The Jets have always been the little brother in New York. The Giants have stood for consistency and championships, while the Jets are known for disarray and dysfunction. Harsh as this sentiment may sound, when the franchise’s one and only transcendent football moment came at Superbowl III, this characterization fits. However, last season, to a certain degree, the script was flipped. The Giants were winless in their first six attempts, while the Jets were showing promise and surprising people. Ultimately however, the Giants finished 7-3 over their final 10, while the Jets scuffled down the stretch.
For anyone new or unaware of New Yorkers hospitality towards their sports teams, it goes like this: New Yorkers don’t’ laud mediocrity, they despise it: that is, except when they embrace it. Well, they embraced it last season with the Jets. For a team only expected to peak at six wins, the Jets scratched out eight wins, which from owner Woody Johnson to casual fans sounded like 12. For once, instead of mediocrity inspiring impatience and listlessness, it inspired patience and a hopeful optimism to reign. Now, it is time to put prudence and practicality to optimism and hopefulness by analyzing many of the moves the Jets made this offseason.
Unlike his predecessor, who favored present success over future promise by discarding draft picks, John Idzik relishes them. Moreover, the spending has not been obscene, or unnecessary, but appropriate and savvy.
Eric Decker - Wide Receiver
The Jets needed an upgrade at the skilled positions, and Eric Decker was their first major addition. Decker comes by way of Denver where he was just a piece to a very detailed and effective offensive puzzle out in the Mile High city. Now however, he is expected to be the major piece in a much simpler offensive attack under second year starter Geno Smith. A change from supporter to star can sometimes come with obstacles and difficulties. Decker’s ability to overcome, persevere and eventually lead the Jets skilled players at the Wide Receiver position will go a long way to determining the success of the team.
Michael Vick - Quarterback
Arguably, Vick is the most transcendent player the Jets have had since Joe Namath. Much like Namath who made everyone envy his fame under the bright lights of Broadway, Vick captured fans imaginations with his dynamic running ability from the quarterback position. When Vick called himself revolutionary last month, and crediting himself with changing the conventional drafting of quarterback prospects, fans found it hard to disagree with him. However, at this stage of his career, and especially this season, he does not need to be his once revolutionary self. Instead, he must be serviceable and competent. If Geno Smith struggles, naturally Vick will be asked to do more and has shown the capability to handle the responsibility admirably throughout his career. Though, for now, the veteran’s job is simple: be ready and stay ready.
Chris Johnson –Running Back
Even with a leg injury in Week 3 last season, Johnson still gained over 1,000 yards last season in Tennessee. The running back position is an area the Jets exuded solid depth, and skill, however, once again, lacked star power. The Jets are hoping Johnson fills this void, and gives the Jets a legitimate name for opponents to account and game plan for. Johnson’s best years are likely behind him, and it is unlikely he will receive the bulk of the carries, but he should still add another layer to an offense once lamented for its lack of playmakers, to now having multiple.
Other Notable Additions:
Jacoby Ford, Dimitri Patterson, Breno Giacomini
Round 1 - Calvin Pryor, Safety
With a plethora of safeties already on the roster, the pick certainly came as a surprise to some. But, seeing his impact at Louisville, the Jets potentially got the steal of the draft at No. 18. A hard hitter with underrated coverage ability, Pryor can matchup one on one against tight ends down the field while delivering the big hits much like traditional safeties.
Round 2 - Jace Amaro TE
With the re-signing of tight end Jeff Cumberland, the Jets may be attempting to have a two tight end combination of their own, much like New England had with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Amaro gives the Jets another skilled pass catcher with the ability to stretch the seams of the field. While his blocking is suspect, the Jets desire for playmakers, especially at this stage of the draft simply could not, and should not be passed up. Sometimes, if you can’t beat them, join them, and in this case, the Jets may be stealing a play from Bill Belichick’s playbook with this pick.
Round 3 - Dexter McDougle Cornerback
At one time the Jets had Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis. Both skill sets revolved around physicality and going nose to nose with receivers. Now however, it seems the Jets organizational philosophy around this position has shifted from big and physical, to small and fast. McDougle certainly fits that mold, at just 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. He is a bit of enigma, having only played three games last season at Maryland due to injury, however, in each game he played in, he had an interception.
Round 4 - Shaquelle Evans
Even though he was not the first pick of the fourth round, Evans has the ability to be the most impactful. His physical, 6-foot-1, 215 frame gives the Jets a big, physically gifted receiver, the likes of which they have not been able to obtain, unless Stephen Hill has a sudden awakening. Noted for his sure-handedness and for his ability to play and thrive at UCLA, Evans should give the Jets results they couldn’t get elsewhere on their roster. Simply put, being talented is great, but if you can’t hold onto the ball, the talent goes nowhere.
Remainder of the class of 2014:
Players to Watch:
Damon Harrison(“Snacks”) As a disclaimer, he is partially on this list because of his nickname. I digress. In reality, he was the feel good story of last season for Gang Green. Coming out of relative obscurity, he evolved into a mainstay along the Jets’ vaunted defensive front. Snacks was right in the middle of everything, devouring every running back in sight, and disrupting countless passing plays. It will be interesting to watch whether his success was predicated on simple novelty, or whether his effectiveness can be maintained through his second full season with the Jets. The only way to begin to answer that question is during training camp, and going against teammates who are the most familiar with his game out of anyone he will face during the season.
No, there is not a childish nickname associated with “Mo”, just simply, he is a man-child. An incredible combination of brute force and not so subtle skill, Wilkerson has every move in the book, and then some, as defenses hit him with anything and everything. Wilkerson has the talent to shrug off each attempt off and seems to get bigger and better each year. Sometimes, writing about it doesn’t do a player justice. Instead, you just have to watch for a few minutes to understand the greatness and physical tools/talent of Muhammad Wilkerson.
