Mental State Of Mark Sanchez Key To New York Jets Making A Run

TJ on the mental state of Mark Sanchez being a key factor on if the Jets can make a late season run

Over the last seven days, Mark Sanchez has been beaten by a quarterback who rarely throws a forward pass, and replaced in practice by another who hasn’t seen the field in a meaningful game in years. The mental state of Mark Sanchez, has expressed both confident and fearful tendencies over two and a half NFL seasons, and is the key component for the Jets playoff hopes. As the club embarks on a six game stretch that includes winnable games on paper, with virtually no room for error.

The 5-5 Jets have done it to themselves. Shoddy offensive line play, a pedestrian rushing attack, and a defense that has failed to dominate the line of scrimmage, have along with the now mistake prone Sanchez, all contributed to the club’s current need of running the table.

Going 5-1 should get the Jets in. 4-2 probably won’t. Not with five losses already in the AFC, and an AFC East title that appears headed for another Foxboro crowning.

The task is doable. A banged up Bills team. A QB-less Chiefs club. A Jekyll and Hyde Philly team and 3-7 yet improving group of Dolphins bring a semblance of hope to the Jets. Provided that their play improves. Starting with Sanchez.

It hasn’t all been the fault of the quarterback though much of the blame for the losing has fallen on the shoulders of number six. What has come first, the Jets quarterback’s lack  of ball security or the mounting losses, is debatable. What is NOT up for debate is that Sanchez has made a plethora of key errors that have led directly to failed outcomes. A collection of instances that have left many questioning his ability to lead the Jets.

Sanchez entered this season prematurely awarded the keys to an “Air Coryell” type of offense that was to throw early and often. Deep and short, and all over the field. Once the hardened wall of  a promising 2-0 start began to show cracks up front, a decision was made to do an about face. The “ground and pound” then made their way back into the huddle after Sanchez took a physical beating in Baltimore. In a loss that dropped the Jets to 2-2 during a hellacious three game road swing. The club’s move back in time settled down the ball security issues that following Sunday, but still resulted in a low octane, 30-21 loss at New England.

After a mundane offensive performance during a 24-6 Monday night win over winless Miami, OC Brian Schottenheimer came out from his lab in order to implement “science project three,” a spread out attack against San Diego. The new look got all Jet skill players involved early. However, an end zone interception thrown by Sanchez in the first half thwarted a drive that reminded some of the game ending pick six by Ravens CB Lardarius Webb in Baltimore one week prior. Despite a solid second half comeback that resulted in a big 27-21 win over the Chargers, a scary habit was forming for the Jets underneath the surface, and inside the helmet of it’s signal caller. At 3-3 though, the Jets were at least back in the race.

The Jets returned from a bye week answering doubts surrounding their recent history of egg laying after breaks, by embarking on a crisp nine minute opening drive at 4-2 Buffalo. One that resulted in, you guessed it, an end zone interception by Sanchez that gave Buffalo life. The play seemed to shake the foundation of Sanchez for the rest of the first half, as another pick was followed by a fumbled snap. Two quarters dominated by the Jets defense soon ended with Gang Green owners of a slim 3-0 lead. Sanchez and Co. got it together later in closing out the Bills 27-11, but questions regarding the QB’s “growth” after his nervous play early on, grew louder afterwards.

Now at 5-3, but trailing 30-16 with 8:00 left in a matchup for first place with New England, Sanchez did it again. Throwing a pick six from his own goal line that put the Pats up for good at 37-16. A play that ended the Pats two game slide and talk of a Belichick dynasty in it’s final throes. The interception only compounded an inexplicable timeout that Sanchez had called prior to a late first half TD, that left Tom Brady enough time to regain the lead 13-9, with a TD of his own.

Anecdotally, the lost lead at halftime had sent the Jets marching toward the locker room, where an angry Ryan told NBC the timeout was the “stupidest play in the history of football.” Moments later, a fan compared Ryan’s work to King Bill’s to which the Jets boisterous coach responded “STFU.” A comment that later led to a $75,000 fine by the league on Ryan.

