The Jets started off relatively strong with a 2-2 start to season in the first quarter. After a 3 game losing streak, the Jets sit at 3-5 with any playoff aspirations on life support. This is still far better than most analysts predicted for the Jets as they have already equaled their estimated win total in the first half of the season. Still, it comes as a big disappointment as the Jets have blown 4th quarter leads against 3 consecutive winning teams, including blowing 2 multiple touchdown leads in back to back weeks. I never had much hope for the playoffs for the Jets, even when we had a winning record, so the repeated blown leads don't surprise me much, even if they are difficult to deal with come Monday. Fortunately the Jets have seen some great performances from a few young players and have shown that the cupboard isn't completely bare in this rebuilding process.
I'm not going to waste much time here. McCown has been slightly better than I would have expected considering the dearth of talent around him, but he's still not very good. I'm not convinced that Petty or Hackenberg would be better, but their time has to be coming soon as the Jets fall out of contention. McCown has been just good enough to keep the Jets competitive and just bad enough to ensure they lose.
Running back is not a position of strength for the Jets, but Powell and McGuire do give the Jets a couple of younger backs with something to offer a backfield. Forte has looked good as a dump off option, but this will almost certainly be his last year with the team and he is not a threat as a runner. This is a position that could use a truly elite player to help take pressure off the future QB while he has Powell and McGuire to spell him. The Jets backs all offer the same balanced package, but none of them have the pure speed or muscle to be feature backs.
This is another position where there is some rather milquetoast talent, but no real standouts. Kearse is a decent #2 or #3 option while Robby Anderson is extremely inconsistent, but could develop into a great deep threat #2 option with a stud on the opposite side. Anderson seems to be drawing most of the CB1 coverage this season and has responded decently considering the circumstances, with his most recent performance coming in harsh conditions against a reasonably good CB1 in Demond Trufant. Stewart has shown some flashes as a possible slot option, but has been sparingly used while the Jets turn to Kerley to fill the role, which is not a great sign. Adding an elite receiver would really help everyone on offense, but you could say this about every offensive position.
The Jets appear to be in a much better position than I thought here, with somewhat encouraging performances from both ASJ and Eric Tomlinson. ASJ has looked pretty good in his comeback season and now accounts for 201 yards and 3TDs on 31 catches in 6 games. He has mostly been valuable on short routes and as a red zone target, but he has a lot to learn about blocking and has had contributed far too many holding calls for his limited receiving production. Tomlinson is hardly Tony Gonzalez and we shouldn't overreact to a few catches totaling about 100 yards, but he's a decent #2 blocking TE who has improved in that area and isn't worthless as a receiver. Both players are young and have room to grow, so they could keep the position competitive enough as the Jets continue to see what they have with the injured Leggett. The position has at least been elevated from the worst roster position in the league to about mediocre. The position is far from a strength, but it may at least be good enough for the Jets to focus on real problem areas.
The Jets offensive line is a lot better than I expected...and it's terrible. The left side of the line has been pretty decent, with the Carpenter and Beachum signings paying off for their relatively small price tags. They're not exactly world beaters, but they're playing above replacement level at the two most costly positions on the line. Johnson has been a train wreck at center, and I can't even count how many times I've seen him completely blown up in the run game, killing the run game. The right side of the line has not been very good despite a few decent, sporadic performances. The Jets need to start investing some day 1 or day 2 picks in the line, as they are bogged down by mid-late round picks that, although cheap, have not provided starting caliber or better players. While I like the strategy of investing day 3 picks in the line to get value on the cheap, it hasn't worked out with the specific picks made by Jets GMs. At some point, the Jets need to add some talent here.
While considered a strength over the last decade, the Jets defensive line has mostly been a disappointment this year. Leonard Williams has been very good, but hasn't gotten a lot of production out of his plays. Wilkerson was mostly a nonfactor until the last two weeks, in which he has played quite well (though not at a $17M per year level.) The rest of the line has more or less played at or below replacement level, and although there is some young talent here, Williams is likely the only building block that will remain over the next few years. A good free agent or day 2 pick would help here, especially considering that 3-4 DL are not particularly sought after or expensive in free agency.
The Jets outside linebackers are just not good. They have provided almost nothing in terms of rushing the passer. Jordan Jenkins is worth keeping around as a weak side run stuffer, but he brings nothing to the table on the edge as a blitzer. Outside of Jenkins, it has mostly been a wash of cheap replacement players who provide almost nothing to the unit. Outside of a franchise QB, I don't think any one player could improve this team more than an elite edge rusher. The Jets need to find someone in free agency or the draft to rush the passer.
While I've always been pretty down on Lee and Davis, they have really improved working together in the middle. Lee has strung together some good games while Davis has been the consistent replacement for Harris that he was once projected to be when he was drafted. Neither of them are good in coverage. Okay, that's an understatement, they're both horrendous at best. Davis has shockingly been the better of the two and has looked serviceable at times, while Lee continues to struggle heavily in man and is seemingly always out of position when dropping into a zone. I continue to believe that Lee would be better suited subbing into weak side OLB roles on passing downs and rushing the passer, as he's shown some skill on blitzes and was an OLB in college. To his credit, he's looked very comfortable finding the right run stuffing holes and his tackling is significantly better than where it was last year. Davis has also looked good blitzing from his inside position. This may have been the weakest position on the Jets in the first few weeks of the season, but they two young (Lee mostly) players have been growing together.
