TJ Rosenthal had the opportunity to sit down with Evan Silva from Rotoworld and Pro Football Talk to discuss the 2012 New York Jets and the reasons he believes the team will struggle so much. We never shy away from varying opinions and thank Evan for taking the time to so thoroughly explain his opinions…even if we do disagree with them. Take it away TJ…
Rotoworld Senior NFL Editor Evan Silva is one of the up and coming NFL analysts out there today. Silva, who also contributes to NBC Sports and Profootballtalk.com, has recently caught the attention of some Jets fans who have come across some not so promising tweets from him when it comes to the Jets outlook for 2012. The Jet Report caught up with him to discuss in further detail why he believes the Jets will struggle this season.
How will the Jets fare in 2012?
I don’t think they’ll be very good. The one factor that may prevent the Jets from finishing as one of the league’s worst teams in terms of won-loss record is an easy schedule. They have the AFC South and NFC West as non-division opponents. They should also be better than the Dolphins. But I think the Jets will start the season 1-4 and end up losing along the way a number of games most people believe they “should” win because they will struggle mightily to generate offense.
I usually try to avoid bandwagoning the mainstream, common refrains. And I realize it’s become mainstream to criticize Mark Sanchez. At the same time, I’ve seen enough of Sanchez to believe — know might even be a better word — that he’s not the answer at quarterback for the Jets. He’s a timid passer, scared to challenge deep, doesn’t trust his arm, and plays frenetically in the pocket. The Jets’ bye falls in Week 9 this year. Regardless of the phony offseason contract extension, I think Sanchez will lose his starting job before or during the off week.
I think if Sanchez is ever going to successfully engineer an offense — and not be a quarterback at the controls of a team trying to stay competitive despite him — it will happen down the road, outside of New York. I actually think that is going to happen. Sanchez will have some strong years later in his career, long after the Jets move on.
Is the AFC East “Patriot owned” with the closest challenger to the throne gearing up in Orchard Park not Florham Park, as many believe?
I like what the Bills did in the spring. They desperately needed to improve their pass rush, and they will be a more dangerous team defensively this year than they have been in quite some time. But I don’t think they’ll be more than a 7-9 win team. And I think the Jets are looking at about seven victories in an absolute best-case scenario. So, yes, I think the AFC East is Patriot owned.
The Ground and Pound: Talk about it as a viable or non viable concept at this point in time in the NFL.
It would be viable if the Jets had a premier NFL back and an offensive line capable of dominating in the trenches, snap to snap and game to game. The Jets do not have either of those elements. I have reviewed 2011 games, and I actually thought the Jets’ run blocking was better last year than it was given credit for. The front five opened lanes. There were plenty of cutback opportunities. The back consistently failed to capitalize. Shonn Greene is another major liability on this team, and I think you could make a good argument that he’s an even bigger liability than Sanchez.
Are the pieces in place for the Jets to at least achieve their goals with this system on offense?
I don’t think so. Not even close. I mean, what is the Jets’ strength on offense? It’s definitely not the passing game. And you can’t tell me it’s Shonn Greene. I enjoyed watching the Jets a couple of years ago when you had Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes threatening defenses vertically, and Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery working the seam. The offensive line was maybe the best in the league. The Jets didn’t have elite backs, but there was a vertical threat and a punishing front-five group that worked in unison to kind of compensate for the talent shortcomings in the backfield. The Jets won 11 games that year. They could compete with anyone.
The Jets have gotten worse since then, probably much worse. The right tackle is a major, major problem. Wayne Hunter isn’t just a poor pass-protecting tackle. He gets knocked off the ball in the run game, too. And right tackle in a run-first scheme is a crucial puzzle piece. You want a guy there that you can run behind. Pound it off his backside. Hunter isn’t remotely close to that guy.
How about adding Cedric Benson?
I don’t think Benson would be a terrible pickup. He can handle a large workload and fits the scheme from the standpoint that he’s a power runner. He does a better job of picking up blocked yards than Greene. He sees the field better than Greene. But Benson doesn’t have any big-play ability. He doesn’t play in the passing game. When Benson is in the game, the defense knows the run is coming, which makes the offense easy to defend. He would not solve the Jets’ problems.
I like Tim Tebow. I think he fits the Jets philosophically because he is a run-first quarterback. Rex Ryan and Tony Sparano want to pound the rock. I think that by midseason, Tebow will have overtaken Sanchez because he’s a superior philosophical fit. He’s also willing to stand in the pocket and test the defense downfield. Even if he’s not putting it on the money every time, I think that’s more than you can say about Sanchez. I think Tebow gives the Jets a better chance of delivering the rock to Santonio Holmes in the vertical passing game than Sanchez does.
