NY Jets: Top 5 areas that need to be addressed
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Tennessee Titans strong safety Marqueston Huff (28) defends New York Jets tight end Jeff Cumberland (85) at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won, 30-8. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
The NY Jets have a ton of work ahead of them this off-season to become contenders. These top five areas of need must be addressed if they are to continue what they built upon in 2015.
Head coach Todd Bowles ended his rookie season 10-6, a record no one ever predicted the Jets would come close to. The Jets have a ton to be proud of but there is also much to improve upon.
With the off-season started, the Jets have to figure out how they are going to build upon a 10-6 season. After all, it is easier to improve a 4-12 team rather than a 10-6 team.
When the Jets ended their season in their Week 17 loss to the Buffalo Bills, it welcomed more opportunities and difficult off-season decisions.
The Jets enter 2016 with a handful of substantial players entering free agency. The salary cap has also been an issue heading into the new year. With the 2016 NFL Draft quickly approaching, there are five top areas the Jets need to address. Let’s take a look at their priorities.
Next: 5. Upgrading linebacker corps
Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants running back Shane Vereen (34) runs by New York Jets linebacker Calvin Pace (97) during the fourth quarter at MetLife Stadium. The Jets defeated the Giants 23-20 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
5. Upgrading linebacker corps
If you watched the Jets lose to the Philadelphia Eagles this season, you watched Gang Green lose to themselves. One of the main problems was their linebacker problems.
Outside linebacker Quinton Coples was released during the season. Rookie Lorenzo Mauldin showed us this season he has star qualities, but it still wasn’t enough. Calvin Pace is old and entering free agency; younger options seem ideal at linebacker.
Among some of the top performing linebackers up for free agency are Von Miller, Tamba Hali, Aldon Smith, Nick Perry and Courtney Upshaw. However, in a salary cap crunch, the Jets most likely won’t be able to afford these players.
The Jets have the 20th overall draft pick and have discussed an interest in linebacker Leonard Floyd. Despite which way the Jets decide to go, they need to improve their linebacker corps.
Next: 4. Deciding which free agents to keep
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets running back Bilal Powell (29) runs for a touchdown against Tennessee Titans defensive back Perrish Cox (29) during the second quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
4. Deciding which free agents to keep
The Jets have a number of significant players who become free agents this year. This is probably one of the most important off-season decisions that needs serious consideration.
Although the assumption is that Ryan Fitzpatrick will be re-signed, there has yet to be a final decision. With Fitzpatrick having his best career season, and the Jets improving their offense significantly, they need to address the Fitzpatrick and future quarterback situation.
Running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell are also free agents this year. Ivory has always been a huge asset to the Jets’ offensive line. Powell got a late start this season after battling an injury however, he made up for lost time and showed up when it mattered most.
Lastly, a question on everyone’s mind: Will the Jets put a franchise tag on Muhammad Wilkerson? With the upcoming draft and an improving 2016 season, the Jets need to make some free agent decisions.
Next: 3. Fixing the 30th worst special teams unit in the NFL
Jan 3, 2016; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills linebacker Kevin Reddick (51) dives to make a tackle on New York Jets wide receiver Jeremy Kerley (11) during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
3. Fixing the 30th worst special teams unit in the NFL
The one area we can all agree where the Jets are lacking is their special teams unit. A once mind blowing return specialist in Jeremy Kerley barely impacted the season at all.
Special teams coach Bobby April attempted to change players up this season in an attempt to alter a suffering special teams. Seeing Eric Decker on the field during punt returns screams desperate and was probably one of the many reasons why the Jets relieved him of his duties at the start of the off-season.
As per ESPN, the Jets’ special teams ranked 30th in the NFL. Upon the season ending game, the Jets cleaned house with April and assistant coach Steve Hagen.
At the time of this writing, the Jets have yet to announce a new special teams coach however, Bowles has ties with several coaches that may be available for hire. One thing is for sure, if the Jets want to get a grasp on this unit, they need to hire a head and assistant coach as soon as possible.
Next: 2. Cutting expensive players
Nov 8, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie (31) runs back a kick against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
2. Cutting expensive players
It’s no secret the Jets are running into salary cap problems this year. With several valuable players up for free agency this year, the Jets need to decide who is an asset and who is replaceable.
Antonio Cromartie has not proven himself this season and the Jets could save about $8 million by releasing him. Kerley had his worst season in receiving and rushing yards since he started with the Jets in 2011.
Sheldon Richardson is another questionable release. With his four-game suspension earlier this season and his pending court case, the Jets could release Richardson of his rookie contract in order to re-sign players like Wilkerson.
Out with the old, and in with the new is what I believe in. If you’re not valuable, you need to go and with the Jets needing salary cap wiggle room, they need to decide who makes the cut. That way, they can re-sign players and prepare for the draft.
Next: 1. Their lack of a true receiving tight end
Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (81) runs the ball during overtime against New England Patriots cornerback Leonard Johnson (34) at MetLife Stadium. New York Jets defeat the New England Patriots 26-20 in OT. Mandatory Credit: Jim O
1. Their lack of a true receiving tight end
Have you seen the Jets’ tight ends? Neither have I. If the Jets want to improve upon a 10-6 season, they need to address their tight end situation or lack thereof.
After tight ends Jace Amaro and Zach Sudfeld were lost to season ending injuries, Kellen Davis and Jeff Cumberland took on the role of starting tight ends. However, their starting roles were invaluable and unproductive to say the least.
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You know there is a problem when your best tight end isn’t even a tight end. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa did more damage to the position than Davis and Cumberland.
If you look at the league’s top performing teams, you would notice they have been utilizing tight ends like Greg Olsen and Rob Gronkowski incredibly well. If the Jets want to be the best, they need the best players and must address their tight end shortage.