New York Jets Week 8: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – Midseason Edition


Sep 28, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end

Muhammad Wilkerson

(96) reacts after the Detroit Lions scored a touchdown at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets lost to the Buffalo Bills 43-23 in a game that wasn’t even that close. Even though there were some positives, this game will probably be remembered as the end of the Rex Ryan era. The Jets committed six turnovers, 10 penalties and made the game excruciating to watch. So instead of focusing on what went wrong this week we will instead look at what this team has going for it going forward, what needs improvement and what is a complete dumpster fire.

The Good

1) A young, talented defensive front – The Jets have one of the best defensive lines in football and they are still getting better. Sheldon Richardson is on pace to double last year’s sack total with 3.5 so far halfway through the year. Richardson’s pass rush skills have greatly improved from year 1 to year 2 and he certainly looks like he will be a star for years to come. Muhammad Wilkerson continues to perform at a very high level and will probably be a very rich man by the time the season ends or in the offseason. Wilkerson is on pace to come in at nine sacks after 10.5 last year but is really just one sack behind a ten sack pace which can easily be made up. He is also looking to set career-highs in run stuffs (on pace for 10) and passes defended (on pace for 6).

Damon Harrison continues to eat up blocks and help stop the run from the “0” technique or nose tackle. The Jets will have to choose whether to pay Harrison or Kenrick Ellis after the season. Demario Davis continues to improve as he has become competent in coverage to go along  with his run stopping abilities. Davis also has blitz timing down and his sack totals could improve in the future if his role changes under a new coaching staff.

Quinton Coples is on pace for five sacks and never has lived up to his potential as a game-changing pass rusher. He shows glimpses like he did on Sunday with 1.5 sacks and a tackle for loss but he just hasn’t been able to put it all together. If he can do that in the 2nd half of the year the Jets might have a nice trade chip for the offseason because there is no way the Jets will give a big contract to a player that is so boom or bust. On the back-end of the defense Calvin Pryor gets better each week and although he hasn’t been an impact player immediately, he is playing a different role than he did in college and is doing well learning on the job.

2) Chris Ivory – Chris Ivory’s continued development has been one of the highlights of this year. Ivory has 475 yards and five touchdowns so far halfway through the year, putting him on pace for nearly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns which are spectacular numbers from a back that averages nearly five yards per carry. This year he already has 12 receptions for over 100 yards which is intriguing considering he had five receptions in his 1st three years combined. Ivory is still only 26 and has four more years until he hits the downside of his career at 30. Chris Johnson will be one and done here in New York and I would look for Ivory to be paired with a speed back next year to keep his carries low and the wear and tear on his legs minimal considering his violent running style.

Oct 26, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver

Percy Harvin

(16) carries the ball as Buffalo Bills outside linebacker

Nigel Bradham

(53) chases in the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

3) The receiving core – The Jets have locked up a nice, varied receiving core for the foreseeable future. Eric Decker, Percy Harvin, Jeremy Kerley and Jace Amaro are all likely going to be here long-term and they all bring something different to the table. Decker is a very good route-runner that knows how to get good separation against any cornerback. He beat Darrelle Revis on a couple of beautiful routes last Thursday that turned into 20+ yard catches. Even with terrible quarterback play on Sunday he still had sevn catches for 41 yards. Decker is on pace for 60 catches, 700 yards and six touchdowns while playing through a hamstring injury and having some of the worst quarterback play in the league. He has shown in the short time that he has been here that he is not a product of Peyton Manning but a talented receiver that can help a quarterback.

Percy Harvin has only played one game with the Jets but he showed in the game that he can be a game breaker. Harvin had three catches for 22 yards but was wide open a few other times where he was overthrown. He also wasn’t lead by throws either which could have helped his yards after the catch. Harvin had four rushes for 28 yards which included an end around, a pitch, a Jet sweep and a traditional run. The Jets moved Harvin from the backfield, to the slot, to out wide and had him run a variety of patterns from bubble screens, to flat passes, to crossing routes to fly routes and the defense had to respect Harvin’s speed and ability. Once he gets acclimated to the offense and gets his timing down with whoever will be starting at quarterback then he can really be a difference-maker.

