The top Jets blog out there, and one of the top team blogs in the NFL period, is Brian Bassett runs a great website for fans of Gang Green. Bassett was nice enough to trade some questions with us, and give us a little preview of what to expect on Sunday. Here are his responses to our questions:

Mark Sanchez looked pretty poised in his NFL debut against the Texans. What do you expect from him this week, and how good can he be this year?

Last year I said that if the Jets were going to have a guy throw 22 interceptions, it might as well be a young, teachable guy to do it.  During the offseason, the team went out and found a young, teachable guy.  Starting from extreme despair (that’s putting it mildly, Brian) on Draft Day, I’ve come a long way in a short time (read: I’m a Big O quality waffler … “that’s not what I said!!”) and been doubtful of Sanchez, but continually impressed and proven wrong (again and again) by the young QB.  Sure he’s played just one real game so far, but it’s hard for even the most cynical fan (me) to not take a liking to the kid.

Last week against the Texans, Sanchez was money on third down, but wasn’t as effective on early downs.  Most young QBs go the other way .. in that they can play well on early downs, but struggle on third downs.  I’m sure Belichick will have picked up on that and try to use that to his advantage.  If Sanchez just plays smart, avoids bad throws (he had one interception late and a few other poor decisions during the game) he’ll do enough to keep the team competitive.

I don’t expect Sanchez to have a Matt Ryan rookie season, but if the Jets can keep him in short down and distance situations I think he can have a decent year.  From what I’ve seen so far, I don’t think it will turn into a trainwreck, but for this team to be competitive, he’s got to be willing to rely on his team, his offensive line and his running game for the team to have a good year.

As a bonus, watch out for the Tomax-Xamot bond between Sanchez and TE Dustin Keller.  Pats fans might remember that Keller bailed out Favre late in the game last November, and he might be doing some of the same stuff for Sanchez come Sunday.

Have Jets fans really embraced the bravado of Rex Ryan, or does it cause a little whistling past the graveyard?

Change is always refreshing, until it’s not.  Honestly, I see the succession from Herm Edwards to Eric Mangini to Rex Ryan as terribly cliche.  I enjoy whoever the coach is and appreciate them for whatever personality (or lack thereof) that they would bring to the team, but I also see that as secondary to what fans really care about .. winning.  Fans will love Rex Ryan for what he represents until he can’t deliver.  It sets up high expectations, but I see why you’d want to do it.

I liked Mangini as a coach, but it was clear that he fostered a culture that had a side effect of pettiness internally.   Players are much more out front about stuff these days, and from what I’ve seen in just the preseason and one regular season game defensively, they’re playing a vastly more violent brand of football from the line to the secondary.  That I like.

How are the Jets wide receivers as a unit thus far? Do Patriots fans need to worry about the deep ball?

I liken the current set of Jets receivers to the Deion Branch / Troy Brown / David Patten Patriots era of receivers.  They’re not terrible, but there’s no superstars on the team either.  A group like that seems to foster more of a “spread it around” style of distribution than other teams might have.  Offensive Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer likes to use (as you’ve seen in previous years) bunch packages and such that allow receivers to play to their individual strengths while trying to neutralize the defense at the same time and he’ll do more of the same this weekend, I’m sure.

As far as the deep ball, if David Clowney (#87) AKA “The Clown” is in the game, then yes, the Patriots do have to worry about the deep ball.  Clowney has sub 4.4 speed but as one beat reporter recently described him, might be something of a “one-trick pony.”

As I noted earlier, the Jets could (and should) use TE Dustin Keller to deadly effect on the Patriots.  He’s a big guy (6-2 248) with good speed (4.6ish) who can overpower secondary players or burn linebackers.  People like him to Dallas Clark, but I think he’s a better athlete than Clark.  The Jets were using him all over last Sunday .. everywhere from in-line all the way out to flanking past the numbers.  Here’s a great old video of him from his Purdue games, which gives a good sense of his toughness and speed … watch it and despair. 🙂

The Jets defense is being modeled after Ryan’s Ravens units. What is the biggest difference you’ve seen thus far from last year?

Honestly?  Straight up violence.  While Mangini preached a more conservative read-react style, this is more your Pittsburgh / Ravens attacking defense.  Hard hits, late(r) hits, gang tackles, scuffles after plays, that stuff.

I’ve tried to watch as much film on the Ravens from the past few years, and schematically, I see a LOT of similarities .. overloads, delay blitzes, crossing A gaps, sliding ILBs outside, feinting linemen and linebackers .. there’s a lot of similarities to what the Ravens did.  From an execution standpoint, I think the jury is still out on that one, but while Calvin Pace — the team’s best strong side pass rusher — won’t be playing due to a banned substance suspension, the team isn’t exactly hurting without him.

From a personnel standpoint, I think it’s similar, but not the same.  There’s no Suggs quality player here right now, especially with Pace out, but I think the personnel elsewhere holds up decently.  I do think the Jets have a better ILB tandem with Bart Scott (TED) and David Harris (MIKE) than Scott and Lewis, only for the reason that they both can play the MIKE while that was limited to Ray in Baltimore.

I think that Safety Kerry Rhodes will blitz more (and with more effect) than Ed Reed, but as far as coverage magic, I’d still probably take Reed.

Why is Rex Ryan going to succeed where Eric Mangini could not? (or is he?)

That’s hard to say.  The team is pumped, the players all love him and he’s injected a much needed enthusiasm coupled with what looks like right now as rather fundamental scheming (run the ball, play defense).  I like what I see so far, and I love the defensive coach paired with the hotshot QB long-term .. it’s just hard to call right now, I’m not much for predictions as (surprise!) I’m generally wrong.

Thanks Brian!

Here’s the link to the answers we gave to Brian’s questions on TheJetsBlog.