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EA Q&A: Jets in White SUN, O-Line Faces Test

It's time for a monster "EA Q&A".  We will continue to stick with our Tuesday and Thursday format throughout the regular season, but I urge you to send your "Fan Friday" columns in to me by tonight.  I will select one entry with your matchup and prediction to be published. 

OmarJersey City, NJ

Q: Hey Eric, I noticed that the Jets wore white jerseys at home and green jersey at away games. Did they switch the home green jersey to white or was that just for the preseason? I like to match what the players have on field and can't find a website on what color jersey they will wear on gameday. Thanks for the time and love the work you do.

EA: This is all decided before the season even begins.  The home team declares their jersey color for each game and then the road team obviously has to wear something different.   In Week 1, the Jets will don their white jersey and the Bills will be in blue.  You don't have to declare your pants early (the Jets do have green again with the new Nike uniform), but the Jets are scheduled to wear white at home only once during the regular season and that's SUN.  Likewise, the Jets will only wear the green jersey once on the road and that's at Miami in Week 3.

CarloTurin, Italy

Q: Hey EA, how's it going? Why do all the experts on ESPN and refer to the Jets OL as mediocre? We have the best C in the league, arguably a league top 3 LT, a Pro Bowler in Moore at RG and a very solid player in Slauson at LG. Sure we've been struggling at RT, but watching Austin Howard playing — I've had good feelings about this big kid!  I would say this OL is a luxury probably a good number of teams would pick up right away, but it still referred to as mediocre by all these "experts".

EA: Excellent perspective from overseas.  We heard a number of people this summer either label the O-Line as a weakness or a huge question mark.  The starters played well against Carolina and Wayne Hunter had a poor game against JPP.   Howard is the guy at RT and the Jets are going to give him help in the form of a tight end or running back against Bills DE Mario Williams.  The Bills defensive front may be the best in the National Football League, so this line will be tested immediately.  

You don't hear a lot of people talk about Mangold's Week 2 injury when they review the 2011 season.  We've been there and done that, but the Green & White also feel like they are better in the depth department up front in 2012.  Slauson can swing to center or tackle, Vladimir Ducasse and Caleb Schlauderaff are interior backups and Mr. T. just traded Wayne Hunter for swing tackle Jason Smith.  After basically one meeting, the former first round pick came out and played well in the preseason finale against the Eagles. 

FrankBurlington, Ontario

Q: Lately, the media and the Jets have been quiet about Antonio Cromartie playing WR. In training camp, Cromartie did say he was the second best wideout on the team. Do you think Cromartie will play any snaps at WR this Sunday and if so, will he see any throws his way?

EA: Interesting thought and good questions.  We won't know until Sunday comes around.  Since we're in regular season mode, the media is only permitted to watch a portion of practice before team drills are run.  If Cro is inserted into offensive action, the Bills will have to respect his speed and height.  He is a freakish athlete and I've actually seen the guy throw the ball 80 yards down the field.  The Jets could opt to flood the field with speed guys like Stephen Hill, Antonio Cromartie and Joe McKnight at any moment.

RobertHarrington Park, NJ

Q: How can the Jets leave themselves without an experienced punter 5 days from opening day? With this team especially —field position will be of the utmost importance. 

EA: It is an interesting situation and less than ideal.  The trouble with T.J. Conley was the guy would boom the ball at practice and then you oftentimes you wouldn't see that same player during the game.   Both Travis Baltz and Spencer Lanning got looks, but they couldn't capitalize on the opportunities.  New punter Robert Malone, who averaged 44.8 yards per punt with a 37.9-yard net in preseason play with the Chargers, has a big leg but consistency is needed.   Rex Ryan said Malone hit the ceiling of indoor practice Fieldhouse five times during workouts and the Jets believe he can handle the holding job.  He has punted 57 times at the NFL level, so he's not totally green.

PatrickNew York City, NY

Q: Did the Jets even kick the tires on Maurice Jones-Drew? If not, why not?

EA: MJD is under contract with the Jags and he is expected to play for J-Ville Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.  During Jones-Drew's recent holdout, the Jags publicly said they wouldn't consider trading the 2011 NFL rushing leader.

While the Jets will continue to look under every rock, every day, they feel they can win with top three RBs and FB John Conner. 

