The general consensus from the mainstream media about the 2012 New York Jets isn’t positive. We have seen them ranked as low as 27th in Power Rankings by Evan Silva of Rotoworld, along with most commentators pegging them for 3rd or 4th in the AFC East behind Buffalo and in some cases behind Miami. This line of thinking isn’t that surprising when you step back and consider a few things.
Most people view the Jets as a brash talking organization who has seen their small window close. They are a roster stuffed with overhyped, overpaid players who had an ugly meltdown to end the 2011 season. Everybody who doesn’t wear a green and white jersey on Sundays is giddy at the thought of Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez failing and being out of a job this time next year.
The hate towards Ryan makes sense. He bit off more than he could chew last year when his big words weren’t matched by a successful January run that came up just short of a Super Bowl appearance. Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants made him look foolish and petulant. He is an easy target because of his personality. Yet, it doesn’t mean the man can’t coach the hell out of a defense or that he wasn’t more successful than 95% of NFL coaches are in their first three years.
The hate towards Sanchez is a little more perplexing because few individuals in the league face more unwarranted criticism. It could be because of the Hollywood, appearing on GQ Cover persona. It could just be having Rex Ryan as his head coach. Whatever it is, Sanchez is treated as a backup, masquerading as a starter instead of a young, developing quarterback like his counterparts Josh Freeman (who was truly awful last year) and Joe Flacco. Nobody is saying Sanchez has been anywhere near a great quarterback the past three years, but he has had more than enough great moments to merit faith in him being the future quarterback of a successful team.
Certain prominent players on the Jets roster have a negative public perception which blurs objectively looking at their talent on the field. Santonio Holmes is a selfish diva, not a former Super Bowl MVP who had 4 game winning receptions for the Jets in 2010 and 2 more in 2011. Antonio Cromartie is a guy with a ton of kids, not one of the best number two corners in football. Other prominent players are soft-spoken and stay out of the limelight leading to them being overlooked. People forget David Harris is a top five inside linebacker in football. Nick Mangold is the best center in the NFL and Sione Pouha is one of the league’s top nose tackles. Is there 10 better guards in the league than Brandon Moore or 5 better left tackles than D’Brickashaw Ferguson? I’m not so sure.
It almost seems that with each passing month the Jets 2011 record got a game worse. You would think from commentary on their team that they finished at 4-12 or 5-11 last year. The reality is that they were 8-5 and lost their last 3 games to finish a very average 8-8. A tip here or a tip there away from being a playoff team at 9-7 or 10-6.
So where does that put them heading into 2012?
It is equally as foolish to rank the Jets as a top five team heading into the 2012 season, as it is to rank them a bottom five team. The Jets didn’t get worse this off-season by making their starting tandem at safety Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry instead of Jim Leonhard and Eric Smith. They didn’t get worse by adding Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill and Demario Davis through the draft. And if used properly, they didn’t get worse by adding Tim Tebow and all that he brings to their offense. Finally, they certainly didn’t get worse by replacing Brian Schottenheimer with Tony Sparano at offensive coordinator.
Considering the talent on their defense (which was still top five in the NFL last season by the way) and a schedule that features games against offensive juggernauts like St. Louis, Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Miami (twice) and Seattle, the Jets have the look of a team that will range between 7-9 and 11-5 depending on how they play in close games.
The Jets are built to play tight, low scoring football. The results of these games will depend on winning the turnover battle, special teams, and finding a way to make the big play at an opportune time.
A large burden falls on Mark Sanchez to protect the football and hit big plays when they are available. He has a wide receiver who has the longest resume of clutch receptions currently in the NFL. A very good receiving tight end who he is comfortable with and a rookie speedster who is 6 foot 4. This team doesn’t need 45 pass attempts and 350 yards from Sanchez. It needs 18/25 for 200 yards but most importantly accuracy and smart decision making in big moments, which Sanchez has displayed in the past. They have the makings a competent, not great running game that could be dynamic at times if Tim Tebow is used properly.
Ultimately, there is too much talent on this roster to see the Jets as a 5 or 6 win team but there is enough questions to prevent expecting double digit wins. The difference between another 8-8 year and a playoff run into January will be their offense or special teams doing more of this in big spots -
And less of this -