Thursday, November 24, 2011
Jets' offense needs to come alive
By Rich Cimini
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Instead of singling out Mark Sanchez, Rex Ryan should've put the entire offense in "timeout" this week.
The New York Jets are underachieving on offense, maybe more than any team in the NFL, and they need to find their mojo Sunday against the seemingly defenseless Buffalo Bills. If not, the last five weeks will be a Brian Schottenheimer watch, not a wild-card chase.
Contrary to some reports, Schottenheimer isn't a lame-duck coordinator. The Jets quietly extended his contract last offseason and he's signed through at least 2012, ESPNNewYork.com has learned. Of course, that doesn't mean he's untouchable. His fate could be determined over the final six games.
Ryan believes they're the type of team that can get hot at anytime, except there's no evidence to support that. In 123 possessions, the offense has produced back-to-back touchdown drives only three times, the latest occurring three weeks ago in Buffalo. On that day, they actually reeled off three straight touchdowns in the second half.
That was akin to Jason Bay hitting three homers in a game.
You can't help but think back to the preseason, when LaDainian Tomlinson predicted they'd be one of the top offensive teams in the league, when Plaxico Burress said they were good enough to average at least 28 points a game. Those words sound hollow.
"Nobody is happy with where we're at," Dustin Keller said. "All those numbers we threw out -- all the possibilities -- that's realistic stuff, stuff we're capable of doing. For one reason or another, we haven't. That's definitely disappointing.
"That kills us. The one thing this team is missing is consistency from the offense. If we can get to a consistent level, where we're playing good football, there's nobody that can beat us."
The Jets are ranked 22nd in total offense, and the most damning thing about that number is this: Nine of the 10 teams below them have started more than one quarterback, and the team that hasn't -- the Cleveland Browns -- has a rookie coach with a new offensive system.
The Jets don't have those alibis; they've had continuity with their system and stability at the quarterback position. Truth is, they've been lucky across the board with injuries -- only two games lost among their offensive starters. That was due to Nick Mangold's ankle injury in September.
Still, they sputter, searching for answers. The players have held meetings on their own, staying after hours in an attempt to sort through issues. Sanchez said he's "studying my butt off," particularly with his checks in the running game. But as one player said, "As soon as we fix something, something else breaks."
Brandon Moore said it's "brutal" to watch tape and see the mistakes jump off the screen. The veteran guard said he goes home at night, trying to figure out why they're not playing up to their ability. You could hear the frustration in his voice.
"You're not here every day, watching film, sitting in meetings, practicing and putting your body through everything to keep going out and laying duds," Moore said.
But the duds are piling up.
Of their 633 offensive plays, only one has gained more than 38 yards -- and that was a screen pass to Tomlinson that broke for 74.
They're a run-oriented team, and yet their longest run is only 25 yards -- a scramble by Sanchez.
In back-to-back losses to the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, the offense generated five touchdowns -- three for the Jets, two for the other guys. We're referring, of course, to the two Sanchez interceptions that were returned for scores.
In those two games, the Jets' 27 possessions ended with 11 punts, four turnovers, three missed field goals, two turnovers on downs, two drives that ended when the clock ran out
and a partridge in a pear tree.
"Sure, you get frustrated," Schottenheimer said. "We're all competitive, we all have high standards and we see it as a staff. We see the things we're capable of doing. We've had great moments at times
but we have to do it more often."
The ever-optimistic Schottenheimer believes it will turn around, citing the Jets' past history and work ethic of the players and coaches. But as Bill Parcells used to say, don't talk about the labor, show me the baby.
It has to start with Sanchez, whose inconsistency reflects the state of the entire offense. He was good enough to complete 11 straight passes in Denver, but he made costly mental errors with regard to game management. His interception turned the game, although that was partly the fault of Burress, who didn't run a crisp route.
It's unfair to put it all on Sanchez, because this is a veteran offensive unit with talent at every position. With Mangold, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Santonio Holmes, the Jets have three of the highest-paid players at their respective positions. But it's not adding up, and when that happens, the fall guy usually is the coordinator.
Fortunately for the Jets, facing a virtual must-win, they get the Bills (5-5). If they can't get it right against the Bills, who have allowed 106 points during their current three-game losing streak, they should be ashamed of themselves.
The Bills are without their two best defensive backs, cornerback Terrence McGee and safety George Wilson, and their pass rush couldn't scare a troop of Brownies. Against the Jets, they might as well show up with a "Kick Me" sign taped to their jerseys. In the last five meetings, the Jets have averaged close to 250 rushing yards per game.
This is the moment of truth.
"It always seems to go like this every season," Keller said. "We have high expectations. It starts out not so good, it gets a little better, it falls off a little bit and by the end of the season -- God willing, in the playoffs -- we're playing good football.
"But you can't rely on that every year. We've got to fix it -- now."