TOJ Roundtable – New York Jets Number One Need Edition

The TOJ Roundtable discusses the New York Jets number one need this off-season

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What is the New York Jets number one need heading into the off-season?

Joe Caporoso – The two recurring positions you will hear mentioned in the coming months is offensive line and linebacker. Despite coaching around the deficiencies for the most part, the Jets currently have a highly paid average left tackle and a below average right tackle. They also have a question mark at one guard position unless they want to keep rolling with Brian Winters and limited depth, as was exposed when Nick Mangold missed time this year. This unit needs a long term investment both through free agency and the NFL Draft.

At linebacker, the Jets need a complement to Lorenzo Mauldin on the edge and a running mate for David Harris at inside linebacker. It isn’t out of the question Erin Henderson could be brought back for that role after Demario Davis is allowed to walk. However, there needs to be an infusion of speed and young depth to the entire unit, especially if Calvin Pace decides to come back for his 567th one year contract.

Outside of those two, running back needs to be rebuilt and deals need to be worked out for Ryan Fitzpatrick and Damon Harrison, along with continuing to work on a long term solution for Muhammad Wilkerson.

Anthony CappuccinoWhat a difference a year makes. Sitting here last year it seemed like the Jets needed improvements in every position on the field. Now, even though the season ended disappointingly, there is plenty to build upon and fewer holes to fill. The biggest need for the Jets heading into the off-season is speed on the edge of their defense. Too many times this year the Jets failed to generate pressure in key spots (see last weeks game). Their last true edge rusher may have been John Abraham and that was over 10 years ago. On the bright side, Lorenzo Mauldin did provide a bit of a spark off the edge in his limited role during his rookie year (4 sacks), but Gang Green will need more.

In today’s NFL, an edge rusher is essential to a defense’s success.  Of course, they need to consistently provide pressure and sacks, but they also have to be athletic enough to set the edge against lateral running offenses and run with backs/tight ends out of the backfield.  I’m a big Calvin Pace guy, but his days of rushing the passer and setting the edge are centuries in the past. Remember, the Jets will most likely be losing at least 1 of their big 4 on the defensive line (Wilkerson, Richardson, Williams, & Snacks), which makes improving the edge that much more important. If the Jets do nab a speedy edge rusher in the early part of the 2016 draft, it will make whichever defensive lineman they decide to keep, that much more effective.  Wilkerson and Richardson saw plenty of double teams this year and were still effective in most instances. Imagine a guy on the edge that demanded a double team to block, with a Wilkerson/Williams or Richardson/Williams combination inside. They can’t double everybody. That’s a scary sight for any offensive line in this league.

Joe Malfa – The Achilles’ heel of the Jets’ defense this season was getting off the field on 3rd down, and it reared its ugly head against the Bills last Sunday. With that being said, the two biggest needs for this team heading into the offseason are an edge rusher who can pressure the QB into mistakes on 3rd down, and a middle linebacker who is good in coverage and capable of following the tight end or a slot receiver in crucial situations. I have a free agency preview coming out sometime in the next day or two, but here is a bit of a sneak preview. Brandon Marshall — yes, there is another Brandon Marshall — would be a perfect fit at middle linebacker, and Bruce Irvin would be the exact threat on the edge that this team needs, (assuming Seattle is willing to let him walk). Add those two players to this defense, and it goes from “very good” to “elite,” in my opinion. Other areas of need, as the other guys mentioned, could be the offensive line and running back.

David Aitken – I’ll cheat and go with two entire units. Maccagnan and Bowles may have done an excellent job getting immediate improvements in a number of spots, but the team will continue to be haunted going forward by the negligence and draft pick misses the several years prior on the offensive line and linebacker core. Unless anyone has a time machine where the Jets can go back and select Jared Valdheer over Vladimir Ducasse and Chandler Jones over Quinton Coples (it stings especially when the decision should have been obvious), these will have to be the main target areas. Entering 2016, the linebacker core is looking at replacing three of four starters with Harris the only definite to return on merit. There’s hope Mauldin can fill into one OLB spot, but that still leaves Harris’ partner inside and most importantly the ever elusive stud edge rusher.

The offensive line is looking at two-fifths of it’s starters performing well below expectation, and that’s me being nice about Brian Winters and what was some quietly competent play over the final stretch. The Jets will probably have to roll the dice he can replicate and even improve on that, because there will be less resources to go around this offseason and so the team has to prioritize. I look at bringing in at least one offensive tackle, ideally one in the first two rounds that can start immediately on the right and swing over to left past 2016 if Ferguson and the team come to a restructure. Even saying that, Ferguson’s performance was so disappointing that moving on from him entirely can’t be ruled out either, as sad as that is to say.

John Hargaden – Looking into this off-season, this team does need to improve in multiple areas especially on the offensive line. D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold are now another year older.  Ferguson is owed $17 million next year, I expect the Jets to approach him to lower that cap number and sign him to a team friendly deal.  If Ferguson refuses, I would seriously think about cutting ties and moving in a different direction. I do feel though that Ferguson, who is from Long Island, will restructure his deal.

Another critical area they need to improve upon is outside linebacker. Todd Bowles said that the Jets need to become a faster team and that is sorely needed on the edge, especially seeing what Tyrod Taylor did to us on Sunday.

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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