FanPost

How bad are the Jets?

Particularly over the last few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion on all of the weak points on the Jets. The consensus seems to be that there are now only an average team with glaring weaknesses, and that this seems to be a reason for despair. I would argue, though, that this is precisely the reason for optimism.


If one has to choose between having a decent team with no big problems and a decent team with a few major problems, then I would much rather have the latter. The reason is that a decent team with big problems, like the Jets, also has significant advantages. If the rush to discuss all of the faults has made you forget them, then remember that they still have probably the best CB group in the NFL, most of an outstanding OL, a well-above average special teams squad, if one prone to the occasional moronic error, and a surprisingly deep and strong defensive line. Having these big strengths makes it much easier to make rapid progress because it is far harder to add a superstar, like the Jets have at CB, C, and LT, then it is to add a solid player. The former are - relatively - easy to acquire. The last one can only get with luck, large quantities of money, or piles of talent.

The first step is to distinguish between Jets' needs where an average player can make a noticeable improvement, and areas where they might need a legitimate star. One can certainly make the case that Mark Sanchez is not an elite quarterback, and that the Jets would be much stronger with an Aaron Rodgers or even an Eli Manning, but getting those players would be quite difficult, for the apparent reason that everybody feels they would be much stronger with a Rodgers or a Manning. Replacing Sanchez with an average quarterback, on the other hand, would do little, as he is already an average quarterback.

One strategy would be for the Jets to simply solidify their two most glaring holes; RT and FS. The first plus of such a strategy is that it is wholly doable; they can get an average player at those positions either through free agency at - relatively - little cost, or at worst, with their top two draft picks. What would such additions do? Well, we can't be sure, but it is possible that buying Sanchez an extra half second to throw could raise his completion percentage up to 60. It could mean not keeping back an extra RB or TE to block so often, only against top-flight DEs rather than against almost anybody, and instead have an extra outlet option. An average FS won't stop the Patriots' two tight-ends, but it might shut down the marginal TEs who have caused the Jets a lot of trouble. Even two years ago, opposing top WRs were causing relatively little difficulty; then it was the #3 WR, RBs and TEs who were killing the Jets in the air. By this year, with some glaring exceptions, the #3 WRs have been relatively shut down by Kyle Wilson, and even RBs haven't been causing as much problems. The Jets are now startlingly close to being able to almost shut down an opposing passing game, and even a decent FS might just do it.

An alternative strategy, possibly in conjunction with the one mentioned above, and possibly separate to it, is to try to get an actual star at a particular position. This is appealing because stars are fun; they're also expensive, either in terms of money, or more likely in terms of talent. Getting a star is sufficiently difficult that it's slightly ridiculous to talk about particular positions; the general rule is if you can get one, you do, but if we were to think about what type of star would be unusually helpful, then how would we? Besides RT and FS, there seem to be four critical positions that lots of people here have been discussing where the Jets have average options already, but a star would be very helpful. They are QB, RB, WR, and OLB. I know for many people here, the popular options of those four are the first two, that the Jets should try to get a top-flight QB or RB, but I disagree. At both positions, the Jets have young, average players, and though young, average players often never develop, they oftentimes do. Many people have been talking about how much better the Jets would be with an Eli Manning, and how necessary it is for the Jets to have a QB who can get 60% of his passes completed, and maybe they're right, but it was only in his 5th season that Manning threw 60% of his passes for receptions, before which he had never had a QB rating above 77. Will Sanchez become an Eli Manning in two years or even next year? Maybe not. Others are saying the Jets should get a Drew Brees. Well, at the end of his third season, his best QB rating was 76.9, and in his third season, he had a 67.5. In Mark Sanchez's 3rd season, he had a 79. Will he develop like Brees did? Maybe not. But maybe yes. It seems like if the Jets are going to invest so significantly in a star, it should be at a position where they don't have a young player who is already average and might become more. At RB, Shonn Greene has so far only been solid, but even if you don't think he's going to develop, they have McKnight and Bilal Powell behind him who could. I would contrast those positions with WR and OLB; amongst their young players, Kerley is the most promising, but he seems to be, at best, a Cottchery, an excellent #3 or a marginal #2. Similarly, at OLB, the Jets have decent players, but nobody who could be a star. If the Jets can add a star, those would be the positions they might want to target.

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