Jeremy Kerley is on pace for about 50 receptions and 500 yards. Kerley just knows how to get open, whether beating man coverage or settling down in a zone, and is especially effective on 3rd down as he knows where the marker is for the 1st down. The play on Sunday where Kerley went up and snatched a 50/50 ball from the defender and converted a key 3rd down is a typical Jeremy Kerley play. Jace Amaro continues to get better each week. This week he had five receptions on five targets for 51 yards and was wide open multiple times and ignored by Michael Vick or else he would have had a huge day. Amaro has and continues to learn his role each week. He is on pace for 64 receptions and  over 600 yards but he will probably finish with closer to 750 yards as his role increases throughout the remainder of the season. The Jets have enough skill position talent to be a successful offense, we will look at quarterback and offensive line in other sections.

4) Nick Folk – Folk is one of best kickers in the league this year making 14 of 15 attempts with the only miss being a 58 yarder that was blocked. After being an average kicker for most of his career last year he climbed from 77.8% to 91.2% on 33 of 36, including one kick that went over the upright and should have been called good, and he has proven that it isn’t a fluke this year. Folk is money from everywhere on the field including 55 yards away on Sunday and shows no sign of letting up anytime soon. The Jets locked him up long-term this year and it is looking like the right decision.

The Bad

1) The offensive tackles – D’Brickashaw Ferguson has been a great Jet for the last eight seasons since he was the team’s 1st round draft choice in 2006 but since he hit 30 he has started to slow down and for someone who has relied on his speed and positioning to be successful it has led to a regression in his play and created a need to invest in his replacement. Ferguson can still be a serviceable starter for the next year or two but the Jets need to start looking for a replacement. Speaking of serviceable, Breno Giacomini is that and not much more. Giacomini was never going to be the long-term solution at right tackle but instead a stop-gap until an upgrade is found. There isn’t a lot of guaranteed money in Giacomini’s contract and although the Jets have bigger needs and Ferguson/Giacomini might last into 2015 they should start looking for replacements to develop from mid-round picks.

2) Pass rushing outside linebacker and young sideline to sideline inside linebacker – Calvin Pace is 34 years old and Quinton Coples is maddeningly inconsistent so the Jets continue to look for a long-term answer to a pass rushing outside linebacker that commands double teams and can make Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson even better. David Harris has been a great Jet but his days as the heart and soul of the Jets defense are coming to the end. Harris’ speed has never been terrific but he has slowed down as he approaches the wrong side of 30.

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He is a coverage liability and has become a player that needs to exist as a two down player against the run and someone who will most likely be released instead of being paid $5 million next season. Whether Harris comes back at a discount like Pace did remains to be seen but Demario Davis needs to be paired with someone just as athletic as he is and someone better in coverage. The defensive line occupies blockers well enough so that the inside linebackers can flow to where they need to be to make plays they just need to be athletic enough to get there and make them.

3) Free safety – The Jets have been getting beaten deep repeatedly for the last two years now and some of that is because of the dumpster fire that is the cornerbacks on the team but they have gotten little to no help from the safeties. Calvin Pryor is obviously the long term answer at strong safety and has the skill set to play free safety occasionally but his talents lie in being an enforcer over the middle, blitzing, and stopping the run all of which are traits that define a strong safety. Dawan Landry is too slow to be effective anywhere but around the line of scrimmage right now and players like Jaiquawn Jarrett and Rontez Miles aren’t skilled enough to play free safety either so Pryor is stuck doing it and it is wasting his talent.

Antonio Allen has showed this year that he is not good as a cornerback or a safety when he is switching around and that he needs a defined role. Allen does not have good enough instincts to play deep and is better suited to stay near the line and play the run and cover the tight end one on one. Allen is a “Big Nickel” or “Slide Nickel” player. A 3rd safety used to cover backs and tight ends, or blitz. I don’t think Allen will ever develop into a full-time three down safety. The Jets need a ball-hawking free safety that is used to playing in coverage and going and getting the ball. A player who can cover a slot receiver, a tight end or a back as well as cover the back half of the field and prevent big plays. Having Pryor, Allen and a free safety with this skill set would allow the Jets to be creative and aggressive with the back end covered and the corners protected.

