Turn On The Jets 12 Pack – Back In Action Edition

Joe Caporoso returns from a 2 week hiatus with a Turn On The Jets 12 Pack on OTAs and thoughts on upcoming minicamp

After a couple of weeks of feta cheese, Mythos and Greek sunshine, the Turn On The Jets 12 Pack is refreshed and ready for the 2015 New York Jets season. Here are 12 thoughts and observations on OTAs and where the team currently stands. One last thanks to the rest of the TOJ Team for keeping things rolling in my absence!

1. A Tradition Like No Other – It would not be spring, if there were not Jets fans endlessly fighting about the quarterback position. Let’s start at the least important and work our way to the top. Matt Simms’ release was inevitable after Bryce Petty was drafted. The Jets did him a favor by cutting ties early and letting him find another team pre-training camp. It was nothing short of laughable to hear his comments about the organization, considering he now has basically the same coaching staff in Buffalo and that the Jets were the only organization to give a guy who couldn’t even start in college an opportunity. Simms will likely bounce around as a third stringer for a year or two before being out of the NFL. If his name was Matt Smith instead of Simms, he’d already be out of the league.

Whether you think Geno Smith has potential to be a competent starter or is hopeless in the NFL (a debate that will go in circles until the real games start), it doesn’t make much sense to ignore the writing on the wall. Smith is the favorite to start week 1 by a decent margin. It isn’t likely or probable that Ryan Fitzpatrick will start. He doesn’t even have a 50% of chance starting. Unless Smith gets hurt or bombs in the summer (unlikely because he was good last summer with a much worse supporting cast), he is starting week 1. Is it 100%? Nothing is 100% in the NFL but it is well over 50%. You may not like it but it doesn’t make it any less true and trying ignore the organization’s relatively transparent approach/stance on it is silly.

Speaking of Smith, this is a terrific, thorough read on him by Bucky Brooks of NFL.com. A few notable excerpts

Smith’s aggressiveness and confidence delivering the ball over the middle is uncommon for a young quarterback, which is why a wily offensive coordinator would welcome the opportunity to work with him as a developmental player.

Although Smith needs to work diligently on reducing his mistakes and costly turnovers, he displays enough ability and potential to merit some consideration as a long-term solution at the position. In the right environment, I can envision Smith playing the game like Matt Hasselbeck in his prime. During my time with the Seattle Seahawks, I watched coach Mike Holmgren use a tough-love approach to help Hasselbeck refine his game and eventually develop into a Pro Bowl quarterback.

With Smith at the helm for Gang Green, I would expect Gailey to continue to use a variety of spread formations with “10” (1 RB, 4 WRs) and “11” (1 RB, 1 TE, 3 WRs) personnel on the field. The quarterback was at his best at West Virginia directing the offense from a shotgun attack with spread personnel on the field

2. The Incumbent Advantage – It is understandable to be excited by the addition of both Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy, two veteran running backs who have had success elsewhere. However, when it all shakes out do not be surprised to see incumbents Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell still getting the majority of the work in the Jets backfield. Ivory is the most talented runner and took strides in the passing game last season. Powell is the only back on the roster who has extended experience and success in a third down role. He also provides good depth as a north/south runner in-between the tackles. Ivory’s health is always a concern and could open up more opportunities for a player like Ridley but if he is available, he should be the lead option.

3. Mo’ ProblemsThis is a succinct overview of Muhammad Wilkerson’s current situation over at The Jets Blog. It certainly is starting to feel more likely that the Jets will angle to keep him at his current price tag in 2015 and then franchise him in 2016 but I wouldn’t write off the potential on a new deal before this season quite yet. There still remains no urgency to trade Wilkerson or move on from him. He is expected to be at mandatory mini-camp, which means he will be at training camp and ready to roll for this season. Good news for the Jets, considering what a damn good football player he is.

