Santonio Holmes: Jets should go deep

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- There he goes again.

Wide receiver Santonio Holmes, rarely shy about expressing his opinion, would like to see the New York Jets incorporate more deep passes into their attack. To do that, the offensive line needs to do a better job of protecting quarterback Mark Sanchez, according to Holmes.

"I may be criticized again for saying it, but it starts up front," Holmes said Thursday. "The big guys know it. If they give Mark enough time to sit in the pocket and complete passes, I think everything changes."

If the words sound familiar, it's because Holmes made a similar statement two weeks ago after the Jets' 34-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. In that case, he also called out Sanchez, prompting an offensive-players-only meeting in which they vowed to keep criticisms in-house.

Holmes might be stating the obvious with his latest remarks, but his commentary may not be well-received in a fragile locker room. The Jets (2-3) have dropped three straight, and the tension is mounting. They face the winless Miami Dolphins Monday night in a virtual must-win at Met Life Stadium.

The Jets employed a conservative passing attack in last week's 30-21 loss to the New England Patriots, with Sanchez not throwing anything longer than 22 yards in the air. Through five games, Sanchez is 3-for-11 for 85 yards (one touchdown, two interceptions) on throws of 21 yards or longer, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Only five quarterbacks have attempted fewer long balls.

Holmes wasn't criticizing offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer's game plan; Holmes understood the need to control the ball and limit Tom Brady's touches. But looking at the big picture, Holmes believes they need to take more vertical shots.

"The numbers speak for themselves," he said, adding, "If you were in my shoes, what would you think?"

Holmes measured his words carefully, pausing a few moments before answering questions. At one point, he also mentioned that he has tremendous respect for offensive linemen and the job they have to do.

"It's tough, it's tough," he said. "It's like you want to answer these questions, but you've got to do what you've got to do -- show up and play. ... I can't go that route with you."

Holmes said there have been discussions in the offensive meeting room about "how well things can change if we were able to stretch the (field) a little bit." Holmes said he has run only one double-move, typically a long route, in five games.

A year ago, the Jets used Braylon Edwards as their deep threat, but he's gone. They signed Plaxico Burress to replace him, but he and Sanchez have hooked up only eight times out of 20 tries on passes of at least 11 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information -- the third-worst quarterback-receiver percentage in the league.

Of course, the protection hasn't been nearly as good as last season.

"If you can't protect the quarterback for four or five seconds, there's no point in dropping back seven yards to throw the football if he doesn't have enough time," said Holmes, averaging 13.2 yards per catch. "We pretty much have to roll with the way our offense is rolling right now."

In other words, short passes. But that makes the Jets predictable.

In last week's game, the Patriots were sitting on the short routes, strangling the Jets' passing attack. The most glaring example came on a third-and-6 in the third quarter. The Jets sent five players into pass routes, but none of them went beyond the first-down marker. The result: a 4-yard completion.

Sanchez believes the offensive problems are overblown.

"You lose a couple of games in a row and, of course, people want to question the system and the coaching staff or players," he said. "But this is basically the same group and the same system that has gotten us to back-to-back AFC Championships."

The Jets should have opportunities against the Dolphins' defense, which is allowing 307 passing yards per game (31st). Holmes said cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith are vulnerable to double moves and "susceptible to getting beat deep. We have to take full advantage of those things."

But he didn't sound optimistic, noting that the Patriots were ranked 32nd in pass defense -- and the Jets threw only 26 passes.

"Obviously, it didn't make a difference on our team because New England was ranked -- what? -- in pass defense," Holmes said. "What did we do against those guys? It really doesn't matter what the defense is ranked. It's according to how we play."

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com.