Recent Jets performances have been marred by a myriad of unforced errors. Against Jacksonville, the win was still possible, but in the Buffalo game the outcome would have been very different had certain mistakes been avoided. Many of the problems were hopefully one offs. Unfortunately, a ‘rookie mistake’ in reading the game cost the Jets dearly, but Devin Smith is unlikely to ever make the mistake which led to Buffalo scoring from his fumble again. However as we enter the most crucial part of the season, with a far less secure claim on a playoff spot, more endemic issues are coming to light. Many are problems we foresaw as far back as the preseason, but some of the Jets’ Achilles heels have come to the fore over the last weeks especially as injury has set in. Here are five areas the Jets need to work on to enable a positive move forward…
Last year the Jets were incredibly consistent; consistently awful that is. This year’s team has fared far better but inconsistency has come from all sides of the ball and from our brightest stars. Brandon Marshall, with several drops against the Bills, has shown he is capable of great plays, but also in his own words, the “worst play in NFL history”: his turned over lateral pass against the Eagles in week 3. Chris Ivory too, who started so promisingly, has been limited to an average of around 1 yard per carry in some games. On the defensive side, Antonio Cromartie, who admittedly is past his best, missed tackles and assignments against the Raiders. Demario Davis has also shown to be a weak point in moments such as the touchdown to Karlos Williams, but equally an asset with over 50 tackles so far ranking 39th amongst all linebackers in the league. This was an unfortunate matchup against the Bills but was another costly error. In a more general sense we saw poor defensive performance against the Raiders and Jags but a much better one against the Bills. Conversely, Fitzpatrick had one of his better games against Jacksonville and one of his worst against Buffalo completing only 40% passes. Making this come together all at the same time is an ongoing struggle.
2. Poor play calls
Chan Gailey may have been Fitz’s QB whisperer in the past, but his offensive play calling has left a lot to be desired at crucial points. Against Jacksonville, he continually called consecutive running plays when it was clear the run game was not working, leading to several third and longs which became three and outs. In the Bills game, on more than one occasion when going for it on fourth, passes less than the required yardage were called, giving receivers near impossible tasks against the strong Buffalo defense. Going for it on fourth down showed more aggressiveness from Todd Bowles compared to previous weeks, but the choice of plays was head scratching and on several occasions, costly.
3. A ‘not very’ depth chart
All teams have a drop off between their starters and back ups but as injury has crept in, the difference has shown to be vast in certain positions, even those where we thought there was a greater degree of depth such as the secondary. At safety, without Calvin Pryor there is clearly a hole although Rontez Miles made some good plays against the Bills. Tight End has been a position of weakness from the start; since the injury to Jace Amaro shattered the hopes of a resurgence in this positon. The miscommunication or whatever caused a wide open Kellen Davis to not be aware of the pass flying in his direction which could have turned the game around, show that this position has basically been written out of the plan. It has been argued that, having not been passed to all year, its not surprising Davis wasn’t expecting it, but this seems a poor excuse for an elite athlete. When, as has happened on occasion, Decker/Marshall aren’t firing on all cylinders , Ivory can’t get moving and with Fitz and Devin Smith not being able to connect as a deep threat, the lack of TE makes the Jets offense one-dimensional.
4. First half offense
I’ve written about this previously, but it seems that a common denominator in the Jets’ losses have been low scoring in the first half. Against the Bills only 3 points were scored and 6 against the Raiders. Whether this is down to taking time to acclimatise to the stronger defenses or just to warm up into a cohesive unit, missed opportunities and three and outs have plagued the first half and led to urgent comeback attempts in the second. Whatever the reason, a way to get the offense clicking from the start needs to be found especially if we are to make it to the post season.
5. Special teams problems
Football Outsiders rank the Jets special teams performance at 25th in the league with nearly 3% less production than the league average. They haven’t given up too many points but haven’t contributed much either. Ryan Quigley has punted well, especially in the last two games but missed tackles on returns have at times diminished the impact. Losing Nick Folk isn’t ideal considering his decent record for field goals which rank him in the top half of NFL kickers. However, without a solid returner the team have jumped between several with limited success; even Cromartie was back against Jacksonville. This problem is linked to the lack of depth in the roster, but the special teams unit are having limited impact on aiding the cause.
The Jets are not a bad team and with a winning record still have a chance to make the post season, but like any they have weaknesses, some further exacerbated by injury and some easier to solve mid season than others. Finding ways to diminish the impact of these are of paramount importance in order to maintain the winning record over the coming weeks. In addition the ‘one off’ and avoidable unforced errors from individuals who should do better need to rapidly reduced. As we saw against Buffalo, when all the problems came together in one disastrous evening, a win that should have been, was thrown away. Luckily we have a more favourable schedule going forward than our play off rivals and ten days to make some changes, hopefully in some of these areas. I’m still positive they can.