New York Jets – No Room For Error Against Colts

The New York Jets are facing a must win at home this week against the Colts

In the NFL it is often a foolhardy task to look down the schedule, even in-season and try to predict wins and losses. This is a week to week league and so many things can change in the course of seven days. It was less than a month ago you were probably ready to purchase your Super Bowl tickets after the Jets 48-28 trouncing of the Buffalo Bills, right? Regardless, with the Jets sitting at 2-3 and teetering on the brink of a lost season and a quarterback change, let’s take a quick look down the road.

As of today, the only teams left on the Jets schedule that they have definitively looked better than are the Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans and Buffalo Bills. They should be solid favorites as of now in all those games. The Jets have looked on a comparable level to three other teams left on their schedule, the Miami Dolphins, St. Louis Rams and this week’s opponent, the Indianapolis Colts.

If the Jets want to stay around .500 and keep themselves relevant in the playoff race into December, they need to win games like this week against the Colts. Yes, Indianapolis is better than expected and yes they had an emotional win over Green Bay last week. However, it is logical to assume a letdown after such an emotional win for a young team. The Colts are also much tougher in their dome than on the road. They are also dealing with their own injuries. Starting running back Donald Brown won’t play this week and either will Pro Bowl pass rusher Robert Mathis who is out with a knee injury.

The Colts are feisty because of how talented Andrew Luck is at quarterback and how Reggie Wayne is having a career year as his number one target. Similar to the Jets, they struggle running the ball and now will be starting a rookie fifth rounder at running back (although he very well may be better than Shonn Greene, because who isn’t these days?). The Colts have an inexperienced offensive line and a defense with a suspect secondary. Indy is averaging allowing 27.5 points per game and opposing quarterbacks to throw for 242 yards per game.

Nobody is saying this is a “gimme” game because it certainly isn’t. The Jets don’t have those anymore with their talent level. Regardless this a sharp decline from San Francisco and Houston and will be the worst defense they faced since week 1 by a wide margin. If Mark Sanchez cannot put together a statistically respectable performance and lead the Jets to a win here, he deserves to lose his job and that is coming from somebody who is an unabashed Sanchez apologist. At 2-4 and heading into New England it would be officially be panic time and it would shock nobody if Tim Tebow was inserted as the starter even if it defies logic, considering Tebow was killed in both meetings against them and Sanchez has beat Belichick and company three times.

Regardless, the Jets must stay on track to get into their bye week at 4-4 and set themselves up for relevance heading into November and December. The offense will only get better. There were positive signs this past Monday night and with Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill both back in the line-up this week, the improvement should continue. On defense, Rex Ryan must build on the second half against Houston, where we finally saw signs of a good defense as they contained the Texans to 6 points, despite playing on a short field after an onside kick.

You hate saying games are must-wins because which ones aren’t? It is cliche. It is probably over-exaggerated but Sunday is a must win for the Jets and a must strong performance from Mark Sanchez if he has any of hope of remaining the starting quarterback for the foreseeable future.

Turn On The Jets Offensive Film Breakdown – Sanchez’s 34 Dropbacks

A breakdown of Mark Sanchez’s 34 dropbacks against the Houston Texans. Does he grade out positively or negatively?

This week’s Turn On The Jets offensive film breakdown is going to focus strictly on Mark Sanchez’s 34 dropbacks against the Houston Texans. Each play is going to be graded as either a positive (+) or a negative (-) based on the following criteria: Did Sanchez execute the proper read or decision based on what the defense was giving him? Let’s take a closer look – 

1 – 2nd and 10 at their own 13 (Incompletion to Jeremy Kerley) – The Jets ran a rub route underneath with Jeff Cumberland and Jeremy Kerley. Cumberland ran a poor route, hesitating and sitting too soon. If he takes one more step in his route, Kerley is wide open across the field. Kerley was still open but it was a tight window and Sanchez held the ball a split second too long as the pass rush collapsed around him and was forced to throw it away as he was nearly sacked. Lex Hilliard did a poor job of blitz pickup on this play, although he wasn’t helped by Austin Howard at all. Yes, Sanchez received poor help but he still could have found a way to complete this pass (-)

2 – 3rd and 15 at their own 8 (13 yard completion to Jeremy Kerley) – Sanchez drives a deep out route to Kerley who runs his route about 2 yards short of the marker. Kerley needs to push a little further. However, there was a beautifully formed pocket and Sanchez had Chaz Schilens at the top of the field on an in-cut that was wide open for an easy first down. The blame goes to both Kerley for not running his route deep enough to Sanchez for taking advantage of the extra time to find the open receiver for a bigger gain on the other side of the field. (-)

3- 3rd and 10 at their own 28 (Incompletion to Clyde Gates) – This was a poor route from Gates. He got held up at the top of his route. If he snaps his deep in-cut earlier and at the proper yardage, he would have been wide open. Sanchez threw it to the right spot but was victimized by poor route running. (+)

4 – 1st and 10 at their own 43 (27 yard completion to Clyde Gates) – Gates gets a little redemption here. After Antonio Cromartie’s INT, the Jets called three “go” routes. Houston obliged by putting 7 in the box and playingCover 1. Basically leaving all the Jets receivers in man to man and daring them to throw deep. Sanchez delivered a beautifully thrown ball down the sideline to Gates’ outside shoulder. Gates went up and made an athletic grab over Jonathan Joseph, one of the league’s better corners. (+)

5 – 3rd and 7 on Houston 27 (27 yard touchdown to Jeff Cumberland) – We get on Jeff Cumberland plenty here but he ran a textbook seam route down the hash here. He beat his guy, stayed skinny on his route and bent in at the perfect time. Sanchez drops in another gorgeous pass, his second in a row. This is why his inconsistency is so frustrating. The talent is clearly there. The past two throws were big boy NFL throws that Tim Tebow simply cannot make. (+)

6 – 3rd and 3 at their own 22 (2 yard completion to Chaz Schilens) – The Jets ran another rub route over the middle. Sanchez does an excellent job of stepping up in the pocket and sliding to avoid the rush. However he has Schilens open basically right at the first down marker but instead of throwing it out in front of him, he throws it high and behind. Schilens has to twist to make a very tough (and impressive) catch but is wrapped immediately and unable to extend the ball. Could the route have been a yard deeper, yes? Regardless if it was a better throw, it is still a first down (-)

