Stock Up, Stock Down for Every New York Jets Positional Unit This Preseason
After two preseason games, most New York Jets fans are probably squirming in their seats.
The offensive line has been dangerously bad, the receiving corps is wrought with injuries and the offense seems to have a severe deficiency in playmakers.
The start of each NFL season is supposed to bring hope, but where's the hope for fans of the green and white?
Don't worry Jets fans, hope is there. You just have to look hard to find it.
First off, the starting defense is playing incredibly. It's a small sample size, but if people are going to criticize the offense after just a few quarters, you can't use the small sample size to then discredit the defense's accomplishments.
Also, many of the Jets top players this preseason have been first- or second-year players. Players like Muhammad Wilkerson, Demario Davis, Quinton Coples, Antonio Allen and Stephen Hill seem like they will grow into excellent NFL players, giving the Jets a young core to go along with superstar veterans like Nick Mangold, David Harris and Darrelle Revis.
Finally, while the team has been hit with the injury bug in practice, none of the injuries seem to be major and that is a great accomplishment at this point in camp.
The starters are slated to play just one more preseason game and if they can make it through this Sunday's game unscathed, the Jets will be very much ahead of the competition health-wise.
But back to the negatives.
The team's offensive line has been so abysmal that it is making everyone on the unit look bad.
Quarterbacks have no time to throw, running backs have no holes and receivers can't catch balls from quarterbacks who get planted into the ground two seconds after the snap.
Because it's the Jets, the media and haters across the country are focusing fully on the negatives. Unfortunately, the team has given them a lot of ammunition the past two weeks.
There are some reasons to sound the alarms and pray that Mike Tannenbaum is burning up the phones looking for trades. However, keep in mind that last preseason the Rams, Dolphins and Redskins were a combined 10-2 while the Patriots, Saints and Falcons were a combined 4-8.
When looked at closely and fairly, the Jets have been a mixed bag so far. Here's a closer look at each positional unit in the Jets' "stock up, stock down" report.
Quarterbacks: Stock Up
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I personally don't care what every writer and critic seems to be writing about Mark Sanchez, I am grading the Jets' quarterback situation as "stock up" and will keep defending his play.
Sanchez is in a terrible situation right now behind an offensive line that can't block, with a running game not producing and a wide receiver corps that is decimated by injuries.
Although he hasn't led the team to any points yet this preseason, I believe Sanchez has shown a marked improvement. Against the Giants, 10 of the 11 passes he threw were on the money and he showed a lot less panic than he had last season.
He's playing less scared, progressing through his reads better and has shown a great leap in his accuracy. Sanchez is 13-of-17 passing this preseason with two of his four incompletions coming on drops. His completion percentage has increased each year and if the preseason is any indication, expect another tick upwards this year.
Sanchez threw one bad pass against the Giants, who to their credit took full advantage of it. One bad pass that was off by about a foot. If Sanchez threw that pass outside instead of inside and Patrick Turner didn't drop a pass right in his hands earlier in the game, you could be talking about a perfect 11-for-11 night from Sanchez.
On the negative side, Sanchez hasn't thrown for a high amount of yardage and of course hasn't put points on the board. But let's not forget that this offense is a skeleton of what will be run in the regular season.
Besides the fact that the plays are simple, the Wildcat and any other change-of-direction plays have been shelved in order to keep them secret.
It's easy to just sit and look at the scoreboard and say that Sanchez hasn't done anything this preseason. But if you take a look at the tapes, watch every play, stop to breakdown just what's happening and compare that to previous years, you will see an improved Sanchez.
The quarterback situation obviously doesn't end with Sanchez though.
Tim Tebow seems to have been given a directive to only run under dire circumstances as a means to work on his passing game. He is proving to everyone that he is by far inferior to Sanchez as a passer, but that he can provide a spark off the bench.
Like Sanchez, he too isn't running the same offense in the games as he is in practice and final judgement needs to be reserved until we all get to see the full offense in action on opening day.
Saying that the stock is up for the Jets' quarterbacks will be the most controversial slide on here and I am fully aware that fans of other teams or even Jets fans will think this is absurd. The truth of the matter is that it's too hard to tell definitively what is going to happen once the real games start.
At least, I hope that's what happens.
Sanchez has shown improved accuracy and poise under extreme duress and Tebow has shown he can provide a spark in a limited role.
That's finding a silver lining in what has been a messy start to the Jets offensively this preseason.
Running Backs: Stock Down
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The running backs are suffering from a similar malady as the quarterbacks: the offensive line simply can't block for them.
Bilal Powell generated a lot of training camp buzz, but that has not translated into the games just yet.
Shonn Greene is what he is. If the line gives him a hole, he will get his yardage. If not, he's not going to make something happen. Greene was given extended action against the Giants as McKnight and Powell were kept on the sidelines much of the first half, and he really didn't produce much at all.
Greene won't fumble and he'll run hard, but it doesn't appear he's going to be a running back who will create yardage on his own. I fully believe though that he is a player who you can live with on a winning team.
This position is incredibly thin though and needs a ton of support in order to be effective.
What Jets fans should hope for is that the team is keeping some plays hidden where Tim Tebow lines up as a running back, because at this point, he probably would be the best runner they have.
Offensive Line/Tight Ends: Stock Down
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I haven't been following the stock market as closely as I have in the past, but the Jets offensive line would be similar to whatever stock is dragging down the Dow Jones Industrial Average the most.
I truly feel bad for Dustin Keller being lumped in with this group.
The team's pass protection has come under fire, and rightly so. But this unit isn't getting things done in the running game either, and that's scary.
One of the most telling signs of their struggles came on consecutive plays against the Giants where they failed to convert on 3rd and 4th-and-1 after getting no push whatsoever.
