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Sparano Calls Jets’ Performance ‘Vanilla’

Jets' Blockers Must Get Tough
(credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

(credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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CORTLAND, N.Y. (WFAN/AP) — Whether it was Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow at quarterback, it didn’t matter much. The New York Jets’ offense showed it still has plenty of work to do under new coordinator Tony Sparano.

‘Gang Green’ had a lackluster performance in a 17-6 preseason-opening loss at Cincinnati on Friday night, but it was merely a dress rehearsal for an offense learning a new coach’s system and tendencies.

“It wasn’t really about execution or any of those things,” Sparano said. “Guys at times executed pretty well, but we really didn’t scheme one second for that team and played as vanilla as we can play.”

In other words, there were no flashy plays — and certainly no wildcat packages with Tebow, as coach Rex Ryan has repeatedly promised will be part of the Jets’ offense this season.

For now, the Jets seems to be keeping the wildcat under wraps.

Sanchez went 4 of 6 for 21 yards in the first quarter for the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32), while Tebow played the second quarter and most of the third while going 4 of 8 for 27 yards with one interception against the Bengals (No. 14). The dynamic backup quarterback had the most exciting moments on offense, running three times for 34 yards while avoiding sacks.

“Offensively, we have to find a way to protect the quarterback,” Ryan said. “With that being said, Cincinnati dialed up a pretty good blitz — that I’ll steal from them. It was a good blitz and one that we really haven’t worked on, so you have to give them a check mark for that. I will say this, and it’s very encouraging, we had very few mental mistakes on both sides of the ball, but we had some technique mistakes.”

Sparano said the Jets need to get better, in particular, at finishing blocks and in their discipline on running routes. But neither coach appeared too concerned about any of that this early in the preseason.

“There were a lot of good things on that tape,” Ryan said. “There were some other things that, obviously, weren’t so good on that film, but you learn from it.”

Speaking of teaching tools, Sanchez wore a play-calling wristband during the game at Cincinnati despite initially not wanting to use it.

“I didn’t want to start with the binky,” Sparano said, smiling. “I kind of wanted to start with the verbiage and just keep throwing it at him and letting him handle it that way. Well, he kind of likes that. The words are coming out of his mouth so much easier. I could start a sentence and then all of a sudden he can finish it. That’s good. We’re making progress there.”

Sanchez has an excellent working knowledge of Sparano’s offense already, but the wristband helps expedite the play calls coming in to Sanchez and the rest of the offense.

“Some people like to have the play the way I’m giving it to them in practice,” Sparano said. “Because when you get it that way, instead of getting a number, you get the play in and it starts to draw a picture before you enter a huddle.”

The offensive coordinator is uncertain if Sanchez will wear the wristband during the regular season, but will leave that up to the quarterback.

“I would do whatever he feels comfortable with,” Sparano said.

As for the wildcat offense, some believe it is on its way out in the NFL after peaking when Sparano was running it in Miami a few years ago with the Dolphins.

Not so, says Ryan.

“The wildcat is tough to defend,” Ryan said. “Are we going to do it? Of course, at some point we’re going to do it. Again, some people think the wildcat has come and gone. No, it hasn’t. If anything, it’s just the opposite.”

In fact, Ryan said, he took a long look at former Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick before the draft last year as a possible wildcat-type replacement for Brad Smith because of his outstanding speed. Kaepernick, a second-round pick of San Francisco, zipped past Minnesota for a 78-yard touchdown Friday night.

“You’re seeing these guys and it’s hard to defend some of that stuff,” Ryan said. “When you have the ability to throw, as well as run, it makes it tough.”

Which is exactly what made Tebow so enticing to the Jets, who saw up close what the elusive quarterback’s legs can do to a defense. And Ryan has made it clear opponents are going to need to defend against it.

The tight-lipped Sparano refuses to show his cards when it comes to the Jets’ plan to use the wildcat against the Giants on Saturday night.

“I’m a quiet guy,” Sparano said. “Rex is the boss. He can put it out there. I think it’s common knowledge that we might do something like that. I’m more concerned about letting them worry about it than giving them the answers to the test. With the guy we have, obviously, it’s going to be out there that we’re going to do something like that.

“The how is the question.”

The Jets allowed five sacks to the Bengals, leading some to wonder whether the offensive line might be too leaky for Sanchez to succeed. With Tebow’s scrambling ability, he might be an ideal option in third-down situations in tight games.

“We’re open to anything,” Ryan said.

But Sparano refused to acknowledge, at this point, that that is something they would even consider.

“Mark Sanchez scrambled for a first down the other day, too, which I was really impressed with,” Sparano said. “Mark is a good athlete, and he is our quarterback. I thought he has been playing really well for us, and I don’t see that kind of scenario at all out there.”

NOTES: WR Jeremy Kerley fielded punts for the first time during training camp after being sidelined with a hamstring that he revealed Sunday to be “a slight tear.” He said he is steadily improving, and hopes to return to full practice soon. “If it was up to me, I’d try to step out there tomorrow. That’s just me being tough, but I can’t have this lingering on any more than what it needs to be.” … RB/KR Joe McKnight limped off the field late in practice after a run. There was no immediate word on his injury.

Do the Jets need to toughen-up?  Let’s hear your thoughts, Gang Green Nation…