Had the opportunity to speak with Managing Editor ‘Smackdad’ of Gang Green Nation to discuss the upcoming Ravens - Jets contest! Great questions were posed by both sides, and if you’d like to read my answers to GGN’s questions here is a link for you.
1. Geno Smith is starting, obviously I need to ask if this is the right decision going forward?
Answer: Well, there are no illusions that Geno Smith is likely to be a long term answer at quarterback, if that's what you're getting at here. Geno in his first two seasons in the NFL was the Jets starter, and he was one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Most Jets fans see Geno as a long shot in the extreme in terms of ever becoming an above average NFL starting quarterback. There is that small hope that something clicks and Geno just finally gets it, but few are very optimistic this will happen. However, the change at quarterback needed to be made, even if Geno is not a long term solution. Ryan Fitzpatrick over the first six games of the 2016 season was literally the worst starting quarterback in the NFL. Over his last four games Fitzpatrick threw 10 interceptions, fumbled three times, and produced a total of 29 points on offense after you exclude a touchdown scored on a long run by a Jets receiver after he recovered a Fitzpatrick fumble. 29 points in four games! No team can win that way. A change had to be made. Unfortunately there is a good chance that six games down the road Jets fans will view the change as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. So, yes, changing quarterbacks was the right decision. But no, it isn't all that likely to make a huge difference.
2. The Jets defense is known for a great line and also Darrelle Revis, how are they performing so far this season?
Answer: The Jets defensive line has three young first round draft picks on it, and they are all capable of producing Pro Bowl level play. In the season opener the line was ferocious, producing seven sacks. Since then the play of the line has not particularly stood out. Leonard Williams is playing at a high level. Muhammad Wilkerson is having a very disappointing year, and at times looks disinterested in his play. Sheldon Richardson has been OK, but he is being hurt by being asked to play out of position. The Jets are inexplicably choosing to use their 300 pound stud defensive tackle at outside linebacker, at inside linebacker, even one time lining him up as a slot cornerback. It isn't working. The Jets defensive line has been very effective against the run, but has lacked production in the pass rush. Overall the play of the defensive line has been much better than any other part of the Jets defense, but has still been something of a disappointment this year. For a much hyped unit, the results have been decidedly pedestrian.
As for Revis, he got off to a horrendous start to the year, getting burned repeatedly in the first two games. Since then Revis has settled down and is playing OK, but the days of Revis Island are long gone. Revis can no longer stay with top speed receivers, so he plays with a huge cushion, protecting against being beaten over the top. While that has stopped the bleeding on long pass plays against him, it has also deprived Revis of his greatest weapon as a cornerback. Revis was once the greatest press corner I ever saw. He would manhandle receivers off the line, redirect them, disrupt their routes, destroy their timing, all while having an extraordinary ability to recover from the hand to hand combat and run stride for stride with receivers all over the field. It was once a marvel to watch. Now Revis just sits back and concedes the 5-10 yard receptions, over and over, in order to avoid getting beat deep. He is still a good tackler, and he still has good instincts, but one statistic really illustrates the decline in Revis. In the entirety of his Jets career prior to 2016 Revis had never gone more than three straight games without registering a pass defended or an interception. We are now six games into the 2016 season ( Revis has only played five of the six games), and Revis has yet to get his hand on a single ball. No passes defended, no interceptions, nothing. That is the current state of Revis, and for Jets fans who got used to him routinely shutting down the best receivers in the NFL, it is a sad sight to see.
3. What two players, one offense one defense, should Ravens fans be wary of?
Ummm... given how the Jets have performed as a team thus far, wary is such a strong term. Let's see ... on offense the obvious choice is Brandon Marshall, who is still one of the best receivers in the NFL. But that's too obvious. Instead I'll go with wide receiver Quincy Enunwa, who has quietly emerged in his third year as a weapon to be reckoned with. He is big and fast and extremely physical. Most of the league probably has not quite caught on yet to the threat Enunwa poses, but he is much too big and physical for most defensive backs, and much too fast for most linebackers. He is also an outstanding blocker in the run game, and he even has gotten some carries of his own recently. Quincy is a load, and you ignore him at your peril.
