TOJ’s Memo to the New York Jets: Do Not Cut Stephen Hill

As we prepare for training camp and the preseason draws near over the next couple of months, a lot of attention will be paid to the numerous roster battles going on. One of the more contested battles is taking place at the wide receiver position. Continue reading “TOJ’s Memo to the New York Jets: Do Not Cut Stephen Hill”

New York Jets Chemistry Class: The QB-WR Bond

Cole Patterson on the developing chemistry of New York Jets quarterbacks and wide receivers

When talking about chemistry in football, one does not intend to conjure images of beakers, Bunsen burners, and covalent bonds. It is another kind of bond that is being addressed, the kind that is exemplified by the relationship between a quarterback and his favorite target. The New York Jets may have lucked out when drafting Geno Smith because of the rapid rapport that he seems to have developed with New York’s top targets.

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Turn On The Jets Stock Watch – New York Jets Preseason Edition

Mike Donnelly with a Turn On The Jets Stock Watch previewing the New York Jets pre-season

Ahh, the start of NFL football, it is the most wonderful time of the year! Like little kids patiently waiting on Christmas Eve to open presents the next morning, New York Jets fans everywhere are giddy with anticipation as we prepare ourselves to open up our presents in a mere few hours and see what Santa brought us this football season. Will we open some shiny boxes and find our very own diamond in the rough like Victor Cruz this preseason (Ryan Spadola?), or will we get more lumps of Gholston (Vlad Ducasse)? Will Geno Smith shine as the latest in a long line of possible savior quarterbacks? Or will Mark Sanchez beat him out and try to bounce back from a disastrous 2012?

Continue reading “Turn On The Jets Stock Watch – New York Jets Preseason Edition”

Expectations For New York Jets WRs Stephen Hill & Jeremy Kerley?

Dalbin Osorio on how New York Jets WRs Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill compare with other notable 2nd and 5th round WRs.

Members of the New York Jets have varying levels of importance when it comes to the team’s success this upcoming season. The Jets could be ok if Dee Milliner doesn’t play lights out from Day 1 because they had a highly ranked pass defense with Kyle Wilson playing corner opposite Antonio Cromartie. If David Harris doesn’t bounce back from a subpar 2012 it will hurt less if Mo Wilkerson and Quinton Coples don’t consistently put pressure on the QB. Some would say Mark Sanchez and/or Geno Smith need be nothing more than glorified game manager and the offense can stil be successful if Chris Ivory produces. However, two Jets who absolutely have to deliver because of question marks surrounding the wide receiver position are Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill. Continue reading “Expectations For New York Jets WRs Stephen Hill & Jeremy Kerley?”

Turn On The Jets Film Room – Stephen Hill – Hope For 2013?

Joe Caporoso steps into the film room and takes a closer look at Stephen Hill’s rookie year

Throughout the off-season we will step into the film room and provide a closer look at various players on the New York Jets roster. If there is a player in particular you’d like to see a review on, leave a note in the comment section or shoot us a Tweet with the hashtag #TOJFilmRoom

The New York Jets spent a 2nd round pick on wide receiver Stephen Hill in the 2012 NFL Draft. Possessing an elite combination of size (6-4, 215 pounds) and speed (4.36 forty time), Hill has immense physical potential as a NFL wide receiver but there were a few concerning things about him coming out of Georgia Tech.

Continue reading “Turn On The Jets Film Room – Stephen Hill – Hope For 2013?”

New York Jets – Can Jeremy Kerley Replace Santonio Holmes?

A closer look at Jeremy Kerley and how he compares to Santonio Holmes as a wide receiver

The New York Jets wide receiver position remains a question mark heading into the 2013 season. There is potential for a productive, deep group but there are a concerning number of “ifs” surrounding that potential: If Santonio Holmes can return healthy from off-season foot surgery. If Stephen Hill can return healthy from off-season knee surgery. If Hill can begin to improve his route running and consistency catching the football. If Braylon Edwards is brought back on a minimum contract to provide necessary depth. If Jeremy Kerley can take another step forward in his development. If one or two of those “ifs” break the wrong way, the Jets are going to have another season with an ugly situation at receiver.

