New York Jets Season Review/Off Season Preview
It only took one year for first year head coach Todd Bowles to move the Jets from joke of the league to playoff contenders. The Jets rattled off five straight wins from week 12 to week 16 which propelled them into a spot where they were one win away from making the playoffs. The Jets ended up losing to their rival Buffalo Bills, and were swept by their former head coach Rex Ryan in Buffalo. It should also be noted that the Jets were only 2-2 against playoff teams this year which includes an impressive 1-1 against their rival Patriots, but also includes 1-1 against the Texans and Washington. Essentially taking out the Bills and playoff teams you have a team that went 8-2 against the rest of the league. That is always good to beat the teams you are supposed to, but it will be interesting to see if schedule strength helped propel this team to the playoff contender category.
The Jets improved in terms of efficiency on both sides of the ball. Chan Gailey, and his previous relationship with quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick made it easier to transition the offensive scheme. Rex Ryan built up a strong defensive personnel, but Bowles and his defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers had used it to make the defense a bit better than the year before. They use a wider variety of schemes and the drafting of Leonard Williams in year one made mixing up front line packages a lot easier. Either way this is a staff that has positive vibes floating around the Jets moving forward.
The Jets are in a very interesting situation that Ryan Fitzpatrick has put them in. To start, Fitzpatrick is slightly better than replacement level. At quarterback however, there really arent 32 capable starters, so to have one even at average or slightly above is to actually have a commodity. Fitzpatrick, as mentioned had a previous report with the offensive coordinator, and set career highs in yards and touchdowns this year. It was a great year for Fitz, but what does that make the free agent worth? If the Jets move on from him they have only Geno Smith who hasn’t exactly earned a chance to take over a team that is potentially ready to win now. Still, can the Jets take that step with Fitzpatrick? It is kind of doubtful, but in the rock and the hard place they really don’t have a chance to upgrade anywhere else. The key here will be signing Fitzpatrick without fracturing their cap space moving forward.
Running back Play
The Jets only running back currently signed is Zac Stacy who had 31 carries in 2015. Chris Ivory had a strong 2015, one of the best in his career, but the question will be similar to Fitzpatrick, and the thought would be if they can improve from Ivory they will. With no depth around the team it would be smart to draft a back, then try to bring Ivory in on the cheap, or use a guy like Stevan Ridley to back up the rookie back. Whether it be Ridley or Ivory or both there should be turnover at the running back spot this year.
Wide Receiver Play
At age 31, Brandon Marshall had a phenomenal year. He went over 100 catches, over 1500 yards and caught a career high in touchdowns. He had one of the better complete seasons in his career which is astonishing. In producing himself, he was able to free up coverage and let Eric Decker produce to the best of his ability. Decker had 12 touchdowns, and while 26 of Fitzpatrick’s 31 touchdowns being between two players may be scary, it should also be noted that the plans would be for more options to emerge in 2016. The Jets drafted Devin Smith last year, and rookie tight end Jace Amaro the year before. Smith dealt with injury, but was able to start the last three games of the season. Amaro however missed the whole year. The Jets got absolutely nothing without Amaro from the tight end position but the thought would be he can instantly improve that, even if he has to deal with growing pains. Smith is a deep threat, and can work out of the slot. It makes the Jets extremely dangerous from this position on paper, and if health can be better in 2016, there is a chance for Fitzpatrick to have even better numbers.
Offensive Line Play
The Jets offensive line isn’t necessarily a strength, but there will probably be little change over this year. The Jets are tied into D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold, two lineman drafted in the first round in 2006, and lived up to expectation, but at this point ten years later have more name value than quality play. Still, it isn’t necessarily them bringing down the line. Breno Giacomini has struggled in his past two years for the Jets, and the Jets went through some shifting at the guard position before settling on Brian Winters over Willie Colon as their right guard starter. Both would be at replacement level, but with Colon due a contract, it more than likely won’t be with the Jets. Still, the Jets also shouldn’t commit to any of their linemen this offseason, and Giacomini, Mangold and Ferguson have two years left on their deals, while Winters has one. James Carpenter, their starting left guard and arguably best lineman has three years left, and it wouldn’t be crazy to think he is the only one of these five here. The draft could certainly see a lineman at some point, but not as top priority quite yet.
The Jets defensive line was awesome this year, definitely the best unit on the Jets. Many questioned how they could involve Leonard Williams, who was a top five pick for the Jets this year, and they did so and he impressed in his role. The Jets basically run a multiple personnel, but technically give a 4-3 look in the majority. It allows Muhammed Wilkerson to exploit more mismatches as an edge rusher, and it is going to Wilkerson a big time contract extension this offseason. Sheldon Richardson also shifted to the edge, but missed six games, four due to suspension, and will have a lot to prove as he enters year three. The big question will be if the Jets can afford to resign Damon Harrison this offseason, and if they don’t, what defense will they run. Harrison is a 3-4 nose preferably, but in the multiple personnel, next to Williams, Wilkerson, and Richardson, the space he creates opens up all the one on one mismatches that the line takes advantage of. It makes Harrison a bit of a priority, but his demand around the league will be interesting. Linebacker Play
If the Jets are going to fix up a defensive unit this offseason it should be linebacker. Demario Davis and Calvin Pace are impending free agents, but as mentioned above Harrison is much higher priority on the free agent list. To start, if the Jets rush four in the future with Richardson and Wilkerson, it doesn’t fit what Pace, a pass rusher likes to do. Davis is more likely to be signed, but even if he is the Jets will be looking to upgrade the linebacker unit. David Harris has two years left on his contract, and quite possibly two left in his career, and it leaves any of the linebacker positions to be filled via free agency and the draft.
Darrelle Revis didn’t necessarily have a good year, but at the same time he was probably a top five cornerback. With the charge led by Revis, the Jets on paper have a secondary that could be special. Calvin Pryor took some steps in year two as a safety who can defend the run, and with Buster Skrine, and Marcus Gilchrist defending the pass, it gives a core that really didn’t get much time to play together and figure it out in 2015, but should improve on their top ten ranking next year. Antonio Cromartie was released, but may be resigned on cheaper terms, and if not they do have Marcus Williams and Dexter Macdougle signed and have enough talent to get by.
Where do they go?
The Jets are in a predicament when it comes to the quarterback position. Still, it is hard to think that they will be going into next year without Ryan Fitzpatrick as the starter. With that said it is in their GMs best interest to build the best team around him that he possibly can. It should involve signing a linebacker or two, resigning Harrison and coming into the year with a loaded defense on paper. It should involve building up depth and youth in the offensive line, but if Ezekiel Elliott were on the board do not be shocked if the Jets were the furthest he would fall.