You can’t blame Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and his dwindling corps of receivers if they feel besieged right now. As Sanchez’s completion percentage has fallen to an NFL-low 49.2 percent, pressure has mounted in concert.
With starting wide receiver Santonio Holmes out for the season with a foot injury and starting wideout Stephen Hill and tight end Dustin Keller both unable to practice Friday because of lingering hamstring injuries, few are giving the Jets much of a chance against 4-0 Houston Monday night at MetLife Stadium.
But offensive coordinator Tony Sparano said on Friday that he’s encouraged by what he’s seen in practice this week from Sanchez and the backup receivers who will serve as his weapons Monday night. He expressed his confidence in what wide receivers Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens can do with the opportunity they’re going to get.
“You don’t come into this league and play the way Chaz Schilens has played or the way that Kerley has played by mistake,” Sparano said. “They’re good players. They’re just getting different opportunities now. I think that’s part of this game.”
Sparano said a number of factors have contributed to Sanchez’s low completion percentage, including the fact the Jets have had to take more low-percentage shots down the field to generate big plays. “Mark is making good decisions with the football,” Sparano insisted. “He’s going to the right places with the football.”
Speaking about the injury situation, Sparano said, “When you have new parts, it’s no different than in training camp. I would urge you to go look at the last time that we’ve really had No.84 [Hill], No.81 [Keller], No.11 [Kerley] and No.10 [Holmes] on the field at the same time.”
The answer, of course, is never. But Schilens said, “We have receivers on this team that are good enough.”
Third-stringer Clyde Gates and free-agent Jason Hill, who was added on Wednesday, likely will see playing time. They must help the Jets control the ball for more than the 23:05 they had it in Sunday’s 34-0 loss to San Francisco.
Asked how Sanchez is handling the pressure with some critics calling for the Jets to use backup Tim Tebow more this week, Schilens said, “We’ve even tried to be more detailed this week. Football is a team game, so, I’m just going to try to win this game and take some undue pressure off of Mark.”
If it’s true that you play like you practice, the Jets should be encouraged by how well things went on Friday. “I just caught a few more balls,” Schilens said. “Mark’s helped me out with some communication and specific routes. It’s been good. We had a great day today, so, I expect us to make plays.”