Rex and His Offense
Training camp kicks off for the NFL this week and you can guarantee that much of the media focus around Florham Park to start will be on quarterbacks Geno Smith and Michael Vick. Signal callers aside, a major part of this new Jets season rests on how Rex Ryan allows his offense to play.
One can already can get a reasonable sense that these Jets will be stout up front with names like Wilkerson and Richardson and with just a little consistency at cornerback can be a defense that in the very least, will keep the team in games more often than not. Rex knows defense though we all know that. What about the offense? You know, that portion of his DNA that doesn’t assert itself as naturally.
The addition of Chris Johnson may refuel Ryan’s innate desire to ground and pound it on many Sundays, but beating high scoring teams may require more aggressiveness to both start and close games. Despite knowing the risk of going to the air early and often with an unproven quarterback while doing so.
Let’s face it, Rex was too loyal to the uber struggling Mark Sanchez in 2012 but in Ryan’s defense, Tim Tebow couldn’t throw a spiral and Greg McElroy was less dynamic than longtime backup Pat Ryan once was behind Richard Todd and Ken O’Brien in the 1980’s. Geno Smith was handed a year long free pass as only Matt Simms sat behind him last year, but now it’s 2014 and Michael Vick is here. Bringing with him a new dynamic to the equation for Ryan this year.
Unlike any of this prior six seasons (half of which housed Mark Brunell as the non threatening mentoring backup for Sanchez) Ryan can make a reasonable call to the bullpen for Vick to start or perhaps relieve Smith on some winnable Sunday that could be saved simply via steadier play at QB. Will he?
Moreover, the mystery as the Jets head up to Cortland in the coming days is how Ryan allows either of his quarterback and offense to play. There is more talent on paper in the backfield and at receiver than there was here last year. The combination of rushing success with the ability to be explosive seems like a happy medium can at least start with. Whatever he chooses, Ryan just has to get this one right this time and maximize what his offense can do.
The O Line and Cornerback: New Faces in Key Places
The Jets under the great Lord Idzik have pinpointed youth and athleticism over marketable names and selling jerseys as the focus in the acquisition of talent. Forget DeSean Jackson and Andre Johnson, the Jets have Shaq Evans and Jalen Saunders. Bring back Darrelle Revis? No thanks, we’ll take Dexter McDougle in round three instead.
This is year two of a plan based on affordable veterans and many college kids with size and speed. Two skill groups that stand out as keys and curiosities at this time aside from the obvious one at receiver are cornerback and offensive line.
Second year corner Dee Milliner finished strong but only after struggling for fourteen games and overcoming a mid season benching. Milliner shouldn’t look like the early 2013 version this year but how quickly he elevates his play from weeks 16 and 17 last year to an even higher level will go a long way in determining how well the secondary holds up.
It’s hard to expect McDougle, a third round pick who loves to play physically and ball hawk, to get it done right from day one. A veteran collection comprised of former Dolphin Dmitri Patterson, former first round pick Kyle Wilson, and Darrin Walls among others will have to hold it down when their name is called. CB #2 is up for grabs. Someone has to grab it and perform there admirably.
The Jets offensive line lost Austin Howard but signed Seahawks lineman Breno Giacomini to replace him. Stalwarts Nick Mangold and D Brickshaw Ferguson are no brainers in the equation but fellow veteran Willie Colon recently had knee surgery. Brian Winters and Oday Aboushi are both in year two but have to be more reliable than their age.
There is a lot of gelling and cementing that must take place from now until week one both downfield in pass defense in up front with the ball in the trenches. The Jets could sink or swim depending on the consistency these units show, or fail to provide.
I’m not gonna lie. I wanted Desean Jackson and daydreamed about Revis returning during that twenty four hour free agency period when it became an out of left field possibility. I’m at peace with where the Jets are though now. Even quite excited. Like former legendary Clash frontman the late Joe Strummer once said “the future is unwritten.”
This isn’t the finished product we are all about to witness but hopefully the next step in the building of a contending team with long term capabilities. The Jets are collecting a ton of young talent. I love Ryan’s schemes on defense. I always loved Marty Mornhinweg’s approach in Philly and have total faith that if MM has a similar collection of skill set pieces here, he can achieve the same results his offenses once did in the City of Brotherly Love.
As a longtime diehard and Shea Stadium baby it’s habitually easy to fall into some glass half empty “Same Old Jets” type of mentality. This time over the many unknowns the team is housing at this time. I will head into this year though with no expectations or even demands of a playoff berth. I can’t tell how the many kids with thin to empty resumes here will shape up together but I’m not going to simply assume that it won’t work in 2014 either. My only goal for the Jets this season is proof that the foundation Lord Idzik is building from the ground up personnel wise is solid.
– If Mornhinweg’s offense does take off it could be Jeremy Kerley who ends up as the big catch eating and yard gaining slot weapon this season. For the Jets and god I can’t believe I’m saying this, fantasy owners as well.
– Rex Ryan called David Harris the most underrated player in the NFL. Now I don’t know about that, but if the defensive line continues to ascend, Demario Davis takes the next step and hard hitting rookie Calvin Pryor can read the run, Harris will have even less to worry about, and can be that much more impactful.
– This was my favorite Ryan quote the past week. I hope he means it. “Somebody asked me if we focus on New England. Bullshit. We’re focused on us and how are we going to be better.” Please Jets, focus on yourselves. Forget about the Brady and Belichick show once and for all. Deal with them when they are the next opponent. That’s it.