7 – 1st and 10 at their own 27 (Incompletion to Konrad Reuland) – A poor play design where basically Reuland is the only option on a bootleg in the flat. Tony Sparano needs to keep this play on ice until Dustin Keller is back. Reuland was blanketed and Sanchez had nowhere else to go with the ball. He threw it low and away and it was deflected. Hard to blame him on this one. We’ll give him neither a (+) or (-)

8 – 2nd and 10 at their own 27 (Incompletion to Bilal Powell) – A well designed play that motioned Powell into the slot and had him run a speed out. The Jets got the coverage they wanted and Powell would have been wide open but he tripped out of his break. He must be hanging out with Shonn Greene too much. Sanchez threw it on point but Powell fell so it was incomplete. (+)

9 – 3rd and 10 at their own 27 (Incompletion to Bilal Powell) – The Jets basically cleared out for Powell underneath who was wide open. Sanchez delivered it on time but the pass was batted down. I am taking a case by case basis with the passes knocked down at the line. In this case, Sanchez had time to slide and give himself a better passing lane. By his fourth season, he needs to recognize the need to do this. (-) 

10 – 3rd and 4 at their own 34 (3 yard completion to Jeremy Kerley) – This play was designed for Kerley all the way. He came in motion to run a speed out from the slot. Honestly, this was just a great tackle by Kareem Jackson. Kerley probably should have pushed it a half yard deeper but it is hard to fault any Jet on this play, certainly not Sanchez who threw the ball out in front of Kerley where it needed to be. (+)

11 – 1st and 10 at their own 39 (Incompletion to Antonio Cromartie) – Cromartie ran a beautiful double move and blew right past the cornerback. This should have been an easy 61 yard touchdown. Unfortunately Sanchez threw the ball too far to the outside, forcing Cromartie out of bounds, where he still made a ridiculous catch. Simply put, Sanchez HAS to hit this throw. Separation like this must lead to a touchdown. (-)

12 – 2nd and 10 at their own 39 (Incompletion to Jeff Cumberland) – The Jets ran a deep back shoulder fade to Cumberland. Sanchez put it in the perfect spot but Cumberland dropped it. This should have been about a 25 yard gain. Missed opportunities. (+)

13 – 3rd and 10 at their own 39 (Incompletion to Bilal Powell) – Nobody was open down the field and the pocket quickly collapsed thanks to Brandon Moore, who had a rough night. Sanchez got rid of the ball before taking a sack. (+)

14 – 2nd and 6 at their own 11 (5 yard completion to Chaz Schilens) – Sanchez is very rarely accurate on passes 5 yards and under so this was encouraging to see. Schilens settles into tight window on an option route and Sanchez fired it in there after waiting for the window to open up in the zone coverage. Well done by both Sanchez and Schilens. (+)

15 – 1st and 10 at their own 18 (Strip Sack by Brooks Reed) –  The Jets went into their heavy package and were looking for the home run to Clyde Gates off play action. They were likely hoping to catch Houston napping, thinking they were just going to run the clock out. Unfortunately Gates was doubled deep as was Jeff Cumberland underneath. Sanchez should have thrown it away but held it a little too long and was sacked from behind by Brooks Reed who beat Jason Smith. Obviously this has been a recurring problem for Sanchez who must have better pocket presence and protect the football. (-)

16 – 2nd and 3 at their own 25 (Incompletion to Clyde Gates) – Tony Sparano went back to the same vertical play that they hit Gates on earlier for a big gain. Sanchez makes a very good throw but Gates is held by the corner who wasn’t flagged and can’t get to the ball. This was the play Gates’ shoulder popped out. (+)

17 – 3rd and 3 at their own 25 (12 yard completion to Chaz Schilens) – Sanchez bangs a slant route to Schilens who is wide open after coming in motion. Simple pitch and catch on a route Sanchez traditionally throws well. (+)

18 – 1st and 10 at their own 37 (36 yard completion to Jeremy Kerley) – The throw of the night by Sanchez who stands tall in the pocket, takes a huge shot and drops in a beautiful pass between two defenders to Kerley down the seam. Only increases the frustration that he can’t be more consistent because again this a big boy, 1st round draft pick throw. This is why Rex Ryan is keeping Mark Sanchez as his starter. (+)

19 – 1st and 10 at Houston 27 (10 yard completion to Chaz Schilens) – It looked as if Sanchez and Schilens checked to this at the line after they saw a blitz coming. A well timed throw. A good adjustment and an easy 10 yards. (+)

20 – 2nd and 5 at Houston 12 (Interception) – You’ve seen this play 1,000 times by now. Is the deflection Sanchez’s fault? Not really. Yet, he still made the wrong read on this play. Jeremy Kerley was going to take career ending hit if he caught this ball. Sanchez should went to the flat on the opposite side of the field. So we end the end the half with a (-)

FIRST HALF – 20 Dropbacks – 12 Positives, 7 Negatives, 1 Undecided.

21 – 1st and 10 at their own 28 (24 yard completion to Jeff Cumberland) – Good Mark Sanchez is back, dropping in a pretty deep out route to Jeff Cumberland off play action that goes for 24 yards. He does a nice job of putting enough touch on it to get it over the linebacker but enough zip to get it out front of the safety so Cumberland can turn up field. (+)

22 – 2nd and 14 at their own 47 (36 yard completion to Jeremy Kerley) – Jeremy Kerley is turning into a damn good NFL wide receiver. He shakes the corner at the line of scrimmage, forcing him to fall and then holds on as he takes a huge hit from the safety. Sanchez could have put a little more zip on this cover 2 hole shot but that is probably nit-picking. (+) 

23 – 2nd and goal at the Houston 3 (Incompletion to Chaz Schilens) – Damn JJ Watt. This is easy touchdown for the Jets over the middle to Chaz Schilens who ran a slant out of the bunch. Sanchez makes the right read and then Watt makes the type of play that is going to win him Defensive Player of the Year. I am sorry but Sanchez is at no fault here. He did everything right. This was just a tremendous play from Watt. (+)

24 – 3rd and goal at the Houston 3 (Incompletion to Chaz Schilens) – The Jets wanted to go backside to Kerley on a slant-fade route. Basically where Kerley takes three hard steps to the slant and then breaks out to the fade but it was well covered. Sanchez correctly moves to his next read, which is Schilens who appears to be running a deeper slant and then whipping back out along the back line. A tough and bizarre route that is ran very poorly by Schilens from start to finish. Again, this is not on Sanchez but on poor route running and play design. (+) 

25 – 2nd and 18 at their own 46 (19 yard completion to Shonn Greene) – Sanchez did everything fine here. (+) – Let me take a minute to riff on Shonn Greene’s general awfulness. If Greene had one capable NFL running back move this is a 54 yard touchdown. Look how much space he has!

