This week, I took some time with David Wyatt (aka David_Wyatt) of Gang Green Nation to discuss Sunday's upcoming Packers vs Jets game. Here is our exchange.
APC: Mark Sanchez’s statistics this season are significantly better than last season. What has been the biggest key to his drastic improvement, and do you see any sign of him slowing down as the season progresses?
David: They have been better, and I think it's just natural maturation that we can thank. He just realizes that he doesn't have to do it all on his own. He's not forcing the ball, he's not locking on to receivers, he's moving through his reads and accepting what the defence gives him. LT is a great safety net out the backfield and you can see that Sanchez trusts him to just pick up those extra couple of yards. Sanchez just seems more relaxed this year, he doesn't get as down when things are not going well as he did. I can't see him slowing down this year, in fact I think he'll get better, he had his first couple of picks against Denver but otherwise he was solid and he showed character to lead the team back to a win. I want to see his completion % rise in the next few weeks.
APC: After the tail end of last season and the playoffs, it looked like Shonn Greene was going to provide the running game for the Jets this year, with Tomlinson providing a pass-catching, veteran presence. What sort of anti-aging potion is LT taking, and how has he gone from afterthought and castoff to reborn star?
David: You know, I think it's a combination of things. Shonn was supposed to be the main guy and he's grinding our some tough yards which allows LT to stay a little fresher and Shonn will have his days towards the end of the year. LT is just loving football again, I think San Diego moved away from the running game and their offensive line is not much of a run blocking one either. We run the football and we commit to it. We run a zone blocking scheme which allows LT to use his intelligence to burst through the gaps, our offensive line is a great run blocking unit & our wide receivers enjoy blocking. If you take a look at some of the long LT runs this year, you'll spot Dustin Keller or Braylon Edwards throwing a big block to spring him. I just think he's enjoying football and with a unit that is put together for a good RB, he's having success and he'll continue to do that all year (hopefully).
APC: We can argue whether Darrelle Revis or Charles Woodson should have won last year’s Defensive Player of the Year award till we’re blue in the face, but I’d rather not. Let’s talk pass rush instead of pass defense. Obviously, the Packers’ main pass-rusher is OLB Clay Matthews. Who on the Jets’ defensive front should the Packers be most concerned about getting pressure on Aaron Rodgers?
David: You know the pass rush on the Jets has been pretty poor without sending extra blitzes but we still have players you need to be aware of. The one main guy I'd say is Calvin Pace, he missed the first four games of the year with an injury but came back with 1.5 sacks. He's athletic and he's always got to be accounted for. Mainly with the Jets though, it's not always the linebackers you have to be wary about, it's the safety coming late, or the cornerback coming around the corner. We spread out the rushes but if you are looking for a prototypical pass rusher, then I'd look out for Calvin Pace.
APC: As a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and a lifelong Badger, Jim Leonhard is one of my favorite college players ever. How has he performed in a Jets uniform, and what’s the consensus opinion of him?
David: Jim Leonhard might be one of the most popular Jets on the team, he's a small guy who gives it everything he has. He'll stick his head into any tackle even if his helmet's 20 yards behind him. He's not a pro bowler but he's a great player, and he's the QB of the defence. He makes sure that everyone is where they need to be, he makes some calls and he'll wrap his man up. If you get a tight end matched up on him you could have success but Jim Leonhard is a player that nearly all Jets fans admire because he's productive, smart and he gives 110% every snap.
APC: Tell me about a Jets player on offense and defense that Packers fans probably haven’t heard of, and why we should be watching for him on Sunday.
David: It's hard to think of many on offence that you may not have heard of, I guess the most obvious one would be Brad Smith. He'll run our tiger formation, an old college QB he does a little bit of everything. When we run the Tiger we are pretty productive at over 5 yards a carry. He's also thrown a TD this year as well so you have to watch for his arm as well as his legs. He'll also return kicks and he is a threat to take it to the house every time he gets his hands on the ball. One of the most valued players on the team by Jets fans, but maybe not known league wide, and especially in the NFC.
On defence I think I'll go for David Harris this week. I know you've heard of him and IMO he's one of the top 5 ILB in the league out of the 3-4 formation but people don't talk about him nearly enough. He's got decent speed, he hits like a train, he has a great head on his shoulders, recognizes formations and attacks the ball carrier. He's also dangerous on the blitz and can drop into coverage and intercept a few passes as well. He's not had the stats this year but he's been a top performer each week. 2009 Stats finished at 127 combined tackles, 5.5 sacks, 2 INT, 3 PDEF. So while most will know him, I'm going to stick him in here.
My thanks to David. Other than spelling offense and defense with a "C" and being a Jets fan, he seems to be a pretty good guy. Here's hoping for a clean, injury-free game this weekend.