The New York Jets are generally considered one of the worst, if not the worst team in the NFL as of right now. This is a hyperbole to an extent. Are the Jets a bottom ten team on paper? I think that it is a fair statement. Are they a shoe-in for a top five pick? I wouldn’t say so. Remember the 2012 Jets were 6-7 heading into their final three games, despite the league’s worst quarterback situation, having a roster decimated by injuries and severely lacking in talent. The roster has been improved, certain players are back healthy and really how much worse can the quarterback play possibly be?
Rex Ryan is a good enough coach and there is enough pieces on the current roster (which should still see some additions, notably at tight end and wide receiver) to have the Jets floating around .500 again for the bulk of the season. Could the Jets win 7-9 games in 2013? Crazier things have happened but let’s look at what needs to occur to make that a reality
Ground and Pound - Oh no, not that again! When it comes to offense the Jets have a question mark at quarterback, the worst group of tight ends in the NFL and an extremely thin batch of wide receivers with two of the top three players coming off serious injuries. They also have a right tackle who is shaky in pass protection. Yet, they have a talented and relatively deep group of running backs and the components of a strong, power run blocking offensive line across the board.
The swing players here are Chris Ivory, Mike Goodson, Willie Colon and Brian Winters. Ivory and Goodson need to stay healthy, as does Colon while the Jets need Winters to quickly pick up the offense. If those pieces fall into the place the Jets are going to be able to run the ball on most, if not every team on their schedule. Ivory will be a 1,200+ yard back and Goodson will be a home run hitter and chain mover on third downs off the bench.
This will also require offensive coordinator, Marty Mornhinweg, to be more run heavy than he has traditionally throughout his career. Although when looking at his passing game options compared to his running game options, how could he not be?
If the Jets can roll out a top ten rushing offense, it will take immense pressure off their shaky passing game, help limit turnovers and feed into Rex Ryan’s defense, who wants nothing more than to see his running backs combine for 30-40 carries per game.
Protect The Damn Ball - Whether it is Geno “HOV” Smith, David Garrard or Mark Sanchez, the Jets quarterback must avoid the catastrophic amount of turnovers from the previous two years. There are currently limited weapons in the passing game but I’d look for Marty Mornhinweg to heavily rely on the screen game to help protect his quarterback. Look for a ton of passes to Ivory, Goodson, Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley at or behind the line of scrimmage where they will have an ability to make plays after the catch. There is going to be plenty of high percentage, quick release throws from the quarterback position this season. If the Jets passing game doesn’t kill itself and gets occasional big plays, it will allow the Jets defense a chance to keep games close.
As Always With Rex, The Defense - Rex Ryan is always going to field a competent defense. This year he has an All-Pro caliber corner (Antonio Cromartie) and an All-Pro caliber defensive lineman (Muhammad WIlkerson) to build around. Can the Jets have an elite defense? It will depend on Quinton Coples making the leap and becoming a double digit sack guy, along with first rounders Sheldon Richardson and Dee Milliner being immediate impact players. The Jets don’t need David Harris and Demario Davis to be stars in the middle at linebacker, they just need them to avoid missed tackles and limit their exposure in pass coverage. The Jets are thin at safety but keep in mind Rex made a AFC Championship Game with Brodney Pool and Eric Smith starting.
Yes, the Jets are back to overly relying on their running game and defense while their quarterback situation shakes out and pass catching positions be rebuilt. “13-9 FOOTBALL”, JUST LIKE BUDDY TAUGHT REX! Regardless, there are elements for a competitive team in Florham Park, especially when you play Buffalo and Miami each twice.