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Monday, July 2, 2012
Take 5: Top statistical indicators

By Rich Cimini

This is our eighth "Take Five" list. From now until training camp, we'll have periodic lists -- some serious, some not-so-serious. This time, we'll examine the top statistical indicators -- i.e. the numbers that will tell the tale of the Jets' season.

1. Giveaways. The Jets led the AFC with 34 turnovers last season -- sloppy, sloppy, sloppy. It's against the Sparano religion to commit turnovers, let alone that many. His teams averaged 25 per year in his four seasons as the Dolphins' coach. If the Jets can get it below 25, it'll mean Mark Sanchez is being smart with the football -- and everything would flow off that.

2. Rushing attempts. Forget about yards and yards-per-attempt. The key is rushing attempts. If the Jets are running the ball a lot, it means Sparano's offense is working. It'll take pressure off Sanchez and allow him to strike downfield on play-action. The Jets averaged 28 rushing attempts per game last season. That won't cut it in Sparano's run-heavy offense.

3. Yards-per-attempt. Some football stat geeks believe YPA is the best barometer of a quarterback's performance. Well, Sanchez averaged a career-low 6.4 last season, 0.3 lower than his rookie year. That number is ugly; it indicates an unhealthy passing attack. Sanchez might not be a prolific passer in Sparano's system, but he has to be more efficient than 6.4. A lot of factors go into that number -- it's pass protection, the receivers' ability to get open, play calling, etc. They have to pull that number up into the 7s.

4. Rushing defense; yards per game. The Jets finished 13th, yielding 111 yards per game. An elite defense shouldn't finish that low, no way. It's a basic tenet of football, stopping the run. There's no reason why the Jets shouldn't rebound into the top five. They added run-stuffing safeties, Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry, and they should have more depth on the defensive line. The Jets say they want to be as good as their '09 defense. That unit allowed only 98 per game.

5. Passing defense; yards per catch. Hard to figure the defense last season. It finished fifth in total defense despite allowing a ton of big pass plays (Victor Cruz, anyone?) In fact, it yielded 12.4 yards per reception, tied for 24th in the league. Many of the same factors that contributed to that bloated number -- questionable team speed, miscommunications in coverage, lukewarm pass rush -- could be in play once again.

To see all our Take 5 lists, click here.