Since the Jets are our favorite team, we thought we’d preview their 2010 season. Last year at this time, we went in with extremely low expectations. We had the Jets missing the playoffs and winning between 4-7 games. Rookie QB, rookie coach … few could have predicted those two, along with the best defense in the league and with some major help from the Colts, would propel the Jets into the AFC Championship game. This season, unfortunately, there are expectations. Last week, before Revis signed, we were thinking 7-9. Once the best cornerback in football got paid, we upped that prediction to 10-6 with a Wild Card berth.
Let’s just get Mark Sanchez out of the way first, shall we?
After just 16 college starts at USC – for sake of perspective, Matt Ryan had 32 at BC, Matt Stafford had 32 at Georgia, and Sam Bradford had 28 at Oklahoma – Sanchez had an uneven 2009. He threw 20 interceptions (they happened in bunches – 15 in just five games). The nadir was against Buffalo, at home, when the Jets rushed for 318 yards, but Sanchez threw five interceptions and the Jets lost in overtime, 16-13. We thought Rex should have pulled him after the fourth pick.
After that one, the Jets made a smart move – they decided to limit the rookie’s mistakes by running the ball 35+ times a game, chewing clock, and letting the defense do the heavy lifting. It worked against Oakland. Then Ted Ginn ran two kickoffs back for touchdowns to beat the Jets, the defense gave up a late TD in a loss to Jacksonville, and then the Patriots got payback against the Jets by picking off Sanchez four times in his second worst performance of the season.
Still, the Jets got to the playoffs thanks to the Colts rolling over, and once in the postseason, Sanchez was actually quite brilliant on the road against Cincinnati and San Diego. Considering how few rookie QBs in NFL history have reached the conference championship game, his game management and decision-making in those two wins were superb. No need to go into the Colts’ loss – Shonne Greene’s injury didn’t help, but mostly, the secondary was lit up by Peyton Manning, who erased an early 17-6 Jets’ lead.
The efficient work by Sanchez in the postseason – the Bengals and Chargers were 6th and 11th against the pass last year, respectively – leads us to believe he’ll be fine this year (though we’ll reserve judgment until at least week six, after he’s had some time with Holmes). Sanchez is not our primary concern in 2010.
Primary Jets’ concerns in 2010:
1) Chemistry. You can’t jettison veterans who had been with the club for a few years and replace them with hired guns (Cromartie, Tomlinson) and not expect a drop-off in chemistry. The chemistry angle could be exacerbated by the fact that the first five games are brutal (after a mouthy offseason from Rex and the Jets, a disastrous early start could easily have snowballed into a sub-.500 season and the notoriously negative New York media hammering the team). Baltimore, New England and Miami could easily have been an 0-3 start without Revis (still could). More on the schedule in a minute.
2) Running back depth. As high as everyone is on Shonne Greene, he’s only a 2nd year back. He didn’t start one game in the regular season – he actually fumbled three times, which may have been the reason he was ‘saved’ until the postseason – and his body of work basically consists of carving up the Raiders, the Colts’ and Bengals’ reserves, and then turning in two good postseason games (263 yards rushing). If the fumble issues creep back, or if he goes down … forget the playoffs. Tomlinson is no longer a 20+ carry running back. Ten, maybe. Rookie “Glass” Joe McKnight had a terrible preseason. He’s probably behind Chauncey Washington and Danny Woodhead on the depth chart. After Revis, we’d say the one guy who can’t go down this season is Greene.
3) The schedule. It’s a playoff schedule that’s frontloaded.
vs Baltimore – Super Bowl contenders. Fortunately, Ed Reed won’t play.
vs New England – If the the Jets lose to the Ravens, this game will be must-win. Can’t drop first two home games.
at Miami – Swept by the Fish last year. Luckily, Ted Ginn is gone. He toasted Revis on this play (no thanks to Kerry Rhodes).
at Buffalo – Win.
vs Minnesota – Favre. Monday night. Minnesota could be 1-2 going into this one.
at Denver – Getting to the bye week at 4-2 would be a gift; at 3-3 we’d be happy.
vs Green Bay – Two weeks to prepare for Rodgers. They’ll need it (guessing loss).
at Detroit – Should be a win.
at Cleveland – Should be a win.
vs Houston – Sanchez hacked ‘em up in the 2009 opener.
vs Cincinnati – Think the Bengals fall back to 6-7 wins this year.
at New England – Pats should be rolling by this point (guessing loss).
vs Miami – Maybe the Jets return the sweep?
at Pittsburgh – Tough to place to win in December (guessing loss).
at Chicago – Bad weather for the California Boy won’t make this one easy.
vs Buffalo – Should be a win.
Three guys nobody is talking about on the Jets that will be key:
Kris Jenkins, nose tackle.
Returned to the Jets in 2008 and had one of the best years of his career. Was injured and lost for the season just six games into 2009. The Jets were still 8th in the league against the rush despite missing their 375-pound nose tackle.
Jerricho Cotchery, wide receiver.
When Mark Sanchez took over as a rookie QB last year, Cotchery was the team’s No. 1 receiver. When Santonio Holmes returns from suspension, Cotchery will be the No. 3 receiver. He probably has the best hands of the trio, and most of his best work is done on the sideline. With Holmes and Edwards getting all the attention, a former No. 1 receiver will be going up against No. 3 DBs. That should be a huge advantage to Cotchery.
Dustin Keller, tight end
The first round pick from Purdue in 2008 had a solid regular season, but really emerged in the playoffs, catching 12 passes in three games, including a score against Cincinnati, San Diego and Indianapolis. We think Keller will be used heavily for the first four games – and then when Holmes, Edwards and Cotchery draw the attention of defensive backs, Keller will put together the type of season that vault him into the Top 10 With all the attention the three receivers will draw, we think Keller will push to crack the list of the top 10 best tight ends in the league by year’s end (Clark, Witten, Gates, Davis, Winslow, Miller, Finley, Celek, Shiancoe, Olsen).
In summation, we do think the Jets are Super Bowl contenders. It’s just too bad that this year the Colts are still very good, the Ravens look very good, and Brady/Belichick are still around. Best-case scenario: The Jets go 4-2 early, the addition of Holmes helps Sanchez more than anyone can imagine, and Cromartie returns to Pro Bowl form as the No. 2 cornerback.