2010 NFL Question Marks: New York Jets

Jan 17, 2010; San Diego, CA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) takes the snap during the 2010 AFC Divisional playoff game against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium. The Jets defeated the Chargers 17-14.

Merry training camp season, everyone. It’s been a long offseason, but football is finally gearing up again and to celebrate I’m rolling out a new series on TSR entitled “2010 NFL Question Marks,” where I discuss one or two of the biggest concerns that teams have heading into the new season. Granted, some teams have more issues than others, but I’ll primarily be focusing on the biggest problem areas. Today I’ll be discussing everybody’s chic pick for 2010, the Jets.

Ah, the New York Jets – the media darlings of 2010.

How can you not like the Jets this year? The players have taken on the swagger and confidence of their head coach, their defense is among the top-3 in the league, they’ve upgraded their roster thanks to a couple of shrewd offseason moves (i.e. trading for Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie), and they have a young running back (Shonn Greene) who might be knocking on the door of stardom this season.

But alas, there is one chink in the armor and he goes by the name of Mark Sanchez.

When you think about it, it’s rather amazing that a team coming off a 9-7 season that barely made the playoffs is garnering so much Super Bowl attention this offseason. Not to mention, they also have a quarterback who is a) coming off surgery and b) hasn’t proven that he can carry a team on his own yet.

Granted, it’s not fair to criticize Sanchez for not having a Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco-like rookie year. Most first-year quarterbacks struggle and seeing as how Sanchez was able to lead his team to the AFC Championship Game last year despite his rookie struggles speaks for his potential.

But let’s get real here – it’s almost humorous that some have used the word “great” to describe Sanchez’s performance in last year’s postseason. Was he efficient? Yes. Great? No, and therefore it’s probably not even fair to Sanchez that people are saying he can take the Jets all the way this year because of those three playoff games last season.

The Jets were successful in ’09 because they ran the ball and played great defense. But times are changing in the NFL and teams have to be able to throw the ball if they want to win. That’s not to say that Sanchez has to be Peyton Manning or Drew Brees in order for the Jets to get to the Super Bowl, but those guys are allowed to make plays in their offenses. They’re allowed to take control of a game with their arms, and Sanchez just isn’t there yet.

That said, he will get better. He has 19 games of NFL experience under his belt and he started every one of those contests last season. He’s going to be smarter, faster and more quicker with his decision-making than he was a year ago and that’s why some people feel as though he’ll be good enough to take the Jets to the top.

But don’t forget that NFL defensive coordinators now have 19 games of tape on Sanchez, too. Guys like Gregg Williams made him look incredibly overmatched at times last year and there’s no doubt that other teams will try and duplicate the success that the Saints had against him in ’09. He’ll continue to have ups and downs, even with a full year under his belt.

Is there reason for fans to be excited about the Jets’ chances in 2010? Absolutely, but expectations need to be tempered. Eventually, they’re going to need their young quarterback to put games on his shoulders and as of right now, it’s debatable whether or not he can do that.

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