New York Jets 2013 Offensive Line Outlook

Resident Offensive Line guru Mike Nolan takes a look at the state of the Jets Offensive Line for the 2013 Season.

Everyone’s heard football clichés like “The Game is won in the trenches” and “It all starts up front.” These are generally sayings that parents of offensive lineman use to try and make their kids sound important. But they may ring true for the Jets more than any other team in the NFL.  If the Jets want to take a big step forward offensively in 2013, they will need to rely on their offensive line to take them there. The ideal situation is that the Jets improve both their run game and pass game over the 2012 Sparano system and nobody really talks about the OLine.  When nobody is talking about offensive linemen that means they are doing their jobs. It is when people start talking about them when you know something is wrong.  Let’s see how much people will be talking about the Jets’ offensive line in 2013.

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TOJ Film Room: Grading the 2012 Offensive Line – Austin Howard

Mike Nolan steps into the film room to grade the 2012 Jets’ Offensive Line. Next up is starting Right Tackle Austin Howard.

Before we get to the regular season, I wanted to take a look at some 2012 film of the Jets’ Offensive Line to see what is returning this year and to see what the Jets may have lost from 2012. During the regular season, I will be running a weekly column where I will grade out the offensive line’s individual performances. Unlike Pro Football Focus, I am going to grade the line from as much of a coach’s perspective as I can. This means that I will base my grades on technique and assignment in addition to play result. For the second part of the film study, let’s see what we found out about starting Right Tackle Austin Howard. To see how players are graded check out the first part of the series on D’Brickashaw Ferguson.

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New York Jets – Who Needs To Make The Jump?

What current New York Jets need to make the jump in 2013 to help expedite the team’s rebuilding process?

In a previous article this off-season, we discussed the necessary components of a rebuilding process for the New York Jets. When citing an example from how they quickly turned a disastrous 2005 season into a productive 2006, we mentioned younger players “making the jump” and having career years. A few examples of this in 2006 were Jerricho Cotchery becoming a capable, productive starting receiver, Victor Hobson becoming a playmaking linebacker, Bryan Thomas having a career high in sacks and Kerry Rhodes putting together a Pro-Bowl caliber season at safety.

The Jets aren’t going to be able to fill all their holes via free agency and the draft, there are simply too many. They are going to need young players currently on the roster to take their games to the next level the way Jeremy Kerley did in 2012, as one of the team’s few bright spots on offense.

Kerley having 56 receptions, 827 yards and 2 touchdowns in last year’s passing offense is a borderline miracle. He needs to continue building on that production because nothing is guaranteed with Santonio Holmes coming off such serious surgery and the rest of the wide receiver position in flux. Kerley showed he was capable of being more than a pure slot receiver and hopefully new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhingweg is more creative at using him than Tony Sparano was. But what rostered players outside of Kerley will the Jets need to make “the jump”?

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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 Film Breakdown – Jets vs. Bills

Turn On The Jets breaks down the game tape from Jets/Bills, answering your questions and giving other observations

Every week in this column we will break down the offensive game tape, both offering our observations and answering your questions submitted on Twitter. Tomorrow, our resident defensive lineman, Chris Gross, will provide a film breakdown of the other side of the ball. Thank you to everybody who sent in this week’s questions, which were aggregated into the following as many were on the same topic – 

1. How effective was Mark Sanchez at going through his progressions and making the proper reads?

The short answer is very effective and this question led me to spend most of my time breaking down the Jets passing game, which was without question the biggest surprise of the week. Tony Sparano and Mark Sanchez both did a terrific job with a game plan that was built to feature Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley and Jeff Cumberland while using Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller primarily as decoys.

The first two pass plays were designed for Stephen Hill who was open on both and caught the second one on a crucial early third down. The third play was for Cumberland who was also wide open and moved the chains on a 13 yard gain. After that completion, Sanchez alternated making poor decisions/throws with terrific ones before settling down and playing a great overall game.

