We are a little bit past the halfway point of the regular season. The short week did not leave us much of a chance for midseason grades so I will do these now. How do the key guys the Jets added in the offseason look now that we are into the second half of the season?
Grading posts are always tricky because people tend to use different definitions for grades. I can't speak to anybody else, but here is the John B grading system.
A: Exceptional; far above average
B: Above Average
Brandon Marshall: I give Marshall the highest grade possible because I think context also plays into this. Over the last three to four years, the Jets have not even been functional on offense. That changed the day Marshall arrived. He is the type of game-changing presence this offense has lacked for a long time. It is not just that he makes things easier on everybody else. Yes, he opens things up for others because of all the attention he draws. The thing about Marshall is he still has the ability to produce big even when the other team is throwing the kitchen sink trying to take him away. When in doubt, the offense can throw the ball up to Marshall and let him make a play. It has been a long time since the Jets had something they could rely upon like that on offense.
Darrelle Revis: I feel like the perception of present day Revis is hurt by the impossibly high standard he set earlier in his career. Revis is not the same player at 30 that he was at 25. His speed is starting to erode. You can beat him every once in a while deep. He still might be the top cornerback in the NFL. If he is not, he is still in the discussion. Almost every week, he is given a difficult assignment, and the Jets never seem to suffer for it. PFF posted some crazy stats on how good he still in earlier this week, and stats don't even consider the degree of difficulty that comes by drawing the other team's best target. When you think about last season's Jets cornerback group, there might not have be single free agent who could help improve a position group more than Revis did joining the Jets.
Buster Skrine: I am not going to say I was totally against signing Skrine, but spending a decent amount of money guys like this make me nervous in free agency. Your top of the line guys like Revis and Marshall are going to thrive on any team. Things are dicier for role players. They tend to have more limited skillsets. They need to be in systems that highlight their skillsets and hide their weaknesses. One of the big reasons you see free agent busts is players leave the circumstances that made them successful. A new system might not fit what they do well. Skrine hit a little bit of a slump recently, but in general it looks like the Jets successfully targeted the type of player they need for a specific role. Skrine is a good enough cover guy to take the third best receiver on the opponent. He is a good enough tackler to deal with playing in the middle of the field and to play in a defense where members of the secondary have to be able to tackle.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: I think Fitzpatrick has been one of the pleasant surprises of the season. I was for the trade. The Jets had to add a veteran quarterback with some experience. I was lukewarm on Fitzpatrick as a quarterback, though. I was not even sure he would be a big upgrade on the play Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez had provided the Jets over the last four years. Fitzpatrick has played pretty well, though. I think everybody knows Fitzpatrick would look very different without Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. He is not good enough to lift a team on his own. The Jets haven't needed him to do that. The skill at receiver and the quality of the defense limit what Fitzpatrick has to do. We all know his limitations, but having a guy who just knows how to set the protection correctly, can move in the pocket a little, and can hit a timing pattern has made a big difference. The Jets are finally getting decent if unspectacular quarterback play. The best case scenario might be for Fitzpatrick to keep playing reasonably well and then signing a moderately priced extension. In many ways, he would be a perfect veteran bridge starter and then eventually backup if the Jets draft a quarterback in the next year or two.
Marcus Gilchrist: Through the years, I have made no secret of my skepticism of Pro Football Focus' player grade. I love the website. They have a lot of insightful commentary and engaging content. They have created some really illuminating statistics. I don't trust their player grades, though. The case of Dawan Landry last year is a good example. Landry rated as one of PFF's highest graded safeties. Their grades only tell you how a player performed on his assignment. What they don't tell is whether a player's lack of skill forces his defense to limit his assignment. That happened with Landry. The way Landry's assignments were limited by necessity made things more difficult on the rest of the defense, most notably the number of snaps the Jets had to play rookie Calvin Pryor as the deep safety. If unspectacular, Gilchrist has been a solid addition to the back of the defense. There have not been a ton of major errors, which is good for a safety. He also allows the Jets to vary things more with the way they use their safeties.
James Carpenter: I think what you can say for Carpenter is that he has stayed healthy and has been an upgrade on the subpar play Brian Winters and Oday Abouhsi provided the team the last two years. Still, the offensive line has been a poor run blocking unit, particularly up the middle. Pass protection has been better but definitely helped by Fitzpatrick's quick release. On most weeks, I do not think Carpenter and the rest of the offensive line have held the Jets back, but I also don't think they're making a big positive difference either.
Antonio Cromartie: Going back to his San Diego days, Cromartie has been wildly inconsistent from year to year. One year he can look like one of the best cornerbacks in the league. The next you wonder how he is even a starter in the NFL. In 2013, he was terrible. The Jets should have signed him to come back in 2014 because he came at a discount and rebounded. It is starting to feel like the team compounded that mistake by bringing him back in 2015 for a decline.The numbers are not pretty, and the eyeball test looks just as bad. Things have not gotten better as the season has progressed either. He was burned for long touchdowns two weeks in a row before sitting out the Buffalo game. Cromartie has always depended upon athleticism to win. As he enters his 30's, it feels like his decline will be less graceful than his partner Revis, who can lean on his smarts and positioning. There might be a question about whether Cromartie has been limited by injuries. As he continues to age, that question becomes less relevant. Injuries become more pervasive as a player gets older. Chronic ones do not go away. These things further a player's physical decline.