Yesterday’s game was arguably the most frustrating regular season loss since Rex Ryan has taken over as the New York Jets head coach. It has led to heated debates among New York Jets fans and writers about how to assess the blame for the squandering of such a golden opportunity. Despite correctly picking the winner in every Jets game so far this season and thus having their record be exactly what I expected right now, it still feels like time to search for some truths on this team after 7 games.
1 – Mark Sanchez is ridiculously inconsistent - Sanchez played a terrific second half of football yesterday, probably as good as we’ve ever seen him play. We saw a similarly effective quarterback against Buffalo, late in the game against Miami and in spurts in other games. However, Sanchez has also played some of the worst football of his career this season and made a handful of inexcusably bad decisions and throws. He needs support around him to consistently pull out victories. You can win with an inconsistent quarterback but you better avoid too many mistakes in other areas of the game.
2 – Mark Sanchez is the starting quarterback for the rest of the season - Even if you don’t think Sanchez is the long term guy for this team, which is a valid feeling at this point, he is without question their best option for the rest of this season. If he plays like he did yesterday the rest of the year, the Jets are winning 9-10 games and making the playoffs. You could give Tim Tebow 100 opportunities and he couldn’t complete the touchdown that Sanchez did to Dustin Keller yesterday, along with any of the deep seven routes to Jeremy Kerley. Sanchez is the best option at quarterback on this roster. There was never a real quarterback controversy on this team and there isn’t now.
3 – Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano wanted no part of Tim Tebow this off-season - There was no football motivation behind this trade as the Jets came into the season with no plan on how to use him and still haven’t really figured it out. Tebow has value in short yardage and as a change of pace runner out of the Wildcat but the Jets can’t even get him on the field for 3rd and 1s instead of throwing slants to Chaz Schilens.
4 – We have a Tony Sparano problem - As soon as the Jets broke the huddle and went into a shotgun 4 wide formation on 3rd and 1 against New England yesterday, everybody in their right mind knew a poor play call was coming. The Jets had been extremely effective in third and short with Shonn Greene and should have simply handed him the ball. Beyond that, going empty and letting Tim Tebow run up the middle isn’t going to be stopped in that situation, period. You don’t throw a backside slant there unless you have an elite receiver who has good size. The Jets don’t have that player on their roster right now. Chaz Schilens certainly isn’t it. Just an awful, inexcusable play-call and it hasn’t been the first time that has happened this year. Sparano has struggled with his red-zone play-calling and getting a feel for when to be aggressive and when not to be. There are 7 games in the books now and I know there has been moving parts on offense because of injuries, but it is time to recognize what you have and take advantage of it.
5 – Jeremy Kerley is a very good wide receiver - The Jets are going to try like hell to trade Santonio Holmes this off-season but will have a tough time finding any takers because of how much guaranteed money he is owed. Kerley looks like a younger, faster version of Holmes without the baggage. There is a very real chance he could put together a 1,000 yard season this year which would give him the same amount in his career that Holmes has. Kerley’s rapid maturation has been the best story on the offensive side of the football so far for the Jets. We criticize Mike Tannenbaum all the time and will continue to do so when it is justified but it looks like the Kerley pick was a steal.
6 – The coaching staff/front office is wisely embracing a youth movement and starting to recognize some of their mistakes - Quinton Coples and Demario Davis are slowly turning into full time players. Antonio Allen and Marcus Dowtin have been brought on the active roster. Marcus Dixon was cut. Bart Scott is seeing less playing time. John Conner was cut and replaced by a much more effective Lex Hilliard. Joe McKnight is starting to play more on offense. They ignored pressure to sign a veteran big name receiver. These are baby steps but they are all steps in the right direction.
7 – When you rely on young players, mistakes are going to happen - Stephen Hill can’t drop that pass yesterday. It was a brutal mistake at the worst possible moment. Regardless, Hill has flashed enough potential this season to know that he is the opening day starting split end next season. He is going to play major reps the rest of the year and learn on the job, which is going to cost the Jets at times. You will see the same thing with Davis, Coples and Allen on defense. However, in the long term the positives will outweigh the negatives.
8 – The Jets are painfully shorthanded at outside linebacker - When you run as much 3-4 as the Jets do, you need outside linebackers who can rush the passers. The Jets have zero who can. Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas and Aaron Maybin have a combined 2 sacks between them through 7 games. Pace has value as a run stopper but that’s it. Maybin isn’t good enough to make any impact at all most weeks. Bryan Thomas is finished. Rex Ryan must find a way to manufacture a pass rush by utilizing his secondary more on blitzes.
9 – Antonio Cromartie is an All-Pro and is leading a very good secondary minus Darrelle Revis - Cromartie has played the best football of his career since Darrelle Revis went down with a season ending injury. Simply put, he has embraced and thrived in the role of being Rex’s new lockdown corner. LaRon Landry has been a very good addition and helped improve the safety play from last year. Even Kyle Wilson has been better in previous weeks. The secondary has rallied after the Revis’ injury and remains very good.
10 – The Jets are going to be in the division and playoff hunt - Anybody who classifies the Jets as an awful team or a bottom feeder isn’t paying attention. This is a team who will remain around .500 for the next few weeks and will have an opportunity to make a run late for a division title or a wild-cart spot. New England isn’t running away with anything this year (look at their schedule) and certainly nobody is pulling away in the AFC wild-card race.