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Sneak Peak Buffalo’s 2012 Schedule Week 1: New York Jets (Offense)
One of the things I like about this season’s schedule (you know, other than the fact that it’s filled with mediocre teams) is that we get a tough game right away against a divisional opponent that we haven’t beat in 3 years. So if we wind up winning, we won’t have to wait till week 5 or something for validation, it will be verrry satisfying just to make a less rotund Rex Ryan lose his mind, and better yet water the seeds of dissension that already exist in the Jets locker room. This kind of got long, so I decided to break it up into to two parts: we’ll start with the offense and follow that up with defense and kind of a conclusion. Let’s jump right in:
Despite another underwhelming season, Mark Sanchez remains the starter for at least another year, but could face pressure from trade acquisition Tim Tebow. I’m not sure if the Jets got Tebow as a contingency plan or as a weapon suited for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano’s attack, but I can’t think of a better scenario for Jets haters such as us. Hopefully it’s full meltdown mode by midseason.
Speaking of Sparano, his arrival has been heralded by the usual “Things are way more (insert antonym describing last coordinator) now,” quotes from current players. Since the departed Brian Schotenheimer was a players-coach with a dense, byzantine playbook, Sparano is being praised for his emphasis on simplicity, execution, and no nonsense. The funny part of this is that in terms of offensive tactics, both guys have the same rough approach: power running to set up play action. Which leads us too…
Even though meetings in Jersey are run differently, the Jets will likely come at the Bills as they always have, trying to shove it down our throats. First off, you need running backs to do that, and the Jets ground crew is nothing special. Shonn Greene is about as average as starting running back can be in the league, putting up only 1054 yards 6tds on the ground last year, which especially underwhelming considering how much the Jets run the ball.
Behind him is Joe McKnight, for whom, despite physical gifts, mediocrity would be something to aspire to. The Jets also had 2011 draftee Bilal Powell, who didn’t do enough to dissuade the Mike Tannenbaum from drafting Terrence Gannaway in 2012. If the Jets are able to run the ball successfully, one of these guys will have to step up, and it will probably have more to do with their line.
As far as the line goes, Charles Dickens could probably write a killer line to describe. In the middle is the best of lineman, Nick Mangold; who despite missing time last year put up another pro bowl season. And frankly, Mangold being out showed just how valuable was to the Jets, as they averaged just 69 yards on the guard without him, compared to 111 per game with him. As you move away from the center, issues start to mount. Solid Matt Slauson could miss the start of the season at LG while recovering from shoulder surgery. Brandon Moore was great at RG in 2012, but turns 32 in a couple of weeks, so his days of dominance may be numbered.
And at tackle is the worst of linemen, RT Wayne Hunter. Hunter was called by some the worst starting RT in the NFL last year, and his 9.5 sacks allowed don’t do much to dissuade. This is especially tantalizing considering Mario Williams will probably play LE, potentially pitting a top 5 DE against a bottom 5 OT. Making matters worse is they didn’t have anyone to replace him with, ie bust 2nd round pick Vladmir Duccasse, and the only 2012 draft help was 6th rounder Robert Griffin the first. On the other side, D’Brickshaw Ferguson wasn’t bad, but he experienced a slight drop off in play that didn’t justify his huge contract.
Overall, I could see anything from a return to excellence to a complete implosion on this line, depending on how things break for them. However, Sparano’s a line coach so he might be able to turn some unproven young guys into contributors, which he’ll probably need to do if the Jets want to run the ball like they have been able to in the past. At the very least they should be vulnerable on the edges.
Always a position of interest considering Buffalo can never guard it, the Jets are well equipped with Dustin Keller. He led all Jets in receiving last year with 65 receptions, and scored on us twice week 11 last year. Considering the Bills LB corps lacks depth or anyone who has proven they can cover a TE, this could be a huge problem, as always. Behind him is JAG Jeff Cumberland and Australian “rugger” Hayden Smith, who looked good in rookie minicamp, but rookie minicamp.
The WRs are led by Santonio Holmes, which is a huge joke considering I’m having a hard time thinking of a player who’s not only shied away from leadership, but actively been the cause of dissension the way Holmes has. Normally a team would just cut a guy like this, but the bad attitude comes as only one side of the coin. The other half is a phenomenally talented former Super Bowl MVP who can be a nightmare for opposing defenses, when motivated. There’s a reason Unsexy Rexy was fawning over him in camp after the Jets gave a 3rd rounder for him. Holmes success seems to be a function of the team around him, so we’ll get a look at where that heads Week 1.
Joining Holmes will be another minicamp star in Stephen Hill, who possessed enough prodigy type talent for the Jets to select him in the top 50 despite playing for a triple option offense at Georgia Tech. Rookie receivers usually don’t do much, but I’m not thrilled to have this guy in our division down the line. Competing with Hill for the other starting position is Chaz Schillens, a guy who always seemed to possess great talent in Oakland (as all Oakland receivers do) but was never able to stay healthy enough to make good on that.
Finally, Jeremy Kerley is the Jets David Nelson, a guy young guy who came out of nowhere and is effective in the slot (although in size is closer to Wes Welker). He’ll probably step his role up this year.
The Jets are going to go as Sanchez goes, but that’s really not news. Typically, Sanchez has been at his best when they’ve been able to grind away on the ground; it’s when he’s had to make plays that the Jets have gotten into trouble. The one time Buffalo’s been able to beat this team is when Sanchez threw 6 picks, and even than it took overtime. While he’s no longer a rookie, the type of game where Sanchez would have to air it out will probably benefit the Bills.
So the question is than, can the Jets avoid that situation by grinding the ball? From a personnel standpoint, it’s no certainty. The line is aging and lacks fresh talent, and they have no answers at RT. Furthermore, none of the RBs on the roster were particularly scary last year, and the Jets as a whole didn’t run the ball particularly well, averaging 3.8 ypc, which was bottom 5 in the league.
And if the Jets are forced into a situation where they have to start chucking, the results are similarly underwhelming. The Jets were bottom 10 in yards per attempt, completion percentage, and interceptions. Stephen Hill could present problems down the line, but might not be ready. Unless Sanchez takes a big step forward, the offense doesn’t look to be the strength of this team.