Dan Leberfeld: With Tom Brady out, it certainly elevates his chances of being part of something special. Favre is still in a major catch-up mode. He's still learning the offense, and developing chemistry with this wideouts and offensive linemen (the Jets had numerous false starts in Miami). It doesn't matter how long you are in the league, you go to a new team in training camp, especially at quarterback, it's going to take a while to get comfortable. You could see Favre and Laveranues Coles weren't on the same page in Miami. So before he can be any kind of savior, he needs to be comfortable with what he's doing.
2) How are the free agents the Jets signed in the offseason performing so far? Up to expectations?
Dan Leberfeld: The one guy who has really shined is outside linebacker Calvin Pace. He was terrific in the preseason, and gave Jake Long fits in the opener. He is exactly what they were missing last year, playmaking 3-4 OLB. He looks like he's going to be worth the $7 million per year they are paying him. Another guy who looks pretty good is nose tackle Kris Jenkins. At 6-4, 359 pounds with tremendous strength, he is the 3-4 nose tackle they have been missing the last two years. He consistently ties up two blockers allowing others to make plays. Right tackle Damien Woody had a pretty good first game when you consider that Thomas Jones ran for over 100 yards, and a lot of the carries went to the right side. Alan Faneca was average in the opener.
3) The Dolphins game had a couple of crazy moments with a key Hail Mary connection by Favre and a key interception by Pennington to end the game. Did the game go as you expected or was it a bit of a surprise?
Dan Leberfeld: I expected a close game. It probably wouldn't have been lopsided if the Jets hadn't helped the Dolphins fill their QB void with Chad Pennington. That interception at the end wasn't Pennington's fault. It was a fade thrown to a skinny receiver who's not good in traffic - Ted Ginn. Pennington played very well considering his shaky offensive line and average cast of weapons. The Jets were lucky to win the game. If the Dolphins had called the fade to a different receiver - a 6-4 physical type wideout, and he makes that catch, the Jets likely lose the game. Also, when you consider the fluky nature of the Stuckey Hail Mary play, the Jets were very fortunate to walk out of Miami with a win.
4) How different are the 2008 New York Jets to their teams in the past?
Dan Leberfeld: With Tom Brady out, and the Jets off-season additions, you would have to say the Jets are the team to beat in the division now. The team is much better than last year because they filled their holes - a pair of pass rushing OLB's (Calvin Pace and Vern Gholston), a massive nose tackle (Kris Jenkins), two tough veteran offensive linemen (Damien Woody and Alan Faneca), a big receiver (6-4 Marcus Henry) and a cornerback to start opposite Darrell Revis (rookie Calvin Lowery). They did a great job filling all their voids, and they are clearly a much better team that last year.
5) What do you think of some NY media outlets applauding the injury to Tom Brady on their front page?
Dan Leberfeld: I didn't see it, but it sounds pathetic. If it bleeds it reads as they say in he news rooms. Whoever was behind that headline is a loser. The Tom Brady injury is terrible for the NFL, a league without enough top shelf quarterbacks.
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6) What area of the Jets improved the most from last year?
Dan Leberfeld: Their defensive front seven. Trading for Kris Jenkins looks like a terrific move, though it's early, and he did have attitude problems in Carolina. We will have to see if that happens with the Jets. But so far so good.
During Eric Mangini's first two seasons with the Jets, he was in denial about the nose tackle spot, thinking that Dewayne Robertson could play the spot. D-Rob is a good player, but he's too small for the position, and was traded to Denver in the off- season. At 6-4, 359 pounds with terrific quickness and amazing strength, Jenkins is perfect for the 3-4 NT role, which is often taking up two blockers so the linebackers can make plays.
Also helping the front seven was the addition of Calvin Pace at outside linebacker. He has been terrific so far (first game and the preseason), applying a lot of pressure to the quarterbacks.
7) Do you think that when the Jets sign former Patriots players ( Artrell Hawkins, Hank Poteat, Matt Chatham, Clint Oldenburg, Kareem Brown) it's to help the Jets roster by adding talent, or is it more about gathering intelligence on a division rival?
Dan Leberfeld: It's getting old and predictable to be honest with you. The Jets got very little from these players. Hawkins never played in a game for the Jets. His knees were shot, and he retired. The man with the Barry White voice wants to get into broadcasting. Poteat actually was the biggest contributor of this group, making several starts and playing decently. He was released on the final cut, but he can definitely help a team. I think Cleveland is nuts for not signing him. Chatham is a great guy, but had very little impact on the field, and was also released on the final cut. Oldenburg blew his knee out early in camp and received an injury settlement. Kareem Brown might turn out to be the best addition from this group. He looked very good in the preseason, and now looks like a bonafide 3-4 end after a year in NFL weight rooms.
8) What are the limitations of the Jets offense with Favre in it vs Chad Pennington?
Dan Leberfeld: Well the main limitation is they can't use a big chunk of the playbook because Favre is playing catch-up, and will be for a while. Pennington knew the system as well as any of the coaches. He was an encyclopedia. Also, Favre has very little chemistry with his receivers, while Pennington had great chemistry with the Jets targets. Favre and Coles have almost no chemistry because LC was out all summer with a hamstring injury. And Coles said as much this week.
The Jets offensive line had a myriad of false starts last week, so that is a problem also with a new QB, the line getting on the same page with him.
The big plus with Favre is that the
Jets can throw more routes, especially down field. Pennington's arm limited the plays the Jets could call.
9) Without Tom Brady, who is the best team in the AFC East?
Dan Leberfeld: I would say the Jets. While they were shaky in their opener in Miami, it stands to reason they are going to get better as time goes buy and their new players get more comfortable. It's really hard to assess New England right now because none of us know how Matt Cassel is going to do. Miami is going to knock some teams off with Chad Pennington, but they have so little talent, it's going to be hard for them to challenge for the playoffs this year. Buffalo should be a wild card contender.
10) Who do you think will win on Sunday and why?
Dan Leberfeld: I think
the game is a toss-up. To me, the Jets don't have an edge at quarterback. This might shock some people, but Brett Favre
with limited knowledge of his offense vs. Matt Cassell, who knows his entire playbook, evens the playing field. I think
the Jets will win a close one because they are at home.