Join Date: May 2005
Below is a review from Football Outsiders, pretty fair assessment I believe.
Jets Passing Offense
Under Rex Ryan, the New York Jets have generally excelled in almost all facets of the game. Their defense has been one of the very best in the NFL, their special teams have been excellent and for the most part, they've run the ball effectively. But the passing game has consistently underwhelmed despite all the organization's efforts at development.
The Jets used the fifth pick of the 2009 draft on QB Mark Sanchez. They traded first for Braylon Edwards and then Santonio Holmes, and signed Plaxico Burress in free agency. None of those moves has given New York an above-average passing game.
According to Football Outsiders' DVOA ratings (explained here), the Jets ranked 21st in the league in pass offense last year. The year before, they ranked 20th. Is there any reason to think that things can improve in 2012?
Let's start by looking at simple additions and subtractions. Burress is gone and, despite his eight touchdowns, that is probably a good thing. Burress was simply unable to get separation with any consistency, and the only reason he was a decent scoring option was because Sanchez forced 22 passes to him down in the red zone. Replacing Burress is Stephen Hill, a 6-foot-4 rookie out of Georgia Tech who caught only 28 passes last season but who finished his college career averaging 25.5 yards per reception. Hill is as raw as they come, but he's big and athletic, and our Playmaker Score projection system loves him -- Hill's Playmaker Score of 660 is the best of any receiver in this year's draft. (This video explains more about Playmaker Score, but essentially it examines player production relative to team production, while factoring in performance at the scouting combine.) That bodes well for Hill's long-term prospects, and even if he isn't ready to take the leap right away, he should be able to win a few matchups down in the red zone, and maybe mix in the odd long-bomb reception for good measure.
The Jets also signed Chaz Schilens -- another big-bodied receiver who can compete for red zone touches -- and used their seventh-round pick on Western Michigan's Jordan White. White's Playmaker Score makes him a favorite to be a likely late-round sleeper from the 2012 draft.
The other major addition, of course, is Tim Tebow. It is unclear, however, what Tebow's role as a passer will be, or if his presence will do anything at all to boost the Jets' passing game. After all, Tebow was one of the few starting quarterbacks to be less effective than Mark Sanchez in 2011, posting a DVOA of minus-22.7 percent and completing only 46.5 percent of his pass attempts.
Tebow has been working hard on his throwing mechanics, going so far as to hire former Major League Baseball pitcher Tom House to shorten his trademark windmill motion, and early returns have been promising.
ESPN's Ron Jaworski, who went out to Cortland to watch Tebow practice, came away impressed.
Even if Tebow has made strides with his delivery, he still needs to work on avoiding sacks and on radically improving his accuracy before he can be considered a passable NFL quarterback, and as a package player (Tebow really won't be running the Wildcat so much as a run-heavy variant of the spread offense), he won't get the volume of attempts to make much of an impact on the Jets' passing game one way or the other.
In the end, the chances for major improvement rest on the shoulders of Sanchez. Sanchez is a tough watch at this point -- he came into the league with a lot of moxie, willing to throw the ball deep and to take on linebackers head-on after leaving the pocket, but Ryan and former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer were so alarmed by the number of turnovers Sanchez was generating that they pushed their young quarterback into a game manager role that he is frankly ill suited for. Now Sanchez bears the classic marks of an overcoached player, rarely looking downfield, hesitating when his first read isn't open and settling for meaningless yardage on third down. (There's a reason the Jets went three-and-out on 30 percent of their drives in 2011.)
Ironically, while the coaching sapped Sanchez of some of his strengths, it doesn't seem to have done much to cure his weaknesses. He still threw 18 interceptions last year and fumbled the ball 10 times, just two turnovers shy of his disastrous rookie season. He was also terrible in the face of pressure, completing just 30.8 percent of his passes for 3.1 yards per attempt when facing a blitz.
On the other hand, Sanchez did throw for 26 touchdowns, which was ninth best in the league in 2011, and his touchdown-per-attempt percentage of 4.8 was right in line with guys like Eli Manning and Matt Ryan.
Touchdowns are invariably a cruder and less stable unit of performance measurement than yards, but an optimist might want to hang his hat on Sanchez's steady improvement at finding the end zone. Alternately, one could look at normal year-to-year progression and hope that Sanchez can turn a corner. Our research shows that by far the largest improvement for quarterbacks comes between their first and second years, when their DYAR improves on average by plus-136 and their DVOA by plus-12.8 percent. Sanchez took massive strides in his second year, though those strides translated into only an average sophomore performance because his rookie season was so poor. Sanchez was maintaining that level of play through much of 2011 before collapsing down the stretch. If Sanchez can get back to average, that should be enough to get the Jets back to the playoffs. If not, expect the Tim Tebow bandwagon to gain momentum.