Initial Reaction – That’s How You Finish: Jets Win…Rex Returns

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The New York Jets ended the season with an exclamation point today in Miami, knocking their division rival Dolphins out of the playoffs with an impressive 20-7 victory. Basically immediately after the game, Owner Woody Johnson announced that Rex Ryan will return as the Jets head coach in 2014. We haven’t received word about a contract extension but it is likely the Jets will add a year or two on to his deal. There are also rumblings that the defensive coaching staff could be shook up a little bit, so stay tuned for further information on that front.

As for today, the most encouraging development remained the strong finish to the season for rookies Geno Smith, Dee Milliner and Brian Winters. Smith went 17/27 for 190 yards and rushed for 44 yards with a touchdown…and most importantly had zero turnovers. Over the final quarter of the season, Smith went 68/106, with 790 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 188 yards rushing and 3 rushing touchdowns…not too bad considering his supporting cast. With another off-season of working with the same offensive coaching staff and an improvement to the skill positions, Smith should be that much better in 2014.

Dee Milliner was beat for an early touchdown but responded with two second half interceptions and five passes defensed. His progress from battling with the likes of Josh Gordon and Mike Wallace the past couple of weeks has been encouraging and there is no reason not to expect improvement, particularly if he can stay healthy this off-season. Milliner is going to be an opening day starter at corner in 2014, the only question is who will be lined up opposite of him.

Brian Winters put together another solid game, avoiding any penalties or allowing any sacks. He also had a nice block on Geno Smith’s touchdown run. He is another guy who you should expect to see starting next season and who will only improve with a full healthy off-season in the same system.

After a slow first quarter, the Jets were relatively dominant on both sides of the football. Bilal Powell stepped in for an injured Chris Ivory and finished off a very strong all-around season with 76 yards on 21 carries. David Nelson led all Jets receivers with 5 receptions for 66 yards and Jeremy Kerley chipped in 5 receptions for 40 yards. Led by Smith, the Jets offense consistently moved the football and even dusted off a Wildcat pass from Powell that went for 30 yards to Jeff Cumberland.

Defensively, the Jets intercepted Ryan Tannehill three times, the previous two mentioned by Dee Milliner and one by Ed Reed. Tannehill finished an ugly 20/40 and the Dolphins only managed 92 yards rushing overall. The Jets have their issues on defense but they put together an impress overall performance today.

We know this, the Jets 8-8 as a rebuilding team led by a rookie quarterback is much better than the Dolphins 8-8 after they busted their salary cap this past off-season to supposedly “make a run.”

The Jets now head into the off-season with somewhere between 40-50 million of cap space and likely 12 draft picks. It should be an exciting off-season. Stay with us here at TOJ as we break down what the team needs to do to reach the playoffs in 2014 and keep you updated on as any off-season information trickles in.

  • KAsh

    I guess we will see, but how much of a hit can there be to the coaching staff? Unless Dennis Thurman either gets the ax or goes to another team, you are talking about getting rid of the defensive unit coaches, with the exception of Karl Dunbar, and the receivers coach, Sanjay Lal. That is a total of three coaches and their assistants.

    Moreover, the linebackers’ coach is already leaving to be Auburn’s new DC and the defensive backs’ coach is a Dennis Thurman prodigy on his first year with the team. The first was here for one year and is leaving anyway. The second is in danger of losing his position if DT is on shaky ground himself, and is no big loss as he also was a new addition. Then there is Lal, who’s major projects have been Hill and Gates, both of which are already being marginalised on this offense.

    If this does go through, it is no big loss.

  • KAsh

    Also, I thought Bohanon had a pretty good game, too, making it five-for-five for rookie starters in this game.

  • mike

    think it’s not a coincidence that the brutal part of the season came as soon as there was talk of this team being a legit playoff contender (after beating NO). once that buzz died down everyone seemed to settle in and play with more confidence, especially geno.
    i’m happy this team didn’t make the playoffs. there was no way for this roster to compete for a super bowl, realistically. so what we have now is a ton of cap space, a bunch of draft picks, and an impressive season to build on. things look pretty good from where i sit.
    also, tremendously fun to end miami’s season. just so much fun.

