Sure, it’s only the preseason. But the Jets are still looking for their first win, they're still looking for their first touchdown, and they're still looking for someone to throw the ball to.
The Jets' anemic offense over the first two games of the preseason, in which they have scored a combined nine points on three field goals and 321 yards of total offense, has some wondering if their lack of production is the result of a team adjusting to a new offense or simply a lack of playmakers.
The Jets are the lone team in the league yet to score a touchdown in the preseason. Already thin at the receiver position, the Jets have been playing without three of their top wideouts in Santonio Holmes, Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens. By default, rookie Stephen Hill and Patrick Turner were the starting wide receivers on Saturday, which left quarterbacks Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow, who were sacked seven times against the Giants and given little time in the pocket as is, few targets down field.
“We definitely have enough playmakers,” Rex Ryan said Monday during his press conference before practice. “Clearly, I’d like to see three of our top receivers back on the field. That would help. Santonio Holmes obviously being the headliner there. But Jeremy Kerley is, I think, an excellent slot receiver. He was an outstanding punt returner last year. I’d like to se him on the field, and Schilens. You’re minus three weapons that probably takes you down a little bit.”
Ryan said that he expects to have the receivers on the practice field doing some individual drills to see how they progress during the week. He thinks two of the three, Holmes and Kerley, will be able to play on Sunday against Jacksonville.
Despite the absence of his top options, Sanchez completed 9 of 11 passes, albeit for just 59 yards. Outside of the interception Sanchez threw to Jayron Hosley - who returned it 77-yards for the touchdown - and the lack of big plays downfield, Ryan said he has been encouraged by the play of his starting quarterback.
“It’s hard to say he’s not throwing the ball with accuracy,” Ryan said. “Clearly, you want to be able to make bigger chunks down field, I think there were a couple of those out there. We left a few out there. Overall, I’ve been happy with the way Mark is throwing the football. On the interception, he slid a little bit to his left, that allowed the guy just enough time to undercut him. If he stays in the pocket, delivers it just a tad quicker, it’s a completion. It’s one of those things where you’re off a little bit, whether it’s in protection, a throw, whatever it is, it ends up being unsuccessful…If we can avoid the one mistake he did make throwing the football, then all of sudden that’s a pretty good night throwing the ball. You’re going to win a lot of games if you’re at that percentage.”
Ryan was questioned about leaving Tebow, who completed 6-of-14 passes for 69 yards, in the game for the entire second half playing alongside second and third stringers. Tebow was sacked four times while backup quarterbacks Greg McElroy and Matt Simms stood on the sidelines ready and able.
“I think you want to get him some reps and some base offenses and that’s what you tried to do,” Ryan said of Tebow. “He’s a guy that you’re going to play with during the season. He’s going to need some reps, playing some base…I think for Tim it’s a brand new offense, he needs to get some work in running this offense.”
Ryan insists that the offense is a work in progress and, although the production isn’t there just yet, it will be when it matters most.
“We don’t need to be at our best right now, we need to be at our best opening day,” Ryan said. “I’m confident that when we get going, we will be. I’ve seen some encouraging signs that we’re heading in the right direction, it might not be obvious to everyone in the public. But again, I’m confident in our offense, I’m confident in our coaching staff, I’m confident in our players. I believe that we’re going to have a very productive offense when it’s all said and done.”
Ryan on open competitions: “We’re committed to putting a good football team on the field. Competition, not just at the right tackle spot, but there’s competition throughout. We got guys, we’re loaded in some spots and the competition has elevated peoples play and I think that’s a great thing. But to sit back and say this guy is definitely the starter, I’m not ready to do that. Maybe with Darrelle Revis or Brandon Moore, Nick Mangold. Is it slam dunk, 100 percent? I like to see guys compete and earn their jobs out there.”
Ryan on his blocking tight ends: “I think we’re getting better. We can still work to get better. You’re taking a guy like Jeff Cumberland, who was a converted receiver in college, making him a tight end. Thing I like about Jeff is he’s tough, he puts his face in and he’s trying to finish better. I think you see him getting better each day. I see Dustin Keller getting better each day. Now Dustin is never going to be considered Mike Ditka as a blocking tight end. Neither is Cumberland or anyone else in the league. But I think we’ll be more than adequate there.”
Ryan on the breakdowns in protection against the Giants: “Well on that first one in particular it’s 3rd-and-3 so you’re thinking the ball is going to get out quick and all that kind of stuff. But [Jason] Pierre Paul got a good jump on us and was able to hit our quarterback. You don’t go in there intentionally saying I’m going to put our quarterback in harms way. But it was a 3rd-and-3, the kid won there. Those things happen.”
Ryan on bringing in another punter to challenge T.J. Conley: “With punters, you compete with everyone on the league, so it’s not just a guy on the street or what have you. I know T.J. has enough ability to be a good punter in this league. He’s just got to get back to being consistent. Last year, I thought he had a decent year. He’s worked hard. There’s times when he looks like Ray Guy out there. We just have to see it consistently.”
Ryan on the Jets inability to convert short yardage situations: “I think you can attribute that to a few things going wrong. First off, you have to give your opponent a lot of credit, they made the plays…We made very few mental mistakes, we had one in one of those situations that cost us clearly on one of those plays. But that’s where I was really disappointed because with our football team, that’s got to be a staple no matter who you are, we need to pick it up. With Tony [Sparano], when he was in Miami, I don’t know what the umber was exactly but he ran that play like 35 times in a row and they converted it. Literally, we would go into the game knowing they were going to run that play but they got it done. I’m confident that we will get it done, whether we run the same play with John Connor again, I’m confident we’ll get it. We just have to fix a few things up.”