The headlines surrounding the New York Jets first day of voluntary workouts centered on Santonio Holmes tone with reporters and his entertaining decision to Tweet a picture of himself wearing a shirt that said “captain.” Personally, I couldn’t give a damn if Holmes gave an attitude to reporters and how could you not crack a smile at that picture?
Let’s talk about more important things. In case you haven’t noticed, the Jets roster isn’t going to look much different from last season. They are relying on improvement to come from within and from a new offensive system led by Tony Sparano.
Not only does Sparano have to teach starting quarterback Mark Sanchez a new offense, different from the only one he has ever learned in the NFL, he needs to figure out how to best incorporate Tim Tebow’s Wildcat/Option package. He also needs to help the Jets rediscover their elite power running game, which was absent last year and find a way to hit big plays down the field in the passing game. Should be a busy man, no?
At a minimum, Tebow’s arrival should make the running game more dangerous and dynamic. If designed properly there will be more lanes for Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight from Tebow’s presence under center. Yet, the Jets will need Tebow to not just be their backup quarterback but be a primary ball carrying option. Greene hasn’t proven to be the “bell cow” the team thought he could be and McKnight, despite showing potential, hasn’t shown he is capable of being a 1B option full time.
Basically you are hoping Greene can be a 1A when he has produced like a 1B and that McKnight can be a 1B when he has produced like a backup. If they can both improve and Tebow gives them 5-10 strong carries a game, the Jets have the makings a capable three headed monster running the football. I also wouldn’t be surprised if they spent a late round pick on a running back to compete with Bilal Powell for a roster spot.
In the passing game, Sparano must find a way to compensate for Wayne Hunter or Vladimir Ducasse’s shortcomings at right tackle in pass protection. If the Jets can protect Sanchez, he has the ability to connect on passes down the field and outside of the hashes, areas he rarely had the opportunity to throw to in Brian Schottenheimer’s scheme.
Who will stretch the field? Santonio Holmes isn’t a true vertical receiver. He works better in the intermediate passing game and then making people miss after the catch. However, that doesn’t mean he can’t shake a defender with a double move every now and then, as he did in the Washington game last season on his game winning catch. Chaz Schilens has the top end speed and the size to be a good candidate to run go routes down the sideline, but can he stay healthy and can he produce consistently? Perhaps at a minimum he can give the Jets a Dedric Ward type threat. In 1998, Ward caught only 25 passes but averaged 19.8 yards per catch and hauled in 4 long touchdowns.
Dustin Keller and Jeremy Kerley both have the ability to get down the seam. Yet, with Kerley I would expect him to be used in a Davone Bess type role in Sparano’s offense, working in the slot and primarily in the short passing game. Bess averaged between 10 and 10.5 yards per catch the last four seasons under Sparano.
When it comes to Keller, interestingly enough Dolphins tight end Anthony Fasano has averaged more yards per catch in three of the last four seasons. Most people have talked about Sparano using the tight end primarily as a blocker yet he has found ways to create a higher YPC for Fasano, despite him being much less than athletic and versatile than Keller. As we say every year, Keller has the skill set to consistently be a big play weapon. Can Sparano get the most out of him and have him picking up the big chunks of yardage this offense desperately needs?
Despite a lack of depth of receiver, running back, and right tackle, this offense still has talent. It is now up to Sparano to do what Brian Schottenheimer couldn’t, maximize that talent.