Of course Greene slows down and leans to the inside where there is nothing but green to the outside. Instead of making a move, he then continues to slow down, crouches down and slams head first into the defender, allowing the pursuit to catch up with him.

He will never start another game in the NFL after this season, period.

26 – 2nd and 10 at Houston 35 (Incompletion to Shonn Greene) – Sanchez opted to check down to Greene, which based on the coverage was not a poor decision. His primary reads were all well covered. Sanchez threw the ball a little to Greene’s right to move him away from the linebacker but Greene dropped a ball that him in both hands. (+)

27 – 3rd and 10 at Houston 35 (Sacked) – Sanchez had Jeremy Kerley down the seam for a big play and he stepped up into the pocket to make the throw. However, JJ Watt made another ridiculous play, beating Brandon Moore and taking Sanchez’s legs out. Initially I thought this play would be on Sanchez for taking a sack in a bad spot but after watching the film, I’m not sure what else he could have done here considering the play Watt made. We’ll give him an undecided here.

28 – 2nd and 2 at their own 24 (Incomplete pass to Antonio Cromartie) – A poorly designed play that was rushed because of unnecessary substitutions that shouldn’t be occurring in a 2 minute drill. The swing screen was deflected by Conner Barwin but even if Cromartie caught it, he wasn’t going anywhere. Another undecided.

29 – 3rd and 2 at their own 24 (6 yard completion to Jeremy Kerley) – Excellent patience by Sanchez who waited for Kerley to get all the way across the set on a drag route and then fired in an accurate pass to move the chains on 3rd down. (+)

30 – 1st and 10 at their own 30 (10 yard yard completion to Jason Hill) – Sanchez went back to his bread and butter, the slant route. Hill stumbles a bit at the top of the route but Sanchez gets it to him anyway. At this point, it felt like the Jets were actually putting something together on their final drive. (+)

31 – 1st and 10 at their own 40 (Incompletion to Jeremey Kerley) – Sanchez was looking for Kerley on a 10 yard out route from the slot but simply missed the throw, putting it too low and to the outside. There is no reason this shouldn’t have been a 10-15 yard gain. (-)

32 – 2nd and 10 at their own 40 (Sack) – The Texans dialed up a blitz off the edge that the Jets completely failed to pick up (looking at you Bilal Powell). However, Sanchez should have recognized the pressure was going to come off the left side and move Powell there before the snap to make his job easier and the blitz easier to recognize here. Sanchez double clutched and probably could have got rid of the ball to an underneath receiver. Tough play with the blitz? Yes. Still you cannot take a sack here. (-)

33 – 3rd and 18 at their own 32 (Interception) – For some reason the Jets rushed to get this play off right before the two minute warning. They should have taken their time and went to the sideline to regroup after the sack. Sanchez made the right read. Jeff Cumberland was the primary read, he was open on about a 12 yard out route. Sanchez makes a good, not great throw that bounces off Cumberland hands for a game ending interception. Yes, Cumberland should have caught the ball. But why rush to the line in this situation? (-)

34 – 1st and 10 at their own 9 (Incompletion to Jeremy Kerley) – The Jets last second desperation play. You’d like to find a way to complete this so you at least have a chance to lateral. (-)

SECOND HALF – 14 Dropbacks – 8 Positives, 4 Negatives, 2 Undecided

TOTAL – 34 Dropacks, 20 Positives, 11 Negatives, 3 Undecided

Overall Analysis – It is fair to say that Mark Sanchez played better than his stat line indicated. However, that doesn’t absolve him of the inconsistencies he demonstrated. What is frustrating about re-watching this game tape is that this game was there for the Jets to win. They weren’t blown off the field by Houston. They weren’t outclassed. In a way that is encouraging for the rest of the season. If they cut back on the missed opportunities and mistakes, they are going to win football games. You can’t miss on a 61 yard touchdown to Antonio Cromartie. You can’t drop 25 yard completions. You can’t make the wrong read near the end-zone. However, you also won’t be dealing with JJ Watt and the Houston Texans every week. Sanchez was much better against Houston than he was against San Francisco and even Miami. It would not be surprising to see him put up a solid stat line against a Colts defense that is a major step down from Houston. Beyond that, everybody now has another game of experience in the offense and Dustin Keller should be back.

New York Jets – Embrace The Youth Movement

It is time for the New York Jets to stop playing old, unproductive players who won’t be on the roster next year

The suggestion of playing young players over established veterans is often a sign of packing it in for the season in preparation for the future. In the case of the New York Jets, the movement towards younger players wouldn’t necessarily signal that. It would actually be a wise move not just for the future but for the 2012 season.

At linebacker, there is a zero percent chance Bart Scott, Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace will be on the roster next year. They are currently ineffective at linebacker, considering the Jets are ranked 31st against the run and have 5 total sacks in 5 games. There is no logical reason not to immediately start giving Demario Davis at least 50 percent of Scott’s reps at inside linebacker. He is going to be the starter there next season so let him get experience now. In the meantime, he can’t perform at a much lower level than Scott, so you aren’t losing anything this season. At least you are gaining speed and more of a threat on blitzes, along with somebody who has some type of skill set in coverage.

On the outside, Pace is sluggish rushing the passer but remains valuable setting the edge in the run game. However, opposite of him the Jets should be rotating Bryan Thomas with both Garret McIntyre and Ricky Sapp. In particular, Sapp deserves an opportunity on passing downs. Aaron Maybin has been totally ineffective through five games. Similar to inside linebacker, how much more ineffective could a McIntyre/Sapp platoon be than Thomas and Maybin? They can’t be. Give them the reps and maybe a player like Sapp develops into a viable option for next season.

