The New York Jets enter the 2017 regular season with their lowest expectations in franchise history. As of today, they are a projected underdog in all sixteen of their games and have been given 1000-1 odds to win the Super Bowl. Despite the circumstances, what should you be watching out for this season as a likely beleaguered fan? Let’s break it down…
OFFENSE TWO DEEP
- QB: Josh McCown, Bryce Petty
- RB: Matt Forte, Bilal Powell
- WR: Robby Anderson, ArDarius Stewart
- WR: Jermaine Kearse, Chad Hansen/Jeremy Kerley
- TE: Austin Seferian-Jenkins (suspended two games), Will Tye
- LT: Kelvin Beachum, Brent Qvale
- LG: James Carpenter
- C: Wesley Johnson, Jonotthan Harrison
- RG: Brian Winters, Dakota Dozier
- RT: Brandon Shell, Ben Ijalana
The Jets preseason was all about finding out if Christian Hackenberg could play. They received their answer as he not only failed to beat out Josh McCown but also third year quarterback Bryce Petty, who is likely to take over for McCown by the middle of the season.
On paper, this is the worst offense in the NFL, mostly because of the quarterback situation compounded with the glaring question marks at both left and right tackle. Despite the redundant jokes about the team’s skill position players, there are a few competent and/or intriguing pieces spread across the running back, tight end and receiver group.
If he was on any other team, second year receiver Robby Anderson would be receiving substantially more buzz, coming off a rookie season with 587 yards and 14 yards per catch. The 6’3 burner has a 4.34 forty time and will be the team’s lead receiver. Veteran Jermaine Kearse, who was recently acquired via trade is a competent placeholder starter until 2017 draft picks, ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen are ready for larger roles.
The team made an odd decision today to bring back veteran slot receiver Jeremy Kerley, who could potentially get in the way of the rookie’s reps behind the starters, most specifically Stewart’s. It also leaves the team carrying eight wide receivers, which is poor roster management.
At tight end, Austin Seferian-Jenkins possesses an interesting combination of size and speed that got him drafted in the 2014 2nd round. After a two game suspension, he is likely to be team’s most popular target besides Anderson and the running backs. Similar to Kearse, Will Tye is a competent veteran placeholder behind Seferian-Jenkins until rookie Jordan Leggett is ready for a larger role.
The collection of receivers and tight ends are far from proven but possess intriguing enough size and versatility to help combat inevitable inaccuracy from the quarterback position.
- Anderson: 6’3
- Kearse: 6’1
- Seferian-Jenkins: 6’6
- Tye: 6’3
- Leggett: 6’6
- Hansen: 6’1
At running back, Matt Forte is comically out of place on this roster but can function well enough in the passing game. Bilal Powell remains an underutilized back with big play ability and should take on a larger role than he had in 2016. Over the final four games of the season, Powell racked up 552 total offensive yards and three touchdowns. Rookie Elijah McGuire finished the preseason strong and is likely to be involved with the offense due to durability issues with Forte and Powell.
The reason McCown is starting the season is because unlike Hackenberg, he can manage a huddle and somewhat recognize blitzes and set protections, allowing the Jets a chance to better evaluate their young tackles, backs and receivers than Hackenberg would have allowed. At some point, Petty will take over and will have hopefully progressed enough to afford them the same evaluation and show he can be the long term backup.
This offense is going to have some (many?) ugly games but the hope is the young skill position players show themselves to be potential building blocks to put around the 2018 quarterback.
DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS TWO DEEP
- NT: Steve McLendon, Mike Pennel
- DE: Leonard Williams, Claude Pelon
- DE: Muhammad Wilkerson, Kony Ealy
- OLB: Jordan Jenkins, Dylan Donahue
- ILB: Darron Lee, Bruce Carter
- ILB: Demario Davis, Julian Stanford
- OLB: Josh Martin, Edmond Robinson
- CB: Morris Claiborne, Daryl Roberts
- CB: Buster Skrine, Juston Burris
- S: Jamal Adams, Terrence Brooks
- S: Marcus Maye, Rontez Miles
- K: Chandler Catanzaro
- P: Lachlan Edwards
- LS: Thomas Hennessey
- KR/PR: Kalif Raymond
This unit is once again being relied on to help compensate for shortcomings on the other side of the ball. An optimistic view of the Jets season leans on them having one of the league’s best defenses and allowing them to compete in many games they are being written off in. This viewpoint ignores the very real question marks at the cornerback and linebacker position.
Upfront, even without Sheldon Richardson, the Jets will have a very good defensive line. Leonard Williams is the team’s best player and a rising star. Muhammad Wilkerson is just two years removed from an All-Pro caliber season and will be looking to prove last season’s decline was due to injury, not checking out after a big contract. Steve McLendon is a solid nose tackle and Kony Ealy will be a rotational piece off the edge as the Jets bounce between 3-4 and 4-3 looks.
At linebacker, the unit is counting on major strides from second year players Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins, both of whom had encouraging summers. Demario Davis is a placeholder next to Lee but did put together a quality preseason. Special teams ace Josh Martin, rookie Dylan Donahue and recently acquired Edmond Robinson should also see reps at outside linebacker. This group is likely to have issues in coverage throughout the year.
In the secondary, all eyes will be on Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye, the team’s top two draft picks in 2017. There is going to be growing pains starting two rookies from day one (more than some care to admit) but the duo has the talent to solve a long term sore spot for the Jets defense. At cornerback, Morris Claiborne is the top player but has difficulty staying healthy, likely leading to large roles for Justin Burris and Daryl Roberts. Buster Skrine will remain target practice in the slot for opposing quarterbacks.
On special teams, Catanzaro barely beat our Ross Martin in the preseason for the kicking job, while Edwards is looking to prove he was not a waste of draft pick last year. The return duties could be split between the recently added Kalif Raymond and Kerley. This unit was a trainwreck last season so there is really nowhere to go but up (or is there?).
The ceiling for this team is a repeat of the 2013 season, where a better than expected defense and a few surprising offensive performances leads to 6-8 wins. The floor for this team is 1-2 wins with the bottom falling out behind complete incompetence at quarterback, slow development from recent draft picks and the defense being gassed from having to carry the load each week. The most likely result is somewhere in between (3-5 wins).
Photo Credit: NewYorkJets.com