*DominickBrooklyn, NYQ: *Everyone is excited about Tim Tebow and what he's going to do.  But what about Sanchez?  He's our starting quarterback.  I have faith in him and I think he is much better than what everyone makes him out to be.  I don't think some of the turnovers are his fault because he gets not time in the pocket at all.  He gets hit once the ball is snapped the majority of the time.  How do you feel about this?

EA: Pure and simple, Sanchez has looked excellent this summer.  But now he has to carry that over to the regular season and he knows that.  He is bigger, stronger and more accurate.  Sanchez also has displayed leadership abilities, challenging his teammates.  This is Year 4 and he has to be one of this team's strengths. 

As discussed up above, I think the O-line is above average.  Week 1 will be a great early challenge for this team.  You can't have an All-Pro everywhere and the Jets are going to have to help Austin Howard come along.

BillNew Bern, NC

Q: Why not play Tebow at running back and forget all this nonsense about playing QB? Put him at TE or RB and he might make the Pro Bowl. (Can he catch the ball?) I agree with Rex — he is a great football player.   However at QB, I think he is hurting his chances at long term success in the league. It doesn't seem like he is making the necessary improvements to be an NFL QB.

McElroy should be the real backup in my opinion, and if Sanchez stagnates should get a shot to lead the team. He looks like he could be a successful QB to me — much more so than Tebow.

EA: We don't know what the Jets are going to do with Tebow on offense.  He is the backup QB, but he is also an offensive specialist.  I am sure he can catch the rock and he can block and he can move.  I disagree about you about the improvements because I watched him get better in the pocket and more decisive with the ball during training camp.  He can improve as a quarterback and I like the fact that the Jets have a gamer behind Sanchez.

G-Mac is a brilliant dude who has flashed at times during his first two pro summers.  But he has never taken a snap in an NFL game. 

JoseNew York, NY

Q: I think that the Jets have "fallen in love" with some players — players such as Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace.   I think they are too one-dimensional when you need a pass rush threat also. What do you think?

EA: I Hear me out before you label me a "homer" and tell me I have an IV filled with "Kool-Aid".     

Tape every Jets game and watch Pace against the run — it's impressive.   He had 4.5 sacks last season, but those numbers will be up because the Jets will play more four-man fronts and teams are going to have to double some folks down there.  I like CP's chances against a block attempt from a back or a tight end, and he is very good in coverage.

Although BT is no longer in his athletic prime, the Jets were hurt last year when he went out with an Achilles injury.  Teams avoided going at Pace and went the other way.  You saw the success they had on the outside.

Mike Pettine would rather have strength in numbers as opposed to having one dynamic pass rusher.  Aaron Maybin established himself as a pass rush threat last season and he'll see the field more in 2011 when teams are attempting to spread the Jets out.

Dan Doylestown, PA

Q: I need your honesty here EA. Given the makeup of our receiving corps, which consists of inexperience and questionable leadership, why hasn't management taken an interest to FAs Gaffney and/or Stallworth? Wouldn't our team benefit from a little credibility at the WR position?

EA: Honestly we aren't playing with Monopoly money here.  There are some interesting guys on the market, but I've seen reports that Gaffney's base salary for the 2012 season would be guaranteed if he's on any team's Week 1 roster. 

And what does Donte Stallworth have left in the tank?  In 30 games between 2008-'11, Stallworth caught 41 balls with three different teams.   

ErikPoughkeepsie, NY

Q: Hey EA, I'm largely concerned with our running game. I don't dislike Greene, but he seems inconsistent. McKnight doesn't seem to want to get hit. I have hope in Powell, but I haven't seen enough out of him to tell if he can make a real impact. I know he's a decent second or third option in the backfield, but is he really good enough to make a true impact against the Steelers or 49ers front seven?

EA: This is Greene's opportunity to truly be the bellcow.  Powell has impressed the club with his pass protection prowess and McKnight remains an explosive threat in space.  Lots of folks are forgetting about a certain No. 15 too.  He could be a factor in this ground attack.

History tells us that it's going to be hard for any team to have more than moderate success running the ball against the Steelers and the 49ers.  The Steelers were 8th in the NFL in rush defense last season (99.8 yards per game) while the 49ers led the NFL (77.2 yards per game).   Two years ago, the Steelers were No. 1 (62.8 ypg) and the 49ers were No. 6 (96.7 ypg).  Both Greene and Powell can pick up some yards after contact. 

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