There are plenty of debated topics about the New York Jets heading into the 2012 NFL season. Judging from our interactions on Twitter and Facebook in the previous months, here are our top ones in no particular order and our opinions on them.
1) Shonn Greene’s Ceiling/Potential
Joe Caporoso - My support and faith in Greene as a true lead back has waned considerably over the past two seasons. While I do not think he is the bum people like Evan Silva make him out to be, it is impossible not to be frustrated with his inability to consistently break tackles or break a big run. He is going to get a ton of opportunities this season and I think he averages somewhere in the 4.1 – 4.4 yards per carry range with low touchdown numbers because of the presence of Tim Tebow. I see the ceiling on his rushing yardage total somewhere around 1,250 yards and think the Jets will take a long look on deciding whether to re-sign him in the off-season.
Chris Gross – While Greene can be a solid starter in this league, I don’t see him ever becoming a huge star. He’s already 27 years old, and has really struggled to prove that he can carry the workload as a lead back for New York. Last season, Greene’s first full year as the starter, he ran for just over 1,000 yards and only 6 touchdowns. On a team built to run the football, you’d think the top back would post numbers better than these. Still, with Tony Sparano now at the helm as offensive coordinator, one would think that Greene is poised for a career year. Sparano worked his magic in Miami last season, as shown by Reggie Bush hitting the thousand yard mark for the first time in his career. I do think Greene is much better in a complementary role as he was with Thomas Jones during his rookie season when he posted a career best 5.0 YPC average. In the role that he is currently in, I see Greene topping out at about 1100 yards, 7 touchdowns, and averaging somewhere between 3.9-4.2 YPC.
Mike Donnelly - First of all, Evan Silva is an idiot and he’s proven it time and time again. Be sure to check back for my fantasy football coverage this year where I plan on proving that repeatedly. Anyway, I love Shonn Greene this year. When he was given the ball last year and allowed to get in a groove under the incompetent Brian Schottenheimer, he was really quite good. The offensive line problems were well documented early in the season, but when Greene hit his stride in the second half, he performed very well. He even caught 30 passes for over 200 yards, so he’s not a waste in the passing game either, as many would lead you to believe. This year, I expect him to rush for around 4.2-4.4 yards per carry, and total around 1,250-1,350 yards on the ground with 250-325 or so through the air, with 8-10 TD’s. Don’t forget, Shonn is playing for a contract this year, and that is a huge motivating factor. He will stay healthy, run hard, and silence the haters.
2) The Quarterbacks
Joe Caporoso - I am as bullish on Sanchez as ever and believe he is the team’s option at quarterback. The Jets have done an awful job of supporting him but I do think he will do a substantially better job of protecting the football this year and his production will be a slightly improved version of his 2010 numbers. Tim Tebow is best suited as a weapon in the running game and will be the team’s de facto number two running back.
Chris Gross - As I said in my review of training camp, the biggest thing that stood out to me was the command displayed by Mark Sanchez. You get the sense that this is the year that he is finally ready and confident enough to declare this team his. He needs to continue that mindset and be the leader that the offense needs him to be, while being very protective of the football. He will be challenged due to a great lack of experience in his receiving corps, but expect him to lean heavily on Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller. As for Tebow, the only way I see him advancing from his role as a RB/Wildcat QB is if the offensive line plays so poorly that Sparano and co. and forced to put the more elusive Tebow at the helm because of his ability to extend plays with his feet.
Mike Donnelly - I’m with Joe on this one. I’m a huge Sanchez supporter, and I expect him to perform well this year, despite the organization seemingly writing the book on how not to develop a young QB. When Holmes and Kerley get back fully healthy, and Hill gets comfortable, the offense should end up being in the middle of the pack in the NFL. For all the hoopla talk about a QB controversy, Tebow is going to make a bigger impact running the ball in short yardage and goalline situations. I’m comfortable with our QB situation.
