Dec 29, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets inside linebacker DeMario Davis (56) kneels down after defeating the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

How Have the New York Jets Improved? Experience


Dec 29, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) celebrates after defeating the Miami Dolphins 20-7 at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

How have the New York Jets improved so far? This is a topic highly debated amongst the Jets’ fans. The Jets have made some moves, adding Eric Decker, adding Michael Vick, retaining some other pieces. There were also some big free agents that the team missed out on as well, such as Alterraun Verner and Vontae Davis.

So, there has been great debate on how much John Idzik has done to help the team at this point. But, there is a point that many fans tend to forget, and it is just as important as filling the team with new pieces. The team HAS improved. How? From within, that’s how. What people tend to forget about is internal development. The Jets’ roster is better today, because their young players have one more season under their belts.

Think about it, starting with Geno Smith. Whether they brought in a veteran backup or not, make no mistake, the Jets have a vested interest in their draftee succeeding. And Geno had his problems, we don’t need to spend a lot of time there. 12 touchdowns versus 21 interceptions is bothersome to all of us. But anyone who watched the last two weeks and saw how Geno took care of the football knows that he is on the right track.

Geno is a year better than he was last year.

How about now second year guard, Brian Winters? Yes, he too had his problems, with an overall PFF grade of -28.5. But, if you look at his grades over the final five weeks, you see vast improvement. Here are his final five weeks of grades: -5.3, -4.0, -3.1, -1.5, 2.4. So, you see, Brian got much better as the season progressed.

Brian Winters of 2014 will be vastly better than the one of 2013.

On defense, what about second year cornerback Dee Milliner?  We don’t even have to bring up the numbers, we all saw it with our own eyes.  He had vast trouble during a good part of his rookie year, but came on and was nearly dominant by the end of the year.  I think we can all agree that the sky is the limit for Dee Milliner in 2014 and beyond.

Demario Davis is another guy. He just came off of his first season as a full-time starter, after playing behind Bart Scott in 2012. Starting every game in 2013 rendered Davis 63 tackles and one sack. Does anyone think this guy won’t be better with a full year of starting under his belt?

Demario Davis in 2014 will be better than 2013.

There are many others you can talk about in this same way.

You can talk about the players that have been brought in, or those that haven’t. But, do not discount internal player development to improving this roster as well. It’s important, and some forget about that.

The team as constructed will be better than last year, thanks to the “e” word, experience.

Tags: Dee Milliner Geno Smith New York Jets

  • Paul Newbold

    Granted young players develop and improve their game, but there is no guarantees that will happen. Just off the top of my head I’ll use Hill as an example, we’ve waited for him to take the next step, but he has failed to develop. Last season we heard how deep our corner position was, yet they failed to develop to the next level. To say this team is improved simply by saying our players have more experience, is simply not true. The off season has been a disappointment to date in my opinion, We need to ace the draft in the first 4 rounds where we own six picks, there are far too many holes on the roster currently to say this is an improved team. Jet Nation is hoping for a play off run…we still need an influx of talent to make that happen!

    • AC

      Once again I agree with Paul. Yes, experience may make one or two of the players mentioned above better, but the Jets do things so a$$-backward that its not guaranteed players who seemed like they were developing actually will. I like Geno to an extent, and he was thrown to the wolves last year, so with better weapons he COULD be better. But Idzik hasn’t made enough moves yet to really improve the team as a whole. Building through the draft is a good strategy, but that means you have to have good scouts, and a good GM. Which we don’t know if we have. We have to be the only team in the NFL that has a GM that they fired as their top scout. Sad thing is, even when he made some good calls, they were ignored (ie: R. Wilson) and instead they listen to his bad picks. So far last year’s draft was good, because of one player. If we didn’t grab Richardson, this past years draft class would still have a big ? on it. So we can hope experience will translate into a better team this year but the Jets have not had the greatest track record as far as player development goes.

      • Alan Schechter

        AC you are not saying anything unfair. I agree we haven’t developed well in the past, I just really feel that things are going to be different this time around. I feel good about it, I just do.

    • Alan Schechter

      Thanks for writing as always Paul. I really do think the internal player development is going to suprise both of you guys this time, I really do.

