There is no reason to act like not scoring a touchdown in three full pre-season games isn’t a big deal. It is. It is an embarrassing failure that speaks to a lack of cohesion and playmakers on offense. The New York Jets offense has been the worst in the NFL to this point. They are just fortunate that up until this point nothing truly counts and that their defense has conversely been one of the best.
The offensive problems last night started at the wide receiver position. Santonio Holmes dropped what would have been probably a 25 yard gain. Stephen Hill dropped a very catch-able ball that turned into an interception and failed to make a tough catch in the end-zone that should have been a touchdown. Was it a perfect throw from Sanchez? No, but that doesn’t mean that Hill shouldn’t come down with that pass.
The dropped passes took away from what should have been a huge night for Mark Sanchez, who was still 11/18 for 123 yards with completions of 20, 24 and 32 yards. He drove the football well down the field, throwing two bullets over the middle for big gainers to Dustin Keller and Patrick Turner. He read the coverage perfectly and delivered a perfect back shoulder pass to Stephen Hill outside the numbers for the other long gain. Unfortunately all that is swept under the rug when you don’t convert in the red-zone.
Outside of the dropped passes, the running game was a let down yet again. The Jets have shown no ability to run the ball consistently this pre-season. Shonn Greene finished with 47 yards on 13 carries. 3.6 yards per carry is not good enough. Greene seems to be stumbling immediately after he receives every handoff and still is not breaking any tackles or making anybody miss. There is nothing impressive about running through a well blocked hole. It is impressive when you make something happen at the second level to turn a blocked 3 yard run into a 15 yard run or a blocked 8 yard run into a 29 yard run.
Joe McKnight appears to be completely out of the mix at running back, receiving zero carries and even working behind Terrance Ganaway. Bilal Powell looks to be the primary backup and third down back. He showed a little shiftiness last night but still only finished with 29 yards on 8 carries, the same 3.6 yards per carry as Greene.
The Jets also remain clueless in short yardage. They were stuff again on 3rd and 1 and in reality stuffed on 4th and 1. They received a ridiculously favorable spot on a Mark Sanchez quarterback sneak for a first down. What purpose does John Conner serve on this roster? He can’t catch. He can’t convert on short yardage when handed the ball and can’t help Greene convert on third and short with his blocking. Beyond that, Greene’s biggest runs last night came out of a single back set.
Finally the offense made another killer mental mistake when Matt Slauson picked up a senseless personal foul that killed a potential scoring drive. The Jets are nowhere near good enough to overcome needless penalties.
Over to the positives, on offense outside of Sanchez throwing the ball very well, Austin Howard was terrific. He held his own against Charles Johnson and appeared to be play both fluidly and with a high amount of confidence. There will be bumps in the road with him but last night was a very strong start.
The real positives remained on the defensive side of the football, where the Jets have the makings of arguably the best run defense in the NFL. Kenrick Ellis was dominant at the point of attack last night and has earned himself a much larger role in the defensive line rotation thanks to a huge pre-season. LaRon Landry is a force in the run game and came up with his second interception of the pre-season. If he stays healthy, the Jets got a major steal in free agency. Quinton Coples had another sack and another forced fumble, along with constantly being in Cam Newton’s face.
The disappointing thing about Coples is how Rex Ryan called him out after the game for being winded and complaining about having to play with the second team. Good for Rex for staying on top of this and not babying him to the press. He needs to do that more frequently. A rookie complaining about playing time is inexcusable. Coples is freakishly talented and Rex and all of the veterans constantly need to stay on top of him so he reaches his potential.
For the first time of the pre-season, the blitzes the Jets dialed up were breaking through. The constant pressure led to a difficult night for Newton who finished only 6/15 for 60 yards with a turnover. Outside of Kyle Wilson, who continues to struggle the Jets defense appears in mid-season form and should be a top three unit in the league this season.
For all of the criticism heaped on the Jets offense, the same amount of praise should be heaped on their defense at this point. Will either unit play to their expectations in September? Only time will tell.