Monday, November 8, 2010

Shooting Stars With No Sun and Other Scattered Thoughts

- As I’ve been telling everybody since that debacle in Detroit went down, I will take an ugly, frustrating win over a well executed loss any day. That said: That might have been one of the ugliest wins the Jets have gotten in the Mark Sanchez era. Looking back at it, my frustration stems from the bizarre lack of any clear identity on offense. This might have been more understandable earlier in the year, but at this point the Jets should know how to work with the diversity of weapons at their disposal. Yet instead of cohesion, this team is as schizophrenic as ever. One minute Shonn Greene is sputtering, the next he’s the clear option to bowl over defensive fronts (his 10 carries for 46 yards was what we’ve been looking for all season). Mark Sanchez (22/39, 336 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) switches week to week from being a daring quarterback who is willing to use his offensive line to patiently let his deep threats get loose, and choosing the dump off option simply because the play hasn’t developed as quickly as he would have hoped. Perhaps most frustrating is Braylon Edwards, who has at once emerged as the elite passing weapon the Jets hoped he’d be and the frustrating gaffe machine that his career indicated he could become. That touchdown pass (on which Sanchez patiently trusted Edwards to break free in single coverage) was everything Edwards can be when he’s on; the fumble was the classic maneuver he always makes to lose the good will his great plays build within the fan base. In the end, what we saw on Sunday was not so different from the Jets team that lost 9-0 at home to the Packers: A loose collection of talents that is capable of putting great moments together, but is unable to consistently impose a pattern of attack on opposing defenses.

- One thing that is clear after the past two weeks: Brian Schottenheimer needs to sit down with his play book and rip every third screen pass or quick slant out. He’s running the wrong routes to the wrong targets, and his scripting early in the game shows no desire to test the defense at multiple points of attack. Unfortunately for him, this offense was built to either expose and destroy weaknesses, or lose in a mess; there is no “eek out quiet victories” option here. He’s as large a part of this lack of clear offensive identity as any player on this team.

- Also: Yes, I’m very happy that Darrelle Revis decided to return. The strait jacket he put on Megatron was a thing of beauty. There is no other corner you would put in single coverage on that guy. I think Megatron is a singularly brilliant wideout, but he looked genuinely frustrated by his inability to impose his will on the smaller Revis. Revis essentially pays receivers into a corner, and has the physicality to beat them in a tight space; the fact that he did this to Calvin Johnson is probably his most impressive performance to date.

- Do we consider Peyton Hillis a singular talent based on this year? Blessed with the sheer size combined with solid speed, Hillis is showing shades of 2007 Brandon Jacobs, except Hillis is a deceptively dangerous receiver out of the backfield (30 catches for 229 yards and 1 TD). Considering that opponents go into each week knowing that the most dangerous weapon the Browns have is Hillis (really, excluding TE Ben Watson, the only option), doesn’t this put Hillis in that rare category of backs who are “unstoppable” such as Peterson or Chris Johnson? It’s like watching a smart bomb at work, the way he finds seams and applies force at the running lane.

- Michael Vick is doing everything that we hoped he’d do in the NFL when he was first drafted. It’s the perfect cross section of athletics and quarterback skill. What defense is stopping what the Eagles did on Sunday? Try to zone them out, and these receivers are too fast to keep from breaking the zones. Go man to man, and Vick or McCoy will ruin your day. It’s worth pointing out that, on Sunday, he outplayed Peyton Manning, and he did so by playing his own style, which looked something like the next evolutionary step of what Manning has made the gold standard in the NFL, adding breathtaking individual talent to an intense study of the established tactics and tools of the trade. Like I said, this is what we hoped for years ago.

- It’s worth pointing out amidst all the “Wade Philips ruined what Bill Parcells built!” talk that Bill Parcells is leaving behind his second franchise to have not won a playoff game on his watch. How is Dan LeBatard the only one taking him to task for this?

- Finally: Philip Rivers FTW. You compare him to Peyton, Brady, or nobody, after what he’s done this year (and yes, they are 4-5...we need to start acknowledging amazing individual performances in the midst of front office and general team chaos or failure. It’s why I invented the hall of NFL Street Legends).

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