LocalBozo.com’s special beat reporter Jordan Rubenstein will be covering the New York Jets all season long, with quarterly season recaps about where the team is headed. We’ll also have reporter Tim Sachs tackling the New York Giants head on as we bring you all local NFL coverage heading to the upcoming ‘Big Game’ held at MetLife Stadium in 2014. We begin today with our New York Jets 2013 Season Preview.
It goes without saying that the New York Jets are no strangers to back-page headlines. Unfortunately, during the last couple of seasons, the publicity was anything but positive. From the Tim Tebow debacle to Rex Ryan’s strange Mark Sanchez tattoo, the Jets haven’t exactly exemplified success since their back to back AFC Championship trips. Or respectability, for that matter. No, the Jets have been a laughingstock off the field and the on-field results haven’t exactly done anything to assuage a national bombardment of jokes, criticism and laughter.
A combined record of 14-18 over two seasons isn’t catastrophic, but it’s the way those seasons unfolded that cause concern. First, the Jets lost their final three games of 2011 to miss the playoffs, followed by a deflating 2012 season, punctuated by Mark Sanchez’s regression- the cherry on top of the injury-flavored ice cream that derailed the Jets chances early. But with wide receiver Santonio Holmes back in the starting lineup and an infusion of youth, due in part to the offseason trade of Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay, can this Jets team get back to their winning ways of 2009 and 2010?
Not so fast.
Of all the question marks facing coach Rex Ryan’s offense, the quarterback situation is by far the most talked about and clearly the most unsettled. After the disastrous preseason showing by rookie Geno Smith, one can assume the only reason he’ll be starting this Sunday’s opener at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is the shoulder injury sustained by the incumbent Sanchez. In college at West Virginia, Smith showed the ability to be dynamic under center. He can run and is quite athletic, but he’s less than proven at the professional level and his decision making ability will certainly be tested early and often. Thus, the Jets’ best option as the season opens would be to lean on the running game as much as possible. However, that, too, cannot be counted on to carry the entire load of offense.
The Running Game
Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory combined are expected to carry much of the workload. But both did not do much to impress in the preseason. Powell managed a good showing versus Jacksonville, but, then again, the Jaguars are expected to be one of the league’s worst teams this season. Therefore the role of the offense will be much like that of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens: Do just enough and let the defense take over.
But here again, we find another problem. This Jets defense is not the dominating unit that once led the franchise to back-to-back AFC Championship games. Revis has been one of the best cornerbacks in the league since he was drafted in 2007. But his surgically-repaired ACL and constant contract issues essentially sealed his fate to be dealt. Prior to this April’s NFL Draft, new general manager John Idzik shipped Revis to the warmth of Tampa, a decision met with mixed opinions and emotions by Jets’ faithful. Though it should be noted that the consensus was that the Jets made a good decision by drafting defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson out of Missouri with the one 2013 pick they received from the Bucs in the Revis trade. The Jets will receive Tampa’s other draft pick during next year’s draft. One of the Jets biggest struggles on the defensive side of the ball has been stopping the run, so Richardson should be a big presence. But again, any time you’re dealing with a rookie, you’re never sure how he will perform, especially early on. (See: Gholston, Vernon)
To replace Revis, the Jets drafted Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner with the ninth pick in the first round. However, Milliner held out for the early part of training camp, so his start with the Jets and their system took a little longer than expected. Still, at this point, that shouldn’t be much of an issue. What is an issue is that Milliner is a rookie in a major market, trying to replace one of the best in the business. The Jets can say they’ve shifted Antonio Cromartie to Revis’ role, but the rest of the football world sees Milliner as ‘the guy to replace Revis’ based on the timing of his arrival, if nothing else. There are solid veterans on the defensive side of the ball, led by David Harris and Calvin Pace, but no one that can carry the entire group for a full season. In the end, it’s likely the constant struggles of the offense will cause considerable wear and tear on the defense. When that happens ultimately, there’s only one outcome and it’s an unpleasant one.
Looking at the schedule, it’s realistic to see the Jets starting out 1-8. To say playing the Falcons, Steelers, Patriots, Bengals and Saints in a row will be a tough stretch is an understatement. If the Jets win one of those games – and lose the rest by less than 80 points – they should consider it a success. Many have the Jets finishing with one of the three worst records in football and it’s hard to argue against that. If this team can finish 4-12, it should be deemed a successful season, as sad as that sounds. The best thing for the Jets to do is play their young guys, let them take some bumps and bruises, while gaining game-time experience that will be valuable for when this team is ready to compete. And in the ever-evolving world of the NFL, who knows, that just might be in 2014 with the right draft picks and free agency signings.
My 2013 New York Jets Prediction: 4-12
- Jordan Rubenstein