After a disastrous 2014 season, the Jets cleaned house. John Idzik and Rex Ryan are out and new General Manager Mike Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles are in. The atmosphere is different, and the Jets will try and work their way up from the bottom of the AFC East.
Bowles and Maccagnan are both tough, no nonsense people, and I expect that under their leadership, the Jets will be competitive within their division and conference in short order.
Going into training camp, Geno Smith has the quarterback job, but there is no guarantee that he will be the starter come opening day. Smith has the physical traits to be a top player, but does he have the mental toughness and leadership needed to reach his ceiling?
Challenges will come from veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick and rookie Bryce Petty. Fitzpatrick doesn’t have anywhere near the physical traits that Smith has, but he is very knowledgeable and knows how to play within himself. Petty is clearly the quarterback of the future and will step into the job as soon as he feels comfortable in the NFL-style game. Coming from the simple Baylor spread, the transition may take a year.
The Jets don’t have a true bell cow running back, but they do have some interesting players who can be productive within a rotation. Stevan Ridley, Zac Stacy, and Chris Ivory should all be able to complement one another. None of these backs is a home run threat, but they all do some things fairly well. Ridley may have the best overall talent, but he has had fumbling issues in the past. Stacy had a big year in 2013 with the Rams and then got buried on the depth chart. Ivory is a tough inside runner but doesn’t do much in the passing game.
Receivers and Tight Ends
The Jets have some talent at the wide receiver position. But do they have a quarterback to get them the ball? Clearly, the most talented player in the Jets wide receiver corps is Brandon Marshall. Marshall has a history of playing very well his first two years with a new club. He seems to wear out his welcome after that. When he is on his game, he is one of the better possession receivers in the NFL.
Eric Decker is also a big possession receiver, and with Marshall around, he could perform better than he did in 2014. The deep threat should come from rookie Devin Smith. Smith becomes the Jets best home run threat the day he steps on the field.
At the tight end position, the best of the group is second year player Jace Amaro. Amaro is a very athletic “move” type tight end. He is not physical enough to play with any consistency in tight. Jeff Cumberland is a reliable backup, and we are still waiting for Kellen Davis to play up to his natural talent.
The two best players on the Jets offensive line are left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold. With this being their 10th season together, they are clearly on the back nine of their careers.
Last year, the Jets brought in Breno Giacomini to play right tackle, and while he started 16 games, his play was average. This year, the Jets signed former Seahawks' first rounder James Carpenter, and the hope is that he can play up to his very good natural talent. He will most likely line up at guard. The other guard should be 10-year veteran Willie Colon.
A player to watch in training camp is fifth round rookie Jarvis Harrison. Harrison was a second round talent, but many questioned his commitment to the game and that’s why he dropped to the fifth. If the Jets push the right button, they may have themselves a top young talent. James Brewer and Brian Winters provide depth (assuming Winters can stay healthy).
As a whole, this may be the most talented position group on the Jets roster. Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and Damon Harrison are as good a starting line as there is in the league. Add to that first round pick Leonard Williams, and the Jets are loaded! I felt Williams was the best player in the draft last April. Leger Douzable, T.J. Barnes and Stephen Bowen provide quality depth at a position group where depth matters. When a team has a strong six or seven man defensive line rotation, they are in good shape.
This is another group that has quality talent but is starting to age. Inside, the starters are Davis Harris and Demario Davis. Harris had quite a few teams interested in him in free agency but re-signed with the Jets. Davis is very steady but unspectacular. His best football is still in front of him.
Erin Henderson, if he can keep his head screwed on straight, is an excellent backup. The Jets signed former Chief Joe Mays as insurance. Jamari Lattimore is a quality special teams' performer.
On the outside, Calvin Pace, in his 13th year, is back again. Bowles has to hope that he can get Quinton Coples to play up to his enormous potential. Jason Babin may be getting a little long in the tooth, but he can still come off the edge in pass rush situations. Rookie Lorenzo Mauldin from Louisville may become a starter before the season is half over. He has a very consistent game against both the run and pass.
John Idzik found a way to get rid of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Maccagnan found a way to get them back. Revis is one of the best cover corners in football and Cromartie, though aging, is still very good. The third corner is former Browns starter Buster Skrine, and the three of them may give the Jets one of the best corner groups in the league.
There is quality depth with Antonio Allen, who can also play safety, Darrin Walls, and Marcus Williams. At safety, the starters are last year's first round pick Calvin Pryor at strong safety and Marcus Gilchrist at free. The top reserve should be Jaiquawn Jarrett.
The Jets will be improved and will compete, but it remains to be seen if they have enough to move out of the AFC East basement in Bowles first year. The quarterback play, like with any team, will be the key. One of the problems the Jets have to face is that the AFC East has become a very competitive division, and both Miami and Buffalo should be able to challenge New England for the title.
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