The New York Jets have had an up-and-down season in 2011-2012, and it's not quite over yet. Going into a home game at Metlife Stadium against the NFC-rival Giants, the Jets are looking to show that they are not the "little brother" to the Giants anymore.
In the first two seasons under head coach Rex Ryan the Jets made the postseason and were road warriors, making it all the way to the AFC championship game twice, however never quite achieving that goal of making and winning a Super Bowl.
Coming into this season, great expectations were placed on a team that has had this success, and it doesn't help that Coach Ryan places Super Bowl expectations on this team year in and year out.
However, the Jets have struggled at certain times this season, and even if they do back into the playoffs there is a minimal chance that the Jets will have the same success they have in recent seasons as the sixth seed. Here are some of the reasons why.
The New York Jets are notorious for slow starts in almost every game they have played this season. They have a tendency of not getting into the end zone until the second or sometimes even the third quarter.
However, the New York Jets usually close out games. What tends to happen in most of the Jets' losses is that they fall too far behind to come back in the second half. Case in point: In the Eagles game, the Jets allowed 28 points before scoring any points, which is too large of a margin to come back from when you have a run-first offense.
The Jets frequently go three-and-out during their early drives in the game. While some of the blame should be placed on Sanchez, it should also be placed on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, because the Jets are offensively predictable.
The Jets are a team that needs to start faster in order to be successful and they need to allow Mark Sanchez to throw some deep balls in order to at least keep the defense honest. The Jets' dink-and-dunk passing game is what allows defensive backs to jump routes and come up with timely interceptions, and a majority of the time three-and-outs for the New York Jets offense.
The New York Jets offensive line play has been suspect all season long. Many Jets fans are grumbling that Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson have not gotten the job done this season. While this is true, Jets fans should look no further than the big guys up front for the reason why.
Wayne Hunter might be the worst right tackle in all of the NFL. After spending a majority of his years as a backup, Hunter was promoted to starter after Damien Woody retired this past season. Hunter is probably one of the strongest guys in the NFL, but his footwork and speed are what allow defensive ends to utilize the swim move and blow right by him. This happens with speed-rushers like Jason Babin and Andre Carter. Hunter also frequently gets called for false starts because of his inability to keep up with the speedy defensive ends.
But it's not all Hunter's fault. Brandon Moore has looked old at certain times this season allowing linebackers and defensive tackles to get by him. Also, Matt Slauson has allowed a number of pass-rushers to get by this season, but for the most part has held up.
The offensive line was really exposed in that beatdown loss to Baltimore early in the season. Center Nick Mangold and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson are the staples of this offensive line, but the Jets must find a long-term solution at right tackle in order to get the ground-and-pound game going as well as keeping quarterback Mark Sanchez upright.
The New York Jets have been a intimidating defense in the NFL the past few seasons under coach Rex Ryan. This season the Jets have struggled to project a solid pass rush from their front three this season and it has killed them. This season you can tell teams don't fear the Jets defense.
The New York Jets allowed Shaun Ellis to go to the New England Patriots this offseason, and that decision seems to have had an effect on the Jets up front. I'm not knocking rookie Muhammad Wilkerson because he has been playing pretty well this season for a guy who had little to no training camp and was asked to start in place of Ellis. The Jets are still pretty good against the run, however the Jets defensive front do not apply any pressure to the passer.
The defensive line needs to get off their blocks and use that size to push offensive linemen into the lap of the quarterback, something the Jets have missed since defensive tackle Kris Jenkins retired.
The New York Jets are in desperate need of a true pass-rushing linebacker. While Calvin Pace and Aaron Maybin might be a decent third-down option to rush the quarterback, something that has really hindered the Jets defensively is not getting to the quarterback in the early downs.
The New York Jets leading pass-rusher this season has been Aaron Maybin, and at 6'2", 240 lbs, Maybin is considered too small to play the run and be an every-down linebacker. The Jets certainly miss Bryan Thomas, who is currently on injured reserve. But, even with Thomas at outside linebacker, the Jets still would not have a consistent pass rush to get to the quarterback.
This is a problem the Jets should look to address either in the draft or via trade, because Pace and Thomas are not getting and younger, and they need a guy who can get to the quarterback consistently, if not to get the sack, then pressure the opposing quarterback into a bad decision.
Don't worry Jets fans, I'm not going to go there. Darrelle Revis is the best defensive back in the NFL today. He is physical and can cover anyone over the course of a season. He is not the problem.
The other defensive backs on the roster are another story entirely. How many times have Antonio Cromartie and Kyle Wilson been beaten this season? Too many for me to count. Cromartie is a solid No. 2 cornerback in the NFL, but he is not physical and does get beat sometimes. Wilson has played better at times this season, but still needs some improvement.
It's difficult to ask linebackers who are more suited to play the run to cover a tight end for an extended period of time. Bart Scott and David Harris are at their best when they are rushing the passer or defending the run. The Jets can not expect them to keep up with tight ends who are as quick as wide receivers.
The major problem with the defensive backs is the play at the safety position. Jim Leonhard was recently lost for the season again due to another leg injury. He was the Jets' defensive signal-caller, and a huge loss for the Jets if they make the playoffs.
The Jets usually do not get beat on the outside, their major problem have been covering the tight ends on other teams. Rob Gronkowski has frequently given the Jets troubles and even this past week the Jets allowed Eagles tight end Brent Celek to have a huge game of 156 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Everyone places the blame on the quarterback when a team begins to struggle, and for the Jets it is no different.
New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has struggled early in games this season. Sanchez has not had much help up front as he always seems to have pressure in his face. When the running game does not get going, the Jets are at their worst because they still cannot put the game in the hands of Sanchez. When they do, the Jets struggle.
While all of the blame can't be put on Sanchez, the brunt of it can. In his third season, big things were expected for Sanchez this season and he has not delivered. He still throws interceptions that leave any Jets fans scratching their heads, and on certain plays Sanchez hold the ball way too long and suffers a big hit.
Sanchez really needs to be tutored on his decision-making, not locking in on his primary receiver, his footwork and an important part of his development is becoming a leader. Sanchez still has a tendency to slouch and his body language has a tendency to rub off on teammates. The best quarterbacks in the league shrug off mistakes and come right back out and lead their team to a win.