The Jets have made it to a well-deserved and well-timed bye week at 5-4. They have largely done so with smoke and mirrors on offense with so many injuries and a rookie quarterback. On defense they have played well despite breaking in 7 new starters. How will they look in the second half of the season?
The offense is going to get some key pieces back from injury shortly that might change how they play. The Buffalo game following the bye is the scheduled return of both Santonio Holmes, Kellen Winslow and Jeff Cumberland. Having a healthy Holmes in the lineup helps everyone as he draws the coverage away from them and towards him. No one has benefitted more than Stephen Hill who had three of his best games and most of his yardage while Holmes was healthy and has pretty much disappeared off of the stat sheet since. Getting Winslow and Cumberland back gives the Jets three receiving tight ends that can be security valves for Geno Smith. Zach Sudfeld has played well both as a receiver and surprisingly as a blocker while filling in and should continue to be part of the rotation.
In the second half of the year I would expect the Jets to have more balance than they do right now. They will continue to run Ivory and Powell but with more options available in the passing game I do not believe they will tie Geno Smith’s hands together. Marty Mornhinweg has adapted well to this situation and called more runs than he probably ever has but his natural inclination is to throw and I don’t see that changing. Make no mistake they will still run the ball 50% of the time but it will not be 60-40 run unless the weather is a factor. They will be unpredictable some weeks running to set up the pass, other weeks passing to set up the run. I believe with three quality receiving tight ends they will run a lot of two tight end formations to create mismatches. Cumberland, Sudfeld (surprisingly) and Reuland can all block well so those formations can be run out of or used to max protect. I think they will continue to expand Josh Cribbs’ wildcat role adding in more passes and other wrinkles. As defenses commit more men to stop the run Smith will be able throw easier due the fact that he will see more man coverage and should be able to go back to taking some shots vertically with the extra safety in the box.
The most important things to watch in the second half of the season on offense is Geno Smith’s development, Chris Ivory and Santonio Holmes’ health and Brian Winters improvement. As Geno Smith progresses through the year and gains experience he should be a better quarterback than the 1st half of the season. He will need to be more consistent from week to week and even from half to half. He will need to take the lessons learned against the Saints of taking less chances, avoiding turnovers and letting the running game and defense do it’s job and apply them to when he needs to carry them. He will need to scramble more when a lane is available instead of trying to force a throw. Chris Ivory and Santonio Holmes are playmakers that the Jets need on the field. They need to buck the trend of injuries in their careers and stay healthy. Brian Winters has to have the game slow down for him and not be a turnstile. He made some nice blocks against the Saints, and did not allow a sack which is a step in the right direction. In order for the Jets to have a chance they have to win the battle in the trenches and there can’t be any weak links.