The players report to Cortland on Wednesday, then practice for the 1st time on Thursday so football is back! That means it is also time for season predictions. Here is how I did last year. This is Year 2 of the rebuilding effort and with 11 draft picks and some free agent signings the team has improved their depth and talent base. How much have they improved? Can they take the next step and get into the playoffs? Here are some predictions:
Last year the Jets were 29th in the league in scoring at 18.1 points per game according to Pro-Football-Reference. They were dead last in touchdown passes and 2nd to last in passing yards. Geno Smith had over 3,000 yards passing but only 12 touchdowns to 21 interceptions. However, he greatly improved during the last month of the season and did have five game winning drives and two 4th quarter comebacks. The wide receiver core included a hobbled, unmotivated Santonio Holmes, an injured Stephen Hill, David Nelson (in-season pickup), Greg Salas (in-season pickup), an injured Clyde Gates, and Josh Cribbs in limited action. The tight end core was a sub-par Jeff Cumberland who only showed flashes of what he could do as a receiver and had little success blocking, Kellen Winslow Jr. was picked up in-season and got suspended for PEDs and was held out of late season games because of an arrest at a Boston Market. Zach Sudfeld showed promise but was still raw. The team did finish 6th in the league in rushing with Chris Ivory leading the way with 833 yards followed by Bilal Powell‘s 697 yards. Third was Geno Smith, who finished with 366 yards and 6 touchdowns and ran more as he got comfortable later in the year.
The offseason brought the signing of Eric Decker from the Broncos who has the speed to go deep while being an excellent route runner with a nose for the football. They also signed perennial Pro Bowl running back Chris Johnson to give the Jets the extra dimension of an outside speed runner that also catches 40+ balls per year and is a threat to score on any play. The Jets signed Michael Vick to push Geno Smith to keep improving, take over if Smith fails or gets injured and become a mentor to Smith. This year if Smith struggles during the season there is a legitimate backup that could win games to fall back on. The draft brought in four more potential contributors with 2nd round TE Jace Amaro and 4th round WR Jaylen Saunders most likely to contribute immediately. Amaro caught 108 balls for Texas Tech last year but also played a pro-style in-line tight end earlier in his career. Amaro will most likely start immediately. Saunders is lightning quick, a very agile route-runner, a spectacular punt returner (15 yards per return at Oklahoma) and has a nose for the ball. How creatively Mornhinweg is in lining Saunders up to get a free release will tell the tale of how successful he can be initially. He is only 5’9″ and 164 lbs. but he didn’t miss any significant time at Oklahoma and absolutely didn’t hurt him vs. Alabama in the Sugar Bowl where he caught five balls for 75 yards and two touchdowns. Shaq Evans of UCLA has talent and promise but is a bit behind the other receivers because by rule he had to finish his final semester of classes at UCLA and thus missed OTAs. Quincy Enunwa of Nebraska is 6’2″ 225 lbs. with speed but is still a bit raw coming from a run-based offense. Jacoby Ford was signed and is being given a chance to be a kick returner and hopefully a big play receiver. Ford has world-class speed but injuries and inconsistency have made it difficult and this may be his last NFL chance.