The Biggest Early-Season Storylines for the New York Jets
There is no question that the Jets attract a lot of drama and media attention, which, while it can be a distracting sideshow at times, leads to some juicy storylines to follow as the season goes along.
Obviously, the quarterback drama dominates the back pages, but there are plenty of other hidden storylines that are just as, if not more intriguing than the Tebow saga.
Here are the biggest early-season storylines for the Jets so far.
The Rotating Left Guard Position
This midseason roster battle may not be as riveting to most fans as Tim Tebow’s playing time, but this is something to keep an eye on over the next few games.
During the Steelers game, the Jets kept rotating Slauson and Ducasse in at left guard. Rotating offensive lineman makes little sense; all you do is disrupt the rhythm and continuity of the line.
If Ducasse is better than Slauson, then so be it, but that's something the Jets should have figured out during training camp. Experimenting with the offensive line in the middle of a game is reckless.
What makes this even more strange is that the Jets already conducted a guard competition in training camp, which Slauson won handily (again). What could have possibly changed between now and then to make the Jets’ coaches think that Slauson is no longer the man for the job?
If the Jets are going to make a change at guard, they should have done it weeks ago. Rex should just ride with Slauson until he becomes a major liability in order to build as much continuity as possible on the line.
Darrelle Revis’ Health
At this time last week, it was assumed that Darrelle Revis would be fine for last Sunday’s game against the Steelers after suffering a “mild” concussion.
As it turns out, there is no such thing as a “mild” concussion.
The good news is that some reporters have noticed an improved mood in Revis this week, and even if he does miss the game, the Dolphins receivers are not exactly going to stretch out Ryan’s defense. Still, the fact that Revis has not been able to get cleared for contact nine days after getting the concussion is troublesome.
The increased sensitivity surrounding head injuries is doing the Jets no favors. As tempting as it is to rush him back, the last thing the Jets need is another PR headache (no pun intended) for putting a concussed player on the field. They must wade on the side of caution.
Struggles of the Receiving Corps
Without Dustin Keller to draw coverage, the Steelers were able to hold up the Jets’ receivers enough to bring the Jets’ offense to a standstill for the final three quarters of the game.
Holmes, despite a few drops, was at least able to get some separation to give Sanchez some help, but Stephen Hill was invisible for almost the entire game. He was targeted just one time, which resulted in a drop that probably should have been a touchdown.
What is most disconcerting is that New York's wideouts were tied up at the line of scrimmage against the Steelers corners who spend most of their time in off-zone coverage. If the Jets’ receivers, namely Stephen Hill, don’t find a way to elevate their game and get off press coverage, look for more teams to follow the Steelers’ suit and give the Jets receivers all they can handle at the line of scrimmage.
This cannot come as a surprise for the Jets. It was widely believed that Hill was a raw prospect coming out of Georgia Tech who would struggle getting off the press. These are the growing pains that go along with starting a young wide receiver.
The Disappearance of Aaron Maybin
The Jets' pass rush has been a disappointment as a group, but Aaron Maybin's total invisibility has been a big part of it.
Last year, Maybin excited plenty of Jets fans with his six-sack regular season, but it was clear that he was still a raw player, and you can count me as one of those who were not sold on Maybin as a reliable third-down rusher.
It is clear that Maybin, while he has great speed and hustles on every play, simply cannot get enough leverage to push around offensive linemen. Even after adding some size in the offseason, he is still more in the mold of a wide receiver than an outside linebacker.
Even Maybin himself has admitted that he needs to elevate his game to revitalize the Jets' pass rush, per Brian Costello of the New York Post:
Personally, I feel like I’ve got to step it up. When you look at our performance yesterday, I don’t feel like I played bad, but when I don’t have game-changing plays, per se, I don’t feel like I did my job because that’s what they expect from me.
There is still plenty of time for Maybin to get back on track, but there is no doubt that Maybin has gotten off to a slow start.
Should Garrett McIntyre Be a Starter?
Filling in for the injured Bryan Thomas on Sunday against the Steelers, McIntyre was the best pass-rusher on the field, recording two sacks in the game.
He was also very good against the run, setting the edge and getting off blocks.
While Thomas is much more experienced than McIntyre, the Jets should seriously consider giving McIntyre the nod to start if he keeps playing at this level. Not only can he defend the run as well as Thomas, but he adds a much-needed element as a pass-rusher that Thomas lacks.
His performance on Sunday was hardly an anomaly—he had a very strong camp and looked very good in preseason action. After all, Calvin Pace called him the "MVP of training camp".
Tim Tebow’s Role
Ah, yes, the topic you all have been waiting for. Never before has a player’s snap count to airtime ratio been so high.
After being booed in the opener for taking away snaps from a hot Mark Sanchez, fans are now questioning why Tebow was not given more opportunities as the offense stalled against the Steelers, especially since he ripped a big run during the game and has had success against Pittsburgh’s defense in the past.
Rex Ryan told reporters that he was forced to abandon the Wildcat as the Jets were running out of time to come back from their 10-point deficit:
Rex Ryan says they had Wildcat plays in gameplan, but Jets abandoned it after getting down 10pts. Hmm.... But Tebow didn't play in 1st half— Manish Mehta(@MMehtaNYDN) September 17, 2012
Going forward, it is impossible to predict how Tebow’s playing time will change after one game. In any case, Ryan cannot let the voices of fans and media change his thought process; he needs to do what he thinks will help the Jets win, whether that means more Tebow or not.