This was supposed to be a Jets offense predicated on the run. Instead, there have been more passing plays (231) then rushing attempts (177) through the season’s first seven games and it wasn’t until Shonn Greene rushed for 112 yards last week against San Diego that the backfield has looked promising.
But it isn’t as if the play of quarterback Mark Sanchez has been much better. He has a 55.8 percent completion percentage, just a percentage point better than last year. His 12 touchdowns and six interceptions are promising, but he still remains a one-read quarterback and the offense has struggled mightily on third down this year. Part of the problem is big drops from tight end Dustin Keller and erratic play from Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress. There have been flashes of the offense coming to life, including solid play in New England and the second half of the comeback over San Diego, but it has been erratic at best. The offense needs to get moving downhill and controlling the clock, something they have failed to do this season. Not every drive has to be a scoring drive, sometimes just moving the ball for a first down or two is enough to switch field position.
Ranked eighth in the league, the defense has been one of the more consistent parts of this football team. They have been keyed by a strong opening seven games by Darrelle Revis and his team leading four interceptions.
The revamped defensive line has been rather rudimentary, though perhaps slightly deeper and better than last year’s unit with the underappreciated Mike DeVito registering 19 tackles and a sack. Calvin Pace, with 33 tackles, has bounced back after a quiet 2010 season and David Harris has been his usual solid self. But up and down performances from cornerback Antonio Cromartie and issues with penalties at bad times — the Jets have been flagged 46 times this season — have led to struggles in losses in Oakland and Baltimore.
The past three weeks, however, have shown that the Jets defense can create turnovers and keep the sporadic offense in games. It looks like given the play of the offense, it will be the defense that must carry this team.
After becoming a cringe factor for Jets fans last year, Nick Folk has rebounded this year, making all 10 of his field goal attempts. He’s been solid in clutch situations, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter in the Week 1 win over Dallas. Punter T.J. Conley, brought in this offseason to replace Steve Weatherford, has been OK so far. He is consistently getting good distance, but struggles to land kicks inside the 20-yard line. Returners Joe McKnight and Jeremy Kerley are showing big play ability, a boon to special teams coach Mike Westhoff.
While the “Occupy Florham Park” movement has quieted down, there is still an air of discontent surrounding the job performance of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. But since Week 5, the offense has looked better and sharper, perhaps a sign that Schottenheimer is learning how to best utilize Burress and the still in flux running game.
It is hard to fault the work done by defensive coordinator Mike Pettine or Ryan as the defense remains the strength of this team. The play-calling and blitzing has been a pleasant surprise. And Westhoff should be commended for yet another strong showing by the special teams, which remain among the best in the league year after year.
Follow Jets beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer.