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NY Jets: The Slack Exchange

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NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

I happened to have some free time today and I thought I would spend a bit of it looking at what issues were holding the Jets back this year as we approach the halfway mark for the season. I don't want to spend too much time looking at the obvious, as we all know that Josh McCown is not Aaron Rodgers and that Buster Skrine had a miserable game this week. I want to look at the hidden (or somewhat hidden) numbers that have been a problem this year, and could be major targets for upgrade going forward. After 7 games, the Jets are 3-4, but they don't rank in the top half of the league in rushing, passing, rush defense, or pass defense in yards per game. You can't be mediocre to bad at every phase of the game and hope to compete. The Jets need to find the problem spots and find where they can improve. The first thing that sticks out has not been a huge secret this year: The Jets defensive line needs to produce.

Now Leonard Williams has been pretty good and Wilkerson had a nice game this week, but the defensive line as a whole has been a major disappointment. At some point, players of Williams' caliber need to turn pressures and hits into sacks. Someone has to start showing up. Defensive linemen and outside linebackers for the Jets have accounted for exactly 3.5 sacks this season. All 3.5 have come from David Baas and Josh Martin. The Jets leading sack specialist is Demario Davis with 2.5, followed by Jamal Adams and Baas with 2. In total, the Jets rank second to last in sacks with 10. That's less than half the number the Jets have taken on offense.

It's not just that the defensive line has been bad at getting to the quarterback. The Jets are also the only team (15 sacks and below as I didn't have time to check all 32 teams), that didn't have 4 sacks from its linebackers and defensive linemen. To make matters worse, they were the only team other than the Cardinals that couldn't get at least 2 sacks from 2 players at those positions (Chandler Jones makes up for this with Arizona by accounting for 8 on his own.) In just 3 games, rookie Myles Garrett has more sacks than all Jets linebackers and defensive linemen combined. Even the now-hated Buster Skrine has more sacks than Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Steve McClendon, Jordan Jenkins, and Kony Ealy. When you have players like Williams and Ealy, I don't care how much pressure they're getting, eventually you need to get some drivekillers. More than anything else, the Jets need an edge rusher who can not only produce some hard sacks, but also help take pressure off the linemen and force the QB to step up into the pocket, turning those linemen pressures into sacks. Think of it this way: despite playing against Cutler/Moore twice, Tyrod Taylor, Blake Bortles, and Insert-Name-Here-Browns-QB this season, they're ranked 25th in yards per game allowed. And the defense is probably the stronger half of the team.

On the other side of the team, the Jets really lack standout players. For back to back seasons, the Jets are on pace to have no 1,000 yard rushers or receivers. Last season, only 6 teams had no 1,000 yard rushers or receivers, though that includes the Bengals, who had AJ Green at 964 yards before missing about half the season due to injury. The remaining 5 teams were the Jets, Vikings, Jaguars, 49ers, and Eagles. All of those teams were unsurprisingly bottom 10 offenses last year. Last year it was so bad that the closest Jet to 1,000 yards was Quincy Enunwa with 857 receiving yards, and he was outstripped by David Johnson, who also rushed for over 1,000 yards. This year, the Jets are the only team projected to finish without a 1,000 yarder again. The closest Jet this year, Robby Anderson, is a gem of a UDFA, but hardly a top flight receiver. Despite his speed, teams are not game planning for Robby Anderson and sending double-triple teams his way. He's not even projected to reach 800 yards and 5 TDs.

Why are these specific numbers important? Well, it doesn't matter who your quarterback is if you don't have any threats at the skill positions. Not only did the Jets fail to provide an elite runner or receiver (or even a legitimately good one) but they failed to do it despite having zero production from the tight end spot. While Kearse, Anderson, ASJ, and Powell are all players who can contribute to an offense, you have little chance of being competitive if you have no threat to demand attention. Blake Bortles would probably get my vote as the worst starting QB in the league this year, yet Jacksonville is a top 10 offense even with their top receiver sidelined by injury. At this rate, the Jets top combo would be Robby Anderson at 757 yards and Bilal Powell at 647 yards. The Jets need something, anything, on offense to make the engine go.

Looking at offensive statistics again this year, the Jets rank 21st in yards per game. This isn't horrendous, but it also doesn't seem like a hole the Jets can climb out of in the future with their current personnel. Of the 11 teams below them, the teams without at least 1 offensive stud (on pace for at least 1,000 yards rushing or receiving. Yes, the bar is low) would be the Bills, Giants, Browns, Raiders, Packers, Lions and Ravens. While the Giants, Raiders, and Packers all have legitimate studs in Odell Beckham (injured), Amari Cooper, and Jordy Nelson, I'd also argue that the Bills and Lions have enough of a threat with Shady McCoy and the collection of Tate/Jones/Ebron/Stafford-just-tends-to-spread-the-ball-around. I'd probably argue that the Jets share dubious title of worst skill positions in the league with the Browns, Ravens, and the 49ers (who narrowly missed this list.) The only Jet who has ever reached 1,000 yards is Matt Forte, who isn't exactly going to give the Jets 5 years of 1,000 yard performances. No one else has ever even sniffed 900 yards.

If you've followed the Jets for a while, it's probably no surprise that the Jets need an edge rusher and an offensive weapon. When you look at some of these numbers, you really see just how bad it is on both sides of the ball. The Jets have plenty of solid players on offense, with several OL, Kearse, Anderson, ASJ, and Powell all looking like NFL caliber starters or rotational players. On defense, the Jets have plenty of starters and even a few players that could be real studs for a decade, like Williams, Adams, and Maye. This roster is not as talentless as analysts believed it to be before the season started and the Jets have managed to produce 3 wins coming into week 8. They're not as far off as people may think. The offense just needs that one elite player to wreck gameplans and open up the field for the little guys. The defense just needs that one pass rusher to kill drives in crunch time and turn those regular linemen pressures into sacks. With a plethora of draft picks and cap space for 2018, the Jets need to find solutions to both issues to find themselves in the top half of the league on both sides of the ball. Oh, and a QB wouldn't hurt either.

Poll

What would elevate the team more...

This poll is closed

  • 20%
    An elite pass rusher
    (70 votes)
  • 8%
    An elite offensive weapon
    (29 votes)
  • 62%
    Oh come on, you know we need a QB
    (210 votes)
  • 8%
    Cookies
    (29 votes)
338 votes total Vote Now