The New York Jets have to get back to running the football. After suffering their third straight loss, many are now wondering what is wrong with the Jets offence. In a loss versus division rival New England on Sunday, it appeared as though the Jets wide receivers were becoming agitated on the sidelines with the play calling by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
I totally understand why the wideouts are getting frustrated. QB Mark Sanchez failed to complete a pass to a Jets wide receiver in the entire first quarter of the game on Sunday! I think the remedy for the Jets overall ineffectiveness on offence is to get back to being a physical team, and running the football. Leading up to Sunday, the Jets had really been missing C Nick Mangold, the best center in the NFL. Now that he is back in the lineup, it is important that the Jets get back to their identity on offence: being physical and controlling the line of scrimmage. The Jets have to be dominant at the point of attack and force eight or nine defenders close to the line of scrimmage to open up big play opportunities in the passing game downfield.
The Jets have failed to reach 100 rushing yards three times already this season. In head coach Rex Ryan's first two years with the Jets, that has only happened a total of three times! RB Shonn Greene is a physical back that can wear defences down with his running style, and the Jets have to be able to take advantage of that. Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress are big time weapons that can stretch the field vertically, and by establishing the run more consistently, Brian Schottenheimer will create easier looks to throw against.
I understand that in the NFL, you have to be able to drop back without play action and throw the football, but over the last two seasons, the New York Jets have reached the AFC Championship game because of a simple formula: running the football, and playing great defence. The Jets are still doing the latter, but it's time the offence begins to carry its weight, and get back to toting the rock.
Taking the Reigns
It's Tim Tebow time in Denver. In a loss at home against the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos split time at quarterback, allowing both Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow to manage six series apiece, and it was apparent which QB the team responded best to. While Orton only managed to lead the offence to three points while throwing his seventh interception on the season (tied for second most in the AFC), Tebow led the Broncos to their only two offensive touchdowns of the game.
I don't think that Tebow is a better passer than Orton, in fact Brady Quinn is a superior passer than Tebow as well. It's important to note that Tebow's TD pass on Sunday was a screen pass in which RB Knoshon Moreno did all the work. We can all break down Tebow's throwing mechanics until we're blue in the face, but at the end of the day, QB's are evaluated based on wins and losses, and who gives the team it's best chance of winning. For whatever reason, Tebow always seems to provide a spark to his team. I saw it at the end of last season during his three starts. I saw it in the pre-season this year. Tim Tebow is able to bring an energy to the Broncos that Kyle Orton simply cannot. When Tebow scores, the entire offence celebrates with him in the end zone. His physical, throwback style of play seems to energize the defence, and the remainder of the Broncos sidelines. Tebow's scrambling ability keeps plays alive, and his ability to run the football adds another dimension to the Broncos offence.
Through five games, it is becoming evident that Kyle Orton cannot lead this football team to an AFC West championship and a spot in the post-season. Whether it was or wasn't the right decision, Tebow was a first round selection two years ago, and it is time for the Broncos organization to develop and learn about their investment. The only way to do that is to hand the reigns over to Tebow now and see what happens.
Not so Lucky
The season is only five games underway, and already the Andrew Luck watch has begun for the 2012 NFL draft. Both the Indianapolis Colts and the St Louis Rams are sitting at 0-5, and are in the drivers seat for the dubious distinction of possessing the first overall pick in next year's draft. Many draft experts agree that Luck is a lock to be the first pick in next year's draft. In fact, many believe that had the Stanford QB declared last season, he would have been the first overall selection this past year.
Having watched Luck play over the past two seasons, it's very difficult to disagree with that assessment. Luck possesses ideal size, standing 6'4" and weighing 235 lbs. He has a strong arm, is deadly accurate, and has tremendous athletic ability that would make most offensive coordinators drool. Luck's greatest attribute is most likely his intelligence, as he possesses tremendous football IQ. Football appears to be natural to him. In fact, head coach David Shaw has allowed Luck to begin calling his own plays this year during stretches of games! Luck truly is the closest thing in college football to Peyton Manning, which is why Luck is the most pro-ready QB prospect to come out in a very, very long time.
But would either the Colts or the Rams even want Luck? With Peyton Manning recovering from neck surgery, the Colts are unsure whether or not he will ever play
again, however he has just signed a five-year, $90 million extension this past off-season. If he were able to return at the end of this season, or even next year, would the
timing be right to draft Luck if he would be forced to sit on the bench for a couple of years and apprentice under Manning? That ideology worked well for the Green Bay
Packers with Aaron Rogers, but then again he wasn't the first overall pick. Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams just drafted QB Sam Bradford last year with the first overall pick, and
made him the richest NFL rookie ever, inking him to a six-year, $78 million deal. Bradford is playing for his second offensive coordinator in as many seasons, and is lacking
weapons around him on offence.
Have the Rams seen enough of Bradford to know if he is or isn't the long term solution at QB? Keep in mind, Bradford led the Rams to within a game of the NFC West title as a rookie last season, an impressive feat for any rookie QB. The Andrew Luck sweepstakes will be an ongoing discussion as we move through the regular season, leaving a bittersweet taste in the mouth of the winning franchise.
New Life in San Francisco
Don't look now, but the San Francisco 49ers are 4-1, and look to be one of the premier teams in the NFC! It's the 49ers best start since 2002, which happens to be the last
time the 49ers reached the playoffs and had a winning record. The 49ers absolutely dismantled the then-NFC South division-leading Tampa Bay Buccaneers 48-3 on
Sunday, the franchise's largest margin of victory since they beat the L.A. Rams 48-0 back in 1987!
Head coach Jim Harbaugh has had an immediate impact on this football team. One thing Harbaugh always preaches to his teams is to be mentally and physically tough, and this football team has clearly bought in to Harbaugh's message. They have an identity on offence, and RB Frank Gore has now run for 100 yards in back-to-back games. QB Alex Smith finally looks comfortable in a system, after seemingly playing in a new offence each of his first six years. Harbaugh is not asking Smith to throw for 400 yards each week to win games. Instead, Smith is being asked to play smart football, something he did on Sunday by not throwing an interception or taking a sack while passing for 170 yards and three scores. TE Vernon Davis has become the 49ers biggest offensive weapon over the past two seasons, as he has become one of the league's top red zone threats and a perfect compliment to Gore and the running game.
The 49ers have now won back-to-back games versus good competition, having come from behind last week on the road to steal a game in Philadelphia. If it weren't for a gutsy, come-from-behind performance by Tony Romo three weeks ago, the Niners would be a perfect 5-0 today! I already cannot wait until next weekend's matchup with the equally impressive and surprising, and undefeated Detroit Lions on the road. Who would have thought that a marquee matchup inside the NFC would be between the Lions and 49ers this early in the season?
It certainly has been a strange year thus far.