Who's to Blame?

The Jets returned to their practice facility this week to ponder what went wrong. After being blown out over the last two weeks by a combined score of 74-10, too much has gone awry to find a clear answer.

On Monday, Vinny Testaverde shouldered the blame.

            "It all starts with the quarterback," said Testaverde. "It's my responsibility to get this team into the end zone [and] get the football into the hands of the guys that make plays. So put it on my shoulders. Put it all on me and I'll take the blame."

            Testaverde was horrible against the Dolphins last week. He threw for just 125-yards and committed three turnovers, two of which were first half interceptions that put 10 Dolphin points on the board. Still, Testaverde is just one player, and the Jets know there's a lot of blame to go around.       

            "I know everyone thinks it's the quarterback," said Herman Edwards. " [But it's] a lot of other positions too. It's more than one guy."

            Edwards pointed to the early struggles of the offensive line, and the fact that they have surrendered 11 sacks in just three games. That's more than half way to last year's total of 19, which was fewest in the AFC, and Pro Bowl center Kevin Mawae acknowledged the line's predicament.

            "Anytime you take something that we had over the last three years and mix it up a little bit, there's going to be some growing pains," said Mawae. "Ryan Young started since his rookie season and Kerry Jenkins has been starting since ‘97. That's a lot of games, and you can't make up for that game experience in a matter of three or four weeks."

            Mawae was referring to Young and Jenkins' replacements, Kareem McKenzie and J.P. Machado, who had a combined three NFL starts between them heading into this season. Their lack of experience seems to have created a trust problem within the line.

            "You got to know that if you make a call, the guy behind you or on the side of you knows exactly what you're going to do," Mawae said. "If there's a beast of a pass rusher and a guy's having trouble, he has to believe that somebody's going to be there to help him out. It's a lot of trust and confidence with the guy next to you, and with the offensive line, [there's] a lack of playing next to each other."

            Along with the offensive line's problems, the Jets have not been able to run the football. With the team surrendering early leads, they have not been able to go to their bread and butter on offense. Couple that with Curtis Martin's sprained ankle and the Jets running game has been non-existent. Edwards said Martin's ankle is only at about 85 percent, but the Pro Bowl running back insists it has not limited his ability on the football field.

            "There's pain, but I feel like I can get out there and still perform," said Martin. "The amount of yards we had rushing, I wouldn't blame it on me not feeling healthy. I can perform."

            Martin and the Jet offense better start performing soon. The defense, while still missing tackles, picked up their play last Sunday, and gave Jet fans a glimpse of the pass rush they are capable of. Trailing 13-3 heading into the fourth quarter, the Jets defense had kept it close. But it was the offense's inability to convert third downs that kept the defense on the football field far too long. The Dolphins gained 183-yards in their last three possessions, and RB Ricky Williams blew past weary defenders trying to arm tackle him on his way to the end zone.

            Some of the Jets contend that record is more important than performance, and the team is still on the right track.

            "We did the same thing last season," said Mawae. "We started off 1-2 and ended up in the playoffs where nobody thought we'd be. Our confidence level is that we'll be doing the same thing this season."

           If the playoffs are on their minds, the Jets better right the ship this Sunday in Jacksonville. With the division rival Patriots and Dolphins both undefeated, a loss to the Jaguars could put them on the outside looking in.

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