Last season was an absolute debacle in every sense of the word for the New York Jets, so much of a debacle the team decided to blow it up, but not really. The GM and offensive coordinator were excused, but the coach and the quarterback are still here for some reason, sounds like the textbook way to rebuild.
But back to last season. Mark Sanchez was turning the ball over left and right (He’s turned it over a league high 52 times over the past 2 years), and he was eventually benched in favor of Greg McElroy, not Tim Tebow. That’s another discussion for another day for how that situation was handled. To address the quarterback situation, the Jets drafted Geno Smith in the 2nd round. Geno may be Rex Ryan’s only hope of saving his job.
Will it be Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez to start the season at quarterback? Mark Sanchez hasn’t improved one bit since stepping into the NFL in 2009. He’ll have his few drives where he looks like he may have turned the corner, only to continue to turning the ball over with his bonehead decisions. Geno Smith has upside, but hasn’t taken the starting job by the throat. It is looking more and more like Sanchez gives the Jets the best chance to win to start the season, if healthy.
Unlike in previous years, the offensive line is actually the most stable part of this offense anchored by D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, and yes Austin Howard who has proven to be a serviceable right tackle. Willie Colon comes in from Pittsburgh to solidify the right guard spot with his veteran presence. The only spot up for grabs in the left guard position with rookie 3rd round pick Brian Winters and Vlad Ducasse vying for that spot. Ducasse has come a long way with his development and whoever is named the starter won’t be a liability on the line.
The Jets addressed the running back position in the off-season after letting Shonn Greene sign with Tennessee in the off-season. GM John Idzik brought in Chris Ivory from New Orleans, and Mike Goodson from Oakland. If healthy, the sky seems to be the limit for Ivory who will finally get his chance to be the number 1 back. Goodson can flat out fly, but he is suspended for the first 4 games of the season and it’s unclear what type of impact he’ll have. With Ivory battling injuries, and Goodson out the first month, Bilal Powell has distinguished himself throughout training camp and appears to be ready to be an every down back. Powell is very elusive, can catch the ball out of the back field, and can run between the tackles. He’s everything new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg looks for in a running back and if all goes well, Powell can be a 1,000 yard rusher.
The tight end spot is the most underrated aspect of this offense. Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow are arguably the best tight end combination the Jets have had in years. If Winslow can stay healthy, he could catch in upwards of 80 passes returning to his previous dominant form.
The biggest question mark for this offense is the wide receiving core. How much of an impact Santonio Holmes will have is unknown. Stephen Hill has all the makings of an elite receiver, but hasn’t shown he is capable of doing so, Jeremy Kerley is a nice slot receiver, and the other receivers on the roster haven’t they can be productive in the NFL. Clyde Gates has had a nice camp, but has never done anything of note in an NFL game. Ryan Spadola has been the best story of training camp being an undrafted rookie out of tiny Lehigh University, but can he have the same impact once the regular season starts?
The best case scenario is Holmes looks like the guy the Jets traded for in 2010, Stephen Hill takes that major next step, Jeremy Kerley continues to make plays, and either Spadola or Gates provide a spark at the 4th receiver spot. That may be too much to ask of this group though.
Rex Ryan hasn’t stopped making his bold predictions, and just last week said that the Jets will have a top-five defense this season, only to regret making that comment. “See I think I’m wrong by saying that. I shouldn’t say that because I am out of the prediction business, but I know where I believe everything is going to end up.”
Enough about Rex, let’s take a look at this defense under new defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman. The biggest strength of this Jets team is the defensive line headlined by Muhammad Wilkerson. Previously, the defense was led by Darrelle Revis and the rest of the secondary.
With Wilkerson at one side, and Kenrick Ellis teaming up with first-round pick Sheldon Richardson in the middle, the Jets D-line has tremendous talent. Wilkerson had 5 sacks last year, but many are predicting a pro-bowl caliber season for the 3rd-year player out of Temple. At 6’4 and 315 pounds, Wilkerson has the size and athleticism to dominate. Although Sheldon Richardson is just a rookie, he is still expected to command a double team, giving Wilkerson and the linebackers even more freedom to terrorize opposing quarterbacks. Kenrick Ellis is a massive load as well, and if he can stay healthy, can clog up the middle significantly boosting the Jets run defense.