  • Lidman

    Van Gorder was Auburn’s DC, and is headed to ND. Unless Thurman is going to be asked to go back to USC, letting him go would seem, to this idiot, as a sign maybe Idzik didn’t want Ryan back, and lobbied Woody to at least get some asst coaching changes. A HC should get to pick his own assistants. If Thurman does indeed leave and you get a Seattle coach in as DC, I think it tells you something.

    By the way, Kash, has Geno shown you anything in the last 4 games to suggest he can be a good starting NFL QB?

  • John C

    Lal should get axed – our wide-outs have underperformed, or never developed. The LB coach leaving can’t hurt – I doubt Rex would axe Thurman, so there’s not much else that can happen on the D side.

    Maybe they chould look at a coach to specifically address the pass rush (techniques)- make sure guys have a full complement of moves. We did much better this year than last, but were still wildly inconsistent. In two games against Miami , who gave up 58 sacks this year, we managed 0 sacks. That’s ridiculous. There were other games as well, where the pass rush was non-existent. I know they have the talent, but maybe they do need better technique.

  • Lidman

    John..Karl Dunbar has been a pretty good DL coach..Wilkerson, Sheldon, and Harrison all developed…

  • Anthony

    John

    The Jets finished with 41 sacks, and a ton of QB hits. The 41 sacks are the most under a Rex Ryan Jets team, and much more than last years 30, or 35 from 2011.

    We did that with a barely healthy Quinton Coples, a 33 year old Calvin Pace, and about 15 mins of Antwan Barnes (two of those three make min money) as our primary pass rushers.

    We don’t need a better “technique” coach, we need a healthy Quinton Coples flanked with someone younger and better than Calvin Pace.

    Maybe a little better cover corner play would help too.

  • KAsh

    We lack speed from the edge, not pass rush moves. We need to find a talented OLB that Rex actually likes to pair with Coples and that can start converting pressures into sacks.

    @Lidman

    Geno started recognizing the blitz pre-snap. You stop letting defenses toy with you on every snap, your decision-making improves. You start seeing both who your hot reads are and when you can take off for big gains.(But someone should really talk to him about NOT putting down his throwing shoulder to get two extra yards.) Your o-line also holds up better as it does not have to block six people with five guys as the young quarterback is holding onto the ball, expecting more time in the pocket.

    Address just one issue, and the impact of other issues is lessened, as they stop feeding each other. You look at the results of the past four games – 37 points against Oakland, 24 points against Cleveland, 20 points against Miami, and 20 points against Carolina (the last seven being after the opportunity for a win closed) – and there is consistency on offense. You are beating up on mediocre defenses and struggling against tougher ones. This might sound like criticism, but it’s just being realistic with rookie limitations: Geno has lately played to the level the defense allowed him.

    You still need to get some legitimate veteran competition, but it does not need to be high-end competition.

  • http://workingclay.blogspot.com psi

    The pass rush needs improving. Despite the “stats”, the eyes don’t lie. They had few explosion sacks (where they just beat the offensive lineman one on one or via scheme). Think of a Von Miller type sack or when Kris Jenkins abused the lineman a few years ago in the first game of the season in Houston. Their secondary probably played better than people realized (particularly in the 2nd half of the year) as many of their sacks came when the QB held onto the ball for awhile. I think the DL tired a bit down the stretch and Coples to me is slightly overrated so far. Get some explosion and this D becomes very dangerous.

  • Lidman

    Love the ‘Kashism’

    “You are beating up on mediocre defenses and struggling against tougher ones. This might sound like criticism, but it’s just being realistic with rookie limitations: Geno has lately played to the level the defense allowed him?”

    So, when Geno plays bad, you beat on him and basically say there is nothing he can do to impress you. When he improves it has nothing to do with him, it’s playing to the level of the defense.