One of the questions worth exploring for both the 2013 season and future seasons is can Jeremy Kerley become a capable full time starting receiver in the place of Santonio Holmes? The Jets are going to try (and fail) to trade Holmes this off-season, we don’t know how healthy he will be 2013. After this season, barring a surprising turn of events, he will be released to free up cap space long term.

Continue reading “New York Jets – Can Jeremy Kerley Replace Santonio Holmes?”

New York Jets – The Other Guys

A look at the other New York Jets who played yesterday besides the quarterbacks

Lost in the shuffle of the ongoing quarterback controversy surrounding the New York Jets is that other players actually took the field yesterday…and many performed well for a refreshing change of pace. These last four games remain critically important for many young players on the team’s roster who will be expected to be key parts in 2013 and beyond. Here is a recap of a few who stood out –

Bilal Powell – His role is growing every single week and he is taking advantage of it. Yesterday Powell finished with 58 yards on 12 carries, finishing with a 4.8 YPC. He broke a 17 yard run that helped propel the team’s only touchdown drive. Powell has good vision and is both shiftier and quicker than Shonn Greene. There is no reason that Powell can’t be a capable 1B option and 3rd down back for the team next season. On the year, Powell has 70 carries for 278 yards for 4.0 yards per carry. Hopefully, he can finish the season getting 10-15 carries each week and maintain that average at over 4 yards.

Stephen Hill – It has been a rough year for the rookie but yesterday was a step in the right direction. Hill had 5 catches for 40 yards and drew a penalty. What was encouraging is that many of the catches Hill made were difficult ones in traffic. He is going to be the team’s starting split end next year, so he must build momentum heading into 2013. Now that Hill looks like he is gaining confidence in the shorter passing game, it would be nice to see the Jets hit a big play down the field to him which is the primary thing he was drafted for.

Jeremy Kerley – It wasn’t a gaudy statistical game (3 catches, 37 yards) but Kerley made difficult catches in tight coverage. Most notably pulling down a key third down conversion with elite cornerback Patrick Peterson draped all over him. This has been a terrific all around season for Kerley who still has an outside shot of having a 1,000 yard season in one of the league’s worst passing offenses which is pretty damn impressive. If Hill develops alongside him and Santonio Holmes comes back healthy, the Jets have the makings of a very good group of receivers in 2013.

Muhammad Wilkerson – This isn’t anything new but Wilkerson is maintaining his play at a Pro-Bowl level. The 2nd year player is one of the few recent draft picks Mike Tannenbaum can really hang his hat on. If the Jets ever find an outside linebacker who can get into a quarterbacks’s zip code, watch for an explosion of stats by Wilkerson who will finally get to deal with less double teams. Put it this way, if you were playing the Jets wouldn’t just triple Wilkerson and let Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas and their 7.8 forty yard dash times run free at the quarterback?

LaRon Landry – Not a “young player” but somebody who is making a strong case to be brought back in 2013. Landry isn’t without his flaws (occasional lapses in coverage and missed tackles) but on the whole he has brought a needed playmaking element and physical attitude to the Jets backend.

New York Jets Fact or False: Week 13 Edition

Chris Gross with his weekly Fact or False, previewing Jets vs. Cardinals

My, what a wild year it has been in Jets land (what else is new?). After a strong showing at opening day at MetLife Stadium back in September, when the Jets romped the Bills 48-28 to begin the 2012 season (Yes, that game actually occurred in the same season as this), the New York Jets have progressively fallen far from grace. In week 2 the Jets went into Pittsburgh without their All-World defensive back, Darrelle Revis, and despite coming out strong on the opening drive, ultimately fell to the Steelers at Heinz Field 27-10. Since then, New York hasn’t mustered up one convincing win, while being blown out 3 times at home. Although the Jets have had to deal with injuries to two essential players (Revis and Wide Receiver Santonio Holmes), this team’s total lack of depth and talent has put their fans in an uproar, and rightfully so. Sure, the Jets held their own against two of the AFC’s top teams when they hosted the Houston Texans in week 5 and when they took the Patriots to overtime in Foxboro in week 7.

