New York Jets Fact Or False: Passing Game Edition

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The New York Jets passing offense of 2012 will likely be one of the hottest topics in the NFL this season. Countless story lines centered around the heavily criticized Mark Sanchez, the polarizing Tim Tebow, and new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano are sure to have every major media outlet placing New York’s passing attack under the microscope. For this week’s edition of New York Jets Fact Or False, lets examine what we should and should not expect from Sanchez, Tebow, and the rest of the bunch this season.

1.) Chaz Schilens will play a significant role this season. False. The Jets signed Schilens to a 1-year, $765,000 contract this off-season. Prior to the start of free agency, the only other receiver with significant playing time that would have been capable of starting opposite Santonio Holmes was Jeremy Kerley. While Kerley is certainly a very promising young talent, he is best suited as a number 3, slot type receiver, rather than a number 2. As a result, the Jets grabbed Schilens as a cheap, low risk option to add depth to their receiving corps. However, with the addition of second round pick Stephen Hill in this year’s draft, Schilens may struggle to find a spot on the roster.

Schilens and Hill are both similar in size, both around 6’4” in the 215-225 lb range. However, Hill has much more upside than Schilens due to his youth, big play ability, and willingness to block. This is not to say that Schilens will not display such attributes, however with his history, it is highly unlikely. Since entering the NFL in 2008, Schilens has had an injury-plagued career and has played in only 44 out of a possible 64 total NFL games. His production has been very sub par, as he has recorded just 72 catches for 902 yards over his brief four-year career in Oakland. Of course, a fresh start in New York could replenish Schilens, but don’t count on it.

Schilens was seemingly brought in for his size and speed, however with the addition of Hill, the Jets got a much better, younger player to add that dimension to their offense. Schilens will likely remain on the roster because he is such a cheap option, but if rookie Jordan White emerges during training camp, as I fully expect him to do, Schilens could find himself battling it out with Patrick Turner, Scotty McKnight, and a few others for the fifth receiver spot on the roster. Regardless of whether he makes it or not, I wouldn’t expect Schilens to contribute in a significant manner for the Jets this season.

2.) Rookie Stephen Hill will open up the passing offense early and often. Fact. While we all know Hill is certainly a raw product, having come from the triple option offense at Georgia Tech, the threat of his size and speed alone will add a new dimension to the passing game this season. While Hill should certainly develop into a more polished receiver as his career progresses, his fantastic size and speed (4.30 40 yard dash) will make him an immediate deep threat. Defenses will have no choice but to account for him, whether it be through double teams, or sliding their coverage toward him when he is on the field. This should, realistically, open up a great amount of underneath and sideline work for Holmes, Kerley, and Tight End Dustin Keller, which is where they have thrived in the past. Hill’s big play ability will be a plus for the Jets this season, not only in making those plays, but for what his presence alone will bring.

3.) Santonio Holmes will make the Pro Bowl this season. False. While it is highly likely that Holmes will improve drastically from last season, I wouldn’t bank on him making a Pro Bowl, at least for this year. Holmes has never been voted to the Hawaiian exhibition, and while there is certainly a first for everything, especially for a talent like #10, who many forget achieved a career high in touchdown receptions last season (8), the Jets will be going back to their ground and pound approach under Tony Sparano this year. Unfortunately, this is not exactly the philosophy that will statistically get a wide receiver a Pro Bowl nod.

However, elite talent knows no boundaries. Brandon Marshall made two Pro Bowls playing in this system in Miami, so if Holmes can re-establish himself to the level that earned him a Super Bowl MVP trophy in 2009, a Pro Bowl is certainly not out of the question in the future. For this year though, it could be tough for him to accumulate numbers worthy of the honor in the inaugural season of a new offensive system. Still, expect to see Holmes return to his 2010 form.

4.) Jordan White will make an impact as a rookie. Fact. Anyone who has read my rookie analysis series knows what I think of Jordan White. White is an extremely tough, hard working, determined player who put up a career of immense production at Western Michigan (306 receptions, 4,190 yards, 32 touchdowns). His route running ability and knowledge of the game is NFL ready, which will give him an immediate advantage heading into training camp. White will undoubtedly prove his worth on special teams, and not only do I expect him to make the active roster, but I would be shocked if he did not contribute to the offense at some point during the season. White is a player whose intelligence, work ethic, and reliability, could make him a perfect fit with Quarterback Mark Sanchez.