Mike Tannenbaum gets a ton of blame here as he inexplicably did not upgrade this unit one iota in the offseason.
Wayne Hunter is Wayne Hunter. He was so bad against the Giants, that he was trending on Twitter due to his poor play. The other lineman haven't been much better. They have given up 12 sacks over their first two preseason games.
The tight ends have had uneven results so far as neither Keller nor Jeff Cumberland caught a pass against the Bengals, but they did combine for four catches for 33 yards against the Giants.
Keller will produce if given the chance, so there should be no worries there.
But the offensive line as a whole has been an abomination and could end up sabotaging the team's entire season and the health of some of the cornerstones of the franchise.
Wide Receivers: Stock Down
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While the offensive line has drawn the ire of most Jets fans as the team's most frustrating unit, the wide receiving corps isn't far behind.
Unlike the O-line though, there is hope for this unit if they could get themselves healthy.
With Santonio Holmes on the sidelines and the young receivers still learning the ropes, there simply isn't a single threat here for opposing defenses to worry about.
The one positive of Holmes, Chaz Schilens and Jeremy Kerley being out with injuries is that players like Patrick Turner, Jordan White and Stephen Hill have seen a big increase in the amount of playing time they were expected to get.
White, Turner and Hill have done a decent job learning on the fly and seem like they will be adequate NFL players at the very least.
The Jets could do a lot worse than a wide receiver depth chart of Holmes, Hill, Turner, White and Kerley. In fact, they have had worse plenty of times.
However, they need to all get on the field at the same time and the offensive line has to give the quarterback time to get the ball to them. Both of those situations are questionable at best.
The stock is down for the wide receiver position right now mainly because of their failure to stay healthy and their inability to make big plays.
They aren't going to be great by any means, but they aren't as bad as people seem to think.
And if somebody tells you a team can't win with a group of receivers like this, point them in the direction of the 2011 San Francisco 49ers.
Defensive Line: Stock Up
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After two preseason games it doesn't appear that the Jets are going to make a huge leap in the number of sacks they get from their defensive line, but it does seem that they will be one of the toughest teams to run on in the NFL.
The Jets' defensive line was seen as a strong point as the team started training camp and has done nothing to dispel that idea in their first two preseason games.
If anything, the defensive line has actually outplayed the high expectations set forth by many.
Rex Ryan has gushed about Muhammad Wilkerson and he has proven to be deserving of that praise. Quinton Coples and Mike DeVito have had big games and even Kenrick Ellis has shown flashes of production.
Perhaps the best news during all of this is that the team has been so productive without Sione Pouha, their best defensive lineman last year.
Jets fans have a lot to be excited about regarding their defensive line, especially the promise shown at such a young age by Wilkerson, Coples and Ellis.
Linebackers: Stock Up
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Fans shouldn't be as excited about the linebackers as they are the defensive line, but it at least appears the Jets will do well here too.
The linebackers have played a nice role in helping stop the run and have made some great plays during the first two preseason games.
After a shaky start against the Bengals, Bart Scott looked tremendous against the Giants. David Harris has been his usual consistent self and Demario Davis has showed signs of promise along the way.
The only negatives so far came in the Bengals game when Scott and Calvin Pace struggled in pass coverage, but that's a shortcoming all fans know is present.
Any concern about the linebacking unit so far would be nitpicking.
Secondary: Stock Up
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Like every other unit on the defense, the Jets' first-team secondary has played off the charts.
The backups have left a lot to be desired, especially Isaiah Trufant and Julian Posey, but the rest of the unit has exceeded expectations.
The major reason to be excited about this unit though is the play at safety.
So far, all four have performed as well or better than expected.
Landry showed the ability to make game-changing plays against the Giants, Bell has emerged as a leader on the defense, Bush has held his own as a rookie and Allen has been one of the biggest revelations in camp so far.
If the safeties can stay healthy and keep up this production, the Jets' pass defense could be as scary as their run defense.
Special Teams: Stock Down
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First, the good news.
Bringing in Josh Brown was an excellent move by Mike Tannenbaum. The competition has not only pushed Nick Folk in his field goal kicking, but also seems to have paid dividends in the kickoff department.
Both Folk and Brown have consistently recorded touchbacks when they had the chance in the preseason. It's a big difference from past years and let's hope that continues.
Also, Jenny Vrentas of nj.com reported that Folk has unofficially gone an incredible 51-of-54 on field goals during training camp. True, he isn't under game pressure, but, practice or not, those are impressive numbers.
It looks like Folk has the upper hand in the competition, but you can bet that both kickers will be kicking somewhere in the NFL this year.
Aside from the kicking, their kick coverage has been good and Joe McKnight and Jordan White have looked good in the return game.
Now, for the negatives.
T.J. Conley should be happy Wayne Hunter is on the team otherwise he might be the most reviled Jet.
Conley seems to have regressed from his poor rookie season and you'd have to think the Jets have their eyes on other punting competitions going on around the league. Conley was awful against the Giants and if he duplicates that performance, Mike Westhoff might just go out and punt the ball himself, and he shouldn't be punting anything with his bad leg.
He's been so bad that if the Jets do cut him, there is serious doubt any other team would pick him up.
The special teams unit has committed a major blunder in each game so far as well. First, the Jets allowed a blocked punt for a touchdown against the Bengals. It was tough to pin the breakdown on any one player as the entire Bengals line, their athletic training staff and every usher in the stadium seemed to have their hand in on the punt block.
Against the Giants, McKnight committed a killer roughing the kicker penalty that allowed the Giants to continue a drive off of what was an excellent stop by the defense.
The Jets special teams were riddled with mistakes like this last season and that can't happen again this year.
Despite some positives, this unit's stock is down because of Conley's presence on the team and the continued penalties and mistakes that are just inexcusable.