New York Jets: Top 5 reasons to worry about 2015


Aug 21, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback

Ryan Fitzpatrick

(14) avoids a sack attempt by Atlanta Falcons defensive end

Jonathan Babineaux

(95) during the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

There are many reasons for optimism in regards to the New York Jets in 2015. As poorly as the starters have executed thus far this preseason, it’s obvious there has been a major talent upgrade with skilled veterans and promising rookies. NFL teams now practice less than ever, and it’s all so over-exposed, that the problems seem especially pronounced, but that’s all part of growing up in public these days.

Admittedly, that’s looking at the cup half-full. The crazy media distractions have to take a toll in terms of focus. Free safety Marcus Gilchrist, strong safety Calvin Pryor, cornerback Antonio Cromartie, running back Zac Stacy, wide receiver Jeremy Kerley, and tight ends Jeff Cumberland, Jace Amaro and Kellen Davis all look lost in the new system so far.

One gets the distinct impression new head coach Todd Bowles knows that he’s still got plenty of work to do, and cares little about hoisting his first Snoopy Bowl trophy this Saturday night against the franchise’s cross-Jersey rival New York Giants.

Here are the top 5 reasons for concern as the Jets prepare for their Week 1 season opener at MetLife Stadium against the Cleveland Browns.

Next: 5. Unprecedented media fiascoes

Jan 21, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets new general manager Mike Maccagnan (left), owner Woody Johnson (center), and new head coach Todd Bowles (right) pose for a photo during a press conference at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: William Perlman/NJ Advance Media for via USA TODAY Sports

5.  Unprecedented media fiascoes

Who’s the bigger chucklehead, Sheldon Richardson or Geno Smith? Richardson likely cost himself $25 million by his off-the-field issues and then resisting arrest, right after a four-game suspension for a marijuana arrest.

In terms of football, the team’s vaunted D-line might suffer in his absence, although the emergence of No. 1 pick Leonard Williams could change all that. Richardson’s supreme lack of maturity was overshadowed only by IK Enemkpali‘s KO-punch heard around the world, followed by Geno’s ill-advised post-surgery workout spectacle.

Props to Bowles in deftly handling his first major crises and avoiding a possible divided locker room. The media milked so much coverage out of Sheldon and Geno, they barely mentioned Oday Aboushi‘s one-game suspension — which finally made sense of the piledriver’s unexplained banishment to roster-bubble third-team left guard duties. It all makes one yearn for the good ol’ days of Mike Goodson and Jermaine Cunningham. Halfway through preseason, momentum should be moving forward, never stagnating or falling backwards.

Next: 4. Avalanche of injuries

August 11, 2015; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive Muhammad Wilkerson during practice at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: John Munson/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports

4.  Avalanche of injuries

Muhammad Wilkerson: Is there really no relation between last years’s big toe injury and this year’s left hamstring injury? Or is this “tweak” all part of an orchestrated contract holdout? And why doesn’t anyone seem to understand that the potentially career-ending nature of “turf toe” is driving management’s wait-and-see approach?

As for rookie wide receiver Devin Smith, it is true athletes typically return from broken ribs in 4-6 weeks. But that’s not what happened to the second-rounder out of Ohio State, who spent two agonizing nights hospitalized with three broken ribs and a partially punctured lung. Such recovery could take months, especially for a raw track burner type.

If Smith can pick up on the playbook, game speed and field chemistry, this won’t be a lost season. Second-year WR Shaq Evans hopes his strained back won’t result in another lost season. The feel-good comeback story of linebacker Erin Henderson could end unhappily after his nasty MCL strain in the preseason opener. Underwhelming tight end Amaro’s ailing shoulder is “week to week.” Injury/waived free safety Antonio Allen: thank you for your service to the green-and-white; Double-A, you will be missed.

Next: 3. Motivated division rivals

Aug 21, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles during second half against the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

3.  Motivated division rivals

Bowles has all the makings of a top-tier NFL head coach: he’s thrived at all levels of the game, he relates to today’s player and he commands respect with his strong, silent confidence. The former Arizona Cardinal assistant’s reaching out to hire offensive coordinator Chan Gailey without ever meeting the man, speaks volumes for his gridiron IQ.

But lets not forget, these are the Elizabeth, NJ native’s first steps on the job and it would be an understatement to suggest that he has dealt with some unusually difficult circumstances. The season is almost here, so there’s no reason to panic — yet the fact remains that neither the offense, defense nor special teams units have gelled.

His anger was palpable from the podium at Friday night’s post-game press conference when dissecting his team’s 17-penalty debacle. As a rookie commander learning on the job (his season-ending 2-1 mark as Dolphins’ interim head coach in 2011 not withstanding) Bowles must avoid getting schooled by three motivated AFC East rivals in Bill Bellichick, Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum. A .500 division record could result in playoff possibilities. Think 9-7 for the Jets in 2015 is definitely achievable if everything goes according to plan.

Next: 2. Offensive line

Aug 21, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Line judge Sarah Thomas (53) throws a penalty flag during the second half of the game between the New York Jets and the Atlanta Falcons at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Falcons 30-22. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

2.  Offensive line

The offensive line might just be a strength of the team this season, but general manager Mike Maccagnan really had his work cut out in the off season. Both center Nick Mangold and left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson are headed for Ring of Honor enshrinement, but they’re both entering their tenth seasons.

John Idzik’s big-money 2014 signing of right tackle Breno Giacomini has proven to be average at best. Breno and his former Seahawks line-mate, new left guard James Carpenter (a 2011 No. 1 draft pick) were both granted free agency by Pete Carroll’s squad after consecutive Super Bowl appearances.

Idzik investments Oday Aboushi, Brian WintersDakota Dozier, Dalton Freeman, Brent Qvale and Ben Ijalana have been so average that penalty-prone veteran Willie Colon, a product of South Bronx’s Melrose Houses and Cardinal Hayes High School, will likely keep his job at right guard.

NFL-gifted fifth-rounder Jarvis Harrison — star blocker during Johnny Manziel‘s Texas A&M Heisman Trophy run, may sadly prove correct his critics who see a lack of motor. Stranger things have happened, but pro letdowns Charles Brown and Wesley Johnson probably won’t make it past the first round of training camp cuts.

Next: 1. Starting quarterback

Aug 21, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) attempts to pass against the Atlanta Falcons during first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

1.  Starting quarterback

Do you still trust Idzik’s evaluation of Geno Smith as a franchise quarterback and a leader of men? However, this new regime seemed quite pleased with Geno’s performance before his well-documented locker-room incident. Gailey loves Ryan Fitzpatrick like a son, but the Texans thought little enough as to dump the veteran quarterback to pursue Brian Hoyer. Fitzpatrick has played as expected: competent but uninspired. The veterans will respect his mastery of the system so long as he does not regress back to his turnover-laden ways.

Fourth-rounder Bryce Petty looked more composed in his second pro appearance, under center against the Falcons’ second-stringers and future UPS drivers, but still one can only wonder if the Baylor baller is simply a year or so away from reaching his potential as a clipboard-carrying backup.

High-school standout/college washout undrafted free agent Jake Heaps displayed the yips in mop-up duty, and may not make the final practice squad. Gimpy journeyman Matt Flynn, Seattle’s NFL answer to Wally Pipp, is the team’s reported $60,000 stopgap just in case those plates and screws drilled into Geno’s head don’t hold firm.

Welcome to Jets-land! There is much to worry about this upcoming season.

Next: New York Jets: Todd Bowles discusses Family Night

More from The Jet Press