Where do the New York Jets go from their early meltdown? The season is far from over but change needs to happen immediately.
It’s been a difficult four weeks for the New York Jets. True, they redeemed a loss to Buffalo from last year, but that is it. And even in that game, they gave up some terrible scores when coverage broke down, a theme that repeats itself every week. The last two weeks have been especially brutal. So we ask, where do the Jets go from here?
A few words on why this is happening after such a promising 2015-16 campaign. For one thing the schedule. These teams are an entire tier above what they played last year. They have a few things the Jets simply lack.
This year’s slate of opponents has top-tier talent: A.J. Green, Andy Dalton, Jeremy Maclin, Sammy Watkins, Jimmy Graham and Russell Wilson to name just a few. On the back end, Seattle has the Legion of Boom. True, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Brandon Marshall can beat cornerback Richard Sherman a few times, but he took them out when it counted. All he did was read Fitzpatrick—who, for some reason, was throwing the same back shoulder pass he had slung about four times already. That is fine against a rookie or a hack; not against a perennial Pro Bowler.
Sadly, the Jets do not possess this level of talent. That is difficult to admit but nonetheless true. Think about next week when they play the Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell. The Jets simply do not match up. They have good players; just not that good.
Second, these teams have been playing together for longer than many of the Jets’ players. Third, they have been playing together in the same system. This is the cohesion Bowles understands to be so important. No one on Seattle is getting their coverage botched.
The Jets shouldn’t either, but the system and some of the players are new to them.
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So, what next? The Jets need to shake some things up. Status quo is not an option.
Bowles should decide on a defensive scheme and stick to it. Go with a 3-4. The Jets need more bodies crowding the second level. Tight ends are killing them there. The 3-4 allows him to get more impact players on the field at once. The rookies especially have an abundance of energy and the Jets need this desperately.
A related suggestion is more radical but might yield tremendous dividends. The Jets are having a problem they have had for years: all their pass rush comes from inside and the first level. Move Darron Lee to the outside in the 3-4. This may weaken some of the run defense to the opposite side, but it will give him better pass rush lanes and give him better access to the tight end or running back coming into the flat. Possibly let him roam a bit and see how that works if Bowles wants him to take the tight end down the field.
Finally, it looks like they need to make a change in the safety corps. Possibly move cornerback Marcus Williams back there and put Juston Burris at corner with either Darrelle Revis or Buster Skrine (or both). Remove Marcus Gilchrist who misses too many tackles, rarely makes a play, and appears lost right now.
On the other side of the ball, the Jets need to integrate the rookie receivers now. Like the linebackers, these rookies bring energy and speed. The Jets desperately need an energy infusion. I am thinking especially of Robby Anderson and Charone Peake. Anderson had a bad drop Sunday, but he was open twice down the field. Save for subpar throws and a very good play by the Seahawks’ defensive back, they would have been long completions. At the very least he will force defenses to play deep and give all kinds of room at the second level. Peake looked very good today. Big, sure-handed and difficult to tackle.
The final suggestion: Give Geno Smith a chance. At the very least, if the team is not moving the football, bring Geno in to get something going and give Fitz a mental break. They can go back to him the following game.
If they choose not to go this route, then they need to have a clear idea of when enough is enough. Fitz has made some genuinely poor plays this season. It seems he is far too easy to read and he’s missing open receivers regularly. He is locking on to Marshall and virtually ignoring the other receivers.
Even his mental game looks out of sorts. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, he tossed a football up for grabs in the end zone on second down. There was no reason to let that ball go. Another game with multiple picks, they need to make a move.
The season is not lost. There is a long way to go and the Jets will improve. Whether they can improve enough to make a run at the playoffs is not clear. What is clear is that changes need to be made sooner rather than later.