NY Jets: Top 10 observations so far this offseason

Dec 28, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) runs in the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Minnesota Vikings win 13-9. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 28, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) runs in the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Minnesota Vikings win 13-9. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /
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Dec 28, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) runs in the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Minnesota Vikings win 13-9. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Jets have had an interesting offseason so far but there still is a whole of work ahead for everything to fall into place heading into next season.

The Jets headed into the offseason after posting a 10-6 record and just a game shy of making the NFL Playoffs. They were so close to earning a Wild Card berth but unfortunately fell short when it mattered most. It was in Week 17 at Buffalo against their AFC East rival Bills that saw their season come to an end with everything on the line.

Related Story: Jets make smart decision acquiring Steve McLendon

Whether you blame quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for his terrible game in the Jets’ season finale or their lack of overall pass rush, either way, it left players with a stern reminder that they weren’t meant to play with the big boys. It’s the harsh reality that as they enter the offseason, they have many areas of need to upgrade in order to push the envelope next season.

The Jets made some nice moves so far but still have one big question mark to the quarterback position which they probably didn’t envision going down like it has thus far. Regardless, general manager Mike Maccagnan continues to work his magic in his sophomore year with the Jets to have this team go the distance in 2016.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 observations so far this offseason for the Jets.

Next: 10. Commitment to the ground game

Jan 3, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) warms up before the Chicago Bears game against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

10. Commitment to the ground game

Towards the end of last season, running back Chris Ivory fizzled out and saw a decline in his contributions to the Jets’ offense. Combine that with the time that Bilal Powell missed due to injury and it’s not hard to see that the ground game of the Jets became non-existent as they relied too much on their passing attack towards the end of last year.

Of course it was great to see Fitzpatrick set a franchise record of 31 touchdowns last season, but the Jets’ offense became too one-dimensional and it cost them in the long run. Against the Bills, nothing worked on offense as they passed too much and stopped establishing the run.

Without the proper adjustments in that game, the Jets lost and it ended their season early. Now that Ivory bolted via free agency to the Jacksonville Jaguars, it left the Jets with an opportunity to bolster the position. As they brought in running backs Matt Forte and Khiry Robinson, it looks like they will return to their roots of being a ground-and-pound football team.

If the Jets don’t get Fitzpatrick back and have to resort to other options, the Jets’ offense should be fine with such talented running backs leading the charge. If they stay committed to the ground game, it could be what wins them plenty of football games next season due to having a more balanced offensive attack.

Next: 9. Getting rid of the dead weight

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

9. Getting rid of the dead weight

From Antonio Cromartie to Jeff Cumberland, the Jets made wise decisions in releasing some of their players that held the team back last season. Even wide receiver Jeremy Kerley proved to be completely ineffective last season in the opportunities he got as it made sense to get rid of all this dead weight now and go in a better direction for 2016..

It will be great to see cornerback Marcus Williams get a shot this summer in earning a starting spot next to Darrelle Revis since he’s a solid up and coming defender. The situation the Jets had at tight end was pretty bad last season as all they did was block and not add a nice dimension on offense.

While offensive coordinator Chan Gailey primarily uses his tight ends to block, it’s easy to see that maybe if he had better talent at the position, he could have incorporated more plays to have them contribute as decent receiving options. Regardless, now the Jets can either grab an upgrade at tight end in free agency or even draft one to add a more reliable option at the position.

At the end of the day, it’s all about business. It is sad to see players like Cromartie, Cumberland and Kerley go but it had to be done for the overall benefit of the team.

Next: 8. Re-hauling special teams

Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Jets punter Ryan Quigley (4) during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

8. Re-hauling special teams

The special teams of the Jets was absolutely abysmal. Between missed tackles, terrible field positioning due to the lack of deep punts and injuries with kicker Nick Folk, it made this unit one of the worst in recent memory. It was so bad, the Jets had no other choice but to release special teams coordinator Bobby April.

Now that they hired a much better person for the job in special teams coordinator Jeff Hammerschmidt, the Jets can begin re-hauling special teams to be a strength again. Hopefully Folk comes back fine next season and doesn’t miss a beat but the Jets also need to add another punter or two this summer to find someone better than Ryan Quigley.

With six picks in this year’s draft, it would also be a smart choice to add a versatile kickoff/punt returner to the unit. Someone with speed and an ability to break tackles with the threat of also being able to take it to the house.

