The Jets survived a trip to Jacksonville today, barely, defeating the now 2-11 Jaguars by a 17-10 score. This game was anything but comfortable. The Jets went right down to the wire with one of the league's worst teams. They did not leave their fans any more comforted that the ship has been righted. This win looked more like a product of playing a really bad opponent than it looked like this team has fixed what was wrong. A win is a win, though, and the Jets are somehow still alive in the Playoff race. Join me below as we recap what went right and wrong.
Tony Sparano: Sparano takes a lot of heat in this space, and rightly so. His job performance this year has been quite poor. So he deserves credit for what he did today. I really liked his approach. He gave Mark Sanchez as many easy completions and simple reads early in the contest as he could in order to try and get his quarterback going. When that didn't work, he took the ball out of Sanchez's hands and let his offensive line beat up and wear down an inferior opponent. The Jets had greater than a 3-1 run to pass ratio in the second half. It worked, and he stuck with it. Sparano might not be much of an upgrade over Brian Schottenheimer, but he is one for that simple reason. When the run worked for Schottenheimer, he went away from it and went with the pass that didn't work. Sparano was at least smart enough to see what was working and not go with the opposite thing. Since this game was all about the power run game, I would have loved to have seen some Wildcat. Even if Tim Tebow wasn't good to go, Jeremy Kerley could have run it. That was a nitpick, though. For perhaps the one and only time, I give Tony kudos.
Offensive Line: These guys went up against a front seven that is struggling and did exactly what they were supposed to do, dominate. They were busting open huge holes in the second half. Even though the Jaguars knew the Jets were going to run it, they still couldn't stop it. Everything was working up front.
Bilal Powell: Powell made things happen in the run game. He made people miss in space. He ran through arm tackles. He showed adequate burst. It was not spectacular, but he sure looks like he should be getting carries over Shonn Greene. It took the entire year, but the coaching staff finally seems to be catching on. He got 19 carries to Greene's 20 today. Powell picked up 78 yards and scored a touchdown.
Shonn Greene: He looked slow and went down too quickly early in the game and late in the game. There was a stretch in the second half, though, as the offensive line was taking over the game where Greene was reading his blocks, finishing his runs, and winning races to the corner. This was where the game was won so Greene ends up as a positive. He finished with 77 yards on 20 carries with a touchdown.
Jeff Cumberland: For the second straight week, he didn't do much, but the little he did was clutch. His 37 yard reception late in the fourth quarter made a huge difference.
Muhammad Wilkerson: The Jaguars simply could not block him. He only finished with 3 tackles and a sack, but the constant disruptions he caused destroyed plays and set others up. Wilkerson added 3 hits on the quarterback by my count. He just missed on a couple more big plays that would have filled up his stat sheet. His presence was felt.
Quinton Coples: Coples was another guy the Jaguars simply could not block. He registered a sack. I counted 2 other hits and several pressures. He also made Chad Henne panic and toss up his gimme interception to Ellis Lankster at the end of the game when he got pressure. He was responsible for the facemask that extended Jacksonville's touchdown drive, which was incorrectly attributed to Wilkerson, but Coples made his presence felt. I'm going to say it. Whoever is coaching this team next year needs to move to a 4-3 front, stick Coples and Wilkerson in the middle, and let them shoot the gaps and push interior linemen around.
LaRon Landry: This was the guy the Jets thought they were signing. He made plays all over the field. He got into the backfield. He saved big runs by diving in at the last minute. He was very good in coverage. His 10 tackles today made a difference. He wasn't just jumping onto a pile down the field. He was making a difference.
David Harris: 10 tackles and a sack today for the Hitman. He made some other good plays as a blitzer.
Antonio Cromartie: Another day at the office where the other team's top target was held in check. Justin Blackmon had 6 catches for 57 yards. Terrible quarterback play helped, but Cro held up back there.
Garrett McIntyre: He had the hit on Chad Henne that led to the turnover deep in Jets territory early in the game. That proved to be important.
