So like most years I'm a little schizophrenic in the off-season. Depending on what I hear or read I could be down or up on the Jets potential for the coming season. I decided to commit some of my thoughts to writing in 2 parts highlighting the positive and negative outlooks. It's mostly an exercise in futility, but it's the off-season when speculation runs ad nauseum. If I miss anything please make note of it in the replies.
I'll begin with the positive and try to make a case for why the Jets will have a great season.
Let's begin with the Jets defense, which was ranked #5 in yards allowed last year.
Collectively, it's obvious this group will be better at rushing the passer, covering the middle of the field and stopping the run then they've ever been in the Rex Ryan era.
Looking at the defense's ability to pass rush tells me it will be scary good just with the addition of Quinton Coples, who is an athletic freak, playing bookend to Mo Wilkerson, who by all accounts could be a premier defensive end himself. Line them up outside of Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito and they might be able to get to the QB with only a four-man rush. Throw in a bulked up, speedy Aaron Maybin with improved pass-rushing moves, and no QB will have much time to stand upright in the pocket.
Now that's just from the outside. Add from the inside a fast Demario Davis, a svelte, more athletic Bart Scott and a versatile Quinton Coples in the middle and the opponent won't know which way is Sunday with the Jets pass rush and blitzes.
How about covering the middle of the field, particularly the TE, which was the defense's Achilles heel last season? No problem. The team's inside linebackers, Demario Davis and Bart Scott, are more athletic this year than they've been at that postion over the last 3 seasons. Don't be surprised to see more passes defended and more turnovers in the middle of the field.
Moreover, I see no diminishing in the team's rush defense. Sione Pouha, Mike DeVito and David Harris stalwart in the middle and Calvin Pace and a healthy Bryan Thomas sealing the edges. Add to them in run coverage the hard-hitting safeties Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry and this defense should lead the league in rushing yards allowed.
Lastly, there's the best CB tandem in the league with Antonio Cromartie and Darelle Revis, who consistently lockdown their receivers. Third year corner Kyle Wilson is also worth mentioning as an up and coming player at his position.
The Jets offense will be real good too.
Think about it. They will be playing to their strength. Their offensive line. Unlike last year, this year's OL has a clear identity. Run the ball.
Shonn Greene was lukewarm last year averaging 15.8 carries/gm, 4.2 yds/carry with over 1,000 total yds playing behind an inconsistent, lackluster OL. This year he will run the ball behind an OL that will be more consistent and focused on running the ball successfully. Greene could easily be a top 10 RB this season with 18-20 carries/gm and 1,2-1,500 yds for the season.
Add an explosive Joe McKnight to the backfield and Tim Tebow in the Wildcat and the Jets could lead the league in rushing yards.
Mark Sanchez, by his own testimony, is physically and mentally stronger than he's ever been before. He'll be playing in an offense that will give him an opportunity to be successful in the passing game and to make big plays. Play-action passing is a strength of Sanchez and he should reap the benefit of it in this offense.
Sanchez will have at least 6 potent weapons in the passing game, which includes WR Santonio Holmes, WR Stephen Hill, WR Jeremy Kerley, TE Dustin Keller, TE Jeff Cumberland and RB Joe McKnight out of the backfield.
Holmes is a proven #1 veteran receiver with great hands. Hill has over the top speed, great size and speed and already knows how to get release from the line of scrimmage on press coverage as a rookie. Second year Jeremy Kerley is very good in the slot and Dustin Keller is a go-to-target who's a nightmare to cover. Cumberland is recovering successfully from injury and could play a second receiving TE that will cause defenses fits, a la New England. Lastly, Joe McKnight will be a serious option on third down who will be explosive coming out of the backfield.
I'll give Special Teams a mention as well, which should be top of the league for another season under the direction of special teams guru Mike Westhoff.
All in all I'm looking forward to a great season for the Jets. They're good enough to grab the division from the Patriots for the first time in 10 years and win home field advantage in the playoffs.
NYJ: Half Empty, Part II to follow.