Oct 26, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Buffalo Bills cornerback

Stephon Gilmore

(24) celebrates after intercepting pass from New York Jets quarterback

Geno Smith

(not pictured) during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Ugly

1) Quarterback – This year was about seeing Geno Smith develop and halfway through he just hasn’t. After Sunday’s 2/8 five yard, three interception performance, Smith is at 57% completion on the year with seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He still locks on receivers, has trouble when his 1st read is covered and tries to fit the ball into tight spaces too often. Smith doesn’t anticipate where the receivers are going to go well, he doesn’t place the ball in an area where the receiver can catch it and turn upfield and he doesn’t look off defenders well enough either. The problem is Smith is making the same mistakes that he made in year 1 this year and his lack of learning from these mistakes has cast doubt on whether he will develop into a competent quarterback.

I am one of the few who still thinks Smith should play. The season is over as far as the playoffs are concerned and Michael Vick has been equally terrible so you might as well be absolutely certain that Smith isn’t the answer and won’t be in the future in these last eight games. I believe the Jets need a quarterback like Alex Smith who is an accurate, system quarterback. They have enough backs and receivers to be able to move the ball as long as they don’t have a quarterback who shoots them in the foot. I don’t believe in any of the top college quarterbacks like Mariotta or Winston so they have their work cut out for them to either trade for a competent veteran or get lucky with a mid-round gem.

2) Cornerback – Since Vontae’ Davis spurned the Jets on Day one of free agency the Jets have been scrambling to fill the void in their secondary that they created by releasing Antonio Cromartie. Idzik didn’t put a high enough value on the position and ended up losing out on every free agent eventually ending up with Dimitri Patterson, who like his career arc suggested quickly became injured then couldn’t handle the pressure of trying to recover and earn a starting spot and went crazy having to be released. Dexter McDougle went down with a torn ACL further thinning the position and when Dee Milliner went down for the year as well the Jets were broken at the position beyond repair.

Darrin Walls has been serviceable but he was abused yesterday by Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins and Antonio Allen has been terrible this year as he has been shuffled between corner and safety. This position needs a big time overhaul as counting on Milliner and McDougle to play prominent roles coming off of season-ending injuries is another disaster waiting to happen. With the Jets’ top pick I’d expect them to take a premier pass rusher or trade back a few spots for the top corner in the draft. Both are premium positions and positions of need. The Jets need a big time corner in the draft and another in free agency. They also need quality depth signings at the position to restock the cupboard.

3) Guard – Willie Colon has been terrible this season, Brian Winters was horrible and is done for the year and Oday Aboushi is serviceable but certainly not good. Dakota Dozier hasn’t made enough progress to move into the starting lineup and is taking a redshirt year so guard play is once again a major issue for the Jets. The Jets are going to have to get a top flight guard in free agency and take another mid round prospect hoping that of Aboushi, Winters, Dozier and a draft pick that they can get one starting quality player to go along with the free agent.

4) Head Coach – Since the Jets left New England after their playoff upset of the Patriots after the 2010 season they have been slowly rolling downhill. This will be the 4th straight year without a playoff appearance and the 1st year that the bottom completely fell out of the team and they will tumble to a top five pick. This roster has major holes in it and there is no quick fix but it’s becoming clear that Rex Ryan isn’t the answer. No matter the offensive coordinator (Brian Schottenheimer, Tony Sparano or Marty Mornhinweg) when the team turns the ball over they get too conservative and they reel the quarterback in so much that they stunt his development and end up with a quarterback that worries too much about making mistakes which ends up leading to more mistakes because that’s what overthinking does.

It happened with the color coordinated wristband with Sanchez and it is happening again with Geno Smith (sans the wristband). The common denominator is Ryan. Teams are picking up Ryan’s exotic blitzes and beating the Jets with big plays as a result. The only weapons the Jets have defensively are trap defenses that show one look but act like another and even they aren’t fooling quarterbacks into turnovers. The team needs a new leader and a new direction, no one will ever forget 2009 and 2010 and how the Jets became relevant again but that time is over and it is time to rebuild.