With Monday’s news that cornerback Darrelle Revis is likely gone for the season with a torn ACL, the Jets face a fork in the road as his incredible cover skills were easily the best thing going for Rex Ryan’s club. What do they have to win with now?
Right now the jury is still out on a number of players the Jets have acquired recently—meaning they really haven’t produced yet—and the Jets need some production in a bad way. Up first will be Revis’ replacement Kyle Wilson.
Wilson was the team’s first-round pick in 2010 and has been the nickel-corner of late. How good he can be with significant playing time remains to be seen, but if the Jets really thought he was that good they wouldn’t have re-signed Antonio Cromartie to a multi-year deal just before last season.
Either way it’s doubtful his cover skills will allow them to do what Revis did, which was to overload one side of the pass coverage while Revis took the team’s top receiver by himself. The Jets were also able to send multiple blitz packages with little worry knowing Revis was in lock-down mode.
Now they’ll need to rely more on their front four to get to the quarterback—which has yet to prove they can get there. While they’ve invested first-round picks the last two drafts on defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson (2011) and Quinton Coples (2012) neither youngster has yet developed into a pass-rushing force. Wilkerson started every game last season and was certainly effective against the run, but accumulated just three sacks against the pass.
Neither Wilkerson, Coples, defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis, who was also drafted in 2011, or Aaron Maybin has a sack in 2012 to date.
What could make this uncertainty go away would be if Mark Sanchez developed into the quarterback the team envisioned when they traded up to grab him with the fifth overall pick in the 2009 draft. At age 25 now, ‘Sanchize’ has yet to realize his supposed potential, though sometimes that takes time with a young quarterback—just look at fellow New Yorker Eli Manning.
Unfortunately he’s not invoking any confidence lately as he’s had more misses than completions the past two weeks as the Jets were a lucky missed field goal away from dropping both contests. Should he come up short again this week—against San Francisco’s vaunted defense—there certainly will be even more quarterback questions to answer.
While it seems unfair to blame him for this season’s passing woes with Dustin Keller still out and inexperienced rookie Stephen Hill starting at receiver, opposite Santonio Holmes, Sanchez didn’t exactly light up the league in the last three seasons with different conditions.
So if Sanchez isn’t the answer, is Tebow? If you’re looking for a straight pocket passer, probably not, as he proved in the preseason, but he clearly has made his impact running the ball in each of the past two games. And naturally, his last season in Denver showed he has a flair for the dramatic.
Against Miami, the direct snap that went to him on the fake punt resulted in a first down conversion, and jump-started the offense leading to the Jets’ only score of the first half. Against Pittsburgh, the Jets’ offense started fast before completely fizzing out in the second half. Tebow was in for three straight plays in the third quarter, gaining 22 yards on a quarterback keeper, and then handing off to McKnight for 12 more before watching Shonn Greene get taken down for a six-yard loss. Naturally he was taken out immediately afterwards as the Jets settled for a pair of Sanchez incompletions to end the drive.Greene and the running game have yet to get unraveled this season and really never did last season, which is clearly a mystery for a team that has a talented offensive line and a coaching staff that’s publicly stated that they’d rely on the ground-and-pound game.
Problems like these can be masked on winning team—or a .500 team even—but without Revis they don’t look like either. It should be a very telling season for the Jets.