At running back, even though you never want to write off Mike Tannenbaum’s incompetence, Shonn Greene should not be back. He has been the least productive running back in the NFL through five games, so why continue to play him? It is physically impossible for Bilal Powell, Joe McKnight and Jonathan Grimes not to be better than him. Let the three young backs play all the reps and hope that one flashes enough to merit a roster spot as a complimentary back next year to whomever you add to be the primary back.

We touched on this earlier at wide receiver but the Jets are smart to avoid adding any veterans. It has become popular to lump all the Jets wide receivers together as a pile of garbage, which is both invalid and unfair. Jeremy Kerley is averaging nearly 20 yards per catch and has caught 15 passes on 23 targets, a highly respectable rate particularly in this offense. He is showing signs of developing into a very good receiver and is going to flourish from the extra reps this season. We knew Stephen Hill would be a project coming out of a triple option offense. He will take his lumps this year, mixed in with big plays. Let’s not forget he had 89 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns in his NFL debut. Hill was a legitimate 2nd round pick, not a reach. He has the skill set to develop into a big play receiver in the NFL, he just needs more seasoning. When he gets back healthy, give him all the reps he can get. Kerley and Hill could be the starting point of a quality group of receivers in future years.

It makes no sense to play veterans who won’t be on the team next year if they are completely ineffective. It may not be easy for Rex Ryan to sit players like Scott, Thomas and Greene but their play has earned them a spot on the bench and nowhere else.

New York Jets: Sanchez’s Last Stand

Mark Sanchez is running out of opportunities as the New York Jets starting quarterback

I wonder if Mark Sanchez longingly studies the depth chart of the quarterbacks drafted in the same year as him or the years right around him. Does he complain to Eva Longoria about Joe Flacco handing the football to Ray Rice and throwing the ball as far as he can to Torrey Smith while Anquan Boldin cleans up underneath? Does he shake at his head at Sportscenter highlights of Calvin Johnson leaping 18 feet in the air to pull down a Matthew Stafford pass? Does he go home in the off-season sit by the beach and imagine what it would be line up under center, look to his left and see Julio Jones, look to his right and see Roddy White and then look back to his left to see Tony Gonzalez. Does he take out the calculator and try to figure out how the small market Tampa Bay Bucs can provide Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin to Josh Freeman? He’d be crazy not to, right?

Nobody is saying that Mark Sanchez would be the same quarterback as Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco, or Matthew Stafford in the same situation. You might have argued that in 2010 when Sanchez led a 11-5 team to the AFC Championship Game and seemed to be growing as he outplayed Tom Brady in his own building in the playoffs. Those days are long gone now. Gone like the days when the New York Jets had one of the league’s best offensive lines, a rushing attack that could average more than 2.8 yards per carry and wide receivers who didn’t belong on a UFL roster.

Even a self-professed Sanchez Apologist has to admit there has been a clear regression in his play. Stats don’t need to tell the story because the game film does. In 2011, we saw the same inconsistencies we saw from Sanchez in 2010 except he didn’t rally in a big spot the way he traditionally did. He tanked in the team’s three biggest games of the season and didn’t offer a signature win all year.

It was also clear by the end of the season Sanchez’s supporting cast needed a tune up. The Jets were no longer a feared rushing attack and they didn’t have enough weapons in the passing game. Their once dominant offensive line had sunk to mediocre. Financially, the Jets doubled down on Sanchez by guaranteeing his money the next two years and proclaiming him their franchise quarterback. The next logical step was improving the rest of the offense to make sure that investment was a wise one.

We all know what happened. The Jets overvalued their own talent, believing Shonn Greene was a 1,500 yard back, Wayne Hunter and Matt Slauson would improve, and that Santonio Holmes could carry an inexperienced group of receivers. The only addition was Tim Tebow. We were given a cute story about how Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan discussed the acquisition in an airport , realizing it made perfect sense with Tony Sparano now the offensive coordinator. Tebow would fill the talent gaps because the Jets had a unique plan to mix him into their offense which would provide a spark to both their running and passing game.

It has been pretty apparent through four games that it was a line of bullshit. The Jets coaching staff is completely clueless when it comes to mixing Tebow into their offense, failing to even take advantage of him in obvious situations, like 3rd and short. With each passing week, the Tebow acquisition is looking more and more like a 100% money-grab business decision. The reports are already surfacing now about Jets owner Woody Johnson pushing for Tebow in the starting line-up and now it seems like only a matter of time until #15 is under center full time.

Where does all this leave Sanchez? The guy who started out the season on fire for 5 quarters, followed it with 6 abysmal quarters, rallied late against Miami and then bottomed out against San Francisco. It leaves him facing the league’s best team in primetime with the worst collection of skill position players in the NFL, no seriously. Go bring up every depth chart in the NFL and tell me who has a worst group of running backs than Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. Go bring up every depth chart in the NFL and tell me who has a worst group of wide receivers than Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, Chaz Schilens, and Clyde Gates. There isn’t a worst starting tight end in the NFL than Jeff Cumberland. There isn’t a worst fullback in the NFL than John Conner.

(For the record, Jeremy Kerley is a very talented slot receiver. He is seriously miscast as a number one receiver at this point of his career though. Stephen Hill has a very high ceiling as a big play wideout but right now he is a rookie from a triple-option college offense)

It almost seems like Mike Tannenbaum is setting Sanchez up to fail…almost. I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories, I just think Tannenbaum is incompetent as a talent evaluator. Sanchez has been dealt a crap hand and needs to find a way to make it work. He needs to hold Tebow off for one more week, so he can remain under center for the Jets final three games before the bye where they have a puncher’s chance of going 2-1 to hit the halfway mark at 4-4.

If Sanchez duplicates his performance against San Francisco on Monday night, how could you not support calls for him to be benched? He must protect the football. He must be more accurate. He must show command of the offense. He doesn’t need to pull the upset off, he just needs to keep the Jets competitive against the league’s best team with his excessively weak supporting cast. It is sad expectations but they are realistic.

