Five on the Jets
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - To call the NFL landscape fluid is one of the bigger understatements there is.
Rewind two weeks and it was almost inconceivable to most that the mighty Philadelphia Eagles would have trouble with the dumpster fire that is the New York Jets.
Now many of those same observers can't conceive of any way Chip Kelly's predictable offense could possibly deal with what Todd Bowles is beginning to build on defense in North Jersey.
Which spin is right and which is wrong will be decided at MetLife Stadium on Sunday as the Eagles try to avoid the death sentence of an 0-3 start.
BEWARE OF BOWLES' DEFENSE
Bowles served as the interim defensive coordinator with the Eagles in 2012 after being promoted from secondary coach when the Juan Castillo experiment blew up on Andy Reid.
Kelly never seriously gave thought to moving forward with Bowles as DC when he came in and that's understandable because things ended poorly for the Reid regime and a clean break was needed.
Since then, however, Bowles has turned into one of the brightest defensive minds in the sport as Bruce Arians' defensive chief in Arizona, which spearheaded him to his first chance in the big chair with the Jets.
The early returns have been great. Through their first two games, the Jets have accumulated an NFL-high 10 takeaways, leading the league with six fumble recoveries, while also being tied for the top spot with four interceptions. Additionally, they are at the top of the NFL in turnover margin at plus-eight and points off of turnovers at 31.
"The one thing that stands out with them, as a whole defensively, is just the turnovers that they have created," Kelly said. "They have created 10 in the first two games of the year. That's five a game right now, and they are doing a great job of taking the ball away, whether it's from stripped fumbles or interceptions, it's a combination of all of them. They are kind of all playing in sync and doing a really good job."
DARRELLE'S THE REAL DEAL
We often talk about Pro Bowl or even All-Pro players but rarely is a slam dunk, future Hall of Famer set to line up against you. That's what the Jets have at cornerback with Darrelle Revis, who returned to New York in the offseason after winning a Super Bowl with New England.
He was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance in Indianapolis on Monday night and has already posted a career-best three fumble recoveries this season. Revis also has one of the Jets' interceptions on the young season.
Judging by the separation or lack thereof that the Eagles' receivers have generated to this point, it's hard to imagine any of them escaping the prison that is Revis Island, although the superstar did suffer a groin injury against the Colts and was unable to practice Wednesday so there is at least a chance NY will be cautious with him because Philadelphia has no real threats outside the numbers.
The problem is in that Antonio Cromartie is also a top-tier cover corner and nickel back Buster Skrine is one of the best inside options in the business.
"One of the things they do is put receivers on an island because of what they have back there (in the defensive backfield), " Kelly said. "When you have Revis and Cromartie and Skrine, you have three pretty talented guys right there. That's a huge matchup I think for any team.
"You've got a real talented secondary back there so I think they have the ability to kind of bring an extra guy because of what they feel like they have behind it. But you've got to be able to capitalize on that because you know what you're getting in coverage."
RYAN > GENO
Ostensibly IK Enemkpali sucker-punching Geno Smith was a disaster to the Jets' organization except for the fact it gave Bowles an out and a reason to turn to his best quarterback in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick.
The journeyman signal caller is no Matt Ryan or Tony Romo so Bill Davis' defense will be getting a break in that regard but Fitzpatrick is streaky and he's currently got a hot hand, completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 423 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions for a 94.3 passer rating in his first two games as a Jet.
One of the reasons Fitzpatrick has hit the ground running in New York in his history with Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey.
"He's done a good job," Kelly admitted when discussing Fitzpatrick. "The one thing -- and I don't know if people realize it --, is that Fitzy played a lot for Chan when Chan was the head coach at Buffalo. He's just really comfortable. It is not a traditional new quarterback, new coordinator getting together in where they are. I think he's got a real comfort level with Chan. So (Fitzpatrick) had a great command of that offense when he was running it up in Buffalo, and I think it's probably been the easiest transition for him in terms of anybody else, because of his familiarity with Chan, and what he wants to do and how he's going to call things."
NOT ANOTHER KING-SIZED RECEIVER
The one thing Davis' defense has had consistent trouble with is the king-sized wide receiver and the Jets now have that in the well-traveled Brandon Marshall, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound, five-time Pro Bowl selection.
Marshall is just 66 yards shy of becoming the seventh active NFL player to reach 10,000 yards receiving and he has already scored touchdowns in his first two games as a Jet.
With all the problems Byron Maxwell has had in his first two games in Philadelphia, it's hard to imagine things getting much better with Marshall on he field, who may be the best in the business at winning 50-50 balls. The one positive is that Marshall isn't as explosive as a player like Julio Jones.
BUYER'S REMORSE ON BOWLES
It really wasn't a choice back in '13 because Bowles had yet to pad his resume enough and Kelly was the hottest thing in coaching but the Jets' coach was Eagles property at one point and as a Temple alum with a defensive mindset, he certainty fits the personality of the city better that Chip and the up-tempo offense.
The only real option at the time would have been Kelly keeping Bowles on as his defensive chief but that's pie-in-the-sky stuff.
"I talked to him when I first got here, and then Bruce got the (Cardinals head coaching) job," Kelly claimed. "I think his familiarity with Bruce was part of it. We were going to interview a couple of defensive coordinators, but I never got a chance to ever get him back here. But I did visit him for awhile when I first got here in the first couple of days."
Considering the very basic schemes Philadelphia runs on both offense and defense, it's natural that Eagles fans might get a little jealous watching Bowles, who pilots a very diverse package on defense.
"They do everything," Kelly said of the Jets D. "You'll see all sorts of looks out of him in his three-down package and in his four-down package. They have a three-down, three-linebacker package. They have got a lot of different packages they are running right now, and they are really spread across the board in terms of how they are deploying that whole thing. There's not one thing where he's just sitting in one thing."
Of course part of that is talent because Bowles failed in his interim stint here before rebuilding his reputation with a really good group in the desert and continuing it with the Jets, who have stud players at all three levels.
"I think they are sound at every level," Kelly said of the Jets stop unit. "They have got an outstanding secondary with Cromartie and Revis and (safety Marcus) Gilchrist and (safety Calvin) Pryor back there. They got two really talented inside linebackers (David Harris and Demario Davis), and then obviously the front with (DL) Muhammad Wilkerson and (DE) Leonard Williams added to it.
"And then you got (LB Calvin) Pace and (LB Quinton) Coples. I think they are sound at every level and have really good playmakers at every level."
973espn.com prediction: Jets 20, Eagles 17
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JFMcMullen.