What Has To Go Right For Jets To Have Successful 2015 Season?
The Jets defensive line is one of the best in the NFL.
The 2014 New York Jets season was one of the worst in recent memory. It was a season that was headlined by John Idzik, the Jets general manager, making a fool of himself and the organization at press conferences. It was a season headlined by planes flying over the practice field that dragged banners behind them that read, “Fire John Idzkik!” It was a season where we saw local radio talk show hosts making an absolute mockery of the Jets. It was not a good time to be a Jets fan.
But after the inevitable firing of John Idzik and head coach Rex Ryan and bringing in head coach, Todd Bowles, and general manager, Mike Maccagnan, all they had to work with was a half complete defense, a laughable quarterback, and a treasure chest full of money. And for the first time in a while, the Jets made good use of that money by signing Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromarti, and Buster Skrine. Jets fans felt pretty good about the state of their team. But will it result in wins?
The Jets have missed the playoffs every year since they were bounced by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2011 playoffs. The Jets have had a combined 24-38 record since their last playoff appearance. So it begs the question: What has to go right this season for the Jets to make the playoffs? The easy answer is a lot has to go right. Even with Tom Brady missing the first four games of the season this year due to his Deflategate suspension, I think it would shock football fans everywhere if the Patriots did not win the AFC East. The last time the Patriots did not win the division was in 2008, and that was the year Brady missed due to injury, and they still had 11 wins that season. The Jets themselves have not won the division since 2002. So the only realistic way the Jets get into the postseason this year is through the Wild Card.
Last season, the two Wild Card teams from the AFC were the Cincinnati Bengals (10-5-1) and the Baltimore Ravens (10-6). So what has to go right this season for the Jets to get 9 or 10 wins? The first thing is passing defense. I don’t think this is a secret to any football fan, but the NFL is a passing league. To be able to win games, a team must effectively stop the pass which is something the Jets clearly struggled with last year. Despite being the sixth best defensive team in terms of yards allowed, it seemed a lot worse at times because any quarterback could throw all over the Jets secondary.
The Jets defensive line is one of the best in the NFL, headlined by Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Damon Harrison, and 2015 sixth overall pick, Leonard Williams. But for the defense to be effective, Darrelle Revis has to be the dominant cornerback that Jets fans saw before he left for Tampa Bay and eventually New England. He has to be the kind of player where he eliminates one side of the field. Antonio Cromarti and Buster Skrine are clearly not at that level, but as long as they play like the above average cornerbacks that they are, the secondary should be fine. And don’t forget that the Jets are also getting Dee Milliner back from injury this season. Now he was clearly not the best cornerback in the world during his rookie season, but he did show some signs of improvement towards the end of the 2013 season. And playing alongside a player like Revis can only help his game.
If the defense plays as well as they are expected to, that is still only half the team. There is clearly a huge question mark at quarterback next season. Whether it’s Geno Smith or Ryan Fitzpatrick under center week 1, it is not anyone to get excited over. And it is incredibly difficult to succeed in the NFL nowadays with a bad quarterback. But pending anything crazy in training camp and in the preseason, it will probably be Smith as the Jets starting quarterback this season. We all know the atrocity that was Smith’s 2014 season, however there is a silver lining. His terrible 2014 season has really overshadowed his 2013 rookie campaign where the Jets finished at an unexpected 8-8. All Smith has to do this season is to be close to average. He has to cut down on his turnovers and hit open receivers when they are open. He has to start making smarter decisions. He doesn’t have to be the second coming of Joe Namath, but he does have to be consistent.
But there is something that Smith has working in his favor this year that he did not have last year or the year before that and that is weapons at wide receiver. Last year, he did have Eric Decker to work with, but it is difficult to have just one major target. And to be realistic, Eric Decker was a product of Peyton Manning in 2012 and 2013. He’s a good receiver, but not a great one. But playing alongside him this year, is former Bears receiver, Brandon Marshall. Marshall is a big time, elite wide receiver. Last year, he had 721 receiving yards, but he only played in 13 games. Marshall had at least 1,200 receiving yards in the three seasons before that. But even with the two of them, it will still be difficult to win high scoring games simply because of Smith, but a guy like Brandon Marshall takes a ton of pressure of Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, and Smith. Even with those three wide receivers, Smith still isn’t good enough to win games with those three. The Jets will have to run the ball effectively with Chris Ivory and new addition Stevan Ridley to win ball games. They need succeed on the ground, and pass when necessary. The Jets are not a pass first kind of team.
Another thing the Jets have to do well this year is win against the division. Last year, the Jets were 1-5 against divisional opponents with the one win coming against the Miami Dolphins. The problem with this year, is that the division is shaping up to be very strong. The Jets will still play Tom Brady twice since they don’t play the Patriots in weeks 1-4. The Bills are also shaping up to a dangerous team, especially with the defense they have. Winning divisional games this year will not be easy, but they do have to have more success than 1-5 if they want to compete for a Wild Card sport because they will need a tie-breaker over their divisional rivals because the Bills and Dolphins will be in contention for a Wild Card spot as well.
So barring any major injuries, it is not impossible that the Jets can contend for a Wild Card spot. Their biggest problem will be getting consistent play from Smith, but if that does happen, it is realistic to think that the Jets can make their way to an 8 or 9 win season. Will they be good enough to make the playoffs? Probably not. But I think we will see a vastly improved Jets team this year.
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