Turn On The Jets is happy to welcome back our good friend TJ Rosenthal who runs The Jet Report. TJ is going to run the No Huddle for us every Monday, looking at a pressing issue facing the New York Jets. Today he looks at what could stand in their way of a AFC East title…
Rex Ryan’s Jets have proven that they can do it the hard way in January and win. Though the road, and wildcard weekend starting points have both proven historically tougher paths to survive, the NFL has nonetheless crowned winners out of teams who have played both the extra playoff round, and away from home in each of the past two seasons. For the Jets, the goal of winning the AFC East title, one that could award the club a bye and home playoff games, must still remain the goal heading into this season. Even though it may be harder for Gang Green to win their own division than most clubs who consider themselves playoff caliber. Here are some of the main reasons why -
The New England Patriots
You know, the Belichickian team that wins 11-12 games every year. The NFL regular season’s Legion Of Doom. Evil masters of the fall and early winter.
Potential Jet Losses due to rookie mistakes (and hey the Jets sound like they plan on using every newcomer available including interns at Florham Park) would be acceptable elsewhere, like divisions where nine or even ten wins could mean a bye and home game. Not in this division.
Keeping up with the Jones in THIS town means not only owning fancy cars and powerful speedboats, but optimizing them too. We’re not complaining. It just may take a while to get everyone going in the right direction together. Young. Old. Sanchez. Tebow. All of which won’t help securing a crown if the Foxboro duo of Bill and Brady outsmart everyone before snow hits the ground. Like they always do.
For the Jets, it is like the Pats Boston brethren Aerosmith once said “it ain’t easy living like ya wanna and it’s so hard to find peace of mind.”
Rex says the ugly chapter that defined the Jets 8-8 campaign last year is over. That the age of the 2011″ diva reciva” has come and gone. We believe in our hearts that Rex is correct. A page HAS been turned. That new kids that infused OTA’s like Demario Davis appear to be speeding the process from selfish entitlement back to a blue collar appreciation for all that gets earned on the gridiron. Rex has even toned his predictions down, as new position coaches like Karl Dunbar and Dave DeGuglielmo have arrived along with the always positive OC Tony Sparano. All carrying with them a bright new energy.
All that aside, there are still potential oil slicks. Ones that could make 2011′s crash turn into a lingering clean up process that Gang Green doesn’t currently envision:
A Darrelle Revis holdout. A senseless and media driven QB Drama. Angry vets who lose time to productive rookies and tell the media as such. (Bart Scott and Davis anyone?). Complaints by the WR corps about a run heavy attack that doesn’t include them. Rex falling off track and barking up the wrong tree again.
The Jets took the first step to recovery by admitting there was a problem. How cemented is the new foundation though? Is it sturdy enough to take on a few of these possible storms at once?
We’ll be real brief here. The Jets have the 20th ranked strength of schedule difficulty according to ESPN.com based on opponents 2011 records. Not bad you say? The Patriots have the 32nd. Easiest in the NFL.
The Jets open with upstart Buffalo, then a trio of last year’s playoff clubs in Pittsburgh, the Niners and Houston, all in the first five weeks. They close the year with three of four games on the road. That’s tough.
We get it though. You can’t worry about what the other teams in the division do. You can only try and win the games on your own schedule. For the Jets that will be hard enough to do in September. Plus given the Pats situation on paper, scoreboard watching may be futile anyway. The Jets might as well follow the gospel of eternal nemesis the late Al Davis and “just win baby.”
Too Much Of A Reliance on Rookies:
Young players make rookie mistakes. Ones that can happen at inopportune times. Like when a game is in the balance. Lose a few games during this process in the AFC East, and suddenly your fighting for a wildcard berth as early as Halloween.
The Jets LOVE their new young pups. So do we. More so, we love the fact that the Jets finally get it. Speed and size on the field DO matter. Over the next few years we hope the Jets continue to value these two things that a coach can’t teach.
We also hope that expectations, should all the kids get in the huddle at once, for more than just situational work, are tempered a bit in the first half of the season by the fan base. Mistakes will happen and could cost the Jets a shot at keeping pace with the Pats should they be up their same old tricks.
The Ground and Pound Sputters:
Going retro thematically on offense seems right for the Jets in terms of regaining their initial identity in the Ryan era as a smashmouth team. However, in the past few years since first Ryan chose three yards and a cloud of dust as the playbook theme for the O, the entire NFL has moved further towards a “quick strike, pass happy” concept.
If the Jets invest as much time into rebuilding the ground and pound as they say they are, and fail to run the ball well, they may lag light years behind the current collection of aerial firepower that is growing around the league .
Two score deficits with an underdeveloped passing attack this year will feel like a four score deficit. Behind Shonn Greene (who Rotoworld analyst Evan Silva questioned as a starter at all today) is an unproven Joe McKnight and essentially two rookies. Unless of course you believe Tim Tebow can become a key ground cog, or even the next Peyton Hillis. We’re not even talking about whether the O line can get back to it’s 2009 form. In short, alot remains to be seen.
In addition, controlling the clock and time of possesion has become shall we say from the living room of our Nolita apartment, a bit out of fashion. It better be done well.
Finally, there are injuries. You have to stay healthy if you want to compete. Knock on wood, the Jets have avoided disastrous sideline pile ups of key players in street clothes in recent years. It has to obviously stay that way. No matter how much a team loves it’s own depth.
The aforementioned obstacles noted are not to say that a Jets 20102 division title can’t be had. It can. It’s just that the for Jets to do it, alot has to go right here and on the periphery.
On the bright side, if the regular season all adds up into a playoff appearance that requires an extra game and away jerseys, so be it. Those frigid winter waters wouldn’t be uncharted or unmanageable ones for Rex Ryan’s Jets.
They’ve done it before.