The Jets offense lately has been passing its screen test again.
The screen game, which can be so important to defeating an ultra-aggressive pass rush by picking up big chunks of yardage at a time, looked pretty impressive in the Jets’ first three games, particularly on LaDainian Tomlinson’s monster 74-yard catch-and-run from Mark Sanchez.
Then the screen started to get holes in it. In the six-game span from Baltimore through the home game against New England, the Jets completed only eight screens, and only one of them went for at least 10 yards.
But Joe McKnight breathed life into the screen game at Denver, and with two big plays out of it Sunday vs. the Chiefs — Shonn Greene’s 36-yard play to set up the Jets’ second TD and Tomlinson’s ice-breaking 19-yard TD play late in the first half — in the last month the devastating screen play is back on the front burner.
“It’s something we put a big focus on coming into training camp,” guard Brandon Moore said following today’s practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. “They weren’t working as well in the beginning of the year. Just like everything else we try to correct … the things we’ve been working on have been showing up on Sundays. That’s the encouraging thing to see, especially this time of year.”
The screens were a big reason that Greene and Tomlinson were the major targets for Sanchez on Sunday. Greene had three receptions for 58 yards, Tomlinson two for 50. It was the first time in eight seasons and just the 14th time in franchise history that two Jets running backs each had 50-plus receiving yards in the same game.
So if it worked so well against the hard-charging Chiefs’ front seven, surely Brian Schottenheimer and Sanchez will be dialing the screens up against the harder-charging Eagles, the NFL’s top-sacking team?
“Well, they’re easy completions and if they make their way into the game plan this week, that’s great,” Sanchez said. “If not, we have to do it with runs and completions down the field or whatever it is. It’s just a good changeup for us, but you can’t just rely on something like that. We need to be good running the ball and throwing it downfield as well.”
With Wednesday comes the full-fledged start of the next week of the season. And this time it marks the next December day that Rex Ryan is having to move on down the home stretch without his safety.
“Jimmy Leonhard had surgery today. Everything went well,” Ryan said of the procedure to repair Leonhard’s torn right patella tendon. “And again, they always say that as long as you come out of it, so it went well.”
Ryan said at least he doesn’t feel that the defense will need a game to regroup from the loss of their quarterback as they did last year, when they went from the last practice of the week on Friday, when Leonhard broke his leg, into the Monday night 45-3 loss at New England.
“I think there was some unusual circumstance because he got hurt with one day left in the week for practice,” Ryan recalled. “I think that was what really contributed to that, and the fact that we were playing the Patriots. I don’t want to take anything away from them, but that was part of the issue, part of the problem.
“Right now there are no excuses. We have a full week’s preparation with Brodney Pool and Eric Smith, the same guys that closed out all the playoff games and everything else, so we feel really comfortable with those guys. Obviously, it’s an unfortunate injury, it’s a huge loss to us, but we’re built to still be effective.”
Tracy Wilson moves in behind Smitty and Brodney, and behind them will be Gerald Alexander, the interesting veteran signing announced late Tuesday. Rex said after today’s practice he’s still not certain where his new No. 42 factors into Sunday’s plan for the Eagles.
“We just had him out there today. We have a great deal of confidence in our scouting department. I know they were trying to get us the best player,” Ryan said. “Right now he’s swimming. He just came out there and we’ll see. Obviously, if we signed him, then upstairs feels pretty good about him. And seems like a nice young man.”
We spent some locker room time with Alexander today and we’ll bring you a profile on him Thursday. For now two notes to pique your interest: He was Boise State teammates with Kyle Wilson for one year. And he’s an avid Tweeter who can be found at twitter.com/galexander21
On the injury report front, the “swelling” on the Jets’ list in recent weeks has been reduced to 11 players. Only two didn’t practice today — G Brandon Moore (hip) and CB Marquice Cole (knee). Three more were listed as limited — DT Mike DeVito (knee), DL Marcus Dixon (hip) and S Eric Smith (knee).
“I feel pretty good about everybody, really,” said Ryan. ‘With Brandon, this was what we had talked about. We’ll probably limit him tomorrow, then have him full Friday. ‘Quice, we’ll see how his knee is. He’s probably questionable right now. All the other guys I think will be able to play, DeVito, Dixon and Smith.”
The coach added that DeVito, who has sat out four of the last seven games with knee issues, worked some 9-on-7 drills, handled some double teams, and “looked pretty good out there.”
For the Eagles, QB Michael Vick (ribs) led the four-man contingent that did not practice today. Also DNP were T Todd Herremans (ankle), DT Cullen Jenkins (groin) and DE Darryl Tapp (ribs). WR Jeremy Maclin (hamstring/shoulder) was limited, but coach Andy Reid said on a conference call with Jets reporters today that he thinks Maclin will play against the Jets.
Tags: Brodney Pool, Eric Smith, Gerald Alexander, Jim Leonhard, Kansas City Chiefs, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Philadelphia Eagles, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene, Tracy Wilson
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