By Peter Schwartz
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The task for the Jets was daunting even before Pro Bowl center Nick Mangold suffered a high ankle sprain in last week’s win over the Jaguars.
Gang Green begins a stretch of three straight road games on Sunday when they take on the Raiders in Oakland. That will be followed by contests at Baltimore and at New England.
A tough chore for even the best of teams including the 2-0 Jets, but they will be missing a very important offensive cog as Mangold will not make the trip to Oakland.
“He’s just not ready,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “It’s as simple as that. He’s doing really well, but with a high ankle sprain, going against these guys (the Raiders), traveling cross country, it’s not in his best interest.”
He had been lobbying to play but his streak of 82 consecutive starts since being drafted in 2006 will come to an end.
In the end, it was the smart decision to make.
“Probably,” said Mangold. “Not the fun thing but probably the smart thing.”
It certainly won’t be fun for Mangold staying home and watching it on television, but its something he has to deal with.
“It’s going to be tough but you can’t argue with the body” said Mangold.
Mangold desperately wanted to play but wasn’t about to put the team in peril.
“You don’t want anything lingering and I think that’s the fear of the injury and trying to rush back before it’s ready,” said Mangold. “So I’m going to make sure it’s ready, but I’m going to make sure it’s ready as soon as possible.”
Mangold will continue his rehab and treatment in New Jersey and watch Sunday’s game at home. His goal now is to play next Sunday night in Baltimore.
“It’s getting better,” said Mangold. “Everyday it’s getting better. It’s just not good enough (right now).”
So, rookie Colin Baxter will make his first NFL start. He replaced Mangold in Sunday’s win over the Jaguars and that experience will come in handy when he lines up this week against the Raiders.
“I think it definitely helped,” said Baxter. “It definitely was an unexpected situation, so it will be nice this week to get to see the looks in practice and get to go through that and get coached up on the finer points of everything. I went in lst week knowing what to do, but a lot of the things I hadn’t really been taken through really in a detailed way. So this week, I get to go do it (and) I get to go watch it on film.”
Even without Mangold in the lineup, the Jets offense will look to gain show some consistency this Sunday. A good way for that to happen is to get the running game on track. It was a little better against Jacksonville but there is still plenty of room for improvement.
The Jets are averaging just 73 yards rushing through the first two games. That figure has the Jets ranked 28th in the NFL.
What happened to “Ground and Pound”?
“I think there are some holes there,” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. “It’s different, we’ve done kind of a different running attack I guess, with single back stuff. But I think our guys are doing really well with it. They’re communicating well, it’s just that we have to execute a little better, just a little bit better. Some of these can break and we can really hit our averages that we want to hit. We’ll break a run here soon.”
Shonn Greene is hoping that heading to Oakland will be good tonic for him. After all, it was back in 2009 when Greene, then a rookie, rushed fro 144 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries in the Jets 38-0 win against the Raiders.
“I think our memory from two years ago is pretty good, so hopefully we look to go in there and do the same thing,” said Greene. “It was a good feeling, like I said, Leon went down and I kind of was shocked because that’s my first time going in. But I did a good job, and the offense was going well and everything went well and we won.”
The Jets and Raiders have enjoyed a storied rivalry dating back to their AFL days. So when these two teams hook up, it always conjures up memories of the past.
Considering the histories of the two teams, the Jets usually look at these contests as a David versus Goliath match-up.
“They’re kind of a legendary franchise,” said Ryan of the Raiders. “The silver and black…going to their place. With their fans and all that, it should be great. It should be a fun experience going over there and we’re just going to do whatever we can to get us a win.”
It won’t be easy. While the Raiders gave up 38 points in Buffalo this past week, the Jets are preparing for an Oakland defense that can make some plays. They have a front seven that includes the likes of Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Rolando McClain and a secondary that includes Michael Huff.
“They’re doing a great job covering down the field,” said Sanchez. “They’re physical. They get after you at the line and they don’t let you get the release a lot of the time. It’s an active group, a tough group, a typical Raiders in your face, physical bunch. It’s going to be a good fight for us. We need to play really well.”
From a defensive standpoint, the Jets will have to concern themselves with a Silver and Black offense that is clearly defined by the scene in Rocky II when Mickey has Rocky chasing a chicken.
“We need speed,” said Mickey as Rocky was training for his rematch with Apollo Creed. “If you can catch this thing (the chicken), then you can catch greased lightning.”
Well the Raiders have followed that same motto over the years. Al Davis has always tried to put together an offense based on speed and a vertical passing game with players like quarterback Jason Campbell and running back Darren McFadden.
“That’s no surprise,” said Ryan. “They can throw five guys out there that can probably win most track events. It’s a typical Raider team.
They do a great job. It’s a tailback-driven offense with speed at the receivers and we understand that. Defensively, they’re going to get in your face and play a lot of man coverage. It’s one of those Raider traditions.”
Speaking of traditions, it’s been one for Jets wide receiver Plaxico Burress to catch at least one pass in a game. There have only been a handful of times when he hasn’t, including last week’s win over Jacksonville.
But this week, Burress could very well catch plenty of balls as he is matched up against the Silver and Black who play, for the most part, a man-to-man defense.
“If you’re a wide receiver, these are the kind of games you love to play in,” said Burress. “It’s up close and personal, man- to-man, ‘mano a mano’, to see who is the better guy. I’ve played in these games before, they’re fun and competitive.”
This is a huge game for the Jets. It’s the first of three straight away from the Meadowlands but you have to give the coaching staff some credit for one thing. They have the team focused on the task at hand.
They are not concerned about the Ravens and Patriots who will be the next two opponents.
The job that lies in front of them is to beat the Raiders and get to 3-0.
