The New York Jets knew the first six weeks of the would be tough. But after four games of a 16 game season, they’ve played average at best, and beat themselves week after week.
Oct 2, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) during a time out against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
It’s a good thing that I didn’t have to write a full review about last week’s MetLife fiasco against Seattle because it was a virtual repeat performance of the previous week’s fiasco in Kansas City. Outside their lockers, players of the New York Jets repeated all the righteous platitudes and media soundbites about needing to prevent mental errors. But on the field, the song remains the same.
At press time, we hear that the players are “pissed off,” and that they just “had their best practice of the season,” which is never a good sign. More likely, after a dismal 1-3 start, they’re dazed and confused.
Sunday afternoon, moribund Gang Green travel to Pittsburgh without Eric Decker or Brian Winters, and Darrelle Revis a game-time decision, and with Steelers star running back Le’veon Bell back from his four-game suspension with something to prove. The Western Pennsylvania fan base can smell the blood in the water. How do you like those odds?
Eight days later they face a revived Arizona Cardinals in a Monday Night Football national game at the University of Phoenix Stadium, with Carson Palmer to return back under center. How many more times?
This is a football team in crisis. The only upside is there are three-quarters of the season to get things right. Here’s an overview of the Jets’ 2016 season sp far at the quarter mark.
Next: 5. Communication Breakdown
Aug 11, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles during the 1st half of the preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium. The Jets won, 17-13. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
5. Communication Breakdown
The most troubling aspect of this dire situation involves second-year head coach Todd Bowles. Say what you will, but to date, but the second-year head coach’s messages have not been received.
The Jets now have the talent to hang with any team in the NFL. But they have yet to play up to their potential — from that mind-numbing final game of 2015, through these first four games of 2016.
There seems to be a bit of professional stubbornness, in that there’s few changes of personnel or scheme. Sure, the argument can be made that this a veteran-laden roster that does not need to be changed, but this is a talented team that has not delivered on the field, and that all comes back to coaching.
There are the same mind numbing similar errors week after week — especially in the secondary where Bowles himself was a safety. They have yet to respond strongly from the opening whistle, play remotely mistake-free, or adapt to game-time situations. There’s always the same; lack of disciple, and repeating the same breakdowns. At some point, there has to be accountability.
After the first four weeks, the offense is okay mentally, in terms of not being totally frustrated and torn apart at the seams. Those players have all shown willingness to go down with the ship with their bearded quarterback. But be very afraid about the defense, with every member of the secondary (a supposed strong suit) getting turned around left and right.
Bowles recently retorted that the coverages they are running are as simple as they come. Such are the warning signs that point to a possible fractured locker room. Jets fans have seen this movie before — so there’s little patience for such lack of execution.
Next: 4. Trampled Under Foot
Oct 2, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson (3) is pursued by New York Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson (96) in the second half at MetLife Stadium. Seattle Seahawks defeat the New York Jets 27-17. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
4. Trampled Under Foot
Let’s talk defense.
The Jets’ alleged star-studded defensive line has had some strong moments. But it has, in general, been an incredible disappointment. In the season opener, they sacked Andy Dalton seven times, then they showed discipline keeping Tyrod Taylor in the pocket vs. Buffalo, but a very average Alex Smith and an injured Russell Wilson completely picked them apart.
Muhammad Wilkerson and company were predicted to make short work of the Seahawks questionable offensive line. But Germain Ifedi, in his first pro start, dominated 2015 No. 1 draft choice Leonard Williams all game long. It’s no secret that “The Big Cat” out of USC has not had that breakout sophomore season everyone predicted back in training camp. Sheldon Richardson has continued to digress since last year’s notorious police incident and suspension.
Everyone’s still waiting for this front four to take over and impact the game — and cover for some of their other defensive deficiencies. These guys probably started to believe their own hype, kinda gotten a bit too full of themselves, so they need to deliver soon.
As for the secondary, there’s been so many blown coverages and miscommunications. They’ve been starkly exposed to the long ball, particularly by opposing bruising tight ends over the middle. It’s scarily reminiscent of that 2014 season when Dee Milliner and poor Antonio Allen, switched to cornerback, got lit up like a Christmas tree for 16 straight games.
With Darrelle Revis dealing with last week’s hamstring pull, the next two weeks on the road the Jets are looking at some combination of Buster Skrine and Marcus Williams on Antonio Brown and Larry Fitzgerald. Do those strike you as favorable matchups?
