Before the start of the regular season, I presented ten questions for the Jets. The bye week is a good time to step back and assess where things stand.
1. Who is next up after Josh McCown?
To some extent this question has been rendered moot because McCown has somewhat surprisingly held onto the starting job through the first ten games.
The question really was about whether Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty was higher in the Jets young quarterback hierarchy, though. At this point the clear answer is Petty. The Baylor product has been the backup since Week 2, and Hackenberg has been a regular healthy scratch. If McCown does leave the lineup either through injury or ineffective play, Petty figures to get the first crack at replacing him.
2. Can Bilal Powell handle being the man?
To this point, the answer seems to be yes. Powell has missed a game due to injury. The Jets also haven’t put a full load on his plate as offensive coordinator John Morton has taken a page out of mentor Sean Payton’s playbook by platooning three backs.
With that said, Powell has received the most carries on the team and has a solid 4.5 yard average. He is on track to finish with just under 1,000 yards from scrimmage. That is solid for a timeshare situation.
3. How many growing pains will there be for the young safeties?
Jamal Adams has had some clear hiccups in man coverage, but overall the rookies have been solid. There have been refreshingly few major errors. Marcus Maye has been strikingly steady as the last line of defense. While Adams isn’t playing on a Pro Bowl level yet, he has looked like a plus starter and has made a lot of unheralded important tackles in this defense.
4. What to make of Darron Lee?
Lee has experienced a recent flourish to raise optimism. With that said, it is difficult to call Lee’s second season anything other than a disappointment right now. He got out of the gates with a terrible first two months of the season. He was consistently filling wrong gaps, not getting off blocks, and getting beaten in coverage. Even though his play over the last few weeks has been better, the entire body of work is not very good. There are real questions about whether Lee can ever become the type of impact player the Jets envisioned when they drafted him.
5. Will any unheralded players break out?
When I asked the question back in August, I said:
To turn the franchise around, the Jets are going to need some players who are late round Draft picks or unheralded free agent signings to develop into good players. Juston Burris, Dylan Donahue, Brandon Shell, and Wesley Johnson are some of the names to watch.
Over the last few weeks, Robby Anderson has started to emerge. He still needs to develop his route running and show he is capable of executing a more diverse tree, but he is finding ways to get open deep even when the defense is trying to take that away. He seems to be taking the next step.
Elijah McGuire hasn’t made a big statistical impact, but he has flashed some skills in space that merit optimism for his future.
6. Can Morris Claiborne give the Jets a full quality season?
The jury is still out on that one. A few weeks ago the answer would have been yes, but he has been hobbled for weeks by a foot injury. One of the big questions with Claiborne is whether he can stay healthy consistently, and it is appearing again. That is too bad because he was having a quality season before the injury.
7. Can Muhammad Wilkerson bounce back?
This is a resounding no. Wilkerson had a little three week flourish starting with a road game against Miami, but for most of the year he has been the nonfactor Wilkerson of 2016. He looks like an obvious cap casualty at the end of the season.
8. Can Kelvin Beachum find his old form?
I would say not really but close enough. Beachum hasn’t played at a Pro Bowl level. He has been a weak run blocker and just all right in pass protection.
But left tackle is a position where you can live with adequate play. Abysmal play at left tackle can destroy your season. Adequate play gives you a chance. Beachum has at the very least provided stability at an important spot.
9. Is Todd Bowles on the hot seat?
It is a moot question at this point. Coaches usually don’t see their job in jeopardy when their team exceeds expectations. For all of his faults, Bowles’ team has done just that.
If the Jets fall apart at the end of the season, we might test out whether ownership’s talk about patience was real, but Bowles at this point appears on track to get a fourth year without much debate.
10. Are the Jets going to be in a position to finally draft a franchise quarterback by the end of the year?
The answer to that question is very much in the eye of the beholder. It depends on how much you like the top quarterback prospects and how much you like the second tier guys. One thing that seems clear is the Jets are not going to be picking at the very top of the Draft able to pick the guy of their choice. You might argue that is good. You might argue that is bad.
Will they be in a position to land a franchise quarterback? Right now the answer is a clear we will have to wait and see.