2017 NFL season preview – NY Jets

2016 Record: 5-11; 4th AFC East
Head coach: Todd Bowles (Jets W/L: 15-17, Career W/L: 17-18)
General manager: Mike Maccagnan

Key ins: T Kelvin Beachum Jaguars; K Chandler Catanzaro Cardinals; CB Morris Claiborne Cowboys; LB Demario Davis Browns; QB Josh McCown Browns
Key outs: TE Brandon Bostick; T Ryan Clady; TE Kellen Davis; WR Eric Decker; QB Ryan Fitzpatrick; K Nick Folk; S Marcus Gilchrist; LB David Harris; LB Erin Henderson; C Nick Mangold; WR Brandon Marshall; CB Darrelle Revis; QB Geno Smith

Draftees: R1 (6) S Jamal Adams, LSU; R2 (39) S Marcus Maye, Florida; R3 (79) WR ArDarius Stewart, Alabama; R4 (141) WR Chad Hansen, California; R5 (150) TE Jordan Leggett, Clemson; R5 (181) DL Dylan Donahue, West Georgia; R6 (188) RB Elijah McGuire, Louisiana-Lafayette; R6 (197) DB Jeremy Clark, Michigan; R6 (204) DB Derrick Jones, Ole Miss

You know the cliché about how the definition of insanity is repeating the same things over and over again and expecting a different outcome? Well… the Jets. Remember 2013? Come on, stretch your minds back. Behold some of the highlights of the opening-day depth chart Rex Ryan was handed by GM John Idzik in a year where he was fighting for his job:

QBs Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith
RBs Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory
WRs Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Ryan Spadola, Clyde Gates
TE Jeff Cumberland

OLBs Garrett McIntyre, Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples, Antwan Barnes
DBs Dee Milliner, Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen, Antonio Cromartie

Compare and contrast with the scenario created for Todd Bowles by GM Mike Maccagnan in a year when fighting for his job:

QBs Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg
RBs Matt Forte, Bilal Powell
WRs Charone Peake, Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa
OL Ben Ijalana, James Carpenter, Wesley Johnson, Brian Winters, Kelvin Beachum
TE Jordan Leggett

OLBs Sheldon Richardson, Jordan Jenkins, Lorenzo Mauldin, Freddie Bishop
DBs Morris Claiborne, Buster Krine, Sharmako Thomas, Jamal Adams

Pity poor Bowlesie, his team will likely end up with one of the top QB prospects in the 2018 Draft – Sam Darnold of USC, UCLA’s Josh Rosen or Josh Allen of Wyoming – but he probably won’t be around to see them grow up.

In good news, the Jets are currently $24 million under the salary cap, which means they’re also well positioned to make a run at LeBron James next July, oh wait…

The bad news is they just saw themselves stripped of a ton of leadership in the offseason. Centre Nick Mangold and his decade of experience walked out the door, with Darrelle Revis, Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, and nine-year middle linebacker David Harris, among others.

And yet again, the moves at the quarterback position would have been the laughing stock of the league if it wasn’t for Chicago. Talking of which, the Jets’ passer situation over the last 30 years has been as dire as the Bears’.

I dare you to look at the table below and not be terrified that The Sanchize has the third most starts at the game’s most important position since Broadway Joe hobbled off for an ill-fated last hurrah in Los Angeles. And everyone’s favourite locker-room leader Geno Smith is SEVENTH!

Jets table

At least that particular headache is out of the building, if not the city (Smith is trying to resurrect his career as a back-up to Eli Manning at the Giants). The snake-bitten passer got the start in Week 7, after Ryan Fitzpatrick had led the Jets to a 1-5 record, only to suffer a season-ending knee injury. Fitzpatrick, seemingly eager to prove that his 31-touchdown 2015 was a massive fluke, hit rock-bottom with a six-interception performance in Week 3 versus the Chiefs but flip-flopped in and out of the line-up the rest of the season as injuries and benchings mounted.

Bowles announced Bryce Petty as his starter for the remainder of the season after a blowout loss to the Colts in Week 13 only for a shoulder injury took care of his year against New England. The second-year man completed 56.4% of his passes for three TDs and seven interceptions in six games (four starts).

Inexplicably, for the season finale, Bowles returned to Fitzpatrick instead of throwing Penn State rookie Christian Hackenburg into the fray to see how he fared against NFL competition. With the signing of Josh McCown (silent l?) this offseason, it confirmed what that decision suggested – Hackenburg wasn’t ready in Bowles’ eyes. The oft-injured McCown is 38, on his eighth team in his 15th season, and has a 18-42 record in 60 starts. Sound anything like the journeyman QB in his 10th season with a 33-55-1 record in 89 starts signed in… do you know who it is yet?… 2015?

Perhaps this a new plan – to attempt to capture second-tier quarterbacks’ peak for a year before watching them crash and burn a year later. McCown’s targets aren’t what Fitzpatrick inherited when he signed two seasons ago. Quincy Enunwa led the team with 857 yards and four scores last year and, in an ideal world, Robby Anderson would continue to supply big plays. Much depends on the standard of quarterback play. Tight end will be manned by Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, grabbed off waivers after Tampa Bay cut him following a DUI arrest. ASJ is, however, suspended for the first two games. Rookie Jordan Leggett may see action early.

Whoever’s behind centre will not have the protection afforded some of his recent predecessors. Mangold’s departure is huge, a year after D’Brickashaw Ferguson’s retirement. Ferguson’s replacement at left tackle, Ryan Clady was let go due to an injury-plagued 2016 (and heavy cap number in 2017). Another casualty was right tackle Breno Giacomini, who was an ever-present from 2014 to 2015 before missing all but five games last year. Kelvin Beachum (from Jacksonville) and Ben Ijalana will fill the tackle roles, with Brian Winters and James Carpenter at guards and Wesley Johnson facing the unenviable task of replacing Mangold.

79 Leonard Williams (2015 RANKING NR)

On paper, Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson looked like the strength of the defensive unit in 2016 but the reality was very different. Nose tackle Steve McLendon filled the shoes of the departed Damon Harrison admirably but of the big three, only Williams (team-leader with seven sacks, Pro Bowl berth) showed up. Richardson spent his season feuding with Marshall, while Wilkerson looked a shadow of his pre-broken leg self.

The secondary was also something of a horror show as Revis aged before Jets fans’ eyes and Buster Skrine turned into a penalty machine. Young safety Calvin Pryor was traded to Cleveland for linebacker Demario Davis and Marcus Gilchrist was released. That puts rookies Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye squarely in the firing line.

Davis (99 tackles, two sacks with Browns) will team up in the centre of the defense with Darron Lee, a potential bright spot from the Jets’ 2016 season. Picked 20th overall out of Ohio State showed signs of promise having switched from outside to inside and bagged 70 tackles and a sack in nine starts, making New York comfortable releasing leading tackler Harris.

Kicker Nick Folk ended his seven-year Jets career having hit 175 or 213 field goals and 204 of 206 extra points in green. His replacement Chandler Catanzaro was a key part of Bruce Arians’ success with the Cardinals in 2014 and 2015 but struggled with accuracy last year. That strife included a crushing overtime miss from 24 yards against Seattle in Week 7 after earlier having a 39-yarder blocked. The Clemson man needs to recover the confidence vital to the role of kicker.

Final word on what was a toxic season for the Big Apple side goes to Marshall (also now across town with the Giants), who likened 2016 to “having a diaper on and never changing it. And just sitting in that diaper the whole year”.

Bowles needs to restore harmony in the locker room and get his side pointing in the right direction, but with the tools at his disposal, it’s going to be a genuine test of his head-coaching abilities.







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