The Jets are begging for a quarterback controversy, by acquiring Tim Tebow. And I think it will start off very rocky. But I think ultimately he will prove their best option to play under center.
How do you see him fitting into the equation offensively should he remain QB2?
It’s pretty clear that he will be used on special teams, and on offense have a designed package of plays for about 5-12 snaps per game. Offensively, I think it will be a disaster because you already have a starting quarterback whose down-to-down consistency is a major issue, and then you are pulling him off the field for a different quarterback who is sure to be a fan favorite. There is little doubt in my mind that it will cause problems for the Jets internally, until Tebow takes over full time.
Will Tebow improve at throwing the football as a pro?
I don’t feel great about betting against Tim Tebow long term, but I don’t think he will improve as a passer. He’s not a natural thrower of the football. Passing the ball into tight windows with precision and consistency is not in Tim Tebow’s DNA. Watch a bunch of Tebow’s throws uninterrupted, and you can see it in the way the football comes out of his hand. I don’t think we’ll see him get much better, but I also don’t think that necessarily means he can’t quarterback a winning offense.
How much of Mark Sanchez’s inability to elevate his play in 2011 when the Jets started the year attempting to open it up, had to do with Brian Schottenheimer’s playcalling, and or any handcuffs having been put on him since day one?
The issues are with Sanchez. They’re not with Schottenheimer. Schottenheimer ultimately did not successfully coordinate an explosive offense, and by failing to do so he failed to do his job. I know it’s easy to pile on the guy who’s gone. The guy who failed. But if he had an effective quarterback, Schottenheimer would still be the Jets’ offensive coordinator. In Sanchez, he did not have that.
The Jets did open last season with a passing offense. For instance, in the Week 1 Dallas game, the Jets used shotgun on 38 of their 64 offensive snaps. The Jets were using three receivers as their base offense early in the year. They opened up their offense and gave their quarterback a chance to really establish himself as a top-flight NFL passer. When Sanchez failed to produce the results the Jets wanted, Ryan called the thing off and went back to the Ground and Pound. We’d be telling a different story — and Schottenheimer would still be around — if Sanchez had played well in the passer-friendly offense. It all comes down to execution. Sanchez did not execute.
Can Tony Sparano make Sanchez into the leader the Jets first envisioned, when they traded up to select him 5th overall in 2009?
I obviously don’t think so. I don’t even think Sparano is trying to do that. The Jets hired Sparano to implement a running-based offense. In the NFL these days, you don’t implement a running-based offense when you have a quarterback who throws the football effectively. With Sparano calling the offense, the Jets will try to get back to winning games in spite of Sanchez. That’s not an endorsement of the quarterback, and that’s probably not going to work unless you have an elite running foundation. And the Jets do not have that. Sanchez will be asked to manage games, avoid turnovers. Hit the open man in obvious passing situations. He’ll be a complementary piece — a role player. In pro sports, it’s difficult to truly be a great “leader” when you’re a role player.
Does the offensive line have the potential talent wise to rival Rex Ryan’s initial unit that once housed names like Faneca and Woody?
No, they don’t. This is pretty obvious. I think the Jets can be a decent run-blocking team, but not to the point that they open enough holes to turn Shonn Greene into a great back. A healthy Nick Mangold for an entire season will help, but otherwise you have all of the same linemen returning from last year. You have the new offensive line coach talking up Hunter like he can play. To me, these are the signs of a delusional organization that is internally evaluating its own talent poorly.
The rookies: The Jets are real high on Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill and Demario Davis, among others they selected during April’s draft. Can any team realistically expect a serious contribution from so many first and second year players?
Absolutely they can. First- and second-year players contribute at high levels every year. The jury is out on all three of the players you mentioned for various reasons. For Coples, his motor is a concern. And he’s not a bend-the-edge pass rusher. I watched quite a bit of Hill at Georgia Tech, and at times he looked like the best player on the field. At others, he looked like the worst. I think the Jets will struggle to get him the ball, and we don’t know a whole lot about him because he ran one route in college. Davis is a small-school phenom who is probably a year away from impact.
On defense the Jets want to alternate between the 3-4, 4-3 and 46. Will this provide more versatility or lead to more confusion?
