Where Do the New York Jets Stand Now?

Mike Donnelly with post-game reaction to last night’s Jets vs. Giants game

As the meaningful part of the preseason comes to a close before the Caleb Schlauderaff and Ellis Lanksters of the football world battle it out against the Eagles in the last tune-up game before Week 1, the New York Jets unfortunately still have plenty of questions that need to be answered. The less-than-thrilling victory over the Giants in last night’s game did little to resolve these questions, and the Jets face a lot of uncertainty as the game that actually counts against Tampa Bay looms just two weeks away. 

So, uhh, who is going to start at QB Week 1? Well, that’s a tough one at this point. Heading into last night it seemed as though the job was rookie Geno Smith’s to lose. Well, not only did he do exactly that through 3 quarters of play, he lost it in spectacular fashion as he managed to throw not one, not two, but three interceptions against a porous Giants defense, AND decided to put the cherry on top in the form of “pulling a Dan Orlovsky” as he ran out of the back of the end zone for a safety. Sigh.

Heading into the game, the narrative was that all Geno has to do was not turn it over and he would have a leg up on the incumbent Mark Sanchez. Unfortunately, he was unable to do that and sometime around when he pulled the “Orlovsky”, it seemed as though Mark Sanchez was again firmly entrenched as the starter, for better or worse. But wait! Even that wasn’t meant to be as Rex Ryan decided to put Sanchez in behind a Swiss cheese offensive line of 3rd stringers, and lo and behold, he suffered a shoulder injury that could end up keeping him out several weeks. Yikes. So that’s where the team is at the QB spot right now. There’s a rookie who is clearly not ready to start in the NFL, an uninspiring veteran who may not be able to lift his arm, a banged up Greg McElroy, and one of Phil Simms’ sons. At this point, I may prefer Phil Simms himself over all of them. I wonder what Brett Ratliff is up to?

Well at least the Jets can run the ball and hide the QB right? That would be a pretty good plan, absolutely. Unfortunately, the Jets running back situation has looked, well…it’s not been good. If you told me back in April that despite signing Mike Goodson and trading for Chris Ivory that Bilal Powell would be the likely starter heading into week 1, I would have laughed in your face. Unfortunately, that’s the way it’s looking as Powell has been getting the majority of the reps in preseason as Goodson appears to have taken a trip to Belize with Mike (that’s a Breaking Bad reference for those unaware), and Chris Ivory has been brought along slowly after missing most of camp with an injury. Against the Giants, Powell and Ivory combined to run 19 times for a mere 31 yards. So let’s just say the run game is not quite where we’d like to see it yet.

So the Ivory hype was overblown then? NO! It is wayyyyy too premature to even think about giving up on Ivory or writing him off. The past two preseason games were all about him getting his legs under him and getting healthy and strong for week 1 against Tampa and that’s just what he’s done. The results have not been there yet obviously, but when the games count and Ivory really gets going, he has the potential to be the forceful runner that this team needs. Be patient, and Ivory will reward us. I think.

Who will our QB have to throw the ball to? This is one area of the team that I don’t think is too bad, actually. Santonio Holmes has been playing the media for fools for months now and will be ready to start week 1. Stephen Hill, despite a drop here and there, has actually had a solid preseason and looks like he’s ready to be an actual contributor. Jeremy Kerley has the potential to be a dynamite slot man in Mornhinweg’s offense, and Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland are a decent 1-2 tight end punch. It’s not the best group in the league, certainly, but it’s also not the worst. They can make some plays.

Is Vlad Ducasse really going to be the starting Left Guard? You better believe it! Vlad got banged up in last night’s game, but if he’s healthy, he will be slotted in between Brick and Mangold week 1, and it won’t just be by default. Vlad has actually earned that spot throughout the preseason and has thoroughly outplayed Stephen Peterman while Brian Winters was out with an injury. Eventually Winters will step in and take over, but for now the job belongs to Vlad, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. He actually played pretty well last year filling in for Slauson, and he’s a positive run blocker. I believed in Vlad all along! (No I didn’t).

How about that Defensive Line though?! Yep, the hype surrounding the Jets defensive line has been completely and totally justified, and they’re only going to be getting better. Mo Wilkerson is already amongst the best defensive linemen in the NFL, and it won’t be long until 1st-round pick Sheldon Richardson joins him. After a slow start in the preseason, Richardson really came on against the Giants and was flat out dominant at times. At nose tackle, Damon Harrison also had a huge performance filling in for Kenrick Ellis and showed that he should actually be getting consideration to start as Ellis has been slow to come back from his back injury. Just wait for when Quinton Coples comes back, and this group is really going to be special.

What about the rest of the defense? Despite the vomit-inducing, snarky tweets from the Jets dog crap group of beat writers about how the Jets aren’t a top-5 defense after David WIlson broke off an 84-yard touchdown run on the first play, the Jets defense actually had a great game. Eli Manning only completed 40% of his 20 passes for 83 yards, and after Wilson’s big run, he and #2 back Andre Brown combined to run 11 more times for a whopping 25 yards against the starters. The Giants obviously have a terrific offense, and the Jets pretty much shut them down for three quarters. Rich Cimini should probably lay off Twitter with his lame jokes before ESPN sends him to the corner for a timeout. Again.

