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EA Q&A: Jets Have Backfield Concerns

The Jets have a wonderful opportunity ahead of them here in Week 7.   Nobody will give them much of a chance to win in New England, but you wonder what the reaction would be in the football world if the Green & White pull off the stunner.

Most pundits didn't think the Jets were a playoff team at the beginning of the season and that legion only grew after the injury list expanded and the Jets suffered from uneven play.  Yet both the Jets and the Patriots have identical 3-3 marks and one club will move to 4-3 Sunday evening.

The Jets are well aware that the outside world has written them off and they could care less.  This is an extremely difficult spot for Rex Ryan's crew, but don't believe for a second that they don't think they can go north and score a victory.

(We will come back with another Q&A on Thursday, so get your questions in.  Also remember Jets Talk LIVE will air at 3 PM Thursday as I'll be joined by a couple of player guests and I'll tell you how this upset can happen.)

Jason W.Yonkers, NY

Q: Do you feel we should invest in a WR or RB or will these players we have step up?  If we should invest, should it be a rookie or an experienced player?  Why didn't we re-sign Plaxico Burress?  He was a large part of our No. 1 red zone offense last year.

EA: Unfortunately there are big-time questions at running back as the Jets get preparations underway for the Patriots.  Bilal Powell has a right shoulder injury and he underwent an MRI on Monday.  Powell is an excellent blocker out of the backfield and he also averages close to six carries a game.  He is a steady presence for Mark Sanchez in blitz pick-up and this is a key injury.  Joe McKnight, who had a 100-yard kickoff return against the Texans in Week 5 and then a career-high 61-yard run against the Colts in Week 6, also underwent an MRI for an ankle injury.  He adds an explosive element to this team and his loss would be a blow.

So the spotlight could move to Jonathan Grimes and Lex Hilliard.  The 5'10", 209-pound Grimes, who spent the first three weeks of the season on the Texans practice squad, left William & Mary as the school's all-time leader in rushing yards (4,541), all-purpose yards (7,955), kickoff return yards (2,289) and rushing attempts (936).   Can he fill in the role as a third down back in a pinch?  He might have to.

Hilliard, a 5'11", 235-pound fullback, was ironically waived by the Patriots on Sep. 19.  The Jets have displayed confidence in Hilliard during his short stay as he appeared in 22 offensive plays and 19 special teams plays against the Colts.

Shonn Greene obviously is the bellcow and he is fresh off a career-day against the Colts.  Greene has averaged 4 yards per carry in his six matchups with the Patriots and he was effective in his last trip to Gillette Stadium.  The Jets stayed within striking distance last October in Foxboro as Greene had 21 rush attempts for 83 yards and 1 TD.  If he can get the rock at least 20 times Sunday, that bodes well for the Jets.

The Jets will continue to look at all possibilities, but I don't anticipate a move at wideout.  Jason Hill just got in the end zone and the Jets will continue to operate with Jeremy Kerley at No. 1, Chaz Schilens at No. 2 and Hill at No. 3 until Clyde Gates gets healthy.  Dustin Keller has returned to the lineup and Jeff Cumberland has progressed at TE.


Q:Have you heard anything about Damon Harrison getting more playing time?   I believe he can be an asset to this defense. Thanks for taking the time to read this email.

EA: Excellent question.  Nose tackle Sione Pouha is absolutely gutting it out here in 2012, having appeared in three games while attempting to battle a debilitating back injury.  Kenrick Ellis is out until after the bye week with an MCL sprain, so there has been a shuffle on the interior. 

Veteran Mike DeVito got the start at the nose against Indy, flanked by Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples.   The Jets like to shift Wilkerson and Coples inside on third downs and then they'll get Calvin Pace and Aaron Maybin on the edges.  In some sub packages, they also can get Wilkerson inside, have Maybin and Pace down and blitz DBs or flood the backfield in coverage.  The Jets have the ability to go to a 4-man DL look on base plays with Pace or BT in a down position.

Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine are going to continue to mix up their fronts and they like to rotate the linemen up front. 

Harrison is a hell of a story, making the club out of William Penn (Iowa) as an undrafted free agent.  He came in the game cold against the Texans and made a key third-down stop.  Harrison appeared in seven snaps against Indy while former Colts DT Daniel Muir got in for 12 snaps.  Muir appeared to spell Wilkerson and DeVito a bit in the second quarter as the Jets went to some 4-man fronts.  The Jets love Harrison's work ethic and he is developing, but Rex Ryan loves to load up with DBs against the Patriots.  I don't know if Harrison will be up this week, but the arrow is pointed up on his career.

Keith B.Vero Beach, FL

Q: Why doesn't Rex Ryan coach his players up during the game? I see very little if any interaction between him and his players at a time where I feel his motivation could go a long way.

EA: Coach Ryan spends a lot of time interacting with players throughout the week leading to the game.  He addresses the team each work day (Tuesday is the Players Day Off) at the facility and delivers a talk Saturday night at the team hotel and then inside the locker room prior to kickoff.

During the game, he is very involved with his coaches.  Mike Pettine and a number of the defensive assistants are upstairs while offensive coordinator Tony Sparano is on the sideline.  I think Coach Ryan allows his coaches to coach their respective units because he believes in his staff.  With that being said, I have seen Rex talk to players on numerous occasions.  These players are professional athletes and they have to be self-motivated.

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