Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; New York Jets players huddle during the game against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Jets are preparing to continue their momentum of last year into the upcoming regular season. Here are their top five key issues to address in 2016.
As we get closer to training camp for the 2016 season all of the 32 teams around the NFL are excited about what this season can bring them. However for fans of the New York Jets, there are many questions that have fans hoping for a playoff appearance, yet cautious of over hyping where the franchise is at.
2015 saw, in many ways a paradox of what this franchise always tends to offer its fans. There was the record breaking season of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, yet when a playoff spot was for the taking in the final game, his three fourth quarter interceptions had a lot to do with why the Jets lost. While history shows that the Jets won double-digits for just the ninth time since the merger, when the money was on the line and fans were hoping for a win in the weeks final game, the “same old Jets” moniker that seems to always haunt this franchise, reared its head again with an inexplicable loss to a very beatable opponent.
So where does that leave us for 2016? What needs to happen for the Jets to get past the painful reminders of past failures and grab the opportunity that a new season presents? Here are five key issues that the Jets need to have answers for if they are to earn a playoff spot in 2016.
Next: 5. Can they consistently stop the run?
Dec 19, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Darren McFadden (20) runs as New York Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison (94) defends during the first quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
5. Can they consistently stop the run?
History will look at the overall results of the 2015 run defense and see that overall the Jets did an excellent job stopping the run, allowing just 3.6 YPC and ranking second in the NFL by allowing just 1,335 yards on the season.
However – a closer look shows something more troubling. In five of the Jets six losses they were run on consistently, averaging 125 rushing yards per game in those losses.
Latavius Murray, LeSean McCoy and Ryan Mathews set season-highs in yardage or YPC in running for 100 yards in wins against the Jets in 2015, while Darren McFadden also recorded a 100-yard game in the Jets win over the Dallas Cowboys.
Part of that was due to the Jets’ inability to consistently set the edge, along with lacking overall speed at the LB position.
Hopefully the drafting of Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins at the linebacker position will help address those needs but until we see actual results and the speed backs that hurt the Jets in 2015 held in check, this will be a question most will have.
Next: 4. Who will help Darrelle Revis defending the pass?
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets corner back Darrelle Revis (24) warms up before a game against the Tennessee Titans at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
4. Who will help Darrelle Revis defending the pass?
Despite re-signing one of the best all-time cover cornerbacks in the NFL in bringing Darrelle Revis home to the Jets, their inability to shut down the opponents top wide receiver on a consistent basis killed them in 2015.
Going back to the Buffalo game again in the season finale, the Bills only had one legit weapon on offense and time and time again wide receiver Sammy Watkins was wide open.
DeAndre Hopkins, Rob Gronkowski and Michael Crabtree recorded 100+ yard receiving games in wins against the Jets, while Jarvis Landry (165 yards), Donte Moncrief (122 yards) and Allen Hurns (122) recorded season-highs in yardage.
Odell Beckham Jr. 149 receiving yards in the Jets’ overtime win over the New York Giants, was his second highest total of the season, while Allen Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars also recorded a 100-yard receiving game with his teammate in the Jets’ 28-23 win.
Marcus Williams, Dee Milliner, along with last offseason’s free agent pick up Buster Skrine and 2014 third round draft pick Dexter McDougle are all candidates that are looking to replace Antonio Cromartie as the starter opposite Revis as well as the slot corner – which has become one of the most important positions on defense.
Next: 3. Will they fix woes on special teams?
3. Will they fix woes on special teams?
It’s no secret that the special teams unit of the Jets in 2015 under recently fired Bobby April was awful. Only two teams averaged more yards allowed per punt return than the Jets 12.7 last season, while the Jets were also just one of two teams to allow multiple TD returns on punts.
The Jets’ own return game struggled just as much, as they ranked 26th in the NFL, averaging just 20.8 yards per kick return.
Brant Boyer is the fifth different special teams head coach the Jets have hired in the last five seasons. Boyer comes over after being the special teams assistant on the Indianapolis Colts last season, which isn’t exactly a screaming success story to put on his resume, as the Colts were the only team to allow more punt returns for touchdowns than the Jets (3) in 2015.
Boyer certainly will have his work cut out for him, otherwise the Jets won’t see much production for a consecutive season at special teams as it would tremendously help their overall field positioning.
Next: 2. Handling new contracts
Nov 29, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) reacts to the crowd in the second half of the Jets 38-20 victory over the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
2. Handling new contracts
This one is no secret and should come as a shock to no one that it’s on this list. Fitzpatrick’s contract situation is not the only issue they are dealing with right now, as Pro Bowl defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson has refused to sign his franchise tag for the 2016 season, hoping that the Jets will sign him to a long-term deal.
While Fitzpatrick’s future success is much more questionable than Wilkerson’s, both players are major components on both sides of the ball, who without in 2016 they suffer and will almost certainly cost them wins.
This leaves fans and the media equally wondering just how serious and dedicated this front office is to winning. Previous regimes have watched key players leave because of their inability to properly prepare for the upcoming free agents and mishandled the salary cap, which has led to the inconsistency of always having to restart the rebuilding process over again.
In today’s NFL, in order to consistently win you must always be aware of limiting the money spent in free agency while trying to secure the payroll and future of impact players drafted.
While it’s impossible to hold on to all the impact players a team drafts, (especially a team that consistently drafts well) going through an offseason where uncertainty is a constant because of salary cap space, can really damage the psyche of a team. The Jets certainly do not have the historic success to point to that would cause comfortable exhaling from their fans that they have the situation under control.
As we draw closer and closer to training camp, a final decision has to be made either way, or it will continue to provide distractions that are very unnecessary and makes the Jets look foolish.
Next: 1. Conquer the same old Jets syndrome
Dec 13, 2015; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets fans cheer at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won, 30-8. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
1. Conquer the same old Jets syndrome
While some coaches have acknowledged this exists, many have shrugged it off as “superstition” or ignored it completely.
The fact remains that this franchise has not advanced to the Super Bowl since Super Bowl III, which was two seasons before the NFL and AFL merged.
While the reasons for that are many, the overall aura surrounding this franchise, its fans and the media always cause this term to rise up and show its face at various points during the season.
So how exactly does a front office and franchise deal with this? Until the Jets understand that this isn’t a “curse” or “mystical something” but rather the result of poor execution, bad trades, bad drafts and horrendous personnel decisions, then this will never end.
This is a difficult opinion to explain because of its vagueness, but losses like the one to end the season in Buffalo last year was typical “same old Jets syndrome”.
So how does that go from being superstition to one that the team can actually conquer? The only way that can be done is with consistent winning and a championship. Just like the “Curse of the Bambino” wasn’t laid to rest until the Boston Red Sox won a title, the “SOJ Curse” won’t go away until the Jets win a Super Bowl.
The one thing that would deal with this now until the Jets eventually win again, is to remember that drafting well, keeping impact players, making solid player personnel moves and taking advantage of things right in front of you (like winning the final game of the season on the road to clinch a playoff spot) are things the Jets players and current regime can actively do to finally put this term to bed.
Unfortunately until they do, losses like Buffalo last year, complications with re-signing Fitzpatrick and Wilkerson and not building on the success of last season, will cause fans and media alike to wonder “What is exactly different from this regime, than the “same of Jets” of the past?