Jets wrap up early homestand with visit from Jaguars
One quarterback got a clean bill of health. The other may be in for a headache.
Third-year New York Jets signal-caller Mark Sanchez showed enough of a recovery from a bruising 2011 season debut to participate fully in practice this week as his team prepares for a Week 2 home matchup with the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday at the newly-christened MetLife Stadium.
Sanchez was sacked four times and hit 12 times overall in last Sunday's dramatic 27-24 defeat of the Dallas Cowboys on the emotion-packed 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in Lower Manhattan and Washington. He completed 26-of-44 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns.
The Jets trailed by 14 points in the fourth quarter, but rallied to win on a 50-yard field goal by ex-Cowboy Nick Folk in the game's final minute.
"I feel good," said Sanchez, who was not on the team's mid-week injury report. "Felt like we just had a physical game and the training staff just wanted to be extra cautious and make sure I'm doing well, especially at the beginning of the season so I can make it through the long haul."
Sanchez was given post-game tests to check for concussion, but emerged at 100 percent.
The 2009 first-round draft pick is backed up by 41-year-old Mark Brunell, who's made one start and thrown 43 passes in 20 games since his last season as a full-time player with Washington in 2006. Third-stringer Kevin O'Connell has thrown six passes since he was drafted in 2008.
"We all saw that he took some hits, so everything that we did was more precautionary," Jets head coach Rex Ryan said of Sanchez. "I'm happy to report that he passed with flying colors."
The Jaguars' quarterback situation is in a bit more flux.
Long-time starter David Garrard was released just days before the team's regular-season opener against Tennessee, a 16-14 Jacksonville win, leaving the interim job to eighth-year journeyman Luke McCown, who's played for three teams and started just eight games since he was the 106th overall selection in the 2004 draft.
McCown completed 17-of-24 passes for 175 yards and a 91.5 passer rating against the Titans, with zero touchdowns but no interceptions. He is generally considered a seat-warmer for rookie Blaine Gabbert, selected 10th overall in April's draft out of the University of Missouri.
Gabbert left school following his junior season after completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 3,186 yards, 16 touchdowns and nine interceptions, but the Jaguars' coaching staff hasn't yet deemed the 21-year-old ready for game action in spite of public pleas for the rookie to start right away.
"You can't please everybody," Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew, who had 24 carries for 97 yards and a touchdown in last weekend's victory, said of the situation. "All we can do is come here and work. As I said [previously], if you win every game by one point, you're undefeated regardless of how it looks. The fans want to see wins at the end of the day.
"Granted, you want to score 30 points a game and you want to shut teams out, but the chances of that are slim and none in this league. At the end of the day, if you win, you're 1-0."
Jacksonville has won six of its eight all-time regular-season meetings with the Jets and has defeated New York in each of its last three tries, including a 24-22 nail-biter on the road during Week 10 of the 2009 season. The Jaguars also downed the Jets in overtime (26-20) at the Meadowlands in 2005 and routed New York by a 41-0 count in Jacksonville the following year. The Jets' last victory over the Jags was a 13-10 decision at home on Nov. 23, 2003.
The Jets came out on top in the only postseason matchup between the teams, scoring a 34-24 verdict at the Meadowlands in a 1998 AFC Divisional Playoff.
Ryan and Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio both served as defensive coaches on the Baltimore Ravens staff from 1999-2001 and were part of that franchise's run to the 2000 Super Bowl title. Del Rio holds a 3-1 career record against the Jets as a head coach, while Ryan lost his lone previous encounter with both the Jaguars and his former cohort in that 2009 setback.