The loss to it’s archrival after the rare shot at a divisional takeover slipped from within their grasp, left the Jets ripe for an ambush in Denver. Where only days later, on an odd Thursday night tilt, Sanchez again threw away the lead. This time at the tail end of the third quarter of a game the Jets led 10-3. Where points were at a premium, as injured primary backs Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson sat as specators. The resulting 10-10 tie then set the stage for Tim Tebow’s impersonation of a John Elway game winning drive.

Despite the many gaffes that Sanchez has had in 2011, his body of work during prior years, should still leave him with many postives to rebuild his confidence from. Regardless of the truth that Ryan’s Jets have been built on defense and a stout rushing attack, Sanchez’s caretaking DID lead to four big comeback wins in 2010. As well as clutch play during mistake free play from behind center over two postseasons.

Mark Brunell was given first team reps over the past few days, but the 19 year veteran is not about to start on Sunday in a must win rematch with the Bills. However, don’t take Ryan seriously when he says as he did at a press conference today, that he can’t envision sitting Sanchez. Should the “Sanchise” struggle with the season on the line, in a winnable game that will feature a Fred Jackson-less Bills offense, don’t be shocked if Ryan goes to the bullpen for a short term fix.

The only person who can prevent this scenario is also the only one who can spearhead the Jets return to a swagger that carried them to the Super Bowl’s doorstep for two years straight. Mark Sanchez.

Sanchez must believe in himself again. By surveying the field. By delivering throws on time. By avoiding the tunnel vision that has led to so many points for the opposing the defense. The Jets QB has to remember that he was brought here to get the Jets over the hump. He must take the field Sunday knowing that if the coaching staff DIDN’T feel as though he could achieve that, he would have never been given the starting job from day one, with a quality team built around him, in the first place.

TOJ Thanksgiving Day Picks

TOJ with his Thanksgiving Day picks.

Last Week: 5-7-1

Season Record: 80-63-5

Green Bay (-7) vs. Detroit – I do think the Packers are good enough to run the table. The building will be rocking in Detroit and I expect the Lions to both jump out to an early lead and to empty the playbook with trick plays. However, in the end I think Aaron Rodgers will carve up that defense in the second half and Matthew Stafford will throw a couple of crucial interceptions.

Dallas (-7) vs. Miami – Yes, the Dolphins have been much better as of late but Dallas has too much on the line to slip up here. They are well on their way to being in the driver’s seat of the NFC East and won’t stumble against the surging ‘Fins.

San Francisco (+3) vs. Baltimore – Awesome football game. However, I am more sold on San Francisco than I am on Baltimore at this point. The 49ers play how the Ravens want to play better than they do.

Jets Face November Must Win

TOJ hopes the Jets will play with the necessary desperation this Sunday

Rex Ryan was 100 percent correct when he said the playoffs start now for the New York Jets. Fortunately for them their first round opponent is going to be the Buffalo Bills, a team who has been outscored 106-26 in their last three games. A team whose best player, running back Fred Jackson, won’t be playing this week. A team who has been besieged with injuries across the board and recently put two starters on IR, wide receiver Donald Jones and cornerback Terrence McGee. A team who is 1-4 on the road this season and is basically in a complete free fall.

Let’s not beat around the bush, it is an absolute joke if the New York Jets cannot win this football game. Sadly enough when my friend asked me this week if he should take the Jets in his survivor pool, I had to hesitate and not give an emphatic yes. How could I, after watching how this offense has played the past two weeks? The negative Jets fan inside of me is having visions of C.J. Spiller having his coming out party against the Jets defense and Mark Sanchez throwing three interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns.

In reality, we know the Jets are a better football team than the Buffalo by a substantial margin. We saw it a few weeks ago and the circumstances play more into the Jets favor this week than they did in the previous meeting. They are a better football team than the Denver Broncos and still found a way to lose but the desperation level on this team should be much higher this week, nevermind they have had 10 days to rest and prepare.