First, came the interception which occurred because Buffalo quickly took away his first and second read. Simply put, he should have ran out of bounds for a 3 yard gain or threw it away, as he did later in the game when the Jets tried a similar play that was defended well. He then followed up with a beautiful strike to Jeremy Kerley on a third down, where he was the first read and beat his guy immediately. Sanchez then missed a cover 2 hole shot to Holmes that could have been a touchdown, although Holmes could have got a cleaner release to help him out. Sanchez was then bailed out when he went to Hill on a 3rd and 5 and he drew pass interference, when he should have went to Holmes on a deeper out behind Hill.

Keep this play in mind because Sanchez learned from his mistake later in the game. The following pass was the Jeremy Kerley touchdown which was a well designed play by Sparano. It was meant to look like a wide receiver screen to Santonio Holmes. As Holmes works back to the ball, Kerley appears to be going to block the corner causing a slight hesitation from the man who is covering him, he then jets to the back of the end-zone and Sanchez delivered a perfectly thrown pass.

Sanchez was pretty locked in for the rest of the game from this point. He hit Holmes in a tight window to convert a third down, the Stephen Hill touchdown on his double move was an easy read and a good throw. Throughout the rest of the game, he made only three throws that weren’t on point. First he slightly overthrew Jeremy Kerley on a quick out, which was caught but forced him to extend and stumble, ending up short of the first down. Second, he just missed Holmes on a quick post, although you could argue Holmes should have made the catch. Finally, he again missed the hole shot to Holmes at the end of the half which was nearly a touchdown. This is a tough throw and they nearly executed it but missed by about an inch.

One particular play later in the game that was encouraging from Sanchez was a 3rd and 9, when instead of throwing it immediately to an open Dustin Keller in the flat (a play he absolutely would have made last year), he was patient and waited for his primary option, Jeff Cumberland (who is on the 20 yard line in this screen shot), to run his 9 yard hook route before delivering a spot on pass to convert a third down.

Finally, remember the Kerley touchdown? Tony Sparano smartly came back to the wide receiver screen to Holmes, knowing that the defense would be hesitant to jump it after getting beat earlier in the game. This was executed to perfection, thanks to a great block from Dustin Keller and went for a 17 yard gain.

A few final observations on passing game – It was striking just how often Hill, Kerley or Cumberland were the first read on passing plays. It showed immense confidence in three unproven players and all three answered the bell. The plan worked well because Buffalo was keying on Holmes and Keller, which helped get the three of them consistently open. Ironically enough it appeared the receiver Sanchez had the least chemistry with was Holmes. They just missed on three completions that all could have been big gains (two of which should have been touchdowns). If they get rolling on the same page, the Jets passing offense could be that much more effective.

2. Austin Howard/Mario Williams

Howard’s game was as good as advertised. He spend the majority of the dropbacks singled up on Mario Williams and consistently stonewalled his pass rush. Williams continually tried to bull rush him and use his power but could not get through, which gave Sanchez time to go through all the progressions outlined above. Howard showed surprising quickness and the times WIlliams looked to adjust to more of a speed rush he looked a step slow. His complaints about illegal hands to the face certainly didn’t show on the film as there were not blatant penalties missed by the officials on Howard.

3. Shonn Greene

Shonn Greene did finish with 94 yards, unfortunately it took him 27 carries to get there. Yes, there were times Greene ran very well in-between the tackles and he pushed the pile. However, the Jets need another option when running to the edge. This play below serves as a perfect example of why Greene needs a complimentary speed back with him. This play only went for 6 yards and look how well it is blocked up. Greene, again inexplicably stumbles when he receives the handoff, a recurring problem for him.

After the stumble, he gets temporarily held up behind the line here yet still there is space for a run that should net more than 6 yards. However, he simply doesn’t have enough burst to hit the seam. This is why the Jets may need to consider giving more outside handoffs to both Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight.

Check back tomorrow for Chris Gross’ film breakdown of the defense, primarily focusing on the defensive line. 

New York Jets – Biggest Positional Question Marks

Who are the biggest question marks on the New York Jets heading into the 2012 season?

