by Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
September 17, 2009

As any NFL fan knows, the Patriots most heated rival over the last decade has been their fellow AFC East mates, the New York Jets.

Despite some early Jets wins, the Patriots have gotten the clear upper hand, as they have over most NFL foes. At times, it seems to have resulted in an almost self-destructive obsession with the Patriots for the little guys down south, including a fascination with almost any player or coach who had any connection at all to New England.

Over this summer, it appeared new coach Rex Ryan also had a very odd and very public fixation on the Patriots, who after all finished only second in the division last year. The fervor has not died down as this weekend’s match up approached, as Jets Nose Tackle Kris Jenkins compared the second game of the season to the Super Bowl.

Despite their overall success in these matchups, the Patriots have not had an easy time with the Jets since becoming one of the NFL’s elite teams in 2001. The Patriots have won 13 of 17 meetings during the time, but in general the Jets have played them close most of the time. This week, the game is in New York, the Jets have a fresh swagger and confidence, and they seem poised to knock the Patriots into tomorrow. They’re pumped. They’re jacked. And they’ve been waiting for this game since February. So let’s take a look at a few Jets who could figure into the game.

RB Leon Washington

I don’t know about anyone else, but if I’m a Jets opponent I’m looking at their offense with more trepidation when Washington lines up at running back instead of starter Thomas Jones. Washington is an electric player, capable of breaking a long one at any time. The Jets use Washington in similar fashion as the Patriots use Kevin Faulk. While he might not be quite the natural pass catcher that Faulk is, he is more explosive with the ball. Washington, who stands a slight 5’8″ (like Faulk), got his year off to a solid start last week with 60 yards rushing and another 24 receiving. The Patriots need to be careful because they had particular trouble covering backs out of the backfield in last week’s game against Buffalo. But, they have done a good job bottling him up in the passing game in the past as Washington has only 104 yards on 18 career catches against the Patriots, for a meager 5.6 average yards per catch. If New England can do that again, it’ll go a long way towards keeping Washington from severely hurting them.

Mark Sanchez

The Jets rookie was pretty solid on the whole last week. But early in the game, he did look pretty shaky. I saw him diving to the ground when pressured in a way that is quite unusual for NFL quarterbacks. Once the Jets got the upper hand, he played better. But it remains to be seen how he reacts to pressure as the season goes along. He did have one interception, and fumbled once, so turnovers are something to watch out for from Sanchez. He is mobile and can move around the pocket, but he’s a little shorter than listed and batted balls are also a possibility. He has a great arm and if someone is open anywhere on the field and he has time, he’ll get them the ball. It’ll be interesting to see how it goes for Sanchez when he gets behind this year.

Shaun Ellis

Ellis returns to the Jets lineup after a one game suspension and should go right back into their regular rotation. Ellis is a pretty solid lineman, particularly as a pass rusher, and he’s occasionally caused some problems for the Patriots during his career. Ellis has racked up 10 of his 61.5 career sacks against the Patriots. The Jets are going to come after Tom Brady and Ellis is just one threat the Pats will have to account for.

Jamaal Westerman

The undrafted rookie linebacker seems to be a favorite of Jets coach Rex Ryan. A local college kid from Rutgers, he was a solid pass rusher prior to coming to the NFL. He debuted last week with a sack for the Jets in their opener with the Texans.

Rex Ryan

Ryan had his team ready to play last week in their opener. He made a lot of noise during the off-season with boastful remarks uncharacteristic of NFL coaches, much of it directed at the Patriots. There really isn’t any problem with what Ryan said. It’s completely reasonable. Of course a coach takes a job to win, and of course they’re not there to kiss another team’s rings or bow down to them. But why say it aloud? Maybe there is a method to Rex’s madness and he was merely taking the focus off his own team. Or maybe like his dad, former NFL Head Coach Buddy Ryan, he just can’t keep his mouth shut. Whatever the truth is, he is 1-0 as a head coach right now; that includes outside the NFL as Ryan has never been a head coach of any sort at any level. So naturally, it’ll fun to see if he can back up his bold words over the next few seasons.

Jim Leonhard

The safety came over from the Ravens to help Ryan with the Baltimore defensive system he is installing in New York. Leonhard is a smart, tough player, but very undersized. He is only 5’8″ and 186 lbs., and that is extremely small for a safety in the NFL. It’ll be interesting if the Pats can take advantage of his size through matchups. He is not by any means a great player and I’m sure was brought in due to his familiarity with the system. But that only goes so far and eventually, he’ll be a liability on defense.

Here are some links to help you stay tuned to what’s happening with the Jets over the next few days:

New York Jets team site

New York Daily News

New York Post

The Jets Blog

E-mail Greg Doyle at