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Searching for hope for the Jets

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Posted Aug. 23, 2012 @ 11:20 a.m. ET
By PFW staff

Updated 11:20 a.m. ET on Thursday, Aug. 23

It’s time for Jets fans to take a line from Rihanna and find some love in the hopeless place that is Jets training camp.

I’ve always tried to be an eternal optimist — it probably has something to do with cheering for Northwestern sports teams (though Jets fans really should hope that this optimistic view is followed by better results than the glass-half-full approach I took to the Dolphins' problems back in March).

Let’s find a silver lining in the dark clouds that have loomed over Gang Green this summer.

1. Wayne Hunter has not improved at all and the Jets' right tackle woes are going to ruin the offense.

Outside maybe ex-offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and QB Mark Sanchez, no player received more scrutiny last season than Hunter, the league’s most talked about right tackle. Hunter has not helped his cause this preseason, especially in a poor outing against the Giants last weekend. Last February, Hunter’s $2.45 million salary became guaranteed for 2012. The optimistic thought here was that GM Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan wouldn’t have made that financial commitment without confidence that Hunter could improve, especially with ace O-line coach Tony Sparano now directing the offense.

That clearly hasn’t happened, and Ryan announced Thursday that Hunter would revert to being the sixth offensive lineman, who would be on the field in jumbo sets.

On the bright side, Jets fans apparently won't have to worry about Hunter protecting Mark Sanchez anymore. Austin Howard, who will be the starter the rest of the preseason, has performed well all summer and could be the answer, and an upgrade. Plus, the option of bringing in a veteran after teams cut down their rosters remains a possiblity.

The Jets ultimately have bigger problems on their hands, though, if a right tackle is going to doom the offense. There are plenty of other things for fans to worry about.

2. Mark Sanchez is just as inconsistent as we remember and has not taken that “leap” yet.

Sanchez has done little to give Jets fans any hope, but a few things have worked against him — poor protection and a wide receivers group that has only two healthy players (Jeremy Kerley and Patrick Turner) who have any experience with Sanchez (and that is only last season).

As rough as the 2011 season was, especially in the turnovers category, Sanchez’s completion percentage was a career-high (56.7 percent, almost two percent higher than 2010) and he accounted for 32 touchdowns (26 passing TDs, six rushing TDs). Let’s see Sanchez in a regular-season game after a few more weeks in the new offense and with a full complement of starters surrounding him before pressing the panic button. He has shown he can be a good quarterback, as easy as he makes it to forget that fact.

3. The Tim Tebow experiment is a sideshow and a distraction that ultimately will fail.

We really don’t know how Tebow will be used in a game. Certainly, he will be on the punt team and get some carries near the goal line or in short-yardage situations. Yes, every time he is out there, the media will talk about it, but if he is effective, that only will bring more positives to the Jets.

The more Tebow’s role is kept at a minimum, the less of a distraction he will be for the team, and especially Sanchez. If fans trust Sparano and Ryan to put Tebow in favorable situations to succeed and don’t overuse him, there’s really nothing to worry about. Sure, it’s a gimmick, but Tebow has had success running the football in his two NFL seasons, and he offers the Jets another offensive outlet.

4. Shonn Greene clearly is not the answer at running back and the preseason has only proven that.

No one likes a 2.9-yard rushing average, which is what Greene has this preseason. But let’s try to take this with a grain of salt, since it is the preseason. Greene is not an explosive back — that is no secret. But he has a 4.3-yard rushing average in his career, showed he could be a receiver in 2011 with 30 catches, and he stayed durable — playing all 16 games — in racking up 1,054 rushing yards last season.

5. The WR position is a giant concern.

Santonio Holmes’ rib injury has kept him on the sideline, Jeremy Kerley got off to a slow start and there hasn't been enough seen from rookie Stephen Hill or ex-Raider Chaz Schilens to instill a ton of confidence. Patience is a virtue, though. In Sparano’s best season as a head coach (2008), the Dolphins did not have a receiver with more than 56 catches or 790 receiving yards. It was a mixed bag. A big help to that was the play of Chad Pennington, but this Jets offense doesn’t necessarily need a star receiver, let alone several big-play threats. (Note: Holmes would have been far and away the best receiver on that ’08 Miami club that won the AFC East with an 11-5 record).

6. The offense is bad.

This is the summation of the biggest complaints from Jets fans this summer, and a lot of it is based on the two extremely mediocre preseason performances the offense has produced. If this team makes the playoffs, it will not be because of the offense, the defense will get it there. When the Jets advanced to the AFC title game in ’09, they were 20th in offense and first in defense.

All the talk about the subpar offense has taken attention away from a defense that should still be among the league’s best, as it has the NFL's best cornerback tandem and a formidable front seven. The addition of Quinton Coples should help the D-line and OLB Aaron Maybin has played well this summer, which should aid the pass rush.

A majority of the pessimism has been focused on the offense, and rightfully so, but allow this piece of optimism to keep you Jets fans back from the ledge. Whenever Sanchez throws an interception, Tebow underthrows a receiver, Hunter gets embarrassed and gives up a sack, Greene gets stuffed at the line or a receiver fails to make a big play, just find a poster of Darrelle Revis to remind yourself that he is still a Jet, and the defense is good enough to keep this team in the postseason race in 2012.

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