Sanchez plus Tebow equals no TDs so far for Jets

The New York Jets are still searching for the end zone.

Mark Sanchez can’t get them there, and neither can Tim

Tebow.

After three preseason games, the Jets’ offensive ineptitude has

become a punch line – especially since they’re the first team in 35

years to go this long without a touchdown. Sure, it’s still only

the preseason and Rex Ryan’s Jets insist they’re not worried, but

plenty more was expected by this point.

”Well, I’ve said it before,” Sanchez said after the Jets’

17-12 loss to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday night. ”We’re saving

our good stuff for the regular season.”

Well, the Jets better hope so, considering it’s been mostly

bad.

New York has yet to unveil its wildcat package with Tebow in a

game, which might make a difference and surprise everyone – but

only if the conventional offense can finally get things going.

The Jets (0-3) insist things will be different on Sept. 9, when

they open the regular season against Buffalo, but how?

”Hopefully, some more touchdowns,” Sanchez said with a

grin.

Which means the game plan must be a lot different from what

everyone has seen so far, right Mark?

”We’ll see,” Sanchez said, still smiling. ”Two weeks of

suspense.”

For nervous Jets fans. For the doubting media. And, for the Jets

themselves, who must be wondering what’s going on here.

After all, they’ve stolen all the headlines this summer, and all

eyes have been on Tebow and Sanchez, the team’s two GQ

quarterbacks. They have a new offensive coordinator in Tony

Sparano, who was going to re-energize the Jets’ offense with a

run-first approach, with which they thrived under Brian

Schottenheimer a few years ago. They also brought in Tebow who is

supposed to be their do-it-all backup quarterback, making defenses

worry about how New York will use him from week to week.

So far, it’s been a lot of nothing. The Jets (No. 17 in the AP

Pro32) have gone 12 quarters, 35 drives and 174 plays this summer

without scoring a touchdown. The 1977 Atlanta Falcons were the last

NFL team to not reach the end zone in the first three preseason

games, and those guys finished 7-7.

”When Week 1 comes around, all bets are off,” wide receiver

Santonio Holmes said, ”and the guns are firing.”

Rarely do NFL teams empty their playbooks during the preseason,

opting to keep some things under wraps so that they don’t reveal

all of their secrets before the games count. That’s why the Jets

haven’t shown the wildcat so far, and keeping it a sneaky secret

makes sense.

But that was supposed to be just an added wrinkle to the

offense, not the catalyst to getting the Jets’ offense off the

ground.

”I think when the season gets here and we’re game-planning and

show more stuff,” Tebow said, ”I think it’ll be a pretty good

offense.”

Sanchez was without two of his top receivers in the first two

preseason games as Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley were out with

injuries. They were back on Sunday night, but Sanchez got no help

from his receivers – even though the embattled offensive line, with

new starting right tackle Austin Howard, gave him lots of time to

throw.

The Jets got the ball at the Panthers 12 in the second quarter

after Quinton Coples forced a fumble on Cam Newton. An illegal

contact penalty on Captain Munnerlyn on first down put the ball on

the 7. The Jets just had to score now, right?

– First-and-goal from the 7: Shonn Greene loses 2 yards on a run

off left tackle.

– Second-and-goal from the 9: Stephen Hill can’t handle a throw

that was slightly high.

”I think I mistimed my jump,” Hill said.

”Tonight, we just have to hang onto the football,” Sanchez

said.

– Third-and-goal from the 9: Sanchez scrambles for 5 yards.

– Fourth-and-goal from the 4: Rather than try to punch it in,

Ryan has Nick Folk kick a 22-yard field goal.

On New York’s next possession, Holmes couldn’t corral a pass

that he normally would’ve had. Then, Hill had a throw bounce off

his hands and right to Munnerlyn. Five plays later, Newton got the

Panthers into the end zone with a 3-yard touchdown toss that put

Carolina up 10-9.

”Well, we just feel like there’s good stuff right around the

corner,” Sanchez said. ”We’re steadily improving and now we’ll

need to make a big jump for this Buffalo game coming up, but we’ve

got some time.”

Tebow nearly got the Jets into the end zone on the last drive of

the game – something he was so used to pulling off in Denver. But

after moving New York from its own 15 to Carolina’s 27, Tebow threw

four straight incomplete passes, including a desperation toss in

the back of the end zone to former rugby player Hayden Smith.

”I felt like we had it the whole time,” Tebow said. ”I still

feel like we should have had it. I feel like we just came up one or

two plays short.”

Sanchez and Tebow won’t play in the preseason finale at

Philadelphia on Thursday night, meaning it’ll be up to

third-stringer Greg McElroy and fourth-stringer Matt Simms, the son

of former Giants star Phil Simms, to get New York into the end

zone. The next time Sanchez and Tebow will have a chance to get

that elusive touchdown will be when the games really count.

”By the time we get going, we will be a confident group,” Ryan

said. ”I don’t think there’s any doubt. Have we had our entire

offensive package out there in the preseason? No. Do we feel

comfortable with our offense? I would say yes. I know our defense

is looking forward to it as well because, quite honestly, it’s

tough to defend. We’ll see once we get it cranked up, but again,

there were some encouraging signs.”

Like the kicking game, led by Folk, who has four field goals so

far this preseason and Josh Brown, cut Monday, with three field

goals. At this rate, the kickers have been the busiest guys on the

Jets’ offense.

”The field goal team looked pretty good out there, making their

field goals,” Holmes said – without smiling – and adding, ”I

honestly don’t think we have anything to be frustrated about.”

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