After Hurricane Irene rocked the east coast this weekend, it was inevitable that flights would be delayed and cancelled. But under clear skies Monday night, it was disappointing that Flight 1017 couldn’t get off the ground in New Jersey.
“Flight 1017″ of course, is how Plaxico Burress referred to himself and Santonio Holmes in this Tweet yesterday, prior to the Jets’ pre-season game against the Giants in the first inaugural Snoopy Bowl.
The possibilities were certainly there for the Jets to get into a rhythm in the passing game against a less-than-convincing Giants secondary. The third pre-season game is always dubbed the “most important” of the four meaningless tilts because the starting units usually play more than half of the game, and it does constitute a dress rehearsal for Week 1, of sorts. So as the Jets have gone through training camp, promising to become a more well-rounded offense with the ability to air the ball out as well as “ground and pound”, fans were hoping for some empirical evidence to support those claims.
What they received instead, was just another day at the office from Brian Schottenheimer and the Jets’ offense.
Now, I realize that it is a tad absurd to criticize Schottenheimer on August 30th, 12 days before the beginning of meaningful football. But what happened last night is something that Jets fans have seen far too often during Schottenheimer’s five-plus seasons as offensive coordinator: an offense that needed four plays to – barely – get a first down on two occasions; painfully predictable play-calling in all scenarios; a passing offense characterized by poor spacing and bad timing between the quarterback and receivers; zero use of a very talented tight-end.
What makes this so frustrating for Jets fans of course, is the personnel: a gifted, competitive young quarterback surrounded by excellent receivers, supported – often led – by a powerful running game. Sounds like a recipe for success, and yet, this unit had three games last year in which it did not score a touchdown.
The truth is this: the NFL is a league where it has become increasingly easy to throw the ball. Last season, 12 quarterbacks threw for more than 3,500 yards, with five throwing for 4,000 or more. Yet the Jets, even with their plethora of talent on the outside and their match-up nightmare tight end Dustin Keller on the inside (joined this year by Derrick Mason), have seemed to find ways to make the opposite look true. Receivers don’t get the one-on-one match-ups where they should feast. Dustin Keller runs the same button-hook patterns and out-routes, never anything down the seam challenging the soft space between the linebackers and safeties. Sanchez often checks down too quickly (often to Shonn Greene, who can’t catch), rather than going to his third progression on a passing play, despite having a rock-solid offensive line in front of him.
Yes, Santonio Holmes scored a touchdown last night, on the receiving end of Sanchez’s best throw of the night: a 17 yard rocket into a tight space. On the flip side, Plaxico Burress was held without a catch.
Let’s hope that when the curtain rises, the show doesn’t look like the dress rehearsal.