FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Sixteen games without a touchdown in the first quarter. That’s a season’s worth of games without scoring early. The Jets offense enjoys playing from behind — usually saving the second half or simply, like they did last week against Dallas, the fourth quarter. But starting early on offense is the difference between winning late and winning; or worse — falling short of that fourth quarter comeback.
The team is aware of the unwanted streak and, according to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, have been “trying multiple things” to fix it.
“We want to start fast and we know we can start faster, but again, we’re still finding ways to win games and that’s the most important thing. We’re going to continue to look under all different holes and stuff, looking for the right answer. At some point, I really think we’ll get it figured out. Until then, hopefully, it starts this weekend.”
This weekend wouldn’t be a bad time to start as they kick off conference play against the AFC South’s Jacksonville Jaguars. According to Rex Ryan’s scheduling formula, this one counts as a game and a quarter. Confused? Allow me to have Ryan explain it:
“In my strange math, this one counts as a game and a quarter because it’s an AFC team. Your divisional games count as a game and a half. For whatever reason, it always seems like when the tiebreakers come out that math usually works.”
But whether it’s a quarter, half or whole game it is imperative that the Jets offense gets out to a fast start Sunday. We’ve all seen Mark Sanchez thrive in an uptempo-style offense. We’ve seen him, albeit in a small sample size, do well in a three tight end set. He’s great on the run — whether it’s off play-action(5-6, 1 TD) or leaving the pocket (3-5, 1 TD) and making a play.
“[The no huddle offense] is something we talk about each and every week. It’s always available,” Schottenheimer said. “Mark [Sanchez] likes it. He’s very comfortable in it. The biggest thing is that nobody wants to live in that world. It’s hard to just live in that world. It’s a tool for us that we can use and we’ll get to it when we need to.”
It may not be a good idea to live in that world, but the Jets should think about starting the game in that world. Running a no huddle offense to can knock back the Jaguars defense from the first snap. Especially against a defense that thrives on production from a stout front seven, keeping them moving and on the field would lead to fatigue and forces the defense to react to the offense. Not the other way around.
Coupled with a slow-starting offensive attack is converting on third downs. Against Dallas they converted less than 50% of the time on third downs. They are two peas in the same pod. If they want to keep the offense on the field longer, they must move the chains more often than half of the time. But Sanchez believes converting on third downs starts on first down.
“We need to convert on third down, whether it’s me throwing a more accurate ball or not getting sacked on the first play, that kind of stuff. You take a sack, I think the stat is like, 12% of the time you’ll end up scoring a touchdown on that drive, so a sack is a drive killer.” Sanchez would go on to say, “We can’t have negative plays on first down. We need to be much better on first down, to convert at least.”
There’s no doubt about this team’s ability — particularly the offense’s — to produce when the pressure’s on. Now is the time for the offense to start applying the pressure.