The 2014 New York Jets Season Primer With Predictions


Aug 3, 2013; Cortland, NY, USA; New York Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg (left) talks with head coach Rex Ryan during training camp at SUNY Cortland. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Jun 17, 2014; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) throws a pass during minicamp at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Geno Smith returns for his second year as quarterback of the Jets. He struggled mightily at times and the light finally turned on for him in the last month of the season. He learned to run more instead of taking the sack or forcing the ball in for an interception. The last time the Jets added a running back near the end of his career and a wideout from a good time was 2010, which coincidentally was Mark Sanchez‘s 2nd year with the Jets. Let’s look at the comparison:

’09 Sanchez 2,444 yards 12 TDs 20 INTs 106 yds rushing 3 TDs

’10 Sanchez 3,291 yards 17 TDs 13 INTs 105 yds rushing 3 TDs

’13 Smith 3,046 yards 12 TDs 20 INTs 366 yds rushing 6 TDs

’14 Smith (projected) 3,502 yards 18 TDs 12 INTs 510 yds rushing 4 TDs

I gave Smith a 15% increase in passing yards with the extra weapons (Decker, Johnson, Amaro, Saunders) making decisions quicker and easier. That being said I used Sanchez’s progress to map the touchdown to interception ratio improvement. With a full year of  quarterback draws, read option, and triple option I expect more yardage from Smith but with three very competent backs I don’t think he will score six times again.

Speaking of those backs, Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell return. Combined they had 1,530 yards rushing and 1,812 total yards from scrimmage. Powell had 36 receptions for 272 yards but wasn’t really a threat on anything but a check down. That’s why Chris Johnson is here. He can score from off tackle, he can score from up the middle and he can score on a screen or pass out of the backfield. Even in a “bad” year where he was playing with a torn meniscus he still had over 1,000 yards rushing, 40 receptions and 10 touchdowns. Lightening his load will help Johnson get more out of his body and be more explosive.

’14 Johnson (Projected) 200 carries 850 yards 8 TDs 42 receptions 450 yards 4 TDs

’14 Ivory (Projected) 145 carries 610 yards 3 TDS 2 receptions 40 yards 0 TDs

’14 Richardson (Projected) 50 carries 210 yards 2 TDS 15 receptions 120 yards 2 TDs

’14 Powell (Projected) 25 carries 90 yards 0 TDs 5 receptions 40 yards 1 TDs

In this projection Johnson will have 90 carries less than ’13 and his YPC will be right near his career average of 4.5 because he can remain fresher due to a slightly smaller workload. The 64 combined receptions from the backfield will be a terrific way to improve Geno Smith’s completion % from last year (55.8%) and any pass to Johnson has the potential to be a big play. Ivory will only lose about 40 carries so he should still be able to be productive. A healthy Daryl Richardson takes Powell’s place as primary backup with Powell moves into a 3rd down pass blocking role but will see the field to spell either Johnson or Ivory as well.

Jun 17, 2014; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Eric Decker talks to media during minicamp at Atlantic Health Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The receiver group should be Eric Decker, Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson, Jaylen Saunders, Stephen Hill and Shaq Evans. Jace Amaro, Jeff Cumberland and Zach Sudfeld round out the tight end core. I’m not a fan of labeling receivers the #1 receiver or #3 receiver, to me it is where you fit in the offensive scheme that matters. My guess is that in the 1st snap against the Raiders you will see Eric Decker on one side of the formation and Jeremy Kerley lined up some place on the other side with Jace Amaro in the slot. The two main beneficiaries of adding playmakers like Decker, Amaro & Johnson to the offense are Jeremy Kerley who will be facing lesser corners and is more likely to get a free release off of the line and David Nelson who can sit down in a zone or draw a much less challenging 1 on 1 matchup in the area vacated by Amaro going down the seam, Decker and Hill threatening the outside and Johnson operating underneath.

