Last night we looked at three areas where the Jets improved. Now let's look at three where they left something on the table. Sitting on over $20 million in cap space, we will likely look at the team's inability to do more at these positions with lament if this season is not sucessful.
3. Wide Receiver: The pass catching corps was rated as the Jets' most upgraded unit last night. It is a testament to how bad the group was in 2013 that the Jets could indisputably be better and yet still have not done enough. The spot starting across from Eric Decker is a huge question mark. The Jets are in the unenviable position of once again hoping Stephen Hill can start providing value, root for a third day rookie to emerge, or go with the underwhelming David Nelson.
The dream scenario would have involved signing DeSean Jackson and taking Brandin Cooks in the first round. Depending on quarterback play, the Jets could have become one of the most explosive offenses in the league with one of the deepest receiving corps. It would have been a Super Bowl setup with the right breaks.
It didn't have to be the dream scenario, though. Quality options were out there in free agency like Golden Tate, James Jones, and Emmanuel Sanders. Signing one of them would have prevented this important spot from being such a question mark. Two of them would have given the Jets a really nice deep group at receiver.
2. Offensive Line: This is not a topic of heavy conversation, but the line was not great last year. It probably got worse during the offseason.
I understand not wanting to pay Austin Howard $6 million a year. What I don't understand is letting Howard walk and then signing an inferior player $4.5 million a year. Breno Giacomini is a significant liability as a pass protector. In 2013 he allowed a defender to disrupt his quarterback on 8.9% of his pass blocking snaps. In 2012 he allowed a defender to disrupt his quarterback on 8.9% of his pass blocking snaps. How does that compare to other players? In 2011 Wayne Hunter allowed a defender to disrupt his quarterback on 8.9% of pass blocking snaps. Letting Howard walk is one thing. This doesn't seem like a great plan to respond.
In addition the Jets could have afforded to find a more durable option at guard than Willie Colon. Expecting to get 16 games from a player who has suffered a major injury in four straight seasons is asking a lot. At the very least the team could have found an insurance policy.
Instead the Jets will go into the year with unknowns. Based on last season it is difficult to give John Idzik the benefit of the doubt here. He watched both incumbent guards take low cost contracts and went with the unknown. It didn't pan out.
I could envision the upgrades at quarterback and receiver leading to a league average offense. I don't see 2012 or 2013 playing out. I do, however, see some frightening parallels to 2011. There are adequate targets but no real standout. There is a leaky offensive line, and a young quarterback who might not be able to raise above his surroundings. This is worthy of some nervousness.
1. Cornerback: Last night we talked about how safeties with range allow Rex Ryan's defense to get more aggressive. That goes double for good cornerbacks. If Rex can trust his cornerbacks to hold up on an island, he can run his preferred attack style of defense.
Cornerback was a need for the Jets. They had a hole burning in their pocket and a deep free agent cornerback class. Darrelle Revis, Aqib Talib, Vontae Davis, Alterraun Verner, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were there to be signed. There were second and third tier options that had question marks but were cheaper and had talent such as Antonio Cromartie, Charles Tillman, and Brandon Browner. It's difficult to explain how the Jets ended up with Dimitri Patterson.
Cornerback is a major weakness. Because of their inactivity on the market, Dee Milliner is supposed to be the sure thing as the number one corner. The thing is he hasn't even proven he can be a good NFL player. It's possible, but it also requires one to put a ton of stock into two good games at the end of the year. The other starting spot is an even bigger question mark. Maybe things will pan out, but it's not easy to feel great about where the Jets are at this point in time.