By Brad Carroll
These are troubling times with the New York Jets. After losing their third straight game last week, quarterback Geno Smith cursed out a fan while leaving the field, the offensive players held a team meeting to discuss their dismal performance this season, and the authority of coach Rex Ryan has been questioned, as it's unclear who is the one making the decision on who will play quarterback.
All of that comes as the Jets have to travel across the country to take on the San Diego Chargers in desperate need of a victory Sunday. This is a Chargers team that is 3-1 on the season, beating the defending champion Seahawks along the way.
The Jets need to get better in all facets of the game in order to beat the Chargers and keep themselves from completely imploding. Smith must stop turning the ball over and prove he can be a legitimate starting quarterback in this league. Two young receivers, wide-out Greg Salas and tight end Jace Amaro, need to have big games Sunday. The defense must come up with a big stops at key points in the game, and that goes for the entire unit. And the secondary must finally make a play, as in getting their first interception of the season.
Then maybe all will be right with the Jets - at least for one week, anyway.
Here are the keys to a Jets victory in San Diego Sunday in a late afternoon game in Week 5. Read our game predictions straight-up and against the spread here.
Dam The Rivers
The inept Jets secondary has to face yet another elite quarterback, this time the Chargers' Philip Rivers. So far, the Jets misfit corners and rookie safety Calvin Pryor have been torched by Aaron Rodgers, Jay Cutler and Matthew Stafford. Antonio Allen and Darrin Walls shouldn't be starting, but they are because general manager John Idzik ignored the position in the offseason and continues to do so now. Pryor is more suited to play linebacker than safety, but he's way too small to play up front. So, opposing quarterbacks have exploited his lack of ability in the defensive backfield, hitting big plays with him being lost in coverage. Having a big-hitter at safety is meaningless in today's NFL. Dee Milliner is expected to return Sunday, but no one knows what kind of impact he will have. That group will have a big say in whether or not the Jets can break their current losing streak. If Rivers goes off, hitting receiving options Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen, Malcolm Floyd and Eddie Royal all over the field, the Jets will get blown out. The Jets secondary must play above their heads, get help from the front seven forcing bad decisions by Rivers, and get an interception already. The Jets have no interceptions this season. Rivers has thrown five interceptions in four career games against Ryan and the Jets, going 2-2. The Jets need to up that interception total.
Can Geno Keep His Job?
Geno Smith has been nothing short of horrible this season, and you would hope if he doesn't turn his play around soon the Jets will make a change to Michael Vick. But it has become quite obvious Idzik has way too much say when it comes to who should and who shouldn't play. Without Idzik's input, it would be very possible Vick already would be the starting quarterback, and the Jets might actually have won the last two games. Instead, Ryan stuck with Smith and his play was a big reason the Jets lost to the Bears and Lions. If Idzik is forcing Ryan play Smith, owner Woody Johnson should fire him on the spot. It's not as if the Jets will miss anything without Idzik, who has proven he is in over his head as a general manager. This Sunday, Smith will start and likely play the entire game once again. If he doesn't play better, and continues to turn the ball over, the Jets won't win. Playing on the road might help his mental state, as Smith was booed at home last week in player introductions, had to hear fans chant for Vick during the game, and then cursed out a fan on his way off the field after the loss to Detroit. Smith might not have his top weapon in the receiving game, as Eric Decker could sit out with a hamstring injury, but there are no more excuses. Smith can't turn the ball over. If he doesn't, the Jets will have a chance.
Back To Ground And Pound
The best way to help Smith succeed Sunday against the Chargers is to run the ball. The Jets did it on the first drive against Detroit last week, as Chris Ivory gained 51 yards on the ground leading to a field goal. But offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg got away from him the next two series and the Jets lost their way. Ivory had just eight carries for 34 yards after that first drive. The Jets simply don't know how to ride the hot hand. If Ryan is going to continue using three running backs in a game, which obviously hasn't worked, he needs Chris Johnson and Bilal Powell to complement Ivory, not take over his role. If the Jets dominate the line of scrimmage and the running game, no matter who is carrying the ball, controls the game, Smith's job gets a lot easier. And that gives the Jets the chance to save their season with a big road victory.