New York Jets – The Collapse of An Offense

Joe Caporoso on the ongoing collapse of the New York Jets offense

Nobody had high expectations for the New York Jets offense heading into the 2013 season, nor should they have. They had question marks at nearly every position, including most prominently at quarterback where rookie Geno Smith was coming off a porous pre-season. However, they were passably average during the first nine games of the season. However, over the last three weeks they have been the league’s worst offense by any meaningful statistic and from a simple eye test. What happened and are there any solutions for the final four games?

The Offensive Line: Brian Winters struggled in his first few starts from weeks 5-9, however his play has truly fell off a cliff in recent weeks. He has surpassed normal rookie struggles to simply routinely getting beat and appearing to have his confidence strongly shaken. He is the weakest link on a very average offensive line and team’s have not been shy about exploiting him. Yet, Winters isn’t the only one failing to meet expectations.

The days of Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson being elite players at their position are long gone. Ferguson in particular is having a difficult season and when the Jets play a physical defensive front, teams are beating up on the left side of the Jets line, not just Winters but also Ferguson. Mangold remains a good player but is no longer the top tier anchor he was from 2008-2010. Willie Colon has been a solid starter and generally met expectations this season, while Austin Howard is quietly putting together a very strong season and is likely to receive a new contract from the Jets this off-season.

The Wide Receivers/Tight Ends: You could only get by with smoke and mirrors for so long. The bottom line is the Jets have one of the league’s worst group of receivers and tight ends. When you factor in Jeremy Kerley not playing the past three games and Santonio Holmes playing at what looks to be about 70%, the picture gets that much uglier. David Nelson and Greg Salas were street free agents for a reason. They can be rotational players or #3 and #4 receivers, not playing major reps on a week to week basis. Stephen Hill has done a complete disappearing act the past six games, registering a pathetic 6 receptions on 16 targets for 42 yards. In that same time frame, Kerley racked up 12 receptions on 16 targets for 125 yards, despite missing 3 and 1/2 games! Nelson has managed 17 receptions on 33 targets for 228 yards and Salas has 7 receptions on 12 targets for 147 yards. People will complain about Geno not targeting Hill enough but perhaps if he didn’t go up for the ball like this, he’d be targeted more:

At tight end, it remains perplexing that Jeff Cumberland is getting the bulk of the playing time, considering he is a receiving tight end who can’t catch. Kellen Winslow has at least shown signs of life when out there and Zach Sudfeld appeared to show some promise in the Bengals and Saints game. Cumberalnd is not a starting NFL tight and never has been.

The Running Backs: It is hard to complain too much here comparatively. Chris Ivory has played very well the past month, easily surpassing Bilal Powell as the team’s most effective back. However, Tommy Bohanon has went from a below average rookie fullback early in the season, to being so bad that he is basically unplayable. The Jets screen game has basically died but that is more on the coaching and Geno Smith than the running backs.

The Coaching: Whether it is due to influence from Rex Ryan or not, Marty Mornhinweg has become much more conservative and has struggled to mask the Jets shortcomings the way he had earlier in the season. There seems to be a general lack of creativity and some head scratching personnel usage, like giving Powell goal-line and short yardage handoffs over Ivory and continuing to play Cumberland so much.

The Quarterback: Duh. Geno Smith has regressed substantially over the past five games. As a project rookie quarterback coming out of a spread college offense, he was never equipped to carry a mediocre offensive line and bottom three wide receiver/tight end group to offensive success this season. He received more help early in the season from his personnel and coaches but the wheels have fell of as the unit as struggled around him.

Let’s not absolve him of blame however. He has exhibited poor decision making, a lack of feel in the pocket and no is longer playing with the same confidence he did earlier in the season. Smith is turning the ball over at unacceptable rate and simply isn’t making enough plays, regardless of who is lined up around him.

So, now what?

Considering the playoffs are a pipe dream at this point, Smith and Winters are going to keep playing to get further evaluative tape on them. With Smith, there is no point in trotting him out there to run a recreation football offense. The Jets should still be an offense than leans more on the running game than the passing game but they need to let Geno attack down the field, regardless of the result. Go back and use some concepts he used at West Virginia and see if you can build his confidence back up and hopefully get him into some type rhythm. This may sound insane, but why not try a series or two of no huddle each half, just to change the tempo and have Geno make some quick throws? How much worse can this offense really get?

They should force feed the ball to Stephen Hill a little bit and see if can make any of plays. It does sound like both Jeremy Kerley and Santonio Holmes will be on the field this week, which will limit his opportunities but considering Holmes won’t be back next year, they are better off trying to get something going with Hill. At tight end, let Sudfeld and Winslow play the majority of the reps. Enough, Jeff Cumberland.

