Rex Ryan is right. It is time to return to the Ground and Pound, to smashing mouths and putting hats on people. Even if just to rev up a team that for the past two weeks has not only lost games, but has been beaten up emotionally and physically. Despite falling to 2-2 after getting knocked around in Oakland and Baltimore, the Jets still have time to get where they want to go. Ryan is toning down the Super Bowl talk for now and that’s a good thing. The Jets are not looking like a club that is headed for Indianapolis these days. However it only early October. Nobody gets awarded a ticket punched for the big dance yet anyway.
The “Ground and Pound” was the essential label the 2009 Jets carried with them in their luggage every week. Thomas Jones was the hammer. Shonn Greene the closer. With All Pro bodyguards Alan Faneca, Nick Mangold, Damien Woody and D’Brickshaw Ferguson all paving the way. Jones is a Chief though now. Faneca and Woody are now retired and Mangold has been out for two weeks. With news of the “return” the obvious concern will be as to whether or not the Jets are daydreaming when they say they want THIS foundation on offense again, minus THAT personnel.
The Jets have replaced Woody with the struggling Wayne Hunter at RT. Rookie Colin Baxter has done his best to cover up the loss of Mangold while the always maligned Vlad Ducasse has been shifting places with Matt Slauson up front. It hasn’t worked out well. Shonn Greene has had no room to run and LaDainian Tomlinson, when he’s not catching screen passes has not found a hole yet either. Let’s not even talk about what has gone on when Sanchez has gone back to throw.
The solution? Ryan’s calls for using less three WR sets that have featured the star trio of Burress, Holmes and Mason, but have rendered little production. By adding more skill position blocking types with the names of Mulligan, Baker and Conner, jersey sales may not flourish, but the Jets may start plowing space.
Even if a bigger return to the ground (in 2009 the Jets ran the ball 61 percent of the time. This year the Jets have THROWN it 62 percent of the time) fails to move the chains all game, it still may be the wise move. Just defining a personality on offense at all, could cure a group that is stuck between running plays with too many wideouts in the formation, and passing plays that attempt to show the growth of Mark Sanchez off despite the inability to protect him.
The Jets are currently 30th in the NFL in rushing. Yet by going back to grinding it out, Gang Green can still reestablish control over two key broad concepts that have been lost. First, that they are the more physical team. One that won’t beat itself (Baltimore score 21 defensive points thanks to turnovers by Sanchez) by handing teams touchdowns. Second, that the defense will again be asked to carry the primary responsibility for field position and scoreboard maintenance. After all, there would be little need to improve upon a 22.9 points per game average in 2010 if the Defense can return to their under 19 points per game average of 2010.
Then there is the AFC. A conference without a powerhouse club dominating both sides of the ball. Sure there are five 3-1 teams, but break them all down and you’ll notice that all have their own issues and potential firestorms awaiting them as well.
The Pats are second in the NFL in scoring but 20th in points allowed. With some health concerns to key players like LB Jerod Mayo, expected out a month, and big Albert Haynesworth who has already missed two games.
The Ravens brutalized the Jets offense but QB Joe Flacco and his top accomplice RB Ray Rice had minimal affect on the party. If there is to be a playoff rematch in January, the Jets by then could be months along with the resurgent Ground and Pound.. If so, then expect the 10-9 type of grind it out game that both teams endured last season instead of the wild 34-17 one they just played.
The Texans and Chargers are 3-1 but they are, well, the Texans and Chargers. One franchise trying to rid itself of the tag of dramatic fourth quarter chokers. The other coached by Norv Turner, who always seems to turn promising team outlooks into crushing season ending defeats in January.
The Bills and Titans are both off to exciting and surprising starts but are newbies to the upper crust. The Bills can light it up on offense and comeback from way down to do it. The Titans are 1st in the NFL in allowing just 14 points per game. This duo will have to prove over a longer period than just four games.
As Joe Namath noted last week, it is dangerous for teams to rest on their laurels and maybe these Jets did. to a degree. Regardless, Namath and other detractors better not discount the importance of achievment. The experience and success that two consecutive month long road runs to the AFC title game, will do wonders in keeping the club focused on seeing the big picture, through this early season storm.
The past two games have given the Jets and those who die hard with them an understandable reason for concern. With a talented roster, a conference with no complete and fully healthy team, and Ryan who has too much belief in his team to quit, it’s a situation that doesn’t call for widespread panic just yet either