That being said, the defense does still have some soft spots. Garrett McIntyre tries hard but is not an ideal replacement for Quinton Coples. Demario Davis, while full of potential, has some things to clean up in his game, and Kyle Wilson is just dreadful. The bottom line, however, is that as long as Rex Ryan is calling the shots, the defense will be fine.

So, now what? Well, at this point with the way things look, who knows. The first order of business will be to see how injured Sanchez actually is and if he could possibly be ready for week 1. If he isn’t — and he probably won’t be — then the Jets are going to head into the season with Geno and a very vanilla offense. They’ll try to bring him along slowly with easy reads and lots of running the ball, and hope for the best. The defense will be terrific, but it’s unlikely they’ll be as good as the 2009 defense that was able to carry a slacking offense almost to the Super Bowl. The bottom line is that while the Jets are still not as bad as a lot of people like to pretend they are, they still aren’t great, and there’s just no telling where this season is headed. It won’t be an easy season, but for Jets fans, it never is.

Author: Mike Donnelly

Mike Donnelly is a Staff Writer and life-long Jets fan, who was previously a featured columnist at multiple other New York Jets and fantasy football websites. He lives and works in finance in the NYC area and will help lead our Jets and NFL coverage in 2013.

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Wow Geno looked terrible. While he has potential, he needs time to practice & adjust to playing in a pro-style offense against NFL defenses.

    Its going to be a long & ugly season if Sanchez’s injury is season ending.

  • Frank Antonelli

    Just in case anyone is crazy enough to want to throw in the towel on Geno after his first ever real NFL action, here are some stats for ya.

    Colin Kaepernick was taken 36th overall in 2011 (Geno was 39th). In his first pre-season game that year, he was 9 of 19 for 117 yards, with 2 picks, 4 sacks, and no TDs. He ended up playing in all 4 pre-season
    games, and his combined stats were 24 of 50 for 257 yards, 5 picks, 8 sacks, and not a single TD. He did rush for 67 yards, but also fumbled

    Geno, in very limited action, is now a combined 22 of 37 for 246 yards, with 3 picks, 1 TD, and no sacks.

    Also, Russell Wilson didn’t even start the 3rd pre-season game and only got into that game late in the 2nd half.

    Also, for those of you who want to blame Rex that is being a complete monday morning QB! Geno was actually hit much harder and more often with the 1s then Mark was with the 2s. It was an accident stuff happens.

    Last week everyone was so concerned about the defense! This week everyone found out they’re pretty good. The same thing can happen with Geno!

    In conclusion, EVERYONE CALM DOWN!!

  • Nikolas

    We can’t judge this team in a static way, as if it is a mature veteran team, like New England or Denver. This team is young with a lot of new faces and if we put things into perspective, yesterday’s performance was really encouraging.
    1) A young defense – which will only become much-much better – made Eli (a champion) look, at best, pedestrian.
    2) The offensive line showed discipline and at times was absolutely dominant against a very formidable Giants front 7.
    3) Geno made typical rookie mistakes, but you are taught only from the mistakes you make. However he showed that he had the poise and control of a mature NFL QB. His escape ability and arm (is a cannon) are major weapons. In juxtaposition to Mark, who has not improved at all, actually he may have regressed; Geno has the tools and the work ethic to get better by playing.
    4) I never wish people “injury” , but Ryan’s controversial decision to put Mark in the 4th quarter and his subsequent injury may be a blessing in disguise, for the team. We all remember how Brady came about, after a Bledsoe injury.

  • Joe Caporoso

    Kapernick was given an entire season to sit on the bench.

    Russell Wilson played and played very well in every Seattle pre-season game. “Wilson’s electric preseason earned him a starting job and could shake up the NFC West division race.”


    All we are saying is that Geno played poorly last night, which he unquestionably did. Nobody is giving up on him. He just isn’t ready to start as of today.

  • Nikolas

    To Joe Caporoso:

    Well, the NFL season does not start today: but even if he is not “ready” so what?
    Mark Sanchez started as a rookie, so why not Geno?

  • KAsh

    I disagree that the Giants offense is all that good. They have big play potential, but they have genuinely struggled this preseason. Last night, they had their second TD in three games. The Colts held them to no TDs. They just have not gotten back to form, yet.

    I still need to see the game, so I cannot give an evaluation. It sounds to me like Rex wanted to give Sanchez some time with the offense so that he would not be three weeks removed from game action for TB. The timing was just wrong: he should have then pulled Geno at the half and given Sanchez and Simms one quarter each. Or maybe he wanted to see how Geno comes out after the break.

  • Hans

    Mark my words: starting Geno would be just as bad as starting Sanchez in 2009. Mark. My. Words.

  • __fense

    Just want to point out that Sanchez was with the 2nd string O-Line, while the defense was playing third stringers. Geno started and Sanchez was the backup, so I don’t see how anyone wasn’t expecting him to take over. I knew he was going to play after Geno all game.

