EAST RUTHERFORD, N.Y– The Jets offensive struggles continued in the third, and most important pre-season game of the year, as they played host to the Washington Redskins. With 50,508 people in attendance at the New Meadowlands Stadium, the Jets yet again could not find an offensive rhythm. Before Mark Sanchez found Dustin Keller on a 10-yard pass in the end zone early in the fourth quarter, the Jets looked lost as that was their first offensive touchdown in their previous 14 possessions.
The Jets would go on to lose another poor offensive game, 16-11.
But the game wasn’t the biggest thing the Jets lost tonight. OLB/DE Calvin Pace injured his foot in the third quarter. Head coach Rex Ryan offered little insight on the injury, not specifying whether it was a sprain or fracture, but did say that he expects his pass rush specialist to be out at least a “few” weeks.
“It’s a big loss, there’s no doubt,” said Ryan. “But we’re fortunate that we have a lot of depth at that position. Jason [Taylor]’s M.O. is going to change from about 75% of the plays to 100% until Calvin gets back.”
Taylor, a back-up who has been to six Pro Bowls and a Defensive Player of the Year award, is more than ready to step up for his team. “It’s dependent on me now to go out and help this team any way I can.”
Sanchez, who many consider to be the lynchpin for a Jets team that is carrying high championship hopes, seemed content with the dink-and-dunk style of passing, while relying on a heavy dose of the ground game. He routinely settled for the underneath passes, staying away from deeper, riskier passes against a very stout Redskins defensive backfield. Amidst a nine-play drive with the Jets on Washington’s 13-yard line, Sanchez dropped back to pass, looked left before passing right to Keller, and was abruptly picked off at the six-yard line by CB DeAngelo Hall.
“When you miss around the red zone, there’s too many people around so you have to be real accurate,” said Sanchez, who put together a nice second half going 7-for-9 with 64 yards and 1 TD.
He ended his day with a ho-hum 13-for-21 with 139 yards 1 TD, and 1 INT.
Turnovers were the main concern today, with the Jets committing four costly ones. Along with Sanchez’s interception, the Jets had three fumbles lost to a Redskins defense that sent a flurry of pass-rushers to the quarterback. “You’re not going to win too many games by turning the ball over that many times,” said Ryan after the game. “That is the stat that really jumped out to me.”
No matter who is on the field at the skill positions, at the end of the day the ball needs to be put in their hands to make plays happen, and thus far Sanchez has yet to do that with consistency. A big part of his inconsistency has to do with the inability of the offensive line to protect Sanchez. The new $60 million man, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, has been penalized in every pre-season game so far, twice against Washington. Sanchez was sacked three times, while being hit three more times under center.
Veteran lineman Damien Woody offered his take on the line’s struggles. “[Our problem] is definitely the passing game. We have to do better in protection. The passing game is all about timing and protection.”
While the offensive line did struggle with their pass protection, the run blocking was certainly something to brag about. “The holes that we had to run through today were tremendous,” said LaDanian Tomlinson, who enjoyed a great night on the ground. “These guys are as good as I’ve ever been around.”
The lone bright spot all pre-season offensively has been the surprising play of the newly-acquired, so-called “over the hill” running back Tomlinson. Answering questions about the historic post-30 drop-off in running backs, LT has shown that first step burst of speed that made him into the Hall-of-Fame type player he is regarded as. Late in the first quarter, with the Jets pinned at their own seven yard line, Tomlinson broke a 43-yard run to mid-field with the help of a key down field block from FB Tony Richardson along with a key third and nine conversion that led to the Jet’s lone touchdown. He averaged 7.8 yards per carry while gaining 95 yards of total offense on the day.
The Jets defense and special teams continued their strong pre-season play, as they were forced to pick up the slack of the dragging offense. They recorded a safety with 2:45 left in the first half after back-up quarterback Rex Grossman, starting in place of the injured Donovan McNabb (left ankle), fumbled the ball in his own end zone and inadvertently kicked the ball out of bounds. After being forced to punt with ten minutes to play in the half, Steve Weatherford put the ball 39 yards to the Washington 22-yard line. Special teamer, Brad Smith poked the ball loose from KR Brandon Banks and Vernon Gholston was there to fall on the ball.
The defense played a bend-but-don’t-break style, allowing a few plays to slip by them but continued their streak of keeping opposing offenses out of the end zone at seven quarters. The streak stopped at seven after a nifty screen play to RB Larry Johnson for a 15-yard score late in the fourth quarter which secured the win for the Redskins.
The newly-acquired Antonio Cromartie, who has made a big splash for his performance during training camp, was spotlighted tonight being penalized for a couple of key plays. Cromartie, who has assumed the duties as the team’s number one cornerback while the Darrelle Revis contract situation is handled, was called for two defensive pass interference calls, attributing credit to those who’ve called Cromartie’s play inconsistent throughout his career .
As the first half was coming to a close with four seconds left on the clock, the Jets lined up for a 62-yard field goal try and nearly made it with the ball falling a mere few yards from the goal post. He also missed a PAT try in the third quarter. Folk was 1-for-2 on the day, nailing a 45-yard try on the team’s first possession.
Rookie RB Joe McKnight had another up and down night. He had five carries for nine yards and one of those costly four fumbles. However he did scamper 27 yards on a punt return, likely securing a consistent role in that position.
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