4. The Forgotten Slot – Another good point in the previously linked Brooks column is this one made about Jeremy Kerley.

The Jets have yet to fully tap into the skills of Jeremy Kerley, but the fifth-year pro could blossom as a slot machine in the team’s three- and four-receiver sets. Kerley is a dynamic playmaker with the ball in his hands. Given his quickness, burst and running skills, Kerley could see his role enhanced as the “go-to guy” on screens and quick routes from the slot. Also, Kerley could touch the ball on an assortment of gadget and misdirection plays, which are staples of Gailey’s offense.

He is too quickly being written off by many after the Devin Smith selection (and nobody is a bigger fan of Smith than myself). However, they are extremely different players and the Jets are going to be running plenty of four receiver formations. Kerley is going to have a critical role in the offense, particularly on third downs and will benefit greatly from the attention given to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker.

5. Easy On The Porsche – Until the Jets offensive line proves themselves, I’m not sure they are ready to be classified as a Porsche. This is a very good roster, which is substantially improved but still has a question mark outside of quarterback and that is the big uglies upfront who will protect him. Who starts at guard opposite James Carpenter? Is James Carpenter going to be better here than he was in Seattle? Will D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s play continue to decline? Can Breno Giacomini be at least an average right tackle? Who is the tackle if somebody gets hurt? These are all valid questions, which the Jets need positive answers to if they want to challenge for a playoff spot. Let’s hope Gailey’s system is more conducive to Carpenter’s skills, Oday Aboushi or Dakota Dozier seize the other guard spot and improved interior play helps Ferguson out.

6. RoundtableHere is the first of a series of videos that will run on the New York Jets website featuring Scott Salmon, Glenn Naughton, Eric Allen and myself. In upcoming videos, we break down the offensive and defensive personnel, 2015 draft class and potential breakout players.

7. Broken Record – Have you heard that Buffalo isn’t scared of anybody yet? Are they afraid of New England? Have we received clarification on this yet? How do they feel about the Jets second year tight end? It sounds a little insecure up in Western New York, like if they can’t improve on Doug Marrone’s 9-7 with a hyped up roster, an offensive coordinator, GM or quarterback will be finding themselves as a scapegoat (certainly never the head coach, though).

8. A Crowded Room – Inside linebacker has not been this crowded in a long time on the Jets roster. After David Harris and Demario Davis, Erin Henderson offers the most upside but is battling back from a long layoff and off the field issues. Jamari Lattimore brings the most on special teams, always critical for depth players. Joe Mays has been a steady spot starter throughout his career and can also contribute on specials. Beyond that, UDFA Taiwan Jones is expected to make noise this summer and the Jets may be wary of losing him off their practice squad.

9. Buster – He is understandably being lost in the shuffle because of those Revis and Cromartie guys but Buster Skrine is going to be a critical addition to this defense. The Jets have long needed a competent player in the slot, who could create plays and cover a range of receivers without repeatedly getting beat or picking up flags. The slot corner is a full time position in this defense and the Jets filled it well by signing Skrine and have the proper depth behind him with Marcus Williams and Dexter McDougle, with Dee Milliner likely being the top backup on the outside.

10. Swing Players – At a minimum, the Jets should have a very good defense this season. However, if they are going to be in the discussion for the best unit in the league, they need three swing players to take the next step. Quinton Coples, needs to become a double digit sack threat and more consistent. Demario Davis, needs to be involved in forcing turnovers and improve his play in the passing game. Calvin Pryor, needs to stabilize the safety position, live up to his first round billing and be the downhill playmaker he has the skills to be.

11. The Constant – The Jets have the luxury of center Nick Mangold being as good as ever, which should help stabilize some potential line issues. Mangold is now nearing a decade of Hall of Fame caliber play.

12. Variable Pricing – Thoughts on the Jets new variable pricing structure and expedited security process? On paper both sound like good ideas so I’m curious to see the implementation play out in 2015.

Author: Joe Caporoso

Joe Caporoso is the Owner and EIC of Turn On The Jets. His writing has been featured in the New York Times, Huffington Post, MMQB and AdWeek. Caporoso played football his entire life, including four years at Muhlenberg as a wide receiver, where he was arguably the slowest receiver to ever start in school history. He is the EVP of Content at Whistle Sports