The New York Jets finished off a surprising season with a win at Miami, eliminating the Dolphins from playing post season football. With that win, the Jets finish with an 8-8 record and second place in the AFC East. The Jets were supposed to win a maximum of four games and Rex Ryan was supposed to be canned, but that’s why they play the games, right? It can be tough to be happy with a season that ends without a playoff appearance, but the Jets surprised a ton of people this year. Most importantly, they have built positive momentum for next year. Lets take a look at this week’s story lines.
The Young Guns
The Jets have taken heat all year for starting five rookies, with the only one looking game ready on a consistent basis being Sheldon Richardson. The five guys (Geno Smith, Dee Milliner, Brian Winters, Tommy Bohanon, and Richardson) had an impressive final stretch of the season.
Milliner had three interceptions in the final two games and looked like a capable man coverage corner. Winters held up much better, giving Geno time to set his feet on throws and adding in a few vicious blocks on run plays. Geno Smith played clean football and posted a stat line of (68-116, 790 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs, 3 TD runs) in the final quarter of the season. Tommy Bohanon was not a game changer, but had a few decent runs and has shown respectable hands in the passing game.
Sheldon Richardson is the star of this group and deserves all the praise he has gotten. He shuts down the run and has become a force at the line of scrimmage. His pass rushing moves will only get better with a full offseason. You also cannnot downplay his two rushing touchdowns (tying William Perry for most by a defensive lineman). The guy is a workhorse all over the football field and was a steal with the 13th overall pick.
It will be interesting to see how these guys progress with a full offseason ahead of them, especially Milliner who was limited last training camp due to injuries. At a minimum, Geno will come into camp with a grip on the starting quarterback job. I expect the Jets to bring in a veteran and a middle round draft pick to compete with him, but his progress bodes well for the future.
It Was Nice Knowing Ya’
Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes will certainly be cap casualties this upcoming offseason. Antonio Cromartie will most likely join them, but I expect the Jets to attempt to bring him back on a reasonable deal. Cromartie played the entire season hurt and brings excellent leadership to a young secondary.
Where it gets interesting (and less obvious) is players such as D’Brickashaw Ferguson and David Harris. Ferguson had a down year and is due to make a ton of money the next couple of seasons. David Harris was solid but is being paid like a top five linebacker. I fully expect John Idzik to attempt to re-work these deals to squeeze out as much free cap space as possible.
Show Me The Money!
Hold the phone Jets fans, that rumored $50 million in potential cap space is not what it seems. While John Idzik will have plenty of money to use for external free agents, there are a few guys who need to be brought back.
Right tackle Austin Howard came into his own this season and will demand a multi year deal. Mo Wilkerson is a star and most likely won’t play on the final year of his rookie deal (it is about $1 million in salary). Nick Folk is also a free agent, which is something that should not be overlooked.
An interesting under the radar guy I would like to see back is Leger Douzable. He does not garner a lot of hype, but was an excellent depth defensive lineman this season. He is also a huge Rex Ryan fan and fits in well with this group of youngsters on the front seven.
Also just to clarify, wide receiver David Nelson has one more year left on his deal. As of now, him and Jeremy Kerley seem like locks as the number four and number three wide receivers next season. Stephen Hill will be battling it out in camp for a job, as I fully expect the Jets to bring in two more wideouts via free agency and the draft.
Follow Connor Rogers: @Real_CR3