Remember that season when Mark Sanchez‘s Total Quarterback Rating exceeded 50? Me neither. For those of you blaming the New York Jets‘ offensive stagnancy over the last two years solely on the poor play of Sanchez, take a step back and assess your logic. While Sanchez has been unreliable as a passer, it’s important to realize that his play over the last two years has not been much different from his play in the two years that the Jets made it to the AFC Championship game. It’s the disappearance of a dominant run game and solid pass protection that has set the Jets offense back most, and the only way to fix that is to bolster the offensive line.
To continue with the Sanchez discussion, he’s actually thrown for more yards and touchdowns combined in the last two seasons than in his first two seasons, while only turning the ball over three more times. His lack of accuracy and football IQ are apparent and by no means am I defending him as a franchise quarterback, but the point is that he’s the same quarterback now as he was when the Jets looked like one of the best teams in the AFC. No better and no worse. The biggest difference is that in those successful two years, the Jets’ running game was virtually unstoppable. Unfortunately, it’s been slowing down ever since. The Jets ranked in the top five in total rushing yards in both 2009 and 2010, but failed to crack the top 10 in 2011 and 2012.
What’s clear is that the Jets’ offense has not dominated the point of attack as of late, and as a result, a mediocre quarterback has been put in a position to look even worse. The Jets need to reestablish their ground-and-pound identity in order to find the same success that they found in 2009 and 2010. To do this, it starts with the offensive line. Only two of the five starters from 2010 remain on the Jets’ offensive line, but they drafted three linemen in April. Luckily, Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson have been consistently excellent through the years, but the Jets should focus on developing their young linemen and returning their offensive front to top shape.
When the line is controlling the point of attack, more options open up for the Jets’ offense. Suddenly, play calling becomes much easier and it becomes less difficult to establish some sort of rhythm. Rex Ryan needs to maintain his commitment to ground and pound for as long as the Jets lack a stellar passing attack, and if the line improves and the offense gains productivity, suddenly Sanchez won’t look quite as bad.