There’s nothing more cliché than a scene in a movie when kids—in the backseat of a car—ask their parents, “are we there yet,” but no image best describes what the last nine years have been like for Jets fans. It’s like a ride that seems to have no end, and we’re all left wondering if the destination is upon us and when the fun will finally begin.
Once again, it was a season of high expectations and harsh realities, and although Gang Green finished on an impressive 6-2 run, the season as a whole was big a disappointment. Yet again, the fans experienced another roller-coaster year that had most sick and questioning the future of this team.An alleged tryst that landed our franchise QB on the mend and a head coach whose failure to adjust highlighted much of the discussions and, although, it’s hard to find a silver lining, in this week’s “Joe Jet,” I go five for five on the best and worst of the 2019 season.
Gregg Williams – Williams held up his end of the bargain, and his words rang true until the final whistle, “They want to be coached. They want to defend MetLife Stadium for you guys.”
In a season ravaged by injuries, Williams held this defense together with Band-Aids, glue, and a tenacity that galvanized the entire unit.Williams’ versatility and willingness to make the necessary adjustments to accommodate the personnel remained his strongest attribute. Utilizing Jamal Adams as an edge rusher, for instance, proved unique, and I was genuinely impressed by his proclivity to innovate.
According to Football Outsiders, the unit as a whole ranked second in rush defense. The defensive line, in particular, was as nasty as one could hope for and reached juggernaut status throughout the league: ranking first in adjusted line yards (3.00), second in RB yards (3.16 yards per carry), and first in stuffs. Despite a patchwork secondary, which fielded backup caliber players, the Jets finished the season 10th overall in defensive DVOA.
Some speculate Williams could be offered a head coaching position. If there is any truth to this rumor, Joe Douglas must do whatever it takes to retain his defensive coordinator. In a season plagued by inconsistency, Williams was the one constant, and letting him walk would be a huge mistake.
Jamison Crowder – Gase has always maintained success with slot receivers, and nothing changed this season with Jamison Crowder. Crowder enjoyed one of his best years as a pro and recorded a personal best seventy-eight receptions. He wasn’t far from breaking the 1,000-yard receiving threshold for the first time in his career, and it’s fair to assume he’d come close to hitting that mark if Sam didn’t miss several games with mono. Crowder is a keeper and will continue to be a vital part of this offense regardless of the coaching staff.Brian Poole – I inadvertently began this paragraph by misspelling Brian as brain. Perhaps it’s because re-signing Poole should be a no brainer. Poole allowed the second-fewest Y/SNP (.53) among qualified cornerbacks and registered the best number (.57) in the league from the slot. It might take a Poole of cash to bring him back, but he looks to be worth every penny.
Joe Douglas – It’s hard to find a moment in recent Jets history when fans overwhelmingly agreed on anything, let alone a front office hire. Don’t look at me, but some allegedly shed tears of joy during his press conference. While the moment seems like a lifetime ago, Joe is far from leaving his mark on this Jets team and reason to be positive about his reign remains. Douglas was one of the more sought-after GMs in the league, and that fact that he’ll be pulling the trigger this upcoming draft and making moves in free agency should have Jets fans excited for the 2020 season.
Jamal Adams – What can I say about Jamal? The dude had 6.5 sacks as a DB and was close to breaking Adrian Wilson’s single-season record of eight. Adams is a passionate player and sometimes his emotions can get the best of him. His reaction to Douglas’ fielding of calls (during trade deadline) was not a great moment, but he’s a tremendous athlete and a mainstay on this defense. Adams brings it every game, and it’s hard not to root for him; however, Jets have other needs, and if they decide to trade him—for the right price—I’ll support Douglas’ decision.
Offensive Line – There isn’t a group on the entire field that develops from continuity more so than the offensive line; it takes reps and consistency for the “big uglies” to function as one unit. While the Jets have issues with personnel, it’s not surprising Gang Green remained inept upfront with the lack of stability. The Jets started 11 different linemen and nine different combinations throughout the season.
Pass Blocking – In terms of protection, Sam has had a rough start to his career. According to Football Outsiders, the Jets ranked 30th in pass protection and gave up 50 sacks (28th in the NFL). No more temporary fixes, the time has come to construct a well-balanced line that will allow Sam to grow.
