Here are two simple questions. Where are the Jets stronger than they were a year ago? Where are they weaker than they were a year ago. Today we will take a look at the offense. Before we start, keep in mind what we are examining. Should Jets fans feel more confident in a position than they would have at this time last year? We all know Santonio Holmes missed three-quarters of the season in 2012, which alone might make him likely to increase his production in 2013. We did not know that at the time, though. This is a comparison of where the team was before the start of training camp last year, and what we know then against where things stand right now.
QB: The quarterback situation looks almost identical except Geno Smith is in camp instead of Tim Tebow. This alone makes the situation look better in 2013 than it did in 2012. Geno has way more upside. The question is how much better things will be. Is Geno capable of playing quality ball as a starter, or is he just merely an upgrade on Tebow? The former would make the Jets much better. The latter would not make a significant difference in the team.
RB: We are going mainly on potential here, but it is tough to not feel more confident. Entering last season, Shonn Greene was the top dog in the backfield. Even most of those who defended his play would admit he was nothing special. Bilal Powell was a backup coming off an unproductive rookie year where he barely saw the field. Joe McKnight was an underutilized weapon. This year the Jets have Chris Ivory, a guy who has flashed difference-maker potential in his limited work. They have Mike Goodson, whose speed can be dangerous if utilized properly. Powell is back and more confident after a solid performance as a second banana, and McKnight is back and as underutilized as ever. The fullback change from John Conner to Lex Hilliard/Tommy Bohanon probably does not push the needle much either way.
WR: This is a tough call. Jeremy Kerley was an unknown last year. He emerged as the best receiver on the team in 2012, and Jets fans can be confident in his play in the slot this year. Stephen Hill is raw, just like he was last year. Jets fans are hoping he plays well, not expecting it. That sounds familiar. I think the big difference is Santonio Holmes. A year ago, Holmes was healthy. Now he is coming off a serious injury that might have robbed him of the ability to do the things he does best. A healthy Holmes can be a very productive receiver. It is tough to feel confident in the current incarnation until we see him in action. His status more than cancels out Kerley's progress in my view.
TE: Dustin Keller might not be a great tight end, but I would rather have him than being forced to roll the dice on a hoblled Kellen Winslow II. Just like last year, there is not a ton of depth behind the projected starter.
OL: A year ago at this time, Wayne Hunter was the starter at right tackle. After getting passable play from Austin Howard last year, Jets fans have to feel better about right tackle. How about the rest of the line? D'Brickashaw Ferguson had a nice bounceback year in 2012. Nick Mangold had a down year for him. Regardless, both inspire confidence. The guard spots are the areas for concern. As was the case for most of his career, Brandon Moore delivered excellent play from the right guard spot that went largely unnoticed. It is kind of incredible how little is made of his presumed departure in free agency when people talk about the offseason the Jets had. Willie Colon can be just as good when he is playing well, but his inability to stay on the field is a huge concern. On the other side, Matt Slauson was never specutacular, but that cuts both ways. He rarely made great plays, but he was not a liability either. The Jets are either replacing him with Stephen Peterman, a downgrade, or Brian Winters, a rookie. I like Winters' potential a lot over the long haul, but we cannot say how much he can contribute right off the bat. It might be nothing. The offensive line was the one unit on the offense that was not a glaring weakness in 2012. The unit lost both guards, and the replacements are probably a wash in a best case scenario.