A Little Bit of Rain on the Parade
Florham Park, N.J.- Yesterday’s thumping of the Bills was a glorious thing for the Jets, their head coach and of course their fans. After suffering through a disappointing 8-8 season where the wheels appeared to completely tear off the Jets wagon, an offseason of sensationalized pipe dreams (the supposed fix being in for Tim Tebow to start and Mark Sanchez to be shown the door) and an entire preseason of overreaction to a lack of scoring in the preseason, yesterday had to feel pretty damn good for these players and you fans.
The offensive line played great, not allowing a single sack against a defensive line many were touting as the best in the league. People were obviously getting ahead of themselves anointing the Bills defensive line the best over the likes of the Giants and the 49ers to name a few, but there’s a lot of talent on that line and the Jets offensive line was able to do a decent job opening holes in the run game and an excellent job giving Sanchez time to throw.
The wide receivers got all types of separation and consistently made plays down field and after making the catch. After an offseason/preseason of screams from the peanut gallery about the lack of weapons for Sanchez to work with, having three play-making receivers operate at once must’ve made a few people’s head explode. The defense was every bit as good as expected, even if Ryan Fitpatrick was worse than expected even for those who always had doubts about him, but the award winner for the day was clearly Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez lit the Bills defense up, he quickly shook off the mistake of that, “stupid,” (his word choice) pick on the opening drive and he dealt with the disruption of his rhythm (via the Tebow-Option) with relative ease. He made the correct reads and many more times than not he put the ball just where it needed to be. Sanchez showed a lot of growth, both mentally and physically, over the course of training camp and preseason and yesterday’s performance was proof that that growth was real.
There’s an awful lot for you Jet fans to be excited about after the way they dismantled the Bills. Yet there’s a lot of talk going on right now with people saying you can’t overreact because it’s just one game, they’re partly right but many of those people are the same ones who overreacted to meaningless preseason games. People are also completely discounting the Bills now, which is understandable for those who never bought the hype in the first place, but yesterday morning they were damn near a consensus playoff pick and now after not overreacting because of one game all of a sudden the Bills are hot garbage?
Still there’s one thing the possible under-reactors are right about, it is only one game. There are 15 more to go and many of those games will undoubtedly be tougher challenges for the Jets. There were so many positives in yesterday’s game, but you’d be remiss to completely dismiss or ignore the negatives that popped up. In the past Sanchez has talked about a 24 hour rule, where you get 24 hours to enjoy all the glory of the victory and after that 24 hours is up it’s time to start picking apart what they did wrong, how to fix it, get better and prepare for the next challenge. The math might get a little fuzzy here as it hasn’t quite been 24 hours, but pick apart we shall.
Let’s start with the defense because that’s where the most worrisome potential problems showed up, even with the defense getting three picks and returning one of them for a touchdown the biggest mistakes and breakdowns of the game were made by the defense, not the offense. Imagine that.
The Jets defense from last year had three problems, lack of pressure on the quarterback, trouble setting the edge and occasionally giving up big running plays and not being able to cover tight ends and slot receivers in the middle of the field. Yesterday the Jets got no sacks, although they did get pressure and hit Fitzpatrick five times, they gave up 169 yards rushing on 14 carries to C.J. Spiller (one for 56 and a touchdown) and the new safety tandem of LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell both got in their share of soul crushing hits but they were a step slow in coverage allowing the tight ends and receivers to get open.
The problems with the runs were the most obvious. If you just look at the box score you might say the pressure was, but they applied pressure, it just didn’t translate to sacks but it definitely contributed to the ineffectiveness of the Bills passing game. Many might be tempted to gloss over the coverage problems considering Fitzpatrick went 18-32 for just 195 yards with three picks and three (mostly garbage time) touchdowns, but Fitzpatrick was soft tossing his passes out there, if he put anything on his passes yesterday could’ve ended much differently. If the Jets don’t get that cleaned up it will come back to bite them when they play the likes of the Patriots, 49ers, Texans and Steelers next week.
With the Steelers and the Dolphins as the next two games on the schedule the Jets defense has until week four (49ers) to really get their act cleaned up when it comes to setting the edge, bottling up the run and finishing tackles as neither the Steelers or Dolphins have a talent like Spiller. The Jets should be able to apply even more pressure next week against a banged up Steelers offensive line, but they’ll have to finish the play and bring Big Ben down if and when they get to him. The coverage issues are most troubling going into next week, last night the Steelers opened the game with a bunch of almost instantly quick passes and we all know how dangerous those receivers can be after their route is complete and Big Ben is still rumbling around. Quick passes or passes that take 15 seconds to develop, it doesn’t matter the Jets will have their hands full and the safeties will have to step their coverage up to hand the Steelers their second loss of the season.
All of this should continue to improve, after all it is just the first game, but it’s worth pointing out because they are the same problems as last year. Still it’s to be expected that a new safety tandem might not be as sharp as can be in their first real game, especially since both missed time in preseason, the run defense was without Sione Po’uha and have a bunch of young guys on the field and the pass rush will improve because there’s simply too much talent on that line for it not to get even better.
And you can’t talk about the negatives from yesterday without mentioning Darrelle Revis getting a concussion. He has said he’s fine (team said it was a mild concussion), but league rules dictate Jets doctors monitor his condition closely and it’s definitely in the realm of possibilities that he wouldn’t be able to play next week.
One offense it much simpler. The offensive line has to keep up this level of play as do the receivers and Sanchez needs to cut out those “stupid” mistakes, you won’t always get bailed out by a pick from your defense immediately after your mistake. The people still doubting this offense will focus on the Bills young corners, okay but most teams don’t have elite cornerback tandems, and will still question the role of Tebow and the Tebow-Option.
Tebow came in the game immediately and lined up as a slot receiver, the Jets had him lined up all over the field. How much did this take attention away from other players that slipped by the cracks to make a huge play? Will the Jets have to throw the ball too him eventually to make defenders pay attention to him? Can he catch it and make a play if they do pass it his way?
Tebow wasn’t effective as a runner yesterday, five rushes for 11 yards, if anything it raises the question of if it’s smart to risk taking Sanchez out of rhythm? Sanchez handled the disruption rather well yesterday, but maybe it’s best to scrap the Tebow-Option when Sanchez is cooking. Then again if they scrap it, teams won’t have to prepare for it and we all know how Rex Ryan loves teams having to spend time preparing for it.
Yesterday the Jets put on an awesome performance, don’t under-react to it so much that you can’t enjoy it, just know there’s 15 games to go that will not be nearly as easy. The 48-28 beat down could mean nothing if the Jets don’t continue to play at this level and keep turning out victories and they know this. That’s why starting with the breakdown of the game film earlier today, the Jets will start picking apart all of the things they didn’t do well and work on improving it in time for the Steelers.
All the excitement from yesterday will pop like a balloon poked with a needle if the Jets come out flat in Pittsburgh.