Published November 02, 2012
Even before Superstorm Sandy hit the New York-New Jersey area, coach Rex Ryan gave the Jets the week off. They need to come back with renewed purpose, because their season has been spiraling out of control.
New York has lost four of its last five, including embarrassing home routs at the hands of the 49ers and archrival Dolphins. The mistake-prone offense has stagnated, ranking 29th overall, and the defense has been even more of a flop. Usually, Ryan's defensive units are stingy, sure-tackling and innovative. So far, particularly against the run, they have been sloppy, mistake-prone and even passive.
And even the special teams, normally a strength, fell apart against Miami, with a blocked punt for a touchdown, a blocked field goal attempt and the Dolphins recovering an onside kick.
So while Ryan expects his players to be frustrated and even angry over their 3-5 record, he also wants them to be focused on creating a different scenario in the second half of the season.
"Obviously, I want them to get away," Ryan said. "When they come back, we have to be all in. The only chance we have is when we're 100 percent all in and let's put it all out there. We have no wiggle room. We need to start playing a ton better, and obviously our players know that.
"That's the only thing we can hang our hat on. We have to play better before we can forget about anything. We need to obviously step our game up, without question. I want them to get away and be ready to come back with that mentality."
Meanwhile, Ryan, offensive coordinator Tony Sparano — who after only eight games on the job already is under fire for his personal groupings, play calling and use (or non-use) of Tim Tebow — defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and special teams coach Mike Westhoff have all kinds of problems to solve.
New York's "Ground and Pound" attack has ground to a halt and been pounded by opponents for much of the season. The Jets rank 16th in yards rushing, hardly where they need to be for a run-oriented offense to succeed. Shonn Greene is averaging only 3.7 yards a carry, a full yard or more below acceptable.
Because teams know they can stymie the Jets on the ground, they challenge New York to pass. That's been a travesty much of the time.
Mark Sanchez, whose progression was solid through his first two pro seasons, when the Jets lost in the AFC title game both years, continues to regress. His decision making remains suspect, although his receiving corps, aside from oft-injured tight end Dustin Keller, is either green (rookie Stephen Hill, second-year man Jeremy Kerley, unproven Chaz Schilens) or damaged (Santonio Holmes, out for the year with a left foot injury).
Sanchez is fourth from the bottom in league passer rankings (72.8), with his 52.9 completion percentage easily the NFL's worst. He isn't getting much protection from an offensive line that also has regressed over the past two seasons, and at times is too easy a target for oncoming pass rushers.
But he figures to remain the starting quarterback because backup Tebow barely has any role, and even with Sanchez struggling the Jets seem loathe to turn to Tebow for anything more than gimmick plays.
"I think we're going to take a hard look at how we're using him," Ryan said of Tebow, who has rushed 23 times, thrown three passes and been a regular only as a punt protector. "Of what we're asking him to do, are there other things we can do with him?"
One thing they won't do with Tebow yet is have him supplant Sanchez.
"I think, right now I'm extremely confident that ... if it was one guy I think that's easy to say, we'd make that change," Ryan said. "But I think Mark gives us the best chance to win. That's how I feel. Can Tim be successful? Yeah, absolutely, and we need to look at that as well. In my opinion, Mark as the starting quarterback gives my football team the best chance to win."
But only with more support. A lot more support.
And the defense, Ryan's pride and joy, has been a sieve at times. Yes, the Jets' best player, star cornerback Darrelle Revis, is gone with a torn knee ligament, and there have been other troubling injuries. But to see submissiveness from a Ryan D is stunning, and that's what has happened several times in 2012.
The team has only 12 sacks, ranks 29th against the run, allowing 141 yards a game, and is vulnerable in the red zone.
"We need to look at things and that's it," Ryan said. "Is it little changes? Is it radical changes? I'm up for any suggestion. We have to get better. We know that."
They also know the kick teams must improve. For years under Westhoff, the Jets have excelled in that area. But the Dolphins showed that New York's special teams are anything but special right now.
"That's one of the things that is really odd, because I know the pride we take in that unit," Ryan said. "You make a mistake on special teams and it ends up costing you."
One question raised consistently during the week has been if such mediocrity through the rest of the schedule will cost Ryan or general manager Mike Tannebaum their jobs. Ryan will instead concentrate on trips to Seattle and then St. Louis over the next two weeks following the bye.
"It gives the coaches more time to say, 'OK, this is where we're at, this is how we can improve,'" Ryan said of a bye smack in the middle of the season, "and formulate a plan and attack. I think that's what we're planning on doing."
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