By Greg Doyle, Patriots Daily Staff
Any person with a semblance of football acumen looked at these developments and said “WHATTTTTTT?” Where is this talent that is supposedly everywhere? Braylon Edwards? Huh? Matt Slauson? Are you kidding? Mark Sanchez? Give me a break. Oh maybe its Matt Mulligan or 5’8″ 185 lb. safety Jim freaking Leonhard? Are you out of your collective minds?
And what of the players the Jets lost? You know, the leading rusher in the AFC? Or the Hall of Fame guard? Or the corner whose been an All-Pro more often than the supposed great corner they acquired? And what of the unproven coaching staff? Suddenly world beaters? Why? Because two teams laid down for them when they’d otherwise be out of the playoffs last year?
The Patriots I’m sure have been looking forward to this game for a long time. Their fans too. And well they should be. It could be a lot of fun to watch.
Shonn Greene (#23), Running Back:
As a rookie third round pick last season, Greene had a pretty good run at the end of last season. But still, there should be major questions whether the Jets jumped to conclusions on how good he is. Relying on Greene, the Jets let the tough, team leader Thomas Jones walk away from the team this season. All Jones did was lead the AFC in rushing last year. With that in mind, the Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum really should have taken a close look at Greene’s season last year. Particularly that he gained nearly a third of his yards during the regular season in the last two games of the year against two defenses (the Colts and Bengals) who laid down and played backups and a vanilla scheme because their playoff spot was already assured. But probably the single most amazing stat regarding Greene is that he did not catch a single pass, not one, during last year’s regular season. He had one catch for four yards during the three playoff games. That is an amazing one catch for four yards over seventeen games for Greene last year. To put it succinctly, the guy has zero skills in the passing game and he is the Jets starting halfback. He also lost three fumbles last year in limited carries. On opening night this year, he put two more fumbles on the ground, losing one, and dropped a critical pass while wide open. While he did get on a good roll during the playoffs this year, if the Jets are counting him on being a star running back this year that was a major overestimation based on what he’s done so far in his career.
LaDainian Tomlinson (#21), Running Back: Tomlinson, a sure fire Hall of Famer, came to the Jets this season at age 31 after spending his entire career with the San Diego Chargers. L.T., as he’s known, slowed down significantly the past two seasons with the Chargers. He has shown a bit of reinvigoration and quickness so far early into his career with the Jets. At his age, and given the pounding he’s taken during his career, its an open question whether that new found quickness will begin to fade the later he goes into the season. This is particularly true if Greene doesn’t produce as hoped for and Tomlinson needs to be relied on more. For week two though, he remains someone the Patriots will need to contain early here in the season this week. One rap against Tomlinson is that he always comes up small in the biggest games. For example, he ran for a mere 24 yards on 12 carries last season in the Chargers upset loss to the Jets in the playoffs. During both the 2008 and 2007, he essentially sat out two key playoff games with questionable injuries which eliminated the Chargers against the Steelers and Patriots. And at times he has sulked, blamed teammates or petulantly deflected blame onto others when things didn’t go well. It will be interesting to see where his season goes in the Jets locker room if things don’t go as well as projected there with the team.
Braylon Edwards (#17), Wide Receiver: Edwards is yet another Jet with questionable work ethic and ability to produce when it matters. He has undeniable talent. Occasionally he has big games and plays. But as former Patriots great and very clutch player Troy Brown said on radio station WEEI this week, Edwards is a guy who’ll drop the big pass with the game on the line much more often than he’ll catch it. And he implied opponents know this about him too. The Jets can’t be encouraged by his one catch for nine yard performance opening night versus the Ravens. No doubt the Patriots defensive backs are young and Edwards does have notable talent. He is capable of making big plays on occasion. But its at least worth noting in looking at a tough division opponent the Patriots will have to deal with this Sunday and again later in the year that Edwards seems to come up small more often than he comes up big.
Sione Pouha (#91), Nose Tackle: With the Jets losing nose tackle Kris Jenkins for the season, as they did last year, once again they’ll rely on the 31 year old Pouha to fill the gap. While not as good as Jenkins, Pouha is a solid player who does a solid job. What the Jets really have to be careful of is losing Pouha. The hoped for role for Pouha was as depth who can play at both nose tackle and end. Now he’ll be forced to play full-time at nose tackle. He doesn’t have any pass rush skills, but does play stout against the run and ties up blockers to allow Jet linebackers to roam free. While its unfortunate for the Jets to lose Jenkins, they are lucky its a position they have good depth at as they lack that at many other positions.
Antonio Cromartie (#31), Cornerback: Cromartie was a highly touted acquisition during the off-season whom they traded for when his former team, the San Diego Chargers, tired of his act. The Jets front office was lauded as “creative” for landing Cromartie and allegedly they’d now have two shutdown corners. The truth about him, however, is San Diego tired of his act for a reason. Against the pass, he is one of the more trick or treat corners in the league. Against the run, he is non-existent. Cromartie, who inexplicably calls himself “AlCROtraz”, displayed his inconsistencies as a player opening night with the Jets when he intercepted a pass and returned it 66 yards, but also in committing four penalties in coverage that killed the Jets at times. He also got beat some by Ravens receivers as well. But really, that’s been his career. He has great ball skills and sometimes makes great plays. But its hit or miss. And really not what you’re looking for in a corner when he kills you as often or more than he helps you.
Kyle Wilson (#20), Cornerback: Another cornerback who had a rough night Monday was Jets rookie Kyle Wilson. After making one nice play to break up a pass early in the game, Wilson’s night deteriorated badly. Numerous penalties and poor coverage were the story and it was apparent he’s a rookie with a long way to go. One penalty was on a 3rd and 28 and cost the Jets a first down when Wilson stupidly held his man off the line. Wilson played at Boise State, which is in the WAC. He’s not in the WAC anymore and this may be a player the Patriots can take serious advantage of when he’s on the field.