The start to the New York Jets 2016 season is scarily reminiscent of previous years like 2007 and 2014. Can the Jets salvage a fighting chance before too many early season losses pile up or will they continue to be steamrolled by superior teams, like they were yesterday?
The Jets defense was supposed to be the centerpiece of the team this season, with an infusion of speed and a continued ascendance of younger players. Offensive regression seemed likely. Defensive regression did not, based on how the depth chart changed and theoretically improved over the offseason. Over the first four games, the Jets have been a big play enabling machine, incapable of forcing turnovers or making game changing plays. They are disorganized, soft and being let down by players at all three levels of the unit.
Disorganized is when you see players running wide open all over the field and that falls on the coaching. Todd Bowles, Kacy Rodgers and every member of the defensive staff has done an inadequate job game planning and improving communication on the back end. The Jets give up far too many easy or uncontested catches and set themselves up to regularly be beaten by the big play, whether that is isolating a declining Darrelle Revis on AJ Green, losing track of Greg Salas or letting some guy named Tanner be open by 20 yards.
Soft is when you see teams repeatedly running a basic wide receiver screen against the Jets and having immense amounts of success. When this play is working for the offense, it means the corners are lazy getting off blocks and that both them and the safeties cannot tackle. This is a 101 football play and the Bengals, Chiefs and Seahawks have all gashed the Jets with it.
The let down is Calvin Pryor going back to the player he was in 2014, same for his fellow safety Marcus Gilchrist. The let down is Darrelle Revis being paid 70 million dollars to be the team’s third best corner. The let down is Lorenzo Mauldin being hyped as a double digit sack guy but playing 6 snaps on Sunday after a dreadful preseason and start to to the year.
The blame is on the players for underperforming AND on Todd Bowles for continued miscommunications and inability to stop the bleeding. It is also on Mike Maccagnan who is seeing a massive investment in the secondary go sour in year two. The Revis and Gilchrist contracts both look potentially ugly right now and his third round pick in 2015 can’t get on the field.
Offensively, the Jets have not been well coached either. Chan Gailey was terrific last year but he has not made the same level of creative adjustments in year two. Matt Forte was overworked the first two games and is now both struggling and hurt. He is not a strictly an in-between the tackles runner. Where are formations that feature both Forte and Bilal Powell? Where are other third down plays besides the in-cut screen to Powell that the Jets run 19 times per game? He is not succeeding in coaching around his quarterback’s limitations, like he did in 2015.
Finally, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been the worst starting quarterback in the NFL through the first quarter of the season. Forget about the interceptions, despite him being on pace for 40 of them and instead focus on how many points he is leaving on the field. It is demoralizing for an offense to scheme up a perfect play or for a receiver to run a perfect route but then have the ball delivered so far behind him, he must come to a complete stop. Fitzpatrick’s inaccuracy has been gutting the Jets chances on offense.
We have reached the “moon landing was staged” phase with some when it comes to defending Fitzpatrick and making excuses for him. This is not a complicated discussion, he has played terrible football. He is being paid 12 million dollars but has been worse than 2014 Geno Smith through four games. Every rookie quarterback in the NFL has been better than him, including Cody ‘freakin Kessler. Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer and Trevor Siemian have all been better than him at a much, much cheaper price. It is almost like Fitzpatrick skipped the whole offseason in protesting for even more money than he received.
You know what bad roster management is? Bad roster management is having two inactive quarterbacks every week and a third quarterback glued to the bench regardless of any circumstance. Bad roster management is watching a multitude of mid round rookies be ready to play in the NFL while the two you drafted are still deemed not ready and could barely function in the preseason. So yes, Mike Maccagnan deserves some of this blame alongside Fitzpatrick and Bowles.
In the near term, Fitzpatrick is going to remain the starter but he needs to be on a shorter leash. The Jets needed to be 3-3 through these first six games to give themselves a fighting chance over their final ten. In order to do that, they need to pull off two road wins as heavy underdogs. Arizona looks to potentially be a more winnable game than expected but Pittsburgh? That may be another story.
It is kitchen sink time for the Jets. Can they pull off an upset win with their back against the wall as a touchdown or more underdog? If they don’t, we could be trending dangerously close to a 2007 or 2014 type season.
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