2005-10-07 / Sports

Vinny Might Not Be Solution to Jets Problems

By Michael Avallone Sports Columnist

By Michael Avallone
Sports Columnist

The first four games of what looked to be a promising season have come and gone for the Jets. The results? A 1-3 record, the first and second string quarterbacks lost to injury and a measly 47 points scored. To put that into perspective, the team the Jets share a home with – the Giants – are leading the NFL with 136 points, a 95-point differential.

So now, Coach Herman Edwards will have to make changes…and fast. The first place could be under center, where it seems recently signed Vinny Testaverde will start Sunday’s home game against Tampa Bay. That’s the 41-year-old Testaverde, mind you.

Third-year pro Brooks Bollinger was ineffective in Gang Green’s 13-3 loss to Baltimore in place of injured starter Chad Pennington. New York’s sixth-round pick in the 2003 draft out of Wisconsin, Bollinger completed 14-of-28 passes for just 149 yards, although his teammates hardly helped out.

Several receivers dropped passes, the offensive line could not open holes for Curtis Martin – who is averaging less than three yards per carry – or keep the defense away from Bollinger, and the game plan was conservative at best. The most glaring breakdown was early in the third quarter when New York recovered a fumble and had first-and-goal from the one-yard line.

The ensuing set of plays encapsulated the Jets season thus far. Martin ran for no gain on first down. Bollinger then took a bootleg left and instead of throwing the ball away, lost a yard on second down. On third down, Martin got the handoff again, but did not get anywhere near the goal line. The result was a demoralizing field goal, and the closest the Jets would come to scoring a touchdown all game.

Edwards wants the offensive problems solved ASAP, before the season begins to spin out of control. Though Testaverde is the only announced change thus far, Edwards compared the situation to 2002, when the Jets got off to a 1-4 start before Pennington provided a needed spark, replacing Testaverde and leading them to the playoffs.

But in 2002, Edwards had the bye week to chew over his decision, and Pennington was the young hot shot replacing the ineffective veteran. The roles are reversed this time, and it’s hard to see how the aging veteran could change this situation. Experience counts for something in the NFL, but so does age, and Testaverde has plenty of that. Maybe too much.

Even more worrisome is that QB might not be the biggest issue the team faces. With the way the offensive line has been playing, it’s unrealistic to think anything will be much different without colossal improvement among the blockers.

Against the Ravens – admittedly a strong defensive unit – the Jets gained 152 total yards, the fewest since a 127-yard output in a home loss to the Colts eight years ago. Gang Green also produced less than 200 total yards in consecutive games for the first time since 1995, when they finished 3-13 under Rich Kotite. Even with Pennington behind center, the Jets were no better despite the more dynamic offense that offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger was supposed to have brought with him from Tennessee. New York was going for a new look after the bland and predictable play calling from former coordinator Paul Hackett, who was basically run out of town.

But the Jets have not done much differently, mostly because the book on the club is to dare Pennington to beat them deep. So teams have loaded up the box to stop Martin, and the quarterbacks – Pennington and Bollinger – have failed to do much of anything to stop that from happening.

Testaverde has the arm to complete the passes downfield, but it remains to be seen how much the veteran has left. Surely the arm strength is still present but is the accuracy? It’s too early to panic but late enough to worry.

Do the Jets have enough to overcome? So far the answer is simple…No.

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