Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, David Harris, Bart Scott and Jim Leonhard make up one of the best defenses in the league, one which has propelled the New York Jets to two consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship despite a less-than-stellar offense led by young quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Much of the talk the past two seasons hasn’t been about the dominant defense Rex Ryan uses to consistently win games. People around the league have instead been focusing on the Jets' struggles on the offensive side of the ball, struggles starting at the top with Sanchez.
No. 6 came into the league with high expectations but hasn’t put up the stats just yet. While that might be the case, Sanchez has led his team deep into the playoffs in his first two seasons as a pro. Yet the overall sentiment around the NFL is that the Jets have won games in spite of Mark Sanchez.
New York’s 22nd-ranked passing offense last season doesn’t help in the argument, but the team’s fourth-ranked rushing game has carried the offense amid the struggles of Sanchez. Despite Gang Green’s lackluster passing game in 2010, the team finished 11th in overall offense, a stat that might surprise some.
If New York is going to win a Super Bowl, the offense needs to improve and Sanchez must be more successful throwing the ball.
If preseason games are any meaningful indication of how the regular season will turn out, then the passing game for the Jets looks to be much improved. The acquisition of Plaxico Burress has seemingly solved the Jets' issues of not scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Expect more touchdowns and fewer field goals in 2011.
Plax definitely adds another dimension to the offense. He creates mismatches against shorter cornerbacks and has provided the quarterback with a useful weapon down the field. Such a big target takes pressure off Sanchez, who no longer needs to be perfect when throwing to Burress. He can just throw it up and allow Plaxico to do the rest.
In addition to Burress, Gang Green still has Santonio Holmes, who brings speed over the middle and is a perfect combination with the vertical threat of Plax.
The team also has Dustin Keller who played well early on last season, scoring five touchdowns in the first four weeks and playing the best game of his career against the Dolphins in which he racked up 98 yards. He was a non-factor the rest of the season as teams caught on and Sanchez started throwing to Holmes and Braylon Edwards, but Keller will be utilized more in 2011.
The Jets also signed veteran wide receiver Derrick Mason, drafted explosive receiver Jeremy Kerley out of TCU and drafted the dynamic running back Bilal Powell out of Louisville. Kerley can takeover in the Wild Cat in the absence of Brad Smith, adding another dimension to New York’s offense.
Most importantly, Sanchez now has two years under his belt and has grown as a leader. He showed a lot of promise in clutch situations in last year’s postseason and looks sharp early in the preseason.
Ultimately the offense will sink or swim based on the quarterback. 2011 will be the year when Sanchez takes that next step in the process of becoming one of the league’s best passers.
The success of the passing game will only help the running game even more. Burress, Holmes, Mason and Keller will stretch the field and prevent defenses from stacking the box, thus opening up the running game for Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson.
The bottom line is that the Jets have tons of weapons on offense and that the entire complexion of the season hinges on the play of Sanchez who will need to properly utilize those weapons. If he plays the way Jets fans think he will play, New York can be a top-five or even the best offense in the NFL.
The Jets will put up more points but the only concern is whether or not they can outscore Brady and the Patriots. It will be very interesting watching both offenses go at it this season. Without any injuries, the Jets might have the best offensive roster in the league.
Don’t be surprised if the team starts winning games because of their offense and not because of their defense.