Anyone who thought the Jets offense was struggling this summer simply because it was preseason was sorely mistaken.
The incredibly frustrating 10-9 loss to the Ravens on Monday night can be attributed directly to an offense that looks miles away from being able to compete at a level that would bring the Jets the Super Bowl ring they've been talking about. While we acknowledge that there's still a lot of football to be played, it seems like a stretch to even talk about a playoff spot until you see something that comes closer to competence when the Jets have the ball in their possession.
The numbers are brutal. Six first downs, 1-for-11 on third down conversions and 176 total yards on 44 plays. Mark Sanchez looked nothing like the quarterback who seemed to grow up during the playoff run. He looked more like a scared child, settling time and time again for checkdowns instead of throwing the ball down the field to his receivers. The Jets' playcalling may have been partially to blame, but the absence of risk isn't doing anyone any favors offensively. The other playoff hero, Shonn Greene, also failed to show up on Monday and it looks like signing LaDainian Tomlinson was a stroke of genius. Greene fumbled twice, dropped a pass and generally played like he didn't belong at this level.
That ineptitude meant that four Jets drives starting inside Ravens territory yielded only three field goals. Good teams don't waste opportunities like that and they don't waste strong efforts from a defense like the one the Jets put forth. Shaun Ellis forced a fumble with a hellacious hit on Joe Flacco on the first Ravens offensive snap, giving the Jets the ball on the Ravens 11, and two other turnovers set the Jets up in advantageous situations. Jim Leonhard busted a couple of good punt returns as well, but the Jets just allowed every chance to die on the vine.
And yet, the Jets still could have won the game if not for a ton of penalties on both sides of the ball. Kyle Wilson, who had a rough debut, and Antonio Cromartie each picked up penalties on the drive that resulted in the game's lone touchdown. Braylon Edwards was called for an illegal shift to negate the biggest offensive play of the game, a 33-yard pass to Dustin Keller, and the team racked up 14 flags for 125 yards overall.
That kind of sloppiness will raise questions about whether or not the Jets spent enough time on the right kinds of things this offseason, but those concerns pale in comparison to the ones about the Jets' offense. Is the problem Sanchez? Is it a game plan that called as many passes as runs? A combination?
Answers have to come and they have to come soon for a team that failed to cash the checks Rex Ryan has been writing since February.