Five Titans Questions with Jets Journalist Johnny Shea
1. Who is the Jets' #1 weapon- offense and defense?
The Jets' No. 1 weapon on offense is steadily becoming wide receiver Stephen Hill. The second-year wideout struggled in his rookie season, exhibiting bad-drop syndrome. He possesses breakaway speed and often gains separation from defenders. Hill has also seemingly become rookie quarterback Geno Smith's favorite downfield target. He's targeted Hill 23 times through three games, which has surmounted to 13 completions for 233 yards and a touchdown. Hill racked up a meager total of just 252 yards in eight starts in 2012. He was touted as the Jets' most improved player in training camp. Now, he seems destined for a breakout season.
Gang Green's best defensive player is DE Muhammad Wilkerson, hands down. "Mo" is a beastly third-year player out of Temple. He emerged as a perennial pass rushing machine in 2012, recording five sacks, four passes defended and three forced fumbles. As the Jets' primary edge rusher in 2013, he's off to a hot start. Wilkerson has already racked up three sacks and a forced fumble. He wreaks havoc on opposing lineman, constantly forcing them off their heels while penetrating the backfield. At 6'4'' and 315 pounds, he's incredibly light on his feet, which makes him extremely difficult to block.
2. Geno's only bad game was away at New England. The Titans home crowd gave Philip Rivers and company some struggles. Will this crowd be a threat for Geno Smith?
No. Smith won't be affected by the crowd noise in Nashville. His lackluster performance against the Patriots was a culmination of overly aggressive play-calling and bad timing. Smith held onto the football for too long on each of his three costly interceptions in NE. That was addressed in the week after, leading up to the Jets' Week 3 matchup with the Bills. His improvement in delivering passes on time was noticeable. Smith became the first Jets' rookie signal-caller to throw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns in a game. He still coughed up the football twice, but demonstrated strong poise in the pocket. Smith's best trait in the early-going has been his ability to quickly rebound from committing mistakes. After throwing an interception against the Bills in the first half, he responded by throwing a 51-yard dart for a touchdown to Hill on the next drive.
3. What is the Jets biggest weakness on defense?
The Jets' biggest weakness on defense is No. 2 cornerback. The spot has been split between rookie Dee Milliner and flag-happy nickel-back Kyle Wilson so far this season. Milliner has been plagued by injury and slow to develop. He was benched after the first half of the Jets' showdown with the Patriots after blowing an assignment on the opening drive of the game, which resulted in NE's only touchdown. Milliner has failed to play effectively in tight coverage, often leaving receivers open in space. He missed practice today (Thursday) with a hamstring injury and is in doubt for Sunday's game against the Titans. On the flip side, Wilson seemingly doesn't have the talent to be an every-down player on defense. He was flagged on four consecutive plays against the Bills in Week 3, which led to a game-tying touchdown. It's likely that CB Darrin Walls gets the start opposite Antonio Cromartie in Tennessee. Look for a potential big day from WR Kendall Wright.
4. Why is Bilal Powell running so well this season?
It's not a new thing that RB Bilal Powell is running the football
well. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry on 110 attempts behind former Jets' lead-back Shonn Greene in 2012. Powell is a workhorse that can handle 20-25 carries per game. He doesn't boast outrageously impressive breakaway speed, but is quick enough to hit open holes and burst through for big gains. Supposed-to-be starting RB Chris Ivory aggravated a hamstring injury last week, which means Powell will get the bulk of the work load against the Titans. He's averaging over 4.3 yards per carry so far this season, a number he's more than capable of eclipsing against a Titan's rush defense that surrenders 101 yards on the ground per game.
5. If the Jets lose, why will it be?
If the Jets lose, it will likely be because of turnovers. The Jets have played stellar defense through the first three games of the 2013 season, but have only generated two turnovers, both of which occurred in the season-opener. In contrast, the Jets have given the ball away eight times. That's an ugly ratio. The Jets could easily be 3-0 if they didn't commit four costly gaffes against the Patriots. This have been a point of emphasis at practice this week though. The Jets' defense will be aggressive in trying to pursue mistakes from QB Jake Locker on Sunday. Locker is one of three quarterbacks in the NFL that hasn't committed a turnover yet this season. But the Jets force enormous pressure on opposing quarterbacks. It'll be an intriguing cat-and-mouse matchup. We'll find out who bites first on Sunday.
Big thanks to Johnny for the insight! Stay tuned for Pro Football Spot for more coverage on this great matchup!