<
>

Subtle defensive change could lead to more big plays for Jets

The Sunday notes -- a look at what's going on around the New York Jets:

1. All 3-4 defenses aren't created equal: The Jets have played a 3-4 base since 2006, when Eric Mangini replaced Herm Edwards, but the current scheme is different from the previous two incarnations. Under Todd Bowles, they will use eight-man spacing in the box, meaning it's a one-gap system. Translation: Each of the eight players, including a safety, is responsible for only one gap. Rex Ryan did things a little different, often employing seven-man spacing and a two-gap system, according to players. Ryan actually used a hybrid, mixing both concepts, whereas Mangini ran an old-school 3-4, a pure two-gap scheme.

The new approach hasn't generated much buzz outside the team -- granted, it's kind of technical -- but I can tell you this: The players love the Bowles way. Linebacker Demario Davis told me, "It allows you to run free a lot more, play a little faster because you don't have to worry about playing two gaps. You have one gap. It opens you up to play a lot faster."

Linebacker David Harris took it a step further, predicting the change will be most noticeable on the defensive line. He said, "Guys like Mo (Wilkerson) and Sheldon (Richardson) can come off the ball. I think you'll see a lot of TFLs" -- meaning tackles for loss.

The downside to Bowles' system is that it leaves the cornerbacks in single coverage, but that's why they spent big bucks on Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. You can't play the system without corners who can play press-man coverage.

The happy talk sounds good. Now all they have to do is ... you know, do it.

2. In it to win it: The Jets have the second-highest cash payroll in the NFL at $173.5 million, according to OvertheCap.com. They trail only the San Diego Chargers ($177.6 million), who moved into the top spot after re-upping with Philip Rivers. Make no mistake, this is not a rebuilding year for the Jets.

3. Diamond in the backfield: The Jets have a lot of big names and big salaries, but one of the most respected players in the locker room -- this may surprise you -- is Bilal Powell. He doesn't have a glittering resume, but he's a diligent worker who executes his assignments. He's a tough dude with no ego. He just shows up and does his job, and that carries a lot of weight among his teammates. Willie Colon told me, "Bilal is the hidden gem. He's the most underrated guy on our team, maybe the NFL. I've never seen him make a mistake."

Wow, that's lofty praise. The coaches trust Powell, one of the reasons why he's the third-down back. They know he won't get the quarterback killed by blowing up a blitz pickup. Bowles, too, has spoken highly of Powell, who, like his running mate Chris Ivory, will be a free agent after the season.

4. The third wheel and his wheels: Revis is one of the most accomplished cornerbacks in recent history, but he's a bit envious of one particular teammate: Buster Skrine, the Jets' No. 3 corner. Revis said of Skrine, "Buster, he's awesome. He's probably the best corner we have in terms of footwork, change of speed and change of direction." Skrine might have great feet, but he has to watch his hands. He was penalized 15 times last season for the Cleveland Browns (11 accepted), and that's simply too many.

5. The wisdom of Bart: I haven't always agreed with Bart Scott over the years, but I think the former Jets linebacker-turned-CBS-analyst is right on with his comments about the Geno Smith/IK Enemkpali altercation over $600. Scott told the New York Post, "I’ve never heard anyone get into it with the quarterback. In my opinion, if you put Mark Sanchez into that same situation and he couldn’t make it to the charity event or whatever happened, what a quarterback is supposed to do is to give you your $600 and donate $1,000 to your charity. That’s what a leader does. Maybe Geno is too young in the process to understand that and he has to mature more.”

I can add this: Sanchez, I'm told, absorbed the cost of many unused plane tickets while hosting his "Jets West" camp for teammates in 2010 and 2011. And you never heard anything about it.

It's not a host thing, it's a quarterback thing. As Scott said, Smith should've used the ATM in the players' lounger to repay Enemkpali.

6. Revisionist history: Upon arriving at his new gig with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Michael Vick suggested to reporters the Jets pulled a switcheroo on him last season. He said, “Last year took a lot of adjusting and, I admit, I didn’t do it as well as I wanted to because, in my mind, the position I was in was supposed to be different."

Say what? From Day 1, Vick's mantra was, "I know what I signed up for," saying he expected to serve as Smith's backup. It was Vick, more than team officials, who downplayed any notion of an open competition. To his credit, he did so without complaining. Now he's saying it was supposed to be different? Maybe it could've been different if he hadn't mailed in the season. He was never emotionally invested in the Jets, perhaps because he knew he had no shot to unseat Smith.

7. The Todd Effect: You've heard this a thousand times: Teams reflect the personality of their head coach. Here's a perfect example.

During the run-up to last year's preseason game against the New York Giants, the Jets did a lot of chirping. This was Colon: "At the end of the day, that's our house and we consider it our house. There's only one way to solve it. That's to win it and beat them." This year, Colon and his teammates took a watered-down approach with their comments. That they face the Giants in the regular season probably had something to do with it, but the change in coaching philosophy also was a factor. Bowles doesn't get caught up in the trash-talk scene, preferring the "every-game-is-the-same" mantra. It's boring, but it ultimately will be more effective than screaming.

8. Churning the roster: The Jets have made only 14 transactions since Aug. 1. By comparison, the New England Patriots have made 31. What does it mean? I don't know. Just thought it was kind of interesting.

9. Nick Mangold, crime stopper: The Pro Bowl center has received a lot of publicity for calling 911 last Sunday morning, when burglars were trying to break into his car at his home in Chatham, New Jersey. The suspects, believed to be responsible for a crime spree in the area, were apprehended by police.

"Shoot, I remembered three digits and was able to punch them into a phone," said Mangold, downplaying his role. "The fine men and women in uniform did their jobs." The car alarm, he said, "woke my son up, which woke my wife up, which woke me up -- a chain of events. Saw the garage door open, which was kind of a scary thought with kids in the house. Luckily, I had a phone right there and dialed 911. The police officers did the heavy lifting."