Behind Enemy Lines -- New York Jets

The New York Jets are looking to knock off the Patriots Sunday at The Meadowlands opening weekend matchup between AFC East division rivals. Jets Insider Dan Leberfeld shared his insights on the latest with Chad Pennington's injury concerns, Eric Mangini's coaching changes in year two and one weakness the Patriots may be able to exploit to win on Sunday.

Six Questions For A Jets Insider

Dan Leberfeld of JetsConfidential.com is this week's guest for Behind Enemy Lines


1) What has been the biggest change from Year One to Year Two of Eric Mangini's management of the team?

Leberfeld: I don't think there has been a big change at all. He's very even-keeled and believes in his plan, so he didn't make a lot of changes. The only discernable change is that Mangini is better prepared for this year after the experience he gained last year - he is higher on the growth curve after learning on the job in Year One. I think he's a lot more comfortable in the skin of an NFL head coach entering Year Two.

2) Is Chad Pennington still the unquestioned leader of the offense? And is he healthy?

Leberfeld: He is listed this week with a pelvis injury. I'm not sure of the severity. He took a lot of hits in the second and third preseason games.

He's definitely the leader of the offense. He has never really been a preseason standout, and this leads to some people questioning him. This summer was no different. There is nothing some writers like better than a quarterback controversy.

Pennington is one of the smartest quarterbacks in the league, and always well prepared. When he's healthy, he always gives the Jets a good chance to win every Sunday.

 

3) What does Thomas Jones bring to the Jets team that they didn't have before? Will he be ready for this Sunday's game?

Thomas Jones in a walking boot after suffering a calf injury.

Leberfeld: The Jets hope that Thomas Jones brings the 1300 rushing yards, he averaged the last two years in Chicago. Last year their running attack struggled, and it hurt Chad Pennington's ability to sell his superb play-action fakes. If Jones can do what he did the last two years with the Bears, he will open up some golden opportunities for Pennington in the passing game.

Jones suffered a calf injury in training camp, and his status for this game is unknown. The Jets are very secretive when it comes to injuries.

Even if he does play, expected a limited role after missing so much time.

4) How much of a factor is last year's loss to the Patriots in the AFC Wildcard matchup last year and/or are they looking for some type of payback?

Leberfeld: Payback is something the fans and media gets into. It's a total non-factor here. The Jets need to win this game because they want to get off to a strong start. The 2006 playoffs are a distant memory.

The only role that playoff game plays is more film for the Jets coaches and players to look at to find tendencies.

5) What is the Jets biggest weakness that teams might be able to exploit?

New York Jets tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson runs during training camp in Hempstead, N.Y. July 29, 2006. (AP Photo/Ed Betz)

Leberfeld: Something the Patriots might be able to exploit is the left side of the Jets offensive line. They traded steady left guard Pete Kendall to the Washington Redskins this summer, and it's still a mystery if they will be able to replace him. The two candidates are former Philadelphia Eagle Adrian Clarke and 2007 sixth round pick, Jacob Bender. The Jets will probably start Clarke because he's stronger and has more experience. But whatever player does handle the job, it is anybodies' guess how they will do.

But the Jets concerns on the left side don't end with the guard spot. Left tackle D'Brickshaw Ferguson struggled in the preseason, after a rookie season where he gave up 10 sacks. In the Jets-Pats playoff game he had major issues with linebacker Tully Banta-Cain, now with the 49ers.

So look for New England to do whatever they can to go after the left side of the Jets offensive line.

6) What was the biggest loss (player/coach) from the off-season and how has the team compensated?

Leberfeld: The biggest loss was Kendall in the trade. He wanted a raise, and the team wouldn't give him one, so he became a malcontent. It would have been hard for the Jets to keep him on the team. He was becoming a disruption. But by trading him to Washington, they created a major void.

They have two candidates to replace him Adrian Clarke and Jacob Bender. Both struggled in the preseason.

The Kendall departure also hurts left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, who leaned on the veteran guard a lot last year.

Game Prediction: Jets 23-Pats 21

Jets Season prediction: 9-7

Top 3 teams in the NFL

New England
Indianapolis
Carolina

Special thanks to Dan Leberfeld for being our guest on Behind Enemy Lines this week. Look for more pre and post game coverage from Dan and the rest of the Jets insiders at Jets Confidential.

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