Two formations that the Jets could use effectively are the three tight end set and a four wide receiver set. A three tight end set is usually a dead giveaway that it is a run and they will run it a bunch out of the formation but with Amaro, Cumberland and Sudfeld being receiving tight ends there are any number of ways to use playaction to get any of the three the ball, or to motion Johnson out wide and set up a screen on the side with two tight ends, or use the 1 on 1 matchup Decker will most likely have to go deep. A four wide receiver look that has Decker and Hill or Nelson on the outside with Saunders and Kerley either bunched or in opposite slots would be a quick blitz beater. If you stacked Saunders and Kerley one or both of them would be getting a free release and both get open very quickly against man coverage. With time Decker could run an intermediate route and Hill could go deep. If you took those four wide receivers and lined up Amaro as a running back then motioned him into a trips formation with Kerley and Saunders that would be difficult to defend. The movement of the linebackers and the man coverage it would force would open up the QB draw as well. I expect the primary formation to be two tight ends and two receivers with a back. It is pretty much the league standard when you have two athletic tight ends.

Watch out for more of a traditional option with Smith and Johnson going down the line with Smith making the decision to pitch or keep. There could also be some triple option when Ivory lines up in the backfield with Johnson. Smith could hand to Ivory for a draw, keep it or pitch to Johnson. Once that stuff is on tape as a threat you can then run playaction off of it.

However, none of this works without the offensive line performing well. Geno Smith was sacked 43 times last year, granted he held the ball WAY too long most of the season but the Jets need better play from left guard because not only was Winters a turnstile most of the year but the fact that Ferguson and Mangold had to help him that hurt their play. There is going to be a training camp battle being Winters, Oday Aboushi (who everyone has raved about this offseason) and Dakota Dozier. The Jets need to have depth at the position because Willie Colon is being held together by duct tape. New right tackle Breno Giacomini brings a tough, physical style to replace the more athletic Austin Howard. Will it be a downgrade, an upgrade or a wash? I like offensive lineman to have a mean streak, to play through the whistle and play physically and Giacomini is that guy. Only time will tell if it was the right move.

Overall, offensively the Jets are going to have to get at least 22 points per game, which is an increase of 64 points over a season from last year’s 18. With players like Decker and Johnson who have a nose for the end zone as well as Amaro, that should help the team’s red zone efficiency. The offense has enough playmakers to generate the points but it is going to be up to Geno Smith to progress and lead the team and the offensive line to keep him upright.

Dec 29, 2013; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; New York Jets cornerback

Dee Milliner

(left) celebrates his interception catch with teammate New York Jets strong safety

Dawan Landry

(right) during the second half against the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports


The Jets’ defense was not its usual stingy self in 2013 mostly due to a very leaky secondary. They allowed a ridiculous 24 points per game and only forced 15 turnovers, which was 19th and 31st in the league respectively. Couple that with the offense turning the ball over 37 times which both tired out and put the defense in difficult situations. The team was very stout against the run, ranking 3rd in the league but only 22nd against the pass. The corners included a cardboard cut out of Antonio Cromartie, a very lost Dee Milliner (until the last month), Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster. The safeties were a very mediocre Dawan Landry, a very inconsistent Antonio Allen, a pretty poor Jaiquawn Jarrett and Josh Bush. The end of the season brought Ed Reed but he was merely a shell of his former self. There were bright spots with Damon Harrison coming out of nowhere to have a Pro Bowl like season at nose tackle, Defensive Rookie of the Year Sheldon Richardson, 10.5 sacks from Muhammad Wilkerson, ten sacks from Calvin Pace, Antonio Allen’s performance against Rob Gronkowski, Dee Milliner and Quinton Coples‘ last month of the year and the way they dismantled the Dolphins in Week 17. That being said they need to be better, much better this year.

The main problem with the Jets’ defense was getting beat deep. Per they gave up 55 plays over 20 yards as well as a ridiculously high 26 touchdowns. In contrast, the Jets caught only 13 touchdown passes all year. There are two schools of thought on how you rectify this. Option 1, you fortify your safeties so the help over the top has the ability to get there. Enter Calvin Pryor, 1st round draft pick, who can play in the box and stop the run, blitz, or cover the deep half of the field. That allows you to mix and match more often and not leave it to slow-footed Dawan Landry or Antonio Allen who doesn’t have the instincts to play outside of the box yet with no help. Option 2, you improve your pass rush so the opposing quarterback doesn’t have the time to throw deep. Beyond the traditional threat of Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets need Sheldon Richardson to show the pass rushing acumen he had in college, Quinton Coples needs to show the form he had in the last 5 games of the season when he netted 4.5 sacks, Antwan Barnes needs to stay healthy and provide the speed rush to complement the power of the other Jet rushers, Calvin Pace needs to continue to take advantage of 1 on 1 match ups and finish plays, and Pryor, Allen and Demario Davis need to be able to get home quickly.

