AFC East Update: Crucial Game vs Miami

When the New York Jets face the Miami Dolphins this week, they have to find a way to stop their current 3-game losing streak. So too do the Dolphins who are currently winless. It all points to a critical game for both teams.

Jets face critical game against Miami
The Sports Xchange, Oct 11, 2011

   Speaking about the Jets' upcoming Monday night game against visiting and winless Miami, coach Rex Ryan said, "This is a critical game for us."

   So that's what it's come to for the free-falling Jets. But the sad thing is that he's absolutely right. A three-game losing streak has been bad enough, but a four-game skid capped by a loss to the floundering Dolphins would be reason for full-scale panic.
  Still, this is as much adversity as the Jets have faced since Ryan's rookie season as head coach. And as he again reminded reporters, the 2009 Jets became the only team to overcome two three-game losing streaks during a single season and still reach the playoffs.

   Then again, this is a different season and a different team, one that was supposed to be beyond the inconsistency the Jets (2-3) have displayed in 2011. The freefall has been especially galling for Ryan in that so much of it can be laid at the feet of the offensive line and the defensive front seven.

   Consider that the Jets managed 97 yards rushing in their 30-21 loss at New England on Sunday, and Ryan looked at that as encouraging. And actually, it was, compared to what the Jets had been doing on the ground, as Shonn Greene's 83 yards marked his best game this season.

   "You're not going to beat many teams when you have seven three-and-outs," Ryan said of the Jets' offense against the Patriots. "But we did some good things."

   Ryan also put aside his penchant for prop comedy in his news conferences and instead focused on the stuff most of the boring NFL coaches talk about, saying that for the Jets to get turned around, it "comes down to alignment, assignment and technique, across the board. Whether it's offense, defense, whatever it is, it is a simple as that.

   "It's alignment, assignment and technique," Ryan repeated. "That's where it starts. Give yourself a chance physically to make a play."

   Defensively, it wasn't surprising that Tom Brady topped the 300-yard passing mark Sunday. But what was more frustrating for the Jets, and somewhat unexpected, was that BenJarvus Green-Ellis had a career-high 136 yards rushing, and had several key runs on New England's drive to a clinching field goal.

   In "defending the run," Ryan said, "everything you do starts with alignment, assignment and technique and we have to be 100 percent on those things. (Green-Ellis) breaks some tackles, but there were some things where I thought we could have gotten down to support the run a little faster than we did. Quite honestly, we blew an assignment on a big gain that they had."

   "There's a lot of things I could have done to be more effective," nose tackle Sione Pouha said, speaking on a conference call. Ryan gave the players the day off, although tight end Dustin Keller said many came in anyway.

   "I need to do a better job of what I'm doing," Pouha added. "I think every single man on this defense is going to take the same approach and make sure there's no stone unturned."

Receivers deny report they complained

   --Wide receivers Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and Derrick Mason each denied a published report that they had gone to coach Rex Ryan individually to complain about the play-calling of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.

   Burress said, "Whoever wrote it is making up stories to make themselves look good."

   Mason said, "I've been in the league 15 years and I've never complained about an offensive coordinator." But oddly, Mason was on the field for the least amount of snaps this season, as rookie Jeremy Kerley was on the field most of the time in three-wideout sets and snagged his first career touchdown catch, a 9-yarder from Mark Sanchez in the third quarter.

   "It is coincidence," said Mason, who did have a 7-yard catch for a first down in the Jets' fourth-quarter touchdown drive.

   Ryan, who also denied the story, said, "We have been trying to give Kerley a few more shots."

   On Monday, Ryan again vehemently denied the report and said Mason's lack of playing time Sunday had "absolutely nothing to do" with critical comments he had made after the Baltimore game last week.

   "Derrick is still going to be a part of what we" do, Ryan said.

   --Former Jets S James Ihedigbo, a free agent whom the team chose not to re-sign after the lockout ended, made his first start in the Patriots' banged-up secondary and had six tackles, including four solos, against his old teammates.

   "James did a great job for us," New England coach Bill Belichick said, "in his overall communication and of course he was pretty familiar with the team we were playing."

   "Personally, I cannot ask for anything better," said Ihedigbo, called "Dig" by his teammates while with the Jets, "(than) to show a team who had let you go. It's nothing personal individually, just that you are part of an organization and a part of something and then you're not good enough to be a part of it anymore."

   --C Nick Mangold had a suggestion Monday to cure the Jets' sometimes sluggish offense.

   Mangold joked, "put (right guard) Brandon Moore back there (in the backfield) and let him be the Fridge and run around."

   Mangold was referencing former Chicago Bear William "Refrigerator" Perry, a mammoth defensive lineman who briefly became a folk hero for the 1985 Bears with his offensive exploits as a runner and receiver, including scoring a rushing touchdown in their Super Bowl win.

   What about Mangold fulfilling that presence? "No," he laughed. "There's no way that could happen. I'm nowhere near athletic enough to do that."


  --FB John Conner dropped an easy pass on third down on the Jets' second possession of the game, causing the second of the Jets' four consecutive three-and-outs to start Sunday's game. The Jets believe Conner can be an occasional ball carrier and receiver, but his upper body isn't very flexible, which can lead to dropped passes.

   --QB Mark Sanchez threw for 166 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions Sunday for his first turnover-free game of the season, but failed to take full advantage of a leaky New England secondary. Coach Rex Ryan was asked Monday if Sanchez had any further tests on his throwing hand after hitting it on a New England player's helmet during a follow-through Sunday. "Not that I'm aware of," Ryan said. Sanchez said he was fine after the game.

    --P T.J. Conley, who has a 37.6-yard net average, has yet to prove himself an upgrade over former Jet Steve Weatherford, now punting for the Giants.

    --C Nick Mangold (ankle), who started Sunday after missing two straight games, said Monday, "I felt pretty good during the game. Afterward (on Monday) felt as I would expect after playing on it for a full game," evidently indicating there is some soreness in his right ankle. However, he will play Monday against Miami and believes the extra day to prepare will help him physically.

   --CB Donald Strickland left the New England game with a head injury and didn't return, and coach Rex Ryan indicated he may have a concussion. Ryan didn't say who would replace Strickland in extra-DB packages if he can't play Monday against Miami. CB Marquice Cole would be a possibility.

   --NT Kenrick Ellis was a healthy scratch for the fifth consecutive game. The rookie reserve, a third-round pick from Hampton, drew raves from coach Rex Ryan during training camp, but has struggled with technique issues in practice. His slow transition to the pro game is forcing starter Sione Pouha to play a lot of snaps.

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