A lot of people do not like to discuss departed players and whether the team should have kept them. I am not one of them. My feeling is if we are to properly judge the ability of a front office, we must examine whether its moves actually work. That is why I have kept my eye on Leon Washington.
Dealing Washington was a controversial move at the time. There were many theories floated over whom would replace him. Some said it was LaDainian Tomlinson. Others said Joe McKnight. I personally thought it would take a combination of people. The real answer, though, seems to be Brad Smith.
One obvious area where Smith has replaced Washington has been kickoff returns. Washington leads the NFL with a 30.3 average on kick returns. He also has a pair of touchdowns. Does this mean the Jets downgraded their kick return game? Not really because Smith sits in second place with a 29.2 average and a touchdown of his own.
Smith has also become the run game's homerun hitter as evidenced by his 53 yard run last night. Brad has 216 yards on 27 carries, an average of 8. Leon Washington has 59 yards on 18 carries in Seattle, an average of 3.3. His team traded for Marshawn Lynch during the year. A team doesn't trade for a new starter at a position midseason if it is happy with the production it is getting from the guys already there. The thing that makes Smith's line amazing is the majority of his carries have come from New York's version of the Wildcat, where teams can identify that he is probably going to run the ball. He's still a threat to take it all the way. Considering the way the Jets underutilized Leon during his time in New York, Smith is on pace to post relatively similar numbers on the ground to what Washington did.
Smith didn't really emerge as an offensive weapon on whom the Jets relied until Washington's leg injury last year. It is impossible for good teams to keep all of their quality players in the NFL. What the good ones do is figure out the replaceable ones and let them walk while locking up the ones not so easy to replace. In hindsight, not giving Washington $6 million a year was a good move because the team could cheaply replace a lot of his production with Brad. This left money to lock up guys like Nick Mangold and Darrelle Revis, who would not be so easy to replace.
Number 16 is making the Jets look very good.