On defense there isn't a whole lot to choose from. The Jets may have the worst secondary in the NFL, and their linebackers are at best just sort of OK. I guess the only real choice here is defensive tackle Leonard Williams, who in his second year has emerged as a force in both run defense and in the pass rush. If you don't double team Williams on virtually every play he will hurt you. Williams is extremely quick, very powerful, and is technically sound. He consistently gets quick penetration into the opponents' backfield. The good news for opponents is that, as good as Williams is, virtually every other Jets defender this year has been a disappointment. So you mostly just need to account for Williams, and to a lesser extent his line mates Richardson and Wilkerson. Neutralize those three and the rest of the Jets defense is easy pickings.
4. If you could take one player from the Baltimore Ravens who would it be? Why?
Answer: This is an easy one. The answer is Joe Flacco, for obvious reasons. Quarterback is by far the most important position on the field, and the Jets for the last eight years, with the brief exception of 2015 Fitzpatrick, have had one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL year in and year out. Flacco isn't at the level of the Brady's and the Rodgers' of this world, but he is competent, at times very good, and in the post season often magnificent. A team just cannot consistently win with the level of quarterback play the Jets have gotten for years. Flacco would provide the Jets instant long term credibility at by far the most important position on the field, for the first time since Chad Pennington in 2002 before he started injuring his shoulder every other year. There are plenty of other Ravens players the Jets would like to have, but none with anywhere near the impact of Joe Flacco.
5. What is a basic scouting report you could give on the New York Jets? The good and bad?
Answer: The good: The Jets are awesome at the coin flip, maybe the best in the NFL. I mean, a little joke there, but it's not far from the truth; there isn't a whole lot good at this point. The Jets have in theory a dominant defensive line, but with the exception of Leonard Williams it isn't playing at close to a dominant level. The run defense for the most part has been very good. The pass rush has largely been neutralized by opposing teams since opening day. The back seven can't cover anybody. To compound the pass defense problems there are multiple miscommunications in the secondary in almost every game, leaving opposing receivers free to run completely uncovered. It has been atrocious. Opponents are free to attack the Jets with passes to running backs, which Jets linebackers can't cover; passes to tight ends, which Jets safeties can't cover; or passes to wide receivers, which, with the exception of Revis, Jets cornerbacks can't cover. The main problem opposing quarterbacks face against the Jets is preventing their concentration being broken with laughter as every single receiver breaks free within a second or two. If your game plan is to run against the Jets you might be in trouble. If your game plan is to pass against the Jets, any slump your quarterback may be dealing with should be ended in short order.
On offense the Jets can't run block very well, but they compensate for that by being equally ineffective in pass blocking. If the pass blocking happens to hold up the chances are that the quarterback, he of the career 72 passer rating, will turn the ball over soon enough. The one strength of the Jets on offense used to be a trio of receivers in Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker and Quincy Enunwa that were among the best in the NFL. Now Decker is out for the season, which means the third receiver is now a largely ineffective rookie, either Charone Peake or Robby Anderson. They both have some future promise, but neither is ready for the major role they have been thrust into. Marshall is still a beast, but now with only Enunwa a serious threat among the other receivers, opponents can roll help Marshall's way and somewhat neutralize him.
The Jets are simply not a team that strikes fear into the hearts of opponents. Perhaps if the defensive line shows up and is every bit as fearsome as their reputation the Jets can take over the occasional game on defense with enormous pressure, but so far that isn't really what's happening. On offense the receivers are good enough to do damage, but the quarterback largely neutralizes that threat with poor play. The running backs, Matt Forte and Bilal Powell are pretty good, but with the offensive line unable to consistently open holes, the Jets running game is not that difficult to neutralize.
In short, as long as your offensive game plan is not to run all over the Jets, your offense should succeed and your quarterback should have a field day. And as long as your defense can contain Brandon Marshall your defense should succeed.