The Jets are a surprising 4-1. Against a difficult early schedule, we were expecting 2-3. Maybe 3-2. Heading into a dangerous spot in Denver – Kyle Orton’s on fire, the Jets secondary continues to struggle, short week, cross-country trip – most “Power Rankings” have the Jets in the Top 5. But for the pessimistic Jets fan who has experienced years of futility – who could forget last year’s midseason collapse? – it isn’t all good.
Good: LaDanian Tomlinson has been unbelievable. Nobody expected anything like this. He’s 5th in the league in rushing (435 yards), third among RBs in yards per carry (5.7), and has clearly become the Jets No. 1 back over fumble-prone Shonne Greene. Of course, being a pessimist, we’d love the Jets to keep Tomlinson fresh for the postseason by limiting his carries. It sure would help if draft pick Joe McKnight could get in the mix, but he can’t get his head out of his ass.
Bad: Jon Gruden called the Jets secondary the “best” in football. That’s a myth. On paper it looks terrific. But through give, it hasn’t been. Last year they were easily the best in the league yardage-wise (153) but this year, due to the Revis injury and starting two new guys (Cromartie and rookie Kyle Wilson), plus the need to blitz so much because the DL can’t pressure the QB (more on that in a second), the Jets are 23rd against the pass (234 ypg). Wilson, the promising talent from Boise, has been getting picked on since the opener. Cromartie has looked good against Randy Moss. Two guys who were embarrassed last year in the AFC tile game, Drew Coleman and Dwight Lowery, have looked better in limited roles (both were very good Monday Night).
Good: Mark Sanchez. Through five weeks last year: Five INTs, two fumbles lost. This year? Zero turnovers. It hasn’t been all good, though – the 2nd year QB is only competing 55 percent of his passes, which is Cassel-like. His 6.1 yards-per-attempt isn’t impressive. But we’ll take that tradeoff all season. And he’s only had one game with his best receiver, Santonio Holmes.
Bad: Defensive line. The Jets have 12 sacks, which is a deceptive total. While that puts them in the Top 10 in the league, the pass rush has been anemic. Three of the sacks came against the pathetic Bills. The lack of pressure on opposing QBs has led to the secondary struggling. Attempting to put a positive spin on this … Calvin Pace, the guy who destroyed Eli Manning in the preseason, returned Monday from injury and had two sacks. And, the Jets have played three playoff teams from last year (Patriots, Ravens, Vikings). But clearly, the DL is the top priority in the 2011 draft.
Good: Braylon Edwards. His impressive start has been overshadowed by the idiotic DUI. He’s not even dropping passes! (Yet?) You know, if he didn’t get that DUI, there would be rumblings about bringing him back next year. He’s got three TD catches but more importantly, he leads the team in 1st down receptions (15). As defenses focus on Dustin Keller, Edwards has had his way with 1-on-1 coverage.
Bad: The red zone offense is downright putrid – against good teams. Against teams that are in the bottom half of the league defensively (Buffalo, Miami, New England), the Jets were fine – 12 trips to the red zone, eight touchdowns, three field goals, one missed field goal. Of those eight scores: five passing TDs by Sanchez, one passing TD by Brad Smith, two TD runs by LT. Now, let’s look at what happens in the red zone against teams in the top half of the league defensively (Minnesota, Baltimore): Six trips, zero touchdowns, six field goals. File this one away for playoff time. In their next eight games, the Jets only play two against teams ranked in the Top 15 in the league defensively (Green Bay, Cleveland).
Good: Brad Smith. If Tomlinson is the team’s MVP so far, Smith might be in the mix with Sanchez for runner-up. He’s excellent on special teams, effective at running the Wildcat (8.3 yards on 10 carries), and has even thrown a TD pass. Every team needs a Brad Smith.
Bad: Penalties. 39? That’s tied for fourth highest in the league. Is it a bit skewed by the 14 in the opener? Sure. But the other two “best” teams in the league (depending which poll you look at) are Pittsburgh and Baltimore, have 22 and 30 penalties, respectively.