By Kristian Dyer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Not the distraction, not the quarterback controversy but the Jets need Tim Tebow this Sunday.
There are flaws to Tebow’s game, flaws that he readily admits are there and that he is working to address, but to minimize the Jets Wildcat quarterback despite their most glaring of needs is flat-out wrong. The need is painfully obvious. This is a Rex Ryan team which means that they are predicated on the run, an offensive philosophy that their head coach endearingly termed the “Ground and Pound.” But as anyone can see, they’ve been far from that this year.
The Jets have 90 carries through three games, a relatively high number that is the 11th most rushing attempts in the league. But on those carries, they are averaging just 3.3 yards per rush, good enough to be the No. 20 team in the NFL in that category. What this means is that the Jets aren’t very good at running the ball. In fact, one might say they downright stink at it.
And yet Tebow, who leads the Jets in yards per carry, has run the ball just eight times this season.
It is nonsensical then that the Jets are ignoring their best asset and saving him for a later date. That time should be now, this Sunday, against the 49ers. Tebow must play as more than a personal punt protector and a gimmick show of a wide receiver. He must run the Wildcat enough to be effective at it.
One of the best units in the league across nearly all categories last season, the San Francisco defense must be licking its lips ahead of Sunday’s match-up against the Jets. Given the way that Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano have gotten so little out of the Jets in terms of scoring points the past two weeks, there is cause for concern.
Tebow won’t answer all those questions as he won’t address depth issues at wide receiver or fullback and he won’t magically turn starting quarterback Mark Sanchez into a turnover-free machine anytime soon, but he can help the ground game significantly.
In fact over the past two games, Sanchez has a 43 percent completion percentage. That says something considering that last year, Tebow was lambasted for having a season long 46.5 completion percentage.
He shouldn’t start for the Jets – no not yet given that the team is 2-1, but Sanchez needs some help to get this offense moving. And what they’ve done so far this year by putting Tebow in for a play or two and then taking him out not only disrupts the rhythm of Sanchez but that of Tebow. Like Thomas Jones was used in 2009 to soften the opposing defense before the Jets rammed the ball down opposing teams with Shonn Greene in the third and fourth quarter, Tebow can do the same thing for the Jets.
He can plow into defenders, he can make them chase him, he can take the game at them. He can help the Jets win.
After all, Tebow is a pure athlete, a wrecking ball at quarterback who can make would-be tacklers look foolish and is a pain to take down. But Tebow can’t do that riding the bench.
What the offense should look like this week against the 49ers can’t be answered by anyone but the Jets coaching staff, but what is painfully clear is that it can’t look like it has the past two weeks. Anemic showings against Pittsburgh and sloppy play in the overtime win at Miami won’t cut it against San Francisco. The margin of error is next to nil with the team’s best player, cornerback Darrelle Revis, likely out for the season with an ACL tear.
Tebow can run the ball and help the Jets get more time of possession. It would be a circus not to use him more.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer
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