He brought the “edge” to the Jets. On an offensive line devoid of attitude, Colon brought that old school offensive lineman savvy from Pittsburgh to New York. He gets under opponents skin, an irritant of the highest order, however, someone may attempt to get under his own skin during training camp to take his job. Fifth round pick Dakota Dozier played his college football at Furman, and subsequently dominated lesser competition. However, there is no questioning his talent, even against inferior competition, and should provide Colon a viable challenger to his starting guard position. At the very least, he gives the Jets a serviceable backup barring an injury.
Say hello to your new No. 2 cornerback Jets fans. Who is he? Exactly what I was thinking but certainly if he is the first option at the second corner position opposite Dee Milner, it’s important to watch and analyze his play, especially during training camp. The book is wide open and empty, and it’s time to start filling in the pages on this journeyman suddenly found in a starter’s role. It’s baptism by fire to say the least, and it’s time to see if Patterson can handle the heat.
The two major losses this offseason were Santonio Holmes and Antonio Cromartie. Holmes was a disruption, not to mention never healthy, but on top of that, his performance level didn’t match his contract number which the Jets needed to rid themselves of to build towards a more fruitful and promising future.
Cromartie on the other hand, was lost in a bidding war with Arizona, in which the Cardinals offered money the Jets simply weren’t ready to commit. They will be big losses, clearly Cromartie more than Holmes, but each will be felt at some point during the season.
There is competition at all the marquee positions on the offensive side of the ball. There are 12 wide receivers competing for roster spots, an “open” quarterback competition between a legendary veteran and a promising sophomore, and multiple offensive lineman vying to hold on to their starting spots.
Fortunately for the Jets they have a surplus of talented players. Though, as demonstrated in every sport, talent doesn't ensure continuity or victories. Instead, it is about plugging the right guys into the right system to achieve the desired results. Therefore, while the Jets have established pieces at marquee positions, a majority of this season’s success will rely on the supporting cast. The wide receiving corps will be critical to the team’s success.
The running back position is one of depth and intrigue. The big name in the group will likely not see the bulk of the carries, that being Chris Johnson. Instead, it will likely be a three prong rushing attack, with Chris Ivory, Chris Johnson an Bilal Powell all handling the running back duties. As the season progresses, it will be interesting to see which back if any become the featured back. With that said, Jets fans rejoice because this position appears settled and is very solid.
The final points of analysis on the Jets offensive outlook is devoted to the offensive line. Without the men in the trenches, there would be no gaping holes from the running backs or time for receivers to break away from coverage. In this facet, the Jets remain relatively constant, except for newcomer Brett Giacomini who will man the right side of the line. However, outside of this, and a slight chance of Willie Colon being ousted from his spot by Furman product Dakota Dozier, the unit remains relatively unchanged, and with pro bowlers Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the Jets should be solid in this area.
Position Battle To Watch in Camp:
Quarterback - Geno Smith vs. Michael Vick
In order for any offense to function at a reasonably high level, the first position that must be decided is quarterback. The Jets have said Geno Smith is the starter, but that a competition will ensue between Vick and Smith during training camp and preseason. However, the competition between the two has the odds stacking in Smith’s favor with the hopes that he ascends and assumes responsibility as the unquestioned quarterback and leader of the offense. However, if the chips don’t fall where the Jets hope, it is imperative that any clear doubts about Smith’s ability to out duel Vick must be realized quickly. It is the marquee matchup of the summer at Jets’ camp, and whatever the outcome will dictate the organization’s future for years to come.
This has become the calling card of the New York Jets, especially in the Rex Ryan era. The offense scores just enough to win with a heavy dose of runs and play action passes, while the defense completely shuts down the opposing offense. However, this season, the offense has improved while the defense has regressed. The offense got the star treatment this offseason, with the aforementioned additions of Decker, Vick and Johnson, while the defense lost pro bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie, and stuck last year’s first round pick Dee Milner and journeyman Dimitri Patterson to fill the void.
It is evident the Jets will struggle against the pass, as they did last season even with Cromartie. Patterson and Milliner will have notable and costly issues this season, and anyone who doubts this is not viewing with an impartial eye. Milliner struggled (putting it nicely) covering the No. 2 receiver, now he is expected to shut down the best player in Rex Ryan’s blitz heavy schemes which often leaves corners on an island 1-on-1. With that said, similar to last season, the cornerback problems will likely be somewhat masked by an incredible force. No, it is not the Hulk, but instead, the phenomenal production of a youthful, exuberant front four. From stud and budding superstar Wilkerson, to “Snacks”, the Jets’ front four last season was just incredible. Sacking and wreaking havoc on opposing defenses like no Jets defense potentially in their history has ever done before. The Jets front four hold the key to the season on the defensive side of the ball. If they disrupt opposing quarterbacks in a similar fashion to last season, look for the Jets to have a very good season.
Why even make predictions? They are assumptions about a complete team yet a faulty product. All teams however are like this entering training camp, much like freshman year of college is about figuring out who you are and who you want to be. Teams are still in the feeling out process, like two championship boxers being conservative so as to avoid a knockout via over ambition. Though, if I have demonstrated anything through this post, unlike previous years, the Jets and their fans should have hope. With new additions on offense, the same head coach, and immense at the heart of the defense, the Jets shouldn’t go into this season with renewed pessimism, instead, invigorating optimism. This season is not about potential, it is about reality, and right now, the Jets have a shot to do something great. Things will have to break right for this team, but any team needs breaks to make a run. For once, Jets fans won’t wait for the other shoe to drop, but instead, embrace the season, and its endless possibilities.
10-6. Second place in the AFC East and a Wildcard playoff berth.