In my preview of the Jets leading into the preseason, I pegged the team as not that awful, and perhaps capable of having a .500 season.
Then the preseason happened. DE/LB Quinton Coples hurt his ankle. QB Mark Sanchez got hurt. RB Mike Goodson finally emerged from (presumably) rehab. Santonio Holmes didn’t get on the field. Rookie QB Geno Smith looked less-than-impressive.
[PREVIOUSLY: 2012 Jets Preview]
And now I’m back on the 4-5 win track. I’m not embarrassed to admit I DVR’d every Jets preseason game (thank you, NFL Network). While I’m of the hope that my favorite team doesn’t show much of anything in the preseason, my individual player takeaways were not extremely positive. Here’s my position-by-position breakdown, with a game-by-game season guess at the end. Worth noting: I will be attending a few Jets games in person (!) this season.
QB: Mark Sanchez had a nice 2-year run. He was a poor man’s Eli Manning in his first couple regular seasons – Eli turns into a Super QB in the postseason – and after sneaking into the playoffs, the former USC QB avoided mistakes and led the Jets to two AFC title games thanks to a formidable running game and stout defense. But in part due to horrible front office work by the now-fired GM, Sanchez never improved in his 3rd season, and his 4th was an unmitigated, get-him-the-hell-out-of-there disaster. His problems remain the same – happy feet in the pocket, cowers under pressure, seems to unnecessarily rifle short passes, reads defenses at a high school level, and soils himself in the red zone. Sure, he’ll have a drive where he looks sharp and efficient, but consistency is needed from a 5th year QB. I still think he gives the Jets the best chance to win, but if surgery is needed and he’s done, good luck as the #3 guy in … Oakland? All I have to say about Geno Smith: The Panthers took Jimmy Clausen in the 2nd round in 2010. The next year, they took Cam Newton #1 overall. I like Brady Quinn more than Matt Simms as the #3 QB.
RB: Chris Ivory runs angry. I love that. I love his stiff arm. In terms of being a pure running back, he has the potential to be the best one the Jets have had since Thomas Jones in 2009. Yup, better than LT in 2010, even though he picked up the blitz better and was a better pass-catcher out of the backfield. HOWEVER … Ivory has a tendency to be fragile. He couldn’t stay healthy in New Orleans. If he plays 16 games, sure, 1,500 yards isn’t out of the question. If he plays eight … the Jets are a 3-4 win team. That’s because I have zero faith in Mike Goodson. He has 160 carries in his NFL career. Why should I get excited about him as the No. 2 – or, gasp – the #1 back? And let’s just ignore the offseason arrest that led to his 4-game suspension. What an embarrassing acquisition by the new GM. Bilal Powell probably has the most complete skill set of the trio, and he looked best in preseason (which ain’t saying much) but I can’t envision him as a No. 1 back. Problem is, he might be there in the second half of the season given Ivory’s injury history and Goodson’s off-field troubles.
WR: I’m wearing my optimistic hat for a moment. Stephen Hill showed flashes as a rookie! Remember the Buffalo opener last year? So good! (Optimism means we won’t talk about the drops.) The guy was in a run-happy system at Georgia Tech, and he’s adjusting being a full-time WR. How about Jeremy Kerley! What a great slot guy (827 yards receiving) to root for! And maybe even a fantasy sleeper!. Durable, speedy, I’m a fan. Reality is tugging at the optimistic hat as I reach Santonio Holmes. I’ll never forget his unbelievable three-game stretch in his first year with the Jets – game-winning plays against Houston, Detroit and Cleveland in consecutive weeks. But when the good times weren’t rolling (end of 2011), he turned into a petulant punk, and I’ll never forget an offensive lineman kicking him out of the huddle for yelling at Sanchez in Miami. I have nothing to say about Clyde Gates other than, he appears to run fast, but I’d rather have Braylon Edwards.
