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Jets Offense Needs More Than Hidden Formations

Offensive answers remain shrouded with regular season around the corner

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    The Jets picked the wrong time to start keeping secrets.

    For the Jets, the first rule of the Wildcat offense is that you don't talk about the Wildcat offense.

    That's not because the Jets think there's any strategic edge to be gained by keeping things close to the vest. Anyone who has spent any time following the team recently knows that they have zero interest in keeping anything close to the vest.

    No, the reason for keeping their plans regarding the Wildcat or any other run-heavy set designed to take advantage of the thing Tim Tebow does well is because it is the last way they can possibly keep hope alive in the offense this season. We haven't seen anything like the Wildcat during the touchdown-less preseason, which means the Jets can still try to sell it as something that will make a difference in the way the unit performs.

    Their message is that no one should panic about being the first team in 25 years to go three preseason games without a touchdown because they haven't shown everything in their arsenal just yet. The implication, should you choose to accept it, is that the Jets offense will go from black and white to color when the switch flips to the regular season.

    Unless the message is that the Jets are pulling a big fast one on the entire league by talking about secret packages of plays for Tebow that don't really exist because they want to keep defenses from having an easy time preparing for the Jets. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano dangled that possibility on Tuesday when discussing the reasons for not showing any alternative packages during the preseason.

    "That’s assuming that we’re even doing any of this stuff and when we’re going to do it and how we’re going to do it. Just because we have a player in the building here that has some history running the football, not really in the wildcat by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s exactly what we’re going to do," Sparano said in comments distributed by the team. "All that being said, we know there’s going to be some version of something, I think that’s been said. With that being said, we just had a good discussion about it. We talked about the pros and cons, putting it out there or not putting it out there. If it is something that we’re going to do, should we put it out there? If it’s not, why waste time putting it out there?"

    Sparano might have been going for obfuscation with that confusing ramble, but it doesn't really come off that way. It comes off as the latest example of the Jets trying to trick you into looking over your shoulder instead of staring at the reality in front of you.

    They tried it when they made Brian Schottenheimer the scapegoat for last season and again when they turned Wayne Hunter's status into a daily talking point as if a right tackle, no matter how bad a right tackle, was the one and only thing wrong with the offense. Hunter wasn't the only problem and a secret formation that might not even exist isn't going to fix the very obvious issues facing the team's publicly recognized offensive sets.

    Unless the regular Jets offense -- quarterbacked by Mark Sanchez and run with the kind of straight ahead pounding style the Jets promised until it was clear they couldn't actually play that way, shows up -- does something to make defenses worry, no gimmicky formation is going to do it either. Gimmicks are gimmicks because no team can win using them as their bread and butter, something the Jets either haven't figured out or refuse to admit because it would call every decision they made into question.

    As long as they hold onto notions of saving the season with formations cloaked in darkness, though, they are simply the delaying the inevitable.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.

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