New York Jets Need To Lower Expectations For A Young Offense
Finally, after 41 years of increasing pain and misery since the team last hoisted up the Lombardi Trophy, many felt that the Jets had finally found the guy to take them back to the promised land.
Sanchez has been wined and dined ever since, making appearances at Citi Field and attracting throngs of people around him for photos and autographs.
But before anyone can really go gaga for the Jets' new quarterback and their new head coach Rex Ryan, who plays Ying to Eric Mangini's Yang, Jets fans will have to realize this cruel, hard reality: It takes time for a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach to become something really special in the NFL.
What happened in Baltimore and Atlanta last fall was something of a football miracle. The sudden rise of Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco came as a total surprise, something football fans really haven't seen since Dan Marino stepped onto an NFL field for the first time in 1983.
The norm could be in the form of a complete bust like Ryan Leaf, also drafted in 1998 by the Chargers, who shrank under the pressure and disappeared from the NFL forever.
In the NFL, no one knows how a rookie quarterback will develop.
In a city impatient for an instant winner, Jets fans had better learn to be patient if they want Sanchez to be the guy for the long haul.
The Jets play some pretty tough teams with good defenses this season. The Patriots, Bills, and Dolphins all represent stiff opposition for a rookie quarterback. Throw in the Colts, Panthers, Saints, Titans, and Jaguars and it could be a disaster of a year for Gang Green full of growing pains.
Next to the inexperience at quarterback, the Jets really don't have a legit No. 1 receiving threat for Sanchez to throw to, which is a huge concern.
Yes, Jerricho Cotchery had 71 catches for 858 yards and five touchdowns with Brett Favre in 2008, but the fact is that Cotchery can't do it alone. The Jets will have to somehow find a receiver either in camp, or via free agency to complement the 6' receiver.
The Jets right now are hoping that Chansi Stuckey, who had only 32 catches last year, and David Clowney, who had one catch last year, will step it up.
Expect the Jets to go out and get another veteran receiver into camp before the season starts. They will need to if they want to compete at a high level and make the transition easier for Sanchez.
Rumors have been swirling that the team is interested in Plaxico Burress, but no one knows how Burress's legal proceedings will turn out in June for his gun possession charges last November.
Don't expect to see Burress with the Jets, unless a miracle happens in his trial.
The real strength of this offense is the running game. Thomas Jones had 1,312 yards rushing to lead the AFC last year, and Leon Washington is arguably the most explosive player in the league not named Devin Hester.
Washington had nine touchdowns last year, six of which came on the ground. His explosiveness will need to be utilized more in 2009, especially if Jones, who is 31 years old, begins to show some age on his tires.
Defensively, Rex Ryan plans on bringing his brand of physical and rough defense to New York and looks to improve a unit that ranked 16th in the league in total defense in 2008.
The Jets brought in Bart Scott, a veteran middle linebacker from Baltimore, to spearhead the unit. Scott had a good year in 2008, with 82 tackles and 1.5 sacks, but his statistics have been going down since 2006 when he recorded 103 tackles and 9.5 sacks and was a Pro Bowler.
Some have wondered whether Scott was a product of the system where he had a guy like Ray Lewis to lean on; now he is the man in the middle and will be responsible for making all of the calls at the line. How he handles this will go a long way to determining the Jets' success.
Overall, the Jets have some good pieces on defense. Darrell Revis was a Pro Bowl corner in 2008; Shaun Ellis quietly had a good year with eight sacks and fumble recovery for a touchdown, and Kris Jenkins was a big reason why the Jets were seventh against the rush in 2008, collecting 52 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
Expect the Jets defensive unit to improve as the season moves along.
However, don't expect to see the '85 Bears on opening day in Houston. Even though the Jets will have all summer and four preseason games to learn the new defense, it usually takes a few weeks into the regular season to really get the kinks out on a new scheme.
Realistically, the Jets are looking at a 5-11 or 6-10 season; that is, if Sanchez starts all season and goes through some major growing pains, and the Jets offense sputters to move the football with consistency.
Defensively, the Jets will improve over time, but it will not be enough for the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning to not have some fun on the Jets' defense when the time comes.
The only way the Jets finish at 9-7 or 10-6 and make a run at the postseason is if the Jets' defense is exactly like the Ravens in 2008.
They ranked second in the NFL in total defense, allowing only 84 yards on the ground and 179 yards through the air, while Joe Flacco and company got used to each other on the offensive side of the ball.
If Sanchez can be anything like Flacco, protecting the ball, completing about 60 percent of his passes, and throwing less then 20 interceptions, then the Jets have themselves the true quarterback of the future.
But that may be hard to expect in Year One of the Rex Ryan/Mark Sanchez era.
Patience, Jets fans, patience.
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