Things were supposed to be a little easier than this, the inevitable gift to long-waiting Jets fans of a home playoff game was supposed to be wrapped up and under the Christmas tree by now.
At the very least, the Jets were not supposed to be yet again waiting anxiously for the third straight year to see if they can somehow sneak into the postseason with the right combination of other teams’ wins and losses.
Yet here we are, hoping the Rex and Company can win out, with the final three games being against three ominously uneasy opponents. When all of the endless opinions as to why the Jets season has progressed the way it has are calculated, the one and only true explanation is the one that all football teams of any level fail to reach expectations: The players who needed to perform just did not show up.
Here are five Jets who have yet to reach the level of production asked of them as a member of Gang Green.
Patience seems to be the underlying theme of Shonn Greene’s “breakout” season. Apparently, though, someone forgot to tell him what city his team plays in. Patience is a virtue that New Yorkers have no use for and one that Jets fans exhausted a long, long time ago.
The Jets under Rex Ryan have become synonymous with ground-and-pound football. Without a stand-alone rusher leading that charge, the Jets lose a vast majority of their offensive punch.
When you consider Greene’s statistics for this season, 868 yards on 207 exhausting carries, there are many teams in the NFL would kill for a running back on pace to easily clear the 1,000-yard mark. On the Jets, that is simply not enough.
When an entire offense is reliant on your stellar performances, you are expected to be the centerpiece. Let’s hope that Greene’s solid performances in the last two weeks is a prelude to him finally reaching these expectations by season’s end, because so far, he hasn’t.
The former pro bowl cornerback said prior to the start of this 2011 campaign that he was prepared to play this season with a chip on his shoulder following his near-release in exchange for prized free agent Nnamdi Asomugha.
Other than an apparition two-interception game against lowly Jacksonville in Week 2, Cromartie has been decimated by opposing quarterbacks. Cromartie’s actions (or lack thereof) on the now infamous Tebow scamper in the waning moments of the Jets loss to Denver may be burned in the collective memory of Jets fans forever.
Cromartie has always been a player who avoids serious physical contact on the football field, but he now seems to be interested in also avoiding serious running, tackling, coverage and competition. Whatever the chip is on Cromartie’s shoulder, the Jets can only hope that he sheds it soon because considering how much he has slowed this year, it must weigh a ton!
By far the weakest member of the Jets offensive line, Hunter has become a liability on a team built for a face-pounding run game that does not gain a massive amount of yardage in large chunks. This type of scheme necessitates disciplined, un-penalized play yet Hunter is currently, and has been all season long, the most penalized player on the Jets squad.
Committing seven penalties for 55 yards, Hunter has become a name that Jets fans can only hope is never called during games because more often than not it results in the Jets offense going backwards. Hunter has four false start penalties in 12 games, and from a lineman's prospective that is a definitive sign that Hunter is having tremendous difficulty getting out of his stance and reach blocking better ends in the league.
On several occasions, he has been caught on film being trounced by elite pass rushers and sacrificing his quarterback in the meantime.
The third-year tight end has seen a significant increase in field time this year, tallying six starts for a 2011 Jets offense that had every intention of utilizing the short-to-intermediate passing game much more prominently this season.
In these six starts, Mulligan has caught only four passes for a whopping 17 yards, yet has felt it necessary to lash out on coaches a few weeks back who reprimanded him for one of his four ill-timed false start penalties on the year.
I do believe it is about time that someone reminds Mr. Mulligan that you must earn the right to snap on one of your coaches and even then, you had better be prepared to bow your head and apologize once cooler heads prevail. Ask Tom Brady.
The story of Joe McKnight as a Jet this season can be summed up in only two words: missed opportunities. The moment the two tailbacks ahead of him on the Jets offensive depth chart fell to the turf with injuries, McKnight had the opportunity to seize the rushing spotlight on a team designed to produce 1,000-yard rushers.
McKnight, although only in his second year as a pro, has gained only 132 yards on 40 rushing attempts. More telling though may be his penchant for turnovers, committing three fumbles in those same 40 attempts.
He also did himself no favors in his one Thursday night start in Denver, gaining only 59 yards in a showcase game that exposed his lack of size and ability to break tackles. As the Jets took the field against the Broncos defense that night, the scene was set for a breakout McKnight performance.
By that point in the season, aging veteran LaDainian Tomlinson was beginning to again show signs of the wear and tear his 11 NFL seasons has caused on his body, and newly appointed starter Shonn Greene was falling well short of the lofty expectations Head Coach Rex Ryan placed on him in the preseason.
Yet missed protections, turnovers, a lack of game-breaking speed and power has led to McKnight to miss the opportunity presented to him.
Many have thought that expecting the once-dominant LT to return to his former glory is just unfair and, in all reality, unrealistic. The days of Tomlinson rushing for over 1,000 yards at half speed are over, that much is true.
The era of LT single-handedly outscoring the entire division his team competes in are well behind him. However, if you listened to him before the start of this season, if you listened to the kudos given to him by players and coaches alike in training camp, you would think that there is more than a little something left in LT’s tank.
What may be left, it appears, may be a bit less than many thought. Tomlinson has only mustered 186 yards on the ground, earning him only 56 carries so far this season. As it has been throughout his career, LT is still a very respectable force in the short passing game gaining 378 yards and two touchdowns as a receiver, but it is safe to say that Tomlinson is not reaching the expectations put upon him before this season began.
Truth be told though, LT is perfectly fine with that just as long as a Super Bowl championship ring ends up on his hands before he calls it a career.