For about 28 minutes of Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh, I felt really good about the Jets chances of winning. Then little chinks in the armor started to show up. A few missed tackles here, a 3 and out there, and then slowly but surely, those little chinks turned into gaping holes. Before you knew it the game was spiraling out of control. The team couldn’t do anything on third down on either side of the ball, Sanchez looked like a different player after clearly (and illegally) getting his bell rung by Lawrence Timmons in the 2nd quarter, the defense forgot how to tackle, and the absence of Darrelle Revis was clearly felt. Oh yeah, and my boy Shonn Greene couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Let’s start with that..
SELL: The Run Blocking – Yes, the Steelers have a stout run defense, but this run blocking issue has clearly carried over from last season, and the main issue has been the guards. Matt Slauson is a tough dude and a hard-worker, but he’s just not that talented. He’s an average player, and the coaches clearly feel as though he isn’t helping much in the run game, because in the 2nd half he rotated series with Vlad Ducasse, whom the coaches clearly feel can help in that area. Whether or not that actually happens is another story.
On the other side, Brandon Moore’s play in the run game has been in a steady decline since late in 2010 when he was banged up and needed surgery on his hip following the season. He’s still an elite pass protector, but he doesn’t provide the same push that he used to. When you couple that with the fact we still have ZERO capable blocking tight ends for SOME REASON (Tannenbaum, it’s not too late to read my letter to you), and wide receivers who can’t get open, you can see there are extra defenders in the box and why the run game is struggling. Plenty of Jets fans want to point the finger at Shonn Greene, and he’s far from perfect, but this is not just on him. In fact…
HOLD: The Run Game – Not buying or selling, despite the early mediocre results. Let’s see what this run game gets going this week in Miami before writing them off. The following two games against the 49ers and Texans are going to be tough sledding, so if the run game is ever going to get off the ground, we need to see them take advantage of a terrible Miami team. Hopefully they can get a lead, the defense can put them in good position to score, and the running backs can pound away on a Dolphins defense that leaves much to be desired. It seems as though this rush offense — and Greene in particular — get off to slow starts every year, before putting it in gear when the weather starts changing. Does that excuse the lack of production so far? No, but let’s give them a chance to get it together.
Bilal Powell looked pretty good in limited action, and you have to think Tebow and the wildcat will become more involved as well. Personally, I’d like to see Joe McKnight given the ball 5 or 6 times a game and see what he can do, since he’s our only game-breaking threat. There’s no reason he can’t be out there and used in a myriad of ways. Especially since the WR’s are struggling, which brings me to…
SELL: Mark Sanchez’s “Weapons” – Sunday was a very disappointing performance from Santonio Holmes, who was more interested in tricking the referees into throwing their flags than actually, you know, catching the passes. Stephen Hill had 0 catches, but days like that are expected from a rookie 2nd round pick with limited experience. Jeremy Kerley is a solid but unspectacular player, and Dustin Keller is injured, so where is the production supposed to be coming from? There are simply no reliable weapons for Mark Sanchez to throw the ball to, and it is killing the offense. Jeff Cumberland is useless, as is Chaz Schilens. Again, there is no reason Joe McKnight can’t be out there as a jack-of-all-trades kind of player, especially with Keller out and the WR’s struggling. Why can’t he be used like the Saints use Darren Sproles? I know he’s not as good and has his issues (fumbling, staying healthy), but it would be nice to have a player out there who could actually break a play here and there.
SELL: The Pass Rush – I said before the game that if the defense didn’t dismantle the Steelers downright crappy offensive line, I’d start to be worried. Well, they consistently got a good push against the run (more on this later), but the pass rush was pretty non-existent. Quinton Coples and Aaron Maybin hardly played, which is kind of surprising since they’re probably our two best pass rushers. Calvin Pace stinks, Po’uha and DeVito don’t offer much of a rush, so Mo Wilkerson was the only one applying pressure. I know Garrett McIntyre chipped in two sacks, but I think him leading the team in sacks is a negative rather than a good thing. I think it’s time for Rex to throw Coples into the fire and see what the kid can do, because we can’t just rely on blitzing linebackers and safeties all the time, especially since when they get near the quarterback they miss the tackle anyway.
BUY: The Run Defense – It wasn’t all bad on defense on Sunday. The Jets run D showed that week 1 was more of an aberration than anything, and they’re still very stout against the run. The return of Sione Po’uha was a welcome site, as he commanded double teams all day and allowed others to make plays. Wilkerson made several plays at — or behind — the line of scrimmage and looked good. Mike DeVito was his usual stout self, and Kenrick Ellis also played really well. What scares me, though, is that the Steelers don’t have any speedy backs, which is where the Jets really struggle. You know, guys like CJ Spiller or Reggie Bush, who the team has to face this week, for example. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas move around like my dad getting off the couch out on the field so they have trouble getting outside, and while Garrett McIntyre had a good week, he has problems setting the edge at times and nobody will ever confuse him with Usain Bolt, that’s for sure. So while the run defense looked great, and I still think they’re an elite unit, let’s see how they handle Reggie Bush this week before we get too excited over their play.