Can the New York Jets Get Their Season off the Ground?
The New York Jets lost their two best players for the season over the course of two weeks. In a two week span, this team went from an average team to a bad team. The question now becomes how will they respond?
Tonight will mark the beginning of Week 5 in the NFL. After their matchup with the Houston Texans on Monday night, the Jets will still have 11 games to play. It is simply too early for this team to give up on their season.
The Jets are not ready to pack it in just yet, though. They can't. To quote Herman Edwards, an old and wiser Jets head coach, "You play to win the game."
Here are a few ways that the Jets can prevent themselves from falling flat on their faces every week this season.
Keep Tim Tebow on the Bench!
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I can not stress this fact enough: Tim Tebow must not become the starting quarterback for the New York Jets.
If Sanchez goes down with injury, that's one thing. But if Rex Ryan and OC Tony Sparano decide to bench Sanchez for Tebow, there will be serious long- and short-term consequences.
First of all, Tebow's promotion would mark the end of Mark Sanchez's career as a New York Jet. The Jets have done everything they could to hurt Sanchez's psyche as he developed, from taking away almost every legitimate weapon he has ever, had to constantly labeling this team that can not run the ball a "ground and pound" offense.
I'm not trying to be a Sanchez apologist; I just think he deserves a shot to play behind a legitimate offense.
Many fans are beginning to disagree. They are ready for Tebow Time. Well keep in mind a few things before you start chanting his name on Monday night:
In Denver, Tebow went on a magical run to lead the Broncos to the Divisional Round of the playoffs. He did not do this by himself. The Broncos had actual playmakers on offense. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are proving that they are legitimate NFL wide receivers.
Tebow also had a good running back in Willis McGahee and one of the best offensive lines in football. The Jets have none of those things.
The Broncos also had a fantastic defense. The defense is what allowed Tebow the opportunities to win games on last-minute touchdown runs.
Rex Ryan may wish he had a top-five defense, but he does not. More of that, right now:
Stop the Run
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If the Jets stand any chance of winning more than four games this season, their run defense will have to dramatically improve.
They are currently ranked 31st in the league at stopping the run. They allow an average of 4.9 yards per rush and have given up 691 yards in four games. That is completely unacceptable for a Rex Ryan defense.
The loss of Darrelle Revis is not going to make things any easier for this run defense. LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, solid run-stopping safeties, will no longer be able to creep up towards the line with the All-Pro corner off the field.
The front seven of the Jets should be absolutely embarrassed with their performance thus far.
Their linebacking corps, featuring David Harris, Bart Scott and Calvin Pace, has always been criticized for its poor coverage skills. Their saving grace has been the ability to bottle up running backs.
If they can't do that anymore, then the Jets are in serious trouble.
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The Jets have had as much trouble running the ball as stopping the run. They average 86.5 yards per game, good for 24th in the league, but their average per carry is only 3.2 yards. Does that sound like ground-and-pound?
The concept of a ground-and-pound running attack is one that is quickly vanishing in the league today. The only team that is really successfully utilizing the strategy is the San Francisco 49ers. The Jets are living in the past with this strategy, and they don't even have the personnel to do it correctly.
Shonn Greene is proving every week that he is not a starting running back in the NFL. At best, he can split carries with another back.
At this point, it is too late to do anything about it. The Jets aren't going to be able to get a new running back this year. I suspect it won't be long before they make Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight bigger factors in the ground game.
As the season moves along, if the Jets don't make the mistake of starting Tebow, they should utilize him more in the running game as well. To this point, the Tebow effect has had no impact on the Jets' offense. He has only nine carries for 38 yards on the year.
In his defense, however, if the running game is not working, then the wildcat will not work either.
Open Up a Passing Game
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I mentioned earlier that I am not a Sanchez apologist.
He deserves some blame for the offense's failures this year. His 69.6 quarterback rating is near the bottom of the league. His completion percentage is only 49.2 and he has thrown four interceptions to only 5 touchdowns.
It has been a very disappointing start to 2012 for the fourth-year quarterback. He was supposed to take the next step this year. Instead, it appears he has taken a few steps back.
Let me reiterate, Tim Tebow is not the solution. Tebow will not come in and throw the ball better than Sanchez has. If this passing game is going to get going, it will fall on Sanchez.
The loss of Santonio Holmes for the year is going to make things tougher, but other receivers will have to step up. There's no other way to look at it.
The Jets expect TE Dustin Keller to return this week. He is a favorite target of Sanchez's, and hopefully his arrival will give Sanchez some much needed confidence throwing the ball.
Force Turnovers on Defense
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Finally, The Jets will need to consistently force turnovers if they expect to stay relevant this year. In the two games they have won, they forced six turnovers. In the two losses, they have forced zero.
Now, I know that the fact that turnovers lead to wins is not a novel idea, but they do not just happen.
They start with getting pressure on the quarterback. The Jets have not had a dominant pass rush since Rex Ryan arrived. That has to change for the Jets to be successful. Aaron Maybin, the surprise of last year's defense, is nowhere to be found this season. The defensive line has been underwhelming.
First-round draft pick Quinton Coples is going to be asked to step up his game. Last year's first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson will have to as well. When the quarterback is pressured, he will make mistakes and allow the defense to reap the benefits.
Look at the game in Miami. The Jets couldn't seem to get anything going when Ryan Tannehill threw an ill advised pass to LaRon Landry, who took it to the house. That pick-six changed the entire game. If the Jets can make more plays like that, the season may not be as lost as it looks.
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