Jets set to turn Revis, Holmes loose
Top playmakers can perplex the Packers, but Gang Green egos might also get bruised
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Darrelle Revis' hamstring is right. Santonio Holmes' game is ready -- an R&R combination that shouldn't allow much rest and relaxation for the Green Bay Packers and the remaining teams on the New York Jets' schedule.
With Revis at full strength after a five-week injury soap opera, and with Holmes poised to take a bigger role on offense, the Jets -- at last -- can unleash their top two playmakers, starting Sunday at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
It took until Week 8 for this to happen, but it's going to change the way the Jets play the rest of the season. They can ratchet up the aggressiveness and creativity on both sides of the ball, especially offense, but it's going to take delicate adjustments and ego subjugation for this to work.
Holmes is too talented a wide receiver to be on the field only 42 percent of the offensive snaps, his unofficial playing-time breakdown since returning from a four-game drug suspension. The discrepancy between him and Jerricho Cotchery (83 percent) and Braylon Edwards (79 percent) is too great, and it's time for the coaching staff to address that.
It will -- soon. Holmes is expected to have an expanded role Sunday, which should mean more explosiveness for a passing offense that has sunk to 27th in the league rankings. On paper, the Jets have one of the top receiving trios in the NFL, but it has produced only four pass plays more than 22 yards, all by Edwards. Tight end Dustin Keller also has four.
The Jets need Holmes, who has been waiting patiently while mastering his playbook. They need his speed and playmaking ability. They've been bringing him along slowly, but it's 'Tone Time. Let him be what he can be, the best receiver on the team.
"I think he's just scratching the surface of what he's going to do for us here," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said.
Unless the Jets turn their base offense into a three-wide receiver attack -- not going to happen -- they will have to cut playing time for Cotchery and Edwards. That's a tough situation, especially with a player as classy and professional as Cotchery, but look at it objectively: Cotchery shouldn't be on the field twice as much as Holmes.
Five Things To Watch
1. Post-bye blues? The Jets are coming off a bye week that included a six-day vacation for the players -- a rarity in the NFL. Rex Ryan did the same thing last year, coming off a loss, and they proceeded to lose two more games after the bye. Was that an aberration or an indictment of Ryan's methods? We should know by 4 p.m. Sunday. The Jets are trying for their first six-game winning streak since 1998.
2. Mark Sanchez's footwork. He had a case of happy feet in the last game, even though he wasn't under much duress, prompting some criticism from Ryan. This week, Sanchez will face one of the better pass-rushing teams. Led by OLB Clay Matthews, the Packers have 22 sacks, third-best in the league. Ball security is critical. The Packers feed off turnovers, having scored 56 points on takeaways (second in NFL).
3. Aaron Rodgers, dual threat. What do Rodgers and Sanchez have in common? They both replaced Brett Favre. As for quarterbacking style, they both throw well on the run. Rodgers' mobility is a concern for the Jets, who leave themselves vulnerable to scrambles (see Denver's Kyle Orton) because they play so much man-to-man coverage. Rodgers has rushed for 127 yards and three TDs. Beware, Jets D.
4. Bang and banged up. The Jets need to pound the ball on the ground, testing the Packers' injury-plagued front seven. Two starters in their three-man line, Ryan Pickett (ankle) and Cullen Jenkins (calf), are nursing injuries. They also lost OLB Brad Jones last week to a season-ending injury. There's no reason why the Jets shouldn't have a big rushing day.
5. Mirror images. You're not going to see a lot of exotic pass coverages from these teams; they both play predominantly man-to-man. The defensive backs like to call it "Cat" coverage, as in: I've got this cat, you've got that cat. You're talking about a lot of big-time talent on the perimeter: WR Greg Jennings and CB Charles Woodson for the Packers, plus the Jets' cast of characters.
-- Rich Cimini
Cotchery's value is "priceless," according to Schottenheimer, because of his leadership and knowledge of the system. Intangibles are important, no doubt, but so are the tangibles, like open-field speed and separation ability.
Privately, players are saying that Holmes will be featured in certain packages. This is the perfect time because the Packers, like the Jets, live and die with man-to-man coverage. If Holmes isn't on the field for at least half the plays, the coaches should be flagged for malpractice.
For the sake of harmony, Holmes isn't pushing the issue. Wise move.
"Of course I want to be a starter," said Holmes, who has seven catches for 88 yards -- not to mention the game-winning, pass-interference penalty he drew in Denver. "I play this game too deeply, and I put too much time in not to be a starter. Is that my focus right now? It will definitely bring our team down if I'm running around, talking to coaches or talking behind guys' backs that I want to be a starter or need to be starting."
Like the receivers not named Holmes, Revis will have to put aside his ego now that he's healthy. His role figures to be different because the landscape in the secondary has changed.
During the hamstring drama, in which Revis missed 2½ games, the Jets used cornerback Antonio Cromartie on the opponents' No. 1 receiver -- every down, every game for a month. Basically, he performed Revis' gig, and he did it so well that the coaching staff wants to keep him involved in that role.
Revis' reputation exploded last year because of his ability to shut down the top receiver -- a "once-in-a-lifetime season," Rex Ryan called it -- but he will have to adjust to sharing that job with Cromartie. He's a prideful competitor, eager to return Revis Island to a feared destination for Pro Bowl receivers, but he insisted he's not offended by the change.
"With me and Cro, it's not, who's the best corner?" Revis said. "Me and him, we're like a tag team."
It's a potentially lethal tag team, especially with the added element of surprise. Where's Revis? Where's Cromartie? Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be confronted with those questions before every snap.
Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine are giddy because a healthy Revis allows them to become more aggressive with their play calling, if that's possible. As Pettine said, "Certain areas on the call sheet are opened up."
With Revis and Cromartie locking down the outside receivers, the Jets can send an extra rusher at Rodgers. They can rush six instead of five, and that makes a world of difference.
"Having Revis back as Revis, it's huge," pass-rusher Jason Taylor said. "There's nobody better."
With Revis and Holmes physically and mentally up to speed, the Jets could have something dynamic -- if all parties allow it to work.
AFC TITLE GAME: STEELERS 24, JETS 19
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