Considering the disappointment of the 2011 NFL season, I find it fitting to kick off the next few weeks with a rant. Today’s topic is the New York Jets passing game…or lack thereof.
Watching the New York Jets passing game last year was an ongoing exercise in frustration. You know how your favorite NFL team has the ability to pick up big chunks of yardage by completing 15-20 yard passes to open receivers? Well, the Jets didn’t have that ability. It was at the point where if it was 3rd and 8 or longer, you knew they weren’t converting because it didn’t seem they had a play in their playbook to pick up the necessary yardage.
The Jets passing game last year consisted of check downs, 5 yard stop routes to Dustin Keller, 4 yard crossing patterns on 3rd and 12, and of course slants…and then more slants.
The blame falls on a number of people: Mark Sanchez, the wide receivers, former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and inconsistent pass protection to start. Basically, you had the toxic recipe of an awful right tackle, a usually premier left tackle having a down year, an offensive coordinator with limited downfield playcalls, a quarterback who struggles heavily with the pass rush in his face, a painfully slow #2 receiver, and #1 receiver double teamed who was playing frustrated. Yikes.
What is the solution? Tony Sparano isn’t known for his passing game knowledge and the Jets never got around to hiring that “passing game coordinator” there was talk of. However, Sparano should help improve the protection up front which will go a long way towards helping improve Mark Sanchez’s play. If you have watched Sanchez since he started playing in the NFL, you know he has enough arm strength to make the deep throws necessary but he needs the protection, personnel, and playcalling to support him.
Sparano has emphasized he wants to pick up “chunks” of yardage through the passing game, despite having a run first approach. He will need to find a way to create mismatches for Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes, along with Jeremy Kerley in the slot for that happen. Hopefully they will be supported by a split end with some speed via the draft or free agency, which will help open things up. He should also work to get Joe McKnight out in space in the passing game. He has the receiving skills to make a large impact in both the screen game and being split out wide.
Fellow TOJ writer Rob Celletti asked me numerous times this season, “how come the Jets can get a broken coverage, where a corner falls down or the defense makes a mistake to allow them to get an easy big play?” The reason was the Jets never threatened down the field, there was nothing for defenses to get confused over or cornerbacks to trip from. Teams would just bracket Shonn Greene on his checkdown and Dustin Keller on his short stop route.
Times need to change with the Jets passing offense and hopefully Sparano can deliver on the “big chunks of yardage” he has talked about.