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Jaguars vs Jets: Top 5 ways to jolt Jacksonville

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Oct 25, 2015; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars running back T.J. Yeldon (24) carries the ball on a 28-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills during NFL International Series game at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In the Jaguars vs Jets game, the injured Gang Green (4-3), off a tough two-game losing streak, look to get back on track this week against those AFC South underachieving Jacksonville Jaguars (2-5).  A home loss to the Jags could easily derail the Jets’ playoff train.

Last week’s 34-20 rout at the hand of the Raiders was as decisive as it was disappointing.  Before the game, fans shuddered at the sight of All-Pro center Nick Mangold in street clothes, and being replaced by practice-squadder Wesley Johnson — but Johnson wasn’t the problem.  On the sixth play of the game, feel-good flamethrower Ryan Fitzpatrick tore tendons in the thumb of his non-throwing hand, and got replaced by the jaw-dropping Geno Smith — who despite moments of brain lock, was not the problem either.

Place the blame squarely on the Jets’ zillion-dollar defense, mailing in their most depressing performance of the season, and looking shockingly slow, overmatched, and disinterested in doing so.  Gang Green’s feel-good early season start seems ages ago.  The real question remains: How can coach Todd Bowles right this ship darn fast?

With Rex Ryan coming to town next week, the Jets cannot look past this Jacksonville game.  No offense to exotic animals and endangered species, but it’s time to show no mercy and slay the Jaguars.

And speaking of those on the brink of extinction, congrats to a few Jets late training camp cuts for recently finding gainful employment: head-hunting LB Joe Mays to the San Diego Chargers, durable RB Daryl Richardson to the Houston Texans practice squad, and WR T.J. Graham to on the Saints’ active roster.

The Jets hold distinct statistical advantages.  Jacksonville is #23 in total offense #21 in total defense. New York is #3 in total defense and #7 in total offense.  The Jags possess the NFL’s #15 passing offense and #25 rushing offense. So the Jets will be in trouble if the Jags prove able to move the ball at will, like Oakland, New England and Philly did.

This column has titled its past “Top 5” pages for songs from the opposition city’s pop culture.  But since everyone agrees that there’s little culture in Jacksonville, here’s five ways for the Jets to jostle the Jaguars.

Next: 5. No Defense For This

November 1, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles (right) talks to NFL line judge Rusty Baynes (59, left) during the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

5. No Defense For This

It doesn’t matter what their statistics say, this is no elite Jets’ defense.  Just like last year, and the year before, and the year before that, the Jets cannot generate a sustained pass rush from their outside linebackers.

The aged Calvin Pace still runs circles around opposite-side first-round bust Quinton Coples.  Antonio Cromartie is likely nine games from being put out to pasture.  Last year’s feel-good story, cornerback Marcus Williams, has regressed so badly, he must be taking lessons at the Cromartie school of hip-check non-tackling.  Even Darrelle Revis looked old and dithering against rising star receiver Amari Cooper.  They really need Buster Skrine back on the field for more than 15 plays.

The injury to strong safety Calvin Pryor left Marcus Gilchrist and Seattle import Dion Bailey exposed, woefully unsuccessful in stopping the long ball last Sunday at Oakland Coliseum.  The normally reserved veteran linebacker David Harris erupted post-game in anger and embarrassment.

That’s why anything less than an absolute manhandling of Jacksonville’s offense line by the Jets vaunted defensive front will be considered an unacceptable performance.  The question remains: Was last week just an aberration or a revelation of flaws in the Todd Bowles-Kacy Rogers defensive schemes?

Next: 4. A Tale Of Two QBs

November 1, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Jets center Nick Mangold (74, right) talks to quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) on the sideline during the third quarter against the Oakland Raiders at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

4. A Tale Of Two QBs

Just who will be under center for the Jets this Sunday?  Can the Green-and-White ship be expected to sail with no experienced captain at the helm?

Ryan Fitzpatrick will try to gut out his finger injury for the rest of the year, in a painful Carson PalmerSteve DeBerg manner.  If he can’t endure the pain, get ready for a bruised and beaten Geno Smith.  To be blunt, Smith better be ready to go, with no ruinous breaks or tears to his throwing shoulder.  There’s been a few recent articles about how Geno has quietly gained the respect of the locker room.  Who knows if that is true, or if it was just another slow news day.  But now is the time for Mr. Smith to stand and deliver.

Lets just hope there is no panicking or acceding to the peanut gallery, by pushing Baylor rookie Bryce Petty into action.  Thankfully, there was no rash trade deadline acquisition of Petty’s Waco, TX predecessor RG3, Nevada Wolf Pack passing king and NFL worst-ever $100 million QB Colin Kaepernick, burned-out Bear Rex Grossman or the piña-colada-pounding Matt Flynn.

Now is the time for esteemed veteran offensive coordinator Chan Gailey to work his magic.  He may have just become the most important man in the entire Jets organization.

