Rex Ryan touted 2012 as the New York Jets' return to the now cringe-worthy phrase "Ground and Pound". Tony Sparano was hired because of his acumen with offensive lines, and Tim Tebow was acquired to run the Wildcat (unless you ask owner Woody Johnson, who if he was being honest would tell you it was to sell tickets, get the Jets back in the headlines and maybe supplant Mark Sanchez). But the Jets were pinning their hopes on Shonn Greene, who had never proved to be a good, every down starting running back. Through five games this season, the 2-3 Jets have been putrid on the ground. I've made the case before that most of this is due to Greene's inadequacy, but let me play devil's advocate a bit here.
Outside of Week 1 when the Jets ran pretty decently in a blowout of the Buffalo Bills, Gang Green has been kept quiet on the ground, forcing the hand towards Sanchez and his weak receiving corps. Yet when you take a look at who the Jets played in Weeks 2 through 5, it's pretty understandable why the Jets haven't been able to run with any consistency. Those Jets opponents; the Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans all rank in the top 11 in the NFL against the run this season. Not too many teams would have run rampant against those four teams.
On Sunday, in a huge game for the Jets, they welcome in the Indianapolis Colts, fresh off a win over the Green Bay Packers, but a team who has struggled so far this season defensively. More specifically, the Colts are 25th in the NFL against the run so far, allowing 135 yards per game on the ground. Expect the Jets to give a lot of carries early to Greene, Bilal Powell and yes, Tim Tebow.
Almost all quarterbacks need some semblance of a running game to help keep defenses honest. For a quarterback like Sanchez, it's absolutely crucial, and it's something that he hasn't received all season with any consistency. That doesn't take away from the fact that Sanchez simply needs to be better with his reads, recognition of pressure and accuracy, but a defense is going to be a lot tougher to throw against when they know there's no threat of being beat on the ground. On Sunday if the Jets can establish the run early, you will likely see a more comfortable Sanchez, who will likely get back one of his favorite targets from injury, tight end Dustin Keller.
A lot of the attention around the Colts is surrounding Andrew Luck, and the Jets defense certainly hasn't been nearly as good as they'd have hoped for. Luck will probably be able to move the Colts down the field with some efficiency. But it's the Jets' offense that needs to get going, and while all eyes are on Sanchez, the Jets could make it a heck of a lot easier on themselves on Sunday if they can move the ball on the ground. The chances should be there, and we'll see if they take advantage.