The other problem was the team’s cornerbacks, both the starters and the depth. The Jets decided to let Antonio Cromartie go at age 30. He played through injury when he should not have and the result was disastrous. Teams were picking on Cromartie instead of the struggling rookie Milliner on the other side. Think about how crazy that is. I personally think the Jets should have brought him back on a one year deal. Cromartie will bounce back this year. Instead of signing a star cornerback the Jets decided to sign a smorgasbord of defensive backs to compete and at the very least make the team’s depth much better than last year. Returning are Milliner, expected to build on his excellent last month of the season, Kyle Wilson, Darrin Walls and Ellis Lankster. Coming in are Dimitri Patterson, a journeyman who has been a very effective ballhawk when healthy which isn’t often enough, Johnny Patrick, a player the Jets loved as documented in the book Collision Low Crossers, 3rd round draft pick Dexter McDougle who had a season-ending injury in his senior year but helped the team so much they named an award after him for the best teammate,  Ras-I Dowling, a former 2nd round draft pick of the Patriots who has been getting some 1st team reps, and has the size and speed to turn his career around, and Brandon Dixon who has the measurables but comes from tiny Northwest Missouri State. My guess is Dixon to the practice squad and Patrick gets squeezed out in the end.

Dec 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Oakland Raiders quarterback

Matt McGloin

(14) recovers his own fumble while being tackled by New York Jets defensive end Quinton Coples (98) during the second half at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Raiders 37-27. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Who starts? Milliner on one side, Patterson on the other with Wilson and McDougle playing the slot. McDougle will overtake Patterson at some point in the season and Patterson will move back inside where he has been most effective in his career. Will this work? I don’t know. Every player has question marks surrounding them whether injury or talent related. The problem last year is they built the secondary expecting Cromartie to be in his 2012 form where he was a shutdown corner. Once it became apparent that he wasn’t, it was difficult to rebuild the scheme especially if you don’t have safeties that can help both Cromartie and Milliner. You cannot have a worse secondary than last year where both starting corners were awful for most of the season and there was little depth behind them and even less depth at safety. Knowing his strengths and weaknesses should allow Rex Ryan to tailor his scheme to his personnel. Expect to see more 2 deep safety looks, more zone and the Big Nickel, which is a three safety look that they used to use when Jim Leonhard was here. The 3rd safety replaces a linebacker and can either blitz, fill in against the run, cover an extra back or tight end or drop. The 2nd safety around the line of scrimmage is usually matched up on the opposing tight end and the 3rd safety plays the deep middle. There are different variations and different roles for the safeties. The athleticism of Calvin Pryor and Antonio Allen dwarfs that of Leonhard and Eric Smith so it should be an interesting formation. Don’t look past Rontez Miles who may finally break through this year. He would be an interesting choice in 3 safety formations. The best 11 players will play on this defense and if that means more safeties and less corners than so be it.

The middle linebackers need to do a better job in coverage. Demario Davis was ineffective in coverage during his 1st season as a starter. He has the speed and instincts to excel but he needs to read the plays quicker. Maybe the game slows down in his second year as a starter. David Harris was in great shape last year and covered better than he had in a while but was exposed in space as the year went along and he tired. Jeremiah George of Iowa State was drafted because he can cover a bit and he hits like a truck so look for him to spell a now 30-year-old Harris on 3rd downs as the season progresses. Harris could also be subbed out in the Big Nickel formations on clear passing downs.

