the perfect makeup to excel on kickoff returns. He has a low center of gravity (he's 5-8), is very quick and fast, has great moves, and breaks a lot of tackles. When Miller comes back next year, he could have a hard time getting his job back.

Steuber: This is Eric Mangini’s second year as the Jets head coach. He had an excellent season last year, leading the Jets to a 10 – 6 record, but the Jets have struggled this year. How is Mangini perceived in New York?

Leberfeld: A lot of fans and reporters are unfairly making Chad Pennington the scapegoat for the Jets’ struggles, so Mangini has received a lot of criticism. One thing Mangini has been criticized for is his reluctance to switch out of the 3-4 defense, since the Jets don't have all the parts to make it work. They don't have a huge nose tackle, and they don't have the pass rushing outside linebackers needed. But Mangini refuses to switch back to the 4-3, a system that seems to fit his personnel better, especially his nose tackle (Dewayne Robertson) and inside linebacker (Jonathan Vilma).The Jets’ lack of the proper 3-4 personnel has led to a porous run defense and weak pass rush this year.

Steuber: What is the biggest concern for the Jets facing the Eagles this weekend?

Leberfeld: The biggest concern is that the Eagles come into this game healthy. If they can get back injured players like William Thomas, Brian Westbrook, and Brian Dawkins coming off the bye, this could hurt the Jets’ chances of winning this game. Let's be honest, a major reason the Giants beat the Eagles two weeks ago was that all the key players were out of the Philly lineup. The Eagles at full strength are a more talented team than the Jets. But if the Eagles have five or six starters out, like they did against the Giants, this helps the Jets’ chance of winning.

Steuber: The Eagles and Jets come into this weekend’s game with one win. How big of a game is this for the Jets?

Leberfeld: This game is huge. If the Jets can get to 2-4, they can stay in a weak AFC wildcard race. If they slip to 1-5, they are probably done. Also, it is clearly a big game for Pennington. If they lose three in a row and he has his third inconsistent game, he could be in danger of losing his starting job to backup Kellen Clemens.

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber is the Editor in Chief of WarNest.com and an NFL Analyst for Scout.com. Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999. If you have any questions for Chris, email him at: csteuber@scout.com.



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