Run Blocking – The Jets haven’t possessed a viable run blocker since 2015. In fact, it’s also the last time, according to PFF, any one player had an overall score over 70 in a season. That year, the offensive line had three players with a grade of 70 or more (Mangold, Winters, and Carpenter). It’s also the last season (10-6) Gang Green came close to sniffing a playoff berth.
This season is no different: according to PFF, the OL scored an overall grade of 47.2 (30th in the league), and once again found themselves at the bottom of the barrel. According to Football Outsiders, the Jets ranked 31st in adjusted line yards (3.80) and 31st in running back yards per carry (3.29). The Jets ranked 31st in total rushing yards (1,257), 31st in touchdowns (6), and averaged a measly 78.6 yards per game.
The longest run of the year was a putrid 24 yards (good for last in the NFL), and they only recorded two runs of over 20 yards for the year (again, last in the NFL).
Le’Veon Bell – I don’t care what the state of the offensive line is. Bell was handed the ball 245 times this season (good for eleventh in the league) and couldn’t muster more than 789 yards rushing and 3.2 yards per carry. One could argue, Gang Green could have found almost anybody off the street to put up those numbers.
The Jets were worse in adjusted line yards last season (3.59) but still put up almost 400 more yards on the ground and averaged 4.05 yards per carry as a unit.
This season the Chiefs (3.88 adjusted line yards) and Jaguars (3.89 adjusted line yards) all had subpar run-blocking grades but found some success running the ball because their running backs took it upon themselves to shoulder the load, break some runs, and keep the chains moving.
Bell has been the consummate professional, but he’s clearly not a good match for Gase. It is widely known coaches should adjust to players’ strengths, but when it comes to the running game, it would appear that the scheme comes before the player.
Kyle Shanahan brought in his former running back Tevin Coleman to employ a player suitable for his system. Mostert (undrafted), Coleman, and Breida (undrafted) make up one of the best RBBC in the NFL and maintained the second-best rushing attack in the league.
Lynch and Shanahan remained committed to finding players who fit his style and ascended from the 21st run offense (year one) to the 13th last season, and finally second overall this year all without a superstar RB in the backfield.
Mike Shanahan (Kyle’s father) was famous for his zone-blocking system, routinely found players made for his method of running, and jettisoned high-profile players like Clinton Portis (for draft picks). Mike regularly churned out 1,000 yards rushers by staying committed to his blueprint.
This season David Johnson—one of the best RBs in the league—was relegated to a backup role when he couldn’t carve out a niche for himself inside Kliff Kingsbury’s system. Kingsbury jumped at the chance to trade for Kenyan Drake, who was a perfect fit for his scheme but had problems getting playing time under new head coach Brian Flores and former coach Adam Gase.
Last season, Pete Carroll showed film of Marshawn Lynch to Chris Carson and the rest of the staff to give them an example of how he expects them to run in the offense; he was rewarded with the number one rushing game in the league.
Gase runs various running styles but is primarily zone-based, and Bell clearly can’t find his footing in this offense. It’s time to find players—at a fraction of the cost—to resurrect the running game and provide Sam with a well-balanced attack.
Adam Gase – Gase has had numerous blunders during the season, which include a failure to make adjustments (especially in the second half) and play calling that left many of us scratching our heads. While I fully acknowledge it isn’t easy coaching a team flooded with injuries and with one of the worst offensive lines in football, I can’t leave Gase off this list. Gase will have another season to rectify the situation, but once Douglas fixes this OL and Sam enters his third-year, excuses won’t fly even with his most staunch supporters. It’s 2020 or bust for Gase.
Quinnen Williams – Gregg Williams has used Quinnen effectively to help bolster a solid rush defense. However, the Jets didn’t draft Quinnen for that purpose. If any position on the field could grow on trees, it would be a run-stuffing interior defensive lineman, and drafting one with the third pick is a waste. While Quinnen can still develop into a pass-rushing threat, the fans didn’t get to see him perform in that capacity this season. Although my hope remains high for Quinnen, at the moment, I can’t help but include him on this year’s worst list. Sam Ficken – Jets need a new Ficken kicker. That’s it. Get it done, Joe.