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Monday Observations: No easy fixes for stumbling Jets, Chiefs


Rex Ryan says he's going to take two days, dissect his team and his staff, soul search with his fellow coaches while his players get some time off and try to determine and correct all that ails his stumbling New York Jets.

Hmmmm. Bet I could do it in two minutes.

Nothing this season with the Jets has been a surprise or a revelation, except for the fact that that they have a 2-2 record despite playing some of the most despicable football in the NFL through a quarter of the season. All of the problems so glaring now were the same ones so many pointed out when the team was assembled in Cortland, N.Y., for training camp, when this brawling, spiraling circus got going. It's all pretty simple, actually, and it's hardly all of Ryan's doing.

The Jets lack talent. And depth. And true playmakers. They are horribly deficient in pretty much every category you look for in this era of pass-heavy football. They have prized headlines over heart, handed out a slew of ridiculous contracts, failed to self-scout their own weaknesses, and you can start by pointing the finger at those directly at the top of the hierarchy, owner Woody Johnson and general manager Mike Tannenbaum.

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The Jets don't have a quarterback, or even a backup, as Tim Tebow doesn't really qualify as a real No. 2 (otherwise he would have been mopping up in Sunday's 34-0 debacle, and they have yet to play the person who may be the best passer on the roster -- No. 3 quarterback Greg McElroy). Yet they guaranteed Mark Sanchez $19 million this offseason, essentially bound him to the payroll through 2013, and then added a gimmick back-up in Tebow, who has yet to fool anyone in his wildcat role.

They don't have anyone who has displayed a true ability to rush the quarterback, and haven't for some time. It's been a glaring flaw forcing Ryan to rely on scheme and deception, and waiver-wire pickup Aaron Maybin, but that will only go so far. They thought the apple of their draft day eye, Bruce Irvin, would be there late in the first-round, even agreeing to trade back with the Steelers, then, in a panic, rescinded the offer when Seattle selected Irvin higher than expected, took erratic Quinton Coples in a haste to add someone with pass rush ability, and, well, that's going about as well as most expected.

They don't have anyone who can run the football, despite investing high picks to that end. They also over-valued parts of their offensive line and struck out on others like, Vlad Ducasse, high in the draft. They were stuck with receiver Santonio Holmes due to another poor contract -- his guaranteed money making him virtually untradeable and uncutable -- and have no true playmakers on offense, as Holmes' production is spotty at best and comes with a healthy side portion of surliness and discontentment.

The defense, the supposed calling card of the team, has gotten old and was never particularly fleet of foot -- so important with tight ends tearing up their division and the entire league -- and now New York cannot even stop the run. Several linebackers are making big-time money, but don't really bring a big-time game. And the one elite difference-maker the team had on its roster, corner Darrelle Revis, was lost for the season in Week 3 with an ACL tear, and his replacement, former first-round pick Kyle Wilson, has already become a favorite target of opposing QBs.

Seemed like the powers that be couldn't wait to run Brian Schottenheimer out of the building, you see, as he was stunting the growth of Sanchez and holding everyone back, or so the fable went. Except, well, Sanchez at least looked functional under the former offensive coordinator when it mattered most -- like those two now-so-distant playoff runs -- and the man hired to replace him, Tony Sparano, seems stuck in well, 2008 at best, and has shown no guile or ingenuity in the face of this offensive crisis and has no reputation as a play-caller of creativity.

So, Ryan is left with a team that is getting not only out-skilled -- which is no surprise -- but also out-muscled, a new and more-disturbing turn of events for this bunch. They can give up 250 yards on the ground, without being able to find a hole themselves, and even the once un-impeachable special teams of wizard Mike Westhoff are now under review.

There is no easy way out of this, and, I suspect, this is hardly the nadir for this bunch, especially as injuries inevitably chip away at their sagging roster. And, lacking cap room in 2013, and, still burdened with cumbersome contracts, and with a potential contract showdown with Revis possibly looming before next season, things are indeed pretty bleak.

I know the parable coming out of the local media, for weeks now, is that no one could possibly be on the hot seat with Gang Green; Johnson is oh-so-satisfied, nothing to see here. Except, well, his team was getting booed vociferously by halftime Sunday, the place cleared out quickly, and selling all the suites was already a challenge. If this thing goes off the rails to the degree it is hinting at, I don't know anyone in the league who believes Johnson would really stand pat, and I wish I had a dollar for every time someone in the industry broached the topic of who would survive if it came down to Ryan and Tannenbaum.