The Jets season is over if they lose this Sunday, some coaches and players season’s should also be over if they lose. Let’s hope they play with the necessary urgency and win in the fashion that they should.

A New York Jets Positive: Plaxico Burress

TOJ on a recent positive for the New York Jets: wide receiver Plaxico Burress

After the New York Jets knocked off the Miami Dolphins a few weeks ago, it looked like the Plaxico Burress signing wasn’t working out. He was struggling to consistently stay involved in the offense and looked disinterested at times. Fortunately, over the past few weeks Burress has done a 180 and is both producing on the field and acting like a veteran leader off it.

Against the San Diego Chargers, Burress showed his ability to still dominate in the red-zone with three touchdown receptions. The following week he put together his most complete performance of the season against the Buffalo Bills with 5 receptions for 79 yards. Burress scored his fourth touchdown in three weeks the next game against the Patriots and then this past Thursday he added another 4 receptions for 64 yards against the Broncos.

He looks better getting off the line of scrimmage and has routinely drawn defensive pass interference penalties. Considering his pace to score around 10 touchdowns, it is looking like the signing may actually pay off.

Off the field, Burress hasn’t sniped about Mark Sanchez’s inconsistent play, which he has been baited to do in multiple post-game press conferences. Today he actually stepped up and took responsibility for Sanchez’s pick six against the Denver Broncos saying he should have came back to the ball more. In reality, considering the type of route he was running, a whip route (very similar to an out), that wasn’t necessarily the case. Rod Boone of Newsday tweeted out that Sanchez seemed to appreciate the sentiment from Burress and considering the heat he has been facing from everybody lately receiving some support from his veteran receiver certainly doesn’t hurt. It was a good, veteran move by Plax to take some of the blame even when it wasn’t his fault.

The Jets offense will need Burress to continue to strive down the stretch if they have any plans of making a post-season run.

As Jets Regroup, Time To Consider A Three Headed Monster

TJ on how using a three headed monster at running back could help open up the Jets offense

It might be late in the game for an entire overhaul of the offense. From airing it out, to grounding and pounding, to a recent attempt at balance, the Jets have tried almost everything in 2011. Except for a three headed attack out of the backfield. Which won’t require an arduous rewriting of the playbook on the fly, in order to do so.

BIG PLAYS FROM SPEEDY MCKNIGHT WILL EASE THE HEAT ON SANCHEZ

QB Mark Sanchez is in desperate need of confidence and rhythm. He has to be better. Perhaps using Joe McKnight as a Dexter McCluster type can help. The second year McKnight can give the Jets a chance for big plays both with some extra pitches outside, and bubble screens from the slot position. Going in motion towards a WR position after initially lining up in the backfield. All of which require little from Sanchez, as far as reading defenses and making tough choices go.

LET GREENE HAMMER, BUT USE HIM LESS

Shonn Greene can continue to hammer away inside. However, despite what the Jets brass will tell you when they say that Greene gets going once his numbers INCREASE, a few less carries will limit the potential of the nagging injuries that seem to plague Greene the MORE he touches the ball.

LT IS A VINTAGE CAR, USE HIM WISELY

LaDainian Tomlinson changes the pace in the screen game and in tough yardage scenarios, where both experience and vision become top priority. His recent MCL sprain though, may require the curtailing of any foreseeable heavy work loads. LT will be key in keeping drives alive, but like a classic and effective vintage car, must be used wisely.

NOTHING WILL HELP THE OFFENSE IF THE JETS DON’T OPEN IT UP

The switch to three instead of two won’t solve everything on. The notion of injecting more of McKnight only helps if the Jets ALSO remember to open up their passing game downfield. Stretching the defense has been the very reason why the eternally emerging TE Dustin Keller, has found little room to work in.

The unwillingness to try many deep throws stifles the Jets many quick slants and five yard outs. Predictable routes that have allowed defenses to pack it in, leaving no room for receivers Plaxico Burress, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley to run after the catch.