Rex Ryan knows a lot more about defensive schemes than me, and I don’t doubt for a second that the Jets will trot out an effective 2012 defense no matter what formation they’re using. The Jets will play good defense. I still question whether they have a pass rusher capable of instilling fear in offenses and altering field position. I would also think that in order for the 46 to be successful, you’d need a quality centerfield safety to roam the deep middle. I don’t think the Jets have that, and my guess is that it’s an area in which they’ll be exposable. But all in all, I have the utmost confidence in Ryan’s defensive strategy and think his unit will play well.
I just think the Jets will be heavily reliant on their defense to score points. Perhaps too reliant on the defense to take the football away and score touchdowns. Because I don’t think the offense is going to move the ball and put it in the end zone. They will need the defense to do it.
Are LaRron Landry and Yeremiah Bell an upgrade at safety over Jim Leonhard and Brodney Pool?
If LaRon Landry is healthy — and there is no way for any of us to tell whether he is — he is a ferocious in-the-box safety. He blows up ball carriers and can separate them from the football. He will be an upgrade if and only if he is healthy.
Yeremiah Bell is 34 years old and got destroyed in coverage by tight ends last season. I hope the Jets don’t plan on matching him up with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. I think Bell can bring to the table run-support skills and veteran “leadership,” but the former is a dime-a-dozen trait at this point and the latter is unquantifiable in terms of value, and I’d ultimately put zero stock in it.
The Jets sense a big year out of Mo Wilkerson? Do you?
Wilkerson was a really good pass rusher in the MAC and he earned extensive playing time as a rookie, and played pretty productively. I’m not going to pretend to have watched him closely, but I think there are certainly promising signs and I would bet on him becoming a pretty good player. But the Jets seem to “sense” a big year out of every player on their roster. Shonn Greene, Wayne Hunter, Mark Sanchez, LaRon Landry, Kyle Wilson. So I don’t think it matters much that they “sense” a big year out of Wilkerson because they do that for everybody.
The current air attack corps: Holmes, Hill, Schilens, Kerley, Keller, Cumberland with of course some blocking TE’s, late picks and UDFA’s mixed in…A sufficient enough group to keep eight out of the box all day?
I don’t think the idea of keeping eight defenders out of the box has much to do with the pass-catching assembly. I think it has everything to do with the quarterback. And until the Jets get quarterback play that worries opposing defensive coordinators, those D-Coordinators are going to keep eight in the box, attacking the line of scrimmage and daring the quarterback to beat them.
Why not re-sign Braylon Edwards?
I don’t know how much Edwards has left. He’s coming off a troubling, recurring knee injury and couldn’t keep a starting job in a poor 49ers receiver corps last year. I know the New York Post reported that the Jets have essentially ruled out bringing Edwards back. So probably a moot point.
Why hasn’t Dustin Keller turned into a top tier TE yet?
I think Keller has developed into a nice player. He’s a solid starter, certainly not one of the Jets’ weaknesses. I think he’s not considered an elite tight end because he doesn’t put up huge stats. Stats for a player like this can be a function of the offense in which he plays. The Jets don’t throw the ball a ton. I also think it’s no secret that he blocks poorly. Keller can stretch the seam and has improved as a hands catcher. But he’s not a great fit for a run-first offense because he can’t block.
Some have recently said regarding your twitter posts on certain Jets personnel that “Evan Silva just hates the Jets, that’s all.” How would you respond to those who justify your take on the team as being more personal than analytical?
I’d just say I have nothing personal against the Jets. I don’t think they’re going to be a good ball club in 2012, and that’s precisely why I said those things.
2012 NY Jets Biggest strength: Darrelle Revis
2012 NY Jets Biggest weakness: Offense
Word association: In a few words or less:
Rex Ryan: Great defensive mind.
Tony Sparano: Fine coach, but I don’t see how he’s an upgrade on Callahan.
Mike Tannenbaum: Fired after this season.
Mark Sanchez: Benched by midseason.
The Ground and Pound: There are certain elements you need to make it work. Jets lack them.
Tim Tebow: Fun guy to root for.
Quinton Coples: Versatile five-technique end. Will be a solid — not spectacular — NFLer.
Darrelle Revis: Best defensive player in football.
Buffalo Bills: Fitzpatrick will hold them back.
NE Patriots: Have revolutionized the NFL.
The AFC Playoff Picture: Like the Pats and Steelers. Titans are my sleeper.
The Jets Offense in 2012: Hard to watch.
The Jets Defense in 2012: Must carry the team.
Jets Chemistry Issues of 2011: Don’t care much about them.