I had my first chance on Friday night to watch the 2010 Jets in personal and, unfortunately, being a big Jets fan, came away a little wary of the upcoming season.
I have been right there at the forefront this summer as one of those with the highest expectations of Gang Green. There were too many top line acquisitions brought in as supplementary pieces not to be. LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor, Antonio Cromartie and the rest are all perfect additions for a team that finished where the Jets did statistically in 2009. However, after watching the team last night, it dawned on me.
We can talk all we want about the Darrelle Revis holdout (and it is a huge piece of the puzzle). We can talk about the injury Calvin Pace suffered Friday (a big, but not irreplaceable piece). The defense will be fine – with a guy like Rex Ryan in charge, I think that goes without saying. The return of Kris Jenkins in the middle also will be an enormous boost. And with Pace hurt, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Jets finally go out and bring Adalius Thomas in after resisting all summer. No, the defense is just fine.
The offense is another story, though. And that offense will only go as far as one man can take it…Mark Sanchez.
The Jets running game, like the defense, is just fine. The loss of Thomas Jones and Alan Faneca, frankly, are going to be overblown. Shonn Greene is more than fine as an every down back and, in the role of change of pace, third down back, Tomlinson will be able to keep the life in his legs and should be able to stay healthy more than he did in San Diego. The addition of Santonio Holmes after the fifth game of the season will be a boon to the receiving corps. The loss of Faneca might take a while to get used to, but whether it is Matt Slauson or Vladimir Ducasse in that spot, having a Pro Bowler on each side of him will make that transition a whole lot easier.
And that brings us to Sanchez.
I’m on the bandwagon. I am a believer in him. I think he is going to be a star. However, what I saw last night makes me question whether it will be this year or next, or the one after that, before he is. It won’t be that noticeable on first and second down. With that running game, when he throws on that down, it won’t be “expected”, so teams won’t be able to cheat. On third down, however, he scares me.
Go back and watch last night’s game again. There were three third and long plays in particular that raised red flags. On all three, the Jets had what should be their third down team on the field…Jerricho Cothcery, Braylon Edwards and Holmes all at receiver, Dustin Keller at end, Tomlinson either in the backfield or split out as a receiver. Just saying that brings excitement to any Jet fans eyes – three No. 1 receivers, one of the best receiving tight ends in the league and maybe the best pass catching running back in NFL history all on the field at one time. And Sanchez killed all three plays. On the first, he was almost picked off and, if he was, it would have gone back for six. On the second, he threw way behind an open Holmes. On the third, he was picked off and it almost was returned for a TD. And on all three throws, it was Sanchez’s fault.
I’m going to throw a theory out there that is going to sound strange. Is it possible that the Jets have TOO MANY weapons on the field on third down? Hear me out for a second. It was blatantly clear throughout the game, not just on those plays, that Sanchez was always a second or two late in his decision making. I will contend that having five elite options on the field at one time is causing Sanchez to think too much, to take too long to make his decision, and then to telegraph what he is doing when he makes that decision.
Remember last season, when the Jets opted to simplify the offense with the color coded wristband for Sanchez? I am not going to suggest going to that extreme this time around. And with no Holmes for the first four games, it might give Sanchez some time to get accustomed to four options first, before going to five (it remains to be seen how Brad Smith and Laveraneus Coles fit into the equation at the start of the season). But it just looked to me that he was a little overwhelmed with what he was surrounded by last night. With those five guys all in single coverage, someone is going to be open. Maybe more than one guy. But that needs to be recognized earlier than when Sanchez is seeing it. Is he looking, or trying to look, at too many options before making his decision?
I was working in the booth for the Redskins broadcast last night, and posed that question to Joe Theismann, who was the color analyst on the broadcast. He was looking at it from a broader perspective, that the Jets are confused right now about whether they are a running team or a passing team. Having LT on the field for third down can very easily cause that sort of confusion. But I think it is a little more refined than that.
I think this is a rare case of too many options and not enough time for a young quarterback to figure out what to do. And now, there might not be enough time for the Jets to figure out how to adjust that before the season starts.