WHEN THE JAGUARS HAVE THE BALL
McCown's (175 passing yards) start last week was his first since December of 2007. He had a 70.8 completion percentage against the Titans, tied with Houston's Matt Schaub for best in the AFC for Week 1. In his last game against the Jets, Jones-Drew (97 rushing yards, 1 TD) rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 24 attempts in a Jaguars' victory at the Meadowlands in 2009. Since 2010, the Jaguars have an 8-1 record when Jones-Drew rushes for 90-plus yards. Wide receiver Mike Thomas tied a career-high with eight receptions last week and tight end Marcedes Lewis needs two touchdown catches to surpass Reggie Williams (18) for the third-most in franchise history, behind only Jimmy Smith (67) and Keenan McCardell (30). Lewis, however, is questionable for Sunday's game due to a calf strain.
New York's defense registered four sacks against Dallas, getting one each from linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, safety Eric Smith and lineman Mike DeVito. Scott led the team with eight tackles last week, while All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis had his first interception since December of 2009 during the latter stages of the game. In addition, the Jets' special teams came up with a big play late in the contest, with running back Joe McKnight blocking a punt that was returned for a touchdown by Isaiah Trufant which tied the score at 24-24.
Jacksonville was 25th in points scored and 22nd in total yards (323) last week, while the Jets were 16th in scoring defense and 23rd in total yards allowed (390) following the season's first game.
WHEN THE JETS HAVE THE BALL
Sanchez improved to 20-12 (.625) as a starter with last week's win, while his 335 yards against the Cowboys were the second-most in his career (336 at Detroit in November, 2010). He had his eighth career game with two touchdown passes as well, and the Jets are 7-1 in such games. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson led the team with 73 receiving yards against Dallas and needs just 63 more to surpass Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas (4,458) for 15th-most by a running back in NFL history. Tomlinson also needs only one touchdown to become the third player in NFL history with 160 total, joining Jerry Rice (208) and Emmitt Smith (175). Wide receiver Santonio Holmes (6 receptions, 70 yards last week) needs seven receptions to reach 300 for his career, while counterpart Plaxico Burress had a 26-yard touchdown reception against the Cowboys in his Jets debut and first NFL regular-season game since 2008. He needs 83 receiving yards to reach 8,000 for his career, while fellow veteran Derrick Mason needs 90 yards to become the 18th player in league history to reach 12,000. Tight end Dustin Keller (5 receptions, 61 yards, 1 TD) posted his 11th career touchdown catch in last week's win and had five first-down receptions.
For Jacksonville, linebacker Paul Posluszny has registered two of his four career interceptions against the Jets and cornerback Rashean Mathis has two picks in his past three games against New York. Mathis has a franchise-record 29 interceptions in his career. Safety Dawan Landry, one of several new additions to the Jaguars' defense, led the team with eight tackles against Tennessee in his Jacksonville debut, while defensive end Matt Roth had a sack in his first game with the Jags. Safety Dwight Lowery, acquired via trade from the Jets on Sept. 3, had an interception last week in his first game with Jacksonville, while cornerback Drew Coleman spent five seasons with the Jets from 2006-10 before signing with the Jaguars over the summer.
The Jets are 12th in points and 15th in total yards (360) through one week, while Jacksonville is sixth and eighth in scoring defense and total defense (292 yards), respectively.
KEYS TO THE GAME
The Jets were inconsistent on offense against Dallas and largely abandoned the run, which likely means running back Shonn Greene will return to a heavy workload this time out.
McCown was chided by some, lauded by others, for managing the game last week. He's likely to face increased pressure, however, from a New York defense that sacked Tony Romo four times, and will need to prove he's up to the task.
Two of Jacksonville's defensive backs, Coleman and Lowery, played in New York with Sanchez for two years and might be able to provide some tendencies the Jaguars could use to their advantage.
The Jets escaped with a win in their made-for-TV debut last Sunday and now face the Jaguars in a game that'd be awfully important to win before the start of a challenging three-game swing to Oakland, Baltimore and New England. It ought to look more like the traditional Rex Ryan formula than it was this past week, with New York running the ball more and the defense aiming to make life difficult for a still-rusty McCown.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Jets 20, Jaguars 13