After reaching the quarter pole with a 3-1 record that included a sweep through their division rivals, the New York Jets start Quarter No. 2 tonight against the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings stole the headlines in the past week with their trade for WR Randy Moss, but the Jets will add at least a pair — hopefully a trifecta — of big-time reinforcements to their own arsenal as WR Santonio Holmes and OLB Calvin Pace will see their first regular-season action in 2010.
"We're getting closer and closer to being full strength," said OLB Jason Taylor. "And by what was evidenced in the first few weeks, we're a pretty good football team and we're only getting better with the guys we're getting back."
After serving his four-game suspension, the 5'11', 192-Holmes will don his Jets green jersey for the first time in meaningful action after coming over from Pittsburgh in an April trade. Since a disjointed nine-point performance in a Week 1 loss to Baltimore, the offense has come alive and then some while averaging 32 points a game the past three weeks. And now here comes Holmes, a dynamite talent who can change games in an instant.
"What you have is a complete receiver — he has the ability to be a deep threat, he is a route runner. It's almost like Braylon and Cotchery had a baby. It's that type of thing," said WLB Bart Scott. "He's one of those guys who can take a bubble screen to the house and a quick slant to the house. But then again, he can get you with the double moves, he's a route runner and he's also a great vertical receiver. I think what they're getting is the total package."
The Vikings have perhaps the best front four in football with Kevin Williams and Pat Williams in the middle flanked by Ray Edwards on the left and sack artist Jared Allen on the right. They will provide a stiff test for a jelling Jets O-line, which has helped the Green & White rush for 167.8 yards a game and given ample time for mistake-free Mark Sanchez to go through his progressions and make the right reads in the pass game.
"It's imperative this week to keep two hands on the football because they're so notorious for strip-sacks. You have that thing in one hand and they'll be all over you," Sanchez said. "They apply pressure up the middle with both Williamses at defensive tackle and then on the edges with Jared Allen, obviously. It's an important game for ball security and we need to be ready to play, make plays on the edge, run the ball well and keep them off-balance a little bit."
The Jets' defense, allowing just 15.2 points per game, is starting to round into form and now welcomes Pace back in the lineup. He made it through practice all week and is ready to test the repaired right foot he broke in preseason action.
While Pace has the green light, the Jets are hopeful Revis will see the field for the first time since Week 2. Ironically, Revis' sore hamstring tightened while attempting to cover Moss on the latter's 34-yard scoring reception for the Patriots in the Jets' 28-14 triumph.
"It's like we're Voltron right now. We're missing an arm. You bring those three quality pieces and we got our arm, we can pull our sword out and we can end the fight," said Scott. "That's what you would like to think, but we have to be careful of leaning too much on those guys, like they're back and the guys who have been doing such a great job kind of relax. We all have to stay on our toes and let those guys coming back from injuries work their way back into it."
Both Revis and Antonio Cromartie called out Moss this week for a lack of effort in that Week 2 contest. But the Vikings, missing a vertical threat in Sidney Rice and averaging just 14.3 points during their 1-2 start, needed a downfield target for Favre and the deal made sense. The Vikes have plenty of skill weapons — RB Adrian "All Day" Peterson, TE Visanthe Shiancoe, WR Percy Harvin and Moss — to test the Jets, but can Favre find the time against Rex Ryan's overloads and blitzes?
"Stay after it," Taylor said of the pass rush. "He doesn't want to run. Brett is going to throw the ball from all different angles, he's going to get rid of the football, he's going to go to hard counts and he's going to pump-fake you. He knows all the tricks — he's actually been in this league almost as long as some of these guys have been born."
Favre, who is averaging two INTs a game, last competed against a Rex Ryan defense on Dec. 19, 2005. The result was a 48-3 Ravens win as No. 4, then a Packer, completed 48.3 percent of his passes and was picked twice. And the last time Favre, who spent the 2008 season leading the Jets' offense, came to the Meadowlands grounds as a Jets visitor? Oh, that was a 42-17 thrashing by New York's AFC representative on Dec. 12, 2002, as the legendary passer completed 48.5 percent of his passes and was intercepted once.
"You want Favre throwing or Adrian Peterson running? This has got to be a complete game from our defense," Ryan said. "We're going to be challenged up front, the back end and everywhere. Again, I feel confident. This is a great group that they're going against as well when they look at us, so it ought to be a heck of a game."
The Jets hope to move to 4-1 overall and even their Monday night mark at New Meadowlands Stadium. At halftime, the organization will honor the 2000 Monday Night Miracle team and although Taylor (for obvious reasons) doesn't have too many fond memories of that contest, he hopes the Jets will again have something special in store for their fans.
"As they honor that as a game the Jets won," Taylor said, "let's go give them something else to honor and go beat Minnesota and move on to the next one."