    “You still need to get some legitimate veteran competition, but it does not need to be high-end competition.”

    What? You’re basically saying, bring in Brunell: a guy who has been a starter and has had success, but not likely to beat him out. Sorry, I don’t agree there. You either sign/trade for a Cutler like player..a player you still think is capable of being a good starting QB, or you go with a young guy. Why? Look at Dallas, using nearly $4mm in cap space, for Kyle Orton and what difference did he really make?

    Geno proved when he doesn’t turn the ball over, he’s capable of leading this team to wins. If he puts in the time, during the off season, you have to think the game will slow down and he’ll progress. Get him some weapons, and NYJ fans should be encouraged, in my opinion. You wrote this on 11/21:

    “I am not saying to cut the guy, but he has nothing with which to fight with right now. This is not a case of a competent rookie for whom the game is going too fast. This is a case of a quarterback that has not honed any of his skills to the level of the pros. You bench him so that he can go work without being distracted by the games and the opponents and the wins and losses. Replace him with his backup this season, and if his backup stinks, get a veteran for next season. You can call it a competition, but Smith does not have the tools to win any competition right now.”

    On 12/19, you wrote this: “In all seriousness, the 2013 book on Geno has pretty much been written. Last week’s competent performance – the interception returned for a touchdown that put the nail in the coffin on this season aside – was a good surprise on a season that has given a lot of doubts about Geno’s future in this league. (Now that I think about it, that was a pretty significant aside, in an otherwise good game.) I would like to see him try to fling the ball around, just to grow through trial and error, and work on correcting his bad habits. Treat the two games like they were practice. Throw the ball as soon as he sets his feet. Don’t stare down receivers. But there is nothing he is capable of to make me think he is a possibility for next year.”

    Geno had a nice last 1/4 to the season, if you can’t see that, and can’t see that your calling for him to be benched, numerous times this season, would have been a big mistake, then you’re missing the boat.

    As far as the LB, Coples has decent speed off the edge. The guy broke his ankle, and he was being transistioned from an every play down lineman (who actually played tackle in college) to an OLB. Barnes too has edge speed (remains to be seen how the knee injury will effect that).

    Back the truck up for Jimmy Graham. If he won’t come, then maybe go after Orakpo, Jarius Byrd or TJ Ward would be an improvement at Saftey (Ward is restricted), or maybe Corey Graham or Sam Shields who are CBs (though I think Revis will be available).

    I think FA money needs to be put to work on either high impact guys (big money) or a number of solid football players where you are weak. When you overpay, it kills you in the end.

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  • KAsh

    @Lidman

    I love how you segwayed into another FA discussion that I wanted to ignore. But let’s start with some foreplay.

    For a guy that digs up some of my old comments, you sure like to misintetpret what I write. Kudos on the 11/21 comment, as it was the one that came to mind when I read your criticism in the paragraphs above it. Back then, I was talking about how Geno had nothing with which to fight with, should be benched to preserve his confidence, and an elite FA should be brought for next year so that Geno would sit on the bench for at least one full year.

    Five weeks later, little has changed. The Jets have played six more games with three wins, four decent games for Geno and two of the most wretched losses that put his future as a QB in question. The best game of his career (considering both offensive performance and opponent’s defensive talent) came against the Browns, but that was a meaningless game after the team had been eliminated from playoff contention.

    Geno finished the year strong, so he deserves the chance to compete and the team can save some money by not paying for Cutler, but you still need some proven performance on this roster. Geno and Simms have potential; now you need insurance. Get someone who will come in and challenge to be the starter all season, someone who might win the job in camp, as I am not even close to being sold on Geno.

    You wrote: “Geno proved when he doesn’t turn the ball over, he’s capable of leading this team to wins.” Is this the same way that Tebow proved he can win games? Geno’s game has to be scrutinized under a microscope to see just how he has evolved, if indeed he has. How is his game different the past four weeks compared with the eight weeks that preceded those, where he was the worst QB in all of football? This growth was not linear: he was downtrending and played his worst game ever against Miami then instantly reverses field and four weeks later embarasses the same Miami team in a must-win game for them. Something changed, and you cannot go into free agency without knowing what. This must be done to ensure that Geno does not revert.

