NEW YORK — Things were supposed to look a lot different for the New York Jets’ offense.
There’s a new coordinator in Tony Sparano, a rededication to a run-first approach and the addition of the elusive and electrifying Tim Tebow.
So far, this year’s Jets look a lot like last year’s — and that’s not a good thing. At all.
“It’s the second preseason game,” quarterback Mark Sanchez said, trying to ease everyone’s fears. “It’s not time to hit the panic button. You have to improve and learn from this stuff. I know we can do it.”
But now they’ve got to show it.
Through two preseason games, the Jets (0-2) have failed to score a touchdown, with their nine points coming on three field goals.
“I don’t think you can get frustrated,” Tebow said. “We haven’t even played a real game. When the regular season gets here, then that’s when it’s for real. We’ve got to continue to show improvement and get better every day.”
Sanchez has been knocked around, much as he was last season, with a serious lack of pass protection that has led to him being sacked five times and prevented him from having time to do much of anything
It wasn’t just him. Tebow was also visibly upset with the offensive line Saturday night in the Jets’ 26-3 loss to the Giants after taking one of his four sacks.
“I’m not sure what play exactly, but probably just frustrated,” he said. “We want to get on the same communication and have it run smooth, everyone being on the same page.”
Tebow has yet to be the spark that was expected, save for one drive Saturday night that led to the team’s only points. But the NFL’s most popular backup quarterback could’ve gotten the crowd fired up when he spotted a wide-open Stephen Hill in the end zone on second-and-20 from the 29. Instead, Tebow short-hopped the throw, waved his hand as if telling Hill he should’ve come to the ball, and it was another opportunity lost.
“I mean, clearly we have to get more production in the regular season than we’ve gotten in these two preseason games,” coach Rex Ryan said. “There is no doubt. But I’m 100 percent sure when we kick it off for real, we will have more production.
“There’s absolutely no doubt about that.”
The starters for the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) probably will play about three quarters next Sunday night against Carolina (No. 20), and then will sit until the season opener against Buffalo (No. 19). That means there’s not much time to start feeling positive about things.
“This is our last chance,” Sanchez said. “We need to play well. We need to put our best foot forward in this last dress rehearsal for Buffalo and I’m confident with a week of prep, our guys will be ready.”
Tempering concerns is the knowledge Sanchez is playing with essentially half an offense. Three of his top receiving threats — Santonio Holmes (rib, back), Jeremy Kerley (hamstring) and Chaz Schilens (ankle) — are out with injuries.
The Jets have also shown very little flavor in an offense that was expected to be, in Ryan’s words, “vanilla with some sprinkles” against the Giants. In other words, Sparano has not yet unleashed the wildcat-style scheme with Tebow that Ryan has warned opposing defenses they will have to prepare for.
In fact, there were two plays in particular in which the Jets might have trotted out Tebow with the wildcat if this had been the regular season: on third-and-1 from the Jets 41 early in the first quarter, and fourth-and-1 from the Giants 36 in the second. Both times, fullback John Conner was stuffed for no gain.
“Yeah, it was brutal,” Ryan said. “Absolutely bad. You know, you’re trying to give it to the big fullback through there and they (hit him) in the backfield both times. I might’ve been more disappointed in those things than I was anything else.”
Right tackle Wayne Hunter has struggled as the starter since taking over the job last season, and Saturday was more of the same. He was part of three sacks by the Giants — a fourth was negated by a penalty.
“I want to watch the tape before I isolate one guy,” Ryan said of Hunter. “I have a tough time believing it was one guy.”
Sanchez has stood up for his embattled lineman, and so have Ryan and Hunter’s position coach, Dave DeGuglielmo. Still, the pressure coming from the right side is a huge concern. The Jets have worked on getting Sanchez to release the ball quicker, and he has done a better job of that. No quarterback, though, can get the ball off when there’s a defender constantly in his face.
“I have to perform or they will find someone else who is better,” Hunter said, adding that it was “tough sledding” against the Giants. “My main focus is to watch the tape and seeing if I can get better.”
Sanchez’s health may depend on it. While he threw away a touchdown — Jayron Hosley’s 77-yard interception return — Sanchez has actually shown improved efficiency so far this preseason.
Also, starting running back Shonn Greene had five runs of at least 5 yards, finishing with 36 yards on 11 carries. The Jets likely would’ve kept pounding the ball with Greene if it was the regular season.
“Are we pleased with what we put out there on film tonight? No,” Sanchez said. “Is it our best? Absolutely not. Do I know we can play better than that? Of course. It’s got to get better. It starts with studying this week and I know our guys will do that.”