Every so often the karmic winds shift, the planets align and the whole of the universe emits a beam of concentrated positivity in the direction of one lucky entity. I expect that many of you may be unfamiliar with this cosmic anomaly and maybe even mock the idea of its very existence, especially as it pertains to a certain New York area football team that wears green and white. But it's real and this year its predicted to impact Earth right around the first week of September, 2014.
Now that I've got your attention, for better or worse, let's collectively suspend disbelief and just imagine that this goofy phenomenon is real. You know, real like the Easter Bunny and Bill Belicheck's soul. Let's take it a step further even and imagine that all that good ju-ju somehow found its way right to the heart of 1 Jets Drive, Florham Park, NJ. I apologize in advance if simply the mention of this bankrupts us karmically, but what I'm trying to ask here is this: What if everything that realistically can break right for the 2014 New York Jets, does?
Now I'm an admittedly hopeless optimist. When faced with the classic question "Is the glass half empty or half full?" I answer "That glass is awesome." With that being said, when I look up and down the Jets' roster there seem to be an incredible number of unknowns; guys who could break out and establish themselves as stars for years to come or who could just as easily flame out end up selling cars or insurance next year or writing goofy Fanposts here on GGN, God forbid. What if all of these question marks are answered with a resounding, unequivocal "yes"?
What I intend to do in this post is focus on some key players and show you what it would look like and what it will take (outside of the aforementioned fictional cosmic beam) for 2014 to be the year of the Jets; the year that the demons of the butt-fumble, Vernon Gholston, the fake spike and countless other past faux pas all receive their own brand of karmic retribution and are finally laid waste in the wake of a big, green tidal wave of fortune. So go ahead and treat yourself to a big, old glass of Kool-Aid with me, after all, it's June, we can dare to dream.
Let's start on the defensive side of the ball because let's be honest, despite all of the big additions to the offense this off-season, any and all Jets conversations begin and end with Rex's beloved D. I should note at this point that I'm not predicting the following scenarios per se, but I do sincerely believe, as both a Jets fan and a football fan, that they are plausible. Now all of them coming to fruition simultaneously? That would be the football equivalent of winning Powerball but you know what they say... "You gotta be in it to win it." So let's get in it.
Sheldon Richardson – What if 91 only scratched the surface in 2013? That thought has to send shivers up and down the spines of a whole lot of offensive linemen around the league and if history tells us anything, they should be afraid... very afraid. Consider for a moment that life in the NFL is rough for rookies at just about any position, aside maybe from running backs and specialists. It always takes young guys time to adjust to the speed of the pro game, time to learn the subtle nuances and techniques that allow them to be successful when the other guy is just as big and strong and fast as them. Now consider that defensive line is top 3 on the positional transition to the NFL difficulty index, a stat I just invented, with the other two being cornerback and wide receiver. Its not only reasonable to believe but actually unreasonable not to that Richardson will get better in his second year, possibly significantly better. Most good defensive linemen take three or four years to start playing at their highest level, if Sheldon follows the common defensive line trajectory, we're looking at the beginnings of a Hall of Fame career and a monster pain in the ass for offensive linemen everywhere.
Muhammad Wilkerson – What if 96 just keeps getting better? Look up and revisit what I wrote about transition/career trajectory blah, blah, blah. Big Mo is an absolutely perfect example of this. He was good in his first year, a force in his second year and elite in his third. As he heads into his fourth season he may have already reached his peak but its also very possible that he has not. Coming from a small school, his competition in college wasn't good enough to force him to perfect technique so he came into the league with all the physical and intellectual tools necessary but had to refine his craft. He's proven to be an extremely hard worker who has grown significantly in every phase of his game each year he's been in the league. While certainly not a given, it's very realistic that he takes yet another step this year and cements himself as a top five NFL defensive lineman.
Quinton Coples – What if 98 figures out this whole outside linebacker thing and realizes his enormous potential? Now we come to one of the most polarizing and one of the most important players for the 2014 New York Jets. Nobody can deny Coples' ability. Nobody can deny either that the guy has been behind the eight ball for a good part of his two seasons because of injury and position change. Even with these obstacles, Coples has at least been mildly productive and has unarguably flashed some big-time potential. Again, it isn't unreasonable to believe that a third year player with a full year of experience and off-season of preparation at a new position, a former first round pick who has shown real ability will realize his potential and become a force. If he does, opposing offensive lines will have to play seven guys to keep all the guys in green and white with high numbers out of their backfield.
Dee Milliner – What if what we saw from 27 over the last quarter of 2013 was the real deal? I've heard the arguments that Dee actually sucked the whole of last year and that the last four games he was the recipient of poor throws and lucky positioning. They point to Josh Gordon's yards but leave out that he was targeted about 112 times that game and how Tannehill overthrew Wallace in Miami but that stuff happens every week. They also conveniently dismiss the all-important positional transition to the NFL difficulty index (fools!) and the time he missed in training camp and in-season with injuries. In addition, I think a lot of Jets fans have a distorted perspective on cornerback play because of the standard that he who will go unnamed set. His play was the exception, not the rule. If Milliner matches his play from the last quarter of 2013, he'll be in the Pro Bowl, whatever that means anymore.
