Cincinnati, OH- Luckily for Jets fans the first preseason game was just that, a preseason game. If it was a game that counted in the standings the severity of the Jets problems would be much more concerning.
With the first team only playing the first quarter and roster sizes as big as they can get, many different players entered the game, but there was one common theme throughout the night, one Jets fans are familiar with, the offensive line continued to be abused. Not just the first team offensive line unit, whose most glaring problem tonight was the lack of a blocking tight end, but the who backups proved to be even worse.
Depth on the offensive line was one of the biggest problems the 2011 Jets weren’t able to overcome and as the roster is presently constructed it’s a problem that clearly isn’t going away. The Bengals final tally for the night was five sacks, six tackles for a loss and seven quarterback hits. The Jets front office proved they weren’t satisfied with the starting offensive line unit with the attempted trade for Jeff Otah and there’s little doubt they will continue to look for other options to start at right tackle, but even if they can use Hunter as a backup this unit still needs more help at the bottom of the depth chart.
It didn’t matter who was playing quarterback they all faced immense pressure from the Bengals, Tebow did handle the pressure the best out of the three quarterbacks as he was able to evade a couple of sacks and turn them into first downs with his feet. Sanchez started out with back-to-back three-and-outs and he got crushed by a blitzing Ray Maualuga on his third snap. The first team offense struggled to get anything going, Sanchez finished the night 4-6 for 21 yards and was sacked twice for a loss of 16 and Shonn Greene only managed 11 yards on five carries, but he also never stood a chance on most of the runs as he was met in the backfield multiple times.
Tebow came in to start the second quarter and started off with a excellent three-step drop and high strike to Stephen Hill on a slant for a 12 yard pickup. The next pass wasn’t so pretty as he threw a wobbly duck that harmlessly fell to the ground. Tebow finished the night 4-8 for 27 yards and a pick, but as expected where Tebow did the most damage was by avoiding sacks and picking up yards with his feet as he had four carries for 34 yards with three of those carries going for first down.
While Tebow’s first pass looked good his last pass was really bad. Tebow dropped back and stared down his target, Jeff Cumberland, and didn’t see Vontaze Burfict underneath which made for an easy interception for the rookie out of Arizona State. All in all Tebow showed he still has a lot of work to do as a passer, which everyone already knew, but he reminded us that if the offensive line continues to play this bad the Jets will need Tebow’s running ability more than they originally planned.
The lone bright spot on offense was Joe McKnight. McKnight proved his worth as a kick returner last year and at times flashed some potential at running back, but he went into this offseason determined to get bigger and stronger and develop into an all around back that can effectively run between the tackles. Tonight it looked like he’s well on his way. McKnight could still serve in the Darren Sproles type role, but he wants to run the ball inside and tonight Tony Sparano gave him that chance. When the offensive line gave him any space to work with, McKnight found it and hit it. He also showed up as a helpful check down back as he ended the night as the Jets leading receiver with three catches for 34 yards to go along with his seven carries for 32 yards. Not eye-popping numbers, but the way he was used and the way he executed his runs where he had room to work with looked promising.
The news isn’t all doom and gloom though. Yes, the offensive line was an abysmal mess throughout the game, but there was a lot to like about the potential the defense showed.
Granted it was against mostly the second and third team, but Quinton Coples was an unstoppable beast tonight. It didn’t look fair that he was allowed to be on the field with some of the Bengals backups, which isn’t the same as doing it against a first team unit, but it certainly gave everyone a glimpse of how much potential he has. Coples finished the night with five tackles [two runs stopped for a loss], one sack and one pass batted down, but what was most impressive was how he did it. Coples did damage coming around the edge and shooting up the middle and when he wasn’t filling up his own stat sheet he was opening things up for his teammates as the Bengals started doubling him in the second half.
Coples wasn’t the only highlight of the defense. The Jets opened the game in a 4-3 front and spent the rest of the game switching back-and-forth between that and a 3-4. LaRon Landry came blitzing in on the first possession for the Bengals causing Andy Dalton to get rid of the pass sooner than he wanted and Yeremiah Bell came in to clean up the receiver and make sure the catch wasn’t made, forcing a punt. Along with the mix and match fronts and moving Coples around the Jets also played Aaron Maybin a lot tonight and moved him all over the field. Maybin got some first team reps and played well into the third quarter and even took a couple of snaps with his hand in the dirt, showing that the Jets are expecting an expanded role from him this season. Garrett McIntyre, Jay Richardson and DeMario Davis were other defensive players that made quite a few impressive plays tonight.
Still the defense was far from perfect as they failed to set the edge on a couple of runs, yet still only gave up 86 yards on the ground on 31 carries, and most troubling was the vacancy of the defense over the middle on two separate plays. Benjarvus Green-Ellis caught a screen pass over the middle on third down with Bart Scott on coverage and Scott had no chance of sticking with Green-Ellis as the Bengals easily picked up 18 yards and a first down which was followed by a 19 yard pass to tight end Jermaine Gresham. The defense is still coming together which will naturally take time considering there are two new starting safeties, but as with the offensive line this is last year’s problem and one the team must iron out by the start of the season.
The 45 yard catch by Marvin Jones over Isaiah Trufant led to the Bengals only offensive touchdown, but Trufant won’t be in that situation once the season start. Trufant is a special teams gunner and simply doesn’t have the height to cover any receiver down field. The other Bengals touchdown came off of a blocked punt as the Jets were simply trying to milk the clock until halftime. The line got torched on the punt as well with three different Bengals coming close to blocking it, one of them did and the Bengals recovered it in the end zone to take a 10-3 lead at the half.
It wasn’t a pretty showing, it never is when the offense fails to score a touchdown, but that’s what preseason is for. Preseason is designed for coaches to work out the kinks in their roster and make the necessary adjustments. Some of these problems are fixable and as stated above there was a lot to like about the defense, but the problems from last year continue to carry over to this season and it seems obvious Mike Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan have some roster tweaking to do.
Keep a close eye on the waiver wire, Tannenbaum most certainly will.
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