- Ron Jaworski, NFL analyst / writer
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It's easy to look at the New York Jets' season and point out the play of RB LaDainian Tomlinson, QB Mark Sanchez, WR Braylon Edwards -- and their defense. But as big as those individuals have been, the key for the Jets so far has been the play of the offensive line. Despite some early struggles with G Matt Slauson, the Jets' O-line has kept Sanchez clean and allowed him to make reads and decisions without the pressure that can lead to mistakes and bad throws.
On Monday night, the Jets will face a team that has not had nearly the same kind of strong start to the season. The Minnesota Vikings have struggled so far, and their offensive struggles start with their wide receivers and trickle down. Losing Sidney Rice in August exposed the truth about the Vikings' receiving corps. They are decent players who find openings in zones and catch the ball well enough, but to be blunt, they are other teams' castoffs. Players such as Hank Baskett, Bernard Berrian and Greg Camarillo don't scare anyone. Percy Harvin is good out of the slot, but he's not exceptional. TE Visanthe Shiancoe is a nice down-the-seam route-runner, but not much more. The problem is that they just don't have anyone who worries you, someone you have to plan around. Defenses have found that, quite simply, you can cover these guys.
Having a crew of receivers who can't win individual battles and get open on their own is very tough on an offensive line. They can't hold their blocks forever, and guys such as T Phil Loadholt and G Anthony Herrera have had a tough start to the year. QB Brett Favre already has been beaten up a bit as he waits for an open receiver who never comes. RB Adrian Peterson is at the top of his game, but even he needs a passing game. An unbalanced attack is easy to defend.
So, to me, the Vikings' trade for Randy Moss is not that surprising. The Vikings' game tapes so far reveal a team with no receiver Favre can depend on. The team has two passing touchdowns so far, which ranks last in the league. The Vikings had no choice but to go after a playmaker like Moss.
The Jets, on the other hand, are simply getting exemplary play from almost everybody. I could talk for days about Tomlinson's start to the season. So far, the most impressive parts of his game are his blitz pickup and his overall smarts and awareness on the field. They're invaluable, but there are no stats for such intangibles. Edwards, too, does it all. Sure, he's been getting to the end zone, but I'm also seeing great downfield blocks when other guys catch it and great blocks and effort on screens and running plays. When you are getting a complete effort like that from your stars, you are hard to beat.
I don't know how the Moss acquisition will play out for the Vikings. But I know they had to make a move, and I know what the result would have been if they didn't make a move. Their season would have been over.
Ron Jaworski emerges from the film room and discusses what jumps out at him about Monday's Vikings-Jets game.