Mark Sanchez has had an “excellent week of practice,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said today.
“I see a lot of energy from him, I see him bouncing around,” Ryan said at his news conference at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center following this morning’s final practice before Sunday’s game at Jacksonville. “You can tell he feels good, he feels good about the plan, he feels confident.”
Yet Sanchez, playing for the first time since Ryan pulled him in the third quarter of the Arizona game last Sunday, could be without one of his biggest security blankets of the past four seasons. TE Dustin Keller (ankle) did not practice again today and is listed as doubtful for the Jaguars.
“With me, doubtful usually means he’s not going,” Ryan said. “It’s unfortunate, but this is like the sixth time this season we haven’t had Dustin.”
If Keller is inactive for the Jags, it will be the fifth game he’s missed this season, and he had one-catch contributions in the Buffalo opener and the Indianapolis game sandwiched around that early four-game hiatus due to his aggravated hamstring injury.
DK is on pace for 48 targets, 37 catches and 423 yards, which would all be career lows since his 2008 rookie season. He was the Jets’ receptions leader in 2010 and ’11, the first Jets TE with that distinction since Mickey Shuler in 1984-85.
That’s a difficult security blanket to reweave, but Jeff Cumberland has at least filled in well in his first full, healthy season with the Green & White. His 35 targets, 21 catches, 233 yards are close to Keller’s line and his two TD catches match Keller’s scores. And even with Keller missing for a stretch, the tight end numbers this year are pretty close to the previous three seasons, with the average yards per catch at the position (11.3) the lowest since 2008 yet not far off the Keller-influenced 11.5 for the position in ’09.
Injury Statuses for the Game
As for the rest of the Jets’ injured players, only WR Clyde Gates (concussion) has been declared out, and NT Damon Harrison (ankle) is the only other “doubtful.” There are three questionables: QB Tim Tebow (ribs), WR Stephen Hill (knee) and NT Sione Po‘uha (low back), all of whom were limited in practice.
All 17 other Jets on the report are probable for Jacksonville, including RB-KR Joe McKnight (ankle/ribs), who practiced full. Click here for the full report.
Jacksonville’s final report is one of extremes. Six of their 13 injured players are out for the Jets: RBs Maurice Jones-Drew (foot) and Rashad Jennings (concussion), WR Cecil Shorts (concussion), OL Mike Brewster (hand), CB Aaron Ross (calf) and DE George Selvie (concussion).
The other seven are all probable: S Dwight Lowery (foot), CBs Derek Cox (hamstring) and Rashean Mathis (groin), D-linemen Tyson Alualu (calf) and Austen Lane (foot), C Brad Meester (foot), and FB Greg Jones (thigh).
A Tale of Two “Strengths”
ESPN has noted that the Jets have gone from first in the NFL to last in one interesting measure: strength of schedule.
In the first 12 games of the season, Jets opponents’ combined record is 83-59-2, a .583 winning percentage that is first in the league. In other words, the Jets had the NFL’s toughest schedule (based only on opponents’ combined record) in the first three-quarters of the season.
The final four Jets opponents’ composite record is 15-33-0, a .313 percentage that is 32nd in the league. The Jets’ final quarter is the league’s “easiest” finish. Ominously, with Indianapolis, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati at least two games ahead of them for AFC Wild Card berths, that favorable final quarter may not be enough to provide a 2009-like storybook regular-season stretch run into the postseason grid.
But as Mike Westhoff said this week, “I’m a big believer that until someone tells us that we’re not in it, we can finish strongly and be in this thing, so that’s how I’m seeing it every week. You just don’t know in our crazy business, and it’s our responsibility to fight through that to the very end.”
And ours as well.
Tags: Dustin Keller, Jacksonville Jaguars, Jeff Cumberland, Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan
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