The New York Jets have a handful of sure things on their roster. You know Darrelle Revis is going to be a lockdown corner. You know Nick Mangold is going to anchor the offensive line. You know David Harris and Sione Pouha will play at a Pro-Bowl level and not receive the recognition for it. However, who are the team’s biggest question marks? Let’s take a quick run through

Austin Howard – Right Tackle – Howard has put together one pretty good pre-season and has the honor of replacing the least popular tackle in New York football history, Wayne Hunter. Let’s not forget he was an undrafted free agent who has never started a game before this season. If Howard starts to stumble, the Jets will likely have a quick hook to give the recently acquired Jason Smith an opportunity. He will be tested right out of the gate when facing Mario Williams or Mark Anderson week one and then Pittsburgh’s endless collection of pass rushers week two.

Kyle Wilson – Nickelback – Nickelback is a crucial spot in Rex Ryan’s defensive back heavy defense. Wilson has had a rough pre-season and patience is rightfully wearing thin with him. He is entering his third year and the former first round pick has never looked anything like one. Teams are going to pick on him with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie on the outside but Wilson must do a better job of locating the ball in the air and avoiding giving large cushions when he can’t afford to.

Stephen Hill – Wide Receiver – The Jets are relying on Hill to start right out of the gate despite how raw he is. He has shown an ability to get open and make plays down the field in the pre-season, while showing a consistent problem with drops. Hill is a rookie receiver from a triple-option offense. Can his positives outweigh his negatives as a full time player?

Mark Sanchez – Quarterback – I don’t see Sanchez as anywhere near as big of question mark as most people do. Outside of his interception against the Giants, he has been accurate and in-control of the offense despite a shaky offensive line and a banged up group of receivers. At his worst Sanchez will be an effective game manager, at his best he can be the player who led four 4th quarterback comebacks and won a playoff game in New England back in 2010. The biggest question around him this year is how he will handle being pulled from the game for Tebow when the Jets use the Wildcat.

Tim Tebow – Backup Quarterback – Not sure why more people aren’t concerned that the Jets backup quarterback had a 26.5 QB Rating and 38 percent completion rate in the pre-season. How can this offense function if Sanchez goes down for an extended period of time unless they are going to let Tebow just run 20 times per game from the QB position?

Jeff Cumberland – Backup Tight End – Hopefully Mike Tannenbaum isn’t foolish enough to go into the season with him as the primary backup. Simply put he is a less talented version of Dustin Keller and is an even worse blocker. The Jets are in trouble if he gets pushed into extended duty.

LaRon Landry – Safety – He has been terrific this pre-season but if he gets hurt the Jets are right back to Eric Smith.

D’Brickashaw Ferguson – Left Tackle – It was a surprisingly down year for ‘Brick last year. The Jets badly need him to bounce back and be the Pro-Bowl caliber tackle he was throughout the early years of his career.

TJ Conley/Nick Folk – Punter/Kicker – The value of these guys on the Jets is extremely enhanced because of the type of football they are likely to play. Folk had a great pre-season but can’t afford to miss the chip shots this year that he did in the past. Conley has been inconsistent and is now in competition with the recently signed Spencer Lanning. You can’t shank punts when you are desperately battling for field position.

Shonn Greene – Running Back – Considering his primary backup has under 30 career NFL rushing yards, he better stay healthy and productive. Greene had a disappointing pre-season and has been a notorious slow starter. The Jets can’t afford that this year as he will be getting 20+ carries a game right out of the gate.

No Huddle – Austin Howard and New York Jets Injury Woes

TJ Rosenthal goes No Huddle to break down what we saw from the New York Jets in their 3rd pre-season game

Better. Yes, things were better last night. Nobody wearing Green and White Tebowed in the end zone but the Jets looked more like an NFL team last night. A team that could grow into something with more work and some additional pieces collected along the way.

1 -Way To Go Austin Howard

The best thing to come out of Sunday night was the play of Austin Howard. The new Jets right tackle should have silenced fears about a leaky offensive line thanks to his consistent play throughout. It was so nice to see Mark Sanchez sit comfortably with time in the pocket to throw. The results were clear as completions were made, and chains moved for the first time all summer.

