QB: The Jets will keep four, which is a strange decision, but what about the position hasn’t been strange this season? Ryan Fitzpatrick held out forever. They don’t think Fitzpatrick is the long term solution, so they drafted Christian Hackenberg in the 2nd round. They retained last year’s 4th round pick, Bryce Petty. And yes, Geno Smith is still on the roster. He’s the only QB not brought in by the Jets current GM/coach regime.
RB: Matt Forte for Chris Ivory was the swap. They got a little older, and the hope is that Forte still has 1-2 years of being a Top 10 RB in him. But Forte is better out of the backfield. Bilal Powell will probably set a career-high for carries in hopes of saving Forte for a late-season playoff push.
WR/TE: One could argue the Jets have the best pair of receivers in the league, with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. There are better 1’s than Marshall – we ranked them here – but Decker’s an elite #2. I’m still waiting on Devin Smith to get healthy and emerge as a reliable #3. I’m surprised/disappointed the Jets never gave Jace Amaro a fair shake. He was released recently, but all we got to see was Amaro as a rookie, because he was out all of last season. So … Kellen Davis? Quincy Enunwa? Not all that exciting, though Enunwa was impressive at times late in the season, playing a hybrid TE/WR role.
OL: A few years ago this was the best unit in the NFL, but now it’s getting old. D’Brickashaw Ferguson retired, Nick Mangold is 32, and the rest of the group is average at best. I’d argue the offensive line is the weakest link to this team.
Defensive Front 7: The line, once Sheldon Richardson returns from suspension, and Muhammad Wilkerson is fully healthy, could be the best in the NFL. Leonard Williams had a terrific rookie year, but here’s the problem: Damon Harrison was so dominant against the run, his departure leaves a massive hole in the middle. Steve McLendon, who had an undistinguished run in Pittsburgh, needs to be very good, because the linebackers in the middle behind him leave something to be desired. Erin Henderson is 30, and has never been a stud, plus he’s had three off-the-field incidents since 2013; David Harris is 32 and his best years are behind him. It’s paramount for rookie Darron Lee to exceed expectations, and I think the Ohio State star can. Getting 10 sacks combined from the OLBs would be a gift. Lorenzo Mauldin looked impressive in spurts last year coming off the edge.
DBs: Darrelle Revis isn’t the best cornerback in the NFL anymore, but he’s still in the Top 5. Can Buster Skrine play on the outside? He was terrific in the slot. There was concern about the safeties last year, but I thought Calvin Pryor and Marcus Gilchrist were excellent, and actually underrated. They’re a big part of the reason the Jets only gave up 25+ points twice last season. Once was in New England; the other was in Oakland in a game Geno Smith had to play in.
Prediction: If they can survive the brutal early season schedule – five of the first six opponents made the playoffs last year, and the other game is against the Bills, who swept the Jets in 2015 – they’ll have a chance at the playoffs. If they are a 2-4 or 1-5 train wreck, you probably give Fitzpatrick a couple more weeks to save the season and then start looking to the future. A late-season push will be difficult with two Patriots games in the span of a month, plus facing Andrew Luck, and a trip to the West Coast (on a short week).
I’ll go with 8-8 and no playoffs, but the ceiling of 10-6 would get them in, they’ll just need help in the form of injuries to other teams. No playoffs would be scary because while Bowles had a great rookie season, pivoting from close-but-not-quite to rebuilding and finding a new QB, new RB and new WR – Fitz/Forte/Marshall are all 30 or older – will be a major challenge on the fly.