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A former NFL coach says of the Jets, "Hiring a head coach who used to be an assistant with the same team creates problems. The head coach has got to be aloof, but here's a guy who was tight with them. Now he replaces a tough guy like Walt Michaels, who kept them scared, and that little edge of fear is gone. They don't play as hard. Fear, you know, is a great motivator." Maybe the Jets felt a little fear when Walton instituted his get-tough policy before the 49ers game. Who knows? Walton also turned his cap around for the game at San Francisco.
CHAPTER THREE: THE FIELD REPORT
In game No. 1 this season the Jets beat the Chargers 41-29. The victory hid an important statistic—San Diego averaged 5.8 yards per rush. "They were hook-able," a scout says. " Kellen Winslow was going in motion and hooking the Jets' outside linebacker. He had an alltime blocking day for a tight end. Then everybody started doing it—run a back inside against them and break him outside." The next week Seattle beat New York on the ground, Curt Warner running for 128 yards. In game No. 3 New England's Tony Collins hit the Jets for 212, and then the Rams' Eric Dickerson racked up 192. The Jets, 2-2 at that point, got their defensive line to square up and play the run. They played more zone defenses and moved their strong safety up closer to shut down the ground game. Those changes worked. The New York defense played pretty well in the next five games, rising to new heights against the 49ers, the NFC's top offensive team. But the offense has been erratic.
The wide receivers have caught one touchdown in the last five games. Wesley Walker, the long-ball threat, has caught only two passes that were longer than 18 yards, one for 24 against Atlanta and one for 27 against the 49ers. The Jets' lack of a possession receiver has become more and more apparent. When they drafted Lam Jones, a world-class sprinter, they figured he and Walker would form a devastating long-ball combo. It hasn't worked that way. Jones has turned into a one-pattern receiver, the down-and-in from the right side. He's caught 14 passes this season, eight on inside patterns from the right.
One reason the long-ball threat is missing is that Todd no longer has full confidence in his protection. Tackles Chris Ward and Marvin Powell are effective drive blockers, but their pass protection has slipped noticeably.
Also, the Jets suffered a huge loss to their offense when All-Pro Halfback Freeman McNeil separated his shoulder in the fourth game.
CHAPTER FOUR: THE QUARTERBACK
At times Todd has been in tune with his receivers—he had a highly competent game against the 49ers (20 of 28 for 201 yards and a 28-yard TD to Jones)—but sometimes he has been out of touch. In the fourth quarter of the Atlanta game, the Jets could have blunted the Falcons' comeback had they mounted any kind of offense. But Todd went 3 for 14 passing, including zero for his last seven. He looked overmatched. Veteran Todd-watchers say his fundamentals are slipping. "He doesn't set up right," one scout says. "He doesn't get a good read downfield. He's moving all over the place, and half the time he's throwing off his back foot."
"Oh, hell," Todd says, "I looked the same way in my good years, too."
CHAPTER FIVE: SHALL WE DANCE?