However, the games the Jets have been able to win this season have been against far inferior opponents. Buffalo, Miami, and St. Louis have a combined recored of 13-19-1. Indianapolis came to New York with their rookie quarterback Andrew Luck having to face a Rex Ryan defense for the first time in his career. Luck will be great, but it is a daunting task for a rookie to solve the puzzle that is Ryan’s defensive scheme on the road. To put it into perspective, the 2012 Jets, although not horrendous, are simply a poor football team.

This column has been dedicated to making a handful of predictions based on past games, tendencies, and matchups for each week – predictions that have often failed to come to fruition. Last week, we observed what the Jets needed to do against the Patriots on Thanksgiving in order for them to upset their longtime foe. Looking back, they really failed to do any of these things.

Since it has become nearly impossible to predict what this team will do in terms of game plan (see Tebow, Tim; week 12…actually all season), execution, and outcome, this column will now focus on key points, all of which the Jets must achieve to have any chance of reigning victorious again this year.

This week’s New York Jets Fact or False will focus primarily on how the Jets need to attack their upcoming opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, what matchups will be crucial, and who needs to come to play, in order for New York to put patch one of the holes of the sinking ship that is their 2012 season. This team is all but guaranteed to not reach the playoffs this season, but the Jets can certainly do their best to salvage what is left of this mess and head into 2013 on the right foot. Whether or not they can do that, however, will depend on how they perform from top to bottom in these remaining five weeks. Let’s take a look at Arizona.

The Jets’ active rookie wide receivers need to step up big this week. Fact. As depleted as this team’s receiving corps has been all season, think about this for a second: Clyde Gates has been ruled out for Sunday’s contest, creating a serious issue at wide receiver. Wow. After week 1, would you have ever thought that this is what we’d be analyzing heading into week 13? Unfortunately for New York, however, that is exactly where the Jets stand. Aside from Gates, Chaz Schilens is questionable with concussion symptoms, and Jeremy Kerley (the only receiver who has been somewhat productive this season) is still hampering a leg injury.

While it is a scary thought that the Jets could potentially be starting a receiving corps led by Kerley and rookies Stephen Hill and Jordan White, this could be a blessing in disguise. While no one should expect this group to be world beaters, it is essential to see if Sanchez can develop some chemistry with his young passing options. Stephen Hill started 2012 with a bang, hauling in 5 balls for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns in the season opener against Buffalo. Since then, however, Hill has hit the growing pains that we all expected him to heading into this season. All is certainly not lost for the promising rookie with tremendous upside out of Georgia Tech, so getting him touches the rest of the way this year will be crucial to his development.

Jordan White is a player who has been on the radar here at Turn On The Jets since New York selected him with their final pick in this year’s draft. A highly productive college player, White stood out in our post draft evaluation due to his high football IQ, strong route running, and ability to catch balls in traffic. It was expected that he may take a bit to come around, but on a team in need of hope in week 13, White could start his campaign to give some promise to this team’s depleted group of skill players.

Now, it would be foolish to think that White is going to come out in his first game and light up Arizona, prompting a surplus of waiver wire claims from fantasy football league owner’s heading into their respective playoffs. However, White is fully capable of catching anywhere from 2-5 passes this week, while beginning to gain some momentum in an attempt to be a long term asset to this roster.

Regardless, the Jets need these two to not play like wide-eyed rookies this week, but instead play with a certain level of confidence and reliability, so they can provide some security to Mark Sanchez, who desperately needs it. If Kerley and Schilens are a go, they will likely start, but do not be surprised to see Sanchez target the youngsters to gauge where they are at as he tries to find some continuity in these final 5 weeks. If this offense looks to have momentum heading into next season, it starts with these young players at receiver stepping up and asserting some kind of presence this Sunday.

The Jets need to get Mark Sanchez airing it out on Sunday. False. While the Jets do need to see some signs of life from Sanchez, following one of his most horrific performances,in terms of ball security, last week, the key to being successful on offense remains the same as it has been since Sanchez arrived in New York – a strong running effort, with a limited amount of drop backs. Look at the Jets two most convincing victories this season, against Indianapolis and at St. Louis. Sanchez was 11 for 18 for 82 yards and 2 touchdowns and 15 for 20 for 178 yards and 1 touchdown, respectively. What do you notice about those numbers? That’s correct, no turnovers.