SHORT RANGE CAN WORK IF THE BALL IS SPREAD AROUND

After keeping teams honest by going deep, the Jets can take solace in knowing that teams CAN be effective when employing a predominantly short range ideology. Take Denver and Tim Tebow as even the most extreme example. Most plays nowadays in the Mile High city, start with footballs being tossed as options BEHIND the line of scrimmage. Yet it is  anyone’s guess as to which Broncos ball carrier or receiver ends up with it.

GO DOWNFIELD, USE THREE RBs, IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

So then, what should come first? Throwing downfield to guys like Holmes in order to back the opposing defenses up? Or should the Jets try to spring a few quick pitches and screens for yardage in order to utilize a Sanchez favorite, the play action, to go deep with purpose? Our answer is, it doesn’t matter which of the two is higher up on the scripted play chart. As long as both are tended to, and a potential threat, throughout the game.

THREE RBs WIDENS THE ATTACK WHILE PRESERVING GREENE, LT

Opening it up downfield is a must. Going with a committed three pronged attack out of the backfield is an idea for an offense that certainly needs a spark. What do the Jets have to lose by widening the line of scrimmage with McKnight? Adding his speed and carries to keep the oft injured Greene, and currently banged up Tomlinson, rested.

In order to survive long enough to even attempt a 5-1 finish, the Jets must get more out of Mark Sanchez AND go downfield already. Yet they should consider how a three headed rushing attack could aid in the process.

New York Jets: How To Make A Run

TOJ on how the New York Jets can make yet another late season run

The first two seasons for the New York Jets under Rex Ryan have been marked by extreme peaks and valleys. They go from looking unbeatable to looking like one of the worst teams in the league. Both years have required the team to string together a run or two to make the playoffs and then to ultimately come within a half or a few plays of the Super Bowl.

Let’s look at those runs and try to figure out if they have another one in them —

2009: 4-6 to 7-6

The Jets were effectively buried after falling to 4-6. They responded with three straight wins over mediocre teams (Carolina, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay). The main factors behind this winning streak were really the lack of quality opponents and an excessively conservative (Kellen Clemens played the last game and a half of this streak) game-plan, which allowed the defense to dominate horrible offenses while the Jets own offense didn’t get in the way. I would expect something pretty similar in the next few weeks against Buffalo, Washington, and Kansas City. Although considering the steps back the Jets running game has taken, they will need more from Mark Sanchez…more as in, complete a few passes over 10 yards and don’t turn the damn football over.

2009: 7-7 to the AFC Championship Game

After losing to Atlanta to end their previously mentioned 3 game winning streak. The Jets won 4 straight to make the playoffs and get all the way to the AFC Championship Game. A major factor in the first two wins was quality of competition, notably an Indianapolis Colts team resting starters in the second half and a Cincinnati Bengals team looking ahead to the playoffs. However, the Jets showed the regular season finale wasn’t a fluke by smacking the Bengals around in their own building in the wild-card round and then upsetting the heavily favored San Diego Chargers the next week. Mark Sanchez played well in these four games, particularly in terms of protecting the football. Shonn Greene also got rolling, which took the Jets running game to another level. The defense was very good and Brian Schottenheimer actually strung together a few solid game plans.

2010: 0-1 to 9-2

After an ugly opening week loss, the Jets won 8 of their next 9, basically an unprecedented streak of success in franchise history. The key here was clutch plays by Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes, considering the duo hooked up for the game deciding play in half of those wins, with the defense stepping up at the end of the game in a few others.

2010: 9-3 to the AFC Championship Game

After a pair of brutal losses to New England and Miami, the Jets responded by winning 2 out of 3 to end their regular season and coming up with two more road playoff wins. The key here was the defense regaining their dominant form, most notably in the playoffs against Peyton Manning and Tom Brady along with Mark Sanchez getting his confidence back. The stats won’t bear this out but considering the competition and the timing of the game, the three most impressive games I have seen from both Sanchez and Rex Ryan’s defense were the regular season win in Pittsburgh in week 15 and their playoff wins over the Colts and Patriots.