Why show any hesitance in handing the team off to Tebow? The reason is a 8-8 season from Tebow will be considered magical and create a media firestorm, the type of media firestorm that will encourage Woody Johnson to bring him back as the team’s starter next year. Where I believe you will be looking at another 8-8 type season. I will take Tebow more seriously as a starting quarterback than Sanchez when he shows he can beat New England, not lose by 30 points. I will take Tebow more seriously as a starting quarterback when he can win double digit games in a season and a road playoff game. If he does that as a starter for the Jets this year, then by all means make him your long term starting quarterback.

Ultimately, I’m still of the belief that if Sanchez is surrounded with a competent supporting cast that the Jets ceiling remains higher than it would with Tebow running a read-option offense. With no supporting cast? Maybe Tebow is a better option cause of his diverse skill set but knowing the history of this franchise, there is a reasonable fear the Jets will double down on Tebow if he is just decent the rest of 2012 dooming themselves to a few more years of mediocrity. I could see myself writing the same article at this time next year when the Jets are 1-3 because they didn’t upgrade the offense around Tebow and thought he could just carry it on his own.

Mike Tannenbaum’s recent failings as a General Manager and his own inconsistencies have pushed Mark Sanchez to the brink of his career as the New York Jets starting quarterback. Can he get off the mat one last time?

New York Jets Week 5 – Early Thoughts On Jets vs. Texans

Early thoughts on the New York Jets week 5 match-up against the Houston Texans

There has been no game since Rex Ryan has taken over the New York Jets where the team has been a larger underdog and rightfully so. The Houston Texans are loaded and are likely the league’s best team, the Jets will be running out their weakest overall roster since the 2007 season. Here are some early thoughts on Jets/Texans – 

1. Dustin Keller and Stephen Hill’s status remains up in the air for this game. If they do not play, you are looking at a top three wide receivers of Jeremy Kerley, Chaz Schilens and Clyde Gates with Jeff Cumberland at tight end. Wow. Needless to say, Tony Sparano is a complete moron if he thinks he can run a traditional offense with that collection of skill players (never-mind Shonn “2.8 YPC” Greene at halfback) and move the ball against Houston’s defense. It is time for a gadget play heavy, Wildcat infused, empty the kitchen sink approach.

I am talking about lining Joe McKnight at wide receiver since he is better at the position than Gates, along with throwing him screen passes and using him in the Wildcat. I am talking about having Tim Tebow running option to either side of the formation with McKnight, Bilal Powell or Jeremy Kerley. I am talking about making sure Kerley, the unit’s most proven playmaker, gets 8-12 touches between receptions and rushes. I am talking about halfback passes, jump passes, reverses and anything else that might catch Houston off guard. Drop in a full series of Tebow here and there. Do something. Just for the love of god, don’t come out and give Shonn Greene 14 carries for 27 yards and hope you can drop Sanchez back while relying on people like Clyde Gates to beat coverage.

2. The Jets 31st ranked rushing defense has to find a way to deal with Arian Foster, Ben Tate and Justin Forsett…three backs that are better than any back on their roster. Memo to Mike Tannenbaum – You need good running backs to Ground and Pound. There is no easy answer here. Try more 4-3 and 46 looks, get Kenrick Ellis in the starting line-up for an injured Sione Pouha and try to force Houston to throw the ball. When they do that, you have to hope Antonio Cromartie is up to the challenge of covering Andre Johnson and that Matt Schaub ignores throwing at Kyle Wilson for sympathy out of how awful he is.

3. The Jets special teams, which has been solid so far this year needs to come up with a few big plays. The only way this game is competitive is if they find ways to manufacture points through the return and kicking game.

4. Monday is really a matter of pride. The Jets have to know the whole country will be watching with glee hoping they get curb-stomped 47-0. Are they going to lay down and let that happen on national television in their own building or are they going to have some respect for themselves as professional athletes? We shall see.

New York Jets – Minor Changes Won’t Solve Problems

The New York Jets need more than minor changes to solve their long list of problems

The New York Jets losing to the San Francisco 49ers yesterday should not have surprised anybody. It does not merit a shocked or angry reaction. The approach to the game and the emphatic manner in which they lost does however merit a response. Hopefully that response is taking place among the coaching staff and front office of the organization as they take today and tomorrow to reflect on a few harsh realities.

On the game film from yesterday, the coaching staff is going to see what a legitimate Super Bowl contender looks like. The 49ers are the team Rex Ryan wants. A smash-mouth, versatile running game supported by an efficient quarterback on offense and an elite defense that can get after the quarterback and force turnovers. The New York Jets can’t be them because Muhammad Wilkerson isn’t Justin Smith. David Harris isn’t Patrick Willis. Quinton Coples isn’t Aldon Smith. Bart Scott isn’t NaVorro Bowman. Not even remotely close. Shonn Greene isn’t half the running back Frank Gore is. Dustin Keller is a very poor man’s Vernon Davis. Colin Kapernick is a fast Tim Tebow who can throw the football. And right now, Mark Sanchez isn’t anywhere near the quarterback Alex Smith is and that is saying something because Smith isn’t very good.

The Jets don’t have Super Bowl talent. The Jets have 8-8 talent with zero depth. There is no middle class on the Jets roster. There is no capable backups with bright futures. Continuing the San Francisco comparison because it really drives it home – the 49ers 3rd and 4th running backs, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James could very well be the Jets 1st and 2nd best running backs. The 49ers 4th, 5th, and 6th wide receivers, Kyle Williams, AJ Jenkins and Ted Ginn Jr would be the Jets top three receivers this Monday night.

The lack of talent and depth gets dumped on Mike Tannebaum’s lap and it appears more analysts are finally jumping on the Mike Tannenbaum is doing an awful job train we have been driving here at TOJ the past year or so. When you have a pair of lackluster off-seasons in a row and don’t draft well it catches up to you. Unfortunately, there is no cure all trade or signing that can be made at this point. It is going to take a purging of overpriced veterans this off-season and a wise use of available cap space, something that Tannenbaum shouldn’t be given the chance to do but probably will because of his relationship with Woody Johnson.