5.) Tim Tebow will become the starting quarterback at some point this season. False. Most people seem to be afraid to touch this issue because, like ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, they believe the fix is in for Tebow to dethrone Sanchez as the Jets starting quarterback. However, let’s all take a deep breath and think about this situation. People can say that the Jets brought in Tebow for the publicity factor that he would bring with him. While this could be the case, that does not mean they brought him in to be the starting quarterback. Regardless of what everyone thinks, Tebow will be a role player this year. Teams do not place players whom they feel are going to be their starting quarterback on special teams. In today’s NFL, that will simply never happen. There is far too much of a liability factor involved to be risking the health of your offensive general as a personal protector on the punt team. If the Jets seriously thought Tebow was going to beat out Sanchez, they would not even consider placing him anywhere other than an offensive formation.

The Jets have been criticized for bringing in Tebow, as many see this move as the team ultimately setting up Sanchez to fail. Yet, remember how New York was bashed after the Drew Stanton signing? Most observers felt this was yet another incompetent quarterback who would not realistically challenge Sanchez. The same people who stressed the importance to bring in competition to push Sanchez, highly due to the publicized notion that the organization babied their young quarterback, are now the ones who are criticizing the Tebow move. The Jets traded for arguably the hardest working, most encouraging player in all of professional football, who will undoubtedly push Mark Sanchez to get the most out of himself this season, not by breathing down his neck, but by providing stability behind him, while contributing as a significant role player, whether it be in the wildcat, as a running back, or as an H-back.

Like any backup quarterback, Tebow will be ready if Sanchez fails to get New York to where they need to be. However, that will not happen this season, nor is it why Tebow was brought to New York. He was brought here because he is a terrific overall football player, and an even better teammate, something greatly needed in a locker room that is currently being rebuilt. Tebow will certainly get his plays this year, but barring an injury, don’t expect to see #6 on the sidelines watching him run the every down offense.

6.) Mark Sanchez will silence all of his critics. Fact. Every hater of Sanchez and the Jets are on the edge of their seat waiting to see, not if, but when he will finally succumb to all the pressure and negativity, and pack it in, paving the way for Tim Tebow to enter and install the heroics he displayed in Denver last year. I apologize in advance to these people because this is simply not going to happen.

Despite Sanchez putting up a career high in touchdowns last season (32 overall), many still insist that the young quarterback regressed in his third year as a pro. Unfortunately, those who believe this are completely ignorant to an abundance of facts. First of all, Sanchez was under the tutelage of arguably the least competent Offensive Coordinator in the league last season. Brian Schottenheimer saw Sanchez’s strengths in his first two years, yet seemingly wanted to become some type of mastermind, genius coordinator, and force his quarterback into game plans he clearly was not comfortable in (see 12/24/11). The Jets offensive line was also the worst it has been since Sanchez arrived in 2009, yet the kid showed his tenacity and competitiveness by hanging in there game in and game out, taking repeated beatings, while never breathing a word of negativity about the lack of blocking he was getting, despite the unwarranted claims that he is mentally weak.

The Jets replaced a Sanchez favorite in Braylon Edwards with the prehistoric Plaxico Burress, who could not get separation between the twenties if his life depended on it. The struggles of the offensive line also hurt the Jets once elite running attack, which in turn, all but eliminated the play action pass, something Sanchez is highly successful at.

However, this season, Sparano brings in a new offensive regime. The Jets have seemingly addressed what issues caused the struggles for Sanchez last season. They have hired a coordinator who vows to return to the philosophy that gave the Jets so much success in 2009 and 2010. They drafted youth and speed at vital positions of the offense, and they have added a new dynamic to that offense with Tebow. New York will be tougher, faster, and flat out better, in every area that the offense struggled in last season, and I firmly believe that the new coaching staff will reveal an improved Wayne Hunter for 2012. Sparano has already stressed the need to create “chunk” plays offensively, many of which are likely to come via play action pass, especially in this run heavy offense. Expect to not only see Sanchez make strides under Sparano, but to lead New York back to the playoffs, while establishing himself as the unquestioned leader of the Jets and silencing all of his critics along the way.

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