Don't fret, Jets fans, it's way too soon to start panicking

Mark Sanchez, left, meets teammate Tim Tebow after Mark Sanchez, left, meets teammate Tim Tebow after Sanchez threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. (Aug. 18, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Bob Glauber Newsday columnist Bob Glauber

Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets and ...

The NFL preseason is usually a time of high hopes and great anticipation, with the run-up to the regular season filled with optimism for what lies ahead.

For Jets fans, though, the guess here is that hope and optimism might not be two words to best describe their emotions after back-to-back bad losses to start the preseason.

In keeping with the "Snoopy Bowl" at MetLife Stadium, the more appropriate phrase might be, "Good grief!"

The Jets are the only NFL team without a single touchdown this preseason, and doubts about whether Mark Sanchez can lead Tony Sparano's new offense continue to reverberate. Of even more concern is the leaky offensive line, particularly right tackle Wayne Hunter, who was repeatedly overpowered by Jason Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck in Saturday night's loss.

But for those who are ready to pronounce an end to the season before it even begins, take heart. Though it's fine to worry about all the problems that face the Jets -- and yes, they are legitimate issues that must be addressed -- giving up three weeks before the first regular-season game is a bit harsh, no?

Preseason evaluations are notoriously dangerous in the NFL, and extrapolating results from what happens in August into the regular season can be wildly inaccurate. Last year, for instance, the Jets beat the Giants, in their annual preseason game, and Eli Manning threw two interceptions. That didn't do much to assuage Giants fans about Manning, who had thrown a career-high 25 picks the year before. It also didn't help that Manning had pronounced himself an elite quarterback in a radio interview a few weeks before.

P.S.: Manning is the reigning Super Bowl MVP.

Or how about the greatest example we've ever seen about preseason results being a poor indicator: In 1992, Jets quarterback Browning Nagle went 5-0 in the preseason, creating massive expectations for the regular season. The result: The Jets went 4-12, and Nagle never started another game for the Jets.

That's not saying the Jets don't have legitimate problems. They do. They need to address the right tackle position almost immediately. They have to hope that wide receivers Santonio Holmes (ribs), Chaz Schilens (ankle) and Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) are back for the opener. They need cornerback Kyle Wilson to emerge. Sanchez needs to step up his game. Tim Tebow needs to provide that special element to the ground attack from his spot in the Wildcat.

Like every single team in the league, the Jets have issues. More than some, less than others, but issues nonetheless.

But simply assuming they're doomed to fail because of the tiny sample size we've seen from the preseason is silly. After all, how many times has Sanchez struggled early in games, only to find the spark in the second half and lead a rally, as shown by his 10 career fourth-quarter comeback or overtime wins? Yes, he has looked shaky and the pick-six he threw Saturday night was a poor throw, no question.

But preseason games don't allow for quarterbacks -- or any other players, for that matter -- to get smacked around early on and then show their fight for a full four quarters. There are no game-plan specific plays in the preseason. The defense is vanilla. The Jets haven't shown a single thing with the Wildcat. And there are very few double-teams in blocking schemes, something Hunter could have used.

There wasn't much to like about the Jets on Saturday night, and they'll be the first to tell you they're not where they need to be. But they'll also tell you -- rightly so -- that it is way too soon to panic.

"Clearly, we have to get more production in the regular season than we've gotten in these two preseason games," coach Rex Ryan said. "But I'm 100 percent sure that when we kick it off for real, we'll have more production . . . I know how hard we work and I know how dedicated this team is to improving. That's what I'm betting on and that's what I believe will happen."

Sanchez remains confident, too. Asked after Saturday's game if he has a message to fans who might be starting to panic, Sanchez laughed and said: "It's awfully early. Hang in there. It's a long year."

It may well turn out to be a long year for the Jets. But how about taking a deep breath and waiting a little while longer before making any definitive judgments. How about waiting until the games actually count.

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