Due to the New York Jets stripping down their roster of veterans and looking towards the future, not much time or effort has gone into discussing how they could win games THIS season. The formula should look familiar to Jets fans, who have seen it attempted to be utilized multiple times over the past decade (two decades?). Here is an overview of how the Jets can make the most of what they have to do to be competitive in 2017…
Dominate The Trenches – This starts with the defensive line. On paper, Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson and to a lesser extent Deon Simon and Steve McLendon should have a substantial advantage over most offensive lines. There have been too many weeks in recent years where the Jets SHOULD have owned these matchups but have not, whether it is due to no show performances, a poor scheme or a combination of both. The Jets didn’t win the game but think of what they did to the Bengals in week 1 last season. If they can do that with more consistency, they will steal a few games against teams who are weak upfront or have an average or below average quarterback who cannot handle pressure.
On offense, the Jets strength is their guards: James Carpenter and Brian Winters. Wesley Johnson showed signs of being a competent center last year. If the three of them are playing well, the Jets will be able to establish their interior running game and short passing game to keep the clock moving, keep pressure off their quarterback and lean on their defense to carry them.
Run and YAC – The Jets need to make life as easy on their quarterback as possible, whether it is Josh McCown or Christian Hackenberg. Tied into the paragraph above about their offensive line, the Jets can lean heavily on Bilal Powell, one of the most productive backs in the NFL last year over the final month of the season and veteran Matt Forte. If the Jets can establish a strong running game, similar to what they had in 2009 and 2010, it will allow them to control the pace of the game and hang around most weeks.
When they do throw the ball, expect an attack built around many short and intermediate passes designed to set up YAC. Powell, Forte, Quincy Enunwa and ArDarius Stewart all have games that fit well with this. There is less opportunities for turnovers when you are throwing screens, quick hitches, swing passes and slants, while counting on your skill position players to break tackles and create yards. You are already hearing reports of this style of play in training camp.
The Jets have vertical receivers in Robby Anderson and Chad Hansen, who they can take occasional shots down the field with. They also have size at the tight end position (Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Jordan Leggett are both 6’6) to utilize in the middle of the field off play action.
Turnovers and Special Teams – Two ways for a team with limited talent to compensate for it is to regularly win the turnover and special teams battle. If the Jets are conservative and smart on offense and their defensive line is playing to their potential, winning the turnover battle in some weeks should not be out of the question. If Morris Claiborne is healthy (IF), he can be a legitimate lead corner, who can take advantage of errant throws from a pressured quarterback, along with the Jets new rookie duo at safety.
The Jets have been awful on special teams lately but if they can course correct, let’s say by getting a surprisingly strong season from Lucky Whitehead at returner and Ross Martin or Chandler Catanzaro at kicker, they can steal points their offense isn’t producing.
Ultimately, the Jets formula for winning in 2017 counts on a strong running and short passing game, complimented by a better than expected defense thanks to the line hitting their potential. This needs to be supported by regularly winning both the special teams and turnover battle.
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com