Four hot issues that emerged from the New York Jets' 38-13 loss to the Tennessee Titans:
Who are these guys? The Jets finished the first quarter of the season at 2-2, demonstrating many of the qualities we expected from this group -- a defense-minded team with a mistake-prone rookie at quarterback. For the most part, they’ve been terrific on defense, especially at the line of scrimmage. Other times, such as Sunday in Nashville, they’ve suffered from shaky coverage on the back end. Offensively, they’ve been what we expected for 12 out of 16 quarters -- a struggling unit. They were prolific against the Buffalo Bills, but was that a mirage? Sure looks like it. The lack of discipline (44 penalties) is uncharacteristic and alarming.
Help the kid: Smith will remain the starter for the time being, so it’s up to offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg to figure out a way to help him. On Sunday, he should’ve leaned more on the running game instead airing it out. Bilal Powell averaged 5.7 yards per carry in the first half, gashing the Titans on some first-down runs, but he carried it only three times in the third quarter, when it still was a game. Look, I’m not going to rip Mornhinweg for being aggressive -- a week ago, he was hailed for his attacking mentality -- but he should dial it back a little when Smith slips into one of his funks. He already has eight interceptions, a season’s worth for some quarterbacks. It makes sense to feature the run against the Atlanta Falcons, considering wide receivers Santonio Holmes (hamstring) and Stephen Hill (concussion) are banged up and running back Mike Goodson is returning from a four-game suspension.
Cornerback issues: For three-plus years, Rex Ryan enjoyed the benefit of having two excellent cornerbacks, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. He never had to worry about bad matchups on the outside. Now that Revis is gone, Ryan is experiencing what most coaches go through. Darrin Walls became the third player to start at right corner, following Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson. The once-formidable secondary doesn’t scare anyone anymore. The run-oriented Titans compiled a 129.8 passer rating, beating Cromartie twice for touchdowns and Walls once. I’m not second-guessing the Revis trade, but you can certainly criticize the Jets’ post-Revis plan, as Milliner was struggling before he got hurt.
Self-inflicted wounds: The numbers are damning -- 12 giveaways and 44 penalties. Let’s simplify: That’s 56 bad things in four games. If you throw in the 14 sacks allowed, it’s 70 bad things. It’s hard to win football games at that rate. That they have only two takeaways, meaning a minus-10 turnover margin, compounds the issue. It has to get better or else the Jets will be out of the race by Halloween, especially with a tough October schedule. Ryan’s team is leaking oil in a lot of places, and it’s too late for a full-service oil change.