The right outside linebacker position needs to produce at least ten sacks. Quinton Coples has the ability to do this all by himself but inconsistency and injury has limited him to only showing flashes of promise. This year is put up or shut up time for Coples. If he wants to get paid he is going to have to show he is worth it. He had 4.5 sacks in his last five games so he needs to carry that over to 2014. If he doesn’t he is going to lose time to Antwan Barnes and/or Jermaine Cunningham. Barnes was a difference-maker as the Jets lone speed rusher in the 1st few weeks before a knee injury took him out for the season. The Jets rush wasn’t as productive after he went on IR. Jermaine Cunningham has been a project of Rex Ryan since the middle of last season. Like Coples, injuries and inconsistency have plagued him but the former 2nd round draft pick has performed well in OTAs and will be fighting for a roster spot as a pass rusher. Calvin Pace finishes the flushed out quarterbacks and takes advantage of 1 on 1 mismatches on the left side and while I don’t see ten sacks from him, he will certainly get his share.

The young defensive line needs to continue to grow and not believe their own hype. The immovable Damon Harrison needs to prove that last year wasn’t a fluke. He needs to continue to dominate against the run and learn to use his deceptive quickness to develop more of a pass rush. Muhammad Wilkerson needs to keep expanding his pass rushing repertoire, continue to function as a leader and cut down significantly on his offsides penalties. Sheldon Richardson needs to keep creating havoc in the backfield but instead of just stuffing the run, he needs to use his pass rush talent he flashed while at Missouri. Kenrick Ellis has to stay healthy to earn a more even split of reps with Damon Harrison and continue to occupy two blockers. Leger Douzable just needs more reps to be effective as he played both the pass and run well when given the opportunity. It was a nice surprise that he came back instead of seeking more money or playing time elsewhere.

The bottom line is that the Jets need to use their pass rush, their improving, young defensive line, new safety dynamic, and deeper secondary along with the statistical probability that the amount of turnovers created will return to the norm to get from 24 points per game allowed to 20 points per game. As explained in this National Football Post article here, teams that have large turnover margins, whether positive or negative, go back towards the norm and the worst and best teams average a difference of +/- 11 turnovers. The Jets were -14 last year which was 2nd to last in the league. If they can get to -3 it would go a long way to reducing the burden on the defense and certainly lower the points per game allowed.

Oct 20, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets kicker

Nick Folk

(2) celebrates his game winning field goal during overtime against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won the game 30-27 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Special Teams

Other than Nick Folk, who was a Pro Bowl quality kicker, the rest of the special teams units were terrible. The punt coverage team allowed 11.2 yards per return, the kick coverage team allowed some big returns at inopportune moments, the punt return team was non-existent due to the amount of fair catches Jeremy Kerley made, and the Jets went through so many kick returners and they were all ineffective. Ryan Quigley just isn’t that good of a punter. He averaged 45.5 yards per punt but a lot were low and returnable. I think Zoltan Mesko will replace Quigley at some point.

Out goes Special Teams Coordinator Ben Kotwicka and in comes LSU Special Teams coach Thomas McGaughey. McGaughey’s teams have always been at or near the best in the country with an All-American kicker and returner on his squad. Jaylen Saunders averaged 15 yards per return at Oklahoma and is a huge upgrade over Jeremy Kerley. Saunders may also return kicks or that job may go to fellow rookie wide receiver Shaq Evans who performed those duties at UCLA. Players like Jeremiah George, Trevor Reilly, Quincy Enunwa, Brandon Dixon and Steele Devito are athletes that should improve the special teams units.

Overall Record

The Jets overachieved in 2013 to get to 8-8 and won a number of close games in the year as well, which doesn’t always repeat itself. The schedule gets more difficult on paper with the AFC West and NFC North this year as well. Although the NFC South was highly touted to start last year with big things expected from the Saints, Falcons and Buccaneers. On the other hand, the Jets are a more balanced team this year bringing in more playmakers for Geno Smith to use and giving the offense a lot of versatility. Smith showed better decision-making as the season progressed as he became a dual threat, running with the ball instead of forcing passes for interceptions or staying in the pocket too long leading to sacks and fumbles. The seven new starters on defense from 2012 now have another year under their belt, the game slows down for them at this point and they have continuity on that side of the ball with the exception of the addition of Calvin Pryor and the new corner opposite Milliner. The success or failure of the team will be determined by the growth of the quarterback, the offensive line and the cornerbacks. What will the final result be?

The Jets will finish 9-7 and find a way to sneak into the playoffs then they will beat San Diego in the Wild Card Round before finally falling to Peyton Manning and the Broncos in the Divisional Round.