“The goal is to win them all,” said Burress. “But we’re just going to focus on the Oakland Raiders this week. It’s our first test, a west coast trip, we’ll be doing some things different this week.”
It’s easy for at least one other Jet to focus on this week’s game. For Mark Sanchez, it’s a return home to California where he’ll have plenty of family and friends making the trip from the Mission Viejo region to the Bay Area for the game.
And it’s clear that Sanchez is following Ryan’s lead about the importance of this first game of the road swing.
“Focusing on this first west coast trip,” said Sanchez. “Rex’s thing, since we both have been here has been, “Stay on east coast time.” It eliminates distractions out there, because bed check’s at 8:00 pacific time. We need to say hi to your family or whoever’s back home and get back in the hotel and get ready to play. Guys understand that. Get your sleep and get down when you can, study, and be ready to play.”
The first two games of the season haven’t exactly been Picassos. So if the Jets do come out ready to play, the rest of the NFL, including the Raiders this week had better watch out.
What remains to be seen is if the offense can function well without Mangold. The veterans on that offensive line will have to step up and help Baxter get through what is expected to be his first NFL start.
Under normal circumstances, I would pick the Jets to win this game 31-10. But with the offense without Mangold and the likelihood of Sanchez being pressured into some mistakes, I still think the Jets will win but it will be a lot closer that they would hope for.
Jets 20 Raiders 14
WILL THE ROAD WARRIORS SOAR AGAIN?
The Jets have had plenty of success playing on the road over the last couple of seasons. Since Rex Ryan took over as head coach, the Jets have amassed a road mark of 15-7 (including 4-2 in the playoffs). The Jets’ 11-5 regular season road record is tied for 2nd best in the NFL since the start of the 2009 season.
The Jets have won 9 of their last 11 regular season road games and 13 of their 17 including the postseason. It’s a run that started with a 19-13 win over the Bills in Toronto back on December 3rd, 2009.
Is it just me or does it seem like the Jets and Raiders play every year in Oakland?
They didn’t play anywhere last season, but in 2009, the Jets blanked the Silver and Black in Oakland 38-0. A lot of things happened that day. Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene both rushed for over 100 yards, Leon Washington suffered a season ending injury, and Mark Sanchez was caught by CBS cameras eating a hot dog on the sideline.
This Sunday marks the 38th regular season meeting between the Jets and Raiders. Oakland holds a 20-15-1 advantage but the Jets have won four of the last five scoring at least 23 points in all 4 wins.
CROW EARNS DEFENSIVE HONORS
Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie was named AFC defensive player of the week for his performance against the Jaguars. Cromartie recorded two interceptions, two passes defended and three tackles against Jacksonville. He also had two kickoff returns for a combined 85 yards.
THE CLASS OF 2011
The Jets will induct running back Freeman McNeil, wide receiver Al Toon, linebacker Larry Grantham, and defensive tackle Gerry Philbin into their Ring of Honor on Monday October 17th when Gang Green hosts the Dolphins.
McNeil ranks second on the Jets all-time rushing list with 8,074 yards. He was the Jets’ 1st round pick (third overall) in 1981 and spent all 12 of his NFL seasons with Gang Green. The former UCLA star and native of Jackson, Mississippi still resides on Long Island where the Jets used to hold training camp and practice.
Toon’s career was cut short after suffering at least nine concussions during his eight-year career (all with the Jets). Toon was Gang Green’s first round pick (10th overall) in 1985 and was one of the greatest wide receives in franchise history. A three-time Pro Bowler, Toon’s best season was in 1988 when he hauled in 93 catches. He retired at the age of 29 as a result of post-concussion syndrome. Toon’s son Nick has followed in his father’s footsteps, as he is a wide receiver at the University of Wisconsin.
Grantham, a member of the Jets’ Super Bowl III squad, is one of only twenty players that played in the AFL for its entire ten-year run and is one of only seven AFL players that played their entire career with just one time. A star linebacker at the University of Mississippi, Grantham was the Jets’ MVP in 1971. He was named to the AFL all-star team five times and was selected to the All-Time All-AFL second team.
Philbin was the Jets’ third round pick out of the University of Buffalo in 1964. He was an AFL all-star in 1968 and 1969 and recorded 14 ½ sacks (not an official stat back then) during the 1968 Super Bowl III Championship campaign.
These four men will join Joe Namath, Weeb Ewbank, Winston Hill, Don Maynard, Joe Klecko, and Curtis Martin who made up last year’s inaugural Ring of Honor class.
Jets cornerback Kyle Wilson and DL Marcus Dixon visited Ridgedale Middle School on Tuesday to kickoff the NFL Play 60 Challenge. The program will take place at select Madison, Florham Park, and New Vernon, New Jersey Schools. The Jets and the American Heart Association have teamed up to battle childhood obesity.
The Play 60 Challenge is a six-week long program created by the NFL and American Heart Association that encourages students to participate in at least 30 minutes of physical activity in school and an additional 30 minutes of physical activity outside of school. This program allows students to track their exercise and progress in fun and engaging ways.
Wilson and Dixon were on hand to inspire nearly 400 sixth graders engaging with them at a physical education class practicing physical activities.
Then, the players took part in a student assembly to kick off the NFL Play 60 Challenge, explaining the importance of physical activity and eating healthy. There were also giveaways and it was announced that students who complete the six-week challenge would be entered to win a chance to be featured in the Play60 Jets football game on Thanksgiving (Thurs., Nov 24, 2011) at MetLIfe Stadium.
For more information on the NFL Play 60 program, visit www.heart.org/nflplay60challenge.
That’s all for now! Check back after the game for more. Enjoy the game!
Will the Jets avoid a letdown on Sunday? Give us your prediction in the comments below…