After an abysmal conclusion to the 2011 season, the New York Jets have picked up where they left off last year—offensively struggling to produce. The Jets have played three preseason games thus far, and they've failed to score a touchdown in all of them. With New York taking on Philly in the final preseason game, it's difficult to see the silver lining here.
The struggle could be blamed on several components of New York's new-found offense, but the main reasons are the unfamiliarity of players and the playbook.
New offensive coordinator Tony Sparano has about a week to get this mess worked out, otherwise the streak of zero touchdowns will continue into the regular season.
Let's take a look at what's attributing to Gang Green's troubles.
New York replaced their offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer with Tony Sparano this past offseason.
Up to this point, his offensive game plan has yet to be seen.
Sparano was the head coach of the Miami Dolphins during 2008-2011 seasons, and as the head coach, he tried to get the Dolphins to use an offensive system based on running the ball via the "ground-and-pound" method.
CBS Miami's Tim Kephart described Sparano's problem perfectly in his August 21st article titled "Sparano's Offense Struggling in New York."
"What was supposed to be Sparano’s specialty, the offensive line was constantly in flux and the right side of the offensive line never was set under Sparano’s watch in Miami. Now in New York, Sparano has another struggling right tackle and no way to mask it or correct it."
Sparano's offensive line has struggled, specifically Wayne Hunter. It appears that his problem from Miami has followed him here to New York. The way the coordinator runs his offense, a strong offensive line is a must, especially at the tackles; no wonder the Jets have failed to score a touchdown in three preseason games.
Sparano better have something up his sleeve if Gang Green plans on crossing the goal line anytime soon.
There have been countless articles regarding New York's quarterback situation, and every article pulls for one of the two to man the starting job, even though Woody Johnson "made it very clear: Mark Sanchez is our starting quarterback," in the Daily News article by Manish Mehta from March 27th.
Why isn't Sanchez's job safe? Just ask Wayne Hunter why.
What does a right tackle's faith have to do with two quarterbacks fighting for No. 1 on the depth chart?
Jets management tells the media what they want to hear—and then blindside us.
What I'm trying to say is that although we've been told that Sanchez will be the starter, there's still the chance that we'll be blindsided, and Tebow will start a game in place of Sanchez.
While unlikely, it's possible—and that possibility is a dilemma for both QBs trying to run a new offense.
The shot heard round the NFL world was when Santonio Holmes gave up on his team and criticized Mark Sanchez.
As ESPN's Rich Cimini put it,
"The New York Jets' final meltdown began last Wednesday in a classroom, where Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez exchanged pointed words in a quarterback-wide receivers meeting."
If Sanchez can't trust Holmes to be a professional on the field, and Holmes doesn't believe Sanchez makes the right judgement calls, then this tandem will never work out.
Further in the article, Cimini says that players called Holmes a "cancer" and states that the wide receiver failed to appear at Sanchez's passing camp during the NFL lockout.
How could we expect a successful offense when QB No. 1 and WR No. 1 aren't on the same page?
Santonio Holmes is great. Chaz Schilens is good. However, there's no real go-to receiver that New York can count on.
Stephen Hill is the leading receiver on the Jets' squad right now. He's got nine receptions totaling for 106 yards—an 11.8 average per reception. However, he's a rookie and we can't expect him to impact Gang Green in such a big way, especially facing the pressures of playing in New York.
As I mentioned before with the Sanchez-Holmes quarrel, there's no trust between that duo, and Schilens is as familiar with the offense as the next guy (can you see why it's a struggle yet?).
If anyone is going to breakout for the receiving corps, it's going to be Dustin Keller; however, with his injury, he might not be able to impact us right away.
And the struggle continues...
Dustin Keller might be New York's best option in terms of big gains; however, he's not shown fans anything worthwhile up to this point.
The tight end has three receptions for a total of 33 yards.
In the previous preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, New York lost Keller to a hamstring injury.
Manish Mehta of the Daily News hit the nail on the head when she wrote,
"Although the expectation is that Keller will be ready for the regular-season opener against the Bills on Sept. 9, hamstring injuries are one of the most fickle ailments for a pass catcher."
New York is not going to want to rush Keller back, especially for a preseason game, so the best bet would be to let the tight end rest that hamstring and come back for the opener, but there is still a risk with playing through a sore hamstring, especially a severe strain.
Last season, Keller lead the Jets in receptions and yards with 65 and 815.
If this kind of production is forced to miss games, you should prepare yourself for even more of a struggle.
The offensive line hasn't done their job protecting the quarterback. Mark Sanchez has been sacked six times, Tim Tebow has been sacked seven times and even Greg McElroy has been sacked three times.
The O-line just isn't holding up like it used to.
Mark Sanchez is never going to get the chance to wow fans with his passing improvements if the line just lets opposing defenses have their way. It's their job to create time for the quarterback to scan the field and make the best judgement call—they've failed miserably so far.
It's also good to point out that the offensive line isn't creating the holes they once did for the run game—a major contributing factor to a failed run game and ongoing struggle of the Jets offense.
With no major upgrades to the line, it's safe to take ESPN's Rich Cimini's analysis of last year's line as a safe bet of what will be said for this year's line.
"In 2009 and 2010, this was one of the premier lines in the NFL, but the production dropped across the board. The Jets allowed one sack for every 14.7 dropbacks (down from 19.8 in '10) and they averaged only 3.8 yards per rush (down from 4.4). The line never found a rhythm or identity, in part, because of the early-season emphasis on the pass—a departure from previous years."
The fact that New York's line does not have an "identity" is killing the Jets, and it will continue to factor into their struggles throughout the season.
The Jets' run game has been something that defenses really haven't had to prepare for in two years—it's been that bad.
New York is currently ranked 17th in rushing yards per game with 104.7.
The leader in the rushing department?
Shonn Greene has 29 attempts for 94 yards. Not too good if you're listed as No. 1 on the depth chart.
Granted you don't see much playing time as a first-stringer, but you could have a slightly better impact than that.
What's even more fascinating is Tim Tebow is third on the leader board with 11 attempts and 84 yards.
Is this a sign of what to expect from Gang Green's playbook?
Mike Vick of the Philadelphia Eagles is successful because he is a threat as both a runner and a thrower. Opposing defenses have to prepare for both because he's so deadly at what he does.
Tim Tebow is not an effective quarterback as a passer, at least from what we've seen this preseason he's not. So one could imagine that if he's going to surge in the Jets offense, it's going to be as a runner—which could be a problem because he's very one dimensional.
In conclusion, Tebow is no Vick. Defenses just need to force Tebow to the right side of the field to take him out of his comfort zone, and as a result, he will be ineffective as a thrower and a runner—and the struggle will continue for the Jets offense.