COMMENTARY | It was just two weeks ago when the New York Jets were on their bye week feeling confident about their 5-4 record and chances to make the playoffs. Rex Ryan's club was exceeding expectations and although inconsistent, the Jets controlled their own destiny to play January football. With a weak second half schedule all New York needed was to find some consistency, go 4-3 in their remaining games and likely end up in the playoffs. Oh how things have changed since then.
The Jets now find themselves 5-6 and deep in the pack of AFC teams looking to claim the final playoff spot. Gang green is by no means out of it with five games to play including two against Miami, whom they are battling with in the standings. The concern is the Jets look nothing like the contenders they did after their thrilling Week 9 win over New Orleans. They stifled Drew Brees, forced turnovers without committing them and even scored a couple touchdowns. The last two games, that team is nowhere to be found. The way the Jets look now, how is anyone supposed to think they can go 4-1 in their last five?
Every phase of the game except run defense is one where New York currently struggles. All season, but more recently in Buffalo and again in Baltimore where the Jets' secondary was exploited. The Pro-Bowl Antonio Cromartie is nowhere to be found and 2013 Cro spends his Sundays getting burned for touchdowns.
Calling Dee Milliner a top ten pick would be asinine at this point. It goes to show you the jump from Alabama, where Milliner was one of the top cornerbacks in the country. At the NFL level, Dee looks lost. Maybe he should consider working out with former Crimson Tide teammate Julio Jones in the offseason because he currently can't stay with anyone, regardless of skill level. The Jets defensive backfield featuring Cromartie, Milliner and Kyle Wilson instills excitement in quarterbacks to throw deep. The New York secondary is a joke and a 35-year old Ed Reed doesn't change that.
The effort from the defensive front deserves praise for bottling up the run and getting to the quarterback, especially with their four man rush since the secondary needs all the help they can get. The last two games the pressure has not been applied to quarterbacks the same way and we saw the Jets pay for it, getting burned deep when E.J. Manuel or Joe Flacco had any time to throw whatsoever.
Over the course of a 16-game season, your defensive line isn't going to sack or hurry quarterbacks the way you would like every game. An elite defense, as Ryan fancies the Jets, would be able to make an adjustment to stop the deep ball. The defensive front has picked up the defense over and over again while the defensive backfield lets the Jets down week in and week out.
On the offensive end, rookie Geno Smith continues to look like one and its getting old for Jet nation. His attitude remains confident and his work ethic diligent, but a time needs to come where the ball stops getting turned over. Smith's league-leading 23 turnovers feels like even more while watching the games. Each of the last two, he's looked like a deer in headlights with no chance of success. He's 17-for-45 his last two games with zero touchdowns and five interceptions-not exactly 'quarterback of the future' numbers. There isn't an excuse for Geno's poor play, he has to get better and do more of the things that made us believe he could start for the Jets beyond this season. The fact of the matter remains, it's not close to entirely his fault.
For the second game in a row, the Jets offensive line did not show up to play in Baltimore. Smith was under duress from the start and it never really ended as the Ravens defensive front dominated Jets blockers. The week before in Buffalo, Geno was hit by Marcell Dareus in the first quarter and was never the same after that. Similarly, he had opposition all over him from the get-go and no weapons to help either.
The offensive weapons the Jets lack are a huge reason why they are so stagnant with the ball. Even though Geno needs to do his part, he needs help and is getting none. Stephen Hill is not a weapon and finding himself on the bench more and more. Jeremy Kerley was a reliable sticks-mover but is currently injured. Santonio Holes isn't injured, but remains a non-factor since returning. Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell have been the stars of the Jets offense; too bad they can't run routes simultaneously. David Nelson and Greg Salas get quality playing time--need we say any more?
The dysfunction of the Jets offense can be explained in one play: Greg Salas moves in motion from right to left with Smith in shotgun-center Nick Mangold snaps the ball off Salas' leg, leading to a fumble recovery and field goal for Baltimore. The Jets offense hasn't snapped, blocked, run, passed or caught well when it matters.
Amazingly, this team is still in the playoff hunt. However, I don't think fans should have the playoffs on their mind one bit. The team we have seen post-bye isn't deserving of it. The things the Jets did right, despite their inconsistency, have vanished. We've waited a couple months to find out who this Jets team really was. We hoped it would be the team that showed up on all those off-numbered weeks. Now, it looks like what we've seen recently might be the real Jets.
If that's the case, you can kiss the playoffs goodbye. There shouldn't be any more mention of January football for the New York Jets. Not until something drastically changes on this team. Not until some of those weaknesses turn to strengths and there's just too much weakness on this football team.Brian Sausa is a freelance writer who contributes pieces on the Jets and Knicks to Yahoo! Sports. Intern in UAlbany Sports Information Dept and previously covered a variety of NY area teams for New York Sports World. Twitter @BrianSausa
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