You certainly can't blame Austin Howard, who stepped in admirably in the wake of Wayne Hunter's benching and handled Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson. Howard held his own against the veteran, giving up just two pressures in the first half.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez has been under scrutiny all offseason, but the Jets' latest performance doesn't fall on him. There were some off-target throws, but Sanchez was accurate for the most part. Thus far in the preseason, the Jets' wide receivers haven't done anything to help him prove doubters wrong.
The stat line for the quarterbacks became a quick-spreading joke on Twitter, with this tweet from Matt Yoder of Awful Announcing gaining some traction:
Yup, the Jets QBs suck. twitter.com/myoder84/statu…— Matt Yoder (@myoder84) August 27, 2012
But the stat line doesn't tell the whole story.
Sanchez's first-half numbers (7-of-14 passing, 85 yards, 6.1 yards per attempt, interception) don't look nearly as bad when you consider that Jets receivers dropped four passes in the half. Rookie wideout Stephen Hill, who was responsible for two of those drops, had one bounce directly off his hands and into the waiting hands of Panthers defensive back Captain Munnerlyn for Sanchez's lone interception on the night.
Hill redeemed himself on the next drive by helping Sanchez go a perfect 4-of-4, with Hill responsible for three of those catches. This time, guard Matt Slauson was the one to blame for the drive stalling out, with a personal foul penalty that killed a Jets drive inside the red zone.
Without those errors, not only would Sanchez's day have looked a lot better on paper, it would have been a lot better on the field and might have lifted the offense to their first preseason touchdown, and their first preseason win.
And imagine how different the tenor would be in New York right now, if only Sanchez were getting any help. It didn't look much better with Tim Tebow taking the snaps; the only difference is Tebow was more to blame for the errors than Sanchez.
With a pick like this, how could he not be?
Now, Sanchez isn't free of scrutiny here. He held the ball too long on several occasions: once resulting in a sack, twice more when he was forced to scramble for seven and six yards, and once more on a throw to Dedrick Epps in double coverage in the end zone.
OK, so Mark didn't have to pull the trigger on that throw, but he didn't have much of a choice. No one was open. That's what happened on the sack, too, admitted as such by Sanchez, according to Conor Orr of the Newark Star-Ledger:
Sanchez said that his only sack was a coverage sack. #jets— Conor Orr (@ConorTOrr) August 27, 2012
If the wide receivers can't get open and can't catch the ball, it's not hard to see why the offense will struggle.
These issues redirect back to the question we've been asking a lot recently: Is Mike Tannenbaum doing enough to help Mark Sanchez succeed? At this point, we know what the QB is, and we know what his strengths and limitations are. But much like the Jets' running game, the front office has dragged their feet in providing him with any help.
All this while they have put increasingly more pressure on him by increasing the load he carries. All this while they have continued to move parts in and out of the offense year in and year out.
The group has potential, but whether they can reach that potential will determine whether or not Mark Sanchez has a successful season. It could also depend on the health of tight end Dustin Keller, who left the game with a hamstring injury in the first quarter. The offense looked like a completely different unit with their tight end in the lineup.
The fact that there is/will be so much concern over Keller's health is indicative of the Jets' offensive woes. That is, if the product on the field wasn't a good enough indication.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained first-hand.