What Happened to the Jets?

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First a few updates:

1. Rex Ryan commented that the team seemed “off” today in practice, which is certainly the last thing any of us want to hear after three straight losses. Obviously, the three straight losses are starting to weigh on everybody but this is no time for the energy level to sink.

2. Braylon Edwards has been receiving treatment for a sore quad….terrific. Jerricho Cotchery and Brad Smith were limited in practice, but remain questionable for this week. Ryan also said he is hopeful that corner Donald Strickland will return this week. Lito Sheppard’s status also remains up in the air.

What Happened to the Jets?

I was back home in New Jersey on Monday, which allowed me to spend the day listening to New York sports radio along with my usual reading of the daily newspaper/blog clips covering the Jets and I couldn’t help but laugh. It is amazing how in the span of three weeks Rex Ryan has become clueless as a head coach, the Jets defense became average and Mark Sanchez became a clueless rookie, and the thought of Kellen Clemens actually playing is being mentioned. It must have been 3 years ago that the Jets beat the Tennessee Titans to move their record to 3-0, right? Nope, actually it was only 3 weeks ago but maybe we can begin looking there to understand what has happened to the Jets season these past few weeks. 

We began to see some chinks in the armor during that September victory over the now 0-6 Titans. After a fast start, the Jets were outplayed the rest of the game and in reality only held on to a victory because of a crucial muffed punt by Ryan Mouton who also handed them 7 points early in the game on a fumbled kick return. The defense didn’t look elite that day. We saw Tennessee move the ball up and down the field on the Jets. We saw a lack of quarterback pressure and we saw them run the football. We also saw receivers running wide open and the problem was only masked by drops from the Titans receivers. It was also the beginning of Mark Sanchez’s ball security problems, including multiple fumbles and an interception.

Since that game, we did see the Jets defense play an excellent all around game in New Orleans and we saw Mark Sanchez protect the football in Miami. Yet, the consistency hasn’t been there and the injuries have began piling up. Jerricho Cotchery, Brad Smith, Lito Sheppard, Brad Smith, Damien Woody, Kris Jenkins, and Donald Strickland have all now missed time with injuries.

On defense, teams watched the game tape from the Houston and New England game and have schemed ways to protect against Rex Ryan’s blitzes. Ryan hasn’t come up with something to counter these adjustments yet. He isn’t being helped by the fact that the Jets lack an elite pass rusher. Vernon Gholston isn’t that kind of player and probably never will be. The guy has played a ton of snaps this year and made zero impact plays. Calvin Pace has been slow adjusting back after his 4 game suspension and Bryan Thomas and Shaun Ellis have been quiet rushing the quarterback. Eric Smith has been invisible the past three games after being all the over field in the Jets three wins and none of the other defensive backs are getting near the quarterback on Ryan’s blitzes.

On offense, Brian Schottenheimer has got too comfortable with Mark Sanchez after his surprisingly strong start to the season. What happened to running the ball 40-45 times a game and only having your rookie quarterback throw 15-18 times? Against Buffalo Mark Sanchez threw 29 times and Thomas Jones had 22 carries, how about flipping those numbers and then giving Leon Washington three more carries, so you got Sanchez throwing 19 times, Jones with 29 carries, and Washington with 22 carries? I know those sound like insanely high rushing attempt numbers but against Buffalo it would have made sense since Jones was averaging 9 yards per carry and Washington was averaging 6 yards per carry.

Rex Ryan was absolutely right on Monday when he said that the Jets need to scale things back for Sanchez. Simplify the kid’s reads, run the football, and play the defense/field position game. The Jets are at a crossroads in their season right now. They have 2 games left until their bye week, which will mark the halfway point of the season. If they turn the ship around and head into the bye at 5-3, this three game losing streak will be a distant memory. If they lose to Oakland or get swept by Miami, it is going to be one hell of an uphill for a playoff spot in the second half of the season.

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