The Jets failed to score a single touchdown last year on special teams which is something they need to do a few times in 2016 if they want to win close games against their tougher opponents that await them. Special teams is a very important aspect of football that the Jets missed out big time last season due to inconsistency and a lack of overall talent.

Next: 7. Geno Smith's year off

Nov 1, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) reacts after throwing an interception against the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

 7. Geno Smith‘s year off

Whether you want him to get another shot with the Jets as a starter or absolutely think he’s the worst quarterback you’ve ever seen, a year off was actually beneficial for Smith. Yes, he suffered a broken jaw altercation with a teammate last summer that raised eyebrows on his character and leadership but he for the most part was able to be get away from the spotlight for a bit.

He got to see better quarterback play thanks to Fitzpatrick and also learn Gailey’s spread offense from the sideline. With all this uncertainty at the time of this writing with Fitzpatrick and his return to the Jets, Smith could be ready to get one last shot in the final year of his rookie contract to prove he can get the job done.

Many have seen enough of Smith to never want to see him be a starter again but if Fitzpatrick doesn’t return, the Jets might have to ride with what they have on their roster. While quarterback Bryce Petty needs another year or so before he can get in the starting quarterback conversation, perhaps the Jets want to run an open competition and let the best player earn the spot this upcoming summer.

Regardless, a year off more than likely helped Smith’s confidence and humbled him to see things through a different light. Either way, the longer Fitzpatrick waits to decide what he ultimately wants to do, the more probability the Jets have of heading in a different direction at quarterback. Perhaps even with Smith in mind heading into next season.

Next: 6. Jets don't know what will happen with Wilkerson

Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) chases Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (17) during the second half at MetLife Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

6. Jets don’t know what will happen with Muhammad Wilkerson

The Jets gave defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson the franchise tag that will at the very least give them more time to come up with a long-term deal between now and July 15th. After that, he will undoubtedly hit free agency next offseason after playing his final year with the Jets.

One can only imagine the frustration Wilkerson must have with the Jets and the fact that for years now, they have avoided giving him the kind of contract he’s seeking. Now, he’s not worth J.J. Watt kind of money but he’s easily one of the top defensive ends of the NFL and rightfully deserves a nice pay-rise and long-term stability with the team that drafted him back in 2011.

So far in his career, Wilkerson has totaled 184 tackles, 36.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles and 21 passes defensed. He’s been nothing but consistent with the Jets both on and off the field but at this moment, they’re not sure what the end result will be with him.

Time is ticking and hopefully the Jets can come to an agreement on a nice new deal for Wilkerson to keep him around as he enters the best years ahead of him in his football career. Otherwise, he will be playing for another team next offseason and the Jets would have nothing to show for it as he would be an unrestricted free agent.

Next: 5. Pass rush still needs to be addressed

Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets inside linebacker Demario Davis (56), New York Jets defensive end Leonard Williams (92) and New York Jets inside linebacker David Harris (52) rush the line In the first half at MetLife Stadium.The Jets defeated the Dolphins 38-20. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

5. Pass rush still needs to be addressed

So far in free agency, the Jets have acquired defensive tackle Steve McLendon and defensive end Jarvis Jenkins. Both are good players at their respective positions but again, the pass rush of the Jets still needs to be addressed, especially with their linebacker corps.

The Jets have had visits with potential free agent linebackers but they should highly consider using the “best player available” mentality in this year’s draft to add more to their overall pass rush. They will have a tough decision to make in this year’s draft whether to go in the direction of drafting the top offensive lineman available or linebacker.

If it’s anything the current Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos proved to the football world is that defense wins championships. While many believe it would be a waste for the Jets to once again go defense with their No. 20 overall pick, they might have to if they want to field a better defense next season and draft an impact player.

Last year, it was evident the Jets didn’t get to the quarterback fast enough or even effectively. Considering as a team they only posted 39 sacks, the Jets need to get to the quarterback in a consistent and efficient manner to be competitive next season. Especially in the tough AFC East when a certain New England Patriots team has a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady around for the next few years that thrives with the extra time he usually gets in the pocket against the Jets’ defense.

Next: 4. RG3 or Colin Kaepernick?

Oct 18, 2015; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) prepares to throw the ball against the Baltimore Ravens during the first quarter at Levi

4. RG3 or Colin Kaepernick?

So far this offseason, the Jets entertained the idea of acquiring quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick. It got to the point where the Jets even spent a few days with Griffin to get an idea on whether or not he would fit into their offensive plans for next season and beyond.