The Jets ground attack during those two games, however, was on point. Although the total rushing yardage against St. Louis was not eye opening – 124 total yards – the Jets stuck to a successful formula of a running back by committee approach. Bilal Powell was able to record his first two career touchdowns in that contest, primarily because Tony Sparano took some risks in obvious passing situations in the red zone by giving Powell the carries, and it paid dividends.

The bottom line is, the more Sanchez is asked to throw, the more likely it is for him to commit a mistake and turn the ball over. New York needs to give him a strong running effort once again, while allowing him to make some high percentage throws on slants, play action passes, and designed roll outs. If the Jets can limit him anywhere between 20-25 attempts, while running the ball 35-45 times, not only will they be helping Sanchez regain some much needed confidence, but they will also be putting themselves in the best position to win. Is it ideal to have to game plan like this with a fourth year quarterback? Of course not, but at this point the reality is that Sanchez has performed poorly, and has a depleted group of receivers to throw to. If the Jets can stay grounded this week, they will control the clock and field position, while keeping their defense off of the field.

The Jets defense needs to come up with a surplus of quarterback sacks and hits. Fact. New York’s pass rush has been absolutely horrendous over the past five seasons, mostly because they have done a poor job of outside and self scouting at vital pass rushing positions during that time. However, Arizona ranks dead last in sacks allowed throughout the entire league this season, and they will be starting a rookie quarterback on Sunday. Remember what we said about that Andrew Luck guy? Ryan Lindley isn’t anywhere near the type of player that Luck is, but he does have a solid group of wide receivers to throw to against a very shaky Jets secondary. If he is given ample time to throw the ball, he will make plays.

Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples will be licking their chops when they line up against this poor offensive line on Sunday. However, they will need support from the linebacking corps in order to establish a strong pass rush. All season long, these two have been hampered as a result of facing a vast amount of double teams, due to the complete lack of a pass rush from the outside and inside linebackers. Whether it is the dinosaurs that are Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, Garret McIntyre, or DeMario Davis, the Jets need to find a way to get Arizona’s attention off of Wilkerson and Coples, so they can be put in man blocking situations. If New York can rattle the cage of Lindley early, and throughout the course of the game, this offense should not be able to move the ball. If they let him sit in the pocket and gain comfort, however, it will likely be another week of excuses, pouting, outrage, and turmoil heading into week 14.

The Jets need to focus primarily on Larry Fitzgerald to shut down Arizona’s passing attack. False. Aside from getting to the quarterback, the Jets need a strong game plan against the Cardinals’ number 2 and 3 receivers. Andre Roberts has been very productive for a team with the poorest quarterback situation in the league this season, accounting for 50 receptions, a team high 639 yards, and another team high 5 touchdowns. Michael Floyd and Early Doucet are two players who haven’t had the productivity of Roberts this year, but are highly skilled. Each of these receivers have the ability to exploit the embattled Kyle Wilson and Ellis Lankster. Aside from getting to the quarterback, New York needs to figure a way to neutralize these two, primarily from scheme. If the Jets expect to put Wilson and Lankster in man coverage on Sunday, without generating a pass rush, they will not win this game., plain and simple.

Dustin Keller needs to establish a veteran presence and allow Sanchez to lean on him. Fact. Lost in the disaster that has become the 2012 Jets is the player that Mark Sanchez became comfortable looking toward in previous times of struggle. Although Keller is second on the team in receptions, that number is a mere 26. 26 catches from a player who was thought to be Sanchez’s go to guy. While he has been hampered by injury for the majority of the season, Sanchez is usually the most efficient when Keller gets going. Look at the first matchup against New England. Many will refuse to admit this, but Sanchez played one of the best games of his career, prior to overtime, that week. A lot of that success has to do with Keller’s strong day of catching all 7 passes thrown his way for 93 yards and a touchdown.