Where does that leave the 2012 Jets right now? The problem with the game-plan against San Francisco was that the Jets approached the game like they had enough talent to compete with the 49ers. They mistakenly thought they could play their normal defensive scheme minus Darrelle Revis and stop their offense. They thought they could run a standard offensive game plan and score on the 49ers defense. They could not have been more wrong and that is on Rex Ryan’s hubris.

Similar to Tannenbaum, Ryan does a poor job of self-scouting his own talent. He overestimates the players on his roster. Hopefully, yesterday’s game tape will be a needed hard smack in the face resulting in Ryan realizing his team’s deficiencies. Against San Francisco the Jets should have been emptying the book on offense, mixing in gadget plays and new formations in hopes of catching their defense off guard. On defense, they should have been trying new formations, blitz schemes and personnel. Houston is coming to town this Monday and they are a better all-around team than San Francisco. If the Jets play straight up, they will lose by 30 points for the second week in a row.

On defense, it is time face the reality about the Jets linebackers. They have one very good inside linebacker who is having a poor year in David Harris and not much else. Bryan Thomas and Garrett McIntyre can’t play major reps on a good NFL defense. Calvin Pace and Bart Scott are slow, 2 down linebackers who are average players at best. The less linebackers on the field for the Jets, the better. We discussed in the off-season how the Jets are better built for a 4-3 or 46 and it is time for Rex to stop trying to fit square pegs in round holes in the 3-4.

Get Quinton Coples in the starting line-up and start showing more 4-3 looks. Accept the reality that Siona Pouha is hurt and give him time to heal while getting Kenrick Ellis more reps. At linebacker, more reps need to be given to Demario Davis immediately. Let him make his mistakes now and grow into the position he will hopefully be holding the next few years for the Jets. They need his speed out there. Put Aaron Maybin on the inactive list until he learns a second pass rush move and give Ricky Sapp a chance to rush the passer on third downs. In the secondary, hopefully Aaron Berry gets up to speed quickly. From a talent perspective, he could very well be starting over Kyle “I taunt the receiver when I’m beat by 10 yards” Wilson in a couple of weeks. Beyond that, you hope Antonio Cromartie and LaRon Landry continue their elevated level of play.

On offense, the solutions are going to be much harder to come by. Mark Sanchez was abysmal yesterday and the lack of supporting cast isn’t going to help him out of his slump. Tim Tebow is not the answer as a full time quarterback. He can be the answer as a shot in the arm to the offense if he is used properly, which Tony Sparano has shown no concept of doing. No more reps at H-Back. No more reps in the slot. No more reps at fullback. Get Tebow in the shotgun with Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley next to him and let him run option and take off up the middle on short yardage situations. Give him 10-12 carries a game. Treat him like a running back who is taking direct snaps and then pop in a deep pass on occasion to keep defenses honest.

The Jets are so bad at running back, that it wouldn’t be irrational to give recently signed Jonathan Grimes and roster ping pong ball Joe McKnight extended work. How could they be less productive than Shonn Greene? Go with a committee approach that hopefully pops a few big plays with the two of them and Bilal Powell. I mentioned Kerley in the Wildcat because he is type of player who should be getting 8-12 touches a game, especially in an offense as devoid of talent as the Jets. Use him how Green Bay uses Randall Cobb. Give him handoffs, pitches, quick screens…get the ball in his hands.

Mark Sanchez is so inconsistent that he may not be salvageable at this point. He needs to be given quick reads where he can get the ball out of his hands without too many progressions. Hopefully an improved, creative run game will open up some type of play action for him down the field. At wide receiver and tight end, you can only hope Stephen Hill and Dustin Keller get healthy and Chaz Schilens can be relied upon.

The Jets need a roster overhaul but they have 12 games left. In order to make those 12 games competitive, it is going to take creativity on both sides of the ball and a shake up of the depth chart. Hopefully Rex Ryan and his staff are smart enough to realize that.

New York Jets Problems – The Running Game

A closer look at the New York Jets problems running the football

The New York Jets spent the entire off-season talking about their running game in prideful, reverential terms. Yet never made the effort to improve it. They didn’t pursue a blue-chip running back. They didn’t add a run blocking tight end. They didn’t upgrade at the fullback position. Basically, they stubbornly stuck to their average starting running back, a below average fullback, a collection of unproven backups, and a group of wide receivers playing tight end. Are we surprised they have struggled to run the football through three games?

Despite many people’s insistence at holding on to hope for Shonn Greene, the problems with the running game start with him. The film breakdown from the first two weeks (and the third week) show him consistently leaving yards on the field. The numbers support this as well. Greene has 57 carries for 157 yards, which comes out to an embarrassingly low 2.8 yards per carry. With 22 carries, backup Bilal Powell has averaged 4.0 yards per carry. The contrast was most clearly shown last week when Greene could only rack up 40 yards on 19 carries (2.1 YPC) and Powell was able to accumulate 45 yards on only 10 carries (4.5 YPC).

If Powell would have had Greene’s 19 carries, he projects to finish with a solid 85 yards on the ground. The excuse that the offensive line isn’t creating holes is simply incorrect. Are they a dominant unit? No. However, they are opening lanes on a regular enough basis for a competent NFL running back to average 4 yards per carry.

Greene is a plodding back who seems to have lost a step from last season, a harsh reality that could have him out of the league within a few years. He cannot get the edge on outside runs. He cannot make anybody miss when he gets to the second level on inside runs. He stumbles frequently when receiving handoffs and isn’t running anybody over because he can’t generate enough momentum. When you get 27 carries in a NFL game and can’t crack 100 yards as Greene couldn’t in week one, you aren’t good enough to be a starter.

We constantly hear how Greene is a slow starter in both seasons and games. Why do the Jets need to wait until week 7 for Greene to get going? How about he comes into the season down 15 pounds and looking to gain a step, instead of starting even slower than he has the previous two years? Are the Jets expected to wait until Greene’s 15th carry in every game for him to have a single run over 3 yards? I don’t think it is insane to have higher expectations of a starting running back than that. This is his contract year and he has 57 carries for 157 yards…57 carries for 157 yards!