Next: 3. Kicked To The Curb

Oct 16, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New York Jets special teams coach Thomas Mc Gaughey (second from left) reacts as punter

Ryan Quigley

(4) comes off the field against the New England Patriots during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

3. Kicked To The Curb

You may ask, how can the Jets special teams play get any worse?  Well, every single week it seems that assistant coach Bobby April’s brigade finds new and imaginative ways to bungle the battle for field position.  Does the current roster really not include more than a few competent downfield coverage guys?

Halfway through the season, here are two fair questions regarding #32 dead-last-ranked punter Ryan Quigley:  Is he capable of 60 minutes of competence?  And how can he be expected to last through the season?  Place kicker Nick Folk‘s very average season is reflected in his #14 NFL ranking.  The only solid play continues to come from sixth-year long-snapper Tanner Purdum; the fact that he even rates mention speaks to how few positives there are to express about the franchise’s kicking assemblage.

As for the return game,  Zac Stacy continues to watch kickoffs sail way over his 5’8″ head for touchbacks, while Jeremy Kerley remains one of the league’s all-time leading fair-catchers.  All this mediocrity makes one think that maybe it’s time for a recruiting trip to the set of SNY’s Jets Post Game Live to lure back cane-wielding coach Mike Westhoff!

Next: 2. Sick Of Idzik?

Dec 21, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; A fan of the New York Jets waves a towel requesting the dismissal of general manager John Idzik (not pictured) during the second quarter against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. The Patriots defeated the Jets 17-16. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2. Sick Of Idzik?

Jacksonville’s high-energy head coach Gus Bradley will surely pick the brain of former Jets general manager John Idzik, now a Jaguars glorified-pencil-pusher.  The Jags continue to make smart personnel moves, like last week’s addition of promising USC linebacker Hayes Pullard from the Browns practice squad.

But it is damning indictment of Idzik’s skills that there are none of his Jets on the Jacksonville roster, other than late month’s practice squad addition of 2014 Draft washout wide receiver Shaq Evans.  So perhaps now is the time to reappraise the NYJ’s short-lived Idzik era.

Idzik, both owner Woody Johnson’s hiring and fall-guy, was never right for the job.  But the former GM’s roster moves merit reconsideration.  One can focus negatively on the unrealized upside of Geno Smith, Dee Milliner, Jace Amaro and Dexter McDougle.

Or his strange attraction to bad apples such as Michael Vick and Chris Johnson, or police blotter stars like Mike Goodson and Jermaine Cunningham.  Or his arrogant handing of Darrelle Revis’ #24 jersey to his unworthy AWOL stand-in Dimitri Patterson.  And even though Idzik oddly cut many of his own draft choices, many of them remain in the league, be it Jeremiah George (Bucs), Brandon Dixon (Pats), Jalen Saunders (Bears), IK Enemkpali (Bills) or Oday Aboushi (Texans).

Idzik traded for Chris Ivory.  He signed Eric Decker, Breno Giacomini and Willie Colon.  He “discovered” Marcus Williams, Chis Owusu, Leger Douzable, T.J. Barnes, Brent Qvale, and all-time Jets fan-fave practice squadder Rontez Miles.  Every GM gets judged on their drafts, and the professional consensus seems to be that any good draft should yield at least four contributors.  Idzik’s two drafts reaped 2013 Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson, the recently injured Calvin Pryor, starting fullback Tommy Bohannon, special teams ace Trevor Reilly, and works-in-progress Brian Winters, Quincy Enunwa and Dakota Dozier.

And don’t hold your breath, but Smith, Milliner and/or Amaro could still pan out as NFLers.  Stranger things have happened.

Next: 1. The Gist Of The Jags

Oct 25, 2015; London, United Kingdom; Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (5) during the second half of the game Jacksonville Jaguars and the Buffalo Bills at Wembley Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Flynn-USA TODAY Sports

1. The Gist Of The Jags

The Jaguars have one of the NFL’s worst records and produce some of the league’s least imposing statistics.  However, there is no doubt that they are a team on the rise.

They’ve got some serious offensive weapons with second-year quarterback Blake Bortles leading an attack spearheaded by a young wide receiver corps featuring Allen Robinson, Allen Hurns, former college QB-turned-hybrid-RB Denard Robinson, and almost-Jet Marquis Lee.  Rookie T.J. Yeldon and veteran Toby Gerhart comprise a promising rushing attack.

And never sleep on TEs Marcedes Lewis and Broncos import Julius Thomas.  To make it work, the franchise has assembled an impressive O-line driven by former lottery pick Luke Joeckel, Raiders castoff Stefan Wisniewski, and rookie A.J. McCann.  You can tell the Jags smell blood in the water, and will come to MetLife Stadium ready for the kill.

Next: Jets confirm starting of Ryan Fitzpatrick

The Jets need a win in the worst way.  But despite their avalanche of travails, they can leave the game Sunday afternoon with an impressive 5-3 mark.  If the defense holds back Bortles, and the offense can muster 20 points or so in front of the home crowd, expect positive results on the order of 21-17.  But if things go south, this playoff train will derail faster than you can say Secaucus Junction.

Only a few weeks ago, no Jet fan would have thought this midseason matchup against Jacksonville would become a defining moment of the Macagnan-Bowles regime.

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