Roderick Boone is a sports reporter covering the New York Jets. He began his Newsday career covering college
There's something not quite right with Mark Sanchez at the moment, and part of the remedy lies in the 300-plus pounders up front and the guys lined up in his backfield.
The second-year signal-caller plays much better when the Jets are running the ball effectively because they can better use his play-action ability, keep defenders guessing a bit and not allow them to simply stack the box. That's why the Jets must get their rushing attack in order - immediately.
The statistics may say they boast the NFL's sixth-ranked run game, one that averages 143.7 yards per contest. Numbers, however, don't always portray things accurately, and that's the case when you examine the way things have gone for the Jets in the rushing department lately.
Look at the rushing totals from their last eight games: 129, 119, 110, 172, 103, 170, 152 and 87 yards. But that 172 came against the Browns, when the Jets played nearly 15 extra minutes and won it in overtime.
Even though that 170 against the Bengals might look nice, 53 of those belonged to Brad Smith on his end-around touchdown run in the Thanksgiving night win. That 152 versus the Patriots? Let's be real here. Statistics from that 45-3 debacle mean nothing. No explanation needed.
In fact, the last time LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene were remotely close to sniffing triple digits was more than two months ago, when Tomlinson ran for 94 yards on 20 carries against the Vikings on Oct. 11. So, what's the deal?
"Every play, there's just something not going right, just poor execution by one guy on every play," left guard Matt Slauson said. "It's a different guy every time. We just need to clean it up. We need to play more consistently on every play."
Slauson, of course, is the new piece on an offensive line that was considered the best in the league last year. Slauson replaced released veteran Alan Faneca. But the rest of the line - left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, center Nick Mangold, right guard Brandon Moore and, up until his right knee locked up on him Sunday, right tackle Damien Woody - remained intact. Even veteran fullback Tony Richardson still is leading the way.
But there's no cohesiveness, no continuity with the Jets' run game. They never seem to be completely in sync for a sustained period of time, and it really hasn't happened since they clobbered Buffalo on Oct. 3, running for 273 yards.
"It's just the one-on-one battles," Moore said, "guys just taking upon ourselves to win your one-on-one matchup. It's as simple as that, not having breakdowns here or there, and it takes all five, six, seven of us with the fullbacks and the tight ends. So that's the biggest thing that we are going to look to improve."
They also need to make sure they actually are setting up each block properly in their zone scheme, and no one is letting a defender come through to blow the play up before it even can get started.
"A guy backdoors a play, you have linebackers running through some things, you've got a lot of those things that we've got to address," Rex Ryan said. "There's no sense in going play-side if this guy is going to run through backside on you and hit you in the backfield for no gain. We have to make sure that we're preventing those run-throughs."
With Woody, who is scheduled to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee today, lost for an indefinite period, the Jets will have a major hiccup to work through, and hope Wayne Hunter can slide in seamlessly.
"It's a huge blow," Moore said. "He's a starter in this league, he's one of the top tackles in this league. Of course, there's going to be a little bit of a drop-off there, but Wayne is very capable of coming in. The only thing we are going to do this week is really exaggerate communication in practice so we don't have any breakdowns during the game."