2 – August Injuries Are Never A Good Topic

Now the worst thing to come out of the game. The injuries. First Dustin Keller went down in what we initially joked was an injury that came from being shocked that a ball was thrown to him. Then it was David Harris and finally Josh Baker, who sustained what appeared to be the worst of all the car crashes.

The Jets can ill afford to lose anyone for any amount of time right now. With Keller and Baker banged up, the Jets will have to go to the free agent market and pick up a tight end. Hayden Smith is just not ready for the role and Jeff Cumberland? We can’t figure that guy out. We hope the answer is yes to the FA market notion, and that Tim Tebow WON’T be given a job he’s never had with two weeks until week one.

Jeremy Shockey anyone?

3 – Still No Touchdowns Yet

The Jets STILL haven’t scored  TD in 2012. Maybe the Wildcat and Tebow might have helped last night but we will focus here on the passing game near the goal line for now.

Sanchez was solid Sunday night. In fact, thanks to his protection holding up, we were all able to finally assess the WR corps. The answer? There is not enough there right now in our estimation. Especially as the Jets move towards the doorstep of paydirt. We recognize that Santonio Holmes may have had a TD had he held on to a seam pass but hey, that’s what happens when you miss time due to injury. The timing is off.

Stephen Hill caught some balls but seems confused as to what to do after the catch. More telling, Hill  reacted to late to a high end zone throw that Plaxico Burress would’ve grabbed easily.

So why not bring back the red zone killer?

This reliance on Hill to lock down WR2 may bite the Jets in the first half of the season. Instead, the Jets ought to sign Plax so they can SURVIVE the first half, as Hill grows into whatever he will grow into this year.

Security. Insurance. Quality play inside the 20. Do it. If not Burress, then at least someone else please.

4 – De-Fense!

The Jets defense did what it will have to do through October. It took it to the other team’s offense. Cam Newton was poised to get rolling but didn’t. Kenrick Ellis, Quinton Coples. In fact the entire defensive line helped make sure that Newton would be pressured and that the Panther run game couldn’t get into gear.

The score was 10-9 Carolina at halftime and that’s what games will have to look like, in order for the Jets to be in position to win them until the offense can show more. Great job by a unit that looked like a real top 5 unit and reminded us of the early Rex Ryan defenses in 2009.

5 – What’s the Prognosis Doctor?

Well, the play of the defense last night now makes us feel better about September. The play of the offense gave us a glimmer of hope that by October, they won’t need to be carried every Sunday. Mark Sanchez showed us that he can make throws given the time. The lack of touchdowns though means that the Jets are still short on playmakers who must be found elsewhere or be made to step up from within. Can Greene Holmes and Keller drive the unit downfield? It’s up to them. They are the big three as of now.

As for special teams and unique players, Tim Tebow is still an unknown as far as what he will bring to the table and that’s not a bad thing. The kicking game appears solid and so does the return game with Joe McKnight. In sum, the Carolina game provided enough to have us now move back off from the ledge. To feel as though this is a playoff bound team however, we need to see more.

Right now the Jets are an AFC bubble team, but the potential is there in many areas for that to change for the better.

New York Jets – Struggling To Find Silver Lining

The New York Jets still haven’t found the end-zone this pre-season, despite some encouraging developments last night

There is no reason to act like not scoring a touchdown in three full pre-season games isn’t a big deal. It is. It is an embarrassing failure that speaks to a lack of cohesion and playmakers on offense. The New York Jets offense has been the worst in the NFL to this point. They are just fortunate that up until this point nothing truly counts and that their defense has conversely been one of the best.

The offensive problems last night started at the wide receiver position. Santonio Holmes dropped what would have been probably a 25 yard gain. Stephen Hill dropped a very catch-able ball that turned into an interception and failed to make a tough catch in the end-zone that should have been a touchdown. Was it a perfect throw from Sanchez? No, but that doesn’t mean that Hill shouldn’t come down with that pass.