3) Needed Offensive Additions
Joe Caporoso - The Jets should have added a veteran running back and wide receiver for depth purposes but it appears that window has passed. However, I think we are all in agreement that it is imperative for the Jets to add both a right tackle and a blocking tight end prior to the season starting. My reasoning on the Jets needing a veteran running back is because if Shonn Greene rolls an ankle, the Jets have the worst collection of running backs in the NFL. Bilal Powell had a good camp but has been mediocre in the pre-season and has done nothing in the NFL. Joe McKnight has potential but is made of glass. At wide receiver, it wouldn’t hurt considering the durability issues surrounding Holmes, Kerley and Schilens (if he makes the roster) this season.
Chris Gross - This is obvious. Right Tackle, Tight End, and some veteran help at WR should be the team’s top priority once teams begin to make the majority of their cuts. The Jets will likely try and look to the trade market for a Right Tackle because of how dried up the Free Agent class will likely be at the end of training camp. Blocking Tight End could be found from a foe, as New England has a surplus of Tight Ends and could possibly look to release someone like Daniel Fells. As for Wide Receiver, the Free Agent market is also very depleted, but looking to add a veteran would be nice insurance considering how Jeremy Kerley has been plagued by injuries so far. A veteran Running Back like Ryan Grant, a New Jersey native and Don Bosco Alum, would also give the backfield much more depth than it has right now. Outside of Greene and Tebow, there is not one proven runner on the entire roster.
Mike Donnelly - I was of the belief the Jets should let McKnight and Powell play rather than signing a veteran like Cedric Benson. I still believe that, even though they have been underwhelming so far this preseason because Cedric Benson stinks and if you use picks on these guys you have to let them play. I also didn’t have a major problem with the offseason moves at the WR position, but obviously I had a major, major, major problem with guaranteeing Wayne Hunter’s $2.5 million salary for this season and not giving him any competition at the RT spot. I addressed that in my Letter to Mike Tannenbaum, as well as the fact that if you combine all the tight ends on the roster they don’t equal up to one competent NFL blocker. RT and blocking TE were the two biggest whiffs this offseason.
4) Defensive Potential
Joe Caporoso - At a minimum the Jets are going to have a very good defense in 2012. Their run defense should be suffocating and their safety play should be much improved to compliment their elite corners. However, the only way for them to be a great or dominant defense this year is for the pass rush to show up. Aaron Maybin and Quinton Coples are the players on this team who are supposed to get after the quarterback and they need to do it consistently. Overall, the Jets defense is good enough to keep them competitively on a weekly basis even with a struggling offense.
Chris Gross - The Jets will very likely return to the elite level of defense that propelled them to two AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010. The safety play is much improved, and considering the trio of corners on the Jets roster, the argument could certainly be made that they have the best secondary in all of football. The pass rush is going to play a major role in how far this defense can really go. Rookie Quinton Coples and veteran Aaron Maybin need to be the pass rushers that everyone is envisioning them to be, with one of them reaching double digit sacks. Tell me the last Super Bowl Champion team that did not have a player on their defense record double digit sacks. Along with the pass rush, underneath pass coverage will be a huge concern. Bart Scott and Calvin Pace are virtually non existent in that area, so look for increased reps from Rookie DeMario Davis and Safety Antonio Allen, who could be used in some packages to cover drags and unders.
Mike Donnelly – The Jets defensive potential this year is off the charts. During Rex Ryan’s three seasons here, they’ve never finished worse than 5th overall in the league, and I expect them to contend for #1 this year. They’ve added Quinton Coples, Demario Davis, upgraded the safety spot immensely, and they’ll get a full year out of pass rusher Aaron Maybin. Throw in the continued development of Mo Wilkerson, Kenrick Ellis, and Kyle Wilson and this defense could easily be the best in the NFL. Oh yeah, they also have some guy named Revis that I hear is pretty good.
