The New York Jets will be lucky to win six games in 2012 unless Tony Sparano figures out a way to fix the offense.
So, what do the Jets need to do to turn things around?
It's no secret that the Jets have locker-room issues.
LaDainian Tomlinson—a sure-fire Hall of Famer—and one of the NFL's most respected players before he retired—didn't hold anything back in an interview with Showtime's Inside the NFL back in January, via ESPN.com, saying:
I've been around some locker rooms and quarterback-receiver situations and what-not, but it was as bad as I've been around...Can it be fixed? I think absolutely it can be. But they're going to have to make some tough decisions.
Tomlinson specifically targeted Santonio Holmes as part of the problem, and reading between the lines, one of the tough decisions he seems to advocate is letting Holmes go.
Things haven't changed thus far in 2012.
Check this. Rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill has been struggling. He has dropped a handful of catchable balls so far this preseason. He let one of Mark Sanchez's passes go right through his hands during the team's third preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
After the game Holmes spoke to the media about his rookie running mate, according to Kimberley A. Martin of the Orlando Sentinel: "He has to understand that when the game starts, everything has to count in game mode. And this is not practice mode."
And that's the crux of the matter.
Did Holmes just morph into Allen Iverson or something?
Practice like you play. That's the way to win in the NFL, and if there's something else being preached, someone needs to be excommunicated.
Sparano Must Continue Pounding the Ball
The only way this team will have any consistent success in 2012 is through a balanced attack.
Through three games this preseason, Sparano has stayed conservative, running the ball roughly 50 percent of the time. While it's true that the running game has been far from electric, the team must continue to stay committed to pounding the ball.
The primary reason for this boils down to the simple fact that the offensive line hasn't shown any competence when it comes to protecting the quarterback.
Whether it's Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow behind center, neither one has had the luxury of time in the pocket thus far. It's not all on Wayne Hunter, either.
The entire line has struggled to play together. The best way to get an offensive line to become cohesive is through run-blocking. Much like a basketball player struggling who hits a layup or two and starts catching fire, Sparano need to get these boys rolling in the running game and they'll be better in pass-protection.
Additionally, back in Sanchez's first couple of seasons, the offense flourished because they were running play-action passes behind the strong running game. Sanchez was more comfortable with that arrangement, and it will do him good to get back to that comfort zone.
Keep pounding the rock, and good things will happen.
Let the Wildcat Loose
I've heard a lot of grumbling about Tim Tebow thus far in the preseason. There is no doubt that Tebow will never be Peyton Manning.
He isn't a pocket quarterback. Period.
I've been baffled, therefore, by the amount of consternation about what he has or hasn't been able to accomplish in the preseason. Rex Ryan made it clear that the team wasn't going to utilize the wildcat until the regular season.
When Tebow was winning ball games for the Denver Broncos last year, he was doing so in a tailor-made offense that accounted for his shortcomings as a pocket passer. The read-option was perfect for his skill-set, and I'm expecting Sprarano—one of the league's best wildcat coordinators—to employ many of the same concepts.
If the Jets change the culture of the locker room, start getting some serious attitude on their offensive line (brought on by a punishing running game) and employ the wildcat 10-15 times a game, they have a chance to pull out of this abysmal slump we've witnessed.
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