The Jets offensive line houses two All-Pros in D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. The new wide receiving group owns two players in Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress, who have last minute Super Bowl winning grabs on their resume. Yet it is third year QB Mark Sanchez and RB Shonn Greene who must lead the way for the Jets offense, if it hopes to improve upon the inconsistent behavior that it has displayed throughout the Rex Ryan era.
The Sanchez debate over his first two seasons ranges from the notion that he is a clutch late game winner, to the concept that Sanchez is not, and never will be, an elite quarterback. Two trips to the AFC title game are not enough for many including Sanchez, who along with Rex Ryan, have publicly stated a desire to see the QB’s completion percentage grow to 60 percent, up from from a 54 percent career average.
Sanchez has 29 career touchdowns with 33 interceptions but threw more TD’s (17) than picks (13) in 2010. That ratio must also improve significantly in order for Sanchez to make his way into the upper echelon of NFL signal callers.
Perhaps the addition of a red zone threat, the newly acquired WR Plaxico Burress will help, along with having WR Santonio Holmes from the onset (Holmes missed four games to start 2010 due to violating the NFL drug policy) will give Sanchez the downfield potential from week one as well. Many also believe TE Dustin Keller will break out in 2011. This courtesy of the arrival of former Colts offensive guru, the tight end centric offensive assistant Tom Moore.
In the end, though, the responsibility falls not on those who get the ball. It falls on the shoulders of Sanchez. A leader whose job it is to make quality decisions in where he chooses to deliver his throws. Sanchez in year three, has to solidify his emotional demeanor too. This in order to minimize the mental ups and downs he’s had a tendency to display in games. Those waves occurring mostly when moving the chains does not come easily. It is there that panic has lead Sanchez in the past, into high risk throws ending up as turnovers.
Maligned offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been criticized for not trusting his quarterback since his arrival as the fifth overall pick during the 2009 NFL draft. That trust must go both ways though. Sanchez has to prove to Schotty and the sidelines that being given a greater responsibility will pay off in more points, not more mistakes.
Greene has been a playoff beast for the Jets during their back to back late January runs. His regular season totals of 1,306 yards and a 4.5 yards per carry average are numbers however, that a feature back would hope to display over one season, not in two years combined. Greene needs to enforce his will on opponents earlier in the game, and show that he is the feature back, earlier in the season. In 2010, his hesitant nature and failure to run with confidence left the Jets in the position of having to hand over the tempo setting reigns to veteran LaDainian Tomlinson.
LT did a solid job in a role that was expanded for him, in a backfield that opted to let the hammering Thomas Jones go in favor of Greene as the future. A future that didn’t happen for the former Iowa Hawkeye in 2010.
It must become a reality for Greene and the Jets in 2011. Otherwise Gang Green will again have to turn to LT, a future Hall of Famer who in the twilight of an outstanding career, appears to be a step slower. Running backs Joe McKnight and rookie Bilal Powell will seek to contribute to the ground game regardless of the effect that Greene has, but remain unproven.
There is no denying the fact that the Jets have to pick it up offensively in 2011. Their ability to do so, despite all of the talent the Jets currently have on offense, starts with Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene.