Back when he was coaching the New York Jets, Bill Parcells used to say, "If you're not getting better, you're getting worse." (I can't swear to this, but I think he may have uttered that expression when he benched Neil O'Donnell in 1997 even though the team was 6-3.) The point is, the current Jets, despite a league-best 5-1 record, have areas in which they need to improve.
Most teams use the bye week to get back to basics, concentrating on deficiencies, but Rex Ryan gave the team a six-day vacation. To each his own.
Here are some areas that need to be addressed:
• The passing game. Mark Sanchez has dramatically reduced his interception total, but his accuracy still isn't where it needs to be. His completion rate is 55.4%, up from last season's 53.8%, but it should be at least 60%, especially when you consider he's throwing more often to his check-down receivers.
Sanchez' average-per-attempt is an anemic 6.2 (down from 6.7), which ranks 29th in the league. Things should improve as WR Santonio Holmes continues to settle in, but it makes you scratch your head as to why the passing game isn't more productive, considering Sanchez' overall improvement and the talent level.
• Pass defense. Some major slippage here. The Jets were No. 1 last season in pass defense, but they're currently in the No. 22 spot (229 yards per game). They already have allowed 10 touchdown passes, two more than last season.
Can Darrelle Revis' hamstring injury be blamed for that much of a drop? I don't think so. The defense isn't generating enough pressure on quarterbacks, as the blitz package doesn't seem as effective as last season. Instability in the secondary also has hurt. There was a change in free safeties (Eric Smith to Brodney Pool), and they've been mixing and matching in the nickel and dime. Rookie CB Kyle Wilson is off to a slow start, and that isn't helping.
• Third-down defense. Ryan predicts they will lead the league in this category, but they've got a ways to go. Their conversion rate is 42%, which ranks 25th in the league. What's up with that? A year ago, the Jets were deadly on third down, holding opponents to 31.5%.
What makes this season's decline so pronounced is that they've actually been doing a good job on first and second down, putting opponents in many third-and-long situations. Ordinarily, that's money time for Ryan's defense, but the lack of consistent pressure and breakdowns in the secondary have conspired to hurt them in those situations.
• Red-zone offense. The Jets have scored nine touchdowns on 19 trips inside the 20, a 47% success rate (19th in the league). It has worked out nicely for Nick Folk, who is kicking a ton of field goals and leads all kickers in scoring, but the offense needs to become more efficient. Again, the lack of production is puzzling because the talent is there. Ill-timed penalties have hurt in the red zone.
• Two-minute defense. In five of six games, the Jets have allowed a score in the final two minutes of the first half -- three touchdowns and two field goals, to be exact. Attributing to problem to communication problems in the secondary, the defensive backs started wearing play-sheet wristbands in Week 3. It has helped ... a little.