New York Jets: Inability to Protect Mark Sanchez Could Spell Disaster

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New York Jets: Inability to Protect Mark Sanchez Could Spell Disaster
Rob Carr/Getty Images

For the New York Jets, Sunday's game in Philadelphia was a disaster. Santonio Holmes’ two turnovers set the tone and the Jets were never in it after that. 

Look, every team has a bad game now and then. What is worrisome about this one is that it is Week 15 and the reasons for the debacle are the identical problems that have plagued the Jets in every loss this year: turnovers and an inability to protect the quarterback. 

The Jets don’t need resolve, or to bury the football. They need a plan to protect Mark Sanchez. Forget the motivational speeches. Get some protection assistance for the right side of the line. Sanchez barely got up after that 3rd quarter Jason Babin hit. 

Right tackle Wayne Hunter told the Newark Star-Ledger that all week the Jets were worried about the Eagles pass rush. So what happens? The Jets do nothing to shore up the right side of the line.

I lost count of the number of times Hunter was left on an island and Jason Babin pinned his ears back and made a beeline for Mark Sanchez

Rob Carr/Getty Images

This whole situation is an indictment of Rex Ryan and his good ole boy, “one more great motivational speech and we can win it boys” credo. Except you can’t.

Wayne Hunter has had enough chances.  We’re no longer talking about a small sample size here. He is a liability, not just because you are courting serious injury to your only viable starting quarterback, but because the minute the pass protection goes out the window, the entire offense falls apart. 

But the Jets keep doing the same thing expecting to see different results. That’s the problem with this Jets team. And it’s the reason why you are never going to get past the Patriots in the AFC East as long as Tom Brady and Bill Belichick are there. They are smarter than you. 

Just perform the following thought experiment: Let’s say that in every New England loss, Tom Brady got brutally beaten up because of horrendous play by the starting right tackle. How long do you think Belichick would allow that to continue before making adjustments?  I say one game, maybe thinking it is an aberration. If it kept up, by halftime of the next game the adjustments would be made.  Franchise quarterbacks do not grow on trees. Without them, your season is usually over.  Ask Indy. Or Chicago

Hope and exhortation is not a plan. The motivational speeches fall on deaf ears when every single person on the team can see that Sanchez is getting crushed. Santonio Holmes (who I have plenty of issues with) didn’t even bother to wait before calling out the offensive line at the post game press conference after the loss to the Eagles. Jets, your offensive line just got beaten by a defense run by Juan Castillo. 

The upshot is this: I don’t think you are going to make the playoffs. Sanchez will never survive the Giants’ Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck. Earlier this year, I held out hope that the shocking hits Sanchez has been taking would spur the Jets to taking some kind of action. It hasn’t. The Jets aren’t interested in changing as evidenced by their unwillingness to do so. 

Rob Carr/Getty Images

The protection issue has been a ongoing problem and it’s the reason behind every single loss this year. Minimally it should have been addressed after the Denver game.  Sanchez did take less hits starting with the Buffalo game, but that was a result of changes in the play calling, not because Wayne Hunter suddenly developed the ability to block the pass rusher. 

The play calling. Another horrendous problem for this team. The Jets got down by 14 because of two inexcusable turnovers by Holmes. So what happens? Brian Schottenheimer immediately panics and goes away from the game plan that allowed the Jets to beat two quality defenses in the previous two weeks (Washington and Kansas City, who coincidentally just upset the Giants and the unbeaten Packers respectively) and reverted right back to calling plays as if his QB was Drew Brees.

Gone were the play action, rollouts, bootlegs, screens (although to the Eagles’ credit, they sniffed out the screens pretty well) and misdirection. In their place a bunch of passing plays that Sanchez couldn’t make because the line couldn’t hold the protection. A promising start to the run game went out the window because the Jets didn’t commit to it. 

There was no reason to panic. Sanchez just showed you last week that he CAN keep this team in it when the play calling goes to his strengths; the Jets went up 28 points in the first half against the Chiefs!!! 

Midway through the first half against the Eagles is not time to panic and throw out what has been working for the last two games.  Sticking with the game plan from Kansas City would have meant moving the chains, keeping Sanchez out of harm’s way because he could move around thereby causing the defense to slow a step because of play action and rollouts. Not knowing whether the running backs are going to run or catch a screen pass also slows the opposing defense down.  But no, you went right back to predictable and fed right into the Eagles hands.

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Bill Callahan is not getting it done. Rex is always praising him for all his great schemes and how great the offensive line looks in practice. But that is meaningless. You can’t duplicate the ferocity of the pass rush in practice because no one is allowed to hit the quarterback. Of course the schemes look great when there is no pressure. Game situations are completely different. 

And where was Tom Moore? I was desperately waiting for the second half, hoping that Moore would prevail upon Schotty to go back to the dynamic game plan we saw against Kansas City. Nothing. If No. 18 had been getting hit that hard, would that have been Moore’s response? I doubt it.

Smart guys like Nick Mangold, LaDainian Tomlinson and Holmes are not buying the “everything is fine we just need more effort” line.  What is needed is a change in strategy.

I feel for Sanchez. I don’t know what I would do in his shoes. He is well aware of the bad play calling and he is personally paying the physical price for the atrocious right tackle play. I will not be surprised at all if Sanchez starts changing more plays at the line. 

Rob Carr/Getty Images

Everyone on the offensive coaching staff is behaving like ostriches. Bill Callahan has no excuse. His responsibility is the line. They have been an abject failure all year.   

The Jets will watch the game tape Monday and see the beating Sanchez took. Maybe Mangold and LT will go privately to Rex and beg him to change something so that Sanchez isn’t one play away from spending Christmas Eve in a hospital bed. 

It’s not sustainable. The Jets can’t win like this. And the coaches have no one to blame but themselves. No matter how dour of a taskmaster Bill Belichick is, his team knows that he would never let a situation like what is happening with the Jets continue on in this manner. 

It’s a shame. Sanchez is having the best season of his career. He has directed this team in multiple fourth quarter comebacks and it is all going to be for naught because of the coaches willful blindness and refusal to adapt to what is going on right in front of their eyes. 

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