New York Jets: 10 Things to Change to Get the Team Back on Track
After two embarrassing losses, and trips to Pittsburgh and Chicago on the horizon, a fourth quarter team collapse for the Jets seems very possible.
Fans are ready to jump off the bridge, and people are just waiting for this collapse to happen.
The Jets' mouthy head coach Rex Ryan, had been talking Super Bowl before the season even started.
One week ago, the Jets and Patriots were set to square off in a showdown for the division. A blowout loss in New England and a lackluster 10-6 home loss to the Dolphins this week, now has the Jets in position of having to scramble to hold on to an AFC wild card spot.
Rex's post game talk has gone from, "Soon to be champs" to "Yeah I'm concerned". His exultation of a young quarterback's development, has been replaced with admission of thinking about a benching of Sanchez.
It isn't quite time to hit the panic yet, but it is getting close. With a 9-4 record with three to play, here are the 10 most important things the Jets need to do right the "airplane."
1. Restore Mark Sanchez's Confidence.
Mark Sanchez hasn't been spectacular this year. But at times, the young signal-caller had been confident and had performed well in big spots.
Now it seems like he is rushing his throws, making bad decisions, and staring down targets.
If the Jets can't fix their young quarterback, you can forget about the rest of these keys, none of them will make a difference.
2. Defense Needs To Step Up
There had been some leaks this Sunday night that members of the Jet defense including emotional leader, Bart Scott (pictured) were unhappy when Rex Ryan said they "played like (expletive)" on Sunday.
In truth, the defense was pretty awesome against Miami, surrendering just six first downs to the anemic Dolphins' offense.
What Ryan was trying to say is that he doesn't just want his defense to make stops, but to dominate games and make plays. He wants opponent's to fear this defense the way teams fear the Steelers' defense and the Ravens' defense.
He is not just looking for stops, but for pick-sixes, sack fumbles returned for touchdowns, and causing offenses to curl up into a shell.
3. The Running Game
With a struggling quarterback, opposing defenses stack the box and it becomes hard to run the football. That being said, I said it was hard, but not impossible.
There are yards to be had if the line would do a better job. The offensive line needs to get back to basics and re-establish this team's identity as a running team taking some pressure off Sanchez and allowing the kid to make play off play action.
4. Wide Receivers and Tight Ends, How About Helping The Kid Out?
Every once in a while, Mark Sanchez hits these guys between the numbers. Every receiver on this team save for maybe Dustin Keller has had key drops this season.
Holmes dropped a sure TD this week, Braylon Edwards dropped a few first down throws last Monday night.
You have got to make plays wide receivers. Help Sanchez out a bit and maybe the kid can find a rhythm.
5. Play Calling Needs To Be More Aggressive
Brian Schottenheimer (pictured) has a tough job. He needs to balance being aggressive, with not taking too many chances, with a quarterback with mercurial confidence, with spreading the ball around to some talented offensive weapons.
That being said, Dustin Keller has been a forgotten man in this offense. Early this season, the team stretched the field with down field throws to Keller. That kind of stuff along with an occasional deep ball to a big wide-out like Braylon Edwards simply has to happen for this team to start scoring points again.
Opposing defense are able to have the luxury of stacking the box, but somehow being able to defend the run and the pass. That simply can't happen and play-calling is partially to blame.
6. Rex Ryan Needs To Keep This Thing Together
Ryan has started to build this Jets' football program with swagger and confidence.
He is starting to waver off that message. In his post-game against the Pats, he was talking about the game in the same light as the 1985 Bears loss to the Dolphins as a blip on the radar screen.
After the Dolphin game it was a different message, he spoke about being concerned and thoughts of benching his quarterback. There were reports of frustration amongst the defensive players including Bart Scott.
Ryan will have to hold this team together for a strong finish.
7. Kicking and Punting Needs More Consistency
The kicking game has been inconsistent for the better part of the last month and a half. It seems that Nick Folk's roster spot has been teetering all year.
They will need big kicks as they play close games.
Steve Weatherford's struggles have gone mostly unnoticed the last few weeks. His overall numbers are still good, averaging 43.2 yards per kick, but he has averaged just 30.7 and 38.4 his last two weeks.
He did put six punts inside the 20 against Miami, but he hasn't been as consistent as Jets fans and coaches would like.
Conversely, opposing punters have been flipping the field on the Jets for the past few weeks, none more glaringly than Miami's punter Brandon Fields who picked up 564 yards of hidden yardage against the Jets on 10 punts.
Weatherford needs to do some of that type of punting to bail out the Jets' offense, and help the defense.
8. Punt Return Team Needs To Do a Better Job
The Jets are losing a lot of hidden yardage in penalties in the punt-return and to a lesser extent, the kick return game.
Santonio Holmes had a nice return on Sunday negated by a bad penalty. This unit needs to get more crisp.
It will be on the shoulders of legendary special teams' coach Mike Westhoff (pictured).
9. Red Zone Effectiveness: Score Touchdowns Not Field Goals
It seems elementary, but it is a very telling problem for the Jets right now and over the past few weeks.
When you get in position to score, you have to score touchdowns.
Silly formation penalties, false starts, and delays of game type fouls have really cost this team in the red zone. That stuff needs to stop. The margin for error just isn't their anymore.
10. Third Down Efficiency
The Jets have struggled to move the ball, and there is no more telling stat than third-down efficiency over the last three weeks.
They were six of 21 against Miami, three of 12 against Miami, and in their last win, they were a paltry three for 13 on third down against Cincinnati.
The Jets need to get in more manageable third downs, and convert them to retain possession, establish field position and start winning games again.
Ladainian Tomlinson was big on third down earlier this year, he needs to start making plays on third down again for the Jets.