Tannenbaum has long enjoyed a close relationship with Johnson, and has been held in high esteem by his owner, but nothing lasts forever in this league. Players love Ryan, and have wherever he's been, and that's the kind of thing that could resonate with Johnson if the Jets are left near the bottom of the standings. If the Jets don't get things turned around, it would be naïve to propose that the status quo will be good enough, not after all of the Super Bowl bluster and expectations and the battle for the hearts and minds of wallets of consumers in this hyper-competitive market.

For all of their flaws, Ryan's presence has given them an identity and a voice and made them marketable and pertinent after perpetually chasing the Giants. You have to think that, too, would matter to Johnson.

Then again, maybe a two-day think tank will reveal some quick fixes, a few ways to scheme it up and coach 'em up and get competitive again. My view might be too dim and dire. But you'll find plenty of scouts and GMs in this league who believe it would take a substantial influx of talent to get New York anywhere near the top of the AFC East, and nothing else.

Chiefs concerns

Besides the Jets, the team with the most probing questions being asked through four games has to be the Chiefs. Much like early last season, when they lose, they tend to lose big, falling dreadfully behind in games. Even now in his fourth season since getting a big-money contract, Matt Cassel remains under a microscope, looking more bad than good and engendering enough fan angst that his future there has to be in question.

Cassel began Sunday's lopsided loss to San Diego 7-14 for 56 yards with two picks as the game quickly got away, and rumors of more snaps for Brady Quinn will continue to abound. Cassel and under-fire GM Scott Pioli are in many ways joined at the hip, and if Pioli isn't back, the next GM likely won't want to keep Cassel around for $7.5-million in 2013. At this point Pioli probably wouldn't be, either.

And in the interim, coach Romeo Crennel, like Cassel one of the true good people and indomitable spirits in this league, will continue to face inquiries all week about whether he should retain his dual role of head coach and defensive playcaller, as his unit comes off another game in which it was gashed.

I have a hard time seeing Kansas City crawling up on San Diego and/or Denver in the AFC West, and with the fan base cranky, and justifiably so, this is definitely another hotspot to monitor as the autumn chill takes hold.

Extra Points

 How about the 49ers beating the Jets at their own game by actually running an effective and unpredictable wildcat package frequently Sunday, led by young backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick? You would think the Jets would have had some answer, as they practice against this stuff, but alas, they had none. That could be an intriguing wrinkle for San Francisco as the season evolves, with Kaepernick capable to hitting a vertical play out of the package.

 Some of my concerns about Atlanta's offensive line came forth Sunday, as what had been a tepid Carolina pass rush ravaged Matt Ryan for much of the day. He was hit about 10 times and sacked seven times and hurried a ton. Ryan still managed another MVP performance, but come playoff time, especially against a team like the Giants, who knocked the Falcons out of the postseason last year, it could be a major issue.

 The Detroit Lions are doing a pretty good imitation of the 2010 San Diego Chargers when it comes to special teams meltdowns. A week after giving up two special team return touchdowns, costing them a game with the Titans, they did it again, allowing return touchdowns at the start of each half in another tough loss, this time to the now 3-1 Vikings.

 The strength of the Jags a year ago, the only thing that kept them from getting the first-overall pick, really, was an over-achieving defense. They were a legit top 10 unit under Mel Tucker. But they're lacking bite thus far, somehow have just two sacks through four games, and with Blaine Gabbert still throwing inopportune picks and struggling in general, they'd better find a way to generate some pressure, quickly.

 Undrafted linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the subject of such scorn ahead of the draft, continues to sparkle for the Bengals. He is deceptive and surprisingly speedy, having shed a lot of weight, and looked like a speed rusher at times against the Jags.

 For the first time all season, the Broncos seemed to me to look like the Broncos this week. The running game had the kind of purpose and determination that defined the team in 2011, and the defense had the kind of consistency and fear factor that you would expect given their explosive edge rushers. Peyton Manning had his best game of the season -- I'll take his four quarters of work against the Raiders even over what he did against Pittsburgh in Week 1 -- but I still have a feeling some of the better defenses in the league will give Manning some problems. If Denver can bottle Sunday's formula, however, good times are ahead at Mile High.

Before joining CBS Sports, Jason La Canfora was the Washington Redskins beat writer for The Washington Post for six years and served as NFL Network's insider. The Baltimore native can be seen every Sunday during the season on The NFL Today.

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