Now that the preseason has come and gone it is time to look forward to the 2011 season. On offense the New York Jets have the potential to be very dynamic, now it is just a question of whether all of the talent on paper will translate to the field.
Quarterbacks- Entering his third season quarterback Mark Sanchez appears ready to take his game to the next level. Sanchez is surrounded by a solid supporting cast, now the young signal caller needs to become more consistent and improve his completion percentage. If Mark is able to effectively utilize all of his weapons, especially in the red zone, he could have a very productive year. Backing up Sanchez is Mark Brunell, who did not play at all this preseason. I am not exactly sure what Brunell has left in the tank, and if the Jets have to find out they could be in trouble. It would have been nice to see the Jets try to pull a player like Marc Bulger out of retirement to back up Sanchez but apparently they feel comfortable with Brunell. I am not opposed to seeing Gang Green give recently released David Garrard a call. This team is built to win now and I would hate to see it all go to waste if Mark Sanchez gets hurt.
Running backs- The running back position is loaded for the New York Jets as the team has four backs that are very capable of moving the chains. Shonn Greene is the Jets bell cow back and will be backed up by LaDainian Tomlinson who will be used as the third down back. Greene has the size and power to wear down a defense, while LT is excellent in blitz pickup and catching balls out of the backfield. In my opinion if Greene can stay healthy and limit his fumbles, he could be poised for a huge year. Joe McKnight and rookie Bilal Powell could also see time throughout the year as well.
Wide Receivers- The Jets receiver group went through a complete overhaul as Santonio Holmes is the only player returning from last year’s team. Gang Green added Plaxico Burress, Derrick Mason, and Jeremy Kerley to the mix to replace Jerricho Cotchery, Braylon Edwards, and Brad Smith. Santonio provides the Jets with tremendous, explosive playmaking ability, while Burress will provide the team with a huge target in the redzone. Mason is an excellent route runner that should help the Jets consistently move the chains on third down. The biggest challenge for the Jets receiver group will be getting on the same page as quarterback Mark Sanchez. Between the lockout and limited practice time due to the new CBA rules, the passing game could start out slow until Sanchez figures out the receiver’s tendencies and abilities.
Tight end- Dustin Keller returns as the Jets starting tight end and could be in line for a Pro-Bowl caliber season. DK has the size, speed, and quickness to be a match-up nightmare for linebackers and safeties throughout the NFL. Now it is just a matter of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer designing plays to get Keller the ball. If the Jets are able to spread out defenses in their three receiver sets, there is no reason why Dustin cannot eat up yards in the middle of the field. Matthew Mulligan backs up Keller and is a solid blocker that will be used often in the running game. Rounding out the group is Jeff Cumberland who displayed excellent hands and playmaking ability throughout the preseason.
Offensive line- The New York Jets offensive line has to be considered one of the strengths of the team as it features three players that are considered amongst the best in the league at their position (Mangold, Ferguson, Moore). The Jets did make one change on their offensive line and that is at the right tackle position where Wayne Hunter will replace Damien Woody. Hunter filled in admirably last year while Woody was injured and should be able to hold his own when the bullets start flying in 2011. The biggest concern for the Jets line is depth as Robert Turner is out indefinitely due to an injury suffered in the the preseason. The team lists Caleb Schlauderaff, Vlad Ducasse, and Colin Baxter as the reserve players. I would not be surprised to see a veteran added to the mix after week 1.
Offensive coordinator- This is a big year for coordinator Brian Schottenheimer as the Jets offense has the potential to put up some big numbers. Schottenheimer is often criticized for his play calling leaving many to wonder if he truly has a feel for the game and his quarterback.
I would not be surprised to see the Jets come out passing the ball to set up their running game. Gang Green can spread out defenses with their air attack, and then wear them down with the ground game. The offense’s number one goal is to be productive on first and second down, avoiding the repeated third and long situations the offense faced last year. In addition Schottenheimer and Sanchez have to get on the same page early in the game to prevent slow starts for the young quarterback. Far too often Sanchez comes out misfiring in the first half of the game and that trends need to be changed in 2011. In addition Schottenheimer cannot become too enamored with the “wildcat” offense which at times gets out the offense out of sync and leaves the unit in 2nd and 3rd and long situations. It is great to have the element of surprise, but sometimes it is just better to leave the ball in your quarterback’s hands.
Finally the offense has to become more productive in the redzone. Whether that means fade passes to Burress , or box out plays for Keller, the Jets offense has to get 7 points on the board. The redzone is not a time to get cute or conservative, it is an area to expose weaknesses.
Offense- In summary the Jets offense has the potential to do some great things in 2011. The unit’s success will fall on the play calling of Schottenheimer and the performance of Sanchez. If Schotty can identify how to effectively use of all the team’s weapons and Mark can get his completion percentage to over 65 %, the Jets offense will soar in 2011.