On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers return to Lambeau Field for their home opener against the New York Jets. David Wyatt of Gang Green Nation was kind enough to answer some questions about the Jets and provide insight into their strengths and weaknesses.
APC: A hot topic of the offseason was whether or not the New York Jets would stick with incumbent starter Geno Smith or free agent signee Michael Vick at quarterback. A week into the season, it appears Smith has a firm grasp on the job. How has he developed heading into his second year, and what type of player do you expect him to be overall in 2014?
You know it was a competition to everyone but the New York Jets. It was competition in name only. Although we didn't name Geno the starter until after the 3rd pre-season game, everyone knew it was his job and he'd need to have an absolute meltdown to lose it. It's a welcome sight to see Michael Vick though, as finally we have a capable back-up who can come in if things really turn sour.
I've seen a major improvement between the Geno Smith of early 2013 and the one we see on the field today. He will still make mistakes but he is more composed, his foot work is better, he's making the right choices, looking off safeties and using his legs when the options are not there. We can't emphasize enough what having a legitimate top receiver target (Decker) can do for a QB. Lots of improvement, lots more work to do. However I think he'll be a middle of the pack QB this year with the potential to really kick on from there.
APC: In the offensive backfield, the Jets are using Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson. What have these two runners looked like thus far through the preseason and Week 1, and what kind of threat do they pose to the Packers?
They have looked really good, they compliment each other perfectly and they keep each other fresh. You have Ivory as the bruising back who will hit the hole hard and tire defenses, then you have CJ who can block, catch out the backfield and generally make that homerun play. However we saw last Sunday that Ivory has that potential as well.
The performance of our backs rely on three things, like with most teams. One we need the backs who can make the plays and churn out the yards. However we also need good QB play to ensure that teams can't stack the box like they did at times last year and when we had Mark Sanchez. Finally the blocking needs to be on point, neither of our backs will make a great deal of yards themselves, especially CJ. However if we can open up some lanes we have the talent to exploit it.
We saw some fantastic things from them in Week one with both of them registering good yardage and touchdowns, however I expect to see much more.
APC: The Jets' secondary may be without cornerback Dee Milliner, their top pick in 2013. How likely is he to play, and if he cannot suit up what does that mean for New York's defense?
Dee is back on a limited basis at the minute. The impression I get from Rex and Idzik is that he'll play, how much he'll play is up for debate, but he'll play. Right now the party line is that we are hopeful and optimistic that he'll play. We can't understate the fact that he has been out for a month, so he will be rusty and he will need to take some important game reps to get back up to speed. It would have been ideal if he could have done that against a team that doesn't have as much offensive power in the air, but it's a welcome back to really test him.
Right now and against the Oakland Raiders we are playing a converted safety at CB, Antonio Allen. A lot of people were worried about him but he allowed just 26 yards through the air and 5 yards after the catch. Oakland were playing in front of him and as a safety his tackling is his best trait. However our pass rush didn't allow Oakland the opportunity to challenge us down field, if we can't get to AR and he has time to pick his targets out 20+ yards down the field, I'm worried. With Allen and Darrin Walls playing the position we could give up chunks of yards at a time, however Allen impressed me greatly. If it were my choice and Dee was fit, I would start the converted safety and Dee instead of the life CB in Walls.
APC: If you were game planning against the Jets, how would you attack them on offense? On defense?
On offence I would use some max protections to ensure Aaron has time to throw and then I'd challenge us deep. We have some stand in corners and a rookie safety, why wouldn't you challenge that aspect of our defense. Every team needs to get their run game going, but we are extremely good against the run (Oakland had a net rushing yard gain of just 24 yards). I'd also try to isolate some of your quicker receivers/tight ends on our linebackers, our linebackers are good against the run but when asked to cover a lot of space, they struggle, especially David Harris.
On defence you have to stack the box and challenge Geno to beat you. I think we're still at that stage, but his accuracy against Oakland shows you he can do that. I'd certainly roll coverages to Deckers side, because he is by and large our best receiver, and that would leave David Nelson and Jeremy Kerley playing a lot of one-on-one, and that's probably how you're going to win. However we are much more balanced that we have been in some time, probably since 2010. In that we have receivers who can win their match-ups and we have backs who can break runs. It all comes down to how much time you can spend in our backfield.
APC: Finally, it's prediction time. Who wins on Sunday and why?
You know this is a tough one to call. When the schedule came out I thought we would definitely lose this game. However having watched us develop and having watched some of the problems the Packers had with Seattle (Of course they are probably the best team in the league) it gives me hope that we can come away with a victory. Obviously I'm completely biased, but I really think we can disrupt the passing game of Green Bay by overpowering the offensive line. From what I saw, the offensive line looked to be one of if not the weakest area on your team and our strength is out front 7 and especially the defensive line. I respect Green Bay's offense supremely and if you manage to expose our secondary, you could really put points up in a hurry, but I'm going to go with an upset special and call the Jets 24-21 winners.
We'd like to thank David and Gang Green Nation for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Jets. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Jets vs. Packers.