1. Mark Sanchez had a solid rookie performance much to the surprise of his doubters. How much of that was Sanchez and how much was it the team he had to work with? (Could any of the other QBs on the roster play that well?)
Leberfeld: Sanchez was very solid. Im not sure if anyone else on the roster could have done what he did, and I will tell you why. A big reason for Sanchez success was his impressive ability to move around and create time with his feet while under duress. The Jets offensive line was very inconsistent in this game, and Sanchez did a marvelous job on several plays avoiding harms way and making something out of nothing. Kellen Clemens struggles doing this.
But keep in mind that the Texans were without two starters in the secondary, and that helped the cause of the rookie. Also, Dunta Robinson didnt play full time because he just reported, and on Chansi Stuckeys wide open touchdown, the blown coverage was by Robinsons replacement on that play Brice McCain.
Sanchez looks like hes going to be special, but I dont think many people expected that kind of performance in his first game. I think a better barometer of whether he can be a special rookie will be this week.
2. The Houston Texans had plenty of pressure on the Jets on first and second downs, but they seemed to lose steam on third down. What was the key for the Jets success on third down?
Leberfeld: For one, I think the Texans defense was on the field way too much, and that is why they ran out of steam in the fourth quarter. The Jets won the time of possession battle 38:46 to 21:14.
I think the key to the Jets success on third down relates to the point I made in the first answer. With two starters out and Dunta Robinson not in football shape yet, the Jets took advantage of a Texans secondary that wasnt on the same page. There were a number of blown coverages. Also, like I mentioned above, a key to a number of those third down plays was Sanchez keeping plays alive with his feet. With a lot of other cubes some of these plays would have been over a lot sooner.
3. The Jets defense has shown the type of aggressive nature Rex Ryan was known for in Baltimore. Is there anything this unit does particularly well compared to last year's Mangini led Jets?
Leberfeld: Its hard to identify much about the personality of a defense based on one game, but I will try.
This defense clearly is willing to take more chances than last years defense. Mangini is a pretty conservative coach and played a basic 3-4. Ryan plays a 3-4 base, but has a lot more configurations out of that base than the former coach.
One thing they did quite a bit against Houston was blitz up the middle. In fact, that is where they had their most success. It makes a lot of sense for the Jets to blitz up the middle a lot. They have two outstanding inside linebackers in Bart Scott and David Harris and they have a tremendous nose tackle in Kris Jenkins who is great at tying up blockers to free up other players. So that is a heck of combination to make good things happen up the middle.
Another difference is the players seem to be having more fun on the field and playing more relaxed. Mangini ran such a tight ship that a lot of times it led to tight play. Rex is stressing the importance of doing your job, but also having fun and not worrying all the time about making mistakes because they happened, and you cant play scared.
4. What's the more glaring nee d of the team right now and do you think there's a remedy for it as the season moves forward?
Leberfeld: A couple of needs I see.
First off, they need somebody to emerge as a dominant pass rusher. Of course Rex, with his brilliant schemes, can create a pass rush, but even the best coaches need a player that can make things happen on his own. A pass rusher who makes the opposing offense slide protection, is a defensive coordinator's best friend. The Jets dont have a guy like that. Perhaps Jamaal Westerman can turn into that kind of guy.
The other need is a big receiver a 6-4, 6-5 kind of guy who can be a quarterbacks best friend. Even a great quarterback like Tom Brady benefits from having 6-5 Randy Moss. Look at how Eli Mannings performances have slipped with 6-6 Plaxico Burress out of the mix. The Jets dont have any tall receivers, who resemble a small forward in basketball. And not helping matters is their receiving tight end, Dustin Keller, is only 6-2. But I dont see this issue being fixed during the sea son, unless perhaps 6-4 Marcus Henry is called up from the practice squad.
5. Rex Ryan's talk of Bill Belichick has garnered much attention from the media. It's too early for make-or-break games, but how important is it to win this game against New England for Ryan? Will Ryan tone down the rhetoric if the Patriots win?
Leberfeld: Rex believes the Jets were intimidated by the Patriots in the past, and he is trying to put an end to it. I dont think Rex has really said anything that bad. All he was saying was hes not going to play second fiddle to Bill Belichick and kiss his Super Bowl rings. That doesnt mean he disrespects Belichick. That isnt the case at all. Lets not forget his twin brother Rob used to coach under Belichick in New England. What Rex is doing is trying to change a mindset, and I think hes doing it.
In my opinion, what Ker ry Rhodes said was a lot worse than anything Rex has said.
As for the game, you obviously have to give New England a huge edge because of their quarterback. Aside from his matchups with Peyton Manning (which I feel are even), Brady always has a big advantage over opposing quarterbacks. When hes facing a rookie, its a landslide.
I dont think Rex will stop talking if he loses this game. He will never stop being himself.
Don't miss Part Two where Jon addressed Patriots issues:.Behind Enemy Lines: Patriots vs. Jets II