Bart Scott: I thought Scott's play was pretty poor overall. He didn't get off blocks. He wasn't solid making tackles, but he did have the interception. Usually when I see a quarterback get hit and throw a moon ball, the player nearest doesn't have the presence of mind to find the ball and catch it. I give Bart credit for that because if the ball drops, it might be a different game.
Nick Folk: He connected from 44 yards. There's the kicker we know and love.
Mark Sanchez: The benching clearly did not wake him up. Sanchez looked no better than the quarterback he's been all year, averaging under 6 yards per attempt. The late pass to Cumberland was nice, but you can only beat teams like the Jaguars when your quarterback hits one big pass. I didn't see him complete another pass that was anything but a gimme. Tony Sparano gave him some easy throws early. When Sanchez had to step up and make some tough throws into tight windows, he was off the mark. He was so off the mark that the Jets completely took the ball out of his hands in the second half. We also cannot forget Sanchez once again putting the ball on the ground when he was sacked. There is no excuse for that. On the play, he had an outlet receiver open had he gotten it out quickly. D'Brickashaw Ferguson got beaten, but that play did not have to end in the sack. This is not going to be close to good enough the rest of the way if the Jets are going anywhere, and there's not much reason for optimism things will get better.
Jeremy Kerley: When the offense is struggling, ending what looks like a promising drive with a fumble is a killer.
Mardy Gilyard: He had two catches, but one ended in him failing to win a one on one to get to the sticks on a third down and the other had him going out of bounds unforced short of the marker.
Eric Smith: Many fans joked last year the Jets would have been better off playing 10 on 11 than playing 11 on 11 with Smith last year. On Jacksonville's touchdown, that actually might have been the case. Not only did he take himself out of the play, but he also wiped out Yeremiah Bell. Then on the last drive he failed to make a tackle in bounds, which allowed the Jaguars to stop the clock when they were without a timeout.
Ellis Lankster: Anybody could have caught that interception. His failure to break up that fourth down pass could have cost the Jets dearly had Coples not saved the day.
Rex Ryan's Use of Players: We talk frequently about the lack of accountability on this team here on GGN. Rex Ryan's actions today displayed why it is such a common topic. Mark Sanchez has been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league this year. He did everything in his power last week to lose the game. He got his starting job back. The player who won the game was Greg McElroy. He was rewarded with a demotion. He was not activated. What kind of a message does that send? It shows players they can feel safe because performance is not part of the equation in Jets' player evaluation. That is a big problem. When people do not feel their jobs are threatened, they do not work as hard. It isn't always obvious. It might be skipping time in the weight room or cutting training short. These things can have big impacts, however.
Even worse was the nonsensical excuse the Jets gave for not activating McElroy. They claimed Joe McKnight was battling migranes so they had to activate Kahlil Bell. McKnight got no offensive touches. Bell wasn't going to be used as a return man? Why exactly was Bell necessary? And McKnight felt good enough to be active and play? Doesn't that eliminate the need for Bell?
And was Tim Tebow all right to play? We already know the Jets wasted a roster spot on Thansgiving when Tebow couldn't play. If he was good to go, why was there no use of the Wildcat in a game where the Jets were focusing exclusively on the ground game? It looks like the Jets concocted a ridiculous cover story to avoid activating a player who deserved to be active.
- I couldn't help today but think of the days when Jets and Dolphins fans debated whether Chad Henne or Mark Sanchez was better. It's still debatable today, but it is a much sadder debate. Neither has panned out. As we saw today, both freeze in the face of a blitz, neither throws an accurate ball, and reading coverages present the duo great difficulty. I always thought Sanchez was better. After today, I still do, but that isn't saying anything. Henne lost this game with terrible play, but Sanchez sure didn't win it.
Another week, another win over suspect competition. Three more of these and the Jets might somehow make the Playoffs. I guess that is something to celebrate, but it sure looks more like this run is about playing bad teams than it is about the team genuinely getting better.