Calvin Pryor – What if CP3 (eff you Chris Paul, I'm taking it back) continues the recent trend of 1st round Safeties who have made an impact right away? We don't have much to go on here other than the fact that Pryor is a freaking safety-to-ball carrier missile and incredibly fun to watch. I love Rex but as we all know, you can't take his player evaluations seriously. He talks about his players the way I do about my daughters. That being said, if Pryor can be what the Jets drafted him to be, if he can make the transition that guys like Vaccaro, Barron and Thomas have made, this Jets secondary, and defense, will be a whole different animal... and a rabid one at that.
Now let's move over to the offensive side of the ball, a land that none of us have relished visiting since Chad Pennington was looping incredibly accurate lollipops to Wayne Chrebet and Laveranous "Spell Check" Coles. The offense has seen a very thorough and desperately needed overhaul recently. In just two years we have added three new Quarterbacks, at least four new Running Backs, 60% of the starting Offensive Line, two new Tight Ends and all but two Wide Receivers... that's turnover my friends. And the most important addition just might be Marty Morhninweg, an Offensive Coordinator who actually deserves to hold that title in the NFL, unlike his two predecessors. All-in-all these are exciting times for the Jet offense, at least compared to our recent history anyway. Let's take a look at what just might be...
Geno Smith – What if Geno takes a leap and reverses his TD/INT ratio from last year and throws for 3800 yards? Herein lies the whole enchilada. Geno was indeed awful at times last year. There were stretches when I felt the opposing defense could have had eight guys on the field and we still didn't have a chance of getting ten yards in three plays. There were also a number of throws I haven't seen a young Jets QB make in a very, very long time. Say what you want about #7 but he is a film junkie, a very, very hard worker and seems humble and genuinely dedicated to doing whatever it takes to be a successful NFL Quarterback. As Geno goes, so go the Jets. Last year, they won a number of games in spite of Geno, this year they might just win a number of games because of him.
Stephen Hill – What if the light goes on? Hill is to the offense what Coples is to the defense. If 84 puts it all together and realizes how to utilize his ridiculous physical gifts, he will add more to this offense than any off-season acquisition not named Eric Decker. A lot of us tend to forget that Hill was sushi when he was drafted, with a 2-4 year developmental period expected. He's been slowed by injury and inconsistency, both his own and that of the QB's he's played with and he's had some frustrating drops but he showed marked improvement in that department last year. If he can take advantage of the decreased attention that Decker, Amaro and CJ1K should provide and become a legitimate deep threat, the Jets' offense has a good shot to be in the top half of the league.
Chris Johnson – What if Chris Johnson does indeed give us the lightning to Chris Ivory's thunder (and Bilal Powell's steady drizzle)? Not even with the aid of this hypothetical cosmic scenario does Johnson return to being anything close to what he was in 2009. However, he doesn't have to be to be a huge addition to the Jets Offense. We can argue and trade numbers to support our positions as to whether or not CJ is still a homerun threat and both sides have legitimate arguments. What isn't up for debate is the consistency, durability, toughness and receiving ability Johnson adds that was utterly non-existent in the offensive huddle in 2013. Having a guy like Chris Johnson, able to make significant yards off dump-offs and screens, should do wonders for Geno and by proxy, the team. Add in the aforementioned Ivory and Powell and you've got the makings of a very effective, if not formidable running game.
The Offensive Line – What if Brian Winters builds on his growth from (very) late last year, Willie Colon manages not to seriously hurt himself, Breno Giacomini proves an even exchange in comparison to that guard from the Raiders, Brick and The Man of Gold shoot their impressive career pars and a couple of our 37 neophyte guards develop into reliable depth? This may be where we need that karmic boost the most, but the potential is there. The line really gelled in the second half of last year and improved across the board, and not coincidentally, so did the team's record. Who's to say they don't pick up where they left off last year and give Geno and the Two Dreaded Monster some time and room to work? If they can just replicate their effectiveness from the second half of last year, the personnel improvements at the skill positions should be able to mask their deficiencies.
Jace Amaro – What if big 88 really is that matchup nightmare everyone's been calling him? If Amaro can be the type of receiver that defenses need to account for, it will open up the outside for Decker and company. It would also help Geno immeasurably to have a legitimate TE as a security blanket and red zone threat.
So in summation, the 2014 New York Jets will go 16-0, Geno Smith will be so good, they'll give him a retroactive Heisman Trophy and the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Jets defensive front won't have to play a snap because they'll just scare other teams' Offenses back down the tunnel in pre-game and all of us passionate, long-suffering Jets fans will finally get to get "happy drunk" after the last game of the season instead of that other kind we're so used to.
However, if things don't work out exactly this way, at least maybe we can sit back here in June and imagine the possibilities of a world seen through green colored lenses. A world where optimism and positivity allow us to ENJOY our beloved team's prospects for the coming season in a somewhat realistic way. After all, as our boy Andy Dufresne once so eloquently stated: "Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies." Keep the hope alive boys, we can afford it in June.