The more mainstream Dr. Seuss books never really appealed to me growing up. Sure, I liked 'Green Eggs and Ham', but it never really spoke to me the way 'If I Ran the Circus' did. It was a story of a young boy using his imagination to transform a vacant lot into a resplendent circus. Ultimately the excess and pageantry gets to be too much, and the reader leaves the circus along with our protagonist– returning to that same vacant, junk-filled lot.
With near-unlimited funds, and a broad canvas like a football organization, it's all too easy to get caught up in the grandiose spectacle; turning a proud football tradition into circus sideshow, this is what the New York Jets are struggling with. Rex Ryan is often cited as the catalyst for the move, but in reality he's merely the ringmaster. The trade that brought Tim Tebow to New York was the final tent peg, and the frenzy has been running ever since.
Who are the New York Jets? In short: They're the same team we've known for the last three years– A stifling, chocking defense, consistently let down by a lackluster offense. They've added new weapons, and look to play a more creative brand of offense with Tony Sparano, but it's unclear whether the personnel is in place yet.
X-Factor: Tim Tebow
I hope you all understand how much I loathe doing this, but I wouldn't be doing the preview justice if I didn't name Tebow the game's 'X-Factor'. The fact is that the Carolina Panthers' second and third teams have looked very weak in preseason thus far. We've seen a consistent trend of the starters keeping the game close, or blowing it out, only to have the backups enter the game and let the opponent back in.
As a quarterback I think we've all heard enough about the weaknesses and virtues of Tebow. They've been jammed down our throats for the last year every time you turn on a sport's network. Like it, or not, people want to hear about Tebow, and the media are giving people what they want.
If he's asked to beat the Panthers with his arm *snicker*, then there's a good chance the Panthers backups will rise to the occasion. However, should Tony Sparano start showing some of his regular season packages in this third, most-important preseason game, then the defensive line could be in for some real trouble. Credit where it's due, Tebow is an excellent between-tackles runner, and in this way I think Carolina could be caught flat-footed.
More after the jump
Battle in the Air: New York Pass Offense v. Carolina Pass Defense
Personally, I think Mark Sanchez has become the scapegoat for the Jets' woes over the last few years. Is he a perfect QB? Absolutely not, and in all likelihood New York really reached to take him in the top-5, however that doesn't mean he's nearly as bad as depicted. The biggest issue is their offensive line, which as it stands is as bad as any unit in the NFL. Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Ferguson are still elite at center and left tackle respectively, but outside of those two, the starters and backups are in shambles. Remember that this is a team who were excited at the prospect of Jeff Otah becoming their new RT– think about that.
You wont hear any delusions of grandeur here. Carolina's pass defense is okay, but flawed. Chris Gamble is solid, but outside of Gamble the Panthers lack any reliability at either safety position, or across at the 2CB position. Fortunately for us, if there's one team with a more lacking passing attack than our secondary it's the Jets. Thus far they've mustered just 140 passing yards, allowing 12 sacks. No QB on the Jets has totaled 100 yards passing this preseason, and they're trying to work things out.
Trench Warfare: New York Run Offense v. Carolina Run Defense
Conventional wisdom was that the QB play could be lacking in New York as long as RB Shonn Greene rose to the occasion. The 2012 preseason has been a disaster for the confidence in this way of thinking, as Greene has managed to rush for just 47 yards this preseason at a wholly concerning 2.9 yards per carry. The backups aren't fairing much better with both Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight being locked in the sub-4.0 YPC area; large part due to mediocrity of the offensive line.
As it stands Tim Tebow has been the Jets' most reliable running threat, carrying the ball six times for 39 yards this preseason, however the entire offense can't be run through a backup quarterback. Even as lacking as the Panthers run defense can be (especially the second and third teams), right now the Jets are in a terrible situation.
It seems like we're whipping a wounded animal, but it the case of the Jets' offense it's apropos. This game will come down to how well the 1st team offense can cope with the Jets 1st team defense, who is still one of the most formidable units in the NFL. If it winds up that Steve Smith will miss the game due to his foot infection, then it could heavily impact the game– but as it stands I just don't see the Jets' offense managing to do enough to stay in this game.