While the NFL has proven that you can rally from a star player becoming injured, a second star going down on such a flawed team leads most to believe that this will not be happening for the Jets.
If we can all agree that the Jets will not be winning the Super Bowl this year, the best course of action for the Jets is to lose out and get as best of a draft pick as possible in the 2013 draft (hopefully with someone other than Tannenbaum making that pick). With that said, if the Jets are going to win more games this year, here are some Tebow-less ways they will have to adjust to make it possible.
1. Dumb down the playbook for Stephen Hill
If we can all agree at this point that for money or age reasons, the Jets will not be bringing in any of the veteran wide receivers most desire like Terrell Owens, Plaxico Burress, or Chad Johnson, we must realize that they must work with what they have. So what Gang Green are left with now are Chaz Schilens, Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates, Jason Hill, and their 2nd round pick, Stephen Hill.
Schilens has spent much of his career in street clothes for the Raiders accumulating injuries faster than yards or touchdowns. Jeremy Kerley, while having some big plays this year, has been called out by Rex Ryan for effort and for lacking the strength to overcome injury. Clyde Gates has only contributed one catch since being acquired from the Dolphins, was overwhelmed on a route leading to a Sanchez interception, and seems to be more David Clowney than Chansi Stuckey. In other words, don’t look for too much out of him.
Jason Hill…well…lets just say the “overrated” Darrelle Revis did more in the 1 1/2 games he played this year than Jason Hill has in his entire career.
So the Jets are left with one man with any real big time upside.
Hill was brought in to be the Plaxico Burress role – a huge receiver with deceiving speed that would be a great target for Sanchez in the red zone. He started hot with two touchdowns, but disappeared through two games with the Steelers and Dolphins before getting hurt.
He was hailed as raw coming out of Georgia Tech and his hands have not been great. If you’re going to use Stephen Hill effectively this year, you need to take advantage of his natural talent and size. Fades in the endzone, deep sideline patterns, and quick slants. It’s no longer time for learning, he has to contribute every game for now on, especially since he will probably be facing opponents CB1 going forward.
2. Dustin Keller needs to return
Keller, Sanchez’s long favorite target and been MIA since hurting his hamstring in the preseason. While Jeff Cumberland has taken his spot and done a decent job, he lacks experience and has made some mistakes and bad reads that have cost the Jets so far.
Keller possesses the catching ability and inside game that the fully stocked Jets needed. Now, he may be their only dependable offensive weapon. The Jets should not rush him back for the Texans game and give him one more practice-less week to get healthy and on the field when the schedule gets lighter.
3. Forget Powell, it should be Joe McKnight time
You can’t make Joe McKnight your feature back – he is not built to get 20 carries a game – but he has been the Jets most dynamic player this year, showing off his playmaking abilities on kick off returns. McKnight has better speed and moves than Bilal Powell and if the Jets are truly going to take the ball out of Shonn Greene’s hands (and they should) the one they should be trying to get it into is Joe McKnight.
While not a part of the Rex Ryan era, they should be game-planning McKnight in the Leon Washington role – a guy not suited to be the #1, but could make plays on the field and be a great change of momentum player for the Jets.
4. Time to unleash the young guys on D.
According to ESPN, the Jets are ranked 30th in opponents yards per rushing attempt, last in rushing TDs given up, and 31st in rushing yards given up per game. These are unseen stats since Rex Ryan has been here. Long known as one of the great run stopping coaches, this year has been a disaster for Rex Ryan (Maurice Jones-Drew and Rashard Mendenhall were among the very few that reached 100 yards vs. the Jets in Ryan’s first 2 years in NY).
At the same time, the Jets rank 29th in sacks (Note: the Steelers, who had a bye in Week 4 are one of the teams below them). These two areas are putting a ton of pressure on the 4th ranked secondary of the Jets, who now have to work the rest of the season without Darrelle Revis.
So it is time to stop being conservative with the team and go for broke on defense. This is Rex Ryan of all people, so we should be expecting tons more craziness. The blitzes have not worked (Aaron Maybin has been invisible) and the outside game, which has long been a problem for the Jets, is still very much so.
First round pick Quinton Coples, late pick Demario Davis, and last year’s 3rd round pick, Kendrick Ellis need to get significant time on the field to see if any of them can contribute. Coples has already shown some good work against the run. He needs to be out there more to see if he can do anything against the passers like he did in the preseason.
Speaking of preseason, Kendrick Ellis, who was swallowing up offensive lines, needs to see some time at DT. Not that Sione Pouha has been bad this year, but they need even more playmakers up front. Perhaps more 4-3 lines to get both up front may help; perhaps even having him sub for Muhammad Wilkerson will get him going a bit as well (only 3 career sacks).
Finally, lets see what Demario Davis can do. The Jets have two capable, but older and slower OLBs in Bryan Thomas and Calvin Pace. Both are still good blitzers and average in coverage over the middle, but both are huge problems on the perimeter. In a world where the Jets get burned by the outside runs and against athletic tight ends, guys like Thomas and Pace have a hard time holding up. Now that the Jets have two good safeties, perhaps putting a guy like Davis out there to sub for one of them or the obviously diminished Bart Scott, will add a boost and some speed to a slower linebacker corps.
All that said, the Jets are lining up quite well for a 4-12 season. Perhaps that’s for the better. But for the sake of the Jets fan, lets hope this season gives us a few more exciting moments-
Well…other than whatever the Jets do with Mr. Tebow…