It has been a tough couple of years for Rex Ryan and company. After two trips to the AFC title game, records of 8-8 and 6-10 are not exactly what the coach had in mind. We don’t need to re-hash the details, but basically, things fell apart the last couple of years, especially on offense. People talk about rebuilding, and that 2013 might just be another down year.
It might, but it doesn’t have to be. The Jets can work their way back into the playoffs, as soon as 2013. It really is possible. We are going to break down five reasons why they can get back to the playoffs next year, starting with number 5.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE
It’s hard to point this group out as a major reason that the Jets can make it back, but they are. They didn’t start out the 2012 season well, but by the end of the season, this group was dominating again. The Jets actually fought their way back into the top half of the league in rushing, with a ranking of 12th overall.
Our friends at Football Outsiders take a unique look at statistics, and the view they take of the offensive line isn’t any different. The Jets offensive line was ranked fifth overall with 4.38 adjusted line yards per rush (see the Outsiders site for explanations of the stats). They also were stuffed the second least often. Their stuffed percentage was 16%, which refers to the amount of times the running backs were stopped at the line for no gain or a loss.
Their power rank was 10th as well, which refers to how proficient they were at converting first downs or TDs on third or fourth down and two or less. This all tells us that the line became quite efficient in the running game.
The pass protection was a different story, as they were ranked 30th. There are a couple of reasons that this number is a little bit skewed, though. The first is the quarterback play. To put it short, they didn’t have any. If the Jets had a quarterback that was getting rid of the football quicker, that number might be a lot better. Secondly, Austin Howard had a particularly tough time pass blocking, because teams would but their best pass rusher against the Jets most inexperienced lineman. With a year of experience under his belt, Austin Howard will be a lot better.
Let’s talk a bit more about Austin Howard. In run blocking, he graded out nearly elite, in the top 10 of Pro Football Focus’s ratings with a 9.6. That put him ahead of players like Nate Solder and Eric Winston. The Jets also had the second most yards per run around Howard’s end, with a 5.95 yards per rush average. Off of right tackle, the Jets were third in the league with an average of 4.83 yards per carry.
With a -5.1, Howard was poor in pass blocking, no doubt. But as we said earlier, teams would put their best rusher up against him, as well they should. It makes sense to put your best guy against the other team’s least experienced guy. Howard will improve here with experience.
Yes there will likely be at least one, maybe two new guards here. But the core is here, Ferguson, Mangold and Howard. This group will be just fine.