For the Jets to acquire Kaepernick it would require a hefty trade to bring him to the city that never sleeps. Whether it’s RG3 or Kaepernick though, the Jets don’t have many free agent options to pick and choose from. With the recent news that Griffin is also visiting with the Cleveland Browns, if the Jets don’t see themselves having Fitzpatrick as a realistic option for next season, they need to decide what to do immediately.

It remains to be seen if either RG3 or Kaepernick would be viable options for the Jets’ offense next season but at the end of the day, more options are better than less options with the most important position on the team. The Jets could go in either direction and should be fine offensively next year since Gailey is an expert at making his playbook catered to the strengths of his players.

No matter what happens, time is ticking as to what the final answer will be at quarterback next season for the Jets. If they aren’t too confident with their in-house quarterbacks of Smith and Petty, they need to act now before other teams take the risk on either one of these aforementioned quarterbacks.

Next: 3. The allure of trading Wilkerson

Nov 12, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) lines up against Buffalo Bills tight end Matthew Mulligan (82) in the 1st quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

3. The allure of trading Wilkerson

The allure of trading Wilkerson has been a topic of conversation this offseason for the Jets and possible suitors. He’s coming off the best season yet of his career in which he totaled 39 tackles and 12.0 sacks and was a leader on the Jets’ defense.

Of course he’s coming off a broken leg injury but he’s already ahead in the rehab process and shouldn’t miss a beat next season, no matter where he ends up playing at. Truth of the matter is the Jets could get a whole lot back in return for trading Wilkerson to address their needs at offensive line and linebacker.

As mentioned earlier, the Jets need to act fast on working out some kind of mutual agreement with Wilkerson before July 15th, otherwise he’ll play to his franchise tag and certainly be on the way out of the organization via free agency next season.

If contract talks continue to not produce the ideal situation for the Jets, it would make sense for them to trade him now before getting nothing in return later. It would be unfortunate considering everything Wilkerson has done for the franchise but at the end of the day, whatever is best for the overall benefit of the team is the most important aspect when it comes to situations like these.

Next: 2. A smart offseason so far in year two

Dec 6, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan before a game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2. A smart offseason so far in year two

Maccagnan had a brilliant offseason last year and so far in his second year with the Jets, picked up exactly where he left off. An NFL offseason is where a general manager and his scouts shine as so far, he’s made smart acquisitions via free agency and has sent his scouts to strategic college Pro Days to find hidden gems for the Jets.

Everything Maccagnan did last season paid off well for the Jets as it helped them achieve a 10-6 record which was impressive but it wasn’t enough for them to earn a ticket to the playoffs. That’s where year two and of course year three of a new regime comes in to play to prove if all these offseason moves and acquisitions over the years pay off in the long run.

It takes time but unfortunately, being in the media of New York isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination. Maccagnan has done a fantastic job so far and even addressed many offseason questions to the media via his latest conference call.

Many have the utmost confidence in Maccagnan to once again have the Jets be winners in the offseason. Of course the best teams are built via the draft and based on what he did last year, there is a whole lot of excitement to what kind of players will be selected for the Jets based on his evaluations.

Next: 1. The bearded wonder and his future

Dec 27, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) throws a pass during the fourth quarter against the New England Patriots at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

1. The bearded wonder and his future

Not even in the wildest dreams of the Jets did they believe contract negotiations would be as bad as they are now with Fitzpatrick. Everyone seemingly thought it would be a quick deal to make between both sides but unfortunately, it’s been far from that.

It’s hard to figure out exactly how this will all transpire between Fitzpatrick and the Jets. On one side, the team knows that he put up a superb season thanks to the situation they built around him. From upgraded receiving targets, an offensive playbook he’s very familiar with and the fact that he thrived from his surroundings all led to the best season of his career.

The reality of the situation is he’s 33-years-old entering the final few years of his career. Of course he’s going to want to secure as much money since he knows what he did last season for the Jets, but at the same time needs to understand he won’t have any kind of replicated success anywhere else. The Jets are a perfect fit for him since it’s not always about money when it comes to success.

More jets: Jets should not draft quarterback in first round

From wanting more money, gaining potential interest from other teams to even considering retirement, this offseason has once again been about the quarterback situation of the Jets. The future of the bearded wonder is cloudy but hopefully sometime soon, everyone will have a final answer so the offseason can continue its path towards the start of a hopefully bright year for the Jets. One of which has Fitzpatrick under center ready to continue the momentum he had from last season. Otherwise, it’s back to the drawing board at quarterback for Gang Green.