As everyone knows, the Jets’ chances this season hinge around the new franchise quarterback, Mark Sanchez, and how quickly he develops. His former coach at USC, Pete Carroll, made some exceedingly ungracious remarks when Sanchez decided to forego his final season in college and enter the NFL draft. Sanchez, said Carroll, isn’t ready for the NFL.
Well, we’re not sure about Sanchez yet, but we’re fairly certainly that Pete Carroll wasn’t ready for the NFL after coaching the Jets to a 6-10 record in 1994 with an overall 33-31 in four years as a head coach in the league. Sourpuss Carroll was just upset about losing his blue chipper to the pros.
Joe Namath, the only great quarterback in Jets history, was much more gracious when he told the Daily News on Wednesday that “What I saw that night in the first series [against the Eagles] impressed me. It looks like he can do everything in terms of movement and finding receivers.” Namath also predicted that Sanchez would “get his butt kicked a few times,” but would do all right with enough support from his running game and defense.
Namath is right, and running happens to be the Jets’ strong suit with Thomas Jones, the AFC’s rushing leader (1312 yards), and Leon Washington (448 more yards and 47 receptions) in Sanchez’s backfield. Look for Washington to catch 50 or perhaps even 60 passes this year as Sanchez learns the ropes.
Sanchez’s preseason stats were pretty good, and he will be playing in front of a veteran offensive line that performed very well last season. Since head coach Rex Ryan’s coaching staff will be calling about 90 percent of his plays, he should mature faster than most rookies. He has a very good chance to shine in his first game, against the mediocre (8-8 last year) Houston Texans. It’s the next two weeks that are going to be tough, with games against two of the AFC’s best teams, New England and Tennessee — though both games will be played at the Meadowlands. The Jets could win both of those games — they beat Tennessee 34-13 last season and were 1-1 against New England — but a split seems more likely.
All in all, the Jets should be a little improved on offense and very much better on defense, which is the side of the ball on which Rex Ryan made his reputation. A one-game improvement to 10-6 doesn’t seem out of the question.