The dropped passes took away from what should have been a huge night for Mark Sanchez, who was still 11/18 for 123 yards with completions of 20, 24 and 32 yards. He drove the football well down the field, throwing two bullets over the middle for big gainers to Dustin Keller and Patrick Turner. He read the coverage perfectly and delivered a perfect back shoulder pass to Stephen Hill outside the numbers for the other long gain. Unfortunately all that is swept under the rug when you don’t convert in the red-zone.

Outside of the dropped passes, the running game was a let down yet again. The Jets have shown no ability to run the ball consistently this pre-season. Shonn Greene finished with 47 yards on 13 carries. 3.6 yards per carry is not good enough. Greene seems to be stumbling immediately after he receives every handoff and still is not breaking any tackles or making anybody miss. There is nothing impressive about running through a well blocked hole. It is impressive when you make something happen at the second level to turn a blocked 3 yard run into a 15 yard run or a blocked 8 yard run into a 29 yard run.

Joe McKnight appears to be completely out of the mix at running back, receiving zero carries and even working behind Terrance Ganaway. Bilal Powell looks to be the primary backup and third down back. He showed a little shiftiness last night but still only finished with 29 yards on 8 carries, the same 3.6 yards per carry as Greene.

The Jets also remain clueless in short yardage. They were stuff again on 3rd and 1 and in reality stuffed on 4th and 1. They received a ridiculously favorable spot on a Mark Sanchez quarterback sneak for a first down. What purpose does John Conner serve on this roster? He can’t catch. He can’t convert on short yardage when handed the ball and can’t help Greene convert on third and short with his blocking. Beyond that, Greene’s biggest runs last night came out of a single back set.

Finally the offense made another killer mental mistake when Matt Slauson picked up a senseless personal foul that killed a potential scoring drive. The Jets are nowhere near good enough to overcome needless penalties.

Over to the positives, on offense outside of Sanchez throwing the ball very well, Austin Howard was terrific. He held his own against Charles Johnson and appeared to be play both fluidly and with a high amount of confidence. There will be bumps in the road with him but last night was a very strong start.

The real positives remained on the defensive side of the football, where the Jets have the makings of arguably the best run defense in the NFL. Kenrick Ellis was dominant at the point of attack last night and has earned himself a much larger role in the defensive line rotation thanks to a huge pre-season. LaRon Landry is a force in the run game and came up with his second interception of the pre-season. If he stays healthy, the Jets got a major steal in free agency. Quinton Coples had another sack and another forced fumble, along with constantly being in Cam Newton’s face.

The disappointing thing about Coples is how Rex Ryan called him out after the game for being winded and complaining about having to play with the second team. Good for Rex for staying on top of this and not babying him to the press. He needs to do that more frequently. A rookie complaining about playing time is inexcusable. Coples is freakishly talented and Rex and all of the veterans constantly need to stay on top of him so he reaches his potential.

For the first time of the pre-season, the blitzes the Jets dialed up were breaking through. The constant pressure led to a difficult night for Newton who finished only 6/15 for 60 yards with a turnover. Outside of Kyle Wilson, who continues to struggle the Jets defense appears in mid-season form and should be a top three unit in the league this season.

For all of the criticism heaped on the Jets offense, the same amount of praise should be heaped on their defense at this point. Will either unit play to their expectations in September? Only time will tell.

New York Jets Fact Or False: Preseason Week 3 Edition

Chris Gross weekly Fact or False previews the Jets third pre-season game against the Carolina Panthers

For this week’s edition of New York Jets Fact Or False, we examine the most pressing issues facing Gang Green heading into their third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.

Austin Howard will prove he is the answer at Right Tackle. False. While many people are getting caught up in today’s news that Austin Howard has replaced Wayne Hunter as the Jets starting RT, there is still no reason to believe that Howard is the savior. Will he play better than Hunter? Probably. But unfortunately for Wayne, the Jets could have likely put Tony Sparano himself in there, and he wouldn’t have looked much worse than Hunter did last week. Hunter’s contract should have never been guaranteed after his abysmal 2011 and now Mike Tannenbaum is in one of the worst positions he has ever been in as the Jets GM. Howard will get the start tomorrow by default, but the Jets will likely remain active in their hunt to bring in a tackle from the outside. Don’t expect Howard to be the long term solution here.

