Football Nation Preview: The 2013 New York Jets
2012 Record: 6-10
Sanchez and The Ensuing Controversies
"Butt Fumble". The stifling of "TebowMania". The shutout loss against the 49ers where seemingly nothing went right. Unless you're a Jets fan, it was easy to laugh at the Vaudeville act that had developed on Florham Park; a team nearly Super Bowl bound shortly prior.
When all goes wrong, you look at the face of the team, and with the Jets, Mark Sanchez was an easy target. After an opening week victory over the Bills, in which he threw 3 touchdown passes, "The Sanchize" would never throw 3 in another game that season, hitting the mark of 2 just one other time.
For the season, Sanchez totalled 13 touchdowns, 18 picks, a 66.9 passer rating (he threw below a 60.0 in 7 games), and completed just 54.3 percent of his passes. Add to the mix the media circus with Tim Tebow around, and you get Sanchez's overall worst season to date.
Weakened Defense Meets Mistake-Laden Offense
Any defense expected to have Darrelle Revis for the long haul, only to lose him to a torn ACL in September, is expected to regress somewhat. It's understandable, since you're losing the game's gold standard of shutdown coverage. While the Jets defense (namely Antonio Cromartie) was largely able to rally, it wouldn't be enough.
The Jets gave up 375 points last season, 20th best in the league. But seven touchdowns that they gave up were not by the defense: 3 fumble returns, a pick six, 2 special teams returns, and a blocked punt. In that light, New York's defense allowed 326 points, or 20.4 PPG, which would actually slide them closer to the top ten.
Even then, the Jets had only 30 sacks, and a mere 11 interceptions without Revis to hound the primary receiver. In that diminished state, that wasn't a defense that could bail out Sanchez, the offense, and special teams for their errors.
2013 Projected Wins: 7
Top 3 Rookies
-Dee Milliner, CB (1/9): Prototypical cover-corner compliments his steely focus with consistent tackling. Closest thing in the draft to Revis' intangibles.
-Sheldon Richardson, DT (1/13): Has the natural explosiveness to blow up running plays before they can develop, and is quick enough to be used in coverage.
-Geno Smith, QB (2/39): Confident passer that is mostly accurate on routes of varying lengths. Mobility will come in handy behind a line that struggles to pass-block.
New York remains a news-magnet, making headlines this offseason with the outright release of Tim Tebow, and the trading of Revis to Tampa Bay for a first round pick (Richardson) and one pick next year. Tebow was used for little more than gossip fodder, while the Jets at least found a suitable replacement for Revis in Milliner.
The Jets have begun renovation on their offensive line, adding veteran Willie Colon. He'll likely start at guard, along with either third-round pick Brian Winters or Lions veteran Stephen Peterman. Improving right tackle Austin Howard was re-signed by the club.
On defense, the Jets added injury-plagued nose tackle Antonio Garay and underrated linebacker Antwan Barnes from the Chargers, and in-house veteran linebacker Calvin Pace was re-signed on April 16, two months after the Jets released him.
Potential Starting Lineup
QB - Mark Sanchez
RB - Chris Ivory
FB - Lex Hilliard
WR - Stephen Hill
WR - Santonio Holmes
TE - Jeff Cumberland
LT - D'Brickashaw Ferguson
LG - Willie Colon
C - Nick Mangold
RG - Stephen Peterman
RT - Austin Howard
DE - Muhammad Wilkerson
NT - Kenrick Ellis
DT - Sheldon Richardson
OLB - Quinton Coples
ILB - Demario Davis
ILB - David Harris
OLB - Antwan Barnes
CB - Antonio Cromartie
CB - Dee Milliner
FS - Josh Bush
SS - Dawan Landry
K - Nick Folk
P - Robert Malone
LS - Tanner Purdum
2013 at a Glance
Rex Ryan was spared the firing finger of Woody Johnson after the chaotic 6-10 season, but the walls did come down around him.
GM Mike Tannenbaum was canned, as was offensive coordinator Tony Sparano. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine jumped to Buffalo. Grizzled special teams coach Mike Westhoff retired.
Tannenbaum was replaced by John Idzik, Jr, who'd previously spent 6 years as VP of Football Administration for the Seahawks. Idzik played a role in bringing Pete Carroll to Seattle, and prior to that, learned the ins-and-outs of management in 12 years with the Buccaneers. When Tampa Bay won Super Bowl XXXVII, Idzik was the assistant GM.
Sparano's replacement would be Marty Morninhweg, who comes off 10 years in Philadelphia as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator. Morninhweg, like ex-boss Andy Reid, has a tendency to reply way too heavily on the pass, and the balance of playcalling suffers as a result.
Then again, maybe passing frequently wouldn't be the worst idea. The Jets didn't retain running back Shonn Greene, choosing to go forward with Bilal Powell (437 yds and 4 TD on 110 carries), Joe McKnight, and acquisitions in Lex Hilliard, Chris Ivory (via trade), and Mike Goodson (who's been recently beset by legal troubles).
On paper, the running game doesn't strike as much terror as some teams, but perhaps behind an improving offensive line, they'll surprise some folks.
Austin Howard is a vastly improved run-blocker on the right side of the line, and he enters his second full season at starter. D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold remain as reliable cogs. With the tackles solidified, Ivory, as an outside runner, has the greatest chance to thrive.
The receiving corps looks pretty much the same between Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, and a healthy Santonio Holmes. Dustin Keller is no longer tight end, having signed with the Dolphins, so four-year vet Jeff Cumberland (359 yds, 3 TD in 2012) slides into the starting role.
Former secondary coach Dennis Thurman is promoted to defensive coordinator, and recently made the emboldened statement that his secondary, 'is the best group it's been in years,' even without Revis.
Among in-house chances to the defense is the move of Quinton Coples to outside linebacker. That gives Barnes, Richardson, and Muhammad Wilkerson their natural positions to work from, especially in a 4-3. Coples is expected to drop at least 10-15 lbs to adequately play linerbacker, however.
Thurman also stated that Milliner 'would compete' for the second starting corner spot next to Cromartie, but that seems to be more of a motivational technique than anything.
Is Rex Ryan a 'dead man walking'? With a new GM, many radical changes to the coaching staff and roster, and an owner griping, albeit not so harshly, about the previous 2 seasons, it seems as though Ryan could be one false move away from looking for work in 2014.
Things don't look so bad when you consider the trenches. The offensive line looks like it could be its strongest in years, and the defensive line could bring great pressure in a 3-4 infused with lots of aggressive youth. Laugh at the Jets now, but they might be better than you think.