COMMENTARY | Two of the New York Jets' biggest questions heading into 2013 were whether the running backs and offensive line could improve.
After one week, they're THE biggest questions facing this team.
After watching the Jets running backs go for a mere 44 yards on 22 carries and seeing Tampa Bay defenders occupy the Jets' backfield a substantial part of Sunday, one thing is clear: these two units - the running backs and the offensive line - will make-or-break the New York Jets 2013 season.
Neither Bilal Powell or Chris Ivory could find a hole, in part because of Tampa Bay's phenomenal run defense (#1 in the NFL last season). But good running backs find a way. They make defenders miss, they zig and they zag. Powell and Ivory were barely puttering along.
And then there was that offensive offensive line. Of the 22 running back carries against Tampa Bay, five went for negative yardage. That's an indictment on the line as much as it is on the backs. They simply didn't push the Tampa Bay defensive line out of the way.
Not only could they not open holes for their running backs, but they couldn't protect their quarterback. Rookie Geno Smith was sacked five times by Tampa Bay and hit another nine times. Only Cleveland and Jacksonville gave up more sacks in Week 1.
Geno's scrambling ability (six carries for 47 yards - incidentally, the team's leading rusher) is the only thing that saved the Jets from giving up a double-digit sack total. This shouldn't happen to this Jets unit, the fifth-most experienced offensive line in the NFL with 300-plus career starts.
The New York Jets won last weekend based on the performances of their passing game and their defense, which looked downright nasty at times and held the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to 12 first downs (and none by penalty, which is a huge plus). Smith surpassed most everyone's expectations after overcoming an extremely slow start and two costly turnovers. The wide receivers stepped up and made big catches - headlined by tight end Kellen Winslow, who looks rejuvenated in this West Coast Offense.
But let's face it: Not every week will be like this. Geno will have his rookie moments (like he did the entire second quarter against Tampa Bay). The defense will give up big plays from time to time. Passes are going to get dropped.
That's why stability in the running game and on the offensive line is key. Solid performances by these two units throughout the season will make up for the dips that are likely to come. Otherwise, it's going to be a long season in the Big Apple.
James Moffat (@JetsWriter on Twitter) has 10-plus years of journalism expertise, writing for daily print and online publications. Check out his other work on the New York Jets here, or check out his recent work regarding the Jets:
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