Before things kicked off Week 1, we asked ten questions about the Jets season. We did a progress report after the bye. Now it is time to return with some final answers. Below are the questions we asked before the start of the season, where things stood around the midway point, and how they stack up now that the season is over.
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.
Petty was the guy. McCown never played himself out of the job, but a Week 14 injury forced the Jets to look elsewhere for a quarterback. They chose Petty.
Perhaps the real answer was it didn’t matter. Petty was unfathomably bad in four games of action. He didn’t even complete half of his passes, averaged under 5 yards per attempt, and threw just 1 touchdown against 3 interceptions. Petty looked so lost that people actually started clamoring for Hackenberg. The Baylor project showed so little progress that he might have played his way out of the Jets’ 2018 plans.
The coaching staff took a lot of grief for not seeing what they had in Petty. The young quarterback’s performance showed that the staff might have known all along what they had, and that was why they didn’t want to put him on the field.
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.
Powell did pretty well in his role as lead back, averaging a solid 4.3 yards per carry. He did indeed finish with just under 1,000 yards from scrimmage. Given the fact he was part of a three man backfield, that was a successful campaign.
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.
Adams has become a polarizing player. I fall in the middle of this evaluation. I don’t think he was as great as his biggest fans suggest, but I don’t think he was the disappointment his detractors suggest either.
I saw a lot of very good moments and a lot of very bad moments. Later in the season, he had some struggles against the Chargers but also excellent games against Travis Kelce and Rob Gronkowski. There were some failures in games that stood out, but I saw enough to give me a lot of hope going forward.
Maye’s rookie year was essentially a tale of two seasons. For the first three quarters of the season or so he was a rock at the back of the defense. His game fell apart in December, though. He started taking bad angles and missing tackles consistently. It felt to me like he turned into Marcus Gilchrist. One thing to note is Maye’s decline began around the time of year the college season typically ends so it feels like he might have hit the infamous rookie wall.
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.
I think people want to believe Lee is better than he really is because of how much it would sting to have another failed first round Draft pick. By any measure, I think Lee’s second season has to be considered a failure, though. I hear plenty of talk about how he improved this season, but I don’t think he’s much better in the areas he struggled as a rookie. He still has trouble shedding blocks. He still overruns plays. He still is weak as a tackler at the point of attack. How about coverage? PFF said he allowed the fifth most yards of any linebacker in the NFL. Only six linebackers allowed more than the three touchdowns Lee surrendered.
If you aren’t good at stopping the run, but you also aren’t good at coverage as a linebacker how much value do you really have?
And this doesn’t even touch on how he was deactivated for a game for showing up late to practice.
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.
Anderson was pretty clearly the guy who broke out. He emerged as a really solid deep threat and showed he is starting material. There isn’t much doubt the switch to Petty was the only thing that cost him a 1,000 yard season.
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.
It looked promising early on, but Claiborne did not give the Jets a full quality season. He gave them closer to half a quality season. His played deteriorated down the stretch as he was constantly burned. It is possible he was playing hurt, but the ability to stay healthy was one of the biggest question marks for Claiborne entering the season. If the Jets bring him back, it would be a mistake to commit to more than one year or make Claiborne the top corner again. He just isn’t reliable enough.
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.
It’s tough to believe this could get worse after the bye, but it did. Wilkerson wasn’t just a nonfactor. He couldn’t be bothered to show up on time for meetings. This led to two separate benchings, the second of which led Wilkerson to be deactivated for the final three games of the season. He is now an obvious cap casualty. This is a brutal ending for the Jets career of the organization’s most successful Draft pick of the decade.
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.
Beachum was a serviceable stopgap, nothing more, nothing less. He provided adequate albeit unspectacular blind side protection and little run blocking. If nothing else Beachum can provide the Jets a bridge to a long-term solution. That would be essential. The Jets shouldn’t view Beachum as their left tackle of the future.
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.
The Jets did indeed fall apart. They limped to the end of the season losing nine of their last eleven games and four in a row. They finished 5-11 and are picking in the top six. Bowles was clearly not on the hot seat, however, as he received an extension despite the poor finish.
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.
Things haven’t changed much. It remains in the eye of the beholder, and the answer is still a clear we have to wait and see. I guess you guys will have to keep coming to the site during the offseason to find out the answer.