New York Jets – Nobody Cares About Defense, Build Your Offense

Joe Caporoso on the New York Jets to prioritize their offense over defense in the coming years of roster building

The New York Jets have been a defensive franchise, seemingly forever. Since firing Rich Kotite in 1996, every single coach they have hired (Bill Parcells, Al Groh, Herman Edwards, Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan and Todd Bowles) came from a defensive background. From 2010-2018, the team used 9 of their 10 first round picks on defensive players.

Under this current front office, the Jets have used 3 of their 4 first round picks on defensive players, 3 of their 4 third round picks on defensive players, a second round pick on a safety and 15 of 28 overall picks on defense or special teams. In free agency, the majority of the biggest contracts handed out: Trumaine Johnson, Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Avery Williamson, Marcus Gilchrist, Buster Skrine, Steve McLendon and Morris Claiborne have been on the defensive side of the football. It continues to be defense first for the Jets, in a league that is increasingly offense first. In the coming years, particularly with Sam Darnold playing through his rookie contract, this organization needs to do a complete 180 on what side of the football they prioritize. 

The NFL is built to cater to quarterbacks and for the units they lead to put points on the board. With each passing season, the rules make it more and more challenging to play defense and the league’s top games look more and more like Big 12 showdowns (see: last year’s Super Bowl and the recent Chiefs/Rams Monday night game). Offense wins games and offense wins championships. Nobody cares about your total defense ranking. Nobody cares about your defense at all unless they are regularly making game changing plays that directly lead to points AKA forcing turnovers or compiling sacks.

Entering week 13 of the NFL season, 8 of the top 10 teams in offensive DVOA are .500 or better including the current top two seeds in each conference (New Orleans, Los Angeles, New England and Kansas City). The top 4 teams all have at least 9 wins through 12 games (Both Los Angeles teams, Kansas City and New Orleans). On the other side of the football, 4 of the top 10 teams in defensive DVOA are under .500 (Jacksonville, Buffalo, Arizona and Cleveland). The only two division leaders in the top ten are Houston and Chicago. Despite being the best teams in football, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Kansas City and New England are not ranked in the top 13 overall.

Last year, the AFC Champion Patriots were 1st in offensive DVOA and 31st in Defensive DVOA. The Super Bowl champion Eagles were more balanced at 8th in offensive DVOA and 5th in defensive DVOA. In 2016, the top two teams in offensive DVOA met in the Super Bowl (New England and Atlanta). Neither team had a top 15 defensive DVOA unit. Jacksonville was a defensively dominated team but fell short in the AFC Championship game last year, tried to run it back with a similar team structure this year and saw their window snap shut as their unit drop from 16th in offensive DVOA to 28th this year.

You can function with a broken defense in the NFL. You cannot function with a broken offense, particularly one that is as putrid as the Jets currently have. As a reminder, they have scored 5 offensive touchdowns in their past 6 games. Broken is too polite of an adjective to describe their offense right now. Jamal Adams and Darron Lee can turn into prime Ronnie Lott and Mike Singletary tomorrow, clone themselves multiple times and it won’t matter because the Jets cannot score touchdowns in a game where the team with the most points win.

The Jets spent three draft picks on Sam Darnold. They have him on a rookie contract for four more years. There is nothing more important to the long term success of the organization that Darnold developing properly in these coming years and the Jets are already off to an inauspicious start with a phantom foot injury midseason benching and pairing him with an Offensive Coordinator who is about to be fired after one year for the second time in his career (ironically the only two years he has ever spent as an Offensive Coordinator anywhere), never mind the lack of supporting talent.

The Jets will have a top five pick next year, two third round picks and their picks in every round but the second. They are going to have well over 100 million dollars in cap space. It is time to invest in the offense. Stop saying they can afford to pay Dante Fowler and his 4 sacks this season but not one of the three best playmaking running backs in the NFL.

First off, they can afford to pay both. Second, Dante Fowler having maybe 8 sacks next year isn’t moving the needle for this team or this quarterback. Bell having 1,200 rushing yards, catching 50 passes and scoring 8-10 touchdowns is. Don’t stop with Bell. Build depth at wide receiver. Build depth at tight end. You have Chris Herndon? Great. Go sign Demetrius Harris so you can run a credible two tight end look. Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson are not enough at receiver. Sign Tyrell Williams and Adam Humphries for depth. Scour the trade market for receiver rich teams who might want to make a move (Does Atlanta want to move Mohamed Sanu after Calvin Ridley’s breakout season?).

Don’t settle for maybe being average on the offensive line. This team has drafted two offensive linemen in four years. If Nick Bosa is gone and you can’t move back, draft Jonah Williams. Draft another linemen in the middle rounds…then draft another one. Overpay for Matt Paradis and Quenton Spain on the free agent market. Stop settling for JAGs like Kelvin Beachum, Brian Winters and worse than JAGs Spencer Long playing major reps. Replace Long. Replace James Carpenter.

Stop wasting middle round picks on small school 25 year olds for your defensive front seven who make zero impact because they can’t compete at this level. This somehow happened twice in the past two years. Go sign the Mike Pennels and Henry Andersons of the world to eat up your front seven reps. They are dirt cheap in this league because they are easily replaceable. Take your draft swings and big free agent swings on making life easier for Darnold and if you are going to spend on defense, make it on young corners and pass rushers. Don’t leave yourself with three average starting corners who are 28 or older AND have a putrid offense .

It doesn’t matter who the best player on the board is when the Jets pick this April, if it isn’t a game changing pass rusher, the player needs to be on offense. The Jets need to overcorrect for their years of negligence to this side of the football….that means overpaying for a generational talent like Bell, even though he plays running back…that means overpaying for a center who is coming off an injury like Paradis….that means rating offensive players higher on their draft board than inside linebackers, interior defensive linemen and safeties, regardless of who the better prospect is.

It needs to be all hands on the deck to fix this offense immediately, anything short of a massive overhaul will be yet another failure for this front office, if they manage to keep jobs they do not deserve to.

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