Now, it is unfair to blame this lack of production on Keller. The lack of receiving threats on this team makes him an easy focus of opposing defenses. However, he needs to find a way to get open and give Sanchez that much needed security. If Keller can get going with some early catches to move the chains, Sanchez’s confidence will only grow as the game progresses. As of right now, aside from the run game, Keller is the straw that stirs the drink on this team’s offense. If he can get some early receptions, Arizona will be forced to shift their coverage toward him, allowing ample opportunity for those young receivers to get open and make plays. Sanchez, in the meantime, will only be able to grow on all accounts because of this. Yes, he should be limited to no more than 25 passing attempts, but each of those 25 will be critical. The Jets’ quarterback has no margin for error anymore. Most people are ready to write him off as the New York’s signal caller. Whether or not this is just, it is the harsh reality of the NFL and particularly of professional sports in New York. Dustin Keller can help Sanchez slowly climb out of the abyss with a strong performance this week.

The Jets cannot afford any more Special Teams blunders. Fact. There is no need to explain this one. The Jets’ Special Teams has been horrendous for the majority of the season. With a struggling offense and a defense that has had its troubles getting off the field on third downs, special teams mishaps are a recipe for the perfect disaster. This needs to be turned around immediately. Period.

 

The Truth About Mark Sanchez and The New York Jets

Chris Gross looks at why it is a good thing Mark Sanchez will remain the Jets quarterback for the next couple of years

Mark Sanchez has become arguably the most highly criticized quarterback in the National Football League. Over the course of his career, Sanchez has become well known for his maddening inconsistency, something that has put him in the doghouse with the New York Jets fan base time and time again. However, following this week’s overtime loss to division rival New England, Sanchez unjustly received a heavy amount of blame for the loss from the fans and media, seemingly out of habit. Yes, Sanchez threw a poor interception. All quarterbacks do, it is part of the game. Sanchez also fumbled in overtime, a play that ended the game and crowned the Patriots victorious. However, what many are failing to realize is that, if not for Sanchez, the Jets likely would not have even been in position to fumble it away in overtime.

The debate will continue about this game until the Jets kickoff against Miami this Sunday at home. However, the bottom line pertaining to the New England game is that Mark Sanchez was the least of the Jets problems this past Sunday. The defense proved a notion we all knew: there is no closer on this group that can strike fear into an opposing quarterback on a final drive. The coaching became wildly conservative down the stretch, both offensively and defensively. Whatever the case may be for the loss in New England, Sunday’s game was much more about the growth of Mark Sanchez, rather than the two poor plays he may have made throughout the game.

Sunday witnessed Sanchez, a quarterback who has been left for dead by many over the past few weeks, go into a hostile environment and statistically outperform Tom Brady in his own house. Yes, Sanchez’s 28 completions on 41 attempts gave him a season high 68.3 completion percentage, nearly 7% higher than Brady’s 61.9%. Additionally, Sanchez’s 328 yards were greater than Brady’s 259. Outside of the poor interception, there is no statistical argument for which quarterback played the better game.

Statistics aside, this game saw a growth of Sanchez that we have not seen since the quarterback arrived in New York. When have we seen Sanchez take his team 92 yards down the field in the 4th quarter, on the road, on 9/10 passing and a touchdown to set his team up with a chance to take the lead? In his 4th season, people will not want to hear it, but the USC product is still growing, and Sunday proved just how much room he still has to achieve that growth.

Now, as far as Sanchez’s future with the team is concerned, we can sit here and discuss how the QB has been given an unfair slate to work with including a budget wide receiver corps and the acquisition of Tim Tebow, but we have repeatedly beat that drum, and quite frankly, the theme is played out and irrelevant at this point. The bottom line is, Sanchez is playing with the receivers, backs, and offensive line that he has been given, and he is beginning to play well. Good quarterbacks elevate the play of those around them, and that is exactly what we are starting to see Sanchez do. The Jets have adamantly defended Sanchez as the franchise quarterback, a notion many believed to be false after the team traded for Tim Tebow, however, Sunday proved it to be nothing but the truth. Mark Sanchez is the quarterback of the New York Jets for now, and for the future, and there are several reasons to examine as to why this is the case.

