Preseason results don’t count for much in the end, but for the offensively challenged New York Jets, who on Sunday became the first NFL team in 35 years to go without a touchdown in their first three preseason games, failing again in a 17-12 loss to the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium, the time for concern is now.
There’s no secret that Rex Ryan was looking to shake things up in the Big Apple last season, after the New York Jets failed to make the postseason for the first time in three years with Mark Sanchez under center. So, it wasn’t surprising after extending Sanchez’s tenure in New York for a reported $40.5 million (for three years), the Jets pulled off one of the most cunning trades of the offseason when they acquired Tim Tebow from the Denver Broncos to back the “Sanchize.” If Jeremy Lin’s rapid ascent to NBA stardom with the Knicks created Linsanity on Broadway, then Tebowmania would be the answer to Ryan’s “Wildcat” prayers. Unfortunately, Tebow has been more of an enigma than a Godsend.
By now, we all know that Tebow is a God fearing, optimist, with an uncanny ability of creating miraculous plays out of nothing. But after three weeks of appearing more mortal than ever, Ryan and Jets may start to resent their decision of bringing in the unorthodox quarterback. The Jets “savior” has played second fiddle to New York’s “Sanchize.”
Say what you will about Sanchez, but he’s more comfortable and poised than Tebow in the pocket. Receivers rarely drop Tebow’s passes because Tebow rarely passes in their general vicinity. Sanchez played well into the third quarter, going 11-of-18 for 123 yards and an interception, but received little help from his receivers. On consecutive plays in the third quarter, Sanchez hit Holmes in the mask and the receiver couldn’t corral the pass. On the next play, the starting QB hit Stephen Hill in the chest, but the rookie couldn’t control the ball and it bounced off his arms and into the hands of Panthers’ cornerback Captain Munnerlyn. Despite Sanchez ability to move the offense –despite the inconsistency of his receivers– Ryan should still feel concerned that his starting quarterback can’t produced a single touchdown in 15 possessions.
Tebow, who made an earlier than expect appearance, midway through the third quarter, drew the biggest cheer of the night with a wild and crazy, 20-yard scramble in the fourth quarter. He fired up the sleepy crowd, jumping to his feet and giving the “first down” signal. But moments later, the third-year QB out of Florida threw a mind-boggling interception into triple coverage deflating the energy out of MetLife. And with a chance to lead the Jets to a winning TD against the Panthers’ second-string defense, Tebow under threw one receiver and overthrew another as time expired.
“That’s why they have preseason games,” Tebow said, who was sacked three times and finished 4-of-14 for 55 yards and rushed for 45 more on five runs. “We’ll just wait until the regular season and see what happens.”
The Jets are the first team since 1977 Atlanta Falcons to go without a touchdown in its first three preseason games. That’s a span of 12 quarters, 35 drives and 174 plays. That’s seven field goals and no TD’s.
Sanchez, Tebow, and most of the starters will not play in the Jets final tune-up against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday night, so Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano have a lot of work to do before the regular-season opener against the Buffalo Bills on September 9. Whether it’s Sanchez or Tebow at quarterback, Ryan’s star quarterback tandem hasn’t been able to get Gang Green into the end zone. With injuries to tight ends Dustin Keller (hamstring) and Josh Baker (right knee) their job only becomes more difficult. Here’s a tip: Release “The Wildcat” sooner than later.