It's been a disastrous start to the 2014 campaign for the New York Jets, who are 1-4—the one being a 5-point victory at home against the still winless Oakland Raiders—but why? The team that went 8-8 last season and added Eric Decker, Jace Amaro and Chris Johnson in the offseason should be showing improvement, not regression.
It's a mess. Rookie corner back Dexter McDougle's first season came to an end before it began, Dee Milliner, an injury proned player in college, continues to deal with health issues, Antonio Cromartie is gone, and what you have left is Antonio Allen, who's done the best he can as a safety converted to corner, Darren Walls, and a myriad of players who have been gone through the cycle of being released, re-signed to the practice squad and called up.
It's hard to fully place blame on the secondary when they were improperly structured—which we'll get to soon enough—but that said, they have got to play better. In each game this season they've given up a big play whether it be to Derek Carr in garbage time, Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson in a tie game, Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions fourth or fifth option receiver or Philip Rivers and Malcolm Floyd on the first offensive drive for the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
The coaches or so terrified of this secondary giving up big yardage passing plays that they've resorted to giving receivers five to 10 yards of cushion off the line of scrimmage, which allows receivers to convert relatively easy catches and more often than not, they break a tackle and reel off a big play anyways.
The Jets became the final team in the NFL to get an interception this season, their lone one coming from Philip Adams against the Chargers.
The Offensive Line
Willie Colon? Brian Winters? Even D'Brickashaw Ferguson. What an underwhelming unit this has been. Whether it be Geno Smith or Michael Vick in at quarterback, they're both consistently under duress. I can't remember ever seeing a more undisciplined, ineffective offensive unit on this team. If it's not a crushing quarterback hit seconds after Brian Winters feebly attempts to block, it's a holding call on Colon, or a false start, or illegal hands to the face, or any other penalty an offensive lineman can commit.
The Wide Receivers
A much chagrined position on the Jets for years now, and for good reason. General Manager John Idzik went out and acquired top free agent Eric Decker to bolster a weak receiving unit in the offseason, but it wasn't enough. Decker has been banged up for most of the season thus far, leaving the quarterbacks with Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson and Greg Salas as their top wideouts.
Just look at this lack of separation by Jets receivers during their Week 4 loss to the Lions. What is a quarterback to do here? On a play where Smith is actually given a clean pocket, there are five players out wide, and three are completely blanketed. The other two routes appear that they would be easily jumped for either a knock down or something much worse.
After illustrating everything that's wrong around them, it's a bit harder to be critical on the quarterbacks—but they too have warranted plenty. While there have been struggles with the offensive line blocking and receivers getting open, there have been plenty of moments where Geno Smith has had a play available to him and has not been able to make it. Just a handful of examples would be when he had Eric Decker for what could have been a huge gain vs. the Packers and he completely missed him, or against the Lions when if he doesn't overthrow Chris Ivory it could have resulted in a long, game-changing touchdown, or even this past week when on the first drive of the game David Nelson got separation over the top, and Smith missed him by 5-10 yards.
Geno Smith's quarterback ranking sits at 69.3, worst among all current starting quarterbacks in the NFL—a group that includes Austin Davis, Charlie Whitehurst and Drew Stanton.
Not only has it been the misses by Smith, but even moreso the biggest issue has been turnovers in crucial moments. In five games this season, Geno has committed eight turnovers, one returned for a touchdown, two in the red zone, one closing a half, and at least one in every game. Michael Vick, in an incredibly small sample size, has not shown much either, going 8-19 for 47 yards against the Chargers. Smith went a dismal 4-12 for 27 yards in the first half with an interception.
Rex Ryan's team is undisciplined, and like it or not, that's a result of coaching. Midway through the 4th quarter on Sunday, the Jets had more penalty yards than yards on offense. While offensive lineman Willie Colon has been a particular flag magnet, it's the entire team that's struggled in this area. How many unnecessary roughness penalties have we seen? How many fights have been started out of aggravation? Even the best player on this Jets roster, Mohammed Wilkerson, has been ejected from a game this season for losing his cool. I don't know what Rex can do to correct a problem as large as this one midseason, but the push-ups in practice clearly aren't the answer here.
Rex isn't the only one to blame, however. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has, deservedly so, been under fire this season for his playcalling. Chris Ivory is most likely the best running back the Jets have had in a decade, talent-wise, yet Mornhinweg seems to be enamored with attempting to think differently, whether it be the wild cat with Michael Vick early in the season, over relying on Chris Johnson or having a struggling, young quarterback continuously throw to a shaky wide receiver corps.
In the Jets Week 4 loss to the Lions, Ivory ripped through Detroit's run defense on the opening drive that led to a field goal, gaining 51 yards on eight carries. On the subsequent drive Ivory didn't get a single touch, and at the end of the day he wound up with just 17 total carries. You could say the numbers are skewed in the loss to the Chargers because you don't run the ball down 31-0, but the thing here is that the Jets were only down 14-0 at the half, and still Ivory was only able to get nine carries on the afternoon.
Both Ryan and Mornhinweg have had moments of brilliance in green, but in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, they have not been up to par this season.
The General Manager
And, finally, we reach the GM, "the ninja," John Idzik.
The Jets biggest problems last year, aside from the quarterback, were the secondary, wide receivers and offensive line. The Jets biggest problems this year, aside from the quarterback, are the secondary, wide receivers and offensive line. While Idzik did add Decker to the receiving corp, it wasn't enough, and with Decker oft-injured so far this season the problem has become all the more glaring.
The biggest criticism of Idzik in the offseason remains to be the sticking point for the fans and media today, and that's his handling of the secondary. While I never believe for a second that Darrelle Revis wanted to make a comeback to the Jets, there were plenty of other options available to Idzik, whether it be Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie, Alterraun Verner, Captain Munnerlyn, Brandon Browner or the now former Jet Antonio Cromartie.
There is a growing contingent of people who believe John Idzik did this purposely to set coach Rex Ryan up for failure. I don't believe that for a second, I just think Idzik was overly stubborn in his negotiations and lost out on a number of free agents.
Another thing worth mentioning: Only two of Idzik's 12 draft picks from this year dressed in Week 4, and only four this past week vs. the Chargers.
The New York Jets are 1-4. Not for a single reason, like some may think, but for many. The biggest reason they're where they are now? I suppose that's up to you to decide.