New York Jets: Breaking Down the Adjustments Rex Ryan Must Make to Save His Job
With the 28-7 loss in Seattle against the Seahawks, the New York Jets are now 3-6. Prior to the game, I wrote that the season was on the line, and I was not lying. The Jets are effectively gone from the AFC playoff hunt. The Indianapolis Colts (6-3) and Pittsburgh Steelers (6-3) are too far ahead in the wild-card race.
Some fans might even hope for a bottoming out season and a high draft pick. But head coach Rex Ryan would have no interest in that attitude. In order for Ryan to maintain his job security, he needs to demonstrate that this team will be competitive next year.
This season the Jets were crippled by a historic rash of injuries. Given that, an 8-8 or even 7-9 finish could be excused. However, if the Jets finish 6-10 or 5-11, then one has to ask how good they were going to be before those injuries.
The goal for Ryan from here on out is to prove the worth of his system and show that the Jets—with their players returning in 2013—will become the contenders they were during the first three years of his tenure.
Here are the key improvements Ryan should try to get from his team to achieve a respectable finish.
Fix the Press-Man Coverage
The Jets defense thrived for the past three seasons on press-man coverage and coverage sacks. If you can cover the opponents' two best receivers with two cornerbacks, that leaves you nine other men with which to wreak havoc.
Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are meant to be the tandem that gets this job done. With Revis gone for the season with an ACL tear, Cromartie and Kyle Wilson now have those jobs. Unfortunately, neither of them is being used well in man coverage.
Cromartie is bigger and stronger than most cornerbacks. He is at his best in press coverage. However, he is often playing off his man and giving him too much space. Cromartie is vulnerable against short, quick routes when he does that.
Wilson—a third-year cornerback who formerly played in the slot—is also not being used in man coverage enough. He has the physical talents needed to press the line and win one-on-one battles. Rex Ryan needs to put him in those situations more, and Wilson needs to come through.
Make Better Use of Stephen Hill
Rookie second-round pick and wide receiver Stephen Hill is the most physically gifted receiver the Jets have. He dealt with hamstring issues earlier in the year, but he is back.
Too often over the past few weeks, Mark Sanchez has locked in on Jeremy Kerley or Dustin Keller and not noticed Hill. Granted, Hill has dropped several passes this season, but he is a rookie and will improve in that department.
Staring down receivers is not just limiting your options as a quarterback. It allows defensive backs to jump your passes. Sanchez's biggest mistake this past Sunday was staring down Keller in the end zone while double-pumping. If he made the throw immediately, it was a touchdown. With the delay, it became an interception.
Kerley deserves to be the No. 1 receiver now, but Hill deserves to be the No. 2. They should both be out there on every offensive snap, and Sanchez needs to know where they both are.
The Jets need to break predictable tendencies in their play-calling. On Sunday, the Jets ran the same play four times in a row for Tim Tebow (spread apart by some Mark Sanchez plays). The quick screen pass to wide receiver Jeremy Kerley earns at the best a four-yard gain and at the worst (if it is predicted) a pick-six. That is not a good trade-off.
There are other tendencies that need breaking. The Jets run too often on 2nd-and-10. They run slant routes too often on 3rd-and-short. They throw to the right corner of the end zone too much in goal-to-go situations. When you are predictable, defensive backs jump routes and force turnovers.
That needs to change moving ahead. Otherwise the Jets are making their job on offense much harder than it has to be. And they are making Rex Ryan's job less secure than it could be.