By Jeff Capellini, CBSNewYork.com
NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Though it’s true the Jets pulled off an enormous win in Miami on Sunday night and on many levels deserve to feel the love they are getting right now, they shouldn’t read too much into their record or standing atop the AFC East.
They have many problems and none of them have the least bit to do with Mark Sanchez, the biggest question mark of all coming into the season.
A lot of people woke up Monday and were greeted with stories of praise following the team’s 31-23 victory. Writers and bloggers alike gushed about how the Jets gutted out a game that past teams would have easily lost. So, yes, it’s really hard to go overboard with the criticism after the Jets beat a hated divisional rival on the road, without their best defensive player, and missing other key components on both sides of the football.
But that doesn’t mean the Jets are better than they really are. They have a ton of work to do if they are to become the team that many think can win a Super Bowl.
The biggest problem with Sunday night’s effort was more about coaching than anything else.
Rex Ryan needs to make up his mind when it comes to his defensive philosophy because his secondary is taking a beating, and that includes the game and a half in which all-world defensive back Darrelle Revis played before suffering a hamstring injury.
Are the Jets going to consistently bring the house or are they going to play a sort of high-pressure prevent? I ask because all too often on Sunday night Dolphins quarterback Chad Henne, a decent player but nothing more, was allowed to perform like a superstar. He did the same thing last year in guiding his team to a season sweep. On Sunday night the Jets didn’t get in his face much and their vaunted defense really needed to be bailed out by Sanchez and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, of all people.
It didn’t seem like defensive coordinator Mike Pettine made any adjustments at halftime as evidenced by the fact that the Dolphins took the second-half kick-off and used half the quarter to go down the field. Brandon Marshall’s short TD reception completed Miami’s comeback from 14 points down and had many in Jets Nation feeling a sense of deja vu.
The scary part, to me, was the Jets giving up 436 yards of total offense to an opponent that, let’s face it, probably is not going too break many scoreboards this season. Henne completed 26 passes for 363 yards and a pair of scores before the final play of the final drive. On one hand credit should be given to the Dolphins for figuring out a way to slow down the Jets’ overload blitz packages, but on the other Pettine should be criticized for playing it way too safe, not calling for anywhere near as much pressure as he did in the second half of the Week 2 win over New England, against Tom Brady no less.
Also disheartening was how the Jets punched the ball into the end zone just after the 2-minute warning only to then allow the Dolphins to move the ball down the field with ease, setting the stage for the frantic final minute.
The Jets’ secondary looked lost all game long. How many times was Brian Hartline wide open? How often did we see Davone Bess sneak between the coverage?
Far too many times against what is supposed to be a championship-caliber defense.
Now I realize Kyle Wilson is a rookie who has been thrown into a pressure cooker. But, fair or not, the first-round pick out of Boise State has to be a big part of this defense if the Jets are going to be all they can be. So far he’s looked lost. I’m not saying he doesn’t understand all the coverages. In reality, who could blame him for struggling with a system this complex? But to not look back at the football over and over and over again screams of the confusion that must be going on in his head.
And it’s not like he can be replaced. The Jets really have no one else anyone can trust. Ryan and Pettine have made their bed with this kid. But if he’s going to be out there against receivers that can do damage, the coaches have to at least create an illusion that he knows what he’s doing.
Antonio Cromartie had a nightmarish time covering Marshall. As talented as Cromartie is he was repeatedly taken to school by the bigger and more athletic Dolphins wideout. Part of that can be attributed to the Jets not getting in Henne’s face nearly enough, but the bottom line is Marshall pretty much owned Cromartie off the line. Watching that matchup closely all night I developed a greater understanding for just how difficult it is to play defensive back in the NFL, especially when a player is getting burned by one of the best receivers going. Marshall finished with 10 receptions for 166 yards and probably should have done more.
I’m not naive enough to think that Revis’ impending return won’t make the responsibilities of Wilson and Cromartie that much easier. I suspect a healthy Revis will feed Marshall his lunch when the teams meet again in December. But in the interim the guys that are actually on the field have to make plays and the men calling the plays have to make adjustments when things aren’t working.
The Jets seem to be struggling in both departments right now.
The other thing that is driving me and many like me crazy is this glaring lack of discipline on both sides of the ball. Penalties.
The Jets have been flagged an amazing 29 times for 264 yards in three games, with 11 of those calls resulting in first downs defensively and an unknown number of false start or holding penalties doing a number on an offense that already seems to be off the field more than on it. To put the yellow flags in perspective, last season the Jets were penalized just 88 times, or 5.5 per game. This season there seems to be a flag on every other play.
Ryan wants the Jets to be intimidating on defense and that’s fine, but in doing so the players are making life much more difficult than it needs to be. Penalties played a huge roll in the season-opening 10-9 loss to Baltimore because they often kept the Ravens’ offense on the field. And the glaring lack of focus is not just reserved for the defense. There were countless times on Sunday night when the Jets were in the red zone and were hampered by false start and holding calls. In the case of the former, of course crowd noise played a role in anticipating the snap count, but it just felt like many of the Jets were lacking in concentration.
And that’s all on Ryan.
So while it’s encouraging that despite all their problems the Jets are 2-0 in the AFC East and lead the division, they still have many areas that need work. The impending return of Calvin Pace will only help the pass rush and when Revis gets back the secondary should be less of a work in progress. However, that doesn’t mean the Jets will suddenly begin using their brains out on the field, on headsets or up in the booth.
They really need to start thinking out there because they are not talented enough to win on talent alone.