TE: The strong suit of the offense? Yup. Like Jeff Cumberland (been a fan of his since 2011) and like Kellen Winslow (lobbied the Jets to go after him in 2012). Go big, Marty – two TE sets, and thump away with Ivory until he gets inevitably breaks down. Make life easy for Geno, because even though he played in a pass-happy attack at West Virginia, let’s not forget – those were shoddy Big 12 defenses he was carving up.
OL: Remember when this was arguably the best unit in football four years ago? Yeah, well, it’s 2013. D’Brickashaw Ferguson is coming off a poor year. Nick Mangold remains one of the best centers in football. The fact that human turnstile Vlad Ducasse is starting worries me to no end, but if you’re going to put him anywhere, it might as well be between Mangold and Brick. Just make sure the RB/FB knows where to pick up the blitz. The right side is Pittsburgh veteran Willie Colon and hit/miss tackle Austin Howard. Overall, it’s blah, but what aspect of this team isn’t?
The defensive line, that’s what isn’t blah. Mo Wilkerson is already one of the best DE’s in football. I’ve been bullish on DT Kenrick Ellis since they drafted him, but let’s see how he does in a full-time role. Rookie Sheldon Richardson will be on the other side, but here’s a question nobody will be able to answer until the first game – how much 4-3 will the Jets play? I ask this because Coples, who had a strong rookie year on the line, has been moved to LB. Problem is, he was injured in the preseason, and will be out for at least the first couple weeks. An Ellis/Richardson interior would be nice, with Wilkerson/Coples as bookends.
Here’s how you know the defense was overrated last year (133 rush yards per game allowed): Two of the top three tacklers were safeties. Oh, and both of them (Bell and Landry) are gone. They were experienced pros. Their replacements? Dawan Landry (solid on an atrocious Jacksonville defense in 2012) and Antonio Allen (six career NFL tackles).
Oh, and if starting a neophyte 7th round pick at safety wasn’t enough, the Jets are starting a rookie (Dee Milliner) at cornerback! New York’s defense will be abysmal if Antonio Cromartie isn’t elite. Because if he needs safety help (presumably from Allen, since Landry will have to shade to Milliner’s side) … you’re looking at disaster.
What’s that you say? Forget the safeties or question marks at corner (Kyle Wilson is the nickle DB, and the handful of people who think he isn’t a 1st round bust also think Santa Claus exists), the linebackers are the real issue. David Harris, their leading tackler last year, is vastly overpaid. Calvin Pace comes up with an impressive, timely play every three or four games. Demario Davis was a nice special teams player last year; now he’s starting at ILB and he’ll be the guy who takes on blockers in the hole, like Bart Scott did. Is Davis big enough? Garrett McIntyre (no relation) will be starting in place of Coples until he’s healthy. There isn’t a playmaker in that group; those guys scare nobody.
Since you didn’t take the time to tally potential All-Pro players, I went ahead and did it: Wilkerson. Cromartie. Mangold. That’s. It.
1 Sep 8 1:00PMEDT Buccaneers – LOSS
2 Sep 12 8:25PMEDT AT Patriots – LOSS
3 Sep 22 4:25PMEDT Bills – WIN
4 Sep 29 4:05PMEDT AT Titans – WIN
5 Oct 7 8:40PMEDT AT Falcons – LOSS
6 Oct 13 1:00PMEDT Steelers – LOSS
7 Oct 20 1:00PMEDT Patriots – LOSS
8 Oct 27 4:05PMEDT AT Bengals – LOSS
9 Nov 3 1:00PMEST Saints – LOSS
11 Nov 17 1:00PMEST AT Bills – WIN
12 Nov 24 1:00PMEST AT Ravens – LOSS
13 Dec 1 1:00PMEST Dolphins — WIN
14 Dec 8 1:00PMEST Raiders — WIN
15 Dec 15 4:05PMEST Panthers – LOSS
16 Dec 22 1:00PMEST Browns – LOSS
17 Dec 29 1:00PMEST AT Dolphins – LOSS
5-11. No playoffs. Top 7 pick.