The linebacking core was a major disappointment in 2012, and is poised to bounce back this season. David Harris is once again the man in the middle and is a tackling machine. DeMario Davis is replacing Bart Scott, and will add quickness to the linebacking core that the team has rarely seen. Quinton Coples is making the transition to outside linebacker and should provide a major boost getting after the quarterback. Calvin Pace is also back on a one-year deal and he is looking to bounce back after a disappointing 2012 campaign.
The secondary has a lot of new faces entering this season. Dee Milliner is replacing Darrelle Revis at one corner spot, and Antonio Cromartie is manning the other side. Cromartie has established himself as one of the best corners in the game. Kyle Wilson will play in the nickel where he’s better suited than he would be at cornerback. Dawan Landry, Laron’s brother, is the new safety. Dawan played under Rex in Baltimore. The other safety spot looks like it will be won by Jaiquawn Jarrett, a 2011 2nd round pick by the Eagles. What will really help this secondary though is the fact that the Jets will finally be able to get to the quarterback WITHOUT blitzing in 2013.
This unit looked set going into training camp with Joe McKnight being the primary return specialist, and Nick Folk being the kicker. Well McKnight has since been cut following an abysmal training camp, and Nick Folk may lose his job to Dan Carpenter who was released by the Dolphins earlier this summer.
Kyle Wilson and Clyde Gates are now competing for the kick returner spot, something neither player has prior NFL experience at. Gates flahsed at times in the pre-season returning a kick 44-yards.
Robert Malone won the punting job beating out Ryan Quigley. Malone has a career 44.3 yard punt average, something he can definitely improve on in 2013.
Everyone knows the coaching situation for the Jets. Rex Ryan is very likely out after this season, and there’s a chance he doesn’t make it through this year. Only an unlikely playoff berth could save Rex’s job, but even that may not be enough. You can bet that Rex will give it all he’s got and not go down without a fight. While he’s a great motivator and defensive mind, Rex hasn’t really embraced his title of head coach since he continually ignores the offense leaving it all up to the offensive coordinator.
Speaking of the offensive coordinator, the Jets hired long time Eagles assistant Marty Mornhinweg to that position, making him the 3rd offensive coordinator in the last 3-seasons. Mornhinweg was the Eagles offensive coordinator from 2006 through last season and he can’t be worse than Tony Sparano was for Gang-Green in 2012. His west-coast, up-tempo system fits well with this offense. It appears the Jets finally have an offensive scheme to build around, hopefully.
The defensive coordinator is Dennis Thurman, but as far as his impact, Rex is really running this defense. Thurman is just the quote un quote “Defensive Coordinator” since every team has to have one.
Mike Whesthoff is out as the special teams coordinator, and his long-time assistant Ben Kotwica is in. Kotwica is a former army officer and will do everything in his power to avoid any special teams breakdowns. Or else?
X-Factor: Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill has the ability to turn this receiving core from mediocre, to respectable. Hill runs a 4.39 40-yard dash, and is 6’4 215 pounds. He has all the tools necessary to take a giant leap forward in 2013. The rest of the receiving core is what it is. The Jets have no idea what to expect from Santonio Holmes or what kind of player he’ll be. Jeremy Kerley is a solid slot receiver, but no game changer. The other receivers are Clyde Gates, Ryan Spadola, and Ben Obomanu. Not exactly house-hold names. The Jets are in desperate need of a game-breaker, and Hill is one of the few guys on the roster with that potential.
The Jets have more talent than it appears, but the schedule is too difficult for the team to make a serious run at the post-season. Games against the AFC North and NFC South are enough of a challenge, and having to face the Pats and much improved Dolphins twice each is no easy task. An awful record resulting in a top pick would be the best-case scenario, but the Jets once again manage to screw everything up and sign Rex Ryan to an extension.
7-9 (3rd in AFC East)