Chad Pennington took over the Jets starting QB job in 2002, and, barring injury, held that job for the next 6 seasons, starting 61 regular season games and 5 more in the playoffs. For the most part, I felt confident with Pennington under center, however, if you hit Pennington enough, like in the playoff loss to Oakland after the 2002 season, he would develop large red spots on his neck, as if to visually signal that he was being rattled. Once Pennington turned into Blotchy Chad, it was a wrap for the Jets.
Mark Sanchez has adopted the visual tell as well, wearing the hangdog look of the beaten man when things start to go poorly. When Sanchez begins to pout like a child, there is no chance for him to perform well for the rest of the day. Last week against the Ravens, Sanchez made crushing mistake after mistake, committing 4 turnovers, 3 of which were returned for touchdowns in a 34-17 loss to the Ravens. The loss left the Jets at 2-2 at the quarter pole, mediocre in ever possible way, too buoyant of talent to sink, and too devoid of leadership and strength up front to swim.
The hardest part of success in the NFL is figuring out what type of team you have and figuring out which style best fits your personnel. The Jets gambled that the receiving corps they had acquired would be the strength of the team, and that Sanchez would be able to be accurate and wise enough to be efficient. Coupling Sanchez with a dominating defense would lead to success. At least, that was the plan.
Through 4 weeks, here's what we know about the Jets; their front seven is slow and unable to sustain a pass rush without a blitz. The defense can't set the edge, and a back with speed is going to cause a world of problems. Offensively, we can't run the ball, so we are left with Sanchez throwing 30-40 times a game, hoping he avoids a crushing mistake throwing to receivers who can't separate, in front of a line that can't protect. We are very fortunate to be 2-2. If not for the comedy stylings of Tony Romo, we would be 1-3, with the lone victory over a craptacular Jaguars team.
I spent a lot of time looking at Jets fan sites last Sunday night after the Ravens debacle, and, for the most part, the Jets fans were giving Sanchez a pass, blaming the horrible offensive line for his failings. Even if Sanchez is getting popped on every play, it's his responsibility not to turn it over. On the first play of the game, he took a three-step drop, looked at his first option, then tried to check to a second option. On a three step drop, the ball has to come out. Sanchez has to know this. On the only turnover that didn't result in a Ravens touchdown return, after an accurate snap bounced off of Sanchez' hands, he ambled after the ball like a man chasing loose pieces of paper in the wind, with no sense of urgency. He was a beaten man, and it showed in every aspect of his play.
If the Jets hope to succeed in Foxborough later today, they will need an excellent performance from Sanchez and the defense. They will need to avoid mistakes and find ways to hit Tom Brady. It's not an impossible task, but it will require much more than the Jets have shown this season so far. It's a chance to save their season, and keep alive the high hopes of August. A loss will send the Jets further into the abyss, searching for answers to turn the season around.
Kickoff from Foxborough is at 4 pm today.