So what is the solution? The Jets would be wise to add an option from outside the organization, whether it is Ryan Grant via free agency or Chris Ivory via trade. However, Mike Tannebaum has shown no inclination to improve the running back position so why would he start now? If the Jets are staying in house, the answer is simple – make Bilal Powell the starter, make Joe McKnight the third down back, considering he is arguably the fastest player on the offense and can catch an out route out of the backfield better than Tim Tebow could. Speaking of Tebow, make him the short yardage back from the quarterback position. In case you haven’t noticed, Greene is poor in short yardage situations as well and that is something Tebow traditionally excels at.

Outside of running back, Konrad Reuland should play above Jeff Cumberland as the backup tight end when Dustin Keller returns. He should also see more action at fullback, since anything that keeps John Conner off the field is a positive. The Jets should also incorporate Jeremy Kerley into the running game. Kerley is averaging a monstrous 23 yards per catch and has shown the ability to make things happen as a returner and runner (on reverses and out of the Wildcat last year). Have you seen how Green Bay uses Randall Cobb? That is how the Jets should use Kerley in their running game.

The New York Jets running problems will only be solved if they turn away from the ignorant 20 carries per game for Shonn Greene. It is time for a committee approach that is more creative and gives Mark Sanchez the hope of having a balanced offense.

Turn On The Jets 12 Pack, Week 3 – Jets vs. Dolphins

Turn On The Jets with 12 predictions for the Jets week 3 match-up against the Miami Dolphins

How about this weather in New York City? There is nothing like the autumn. It reminds me of getting ready for another breakout 3 catch, 26 yard performance at Muhlenberg as we got ready to whoop up on Union College (sorry Chris Gross). Anyway, The New York Daily News or as we call them around here, TMZ has had a fun week of stirring the quarterback controversy pot and talking about Tebow shirtless. Fortunately, we have supplied you with all the necessary football coverage…emphasis on football you need here the past five days. The Mission To Civilize continues –

On to the predictions –

1. Ryan Tannehill will have at least two turnovers and struggle to push the ball down the field to his overmatched wide receivers against the Jets secondary. He won’t top 175 yards passing.

2. Stephen Hill will get back to being a factor, finishing with at least 55 yards receiving and his third touchdown of the season.

3. Reggie Bush will be the leading rusher in this game and keep Miami competitive for about three quarters, finishing with 80 yards rushing and another 35 receiving, along with a touchdown.

4. Brian Hartline will have less than 40 yards receiving.

5. Bilal Powell will have 10 carries and average more yards per carry than Shonn Greene, who will have another disappointing effort.

6. Tim Tebow will have 40 total offensive yards and his first touchdown of the season on a short run.

7. Mark Sanchez will complete 60% of his passes or higher, finish with over 200 yards passing and not have a turnover.

8. Cameron Wake will have at least one sack.

9. Joe McKnight will see his most extensive work of the season on offense and finish with 45 total offensive yards.

10. Aaron Maybin will have his first sack of the season.

11. The Jets won’t miss a beat without John Conner. Konrad Reuland will play at FB/H-Back and play well enough to begin taking most of his reps when he returns healthy.

12. The Jets will win 23-10 in a game that will remain tight into the early fourth quarter but will get put away by a lengthly touchdown drive from the Jets offense and a shutdown Jets defense.

Turn On The Jets Offensive Film Breakdown – Jets vs. Steelers

Breaking down the offensive game film from Jets/Steelers

Turn On The Jets broke down the offensive game film from the New York Jets week two loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. A big thank you to everybody who sent in their questions on Twitter on what they specifically wanted to see broken down from the film. Make sure to check back tomorrow when Chris Gross will go through the defensive game tape –

Let’s start with something positive, since the bulk of this article is going to be a negative review of Santonio Holmes, Shonn Greene, Mark Sanchez, and Jeff Cumberland. The New York Jets opening drive on offense was a thing of beauty. Mark Sanchez was accurate and aggressive, hitting Jeremy Kerley on a 45 yard completion on a well-designed play by Tony Sparano and a beautiful, shifty route from Kerley. The touchdown to Santonio Holmes took advantage of the Jets being so run heavy in their three tight end look that Sanchez’s well-executed play action held up both linebackers and brought the free safety towards the line to stop the run. This opened a huge window to Holmes for an easy touchdown. Great tendency breaking play-call by Tony Sparano.

Unfortunately after a strong start from Holmes, he grew impatient with Pittsburgh’s aggressive, physical coverage. He showed no ability to respond to it and terrible releases and overall route-running technique. On a key third down early in the game, Sanchez was keying on him to run a whip route (similar to an out, but when you run a slant, plant your inside foot and work back to the outside), however as Sanchez rolled right, Holmes slammed into a linebacker and falls over instead of releasing to the outside. With Holmes on the ground, Sanchez ended up taking a huge shot from Lawrence Timmons after throwing it away.

Later in the game, Holmes and Sanchez again struggled to connect on a third down. Last week on a nearly identical play, we praised Sanchez for being patient and hitting Jeff Cumberland on a 3rd and 9 instead of hitting Dustin Keller in the flat. However, here on 3rd and 16 and considering the Jets field position and complete lack of offensive productivity (this play took place midway through the 3rd quarter), he should have taken Kerley in the flat. Why? It either sets up a long field goal attempt, gives you a chance to go for it on 4th and roughly 6 or maybe Kerley makes a guy miss and gets a first down.

Regardless, Sanchez decides to wait for Holmes to reach the first down marker. Unfortunately, Holmes rounds off the top of his route. Instead of driving off Ike Taylor by threatening him deep, he rounds it off too early and doesn’t make a sharp cut back to the quarterback. This doesn’t move Taylor at all who squatted on the route and easily knocked the ball down.

Later in the game, Sanchez went to Holmes on a 2nd and 10 on a hitch route. Again, instead of driving his defender off, Holmes just slams into him and looks to push off. This disrupts the timing and it is why when he turned around, he wasn’t prepared to catch the ball which he dropped.

What I have seen through two games of Santonio Holmes this season is lazy route running, poor communication with his quarterback and endless complaining to the official to bail out his poor play. I have defended Holmes time and time again on this site, however so far this season he looks like a player who received a big contract and stopped working on the little things that make wide receivers great. When you watch players like Hakeem Nicks or Victor Cruz in the early game and then watch Holmes, the dropoff is enormous. Here is Holmes staring down an official after he dropped yet another pass (and there was no pass interference) while childishly trapping Ike Taylor’s feet between his legs. Taylor flipped out screaming at Holmes after this play for how long he held him there.

