With Darrelle Revis' return in the offing and a division win Sunday night, the New York Jets stand atop the AFC East.
With a win over the Miami Dolphins as the latest step in the right direction, Rex Ryan's group has silenced doubters who thought last season's playoff run was only a fluke.
The problem with the Jets' recent success is that they have been doing it short-handed and undermanned, because of injury or ineffective play. If not for offseason pick-up LaDainian Tomlinson shouldering the load at running back or Dustin Kellar playing a key role in the passing game, New York's record would no doubt look very different.
Only in Week 4, the Jets have already lost nose tackle Kris Jenkins to a season-ending injury for the second year in a row. Jenkins was a key cog in running Ryan's 3-4 defense and he is just one of the many Jet players battling through injuries this year.
Over the next 14 weeks, we will see new faces lining up on the field for this Jets team. As they get healthier on defense and get sent more reinforcements offensively, the rest of the NFL should take note.
After a holdout that robbed him of training camp and the preseason, Darrelle Revis has suffered from being out of football shape. While the star corner was surely staying in good condition during his contract dispute, the action of a football game is hard to replicate, especially the cornerback position.
Although he survived Week 1 with little problem, Randy Moss and the Patriots proved too much for Revis Island as he suffered a hamstring injury covering Moss on a deep pass early in the game. Revis' injury is common among out-of-shape players, and its obvious his body still hasn't adapted to the quick bursts needed to survive on the field.
Once the All-Pro cornerback returns to the lineup, which is slated for Week 5, the Jets' defense will only get better as Antonio Cromartie will be able to play on the opponent's weaker receiver, instead of the likes of Randy Moss and Brandon Marshall. Revis' absence, though, has enhanced Cromartie's play as he looks similar to the Pro Bowler of 2007, then the corner we saw over the last two seasons.
With Revis and Cromartie playing at an elite level, the Jets' defense gets even harder to scheme around.
As LaDainian Tomlinson takes a hold on the starting running back job, Shonn Greene faces a role similar last year when he was the back-up behind Thomas Jones.
After gaining 504 rushing yards in spot duty during the regular season last year, the Iowa alum exploded for 304 yards in three playoff games, including two performances of more than 120 yards. Satisfied with what Greene showed last year, the Jets let Thomas Jones walk away and signed LT to be insurance for the young runner.
Whether he took the job for granted and didn't work hard enough this offseason or Greene is just in a funk, the 225-pound tailback has only tallied 106 yards on the ground in three games this year. His demotion, while a symbol of his poor play, gives Greene the ability to become a good change of pace to the outside running of Tomlinson.
With defenses keying on LT and the Jets' passing attack, Greene will be able to come in and wear teams down with his running style and return to his 2009 playoff form.
Coming into the 2010 NFL Season, Mark Sanchez was one of the most publicized and criticized players for the New York Jets. This year, he has quieted his critics and has the Jets leading the AFC East at 2-1.
Seen as a burden during their playoff run, the former USC quarterback faces the pressure of leading a New York team that had Super Bowl dreams coming into this year.
Contrary to public opinion, Sanchez has brought his game to the next level, developing into one of the game's bright young stars.
Aside from a rough showing in the Jets' opener against Baltimore, the 23-year old quarterback has carried the offense with his arm, working both the outside and middle of the field. The offseason work of Sanchez is evident in his relationships with his receivers, as their timing and overall level of play has turned up a notch since Week 1.
Sanchez and tight end Dustin Kellar have been in sync all year, and it was obvious in the Miami win that when the California native needed a first down, Kellar was his first target.
With three touchdowns in each of the last two games, Sanchez is showing more poise in the pocket and his ability to avoid the rush has helped the Jets develop a down-the-field passing game. As the season continues, New York will look to open up the passing attack and turn to Sanchez to become the difference-maker in the offense.
Since we spoke about the evolution of Mark Sanchez from game manager to X-factor, it is only fitting that Santonio Holmes' name comes up sooner or later.
In what may be the steal of the 201NFL offseason, the Jets gave up only a fourth-round pick for the Pro-Bowl wide receiver in a swap with the Steelers. Holmes was swooped up from Pittsburgh by New York after they put him on the block following the announcement of his four-game drug suspension.
Now that Sanchez has developed a comfort level throwing the ball downfield, the addition of Holmes to the offense gives the Jets yet another weapon to deploy.
Last year, Holmes caught 79 balls for 1,248 yards as the primary target in Bruce Arians' offense for Pittsburgh and matured nicely as a receiver. Benefiting from Ben Roethlisberger's propensity to throw the deep ball, Holmes was on the receiving end of countless big plays last year, ending up with an average of 15.8 yards per reception to go along with five touchdowns.
On this Jets team, Holmes will be surrounded by three capable receiving threats (Kellar, Jerricho Cotchery, and Braylon Edwards) and a quarterback who, like Big Ben, loves to stretch defenses vertically. If he and Sanchez mesh, the former Ohio State wideout could help a solid offense move into the upper echelon of the NFL.
Sidelined because of foot surgery, outside linebacker Calvin Pace is on the mend and may play this week against the Buffalo Bills. His return will add another pass rusher to the Jets' defense and Rex Ryan will be given another toy to play with in his play-calling.
With the Jets giving Jason Taylor the majority of the snaps in Pace's absence, Ryan will be able to rotate out his pass rushers more often, keeping his linebackers, especially the 36-year-old Taylor, fresh all season.
Pace's versatility in the Jets' defense scheme allows Ryan to use the former Arizona Cardinal both in coverage and when attacking the quarterback. Not only has Pace notched 15 sacks over the last two years, but he has forced nine turnovers during that time, including eight forced fumbles.
The 6'4", 265-pound linebacker is a good run stopper, as he has improved his tackling since coming to New York, and can handle himself at the point of attack. Blessed with a great first step, Pace makes plays using his burst and quick swim move to beat offensive tackles off the edge.
The impending addition of Calvin Pace to an already fearsome front has to be giving offensive coordinators nightmares when they have to game plan around the Jets' defense.