I'm really not sure how I feel about the corners. For one, the Jets have had so much trouble getting to the passer this season that I can't blame most of the secondary for giving up yardage or points. You can't ask your corners to cover players for 5+ seconds on almost every down. Individually, Claiborne has been a lot better than I expected and has mostly been underappreciated considering how he's been shadowing #1 wideouts all season. His most recent performance against Julio Jones was truly impressive until an injury struck. Once again, he shows everything you want from a relatively cheap CB1, but his injury history leaves his value in question. Skrine has been mostly terrible and will likely be looking for another team next year as he hasn't lived up to his overpriced contract. Darryl Roberts looks like a decent depth option while Justin Burris has mostly been horrendous and probably can't tackle a gerbil in the open field. If the Jets decide to keep Claiborne after this season and he can stay healthy, the position likely only needs a decent #2 to be a solid unit. It is hard to find good corners in free agency, so letting Claiborne walk or trading him would be risky. Then again, signing such an injury-prone corner to a multiyear contract wouldn't be much safer.
After a red-hot start to the season, Jamal Adams has been exposed in coverage against tight ends. He's still a rookie getting his bearings at the NFL level, but he has not looked good against tight ends in the second quarter of the season. He remains valuable taking angles against the run, as a blitzer, and as a leader. I remain very confident that he will develop into an excellent player and defensive building block for the team given time. Maye has looked frankly incredible as a rookie center fielder, already outliving his draft status. He has arguably been the better rookie thus far and it has been easy to see how much better he is as a center fielder than any Jet free safety in recent memory. The Jets have not given up nearly as many deep bombs or runs after the catch due to poor angles/tackling that plagued them for years. Between Maye and Adams, the Jets have the safety positions locked up for years. Side note: I like what Terrance Brooks brings as a depth player and on special teams. He got most of his press for his 2INT game, but he's been good in special teams coverage since then and seems like a quality option behind the two young studs.
The Jets special teams as a whole have been better than recent years, but they're still below league average. Catanzaro has been mostly good, though many will fault him for his two costly missed kicks against the Falcons. To his credit, 45+ yard kicks aren't easy and the weather conditions made them extremely challenging. He's played well enough. I've liked what I've seen from Edwards on punts and as a cheap 7th round pick in 2016, he's been good enough to keep as the starter going forward. Despite his incredibly affordable contract, he was 10th in the league for net yardage coming into a sloppy week 8 game. The coverage unit hasn't been great, having been bailed out multiple times. The returners remain lousy and despite the return of Fair Catch Kerley, we still see muffs that eventually cost the Jets wins. The unit is better than it was a few years ago, but the Jets need to find at least one quality returner to add some juice to a unit that has been abhorrent for far too long.
I'm a lot harder on the coaching than a lot of fans, but I continue to really dislike what I see from Bowles and Rodgers. There's enough talent on the defense to be better than it is right now and I've disliked a lot of play calls and formations I've seen from the defense. The now infamous "Deep Maye" play is a perfect example of poor playcalling. The terrible in-game decision-making, poor clock management, lack of halftime adjustments, and failure to close out games are real problems. While people have gotten down on OC John Morton, I think the team has outperformed on offense. There's been good and bad, but I've seen a lot of openings that weren't capitalized on for the offense. The team has outperformed its talent level, but let's be real: the Jets have beaten Jay Cutler's Dolphins, DeShone Kizer's Browns, and Blake Bortles' Jaguars. Really outperforming their talent level would be the Bills, who have beaten some quality teams (also the Jets) en route to a 5-2 record with a pretty bare cupboard. At some point, you have to wonder if the Jets just have more talent than they're given credit for and the coaching isn't as strong as people think. You don't see many well coached teams blow 3 consecutive 4th quarter leads and you don't see many good coaches mismanage the clock and get manhandled in the second half. I also worry about conditioning as the Jets fall apart in the second and fourth quarters. The Jets' passer rating drops by over 20 points and their yards per carry drop by at least .7 in the second half of each half. The turnover differential is also +8 for Q1 and Q3, but -3 for Q2 and Q4. These differences scream two things to me: poor adjustments and poor conditioning.
We're halfway through the season and I'm still not sure how I feel about where the Jets are right now. They're not really in contention for the playoffs or a top pick. You typically don't want to be the consummate 7-9 team, but it's certainly better than being 0 and... let's just be honest and say the Browns. After the first two weeks of the season in which the Jets looked like the talentless team many predicted them to be, the Jets have played every game close with the exception of a game 3 beatdown of the Dolphins.
The young players look all right, with most younger guys playing beyond expectations and Leonard Williams looking very good despite limited production. It's always important to note that he's only 23, was denied several years of football learning, and has incredible potential. It's also important to remember that the Maye/Adams, Lee/Davis, Claiborne/Others combinations on defense are still growing together. It typically takes at least a year for players to begin melding on defense, which requires a lot of coordination. Given time, these units will continue to improve together despite the early hiccups.
As a whole, the team looks closer to becoming a contender than expected at the beginning of the season and I remain optimistic that there are some building blocks there for the future. The cornucopia of draft picks and cap space could help that building process if, and only if, the Jets GM (whoever that may be) can spend them wisely next year.
Which part of the Jets FO needs improvement most?
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Special Teams Coordinator