BUT! But after the trade I had to do some editing. My focus remained the same: the Jets offense has other issues that could potentially thwart the development of their raw QB.
We all knew the focus Monday morning would be on Sanchez. However, throughout the second half in New Orleans the Jets offense had plenty of chances to make amends and failed. For two weeks, in fact, OC Brian Schottenheimer's troops have struggled.
Issue #1: Running game. Issue #2: Besides WR Jerricho Cotchery, can someone else get open? GM Mike Tannenbaum hopes he's settled #2 with the trade for Browns WR Braylon Edwards. We'll return to him in a moment.
The offense has scored four touchdowns in the past two weeks. Three came after opponents' turnovers gave Sanchez and company a short field. Otherwise the Jets aren't moving the ball with much success.
Their longest scoring drive against the Saints was 60 yards, ending in a 38-yard Jay Feely FG in the second quarter. Against the Tennessee Titans the New York offense scored two TDs after a fumble and muff on kick returns by Ryan Mouton gave Sanchez very short fields. Otherwise the Jets' longest scoring drive in the 24-17 win was 73 yards, ending in Sanchez' 14-yard touchdown scramble on the opening drive. The Jets went the entire second quarter without a first down, registering five consecutive three-and-outs.
The Week 1 success against the Texans does seem to be fading, doesn't it? In my view, the biggest problem is the lackluster rushing attack. Third-and-long, a quarterback's kryptonite, is a result of poor first and second down execution.
As I documented in last week's column, the Jets got stuffed on first downs runs against the Titans. The Saints also loaded the box with eight defenders—and the results weren't much better (and not only on first down).
Eleven first down runs by RBs Thomas Jones, Leon Washington, and Shonn Greene gained 51 yards. Not bad. That includes Jones' 15-yard touchdown romp in the third quarter. Most of the rushes picked up 2 or 3 yards. Not good enough. WR Brad Smith gained 20 yards on two carries out of the Seminole formation, and Sanchez gained 16 yards on two scrambles.
It's time for Shonn Greene to get his chance. He was impressive in limited action against the Saints. More so than any position in the NFL, running back is a young man's position. Greene has more explosion in his 24-year-old legs than Jones has in his 31-year-old legs. The blocking has been shaky, but Jones isn't exploding into the line. Play Shonn Greene! If his ankle (a lingering injury from the preseason) is okay, Greene should get more carries than Jones.
Was the play-calling the problem? On two 3rd-and-1 situations, Sanchez threw incomplete (once out of the shotgun) two WR Chansi Stuckey in the third quarter. The problem wasn't so much the call as execution. Stuckey was covered by a blanket both times! In the fourth quarter the Jets did try to pick up a first down on the ground on 3rd-and-2. After he picked up 8 yards on the previous two plays, Jones got stuffed for no gain. Schottenheimer can't win.
So this brings us back to issue #2. The trade for WR Braylon Edwards could transform the Jets into a legitimate playoff contender. That, of course, depends on which Edwards they're getting. The only one who knows if this is going to work out is Edwards himself. He has all the talent. He has to quit partying, grow up, and focus on catching the football.
While the premier running teams in the NFL succeed against 8-man fronts, it wouldn't hurt the Jets if opposing defenses had to respect the passing game a little more. Stuckey is a back-up. Smith is a better runner than receiver. Edwards is a potential game-breaker. This trade was a no-brainer. But for the Jets' sake, they need the Edwards of '07, not the Braylon of '09.
Some more observations:
1) I never want to see Sanchez carry the football like a loaf of bread again. Tuck it away!
2) The defensive performance against the Saints may have been the best in recent Jets history, the outcome of the game notwithstanding. Since when can LB Bryan Thomas come off the edge like that? There was one blemish: New Orleans, led by RB Pierre Thomas, gashed Ryan's ‘D' for 153 rushing yards. Several times the front seven lost contain or got too far up field.
3) Monday night vs. Miami. The Dolphins run the ball on first down, second down and third down. They run it when they are behind, tied, or ahead. They run it on 3rd-and-1 and 3rd-and-17. But the Dolphins' success, as Ryan pointed out this week, has come against smaller 4-3 fronts. Prediction: Gang Green makes QB Chad Henne's first primetime start miserable. Jets 23 Dolphins 10.