    Here is the worst possibility: Geno folds under pressure. He plays well when no one has any expectations of him and collapses when he needs to make a stand. His best games this year came against perennial bottom-dwellers (Oakland & Cleveland) and non-conference teams. He was putrid when people were talking playoffs, and recovered when we needed the Hand of God to get in. There are echoes of his senior year at WVU in this. That year, WVU started hot with five straight wins and the media began to talk Heisman for Geno, but WVU precedes to drop five straight, and once the hype dissipates, get back to speed on offense and win their last two. Most interesting is that it again takes three games for Geno to get back into the swing of things: the first two losses are blowouts where the offense could not bail out its putrid defense, and the third game is when Tavon Austin played running back and one-man-armied TCU. Geno is a hot-or-cold QB.

    Is this an accurate analysis? I doubt it. I hope not. But without a deeper analysis, all Geno did was play more confidently (he did not start seeing blitzes until at least the Cleveland game). Until you can tell me how Geno has improved – beyond confidence, which can be here today gone tomorrow – you cannot anoint him the starter for 2014.

    Getting back to benching Geno midyear. Hell yes that was the right decision. It is like when Geno lowers his shoulder during a run or tries to somersault into the end zone – is that a smart decision or a stupid decision? So far, it has gained the team a couple extra yards, so I guess you want Ivory to give Geno some pointers on how to keep his feet moving. I think it is a youngin’s symptom of Geno trying to do all he can; while commendable, I would be doing all I can to figure out how to stop him from doing that. Has Geno performed well after I talked about benching him? Like I already said, he has had some of his worst games and some of his best games since then. Was keeping him in the lineup the wrong move? The only thing I do not know to answer this fully is if Garrard had some medical issues and if Simms was awful in practices. Only if both of those two are a yes – Garrard being the big issue – is playing Geno your only, and hence, best option. Knowing all that I know now, I still would have sat Geno if I had even a mildly better alternative.

    Two games with a new skill – blitz recognition – does not a season make. I am not going to pretend the rest of the season did not happen without seeing clear progression from Geno during it. He did not just wake up one day and decide to play better, and if he did he needs to get smacked for not doing it three games sooner. Either he improved on something, or he played some flukey games in a row. Oakland, much like Atlanta, could not pressure Geno. Carolina is the outlier, where, pick-six aside, Geno played a decent game when he was not getting swallowed up by corner blitzes. (I swear to God that Carolina was the first time I saw a right-side nickel corner blitz get the sack. I still can’t believe it.)

    Finally, playing to the level of a defense is a major improvement on the part of this offense. Go look at the rest of the year, when they struggled scoring points whoever they faced or would score 30 points one week and two FG the next. Opposing defenses exist and they make their money keeping you from scoring points. Having your score reflect the quality of the defense is a pretty good accomplishment from one of the worst offenses in the league. The rest of the team did this for most of the year; Geno finally joined in and we have our first win streak of the year.

    Observations:

    Coples has speed. So does Mo, Snacks, and Shelly. None of them constitute a speed rush.

    Barnes is a pass-rushing specialist, AKA a backup. We need our starter to blitz some, too.

    Spend money on what you cannot get in the draft: reliable starters and experience.

    I do not overpraise. Geno can only do so much. He is not the second coming of Elway…yet.

  • Lidman

    To be the ‘next John Elway’, you have to illustrate the ability to improve. Geno has done that, plain and simple.

  • John C

    My “techniques” comment got a few comments – I know Dunbar did OK developing the line, but it’s strength is against the run. If Coples had better technique, I think he would have more sacks, even with the missed games this year. I just think it’s rare that I see a replay of a Jet making a great swim, or di move, or fake upfield and spin inside. We get there, but it’s usually by perseverance, not by sudden success.