Another game, another ugly performance by the Jets' offense as Gang Green fell to Washington 16-11 in their most significant preseason tune-up.
The focus heading into the game was on Mark Sanchez. Is the 2nd year quarterback ready to make a big jump in performance and help make the passing game at least competent this year? While his final statline doesn't look bad (13-21, 139 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT), this was not a confidence-builder for the young quarterback.
With Santonio Holmes finally getting some playing time with the first team offense, one would think the passing game would have its most success last night. But Sanchez again struggled to move the ball, only salvaging his final statline on his last drive heading into the 4th quarter.
Make no mistake about it, Sanchez has to be better. Or at the very least, not turn the ball over. If this were a regular season game, Sanchez's red zone interception would have been a game-changer, as the Jets went from scoring at least 3 points to giving the Redskins pretty good field position and not scoring at all.
Also alarming was the pass protection for Sanchez. While he didn't make great decisions when he had time to throw, there were too many breakdowns in front of him, and they weren't really from Matt Slauson, the new left guard whom you might expect to have growing pains. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Brandon Moore, and Damien Woody all got beat at times. Washington's defense is good, but the Jets need to keep Sanchez healthy to have any chance.
That's because as mediocre as Sanchez has played, Mark Brunell has been atrocious. Three passes isn't enough to judge a guy on, as the old man went 1-3 for 7 yards today, but the body of work has been awful so far. He's 5-13 for 27 yards this preseason. That simply is not getting it done. There's no reason in the world he should be the number two quarterback. As little confidence as one can have in Kellen Clemens, I'd rather have Vinny Testaverde come out of retirement and play than see Mark Brunell on the field after next week.
The defense was fine again. Even without Darrelle Revis, the first-team defense has done its job, allowing just one touchdown all preseason, and that was after a Sanchez interception set the Giants up on the 1-yardline. And even then, it took the Giants three plays to score. The Redskins offense is pretty awful without Donovan McNabb, but the Jets did the job defensively for the most part.
What they need to cut out are the costly penalties which really hurt the Jets. On the Redskins' first scoring drive, New York committed two defensive penalties to give Washington first downs, and one of them negated an amazing one-handed interception by Antonio Cromartie. In two weeks, such mistakes will have a much greater impact.
The play of Cromartie, albeit against Santana Moss and Joey Galloway, was once again a positive. He blanketed whoever he covered all game long, and he even stuck his nose in to make a few tackles in the running game. If/when Revis returns, this secondary should be the best in the league.
However, the biggest news from this game is an injury to OLB Calvin Pace, who will miss several weeks with a foot injury. He was seen coming out of the locker room in a walking boot, and his status for the regular season opener is in serious doubt. Pace missed the first four games last season due to a steroids suspension, so the Jets are used to starting seasons without him, but he's still the team's best pass rusher. Jason Taylor is a more than capable fill-in, but the Jets were hoping he would be a rotational pass rusher, not an every down player.
All in all, it was a disappointing performance for the Green and White. There were a few positives, like LaDainian Tomlinson (again), Shonn Greene, and the first-team defense, but the big question mark coming into the season has yet to be answered. Can Mark Sanchez take the next step forward and make the passing game a threat to take pressure off the runningbacks and the defense? It remains to be seen.