By Peter Schwartz
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Faith Hill sings the anthem “I’ve Been Waiting All Day for Sunday Night” at the beginning of NBC’s Sunday Night Football. But the more appropriate title for a song leading into Sunday night’s Jets-Panthers game would be:
“I’ve Been Waiting All Preseason for a Jets Touchdown.”
The Jets have played two preseason games without finding the end zone, making this contest at MetLife Stadium somewhat important for the offense as they try to get things going before the opener on Sept. 9 against the Bills.
Are the Jets lacking confidence as they try to grasp the system of new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano?
“This group isn’t really short on confidence,” said Sparano. “They’re a pretty confident bunch of guys. I would say this: Obviously like anything else, you want touchdowns because you want to see the kids smile. You want to see the smile on their face. You want to see some validation on what it is that we’ve been doing and how hard they’ve been working. I think that’s the most important thing is that these guys work really hard. You want to see us punch the ball in the end zone.”
Throughout the offseason and training camp, the Jets’ offensive plan has been scrutinized. The acquisition of Tim Tebow has caused many members of the media to label the team as a “circus.” So far, the Jets have not done much to negate those thoughts.
Getting an early touchdown Sunday night would probably make everyone on the offensive side of the ball feel a little better.
“We’re called an offense,” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. “We have to be on the offensive, we have to score points. That’s the bottom line. It has to happen.”
So far, the offense has been offensive — in a negative way. Drives have stalled because of penalties. There were two failed short yardage plays during Saturday’s loss to the Giants. The offensive line, which will feature a new starting right tackle in Austin Howard, has not done a good job protecting the quarterbacks.
The first team will get plenty of chances to get things on track Sunday night as they are expected to play into the third quarter. The plan is for Sanchez to play with the starters before Tebow and the backups enter the game.
“I think what we’ll do is we’ll go with Mark, and then when its time, we’ll put in Tebow to close out the game,” said head coach Rex Ryan. “Do I see them out there together? No, I don’t see that happening.”
No surprise there as the Jets aren’t expected to unveil their wildcat formation until the regular season. They have worked on it secretly in practice, and members of media have not been permitted to disclose details. Even though Rex said there won’t be any wildcat snaps during the rest of the preseason, Tebow doesn’t seem to be too concerned.
“It’s ok,” said Tebow. “We’ve ran that play before. It doesn’t matter. Whatever I’m asked to do, I’ll do. I’m fine either way.”
Aside from the wildcat, the Jets have scooped out a pretty vanilla offense during the preseason. There’s not a lot of game planning during the exhibition games, but given that this is the third preseason contest, the Jets just might do a little bit against Cam Newton and the Panthers.
“Well, I think you do a little more each week,” said Ryan. “You put in a little more of your package. I mean obviously I want to see some points on the board, we all want to see that, there’s no doubt, but just trying to get better, working on things whether it’s collectively as a unit, or individually.”
At the end of the day, the Jets need to show some progress offensively on Sunday night. While the defense has been stout, the offense has yet to find the end zone and the special teams needs to be more consistent.
The bottom line is to continue getting better as the regular season approaches.
“Just keep taking steps forward and I think that’s the big thing,” said Ryan. “I think we did that in the game against the Giants. (You’re thinking) how can you say that? We ran the ball pretty effectively at times. We were fairly efficient in some of the runs that we had. I would like to see us protect the quarterback better, run the football, keep running and see if we can’t throw the ball down the field a little more effectively this week.”
There could be some help on the way as injured wide receivers Santonio Holmes (rib/back) and Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) could return Sunday night.
This will be the 2nd pre-season meeting between the Jets and Panthers. Gang Green scored a 9-3 win in Carolina in 2010. The Jets lead the all-time regular season series against the Panthers 3-2.
On Sunday night, the Jets, NFL and USA Football will celebrate Youth Football Appreciation. All kids attending the game are encouraged to wear their youth football jerseys. Teams from Deer Park and Bay Shore on Long Island as well as clubs from Florham Park and Madison in New Jersey will take the MetLife Stadium field at halftime.
Remember to bring tickets and parking passes marked “Game B.”
Parking lots open at 3 p.m. Will-call opens at 5 p.m.
Gates open at 6 p.m. The Jets are encouraging fans to enter the stadium by 7:15 p.m. in order to ensure that you’re in your seats in time for the 8 p.m. kickoff. Player warmups begin at 7 p.m.
The national anthem will be performed by Sal Nastasi.
That’s all for now! Enjoy the game. Check back soon for more.
Will the Jets finally score a touchdown Sunday? Be heard in the comments below!