NEW YORK (WFAN/AP) – The last time the Jets and Jaguars met, Mark Sanchez and Maurice Jones-Drew played large roles in an exciting game.
The health – and protection – of each could be a factor when the teams meet again Sunday at MetLife Stadium.
Sanchez threw for 212 yards and a touchdown in the ninth start of his career, and Jones-Drew ran for 123 yards and a score Nov. 15, 2009, when the Jaguars won 24-22 on a Josh Scobee field goal as time expired.
It marked the sixth victory in eight all-time meetings for Jacksonville (1-0) over New York (1-0).
Though Sanchez and Jones-Drew each believe they’re healthy enough to play at a high level Sunday, their respective teams have taken precautions.
Sanchez underwent tests for a concussion after being sacked four times and dropped to the turf numerous others in last Sunday’s 27-24 victory over Dallas. He finished 26 for 44 with two TDs and an interception, though coach Rex Ryan has been adamant the Jets need to protect their quarterback against the Jaguars.
“We need to do a better job of protecting him and we need to be able to run the ball better, so I think that kind of goes hand-in-hand,” Ryan said.
Sanchez passed the tests and said he feels healthy.
“I feel good,” Sanchez said. “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.”
It’s the same reason Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio kept Jones-Drew on the sidelines for most of the fourth quarter in last week’s 16-14 win over Tennessee.
The veteran running back is coming off surgery to repair a torn meniscus in January, and Del Rio decided to rest Jones-Drew after he rushed 24 times for 97 yards and had an opening-drive, 21-yard touchdown run.
Del Rio had Jones-Drew on a play count – something the star back didn’t know.
“He’s so competitive and he’s not happy about it,” Del Rio said. “But that’s going to happen as we monitor and try to keep him to a certain number of reps as we go throughout this season.”
Jones-Drew is confident he’s healthy enough to play regularly without having to be monitored.
“Everything is going to work out at the end of the day,” he said. “I was upset. I expressed myself. That’s what I do. I’m not one to hide them. If you have a problem, you have to tell them. We’re working on fixing it. That’s all that matters.”
The Jets have some issues in the backfield as well. Their 45 yards rushing last week were their fewest since gaining 41 on Sept. 22, 2008, against San Diego.
New York may again have trouble getting the running game going against a Jacksonville defense which allowed only 43 yards rushing against the Titans – the fewest since giving up 32 on Dec. 18, 2008, against Indianapolis.
Shonn Green was ineffective for New York, rushing 10 times for 26 yards.
The burden may fall on Sanchez again to help guide the offense, which hasn’t scored a first-quarter touchdown in 16 straight games. Though the Jaguars shut out Tennessee in the opening quarter last week, they ranked 27th in 2010 in first-quarter points allowed.
“Nobody thinks we’re going to come out and go three-and-out,” Sanchez said. “At least, I hope they don’t. But that’s not the kind of team we have. We’ve been a slow-starting kind of team for 16 games or whatever. Something’s got to change. Maybe it’s our attitude.”
Sanchez seemed to make a connection with Plaxico Burress, who played his first regular-season game since 2008. Burress had four catches for 72 yards and a touchdown.
“It feels like I never left,” Burress said.
And there are issues with New York’s defense as well.
“The sky wasn’t falling,” Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said of Sunday’s sloppy win. “But, it was a ‘Hey we aren’t as good as we think we are’ moment in the defensive room as well.”
Jacksonville’s run-centered offense took off some of the pressure last week for Luke McCown, who was making his first start since 2007. He finished 17 of 24 for 175 yards but lost a fumble.
McCown hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass in seven games since Dec. 30, 2007, when he had two against Carolina while playing for Tampa Bay.
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