Calvin Pryor predicted to be a 2016 Pro Bowler, has admitted he hasn’t played up to snuff. But “The Louisville Slugger” can’t be happy over his excessive $25,000 fine for a hard-nosed hit on Chiefs cast-off Doug Baldwin after a 37-yard reception.
Next: 3. No Quarter
3. No Quarter
Brandon Marshall has made himself the team’s mouthpiece and straddles a fine line between TV talking head and locker room leader. Much of his play is brilliant, but his costly mistakes kill games with the regularity of his man-crush Fitzmagic. At the end of the day, both men share being the league’s only ten-year veterans to never sniff the playoffs.
Quincy Enunwa has been an early season star. But one has to worry with Eric Decker‘s torn rotator cuff likely a season ending injury if his growth will digress if he’s taken out his inside slot H-back role to replace the husband of country singer Jesse James.
There was lots of talk after the Jets went with three rookie wide receivers. The plan was to work them in slowly. But the Decker injury changes all that. Seventh-round draft pick Charone Peake and undrafted free agents Robby Anderson and recently injured Jalin Marshall have combined for 16 total catches, and rate an incomplete.
Talent-wise, former Buccaneers tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins may be general manager Mike Maccagnan’s best in-season acquisition to date. Current starter Kellen Davis is a master blocker with hands of stone. Recently signed Braedon Bowman did not shine in limited opportunities. Not quite sure what they see in the fourth tight end and special teamer, Packers castoff Brandon Bostick.
Bilal Powell has made a few nice off-tackle runs and key receptions. But he has coughed up the football way too many times, especially in light of his limited snap counts.
Matt Forte has been a revelation, not as old and broken down, as pigskin prognosticators predicted. But after last week’s game, he underwent x-rays on ribs that came up negative. So expect to see more of Powell, and possibly rookie signee Troymaine Pope.
Next: 2. Good Times, Bad Times
Oct 2, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) gets hit by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark (55) in the first quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports
2. Good Times, Bad Times
By holding out for big-time money, Ryan Fitzpatrick took on the lofty expectations of Jets Nation. There are more than a few NFL experts who believe the problem with the Jets is that offensive coordinator Chan Gailey was like a magician in 2015 with his ability to put Fitzpatrick in situations to succeed.
What they’re saying is that “The Amish Rifle” may be the starting lineup’s weakest link in terms of skill set — a rung or two below the talent pool on both offense or defense. And what we’ve seen in the first four games gives credence to such views.
With the NFL’s elite quarterbacks now earning $15-20 million per year, the Jets are proving that their original offer of $8 million per year over three years was right on target; if not downright generous. The 12 top paid quarterbacks in the league deliver in the clutch — they aren’t this erratic, or prone to soul-crushing mental lapses in key situations.
Fitzpatrick just can’t seem to take care of the football. He has made many bad throws, and way too many rookie-like poor reads, still staring at his intended targets and throwing into double and triple coverage.
There’s talk around Florham Park that jaw-breakin’ Geno Smith could see field time if there’s a 1-5 start. Don’t bet on that.
There are even press reports of them considering making offers for the Cowboys’ injury-decimated Tony Romo, and even of them kicking the tires on Texas train-wreck Johnny Manziel. How could hell be any worse?
Next: 1. Over the Hills and Far Away
Aug 27, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets GM Mike Maccagnan talks with New York Jets Owner Woody Johnson in the 1st half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports
1. Over the Hills and Far Away
To offer a sense of perspective, the Jets roster was so decimated by the shortsighted moves of the Terry Bradway-Mike Tannenbaum-John Idzik error, that there’s nowhere to go but up.
Maccagnan has vastly improved the roster and culture. That’s what matters most. Optimistic fans saw a 2016 playoff team. But most NFL insiders said, due to Gang Green’s brutal opening schedule, that this was an 8-8 or 7-9 team. And that’s likely what we’re still looking at.
But if this team is 1-5 going into the break, the greatest concern will be keeping this veteran roster from either tuning out the coaches creating some sort of mutiny. Due to salary issues and/or draft status, the players that are here are the ones that are gonna play. In the upcoming weeks, it will be interesting to see what these men are truly made of.
The coaching staff better prepare their men for battle, and fast — because as infamous ’80s New York Knicks washout Micheal Ray Richardson best put it: The ship be sinking.