Dec 29, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets quarterbackGeno Smith
(7) scrambles during the first half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The Draft has come and gone which puts us at a point at the offseason where it is fair to take a look at what improvements have been made and how the team is coming together. Today we’ll look at the offense and Monday we will look at the defense and special teams.
2014 1) Geno Smith 2) Michael Vick 3) Tajh Boyd 4) Matt Simms – The Jets signed the best quarterback available in free agency in Michael Vick. Vick still flashes the ability to be a starter but injuries and turnovers have hurt him. Still, Vick has had many more touchdowns to interceptions in his career and is a good benchmark for Smith. If Smith cannot outplay Vick then he does not deserve to start. Tajh Boyd has had success at a major program and has a great arm to go along with the ability to make plays with his legs. He is a better developmental prospect than Simms.
2014 1) Chris Ivory 2) Chris Johnson 3) Bilal Powell 4) Alex Green – You take last year’s group that was strong and you add a back that has never had less than 1,000 yards rushing but also brings the added dimension of consistently having around 45-50 receptions out of the backfield. Johnson may be in the twilight of his career but with a reduced workload he should be able to showcase his speed and explosion that make him one of the most dynamic playmakers in the league. The Jets will get him in space as much as possible and leave the heavy inside work to Chris Ivory, who will continue to wear down defenses between the tackles and showcase his deceptive speed. Bilal Powell will backup both positions and bring his pass blocking ability to 3rd down situations. Powell was just 31 yards short of 1,000 yards from scrimmage last year and is only 25 so Powell still has plenty to contribute.
2014 1) Eric Decker 2) Jeremy Kerley 3) Jalen Saunders 4) Shaq Evans 5) Stephen Hill 6) Jacoby Ford – To say that this is a revamped unit would be an understatement. Last year’s group had very few players that could consistently get open and the ones who could missed significant time due to injury resulting in players like Greg Salas, Saalim Hakim, and Michael Campbell seeing the field. If it weren’t for David Nelson coming in mid-season this group would have been even worse. In free agency the team signed the number 1 available wide receiver in Eric Decker. Decker is a touchdown machine with 32 in the last 3 years including 8 when Tim Tebow was the quarterback so he is not a creation of Peyton Manning. Decker was helped by Manning but 44 receptions for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns in his 1st year starting and being in a super run heavy offense ran by Tebow shows that Decker has talent of his own. The Jets were 8-2 when Jeremy Kerley played and 0-6 without him which spells out his importance to the team. He was the go to guy for tough 3rd down receptions and big plays, making them despite having most of the defense’s attention on him. Kerley will have more room to work and more weapons around him to get him more favorable match ups. Jacoby Ford was added. He has world-class speed but his injury history has hindered his progress. If Ford can’t put it together there are plenty of others to take his spot, including David Nelson who was a solid contributor last year. In the draft the Jets brought in Shaq Evans, a 6’1″ 213 lbs receiver with 4.4 speed, Evans is able to both get deep and work the middle. They also acquired Jaylen Saunders a slot receiver who, although he is small, is extremely quick and sudden in his routes and had 3,000 yards and 26 receiving touchdowns for Oklahoma. Saunders also averages 15 yards per punt return with 3 return touchdowns filling a desperate need for the Jets. This is Stephen Hill’s last chance. He has had knee trouble and trouble with drops. He has not lived up to the lofty expectations he came here with but this is an opportunity for him to not be a top receiver and have the spotlight off him. The defenses should not be keying on him which will allow him to take advantages of match ups and holes in the defense to make big plays. Much more speed in this 2014 group of receivers and with different kinds of receivers who can work short in space, the middle or get deep, this group fits together much better and is much deeper allowing for real competition.
Nov 16, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders tight end Jace Amaro (22) cannot catch a pass while defended by Baylor Bears safety Terrell Burt (13) and defensive back Sam Holl (25) in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
2014 1) Jace Amaro 2) Jeff Cumberland 3) Zach Sudfeld – The Jets decided to join the NFL trend of having a hybrid TE/WR that creates mismatches where he is too fast for a linebacker or safety and too big for a corner to cover. They did that by drafting Jace Amaro of Texas Tech in round 2 of the Draft. Amaro is 6’5″ and 265 lbs. and runs the forty yard dash in 4.6 seconds. Amaro can run routes underneath or across the middle or most importantly make big plays up the seam of defenses. Having Amaro will make Cumberland better. Cumberland has shown flashes of ability and looked close to breaking out but key drops have hurt him. Playing Amaro and Cumberland together would pressure the middle of the defense and open things up on the outside for the wide receivers or underneath for the running backs. Until Amaro learns a bit more blocking will be a weakness in his game and with Cumberland not the greatest blocker either the team will have to rely on extra linemen for power running.
Offensive Line – 2013 LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson LG Brian Winters C Nick Mangold RG Willie Colon RT Austin Howard– Key reserves -Vladimir Ducasse, Caleb Schlauderaff, Ben Ijalana (Oday Aboushi & William Campbell were on the roster but in essence had a redshirt year because they did not play)
2014 LT Ferguson LG Winters C Mangold RG Colon RT Breno Giacomini-Key reserves – Dakota Dozier, Dalton Freeman, Ben Ijalana, Oday Aboushi – The big change is Austin Howard leaving for Oakland (and getting moved to guard there) and Breno Giacomini of the World Champion Seattle Seahawks comes in to play right tackle. Giacomini was the starting right tackle for the Seahawks for the last two and a half years and although it is believed that Howard is younger by 3 years and has a higher ceiling, Giacomini is mean and nasty, gets under opponent’s skin and helps bring an attitude to the line. Having both Giacomini and Colon on the right side should be a lot of fun. With the addition of 4th round pick Dakota Dozier, a tackle that will come inside to guard that is considered a potential starter either this year or next, and the return of backup center Dalton Freeman from injury the Jets are much deeper on the line this year. Ben Ijalana returns as a backup tackle to go with Oday Aboushi who should be able to contribute this year at tackle or even guard.
Advantage: 2014. Howard and Giacomini are a push in my mind and the team is much deeper. If Winters doesn’t improve or Colon goes down Dozier can step in and succeed which was something the Jets lacked last year.
Overall – It would be hard for even the most pessimistic of Jets fans to say that the offense did not improve over last year’s unit. Adding players that other teams have to game plan for such as Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and Jace Amaro to go with Jeremy Kerley will give Geno much more to worth with in year 2. They also added plenty of speed with Ford, Saunders and Evans which was another needed upgrade. Finally, adding Vick provides Smith with a viable backup that can win games which will either push Smith to continue to improve or show that he isn’t the future.