We have spent a big chunk of the week here focusing on the New York Jets defense, and why not? They have the potential to be one of the league’s best units. However, it is the other side of the football that needs to see a dramatic improvement from last season. Today’s 12 pack is going to take a closer look at multiple aspects of the Jets offense in 2012.
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And finally we are going to be welcoming back our good friend from The Jet Report TJ Rosenthal for a weekly article every Monday. So next week, when we publish TJ’s column on Monday, Mike’s Stock Watch on Tuesday, Beat Writer Rankings on Wednesday, Chris’ Fact or False on Thursday and the 12 pack on Friday, who will be rolling with 4 better Jets writers anywhere?
On to the 12 pack…
1. Wayne’s World – The Jets don’t need Wayne Hunter to be an All-Pro. They need him to be competent. They need him to resemble the Wayne Hunter from the end of the 2010 season. If Tony Sparano is smart, he will avoid leaving Hunter on an island in obvious passing situations and roll Sanchez to his left the majority of the time. If Hunter is given the necessary help and this offensive system suits him better, he is salvageable as a starter. He needs to be because Vladimir Ducasse has spent the entire off-season working at left guard and Stephon Heyer and Ray Willis can’t be relied on.
2. Speaking Of Guard – As Mike Donnelly pointed out last week, why is Vlad Ducasse still working as the starting left guard when Matt Slauson claims to be 100 percent healthy? Personally, I think the Jets just wanted to get Vlad as much work as possible and felt no need to rush Slauson back into his old spot. If Brandon Moore ever gets hurt, it isn’t the worst thing in the world to have Slauson get experience at right guard while Ducasse would move left guard. I don’t think Slauson is any danger of losing his position and I don’t think Ducasse has any real chance of starting this season. The Jets are going to look to him as a swing backup off the bench at guard/tackle and an extra tight end for big packages. At this point, if Ducasse can handle that role I’d be satisfied, which is a damn shame for a 2nd round pick.
3. A Signing On The Way – The Jets need Ben Hartsock or a player who resembles him. They missed him badly last season when they made a mistake letting him walk and handing the backup tight end position over to Matthew Mulligan. It is unusual that a team who is going to be so run heavy still lacks a blocking tight end. Jeff Cumberland is a nice receiving option, particularly in the red-zone but he is a basically a taller/slower Dustin Keller. Hayden Smith isn’t going to be ready this season. Do not be surprised to see the Jets consider a player like Daniel Graham who could give them 12-15 plays a game of solid blocking.
4. War Machine – There seems to be a genuine split amongst Jets fans on whether or not Shonn Greene can handle being the “Bell-Cow” back Rex Ryan talks him up as. Greene’s ceiling feels like 275 carries, 1100 yards and 7 touchdowns with a few receptions thrown in. That is okay if the Jets get needed support from Joe McKnight, Bilal Powell, Terrance Ganaway and Tim Tebow. If McKnight is used the proper way and can stay healthy, he has the skill set to be a very good third down back. Tebow will be a major factor in short yardage and near the goal-line, which doesn’t leave much work for Powell (who I could see being cut) or Ganaway. Most disagree but I say protect yourself by signing Cedric Benson or Ryan Grant. If Greene goes down for 4 weeks, do you trust a McKnight/Powell/Ganaway platoon to carry the “Ground and Pound” load?
5. Wide Receiver Rotation – It will be interesting to see how reps and targets shake out. Early reports indicate that Dustin Keller is going to be the featured player in the passing game, maybe even more so than Santonio Holmes. Regardless, I think Holmes will be good for a solid bounce-back season. He won’t put up Pro-Bowl numbers in this offense but the key is making big plays, particularly after the catch and remaining clutch as usual. Opposite him, Stephen Hill will be the de facto starter but if he struggles to stay healthy in camp don’t be surprised to see Chaz Schilens getting a good chunk of reps on the outside. There is no shame in bringing Hill along slowly if Schilens is productive. Both players have the size and speed to stretch the defense and take attention away from Holmes. In the slot, Jeremy Kerley should perform the Davone Bess role from Sparano’s days in Miami and be a major factor on third downs.
6. Really? - Ron Jaworski made a fairly on-point analysis of Mark Sanchez when going through his QB rankings but putting him 23rd in the league? How could you watch film of Sanchez, Sam Bradford, Josh Freeman and Matt Cassel last year and put Sanchez behind the three of them? Sanchez fits somewhere in the 16-20 range right now. Who would I rate ahead of him right now? Brady. Brees. P. Manning. E. Manning. Rodgers. Big Ben. Rivers. Romo. Vick. Stafford. Newton. Hasselbeck. Schaub. Ryan. Cutler are my top 15 (in no particular order). After that you are looking at a next group of Dalton, Palmer, Flacco, Sanchez and Alex Smith in some type of order. Don’t put Freeman in front of him. Don’t put Bradford in front of him. No Kevin Kolb. No rookies who haven’t played yet. No Jake Locker. No Cassel. Nobody on Jacksonville. Nobody on Seattle. Certainly no Ryan Fitzpatrick or anybody or Miami.
7. Really, Really? – Tim Tebow made the NFL’s Top 100 list and Nick Mangold didn’t? Mangold is the best center in the NFL and probably one of the 30 best players in the league. Tebow? Probably the 30th best quarterback in the league.
8. An Early Shot – After a whole summer of talk about the running game. Can’t you see the Jets going play action, deep post to Holmes on the first play from scrimmage this season against Buffalo?
9. Big Plays – Where will they come from this season? Holmes makes big plays after the catch, so he needs the ball in space. Stephen Hill should be targeted on a couple of “go” routes per game. Joe McKnight is dangerous in the screen game and maybe Jeremy Kerley can rip off a big play on a reverse or on a quick screen. Obviously, Tebow is a factor here if he can break the pocket or springs a quarterback draw.
10. Roster Prediction For Offensive Players – Sanchez. Tebow. McElroy. Greene. Conner. McKnight. Ganaway. Powell. Keller. Cumberland. Unsigned blocking tight end. Holmes. Hill. Kerley. Schilens. Turner. Mangold. Moore. Slauson. Hunter. Ferguson. Ducasse. Schlauderaff. Hoyer. (24 total)
11. 5 Game Exaggeration – The chatter about Sanchez struggling out of the gate because of the Jets schedule, leading to Tebow replacing him are over exaggerated. In week 1, the Jets play Buffalo who Sanchez is 5-1 against in his career. Last year in their two meeting his quarterback rating was 92.9 and 90.2, respectively. In week 2, they travel to Pittsburgh where Sanchez played two very good games in 2010, including one in the AFC Championship Game. Week 3 they are at Miami, who Sanchez has played well against in 4 of his 6 career games against them, including 3 games with a QB Rating over 95. Week 4 is against San Francisco which will be a challenge but at least the Jets are home and week 5 is against Houston at home. Sanchez is 2-0 against the Texans.
12. Won’t Be Elite, Don’t Need To Be – The Jets offense won’t be elite this year. Yet, with the defense they should have. If they can protect the football, run the ball consistently and hit the big play on a weekly basis, it will be good enough for the Jets to be a playoff caliber team.