Carolina, Cleveland and Miami all have very good defenses. Hopefully, the Jets can find something this week against the less formidable Raiders, so they will have some type of momentum heading into those last three games or things will stay very, very ugly.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the VP of Social Media at Whistle Sports

  • KAsh

    Scratch that. You already have a third NT you are developing on the practice squad. You can use him to backup Harrison next year, or still get someone you think is even better.

  • KAsh

    The thread tying Powell and Cumberland is their time with the team in the offseason. Cumberland does not sit out practices and had the entire offseason to learn the playbook, unlike Winslow. Ivory has missed a lot of practices with various injuries, meaning Powell had to step in. My guess would be that they both can run more of the playbook than the alternatives, even if they cannot execute in a real game.

    As for Winters, he has faced Buffalo’s stout DTs, the Ravens with the like of Haloti Ngata, and the Dolphins’s experienced vets. They tore him apart. I hope he learns and grows from this.

  • David

    Last night is why I hate all this BS talk about the offense– Who exactly is “elite” on Jacksonville or scares you whatsoever and they managed to put up 27 points last night and move the football? MJD had his first 100 yard game in a long time and outside of maybe Cecil Shorts, no one scares me there at WR. Their O-line is suspect too and Henne is inconsistent.

    To me, all the TOJ and NY Media writers are just making excuses about a Jets offense that is just underachieving.

  • KAsh

    Don’t knock the Jaguars wideouts. Just because they had Blaine Gabbert throwing to them for the past three years does not mean that they are not leaps and bounds better than what the Jets have signed on the roster. If you watched last night’s game, the Jaguars offense sputtered because of bad quarterbacking that missed open receivers and threw balls at the receivers ankles. The receivers and tight ends made plays.

  • Joe Caporoso

    First off, Cecil Shorts is better than any receiver the Jets have right now, same goes for Lewis being better than any TE the Jets have. Second, the primary difference is Henne got to work with those WRs and TEs all summer. Nelson was signed in week 5. Salas was signed in week 9. Sudfeld was signed in week 6. Their OL is comparable to the Jets and Henne is an experienced veteran QB…they also played the worst team in the NFL, Houston.

  • Daniel

    Usually I really tend to agree with you guys on this site. I really enjoy your blogs and especially the game breakdowns (not so much the past few games obv). But I gotta disagree with you on your end game here. You spent the entire first 8 paragraphs explaining what the issues are at offense highlighting Hill’s awful awful play, and then did what the Jets are constantly doing. Trot him out there again.

    We have now had 4 games shy of 2 seasons with Hill, there is nothing he’s gonna do in the next 4 games (short of turning into an actual WR) that makes sense trotting him out there; yes use him in packages and try to get him the ball, but force it to him? Why so Geno can throw some more picks and incompletion’s? So we can get pissed watching Hill drop another pass 30 yards down the field that would give us a first down? You talk about Nelson and Salas and how they are just serviceable #3 and 4 WR options (which they are, but I feel Nelson could be at least a #2 if he crisped up his route’s) but then want to force Hill passes, Hill who at this point shouldn’t even be in the NFL? On that same token, why is that your argument for Hill but not Simms? Why not see if Simms can spark something with a full week of practice with the 1’s and full game prep instead of coming in again at the half and then being like “oh you see, he does nothing also.”

    As far as Sudefeld I agree completely, I do not know why they are not using him more. He is eons more athletic than Cumberland and has better hands, more athletic than Winslow also but that is due to Winslow’s age and knees.

    Sorry for the 10 page report, I’m just angry and so tired of seeing this same old crap haha

  • David

    I’m not trying to make it sound like Cecil Shorts is no good or anything like that, but it isn’t like you are talking about a WR corp made up of all Pro Bowlers and it isn’t like Chad Henne is this great QB.

    And Joe, I won’t agree with you about the WR’s and TE’s. If Geno doesn’t have an understanding with guys signed in week 5 and 6 by now, he is never going to. I mean come on, we are at week 14 for crying out loud!
    Heck, even Silas in week 9 is a stretch. To me, that is another excuse for a QB that just stinks and isn’t making plays.

    The Jets to me just look like an underachieving, incompetent offense. I see a lot of other teams in the NFL without great WR’s, great QB’s, and solid o-lines that seem to be making plays and moving the ball. 6 points in two weeks in the NFL is pathetic, with all the rules favoring offenses.

  • Joe Caporoso

    I don’t think anybody is saying the Jets offense isn’t pathetic. It is. But there are unit wide issues, they go beyond Geno’s rookie struggles, which have been inexcusably high the past five games.

  • KAsh

    The Jets’s issues feed into one another. A rookie QB is indecisive, so our receivers get covered again before they can get the ball, and our o-line must stop the pass rush for longer, but it can’t, which combines with Geno’s lack of pocket awareness leads to sacks instead of hurried throws. But our wide receivers and TEs are subpar, so they do not adjust well to errant throws when they do come and they do not work back to their quarterback when he is in trouble.

    Most teams do not have all of these issues. We can stop the hemmorage if just one of our units becomes solid.