It’s one of the most basic concepts of football: an offense can’t be successful if they are moving backwards. The New York Jets have struggled with this idea, and last season they allowed the 6th most sacks in the NFL. Things have not changed this year, as they have allowed the 5th most sacks in the league (they’re tied with three other teams for that distinction).
When people see a high sack total, they immediately jump to blame the offensive line, thinking that sacks are almost always caused by poor protection. While that is often the case, the cause of sacks for the Jets has been twofold. The line has made some mistakes, but so has the quarterback.
Let’s start with the offensive line. Overall they have been solid, but the left side of the line is becoming a problem. Vladimir Ducasse is simply not cutting it at left guard, and after four years one would think the Jets might be ready to move on. Third round pick Brian Winters is waiting in the wings, and it is time to give him a chance.
Next to Ducasse, D’Brickashaw Ferguson has been good but not great. Ferguson is a three time Pro Bowler, but he has not been quite at that level this year or last year. Ferguson looks more vulnerable to speed rushers than he has in the past, and he needs to return to his previously stellar level.
Football Outsiders ranks the Jets 25th in the league in pass protection, which I personally feel is a bit harsh. There is certainly room for improvement, but they have done a solid job overall this season in my opinion.
The second part of the problem is Geno Smith, who has been struggling with an issue that many rookie quarterbacks struggle with: indecision. A large portion of the Jets’ sacks can be directly attributed to Smith holding onto the ball too long. He is still learning to read defenses and adjust to the speed of the NFL, and this something that happens to young quarterbacks.
That being said, Smith needs to tune the clock in his head and realize that he has three seconds to make up his mind, and after that he needs to run or put the ball in third row. In addition to the sack problem, several of Smith’s interceptions have been caused by waiting to long then forcing the ball into coverage.
Smith will learn these things in time, and he should become more decisive as he continues to get reps and experience. Until that happens, the pressure is on the line to give Smith just a little more time. The Jets need to improve in both of these areas, because their offense is not good enough to consistently get out of third and long situations.
Taking sacks will cripple an offense, and that’s exactly what is happening to the Jets right now.