    • Frank Antonelli

      Paul I know that a positive article on the Jets by ESPN signals the
      end of the world! Well enjoy your last moments on earth! Like I
      said recently if our QB play improves Rex and the defense gives us a
      chance to compete:

      ESPN INSIDER ARTICLE

      Upgrade at QB, consistently strong defense can help Jets challenge Pats:

      The NFL is middle school chemistry. You have variables and controls.
      The variables create different outcomes, while the control is that
      unchanging element, the thing you can point to and say, “Well, we know
      that didn’t cause the fire.” And in a league where constant turnover is
      law, few controls exist. Bill Belichick is a control. Peyton Manning is a
      control. The controls allows at least some level of certainty. It’s
      something the New York Jets have lacked — at least on the surface.

      Consider the coach. Rex Ryan’s persona seems to dovetail with the
      mixed outcomes — near-Super Bowl seasons, the lows of last place — and
      it’s all tattooed across the back page. The overall mixed results, a
      42-38 mark in New York, would imply Rex is a source of instability.

      But when you dig deeper, you realize it’s the opposite. Ryan is one
      of the NFL’s true controls. What he does — what he truly controls on a
      football field — never really changes. Ryan controls defenses, and his
      defenses are routinely excellent. And this year, that could be enough
      for the Jets to legitimately challenge for the AFC East title.

      Consider:

      Ryan destroys passing games: It’s a passing league, but not against
      Ryan. From 2009 to 2013, Jets defenses allowed the NFL’s lowest QBR, at
      40.6, with no real spike of a bad year. And it goes beyond that. Ryan’s
      Baltimore defenses did the same, allowing an absurdly low 33.1 mark from
      2006-2008. Over a nine-year period, Ryan’s defense turns the average
      NFL QB into Chad Henne.

      Ryan wrecks consistent yardage: With the Jets, his defenses are
      second in the NFL in yards allowed over his tenure. With Baltimore, he
      also was second during his four-year run as defensive coordinator.

      Ryan is consistent: Using one of Football Outsiders’ key metrics,
      Ryan’s average defensive DVOA (explained here) over nine years is sixth.
      His average total defense is sixth. When your average is that high, you
      end up with this fact: Ryan has never had a below-average defense. His
      worst defensive DVOA was 14th. His worst YPG allowed is 17th. In nine
      years of controlling NFL defenses, only once was Ryan’s unit even
      average. He’s a defensive MacGyver — give him an average D-line, a match
      and a roll of duct tape and he’ll escape in good shape more often than
      not.

      The only other NFL coach to run defenses as effectively as Ryan over
      the past nine years is Pittsburgh’s Dick LeBeau. Ryan has been similarly
      dominant; it’s his quarterbacks who have been the variable that ruins
      things. And it’s the reason the 2014 Jets can challenge for first place
      in the AFC East, even against a healthy Patriots squad.

      [+] EnlargeMichael Vick

      Alex Trautwig/Getty ImagesMichael Vick represents a marked improvement at QB for the Jets.

      The value of average

      Pittsburgh has had Ben Roethlisberger with LeBeau around, and that
      combination is why they have three Super Bowl appearances in that time,
      two of them wins. The narrative could say Big Ben has been great, but
      most know better. Pittsburgh’s defenses have been great, Roethlisberger
      has been situationally great, and has mostly been pretty good overall.

      Over the QBR era — 2006 though 2013 — among QBs with 1,500 attempts,
      Roethlisberger is 10th in QBR. No. 11 is Michael Vick. Now, Vick is no
      Big Ben, but much of that is health, and time away from football, not
      performance.

      Now consider that over Ryan’s Jets tenure, the team QBR — combining
      the likes of Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Matt Simms, etc. — is a
      terrifying 36.1, good for 29th in the NFL. Among teams that are in the
      bottom 10 in QBR over that period, the Jets are the only team with a
      winning record. At 42-38, the Jets are 16 wins better than Jacksonville,
      which has the next most awful QB performance in that time.

      And it goes beyond that: Over the past nine years, only twice has Ryan had a QB who was at or above average in QBR:

      • In 2006, Steve McNair was sixth. The Ravens went 13-3.

      • In 2009, Sanchez was 17th (his highest finish). The Jets went 11-5.

      The single greatest spikes in team improvement in recent years
      haven’t come through brilliant quarterbacking, they’ve come through
      merely OK quarterbacking. A team with terrible QB play simply becomes
      average in that category. In 2011 the Colts minus Manning were a
      disaster at QB. In 2012, Andrew Luck wasn’t brilliant, he was a tick
      north of league average as a rookie. The Colts had a nine-win jump. In
      2012 the Chiefs were awful at QB and won two games. In 2013 they added
      Alex Smith, who wasn’t remotely great, just competent, and they had a
      nine-win spike. Seattle’s jump with the presence of Russell Wilson also
      qualifies.