In his first two seasons with the Jets, Sanchez was merely a game manager for a team built primarily on defense and a high-powered rushing offense. Both the defense and offensive line ranked among the top of the league, and the basic belief was that Sanchez would serve as the game manager to complement these groups, until his development matured to the point where he could take this team over. What the Jets failed to realize in Sanchez’s third year, is that he was not yet mature enough to take on that role. In 2011, New York put their faith in Sanchez by cutting costs on the offensive line and receiving corps (with the exception of Santonio Holmes), believing that it was the year their quarterback could elevate the play of the average players that were put around him. Unfortunately, Sanchez was not ready, and following two consecutive AFC Championship game appearances, high expectations were not met. Sanchez, of course, was the fall guy. Whether it was just or unjust, New York is the ultimate “What have you done for me lately?” market, so naturally the majority of the blame was put on Sanchez. An attitude began to develop amongst this fan base that, perhaps, he was not the quarterback of the future.

However, Sunday proved that notion to be completely wrong. Is Sanchez maddeningly inconsistent? Yes, no one is debating that here. However, Sanchez’s inconsistencies are becoming much less frequent, they are just magnified to the highest degree. Early in Sanchez’s career, his inconsistencies were tolerated because the supporting cast around him usually picked them up. Now, Sanchez’s supporting cast is not nearly as strong, so the burden is on him to carry this team, a role that he is slowly easing into.

Sanchez’s inconsistencies are also much more discussed because of the market he plays in. This is New York, where excellence is demanded. This fan base has zero patience, and if the first guy in line isn’t getting it done, there is an immediate call for the next guy. But is Sanchez the only inconsistent quarterback in the NFL? Absolutely not. Could you imagine if quarterbacks like Jay Cutler, Michael Vick, or Cam Newton were on this team? They would be massacred just as bad, if not worse, than Sanchez.

When it comes to the Jets, the truth is, that Mark Sanchez is, by far, the best option at quarterback for now and for the future. Look at the alternatives. Are you going to hand the offense over to Tim Tebow and become truly one-dimensional? The Jets would be foolish to do so. Tebow could not complete Sanchez’s touchdown pass to Dustin Keller from this past Sunday once out of one hundred attempts. Whether he is a competitor or not, Tebow is not nearly the NFL quarterback that Sanchez is, and the coaching staff knows this. Why do you think Tebow gets only a handful of plays each week?

The second option to possibly replacing Sanchez is to draft another quarterback. This would set the Jets back a minimum of five more years. This team needs pass rush help in the worst way possible, and using a first round selection on a quarterback, just 4 years after trading up to acquire Sanchez with the fifth overall pick would be downright foolish. Talk about a market that has very little patience, and you want to replace Sanchez, a player on the cusp of taking the next step, with a guy who you’d essentially be starting completely over with? Not going to happen, Jets fans.

New York’s fan base should not be discouraged by this, but should rather be excited about Sanchez as their quarterback. Yes, he has the flaws listed above, but he is also beginning to develop a moxie that we haven’t seen from him. When watching the Jets, we are beginning to see glimpses of Sanchez displaying the attitude that this is his team. The comparisons to Eli Manning’s early career are frequent, yet completely warranted. You can’t help but think about how Tiki Barber came out and knocked Manning after his third year in the league, following the running back’s retirement, eerily similar to how LaDanian Tomlinson came out and claimed that the organization babied Sanchez, and questioned whether or not he could ever truly develop into a great player.

Manning also took a giant step forward when the Giants lost Jeremy Shockey, a diva tight end who demanded the ball, during their first Super Bowl run, eventually trading the fan favorite away the following offseason. Could that be what we are seeing take place with the recent loss of Santonio Holmes? Maybe, maybe not, but the bottom line is that Sanchez is finally beginning to develop some cohesion with his offensive teammates. The chemistry being built with guys like Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill is extremely encouraging and obvious. Since the loss of Holmes, Kerley has established himself as the Jets top receiving option, hauling in 15 passes for 238 yards in the past 3 games. Hill, on the other hand, is beginning to develop a feel for his new quarterback, as displayed by the adjustment he made on the route on his touchdown reception against the Colts a couple of weeks ago. Dustin Keller proved to be a deadly option for Mark Sanchez in his first game back, something many expected him to do. The running game is suddenly rejuvenated and we are seeing formerly questioned guys like Shonn Greene and Joe McKnight now being praised for playing through injuries and displaying an extreme sense of dedication and tenacity.

