‘From the Pressbox’
By Ernie Palladino
» More Ernie Palladino Columns
Ernie is the author of “Lombardi and Landry.” He’ll be covering football throughout the season.
Gotta hand it to Rex Ryan. He’s ever the optimist.
The Jets coach may be $75,000 lighter in the wallet, thanks to the NFL’s fine for using too colorful a vocabulary while addressing a fan. But ask him about his floundering team’s future, and he’s all rainbows and lollipops.
“We have the kind of team that can get hot and put it together,” he said Monday in prelude to Sunday’s home game against Buffalo.
Well, at least they’ll face Ryan Fitzpatrick, not Tim Tebow. Fitzpatrick probably won’t take off around the edge on a closing-minutes blitz as Tebow did last week. Maybe this week safety Eric Smith will hold that edge just in case.
At least that’s what Ryan hopes.
“I’ll bet on Eric Smith any day of the week,” he said. “I can’t say enough good things about Eric Smith.”
Yeah, except last Thursday. But that’s just a piece of sad history right now. What’s ahead is important, and there are issues that need to be fixed this week if the 5-5 Jets expect to jump back into this wild card race.
He could start with the offense, a unit of which Ryan said, “Sometimes we look like a million dollars, sometimes we look like $75,000, sometimes we look like nothing.”
Through it all, he’s backed Mark Sanchez vociferously, which is what a coach is supposed to do. But he has to do something to make Sanchez look more franchise quarterback than coach killer.
He’s not going to please the Jets fans who are currently calling for offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s head, so we can forget that option. The key to improving Sanchez is for Schottenheimer to change his force-feeding habits and use him less.
With Shonn Greene expected to play Sunday despite bruised ribs that kept him out of practice Monday, and LaDainian Tomlinson expected back after missing last week with a knee injury, the ground game should be set for a solid day against a Bills defensive front that has struggled of late.
Run the ball to keep the pass rush honest — Tony Romo was unmolested Sunday in his 23-of-26 performance in the win against the Bills in Week 10 — and allow Sanchez to throw safer passes. This trend of five touchdowns scored off Sanchez turnovers — three interception returns and two fumble returns — must end now.
It should be obvious by now that Sanchez can’t be trusted yet with an intricate passing game. And 40 attempts, as he had in Denver, is too much for any quarterback not in deep catch-up mode.
So don’t do that.
It wouldn’t hurt to get that offensive front playing a bit more physical, either. Eighty-three yards rushing isn’t going to win anybody too many games. They’re 26th in the league, averaging 96.6 yards per game. It’s time to get back to Ground and Pound seriously — and permanently — if only to keep the mentally delicate Sanchez from imploding emotionally.
There is much work to be done this week. But at least the Jets are getting some players back.
We’ll see soon enough if the work that goes on this week has any beneficiary effect.
For Gang Green’s sake, it had better.
Jets fans: How confident are you against the Bills? Sound off below…