      It is impossible for the Jets to “spike” in wins, because as long as
      Ryan is coaching the defense, they’ll never really be bad. Last season
      was proof enough, when they won eight games even as Geno Smith ranked an
      unpleasant 34th in QBR.

      So what must happen now? And why the optimism?

      Vick must be … just average

      The issue for Vick is always health. We know he’s played 16 games
      just once. But as I noted recently, Vick is safely an above
      league-average QB, and he almost always improves the win rates of the
      teams he plays for:

      “Vick’s record as a starter is 58-48-1. Going into 2013 (excluding
      2009 when Vick sat the bench behind Donovan McNabb in his first year
      back from a prison sentence), his team’s record when he didn’t start was
      13-30. You can argue that with Vick around teams weren’t invested
      financially in another really good QB in most of those seasons, but it’s
      impossible to argue that Vick hasn’t been a significant improvement for
      his team over any other QB on the roster.”

      I hardly qualify as a “QB win” pusher, but it is the game’s most
      important position, and when the context is reasonable it matters. When
      he’s on the field, since 2005, Vick hasn’t been a star, but he’s been
      something safely better than the Jets have had with a QBR profile
      similar to a Big Ben or Eli Manning. Those guys stay healthy, for the
      most part. But if Vick does, evidence shows anything even remotely
      average sets up Ryan’s teams for success.

      The weapons upgrade

      Improved offensive talent should help. That’s why the Jets can’t sit
      still even with the addition of Eric Decker. While Decker brings
      impressive recent credentials — he was fifth in the NFL in Pro Football
      Focus’ WR rating in 2013 (which measures how good a QB looked when
      throwing at him) and second in 2012 — but the control in that experiment
      was Peyton Manning, so we can’t say for certain Decker is a massive
      upgrade over, say, the departed Santonio Holmes.

      Now the draft must pay dividends. The Jets are in a great position to
      draft the likes of LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr. or USC’s Marqise Lee with
      their first pick at No. 18 overall, and they shouldn’t stop there. This
      is one of the best drafts at the wide receiver position in recent
      memory, and an added pick there or at tight end would be wise. (This
      week Mel Kiper suggested the Jets add two pass-catchers with their first
      two picks.) The recent addition of Jacoby Ford is more window dressing
      than impact, though Ford’s speed can be useful. But it’s fair to say the
      Jets need early impact from the draft.

      The good news is that’s available. As for the running back depth
      chart, it isn’t flush with promise right now (Bilal Powell and Chris
      Ivory represent the two-deep), but Chris Johnson would be a great
      change-of-pace solution to pursue following his release from the Titans,
      as he’s the type of explosive runner they haven’t had in a while. And
      the draft offers a lot of depth at the position in the middle and late
      rounds.

      The defense just needs to remain strong

      When I asked a few former NFL players who have played for or against
      Ryan’s defenses this week what defines him, I heard a range of answers.
      Flexible, gets guys to buy in, does an exceptional job of creating
      in-game scheme counters, and in every case, game planning.

      “He is a master game-planner,” one said. “If he wants to take away
      the slot, then he does it. Same goes for a No.1 wide receiver, tight end
      — you name it.”

      What the Jets are certain to take away is any attempt to run against
      them in 2014. Last season, they held teams to 3.35 yards per attempt, a
      league-low by a wide margin. And they’ll only be better up front, with
      Muhammad Wilkerson entering Year 4, Damon Harrison and Quinton Coples
      entering their third NFL seasons, and run-stopping maestro Sheldon
      Richardson only in Year 2.

      The secondary is a concern, but should see improved play from Dee
      Milliner (in part because he can’t be worse than he was early in 2013,
      not a shock for a rookie) and while neither Dawan Landry nor Antonio
      Allen is great at safety, a year of playing together could help. But
      again, the 53.4 QBR the Jets allowed last season was actually the worst
      of Ryan’s tenure, and was balanced by a devastating run defense, which
      is why the Jets still managed to rank 12th in defensive DVOA. Ryan’s now
      extensive track record points to improvement, even for a defense that
      was safely above average and, in some areas, dominant.

      Ultimately, the Vick health variable seems the likeliest to determine
      whether the Jets take a step forward, or are merely average. But with
      the control of Ryan around, that entity that really won’t change or let
      the experiment go too far awry, the Jets really can win just a few more
      games, making them a true challenger in the AFC East.

      • Paul Newbold

        Damn, I was just starting to enjoy retirement too! lol