Jets vs. Texans: Will Jets' WRs Make Moves Against Texans' Secondary?
It's hard to think of a single scenario in which the New York Jets' receivers could fare well against the Houston Texans' secondary on Monday night.
The Jets' passing game has floundered this year, and recent injuries have made things go from bad to worse in the Big Apple.
Star receiver Santonio Holmes was recently ruled out for the rest of the season thanks to a foot injury. If that wasn't bad enough, SB Nation's John Benne has reported that one of his replacements, Stephen Hill, is listed as doubtful due to a hamstring issue.
The Jets will trot out a group consisting of Jeremey Kerley, Chaz Schilens, Clyde Gates and Jason Hill. Those aren't exactly household names, and they're not going to do much against the Houston secondary. Here's why.
Mark Sanchez Is Still Struggling
It’s tough for the Jets' wide receivers to do much with quarterback Mark Sanchez playing as badly as he has been recently.
It’s hard to rip on Sanchez, mainly because he gets blasted enough as it is. No one in the NFL is scrutinized more than the embattled Jets quarterback, especially since media sensation Tim Tebow serves as his backup.
But at the same time, most of the criticism is deserved. Sanchez has done nothing to show that he can successfully quarterback the Jets this season.
Sanchez has been terrible, completing just 49.2 percent of his passes so far this year. He also sports six turnovers compared to just five touchdown passes. This guy’s supposed to help his receivers against the No. 2 pass defense in the league? Please.
Over the past three weeks, the Jets have faced two of the NFL's top five pass defenses—the San Francisco 49ers (No. 5) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 3). In those two games, Sanchez has combined to complete 41 percent of his passes for 241 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Keep in mind, that was with Santonio Holmes on the field.
You can try to point fingers elsewhere, but at the end of the day, Sanchez just hasn’t put the Jets' receivers in a position to succeed. It’s hard to imagine a miraculous improvement against arguably the best defense in the NFL, which means that the Jets' receivers will almost certainly struggle this week.
The Houston Pass Rush Takes Away the Deep Ball
If there's one thing to say about the Jets' group of wide receivers, it's that they're fast. They may have lost Holmes, but guys like Schilens and Kerley are capable of getting down the field in a hurry.
That normally would spell trouble for a team like the Texans, who tend to play a lot of press coverage.
Houston's defensive backs use a lot of bump and run to try and force receivers off of their routes. It's generally an effective strategy, but because it forces cornerbacks to play close to the receivers, the defense becomes much more susceptible to the deep ball.
But the problem the Jets face is that the Houston pass rush has been unstoppable this season. The Texans, led by breakout defensive end J.J. Watt, have recorded 13 sacks in their four games and have gotten constant pressure on the quarterback.
The Jets' offensive line has been solid for the most part, but looked shaky against San Francisco last week and hasn't seen a pass rush like Houston's yet.
Sanchez isn't going to have a lot of time to sit in the pocket, so the deep ball won't often be a viable option. That's a huge problem, because this group of Jets receivers hasn't proven much outside of the ability to get downfield in a hurry.
They'll have to run a lot of timing routes and quick-strike plays to successfully move the ball against Houston's defense. But the thing is, Sanchez has never developed a great connection with any receiver outside of Holmes.
Jets fans would love to see New York have some success throwing the ball downfield, but it just isn't likely to happen this week. The Texans' pass rush is just too good. That nullifies the Jets receivers' greatest weapon and makes it even less likely that they'll be able to make moves against the Texans' secondary.
The Jets Haven't Gotten Going on the Ground
As good as the Houston secondary is, the Jets' receivers could have some success if the running game could keep the defense guessing. But that's not likely to happen this weekend.
Houston's rushing defense is good (ninth overall at 136.5 yards per game), but more than that, the Jets rushing game has just been bad.
The Jets rank 24th in the league on the ground, averaging just 86.5 yards per game. Some of that can be chalked up to the murderous defenses they've had to face over the past two weeks (the Miami Dolphins and San Francisco 49ers rank first and sixth respectively against the run) and the fact that they've gotten down big early.
But a lot of the blame falls on the Jets themselves.
This year's squad is far removed from the rushing juggernaut that it used to be, and there's no easy fix in sight. Running back Joe McKnight told the New York Daily News' Manish Mehta:
We can be the best running team in the NFL. We just got to work at it.
That's a bold claim, but even if it is true, it's not going to happen overnight. And that spells trouble for the Jets' receivers.
The Texans aren't going to have to stack the box to stop the run this week. Their front four is just too good. They could often have seven or eight guys dropping back in coverage, which doesn't give the New York receivers many options.
Let's just say that Schilens, Kerley and crew are able to beat Houston's corners (a tough task in its own right). There still won't be many seams in the Texans' coverage. As mentioned earlier, going deep will be tough. And thanks to the Jets' woeful running game, the Houston linebackers will have the middle of the field locked down.
There won't be a lot of room for the Jets' receiving corps to work with against the Texans. Unless New York can come up big with the running game, catches will be rare, and long catches will be even rarer.
Maybe the Jets' ground game can turn it around this week, but it's highly unlikely. That makes the receivers' already difficult job even harder.
The Jets' Receivers Don't Have the Talent
Finally, there's the receivers themselves. It might sound a little harsh, but New York's receivers are inexperienced and, quite frankly, untalented.
In 2009, Holmes caught 79 passes for 1,248 yards. Neither Kerley, Schilens, Hill nor Gates has ever totaled 1,000 yards in their careers. There's just no way that they can be expected to even come close to replacing Holmes's production.
Let's look at them. Kerley, the Jets' best bet to pick up the slack, is a decently talented second-year receiver. In his career, he has 39 catches for 511 yards and three touchdowns. That's not terrible, but it doesn't exactly scream future star.
Schilens, on the other hand, is a cast-off from the Oakland Raiders, and Gates has recorded only three career receptions.
That leaves Hill, who holds the dubious distinction of calling Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis overrated. To that, Revis said that he didn't “even know who that dude is” (per the New York Daily News' Kevin Armstrong).
That's it folks. That's the New York Jets' receiving corps.
Maybe these guys can band together and totally shock the world on Monday night, but it's not likely. There's just too much going against them. Expect the Jets' passing game to have another rough outing this week.
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