  • __fense

    Also, glad to see you’re finally coming around on Vlad. He isn’t a pro-bowler, and he wasn’t good at RT a few years ago, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be above average at LG now. I just wish one of the morons would remember that he was hurt and give us an update.

  • Mike Donnelly

    Nikolas, Sanchez started because he played well in the preseason as a rookie and his only “competition” was Kellen Clemens. He was also a top 5 pick, not a 2nd rounder. If Geno isn’t ready, there’s no reason to force him in there.

  • sean

    Why does everyone seem to forget that sanchez was good in his preseason?

    First real slip was game in new orleans

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    Sanchez played in a pro-style offense in college, while Geno did not, which is a definite advantage for a rookie QB.

  • Nikolas

    People make arguments based on assumptions that may not be real. If we rely on “facts” Geno and Mark were (and still are) in close competition.

    While Geno has made 4 mistakes (3 interceptions, 1 safety) , Mark has made the same number of mistakes 4 ( 2 interceptions, 1 fumble, let clock expire in red zone).

    Geno made his mistakes in one game, while he played in 2; Mark has made his mistakes in all 3 of the games he played.

    Geno’s mistakes came all in the most competitive of preseason games, the same cannot be said for Mark: also Mark’s interceptions where in the red zone (offense and defense) which weight more in a game.

    Now given that Geno is a rookie and Mark is a 4 year veteran, this thing should not have been that close.

    Mark has proven, the last two years, that he has not progressed at all: if anything he has regressed. And his preseason performance validates the above statement (turnovers in all of his 3 games).

    So the Jets should give Geno a try and find out what they got. If Geno turns out to be ordinary, then next season they can go for another QB.

    By the way did we forget that last season Sanchez lost his job to Greg McElroy?

  • kc.

    I really don’t think it was that close. Mark Sanchez looked better to me in EVERYgame. Mistakes and all.

  • kc.

    I really don’t think it was that close. Mark Sanchez looked better to me in EVERYgame. Mistakes and all.

  • Nikolas

    Sanchez is not a starting NFL QB guys!
    There is no upside, no improvement to see.

    Didn’t you see enough of him last year?

    And what did he do this preseason to make you think otherwise?

    I would start McElroy and Simms over him.

  • KAsh

    McElroy and Simms have only ever faced third and fourth stringers. They played well, but they did not exactly amaze. McElroy was not a solid backup last year. I am intrigued by Simms – his issue was accuracy and he was fairly accurate in the two games I have seen him play – but there is no indication that he can handle playing against starters. Sanchez, for all his turnovers, has been the only QB that has looked good playing against players that will actually see the field during the regular season. The start of the season you have to play to win in the present year – unless you want to become a pariah to free agents – and the guy that lets you do that best is Sanchez. Hopefully he is fully healthy and ready to go in two weeks.

  • twoshady18

    say what you want about Simms only facing the Giant’s 4th stringers, but he still threw a couple of real pretty passes. You can’t deny his arm strength and his pedigree. I loved his enthusiasm and excitement. I would love to see how he would do with more reps and a full 4 quarters. I wouldnt be surprised if last night he booted McElroy out of a job.

  • John C

    Considering most Jets fans hoped Sanchez would be cut, I don’t think we’re anywhere different than we had been. Geno had a poor game – but Sanchez blew his first drive in this one with a fumble – when he must have known he might have put this to bed if he played mistake free. At this point, if you went by this preseason alone, Simms or McElroy would be the starter. And don’t give me “they play against third stringers” – who was Sanchez playing against Saturday?

    For some reason I believe this will help us down the road, because if Geno cannot play well, next week, and I’m assuming Sanchez won’t be back for the opener either, then Sanchez can come back as the potential savior, and Geno will have more to look back on, should Sanchez come back and falter again. So, Geno (and Simms and McElroy) get more reps, Sanchez doesn’t have the pressure of being Game 1 Starter, at home. If the injury isn’t serious – it’s a win-win.

  • John C

    Some other comments on where we stand now:

    Defense: Sit Wilson (still can’t turn his head), play Walls and Truffant. Richardson is the real deal. Harrison getting comfortable. Lansanah has an interception, and caused a fumble – who else on the D has caused a turnover (we’ll need to get some).

    Offense: Spadola is good, maybe real good. Nice to see screens. I believe the RBs and running game will come around, but a little bit of a concern. Tight End will be a strength. Line: If runners are getting stopped repeatedly at the line (and they are) the line has to share some of the blame. Despite any QB concerns, the O is much better than last year.

    Special teams: Get Joe healthy and returning kicks. Place Kicker: Hold your nose, flip a coin, and pick between them (sort of like QB at this point).

  • kilbasar

    Lol @ Frank Antonelli, thanks for copying and pasting my Kaepernick post from TJB and pretending you wrote it. Joe, it was originally written in response to some people on that board being very down on Geno after the game. My point was that like Kaepernick, Geno needs some bench time to mature as a QB, he’s not even close to the a finished product yet, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t still have tremendous potential.

  • Mark Phelan

    Enjoyed John C’s comments on QB situation, but Walls also displayed the very same head paralysis as Wilson in the Detroit game. Didn’t get to see him on Saturday night.