Joe Caporoso - Not buying the Buffalo Bills hype train at all and still think the Jets are the second best team in the AFC East. Will that be good enough for a playoff spot? Right now, the Jets don’t look like a playoff team. That being said, considering how their schedule softens up after week 5, the talent on defense, and the hope that the offense has to eventually improve in some way they could very well grab 9 or 10 wins and sneak in. The Jets are going to play close football games on a weekly basis, they need to play clutch at the end of games like they did in 2010 if they are going to have a winning record.
Chris Gross - This is where it gets sticky. The defense has the potential to be among the best in the league, if not the best. However, the offense is a cause for serious concern. You can say that winning teams are built on defense and the ability to run the ball, but can the Jets run the ball? The way the league has evolved, the importance of the Quarterback position is at an all time high. For this team to be successful, Mark Sanchez needs to have a career year in terms of ball security. If he can limit his turnovers, and provide numbers that he has in the past, then this team will have a chance to get into the playoffs and make another run. If not, New York will be picking in the top twenty come Apirl’s draft.
Mike Donnelly - In my AFC East preview, I outlined my expectations for the team this year. I think they’re going to win 10 or 11 games, despite how bad the offense looks right now. Face it, the defense has the potential to be outrageously good, and that combined with an easy schedule is enough to get them plenty of wins. I believe the offense is going to get it together, and while they won’t be setting the world on fire, they are going to be a competent offense, and they’ll be one of the better teams in the AFC.
Joe Caporoso - Quinton Coples has looked impressive rushing the passer, although you hate to hear veterans questioning his motor at practice. He is so immensely talented, it is hard to see him not registering at least 4-6 sacks as a rookie and gradually having his role increase as the season moves on. Stephen Hill will be a boom or bust player as a rookie, alternating big plays with drops and mental errors. Demario Davis will see more time as the season goes on but immediately be an impact player on special teams and on passing downs. Jordan White looks like he will make the roster, but will likely need a few injuries in front him to see substantial offensive reps. Beyond that, Antonio Allen has outplayed Josh Bush so far and could get into the mix for a defensive packages. It doesn’t appear that running back Terrance Ganaway will be much of a factor, as of right now at least.
Chris Gross - When it is all said and done, I expect DeMario Davis to have the greatest impact among all rookies this season. That is not a slight on any of the other players because I do think that Quinton Coples, Stephen Hill, Antonio Allen, and possibly Jordan White will all contribute nicely. However, with how balanced Davis is in terms of his ability to defend the run and pass, and as a special teams contributor, I expect him to have the greatest immediate impact. Over the long haul, the hope is for Coples to eventually become a cornerstone of this defense along with Davis, Mohammed Wilkerson, David Harris, and Darrelle Revis.
Mike Donnelly - I expect between 4 and 7 sacks from Coples this year, which will obviously lead some less than sane Jets fans to call him a bust, but his contributions will be more than just his sacks total. The guy is a force agains the run and he’s someone offensive coordinators have to plan and account for when he’s out there. He’s going to help open things up big time for those playing around him. Stephen Hill is another rookie whose contributions will go beyond the box score. He provides the deep threat the team sorely missed last year, and his presence on the field will open up the underneath routes, plus he’s an excellent run blocker. Demario Davis is going to be a special teams force, and will definitely help in sub packages with his coverage ability. The other rookie I’m very excited about is Antonio Allen, the 7th round steal who has looked tremendous so far this preseason. All in all, this rookie class has the potential to be very good.
7) Right Tackle Revisited
Joe Caporoso - In the process of writing this article Wayne Hunter was benched for Austin Howard. This was a no-brainer after watching Hunter play against the Giants. However, let’s not celebrate Howard like the second coming of Orlando Pace. He did not win this job, Hunter lost it. The Jets had no choice but to bench Hunter and Howard was simply next on the depth chart. If the team was truly that high on Howard, they would have given him the job in the beginning of the summer, wouldn’t have traded for Jeff Otah and wouldn’t have worked out Marcus McNeil a few weeks back. Yes, I think Howard can be an upgrade from Hunter but who couldn’t? Look for the Jets to still add another player via trade or free agency.