New York Jets' Bye Week Comes at the Right Time: What They Must Improve
The New York Jets head into their Week 7 bye with an NFL best 5-1 record.
They lead the NFL with a plus-58 point point differential, have the best turnover ratio at plus-10 and feature a top-five scoring offense and defense (26.5 points scored per game compared to 16.8 points allowed per game).
All of this places the Jets among the teams talked about as "the best in the NFL."
However, the chinks in the Jets' armor are easily perceptible and their last two wins have been unnecessarily close. If not for a "Brett Favre Special" in Week 5, the Jets might have lost. Yesterday, the Jets made the Broncos' banged up defense and shoddy running game look far too good for anyone to say that this Jets team is clearly the best in the NFL.
With that in mind, here are a few things the Jets can work on during their bye week so that they can continue to win, and perhaps actually become the best team in the NFL.
Get Darrelle Revis Healthy and Fix the Pass Defense
Darrelle Revis only seems to be working himself into game shape just now, because he was clearly out of shape to start this season.
Last week he got toasted by Percy Harvin. This week he was still victimized, but the improvement in his play was noticeable. There were several catches made by Broncos' receivers against Revis that were simply magnificent plays.
With a week to rest his hamstring, the hope is that Revis will be at full strength for the team's Week 8 matchup against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers' various receiving threats.
It will be impossible for Revis to be as good as he was last season, but anybody that has watched him in the past knows that he can definitely play better than he has at any point this season; and as he gets better, so will the Jets' pass defense.
Right now the Jets' pass defense, which has surrendered 229 yards per game, ranks 22nd in the NFL. But yesterday was definitely an improvement, as a Broncos passing offense that averages 378.3 yards a game was held to just 201 yards.
Hopefully the Jets defense will begin to round into shape and start to resemble the pass defense from last season that allowed 30 yards less per game than the next closest unit in the NFL.
Change Up the Third Down Defense
Rex Ryan is very bold. Such a statement is not foreign to anybody who has followed the Jets over the past year and a half.
That boldness can be seen on the field through his aggressive blitzes.
But this season this aggressive approach has seemingly hindered the Jets on third down, where they have allowed their opponents to convert for first downs on 42 percent of plays. That ties the Jets for sixth-worst in the league.
Perhaps the Jets would be better served to be a bit more reserved on third down. Or maybe the Jets can get more clever with their blitzes, choosing to disguise the blitz instead of overloading one side, something Ryan is exceedingly fond of.
Correcting this problem would go a long way toward helping the pass defense regain it's form. The longer your defense is out on the field, the longer it is susceptible to getting beat through the air on any given down, that's just the nature of the NFL.
Pull Back the Reins on Mark Sanchez a Bit
The improvements Mark Sanchez has made as a quarterback cannot be denied.
But his great start belies the fact that he is still just a 23 year old who has started only 21 games in the NFL.
And while Sanchez's 9-2 TD/INT ratio looks good, he has multiple passes each week that could have easily been interceptions. He is also completing a meager 55.4 percent of his passes, something that does not bode well for his chances to maintain that stellar ratio moving forward.
Judging by the last two weeks, however, it would seem that Mark Sanchez is the featured player on the Jets offense and not their running backs.
He has attempted 74 passes in the past two games, including 44 in the pouring rain against the stout Minnesota Vikings defense. In both games, the Jets threw the ball more than they ran it.
This is not to say the Jets should run the ball 60 percent of the time, like they did last season. Instead, it is just a gentle reminder that Mark Sanchez is still kind of raw. A playmaker, but a raw one, nonetheless.
Make the Offense Less Predictable
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been a frequent target of criticism from Jets fans. Numerous complaints are levied against his play-calling. From him being too cute with gadget plays and pre-snap motion to completely legitimate concerns over the predictability of the offense, Jets fans don't seem to be placated by the third-highest scoring offense.
That's because they believe the offense could be even better, or at the very least more efficient.
Schottenheimer seem to be content to run-pass-pass on almost every series. Not only does this take away from your team's strength (the run game), but it also puts more pressure on your young quarterback.
This predictability has also resulted in a low third down conversion percentage. While the Jets are not abysmal in that regard, they are tied for the 19th worst percentage in the league at just below 38 percent.
In fact, the Jets high scoring offense is helped a lot by the consistently good field position they receive from their special teams. The Jets average starting field position on offense is the 35.03-yard line, second in the NFL.
Much as the defense must become more efficient, the offense must do so in order to sustain that league's best point differential.
Many things about this Jets team gives their fans confidence that they can be a true Super Bowl contender. They protect their quarterback, run the ball well and have one of the better all around special teams units in the entire league.
However, some things stand out as glaring weaknesses that must be fixed.
One thing the Jets don't want to do is become complacent. With Rex Ryan's enthusiastic confidence in his players, the fear that an attitude of complacency is a possibility stands as a very real threat.
The Jets would be wise to channel LaDainian Tomlinson's words to the team when he invoked Vince Lombardi's "What it Takes To Be No. 1" speech following Braylon Edwards' arrest.
Winning requires dedication. While the Jets can stake a claim as the best team in the league, they must remain dedicated to improving if they actually hope to be the best team in the league come February.
That means, primarily, fixing their third down offense and defense and adapting their gameplan based on what hasn't worked in the first third of the season.
Teams like the New Orleans Saints and the Jets' divisional rivals, the Dolphins and Patriots, all convert around 50 percent of third downs. Meanwhile, truly elite defenses, like the Baltimore Ravens, only allow opponents to convert third downs 27 percent of the time.
The bye week is the best time to address these weaknesses and eradicate them.