Junk Drawer: From Mediocre to Great
Brian Bassett , theJetsBlog.com
We’re not much for report cars, but here’s a junk drawer of thoughts about the team as they make their start for the second half as the team returns to Florham Park tomorrow …
Running Game Bump — While the Seahawks and Patriots will be two tough customers coming out of the bye, the Jets running game start to grow by leaps and bounds in the coming weeks as those will be the only top ten run defenses from this point on. The rest of the way the running backs should be able to gain more yards on the ground, but the Jets can’t continue to expect that Shonn Greene is worthy of carry the ball 20+ times a game and expect their whole offense to benefit from it. The Jets need to get other players like Powell, McKnight and even Hilliard more involved.
Run to Pass — Tebow is probably not the answer at the QB spot, but if Sanchez isn’t capable of demonstrating why he should hold a stranglehold of the starting job, then the Jets do need to figure out a way to use him in a somewhat meaningful way. We’re in the midst of saying this til we’re blue in the face. If the Jets want to get #15 involved, they have to be comfortable with giving him the freedom to throw the ball. It’s obvious the Jets are unwilling to do that through the first half of the season, and that has made him much less deadly in their running game. Essentially neutering what little he could offer this team from his current spot. If the Jets want to see the run the ball well, they’ve got to let him throw it.
What Passes for Good — Mark Sanchez has had his worst year as a starter. Yes, the team is devoid of the talent that it had just two years ago. No Braylon, no Tone, no Tomlinson, Dustin Keller just getting healthy … but all the same, no team can be relied on to give a quarterback that much talent/money/resources pooled to make them a good offense. Sanchez is earning more than most NFL players and the team -whether rightly or wrongly now – banked their future on him. There’s no more chance of dumping off the ball to a future hall of famer in Tomlinson. Braylon Edwards can’t claw down a high pass in the back of the end zone. The team doesn’t have the talent at the skill positions that it once did, but if Sanchez is the player everyone said he was after his first two years, he should be able to elevate his game to the level for the sake of the lesser talent around him … it’s never happened. This two month stretch will determine his future in New York.
The Importance of Third Down – This defense has always prided themselves on their ability to get off the field on third down. This season, the team has been one of the worst in the league on third downs. It’s easy to say they need to be better, but so much goes into that. Revis’ absence is certainly a factor but the Jets have to find a way to get better at getting their defense off the field. That of course means that they need to be better against the run, not blow tackles, play tight in coverage and reach the quarterback on passing downs.
Time to Step Up — Teams are now focusing their attention on Jeremy Kerley, and rightly so. Because of that, players like Stephen Hill, Chaz Schilens and Clyde Gates are going to need to step up. If Kerley is getting extra attention, it means one of them won’t be and Sanchez will be looking to get the ball to them. Stephen Hill already has four drops this season, tied for 16th in the NFL right now and two of those drops came in his last two games at crucial times. Hill specifically has to start putting it together for the sake of his team. There was less concern for him to be productive when Santonio was healthy, but that padding has been removed and it’s time for him to come on in the second half.
No Deus Ex Machina — For folks who are tempted to peek ahead, there’s little chance that the 2013 quarterback class will resemble the 2012 version. There is no Andrew Luck, there is no RG3. Even if they did dip into the draft … can you imagine the Jets taking another USC quarterback regardless of how good he might be in the pros? For as good as they are in college, USC’s track record isn’t that impressive at grooming pro QBs of late. It might be an irrational thought, but to me it seems to really limit their options at the spot. If the Jets are going to consider making a change at that spot, their timing couldn’t be worse if they wanted to look to the draft. I truly believe that this last eight games is less about rallying for the playoffs than a tryout for next season. If Sanchez stumbles again, he might be sitting the end of the season on the bench. If he doesn’t, then maybe he doesn’t have to face an embarrassing quarterback competition come spring camps.