The Offense will score a touchdown. Fact. I mean, they have to…right? The Jets offense remains without a touchdown over two preseason games thus far. Although the game plans have been very vanilla as they are implementing a new system, it is now time to spice things up. The basics of this new offensive scheme should be more than engraved into every offensive players head at this point in the preseason, so it is time for Sparano to mix it up a bit. It is extremely difficult to take shots down the field when there is virtually no time to properly execute a 5 or 7 step drop, however, look for the Jets to take advantage of a very average defense. With the likely return of Jeremy Kerley this weekend, Sanchez gets back with a familiar target that he can rely on to help move the chains. Regardless of how poor they have looked, there is simply too much talent on this offense to go another game without crossing the goal line.

We will finally see some of the wildcat. False. For everyone waiting to see the marvelous Wildcat formation, it looks as if you will have to wait until, at the earliest, September 9th in the season opener against Buffalo. At Rex Ryan’s press conference today, the fourth year head coach stated that he did not expect to see any Wildcat during this preseason. Of course, this could be Rex throwing a smokescreen at fellow defensive mind Ron Rivera, however, Ryan is likely being honest here. There is no reason to unveil this formation and give the Bills a series of plays to watch on film and prepare for. Tebow enthusiasts, keep on waiting.

The Jets starting defense will have its best test against the run. Fact. While Cincinnati and the Giants certainly have established running offenses, neither of them quite compare to the four headed monster of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, Cam Newton, and Mike Tolbert. This will be a great test for the Jets as they will face a very unique combination of size, speed, agility, and athleticism, that they have yet to see this preseason. If they can hold the Panthers to less than 100 combined rushing yards through the first 2-3 quarters, it will be a very good sign of things to come for the defense this season.

The Jets will have ease running the football. False. This is certainly not to say that the Jets will not run the ball effectively in this game, because they very well just may. However, Carolina has a daunting young pair of linebackers in two time All-Pro Jon Beason, who returns after missing last season with a tear in his Achilles tendon, as well as rookie Luke Kuechly, the 9th overall selection in this year’s draft out of Boston College. This will be yet another great test for Greene, Tebow, and the rest of the running attack to get themselves on track and finally show some of that ground and pound that has been preached so frequently since the hiring of Sparano.

This is the best opportunity for Quinton Coples to prove his worth thus far. Fact. Coples faced an excellent offensive line last week against the Giants, but this week he has the opportunity to play against All-Pro Jordan Gross, along with Matt Kalil, and Bruce Campbell. With these three, Carolina has one of the most respected offensive lines in the league. If Coples can duplicate what he has been doing through the first two games against this unit, it will be an excellent sign of progress. A sack, a QB knockdown, or a tackle for loss will all be indications of further improvement and more good things to come.

New York Jets Bench Wayne Hunter

The New York Jets have benched right tackle Wayne Hunter

In a move that was long overdue…as in it should have done after the first play of the 2011 regular season, New York Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter has been benched. His replacement for the time being will be Austin Howard, who started the Jets first pre-season game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Howard was an undrafted free agent in 2010 who has spent time on the Eagles and Ravens practice squad. The best thing to say about Howard is that he cannot be worse than Wayne Hunter, it is physically impossible.

ESPN’s Rich CImini is reporting that the Jets remain in the trade market for a starting right tackle despite Howard’s promotion. The team will likely evaluate how he performs against Carolina on Sunday with the starters before deciding to pull the trigger on any move. At this point, it will not be easy to acquire a capable starting lineman.

Ultimately guaranteeing Hunter’s contract this off-season will go down as one of the worst moves in Mike Tannenbaum’s career as the Jets GM. It was indefensible considering his play last season and the plethora of options on the free agent market at right tackle this off-season. The Jets cannot cut Hunter at this point without taking a substantial hit to their cap and are desperately still looking for a starter with the season only a couple of weeks away.

You hate to have this type of instability on the offensive side of the football so close to the season.

I hope offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo is avoiding his office in the coming days…