We all have our issues with the Jets’ Sunday stumble in the Black Hole — the run defense, Mark Sanchez’s first-quarter interception, the penalties, the protection …
But let’s put those aside to talk about a perhaps an interesting development for the Jets and that is the passing game. Could it be that the Jets’ offense is evolving from Ground and Pound into Air Rex?
Rex Ryan hinted at that during his remarks Monday at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. In fact, the head coach said something that sounded as if it came out of the mouth of Don Coryell.
“I think as long as you’re able to move the ball effectively, you don’t have to run it or you don’t have to throw it,” he said. “You’d like to be in a situation where, I looked at Baltimore yesterday, they were throwing it all over the place. I think they had 403 yards at halftime — that’s at halftime, by the way. This week, are you going to run it against Haloti Ngata over and over and against Ray Lewis? We’ll probably have to throw it more than we want.”
Now this could all be smoke and mirrors for the Ravens’ benefit. But the numbers, influenced to be sure by the game situations against Dallas and Oakland, are very un-Rex-like.
One measure of that is the Jets’ percentage of pass plays in this young season. Sanchez has dropped back 120 times while the Green & White have run the ball only 73 times. That’s a 62.2 percent passing offense. It’s the most pass-heavy three-game stretch in Ryan’s three-season tenure as coach.
In fact, it goes back even further for Ryan. He hasn’t been affiliated with a team that has thrown that much since he was the defensive coordinator of the 2007 Ravens, who threw the ball 65.6 percent of the time from Weeks 9-11 that year.
Now this approach wouldn’t work well if the quarterback wasn’t up to it. But Sanchez, except for a 16-minute span at Oakland when he suffered four sacks and a busted beak, threw well vs. the Raiders in compiling 369 yards, his most as a pro and the most by a Jets QB since Vinny Testaverde went for 373 in the 2003 home opener against Miami.
His 63.1 percent accuracy is the third-most accurate three-game in-season stretch of his career. And his 90.9 passer rating is the seventh-highest in a three-game span. Or, if you’d like to factor out the playoffs when Sanchez has been at his most accurate, it’s the third-highest three-game regular-season rating of his career.
Let’s go yards. In the first half vs. Oakland, Sanchez threw for 173 yards on 10-for-17 passing. A good chunk came on the 74-yard screen-pass-and-run to LaDainian Tomlinson, but every one of those 74 yards counts. And the 173 net yards is the most by a Jets QB in a first half since the 2006 season, when Chad Pennington cleared that figure three times. The second time was when Chad erupted for 241 yards at Green Bay against Brett Favre before he was a Jet. Two games later Pennington went for 239 in the big win at the Metrodome.
Sanchez has cleared 200 second-half net passing yards before, most recently in the opener against the Cowboys. And his 196 gross yards (including sacks) in the second half made a nice bookend with his first half.
Similarly, Sanchez’s 131 first-quarter yards at Oaktown was the Jets’ most net passing yards in an opening period since Pennington had 151 in the first 15 minutes of that ’06 win over the Packers.
Sure, it’d be great if all the wideouts can get a good piece of the action every game. It’s be even better if Sanchez can go for 369 in a victory. Best of all would be any yardage, a victory and an untouched Sanchez. But as long as he gets protection, he has shown he’s up to flinging it all around the park. If he can keep doing that, it will give the running game time to get its feet underneath it. It will also help the running game do that by making defenses balance themselves up a little more than they have early on.
And last, here’s a note on one of the Jets’ backs who could benefit from this passing game. No, not more trivia on Tomlinson, whose 116 receiving yards and 154 total yards we documented like crazy on Sunday. This note’s for Shonn Greene.
Greene had his best game of the season vs. the Raiders. The rushing numbers (15 carries, 59 yards) don’t show it, but when Greene was running off tackle, away from the big bad Silver & Black front, he was running with authority, as 10 first-half carries for 53 yards would better indicate.
And he had a rare receiving game. Seven times Sanchez threw the ball his way. Seven times he caught the ball. The last time a Jets back went at least 7-for-7, Leon Washington went 8-for-8 at San Francisco in 2008. The last time Greene had at least 47 receiving yards in a game was, well, never. That was his career high for receiving yards.
Added to the rushing total, Greene had a 100-yard game — 106 to be exact. Combined with LT’s 154 yards, that’s some nice production out of the Jets’ 1-2 punch.
There are no guarantees this offense will continue to evolve and grow. But why not? It will be something interesting to watch when the Jets run into their next brawny defensive opponent on Sunday night. As Rex said, the Ravens followed by the Patriots is a stretch that’s “going to challenge us as coaches, challenge us as players. And I believe this team will be up to that challenge.”
Tags: Baltimore Ravens, LaDainian Tomlinson, Mark Sanchez, Oakland Raiders, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene
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