Moving on to Shonn Greene and the problems in the Jets running game. Here we see a well-blocked play and instead of Greene hitting the hole at full speed, he comes to a complete stop behind the of scrimmage and squats extremely low to the point of stumbling…again. This went for 3 yards and easily could have been a 7-9 yard again.

Later in the game, Greene had a monster hole on a well designed play by Tony Sparano. The Jets came out in a wishbone look and gave Greene a delayed draw. He literally goes untouched for 8 yards through the Pittsburgh defense, as you can see from both angles here. He has one person to beat, safety Ryan Mundy who steps up to fill. This is where it is a running back’s job to make the safety miss and score a touchdown.

What does Greene do? He squats as low as he can, starts stumbling and basically gives himself a concussion by getting smacked by Mundy for exactly a 9 yard gain. So basically Greene didn’t receive any contact until 8 yards down the field and finished with a 9 yard gain…not good enough.

There was a clear contrast between Bilal Powell and Greene in this game. Simply put, Powell looked quicker, more explosive and showed more of an ability to make people miss. On this play, Lawrence Timmons shoots through the gap unblocked and has a clear shot at Powell. If this is Greene, it is without question a 3 yard loss. However, Powell was fast enough to beat him through the hole and turn this into a 5 yard gain.

Later in the game, Powell should have had a 34 yard touchdown run. This play was well blocked up front and Powell made a great cutback. All it took was Jeff Cumberland sealing his man and he would have been off to the races. Unfortunately, Cumberland whiffed and the run only went for 10 yards. This is what happens when you have limited depth at tight end and don’t have a player who can block at the position.

Cumberland also showed no awareness on a hot route in the second quarter. If he read the defense properly, the Jets easily convert a 3rd down and don’t have to settle for a field goal.

A few other observations –

  • Austin Howard and the pass protection held up relatively well in this game. He did allow one sack but could have received more help from Shonn Greene on a chip block. Greene struggled in pass protection throughout this entire game.
  • Tony Sparano called a terrific first half. The Jets should have had an easy touchdown to Santonio Holmes in the end-zone to take a 14-6 lead. They rolled Sanchez out, got the coverage they wanted, Santonio Holmes ran a beautiful double move but Sanchez threw it high and behind him instead of out in front. Rob detailed this play here yesterday and it was a killer miss by Sanchez.
  • The deep ball to Stephen was another clever play call and a beautiful throw from Sanchez. Ultimately, it was just played very well by Ryan Clark. It is hard to put blame on anybody on this play. Hill probably could have ran a crisper route and he did struggle to get off press coverage all day…leading to Sanchez not looking his way very often.
  • Sparano got a little too conservative in the second half but his receivers weren’t helping the cause by getting pushed around so easily.
  • The 12 yard run by Joe McKnight was very impressive. There was nothing there and he broke a tackle, made two guys miss and showed good acceleration. It is time for more McKnight, Powell and yes Tebow running the ball. Shonn Greene doesn’t merit more than 15 carries per game at this point.

Turn On The Jets 12 Pack, Week 2 – Jets vs. Steelers

12 predictions for the New York Jets week 2 match-up against the Pittsburgh Steelers

The 12 Pack is back for another week of likely incorrect predictions about the upcoming New York Jets game. Make sure you check back tomorrow for our TOJ Roundtable picks for the game and the ongoing Race For Steak. In case you haven’t heard yet, the following players are OUT for the game on Sunday: Darrelle Revis, Dustin Keller, Bryan Thomas, James Harrison, Troy Polamalu, Rashard Mendenhall…so yea, no big names or anything. 

Make sure to check out our deal of the week with Night Out $30 for unlimited beer and appetizers at Session 73. The TOJ staff should be in the building, will you be? 

1. We have discussed at length the problems Emmanuel Sanders and Heath Miller could cause for the Jets, those problems are only magnified now by Ellis Lankster playing nickelback and Isaiah Trufant playing in the dime. Kyle Wilson will likely spend most of the game covering Antonio Brown, a match-up Ben Roethlisberger will likely exploit and Antonio Cromartie will be on Mike Wallace. Pittsburgh is going to rack up a ton of passing yards, the question is can the Jets defense bend but not break? Roethlisberger should be good for at least 260 yards through the air on Sunday.

2. The Jets pass rush is going to break through against a suspect Pittsburgh offensive line. Todd Haley is going to get pass happy and while they will get their yards, it will also come at the cost of a few sacks. Look for Quinton Coples to record his first NFL sack and for Aaron Maybin to get on the board as well.

3. Mark Sanchez is going to play another good game in what will turn out to be a very good season for him. The Jets will pick on Keenan Lewis and Ryan Mundy and won’t be shy about attacking down the field with Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill or Jeremy Kerley. Sanchez will be good for 20+ completions and 225+ yards.

4. Shonn Greene will have 18-22 carries and finish with under 100 yards.

5. Tim Tebow will be more effective in the Wildcat this week than he was last week. He will compete his first pass of the season and run for 25-35 yards.

6. Jonathan Dwyer will be Pittsburgh’s leading rusher and finish with 50-55 yards. Pittsburgh will abandon the running game fairly early in this one.

7. Santonio Holmes will score his first touchdown of the season and it will come on a completion of over 20 yards.

8. Mark Sanchez will be sacked 2 or 3 times on Sunday. However, he will not have any turnovers this week.

9. Garret McIntyre will have a rough game in the starting line-up for Bryan Thomas. Pittsburgh will attack him in both the rushing and passing game with a good amount of success.

10. Bilal Powell will have a bigger role in the game-plan than he did last week.

11. Antonio Cromartie will have his second interception of the season.

12. This is going to be a somewhat high scoring game that will be tight all the way throughout. This one will be decided in the final 3-4 minutes. Unfortunately this is the time for my yearly disclaimer that I can’t pick the Jets to go 16-0. Yes, this is a very winnable game. However, I think Pittsburgh does enough and puts it away late for a 27-24 victory.