2011: 2-3 to 5-3

The best six quarters of football the Jets have played this season were the second half against San Diego and the full Buffalo game. In retrospect, neither of those teams are very good. However, you saw a dominant defense and a confident Mark Sanchez, noticing a trend here?

Prospects for 2011 Playoff Run

Considering their next three opponents, the Jets have a very real chance to get their defense rolling against subpar offenses. Yes, I am putting Buffalo in that category after watching them play the past three weeks. If this unit can’t get going against the Bills, Rex Grossman, and Tyler Palko they have even further to go than we already think they do. Outside of one ill-advised throw and a dropped snap, Mark Sanchez played very well against Buffalo a few weeks ago. He must start building himself back-up immediately, with support of the coaching staff/game-planning. Even if the Jets do scrape by in the next three, Sanchez must get much better to win in Philadelphia, beat the Giants, and the suddenly hot Miami Dolphins.

He will need support of both Shonn Greene and his offensive line, who have been average at best this season. An offense isn’t a one man show. Greene and the rest of the running backs need to bring balance to the offense and the wide receivers and Dustin Keller must start looking like the playmakers they are supposed to be.

Are the Jets capable of winning their next three and setting us up for an exciting few final weeks? Absolutely. If they can’t win these next three, it is time to blow up big chunks of this team and they know that. Let’s see if they have another run in them.

Depressing New York Jets Statistics

TOJ with a collection of depressing New York Jets statistics

The most depressing statistic of all for the New York Jets is of course their 5-5 record. I give them passes for losses in Baltimore and New England because those are both quality, playoff teams. They were also shorthanded in Baltimore without Nick Mangold. Beyond that, the other three losses were complete embarrassments, particularly the past two.

However, when you look at their current stat sheet, a few things jump off the page…in a bad way.

Shonn Greene – 573 yards in 10 games. I am sorry but 57 yards a game isn’t lead back production. He is on pace to finish with 915 yards and 4 touchdowns with under 4 yards per carry. Greene has been better as of late until his injury in Denver but he needs a strong finish or the Jets may have to look elsewhere for their number one back.

Santonio Holmes – 472 receiving yards…similarly to Greene, 42 yards a game isn’t cutting it for a number one receiver. Some of that blame falls on Mark Sanchez and Brian Schottenheimer but not all of it. If I would have told you before the year that Victor Cruz would be more of a big play threat than Holmes, production-wise, wouldn’t that have made you sick?

Dustin Keller – He hasn’t caught a touchdown since week 2. This is a bizarre ongoing trend with Keller who always starts off the season with high touchdown production and then completely falls off a cliff.

Calvin Pace – The Jets paid him like an elite pass rusher and he is proving not to be one. He has 4 sacks in 10 games.

Rushing Yards – 96.6 yards a game, which is good for 26th in the league.

Opponent Rushing Yards – 116.9 yards a game, which is good for 17th in the league. Isn’t this team supposed to be physical?

New York Jets Defense Needs Immediate Improvement

TOJ on the immediate improvement needed from the New York Jets defense if they are going to contend this season

The New York Jets defense, Rex Ryan’s pride and joy, has been maddeningly inconsistent this season. They dominated in the second half against San Diego, the entire Buffalo game, and then for the first 29 minutes of the New England game. Since then they were embarrassed on a two minute drive, the entire second half against the Patriots, and after handling the Tim Tebow circus for 56 minutes, laid an egg on the final drive.

There are parts of this defense seriously lacking in athleticism and speed. Bart Scott has been a major liability all season and is consistently either missing a tackle, getting knocked down or moved out of place. Calvin Pace is supposed to be the team’s top pass rusher but has 4 sacks in 10 games, 2 of which came against Miami when Matt Moore was receiving his first start and they still hadn’t won a game yet. He doesn’t disrupt the passer enough. Between the two of them and the subpar platoon at Bryan Thomas’ old spot, it has been painful at times to watch the Jets linebackers lumbering around the field.

