With the New York Jets' offense failing to score a touchdown through Week 1 of the preseason, the offense did make some strides last night.
Their offensive line looked stronger and was able to protect Mark Sanchez for the most part.
With Wayne Hunter going to the bench, newly promoted right tackle Austin Howard has answered critics by showing that he is quite capable of playing on every down.
Howard looked very strong in pass protection, not allowing a sack or much pressure from his side of the line. Howard also got out in front and helped lead the Jets' rushing attack, which still has a lot left to be desired.
While he Jets' offense looked better versus the Carolina Panthers last night, they still failed to get into the end zone. Sanchez threw the ball well for the most part and has now completed 68.5 percent of his passes through the first three games of the preseason.
That's a good number for Sanchez as he looks to become a more accurate passer.
The biggest issue with the Jets' offense were the key drops in the passing game by their wide receivers. Sanchez most notably, threw two great balls, one to Santonio Holmes and one to rookie Stephen Hill. Both passes hit the receivers between the numbers but neither could hold on. Hill's drop led to an interception and eventually a touchdown drive by the Panthers. Unacceptable.
At some point, guys have to start making plays for Sanchez and hold themselves accountable for simple mistakes. Sanchez looked sharp most of the night and was moving the ball pretty well but mental mistakes halted what were some good drives.
Matt Slauson killed a drive by committing a personal foul as the Jets neared the red zone, turning a 2nd & 5 from the 21 yard line into a 2nd & 20 from the 36 yard line. Not a smart play by the Jets' left guard.
The team has made some strides on offense as they were able to develop some rhythm for the first time this preseason. The passing game looked sharper and the run game which started slowly, was able to find seams in the Panthers' defense and had some nice gains as the game wore on.
Unfortunately, through all the positives the Jets faced some real negatives. Leading receiver and starting tight end, Dustin Keller, left the game after two plays with a hamstring injury. That is terrible news for the Jets as Keller has been Sanchez's favorite and most consistent target over the last couple of years.
With Keller likely to be sidelined for a few weeks, the Jets' backup tight end, Jeff Cumberland, who was already out with a concussion, had a setback as he has been experiencing headaches and may still be more than a week away.
H-Back Josh Baker also left last night's contest with what looked to be a significant knee injury leaving the Jets with only two healthy tight ends on the current roster, Hayden Smith and Dedrick Epps. Neither has much experience in the NFL so it will be interesting to see how the Jets handle this situation.
The Jets' offense took a step forward last night but still failed to get into the end zone. It remains to be seen if the offense will be able to put it all together by September 9th. With all the injuries and learning a new playbook, it's obvious that it is still a work in progress and only time will tell if the Jets can be effective on the offensive side of the ball.
One thing is for sure, the Jets finally found the answer to the problem on the right side of the offensive line. Kudos to Austin Howard for stepping up and giving Jets fans something to stop worrying about.
One question still remains however, can the Jets put it all together by Week 1 versus the Buffalo Bills?
The answer will be on display at Met-Life stadium in thirteen days.
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