If the Jets are going to have success in the air against the Patriots on Sunday, you can bet Jerricho Cotchery, Dustin Keller and Chansi Stuckey will be very active. At Houston the trio were on the other end of 14 out of the 18 completions from Mark Sanchez. They were all over the field catching an assortment of tosses from the rookie.
After playing with future Hall-of-Famer Brett Favre last year, each of the three sees flashes of prominence in Sanchez, making his second pro start.
"All the great ones can throw all the balls," Cotchery told newyorkjets.com this week. "They can throw it on a rope if they have to, they can throw the heaters, or they can throw the nice touch passes. He can throw them all. He's a guy who can just make a lot of plays."
The two receivers and the tight end were instrumental in the Jets' success on third down vs. the Texans. The Jets converted 10 of 18 opportunities and nine out of 10 of the third-down conversions were to one of the three. The other was Sanchez's scramble during the last drive to keep the clock running toward the rookie's kneeldown to seal the victory.
"We have so many options on third down," said Stuckey, who caught Sanchez's first career TD pass, a 30-yard strike, also on third down. "The ball can go anywhere and Mark does a great job of getting us into the right play and making the right reads."
Sanchez's 272 yards were the second-highest total for a rookie QB in Week 1 in NFL history, behind only Peyton Manning, who threw for 302 yards in his 1998 debut. And Sanchez threw for the highest total ever posted by a winning rookie QB who started on opening day. As a team the Jets rank ninth in passing yards.
Although the Patriots' pass defense lost veterans Ellis Hobbs at corner and Rodney Harrison at safety in the off-season, they allowed 186 passing yards to Buffalo on Monday night and are ranked 12th in the league against the pass.
"They have a new movement coming in. They moved on from some of their leaders on defense," said Cotchery. "But they have some young guys that can get after it who are pretty fast and can get to the ball. The way they've done it with that system over there, it doesn't take long for those guys to gain that chemistry."
One of their most promising young defensive players is linebacker Jerod Mayo, who reportedly injured his MCL against the Bills and Friday was listed as out for the Jets. The middle of the New England defense is weaker with Mayo out, but Keller, who had four catches for 94 yards at Houston, would rather see the second-year man play.
"We just want to play the best players and you never wish any type of injury on anybody," said Keller. "It is what it is but we definitely would prefer him to be out there."
J-Co led the Jets with six catches, which gained 90 yards. All of them went for first downs and four converted third downs. He'll often be up against Shawn Springs, the 13th-year veteran with 32 career interceptions, making this a premier matchup for both teams.
"Springs has seen a lot of football, he's been around a lot and he still has some tread left on his tires," said Cotchery. "I think since he's seen a lot of routes, you have to be disciplined, because if you don't he'll be able to jump those things.
"The thing he's always been good at is at the line. I think it hasn't changed. He hasn't lost it one bit. It's going to be fun out there."
The meeting between these division rivals brings up a lot of bad Meadowlands memories for the Green & White. As the veteran of the wide receivers, Cotchery has seen his share of home losses vs. the Patriots, playing in five of those games since he was drafted in '04.
"A lot is going on in this game as far as New England beating us eight times in a row at home," he said. "It's a division game early on in the year and we're just trying to turn some things around here in the building."
Stuckey is ready to get back that homefield advantage.
"It's going to be exciting. You know the Patriots are the Patriots, so you know you have to come with your 'A' game every time," said Stuckey. "They're at the top so they're the team that you want to knock off."
Keller assured the Jets will give their fans a show.
"We're definitely going to be amped up and ready to go," he said. "When we run out of the tunnel, the fans are just going to be crazy. It's going to be so exciting."