With Derrick Blaylock likely out two months with a broken foot, Cedric Houston will assume the role of Curtis Martin's primary backup. In some ways, this will give the Jets more of what they had as a 1-2 punch at running back, the previous three seasons with Martin and Lamont Jordan. Blaylock is built like Martin, both around 205 pounds. The 5-11, 225-pound Houston is built similarly to Jordan, and could give the Jets the power element their running game is missing. He is best running between the tackles, and is good at moving the pile. One of Houston's strengths is running through arm tackles. He big, strong and tough, and if Herman Edwards gives him a chance to show what he can do, he could give a boost to the Jets 31st ranked running attack.
Another factor that could help the Jets get their running game going, is facing the Bills 31st ranked rushing defense. They really miss huge defensive tackle Pat Williams, who signed with Minnesota in free agency. Then, to makes matters worse, his backup, Ron Edwards, was lost for the season to a shoulder injury. So they are down to their third-string nose tackle – Tim Anderson, who has a good motor, but isn't as stout as Williams and Edwards. Also losing All-Pro outside linebacker Takeo Spikes, to a season ending Achilles' tendon injury, has hurt the Bills run defense. His replacement, Angelo Crowell, isn't as big and powerful as Spikes, so look for the Jets to run at him . . .
One reason Martin has lasted over a decade, at one of the NFL's most taxing positions, is his ability to avoid big hits. But this year, he has taken quite a few. He has sustained two knee injuries, and against Tampa Bay, he was hit so hard, he staggered back to the huddle. He says he was knocked out for a few seconds, and when he got up, he couldn't uncross his eyes . . .
The Bills and Jets used a similar formula last week to add a spark to their struggling offenses. While the Jets inserted veteran Vinny Testaverde at quarterback, the Bills turned to Kelly Holcomb, and both teams got the desired results. The Bills started second-year signal-caller J.P. Losman in their first four games, and he really struggled. In the two games before he was benched, he passed for just 75 yards in each contest. The Bills veterans were getting upset, seeing their season slip away, especially wide-out Eric Moulds. So Bills coach Mike Mularkey had little choice but to go with Holcomb. And the former Brown did what he usually did in Cleveland, played mostly mistake-free football in leading the Bills to a 20-14 victory over Miami. The Bills didn't do much throwing down field, relying mainly on quick outs and short throws over the middle. Losman was struggling with these throws.
Don't expect Holcomb to throw deep much against the Jets. He's not great throwing down field. His deep ball tends to sail on him . . .
The Jets defensive line is playing very well right now, and they create a quandary for opposing offensive line coaches, who have to pick their poison. The Jets have three standouts on the line – defensive ends John Abraham and Shaun Ellis, along with defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson. If the opposing line coach decides to double-team two of these players, the other will have a big game. In the Jets win over Tampa Bay, the Buccaneer's double-teamed Abraham and Ellis quite a bit, and this opened things up for Robertson, who might have had his best game as a Jet with eight tackles and two sacks. He's a very hard player to block one-on-one as Buccaneer's center John Wade found out. Robertson pushed him back like he was on skates on one of his sacks. Also, nose tackle James Reed benefited from all the attention outside. You saw that on the Buccaneer's first offense play, when Reed shot into the backfield and stopped running back Mike Pittman for a loss of six yards. Look for Ellis and Abraham to have big games this week, especially against the Bills journeyman left tackle Mike Gandy. Also, it's possible Bill right tackle Mike Williams could miss this game with an injury, and could be replaced by backup Greg Jerman, who Ellis or Abraham could dominate . . .
Speaking of protection issues, that is what the Jets clearly had in their first four games. This was a reason why starting the immobile Testaverde could have been a problematic proposition. But the Jets offensive line played a terrific game against Tampa Bay, allowing just two sacks. And one sack might have been their fault because it came on a linebacker blitz. The move of Jason Fabini to right tackle, and Adrian Jones to the left side has worked out very well.
While it didn't look that way early in the season, Mike Heimderdinger's offense is a system that is based heavily on protecting the quarterback. If there is a route where a quarterback is going to going to have to make a lot of hot reads, he will take it out. His first priority is protecting the quarterback, and getting, "a hat on a hat," like he is fond of saying . . .
Aside from protection issues early in the year that were holding back the passing game, another problem was receivers weren't getting separation from defensive backs. So for all those people crying for the Jets to throw the ball down field more, there is one slight problem – they don't have a deep threat. All four of their receivers – Laveranues Coles, Justin McCareins, Wayne Chrebet and Jerricho Cotchery, all do their best work, on short-to-intermediate routes. For some reason the Jets think McCareins is a deep threat. He really isn't. On a fly route against the Buccaneer's down the right sideline, he got no separation. Maybe the Jets perceive McCareins as a deep threat because he beat them for a 52-yard touchdown catch while with the Titans. But remember, he beat cornerback Aaron Beasley on that play, who isn't particularly fast . . .
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