We will dabble a little bit in the blame game for the New York Jets at times this week but for the most part we are going to stick to football. Ultimately, you can argue in circles about the coach, GM, personnel and owner but you have a few months per year to actually talk about what is happening on the field week to week, so we try to spend most of our time in August to December doing that. With that being said, here is a few suggestions for how the New York Jets can salvage their 1-4 start and play competitive football for the rest of 2014.
1 – Play NFL offense. The Jets have reverted back to recreational level football as they did during their ugly three game losing streak last season. People initially scoffed at this suggestion after the early December loss to Miami last season but it worked. The Jets need to ditch the ultra conservative, one read Wing-T offense, pick up the tempo and let Geno Smith run something that resembles a NFL offense. Yes, that means an occasional no huddle, yes it means more passes down the field and yes it means forcing him to use his legs more to become a running threat. He is going to mistakes and turnovers but at least the Jets become more complex and difficult to defend. This will benefit everybody on the offense, not just Smith.2 – Proper Offensive Personnel Usage – Stop handing it off to Chris Johnson up the middle on first and second down. Chris Ivory should be receiving all of those carries and if he gets tired, Bilal Powell should be the next man up. Johnson should have a very specific role that involves catching screen passes, lining up in the slot to supplement the shortcomings at receiver and getting occasional stretch/outside handoffs. Ivory is the lead back. Powell is the backup. Johnson is a specialty player, who contributes equally, if not more, in the passing game than the running game.
Get Jace Amaro on the field more. Get Jace Amaro more targets. Get Jace Amaro in the slot. Get Jace Amaro at split end. Throw him screens. Throw him passes down the seam. Throw him jump balls. You get what I’m saying…use the guy. Right now Jeff Cumberland and Greg Salas have more targets than Amaro, that should change. Chris Ivory has one less pass game target than Johnson, their numbers shouldn’t be close, with more targets going to Johnson.
Brian Winters gets the brunt of criticism from Jets fans but he’s been better than Willie Colon and at least Winters has made strides from last year (while still currently remaining a below average starter). Colon will get another start or two at least but if he keeps struggling, Oday Aboushi may deserve a look.
3 – Proper Defensive Personnel Usage and Scheming – Antonio Allen had a rough return at safety but over the course of the season he’ll be better served there than corner. Hopefully, Dee Milliner who looked pretty good in his return can stay healthy and Darrin Walls isn’t too banged up and can play opposite of him. If not, we will probably see Philip Adams. Obviously, this is not an ideal situation but don’t exacerbate it by continually playing cover zero and sell out blitzing on every third down or so frequently overall. The less that people like Dawan Landy and Kyle Wilson are left completely singled up, the better. There is an immensely talented front four here…let them go get the quarterback.4 – Roster Management – The Jets are currently carrying eight wide receivers…that is insane. Saliim Hakim has struggled at kick return and not made a difference on coverage units. It is probably time to let him go. If Walter Powell is your return man, let him return kicks along with punts. Do they really need Chris Owusu AND TJ Graham? Graham is a more proven NFL player with a higher upside, if Owusu isn’t flashing anywhere and can’t contribute on specials…get him off the roster. They may wait to do this until Antwan Barnes is activated off the PUP list but keeping eight wide receivers for an extended period of time isn’t sensible.
The Jets should also continue to keep IK Enemkpali active on game day, as he can contribute to the defensive front getting after the quarterback without the support of a blitz. He flashed all pre-season, so why not allow one of your rookies more of a chance to develop right now?
5 – How To Be Smarter? – There isn’t an easy answer for this. The Jets just need to commit less penalties, make less clock management errors and generally be a smarter football team. Obviously an improvement to the turnover ratio is critical but again…no easy answer. Catch interceptions when the opportunity is there? Don’t fumble? Don’t throw it to the other team? Eventually, you feel like the Jets will regress (or improve) to the mean in these areas but that could be a few weeks away.
6 – Get Healthy – If Eric Decker and Dee MIlliner were 100% healthy for every game so far this season, what do you think the Jets record would be right now? It is easy to just say 1-4 but there is recency bias in that response because of what happened against San Diego. More realistically, they are probably 2-3, as a healthy Milliner could have allowed them to beat Green Bay or a healthy Decker could have allowed them to beat Chicago (both one possession games). Every team deals with injuries but Decker and Milliner are immensely critical to this roster with how it is constructed. You can’t blame anybody for Decker’s injury woes, he hadn’t missed a game in three years prior to coming here. That is simply bad luck. He has been productive and substantially improves their offense when healthy. As for Milliner it is fair to criticize the Jets for being so reliant on him considering his injury history.If these two players, who are truly x-factors to this roster, are at or around 100% it will make a noticeable difference. Beyond that, the Jets need Darrin Walls to stay healthy (he was banged up against San Diego and quickly pulled out for a patella tendon issue) and to avoid any other notable injuries.
7 – Keep Swimming – Even the most optimistic Jets follower would be reasonable to expect a potential double digit loss this Sunday (that’s why they are early 10 point underdogs to Denver) and the following game in New England…on a short week…won’t be all that easier. The schedule softens up after that. It is easy to be fully fixated on the 31-0 whipping to San Diego and forget the Jets lost by one possession to three talented NFC teams. In their final nine games, the Jets will have five against teams currently .500 or worse, along with two against the inconsistent Bills and a home game against New England (who they have beat at MetLife three times in five years under Rex). Am I saying the Jets should be favorites or expect to win that many of them? As of now, it is certainly hard to say that. However, it is worth remembering the NFL is a very week to week league. Even if they fall to 1-6, let’s hope they don’t devolve into a total disaster with the New York media circling. Say this for the Giants, they were 0-6 last year and managed to fight to 8-8.
Should a finish like that demand a celebration? No. Should it merit bringing Rex Ryan back or avoiding major changes? No. But that’s a discussion for another day. People will say they’d rather see the Jets lose out at 1-6 but we all know when you sit there on Sundays watching them play other teams (particularly other AFC East teams), you will be rooting for them to win and more importantly their critical young players to develop.