Jets fans are wondering when Donnie Henderson will start "sending the house". (Jets Insider.com Photo)
My apologies to Sun Tzu, but I think he might be able to help me make a point here. In Mr. Tzu’s revered and classic text he states, “On facile ground, halt not.” This is a pretty basic statement which tells us that when you are facing no opposition to continue to forge ahead; do not stall simply because you have little or no opposition in reaching the summit of your goals. I think the Jets coaching staff need to examine this ethos and embrace it.
Now, I understand that to criticize a team that has a 2-0 record to begin the season seems a bit harsh, but I feel that there are a few issues that the Jets have to resolve before the team returns to action October 3rd in Miami.
The main problems that I see facing the Jets involve the play calling on both side of the football. Like John Witherspoon’s matching mushroom belt and jacket inseam the Jets need to “co-OR-di-nate.”
Let’s start off with the defense: and all I can say is, “Where my blitzes at?”
When Donnie Henderson was hired as the Jets new defensive coordinator I read countless articles on how he was going to create more aggressive schemes which included some innovative blitzing packages to pressure opposing quarterbacks. I don’t know about anybody else, but I haven’t seen it yet. Through two games so far this season the Jets defense has only two sacks, both credited to the defensive line.
The lack of a pass-rush by the Jets is most evident during the latter stages of last Sunday’s game. They unnecessarily put themselves in a rather precarious situation when the San Diego Chargers climbed back into the game cutting the Jets lead to six points.
The Jets allowed Drew Brees enough time to read “War and Peace” in the pocket. This was illustrated when he completed a 33-yard touchdown pass to Reche Cadwell in the fourth quarter. It seemed as though the defense was reverting back to form, playing passively and creating very little pressure.
The team’s defensive backs, at one point, incurred the ire of Herman Edwards, who began yelling from the sidelines shortly after a wide-open Antonio Gates missed a touchdown reception of his own late in the game.
Where are the streaking, blitzing cornerbacks that seemed to be a standard when Donnie Henderson was in Baltimore? Where are the charging safeties making opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable? The coaching staff needs to take a long, hard look at how they played these last two games and find a way to improve upon what has, so far, been a less than thrilling defense.
As far as the offense is concerned, the “facile ground” quote may have even more credence.
It is tough for me to convince people that I have found something wrong with an offense that has produced as well as the Jets have over the last two games.
Here are some numbers: In two games the Jets have 7 touchdowns, 65 points, 482 passing yards, 341 rushing yards, and 46 first downs. Those are some pretty heady statistics.
However, I almost threw up in my mouth while watching the fourth quarter of the game this Sunday. After the Jets had accumulated a sizeable lead they began to resemble the “Paul Hackett-Vinny Testeverde Jets”, and that scared me.
Throughout the first game and more than half of the second, the Jets were putting on an offensive showcase. It seemed as though Hackett had finally found his nerve, calling for some deep passes, some draws, play-action passes, and sweeps at the most opportune moments.
But then it happened. The Jets, up 27-14 early in the third quarter, began to play the game differently. Hackett became much more conservative with his play-calling which resulted in two drives that consisted of six rushing plays for -12 yards.
Just for fun, let’s recap:
The first drive immediately following the Chargers second touchdown of the game resembled the “playing not to lose” philosophy that the Jets had in previous years under Hackett: two consecutive rushes up the middle for a total of one yard and then a measly four yard dump pass to Curtis Martin. Then after recovering a fumble and having an opportunity to put the game away the Jets again rush twice for a total of -6 yards and throw a short pass to Martin. On the ensuing drive, the Chargers score and pull within six. Needless to say I became very worried that the Jets were going to let this one get away from them.
Side note: where else can you use the word “ensuing” besides when talking about football? It isn’t as though I say things like, “…and after the ensuing drinks, I became inebriated.” I digress.
Thankfully, Paul Hackett woke up and called the play that resulted in a 48-yard Pennington-to-Moss completion setting up a Jets touchdown and, eventually, putting the game away.
Again, I am not here to claim that the sky is falling on the Jets in the face of a 2-0 record. Their offense has, for the most part, been efficient and exciting. But there was a moment there that I thought Paul Hackett and company tried to change their game-plan based on the score and it got them in a bit of trouble. It seems as though the offensive coaches may have to reevaluate how they approach a game when the Jets have a large lead.
Championship teams from a myriad of different sports have a common characteristic, the ability to keep the noose tight on their opponents and go for the kill. Winning teams know how to put their adversaries away. Paul Hackett and Herman Edwards need to realize this if they wish to elevate the Jets to that level.
Again, I am compelled to quote Sun Tzu:
“The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.”