At safety, we all know what the problem is. Rex Ryan can try to cover for him all he wants in his press conferences but Eric Smith has been terrible this season. Blowing contain on Tim Tebow’s game winning touchdown provided a nice illustration of what he has brought to the defense this year. He can’t cover. He misses too many tackles for a guy supposed to be known for his run defense and has a knack for untimely penalties. Jim Leonhard is an average player at safety, who can’t afford to be complimented by a below average player.

These are all issues the Jets will have to coach around for the rest of the season. They managed to do it last year, but can they pull it off again? A healthy Brodney Pool wouldn’t hurt. Antonio Cromartie playing with some heart and more physicality (not dancing to avoid tackles) would help as well. There are positives on the defense, namely the development of the line, Darrelle Revis, David Harris, and the growth of Kyle Wilson. Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine are good defensive minds but they need to push this unit to the next level immediately to support an increasingly incompetent offense.

The Jets have 12 upcoming quarters to feast on the fading Ryan Fitzpatrick, Rex Grossman, and Tyler Palko. Can they take advantage or will they disappoint us like they did in the final minutes of Thursday night?

New York Jets: Where Do We Go From Here?

Sitting at 5-5 and looking awful in the process, do the New York Jets have a playoff run in them?

We have now had a few days for the dust to settle on a disgustingly disappointing week of New York Jets football. The New York Giants will take some of the media spotlight for laying an egg at home last night against Vince Young and the Philadelphia Eagles. As it stands right now, the New York Jets are 5-5 and somehow still very much alive in the AFC wild-card race.

Basically they are 1 game out as they sit behind the 6-4 Cincinnati Bengals at. Currently, they are also behind Denver and Tennessee because of tie-breakers despite having the same record as them. Be prepared for six weeks of rooting against these three teams, along with Pittsburgh and Baltimore although most of us expect both of them to return to the playoffs.

The Jets schedule is kind to put it mildly the next three weeks. This week they play the only team in the NFL who has been more pathetic than them the past two weeks, the Buffalo Bills. The Jets get them at home and beat them up only a few weeks ago, 27-11. If the Jets can’t take care of them this week, it is time to start firing coaches (cough, cough Schottenheimer) and benching people. After Buffalo, the Jets travel to Washington to face the Rex Grossman show in DC and then host Tyler Palko and the Kansas City Chiefs.

This three game stretch reminds me of the 4-6 Jets in 2009 facing Carolina, Buffalo, and Tampa Bay. The won all three but nobody was all that impressed considering the level of competition. I could see a similar situation unfolding this year as ultimately the Jets will have to find a way to not just win these next 3 but at a minimum take 2 out of 3 from Philadelphia, the Giants, and the suddenly hot Dolphins to end the season.

They aren’t beating anybody if Mark Sanchez doesn’t get his confidence back and start playing with some consistency, most of that is on him but Brian Schottenheimer has to come up with a competent game-plan. Rex Ryan must let Bill Callahan and Tom Moore give more input to assist in this process. I don’t know how to hide Wayne Hunter outside of leaving awful Matthew Mulligan in to help chip block. I suppose they could also try awful Vladimir Ducasse in that spot or give Shawn Nelson a chance if he ever gets healthy. Maybe give Josh Baker a few more reps? There are more questions than answers right now on offense.

On defense, my rant is coming this afternoon. 9 of their 12 last quarters have been terrific. They dominated Buffalo. Played a strong first half against New England and then dominated Denver for 56 minutes. This team needs more. Considering how bad the offense has been, this defense needs to abuse the upcoming three offenses the way they should, despite Bart Scott and Calvin Pace potentially being the slowest two linebackers in the NFL and Eric Smith being arguably the worst starting safety in the NFL.

Optimistic? I wouldn’t say I am. Yet, there is a glimmer of hope left in this season thanks to the 2009 precedent and how bad the team’s next three opponents are.