The QB controversy appears to be somewhat over in New York with Geno Smith earning the nod over Michael Vick. Smith has yet to prove he is a capable of running an NFL team, but that’s never stopped head coach Rex Ryan from snagging a Vince Lombardi (most notably with Trent Dilfer at QB).
The Jets somehow managed to finish .500 last season despite being outscored by 97 points by its opposition. Thus, that deceiving eight win season will be difficult to replicate without a lot of fortunate flags and bounces of the ball.
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Smith had a tough rookie year last season after replacing Mark Sanchez following a season ending shoulder surgery. Geno was not ready for the job yet. He had 12 TDs to 21 interceptions and during one 0-3 stretch he threw six INTs and 0 TDs.
Then, the Jets came back to win three of its next four as Smith found his groove. That kind of inconsistency is to be expected from a rookie, but that time window has to close if he’s to accept the role of leading a competitive team, which the Jets are on the cusp of being. It’s interesting to have a backup the caliber of Michael Vick, but only if he is healthy. Vick has battled numerous injuries and last season lost his role to Nick Foles following injury. If Smith struggles badly, Vick will get his chance if he’s up for it.
The Jets signed Chris Johnson over the offseason to help with run production. He’s unlikely to ever return to being a top flight backfield option, but even after a career low 3.9 yards per carry last season, improved health should help him regain some of his former form. Chris Ivory will be the secondary back and change the pace from Johnson’s attack. Bilal Powell averaged 4.0 yards per carry in 2013 and will get some looks too.
The RB options are decent, but nothing exceptional, in other words, which coupled with inconsistency at the QB position is the recipe for offensive mediocrity.
Additionally, Smith isn’t riding with the strongest corp of wide receivers, and last year’s leading receiver managed just 43 receptions (Jeremy Kerley). While a lot of the blame can in fact fall on Smith’s indecisiveness and poor reads, the options that the Jets possess at receiver are all with their own critical faults. A saving grace will be an exceptional offensive line.
The Jets use a 3-4 scheme with some 4-3 scenarios within it. It is an aggressive defense and it requires strong play from the CBs so that Ryan is free to employ as many blitzing scenarios as he can conjure.
The DL is superb, and has two of the best in the NFL at the position in Muhammad Wilkerson (10.5 sacks, Pro Bowl) and Sheldon Richardson (2013 NFL Defensive ROY). NT Damon Harrison is another huge reason that the Jets only allowed 3.4 yards per carry. Leger Douzable and Kendrick Ellis add further depth.
The LBers are also a strength of the defense. David Harris bounced back for a good season last year and Calvin Pace did the same, coming through with 10 sacks. Quinton Coples, DeMario Davis, Nick Bellore and Garrett McIntyre help comprise a very strong unit and add a lot of depth to it. It’s in the secondary that the Jets may encounter the most problems, where they are counting on Dee Milliner to have a full season of good play. He looked good at the end of last year, and the Jets are hoping that prevails throughout 2014-15. Antonio Cromartie was not re-signed.
The Jets took Calvin Pryor No. 18 overall in the 2014 draft to add some strength to the safety position. Pryor will make an immediate impact and is a very hard hitter. Dimitri Patterson will likely adequately fill the void left by Cromartie. Because the Jets safety’s are exceptionally talented, it can cover the questionable CB play, particularly so if Milliner can’t manage to put it together.
Basically for the Jets to improve on last year’s eight wins, it is going to require improved play in the secondary and from the quarterback position. It’s a pretty clear cut diagnostic of why the team was so lukewarm and inconsistent overall last season, and Ryan really needs to right those areas if he hopes to remain with the Jets.