The skinny on Sanchez and this team is simple. The core of this offense is in place with an abundance of young players that are developing more and more each week. Sanchez will prove to be the glue that holds it all together, for a group that has an extremely promising future. This offense could potentially develop into one of the most cohesive and talented units in the league in the years to come. Abandoning that now by getting rid of Sanchez would simply be foolish, and would likely go down as yet another move that would haunt this franchise for years to come.

New Look New York Jets Passing Game Has Potential

The new look New York Jets passing game has a high amount of potential and the Jets must take advantage of it

There was excessive lazy analysis by many NFL writers over the past month that characterized the New York Jets passing offense as a “wasteland” that lacked any talent. This went hand in hand with the analysis that ranked them as one of the worst teams in the league, which is a laughable assertion at this point. The Jets aren’t Jacksonville. The Jets aren’t Kansas City. The Jets aren’t Oakland. The worst teams in the league don’t beat the Colts by 30 points, don’t lose to the 6-1 Texans by 6 and don’t take the Patriots to overtime in their building.

But back to the Jets passing game. When all this criticism was being thrown around there was an ignorance of just how much Jeremy Kerley had been progressing. Kerley has pulled in 25 receptions on 40 targets so far this season, racking up 435 yards at an impressive 17.4 yards per catch. Over the last 3 weeks he is top ten in the NFL in both receiving yards and receptions. The much maligned by Mike Tannenbaum appears to have found a gem in the fifth round of the 2011 draft. Kerley has underrated speed to go with his quickness in and out of breaks on his routes. For such a young receiver, the precision on those routes has been extremely impressive. He has also shown consistent hands and an ability to make tough catches in traffic. Kerley has looked the part of a very capable lead receiver the past few weeks.

The value of a healthy Dustin Keller was also glossed over by many. Keller showed in the running game against the Colts as a surprisingly solid blocker but really made noise this past week against New England with 7 catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. With Kerley producing on the outside and in the slot, it frees up the middle of the field and creates favorable match-ups for Keller. Without an unnecessary amount of balls being funneled to Santonio Holmes, Keller should be able to consistently put up strong numbers.

Despite everybody being down on Stephen Hill because of a critical late game drop, he has flashed very good potential through 7 games. He is also now fully healthy. Hill has only logged four games this season that weren’t hampered by injury (he missed two and was clearly banged up against Miami), in those four games he has three touchdowns, 12 catches and 167 yards. Before dropping that pass, he had four tough catches in traffic and showed good body control and discipline on his routes. A rookie out of a triple-option offense is going to make mistakes but Hill is still going to make his share of big plays. Defenses must respect his speed and size, which will only further open things up for Kerley and Hill.

Outside of those three, you have two role players who at least have good speed and have made a few plays in Jason Hill and Clyde Gates. Hill drew a critical pass interference penalty against New England because he beat his man on a double move and caught a touchdown against Indianapolis. Gates had an impressive 27 yard catch against the Texans. Chaz Schilens is coming off a rough outing against New England but prior to that had been a productive possession receiver. It will be interesting to see if his role is reduced moving forward.

Obviously everything comes back to Mark Sanchez, who has quietly made strides over the past two weeks despite the usual round of criticism. Over the past two weeks here are his stats – 39/59 (66 completion percentage), 410 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception. Sanchez is going to make his share of mistakes just like the overwhelming majority of quarterbacks in this league but the Jets can’t by shy about letting him throw aggressively down the field when the match-ups dictate it. After a brutal start against the Dolphins, Sanchez carved them up the in fourth quarter and overtime, finishing with over 300 yards passing and leading the go ahead drive in the 4th quarter and game winning drive in overtime. Miami is strong in the front seven but questionable in the secondary. The Jets must attack down the field.

There are going to be match-ups the Jets need to be more careful about (see on the road in Seattle) but for the most part, they can’t be shy about utilizing Kerley, Keller and Hill who many teams will have a tough time matching up with. The Jets passing game, like their entire team is not the punchline it is generally portrayed to be and has the potential to keep them very relevant in the division and playoff race.