Boy, has a lot changed in the past month.
It was not long ago that the New York Jets were not only in the thick of the playoff race—they were ahead of the pack, controlling their destiny with most of the season at their back.
Now, the Jets are fighting for relevancy with the future of their head coach on the line.
Just about everything possible has gone wrong for the Jets to account for some of the worst offensive football being played in the Rex Ryan era (which is saying something). The offensive line has collapsed, wide receivers are not getting open (and dropping passes when they do) and Geno Smith has completely lost his composure while everything has fallen apart around him.
Smith played poorly enough to get benched at halftime, but as Matt Simms' three-point half showed, he is just a part of the problem, albeit a large one.
|AFC East Standings|
|Team||Wins||Losses||Points For||Points Against|
|New England Patriots||9||3||322||261|
|New York Jets||5||7||189||310|
Following the in-division loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Jets have all but forfeited their right to discuss the playoffs at this point. With seven losses on their mark, it will likely take a four-game winning streak and some outside help to even be close to securing the final wild-card spot in the AFC.
Not only do the Jets get another in-conference loss, they have propelled the Dolphins back into relevancy.
After three straight losses, the Jets are in closer contention with the last-place Buffalo Bills, who lost a heartbreaker to the Atlanta Falcons in overtime last week, than any of the Wild Card-contending teams.
|Player||Injury||Last Week's Status|
|Santonio Holmes||Hamstring||Active, Limited Snaps|
|Josh Cribbs||Hand||Left game|
One of the few bright spots from Sunday's debacle was that the Jets managed to get out of the game relatively healthy.
They had a scare when Damon Harrison went down in the middle of the game, but he returned to the lineup within a few plays, and there did not appear to be a drop-off in his game. The Jets may be cautious with him moving forward, but they should be thankful that they did not lose their stud nose tackle for the season.
However, the Jets did suffer a setback to one key player before the game even started. Rex Ryan revealed that wide receiver Santonio Holmes suffered a setback on his hamstring last Wednesday.
This explains why he only had two snaps on offense, but it does not explain why he was even active in the first place. If Holmes was not healthy to play more than two snaps, the Jets should have activated a player who could have provided more than running two measly routes.
The biggest loss from the game was return man Josh Cribbs, who left the game early with a hand injury. According to Matt Ehalt of ESPN, the injury is believed to be "serious" and it looks like the Jets will be without their return man for an extended period.
The key player to watch this week is slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, who has not returned to action since suffering a serious elbow injury against the Saints. The Jets offense has been completely stagnant without Kerley, and the Jets need him back to be Smith's security blanket.
What Must Improve: Pass Protection
One thing we did learn in the offensive debacle was that as bad as Smith was in the first half prior to getting benched, he was far from being the only problem on the Jets' anemic offense.
The Jets, who were so reliant on the big play to move the football in the first half of the season, have not been able to pick up blitzes and stunts.
Here, the Jets have an opportunity to generate a big play to Greg Salas over the middle, as he is breaking free from the soft zone coverage.
However, there is a blown assignment on the rushing linebacker on Smith's right side. Right tackle Austin Howard does not even attempt to block the defender, which forces a rushed throw and an incompletion.
It is impossible to tell who exactly is responsible for the missed assignment; Smith or center Nick Mangold could be responsible for making the wrong protection call, or Howard could be at fault for executing the wrong protection scheme.
Either way, this is the type of problem that the Jets need to iron out in a hurry to get their offense back on track. If they are going to get back to making the big plays that helped them win so many games, they need to give Smith the protection he needs to let such plays develop downfield.
What Must Improve: Quarterback Play
Smith (and Simms) are not the sole source for blame for last week's performance, but they deserve their share of the blame for what has happened.
Yes, the pass protection has been subpar and the wide receivers have dropped passes in the rare occurrences where they were open, but even when things went according to plan, Smith failed to deliver when he was needed.
Smith's ugliest throw of the afternoon came on a long third-down attempt. He got the protection he needed to hit a wide-open David Nelson along the sideline, but the pass was so far out of bounds that Nelson never had a chance.
This was a costly play for a number of reasons: Not only would the Jets have picked up a big first down to extend their drive, but it would have breathed new life into an offense that has been stagnant for straight weeks.
Is Smith completes that pass, it may have been a much different game.
When you combine these types of throws with the struggles of the supporting cast, the result is one of the worst offensive showings one will see in professional football.
What Must Improve: Tackling in the Secondary
It is no secret that New York's cornerbacks have struggled to cover their receivers. Dee Milliner was benched for the third time of the season, while Antonio Cromartie labored around the field while he tried to cover Mike Wallace.
The Jets' coverage issues are not going to be solved by the end of the season, but they can at least limit the damage they have caused with sound tackling on the back end—which certainly did not happen this past week.
Milliner found himself on the bench after playing this pass to Wallace as poorly as possible. He played bad technique to give Wallace too much room in the first place, but he compounded the error when he whiffed on the tackle, resulting in the touchdown.
The Jets are going to have issues defending the pass for the rest of the season; this issue will not change until the Jets have a chance to change their personnel over the offseason. What they can fix in the meantime is playing with proper technique to wrap up receivers and limit the damage.
As ugly as the Jets have looked in recent weeks, they will see a huge improvement in their on-field results if they are able to improve on just some of their issues, particularly on the offensive side of the ball.