The 2013 season is over for the New York Jets, and it’s time to hand out end of year grades.
Gang Green came into this season with very low expectations and for a good portion of the season, looked like a potential playoff team. Then the bye week, along with a 3-game losing streak to the Bills, Ravens, and Dolphins came that took away any chance at the playoffs. Once the Jets were officially eliminated, that’s when Rex Ryan decided it was time to rally his troops. The team responded by winning its last 2 games including a convincing win over the Dolphins knocking Miami out of the playoffs to finish 8-8, 2nd in the AFC East.
Geno Smith had what one would call a typical rookie season in the NFL. There were plenty of high moments like the Monday Night game in Atlanta, the gutsy win over the Patriots, beating Drew Brees at home, and beating the Dolphins to knock them out of the playoffs in week 17. There were also plenty of brutal moments that included terrible performances against the Titans, Steelers, Bengals, Bills, Ravens, and being benched after a 4/10 outing against the Dolphins. His stats as a whole are not pretty: 12 passing touchdowns, 6 rushing, 21 interceptions, 25 total turnovers, and a 55.8 completion percentage. You have to give Geno a little bit of a break based on the limited number of weapons he had to work with this season. If John Idzik does his job in the offseason, there shouldn’t be anything holding Geno back in 2014.
Despite having an anemic passing attack, the Jets ran the ball particularly well this season. The combination of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell combined for over 1,500 yards, and Geno Smith showed his running ability with 366 yards on the ground. As a unit, the Jets finished with the 6th rated rushing attack in 2013. Looking ahead to 2014 and assuming Mike Goodson is back at 100 percent following ACL surgery, the Jets have a very nice set of backs to work with.
The biggest weakness on the 2013 Jets was without a doubt the wide receivers. The team was counting on Santonio Holmes and Stephen Hill to have big seasons, but both were flat out awful. Jeremy Kerley and I never thought I’d say this David Nelson were the 2 most efficient receivers on the team this year. Jeremy Kerley was easily the most important player on the offense. In the games Kerley played, the Jets were 8-4. In the games he missed, the Jets were 0-4. If Kerley was healthy following the bye week, the Jets could have very well made the playoffs. That’s how much he meant to this team, and showed just how anemic the rest of this group was.
As bad as the wide receivers were, the tight ends were the farthest thing from being difference makers. Jeff Cumberland had some nice games, but was way too inconsistent. Kellen Winslow was the surprise of the Jets for the first 5 weeks, then he was suspended and never got back in a groove. As far as the future of these 2 players, it’s safe to say the Jets need two new starting tight ends for next season.
Along with the running game, the offensive line was put in a tough spot with opposing defenses stacking the box routinely. Even with that, the line keyed the Jets to have the 6th ranked rushing attack. Besides rookie Brian Winters who got eaten alive multiple times this season, the Jets offensive line was solid. D’Brickshaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold were their consistent selves. Willie Colon brought an attitude to the team that it could definitely use in the future, and no one heard a peep out of Austin Howard who has turned into a more than capable right tackle in the NFL. Winters got better towards the end of the season, and the Jets would be wise to stick to the same 5 for next season.
The best part of the Jets this season was the defensive line. The trio of Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, and Muhammad Wilkerson developed the nickname “Sons of Anarchy”. That group along with Kenrick Ellis spearheaded the NFL’s 3rd ranked rush defense. Running the ball was virtually impossible all season and keeping defensive line coach Karl Dunbar is as high a priority as any for the Jets this offseason. Sheldon Richardson is a leading candidate for defensive rookie of the year, and Muhammad Wilkerson emerged as one of the most dominant defensive players in the game.
Led by veteran leader David Harris, the Jets linebackers did their jobs this season. DeMario Davis cemented himself as a long-term answer at one linebacker spot. Quinton Coples improved from year one to year two, but has yet to reach his full potential and Calvin Pace had his best season as Jet recording double digit sacks for the first time.
In its first full season without Darrelle Revis, the secondary was another inconsistent and disappointing group for Gang Green in 2013. The team finished with the NFL’s 22nd ranked pass defense. Dee Milliner was benched 3 times, and Antonio Cromartie was beat deep too many times to count. In the final 2 games, Milliner played as well as any corner in he league and Jets fans should certainly feel a whole lot better than they did even 3 weeks ago about Milliner’s future in the NFL. The combination of safeties that included Antonio Allen, Ed Reed, Dawan Landry, and Jaiquawn Jarrett had its up and downs as well. No matter how they played though, there was nothing they could do about the teams anemic offense.
Looking at the special teams for the Jets, Nick Folk had a Pro-Bowl caliber season, Ryan Quigley was efficient punting the ball, and the unit didn’t allow one return touchdown all season. The only real mishap was a blocked punt in week 15 against the Panthers.
There’s no denying Rex Ryan was put in a tough spot entering this season. With the roster he had, there was virtually no way the Jets were going to make the playoffs. That’s how bad the offensive talent was. Rex and Marty Mornhinweg got as much out of this group as they could have leading the Jets to 8-8. Next season will be playoffs or bust for this coaching staff.
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