Bills vs. Jets: Gang Green's Biggest Winners and Losers from Week 1
Well...raise your hand if you saw that coming.
Sunday's opener against the Buffalo Bills could not have gone much better for the New York Jets, trumping their division rivals 48-28. Outside of a few late-game drives by the Bills, the Jets dominated every phase of the game, scoring on offense, defense and special teams.
Sanchez was great, the pass protection held up and the the defense was stingy in the first half.
Here are the winners and losers from Week 1.
Winner: Mark Sanchez
This was perhaps Sanchez's best performance of his career. He took all the questions he faced this offseason and shoved it in everyone's faces.
Sanchez was accurate, poised, decisive and, most importantly, nearly turnover-free. His only interception came from a bobbled pass. He was not rattled by the Jets' use of the Wildcat; in fact, he used it to take advantage of elementary looks that the package forced the Bills to use.
Sanchez was rarely under pressure, but when he was, he got rid of the ball quickly and avoided trying to do too much.
Basically, he seemed to have vastly improved on just about every weak area he had last year.
If Sanchez can turn in this kind of performance every week, watch out—the Jets are going to be tough to beat.
Loser: Isaiah Trufant
Can you tell that it is going be tough to find "losers" for this game?
If Trufant ever had a chance of being used on the regular defense, it all but evaporated after he gave up an easy touchdown to Scott Chandler.
Trufant is a great special teams player, but using him on defense is just asking for trouble.
Winner: Pass Protection
The Bills came into this game touting a new-and-improved defensive line, but the Jets offensive line stepped their game up big time.
Sanchez was able to get comfortable enough in the pocket to pick apart the Bills secondary. Austin Howard shut down Mario Williams, mostly on his own.
Granted, the use of the Wildcat and a heavy dose of the run may have slowed down the Bills, but this unit did not even resemble the group that gave up nearly five sacks in a half during the preseason.
Loser: Run Defense
The Jets defense had a great start, but it gave up too many big runs to C.J. Spiller.
It is one thing to give up a 10-yard run, but the Jets made it worse by going for strips and arm tackles in a situation where they should just be worried about getting the ball-carrier on the ground.
Setting the edge also was an issue, as most of Spiller's big runs came on sweeps and cutbacks. The Jets need to stay more disciplined to avoid becoming stretched out on the ground.
Winner: Stephen Hill
For a rookie who appeared to be plagued with drops and miscues, Sunday's game could not have gone better for the Georgia Tech product. His stats were impressive with five catches for 89 yards, including two touchdowns.
But it was how Hill scored those touchdowns that was so impressive.
On the deep pass from Sanchez, Hill showed exactly why the Jets drafted him. He ran past Stephon Gilmore, tracked the ball and caught it at its highest point to reel in the touchdown. On the second score, he ran over defenders to get the ball in the end zone, showing toughness and grit.
For a player who was viewed as "raw" and would take a while to produce in the NFL, Hill is proving all of his doubters wrong.
Loser: Defensive Play-Calling
The Jets turned in a solid performance, but there were several head-scratching matchups the Jets chose that got them burned for more touchdowns than they needed to give up.
They had Steve Johnson covered by a linebacker on one touchdown and chose to put the miniature Isaiah Trufant on tight end Scott Chandler near the goal line. If I were to pick any back-seven player on the Jets roster to cover Chandler, Trufant would be the last one I would pick.
Bottom line, the Jets seemed far too content to allow meaningless points to the Bills in the second half.
Winner: Tony Sparano
Sparano was taking a ton of heat this week for only scoring one touchdown in the preseason, but he stuck it to his detractors today.
Not only was he able to throw off the Bills with a nice sprinkle of the Wildcat but he also was able to get Sanchez comfortable and slow down the vaunted Buffalo pass-rush. He stretched the field and got everyone a chance to make plays.
Most importantly, he fed Shonn Greene 27 times, sticking to the run game even if it was not overly productive.
This is exactly what Rex Ryan wanted out of his offense: a run-first, physical, yet high-scoring offense that keeps defenses on their toes.
Tebow had a decent game filling in his Wildcat/special teams roles, but those who wanted Tebow to take over the starting job are going to have to wait.
Sanchez was so good in his debut that Tebow actually was getting booed when they put him in during the second quarter. When Sanchez came back in after negative play, the crowd cheered.
At least for one week the Tebow/Sanchez drama can be put on the back burner, and we can talk actual football in Florham Park.
Winner: Jeremy Kerley
After spending a month in Rex Ryan's doghouse, Kerley responded with his best game as a Jet. He made a brilliant catch for a touchdown in the first quarter, then followed it up with a punt return to the house. Kerley finished with four catches for 41 yards and a touchdown.
What makes this all the more impressive is how he was this productive despite spending most of training camp on a stationary bike nursing a hamstring injury. Perhaps Ryan's motivational ploys caused him to come back even stronger than he was before.
The Jets' new-and-improved defensive line was unable to record a sack on Fitzpatrick all game. Their exotic blitzes were unable to hit home as quickly as they should have.
Granted, the Bills' quick-strike offense is designed to not allow many sacks, but the Jets were not getting much pressure on the Bills, even in obvious passing situations.
This should not be a huge cause for concern due to the Bills' style of offense, but a sack or two would have been good to see.