With Few Options for Change Can Ricky Sapp Make a Difference?
Florham Park, N.J.- After the bye week the main question floating around (not involving Sanchez and/or Tebow specifically) was what possible changes could the Jets make to turn things around in the second half of the season? It’s a simple question and a logical one as well. If you fancy yourself a playoff team and come out of the first half of the season at 3-5 you have to realize somehow you’ve strayed off your intended path and wonder how you can find your way back?
Rex Ryan continued to give his traditional answer of they’ll, “look at everything,” but as we should all know by now he’s not going to reveal his hand whether he has a two, seven off-suit or pocket aces.
For the Jets determining the reasons for their early season failures is rather easy (injuries, depth issues and frankly talent issues), but figuring out how to fix these problems mid-season and make a playoff push is a much harder task. To call for changes at this point in the season is completely understandable, but on the other hand, to not realize the options for change are very few and far between is not.
Sure, you can expect to see Demario Davis and Quinton Coples get more snaps in the second half of the season, but they are rookies, that tends to happen with rookies and it’s not like the Jets linebacking core or pass rush has been all that good with the rookies on the sidelines. Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight, when he returns from injury, will most likely begin to get more carries as the Jets continue in their quest to improve their running game, but while the backs they have are clearly not the most dynamic backs in the league the bigger problem has been with their run blocking.
Vlad Ducasse could very well continue to see increased playing time over Matt Slauson, but when Ducasse (who has played better recently) is your number one option off the bench you know you have depth problems. Greene will have to handle to large majority of the carries this week against this big, tough and physical Seahawks defense but over the next few weeks you could start to see his carries decrease, particularly when McKnight returns.
Powell earned the role of third-down back early in the season, but he earned that role for his pass blocking ability, which while not great is much better than the Greene or McKnight’s. But before McKnight’s injury he was starting to get more carries and he was clearly on his way to earning even more carries with the way he was running, think Patriots game in particular.
Of all the backs, McKnight is the most dynamic and has the most play-making ability, he showed some power and toughness on some inside runs and he has the speed to make defenders miss and occasionally turn the corner around the edges. When he returns look for him to get a bigger role and expect him to take advantage of the opportunity, but hold off on expecting him alone to be a huge difference maker, the offensive line would need to improve dramatically for that to even be a possibility.
There’s no possible options on the bench to improve the receivers or the tight ends, all the Jets can hope for is Keller stays healthy and contributes in a notable way, Jeremy Kerley continues his stellar play and Stephen Hill finds a way to cut out the drops and become a trusted weapon for Sanchez. You can hope for some minor tweaks and major improvements on offense, but aside from more carries for Powell and/or McKnight the cast of characters won’t change much. Maybe the Jets install more Tebow packages, maybe not though, trying to figure out that guessing game is a fool’s errand at this point although considering their record of 3-5 you’d have to think if the Jets believed Tebow could’ve seriously helped the offense we would’ve seen them try more.
On defense, if Sione Po’uha returns and is actually healthy that will go along way to improving the defense, he started out the season hurt then tried to return too early as he clearly wasn’t 100 percent yet and it showed in his play. His presence on the line would help make the jobs of the linebackers easier and certainly help contain opponents rushing attack. But inserting a healthy Po’uha isn’t making a change, it’s putting a now healthy starter back in, if they could do the same with Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes they would.
Of course you’ll continue to see the revolving door of the practice squad and bottom of the 53-man roster and as stated above some minor changes involving more snaps for Davis, Coples, McKnight and Powell, but there is one roster change that has been made that many fans have been waiting for and hope can make a difference and that’s the activation of outside linebacker Ricky Sapp.
Can Sapp be a difference maker? Of course we don’t know the answer to that yet, but it’s easy to understand why there’s so much hope being placed on him, the Jets pass rush has continued to be non-existent and he could be this year’s version of last year’s Aaron Maybin. Naturally if that happens Jets fans will immediately start to hope he doesn’t eventually turn into this year’s Maybin, because that guy has been invisible all season.
Sapp impressed Ryan and the coaching staff during training camp, there was some buzz generating about him which contributed to the hope that many fans feel about him, but a high ankle sprain derailed his training camp momentum and he’s had to wait his turn for a shot at some regular season action.
“Just the way he has been practicing, he has been a handful for us to block. The young man is a guy that just keeps going (forward).” Ryan said yesterday. “Remember, he had a high ankle sprain in training camp. He was having a great training camp and then he got injured.”
With Russell Wilson and the Seahawks as the next game on the schedule you can be sure Ryan is right when he tells us we’ll find out on Sunday, the Jets game plan will have to revolve around stopping the run first but also on containing and pressuring Wilson and Ryan will certainly give Sapp a chance to do the later because he needs someone to be able to that’s the only thing the Jets will ask Sapp to do.
“I’m a pass rusher.” Sapp said, “I have a little bit of speed, so hopefully I can come in, add some speed to the defense, help out on special teams and just do my part.”
Sapp hopes to “just do my part,” but fair or not his part involves being the only option for improvement off the bench the Jets have and if he can do that part he could help turn the Jets season around and win the hearts of Jets fans everywhere or he could fail and feel the wrath of Jets fans everywhere.
“We really didn’t get a chance to put him out there in games, so he (was put) on the practice squad. He has worked so well.” Ryan said, “Let’s see what he can do. We will. We’ll find out. He’s going to be active for us and we’ll watch him chase the passer.”