Analysis  

 

Wayne Hunter is Jets' problem, not Tim Tebow or Mark Sanchez

The New York Jets have had a terrible preseason and Adam Schein says Wayne Hunter deserves the blame.
The New York Jets have had a terrible preseason and Adam Schein says Wayne Hunter deserves the blame. (Paul Spinelli/Associated Press)

Pick a word, any word.

Inept. Pathetic. Grotesque. Embarrassing. Lackluster.

Obviously, we are describing the New York Jets' offense in the preseason.

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The first-team offense hasn't scored. If you are a fan, it's tough to watch. If you are a hater and are rooting for Rex Ryan's mouth to be shut permanently, you rejoice. Either way, it is impossible to eradicate the memory and stench of last year's collapse with the way the Jets have looked.

Yet, the most foolish thing you can do is blame Mark Sanchez, or the Sanchez and Tim Tebow insanity.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Jets right tackle Wayne Hunter.

You could also call him the human turnstile, or simply, the worst right tackle in the league last year. They would all apply. On Saturday night in a preseason game against the New York Giants, it was if Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck were playing against air. Sanchez was treated like a tackling dummy. Hunter was bulldozed, pancaked, and confused. Hunter was the main culprit the four times Sanchez was chucked to the ground. Pierre-Paul is a great player, but it was like the end was matched up with a lamp post. It was that bad.

Yes, Sanchez threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, a trait that plagued and doomed both him and the team in the regular season last year. Yes, it was a poor decision, made worse by poor fundamentals. But Sanchez was spooked by a couple of quarters of being treated like a ragdoll because of Hunter's wretched play.

When Damien Woody got injured at the end of the 2010 season, Hunter stepped in and did a fine job. This includes playoff games against Dwight Freeney and the Indianapolis Colts, a huge upset over the New England Patriots, and the AFC title game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Jets rewarded him with a new deal. From there, it was downhill. Hunter was a punch line in New York, giving up double digit sacks last season, as the once mighty Jets offensive line fell apart.

The Jets smartly parted ways with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan was passed over for the coordinator job and he scooted to the Dallas Cowboys. I loved the appointment of new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. He would run the ball. He would give the Jets an identity. And as an old offensive line coach, the theory would read, he along with new line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, would fix Wayne Hunter. The "Wayne Watch" (#waynewatch on Twitter) was officially on.

In fact, when talking to the news media in mid-May, DeGuglielmo told reporters, "This guy (Wayne Hunter) is the starting right tackle. Until they tell me otherwise, until they ship him out of this building or until they shoot me dead in my office, that son-of-a-gun is going to be the starting right tackle. And he's going to play well."

Wow.

In a related story, DeGuglielmo is no longer speaking to the media.

I feel for Mark Sanchez. He earned the criticism last year. But he has handled himself with aplomb in every way this calendar year. Sanchez has been the first guy in the building and last one to leave. He hasn't succumbed to the omnipresent questions about Timothy Richard Tebow. He has shown more leadership during practice. Sanchez has an edge to him. He needs help.

The Jets acquired Jeff Otah to compete with Hunter. Otah failed his physical. Austin Howard started for Hunter in Week 1 of the preseason when Hunter was hurt. If Austin Howard is the answer, I'd like to know the question. Santonio Holmes has barely practiced and has yet to play. That's a problem. The last time we saw the pair on a field, Holmes was literally kicked off of it during a meltdown in Week 17 against the Miami Dolphins. The Jets' receiver core is paper thin. The Jets did the right thing by changing the bulk of the offensive staff, but they should've also jettisoned quarterback coach Matt Cavanaugh. They openly flirted with Todd Haley and David Lee. They needed to bring someone else in.

Now, there is no quarterback controversy. If you watched the game on Saturday night, you were reminded, in case you forgot, Tim Tebow can't hit water if he fell out of a boat. Tebow has all the intangibles, just not the tangibles at quarterback.

The Jets didn't game plan for the Giants or the Cincinnati Bengals. The preseason truly means absolutely nothing unless you suffer an injury. As I've been saying since the Jets traded for Tebow, the plan is for him to run the ball six to 20 times a game. Sparano believes in the Wildcat offense.

Sadly for the Jets, Tebow is one of their best weapons.

You don't want to push the panic button. I still believe the Jets will have a top three defense this year and be in the mix for the playoffs.

But the Jets have much bigger issues than Tebow-Sanchez.

The "Wayne Watch" is on in New York.

If the Jets don't get better play up front, it won't matter who is under center.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein

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