The season that never was for the Jets

Dec 17, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles coaches against the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 17, 2016; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles coaches against the Miami Dolphins during the third quarter at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports /

Heading into the 2016-2017 season, New York Jets fans were optimistic and ready for “the next step.” Instead, the Jets backed us up a few hundred steps.

Here’s to a New Year, and the season that could’ve been, but never was. Coming off that ego-boosting 10-6 campaign that ended in classic heartbreak, the New York Jets had to prove their worth. They went out and picked up running back Matt Forte, and took steps towards a younger defense with drafting linebacker Darron Lee in the first round. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was coming off a career-and-franchise-best year in 2015, accumulating 31 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Of course, we all know of the most painful interceptions coming in Week 17.

One of the NFL’s top receiving duo would return, as Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker looked to lead New York to the Promise Land. The defense, that was superior in all aspects last year, were anticipated to repeat (look at us now). All in all, 2016 was thought to be “the year.” A healthy mix of veterans, and the efficiency of all skill positions last season were supposed to combine for a feared team. Instead, we got the 2012-2014 Jets all over again. Fans were set back into reality and told to sit back for a while yet again because it’s what we are accustomed to.

Injuries that plagued the once-promising season

The Jets were destroyed by injuries this season, having vital players at key positions take seats on the Reserve/Injured list. New York was tied with the San Diego Chargers for most-in-the-league on IR with 24 players. Here’s a list of who I believe served as the biggest hits of the season:

  1. Eric Decker, WR. On IR since Week 5
  2. Nick Mangold, C. On IR since Week 13
  3. Breno Giacomini, T. On IR since Week 7
  4. Marcus Gilchrist, S. On IR since Week 14
  5. Ryan Clady, T. On IR since Week 9
  6. Brian Winters, G. On IR since Week 15
  7. Erin Henderson, ILB. On IR since Week 6
  8. Matt Forte, RB. On IR since Week 16

Clearly, after starting 1-5, there was little-to-no hope for New York in regards to the playoffs, and overall as a franchise. By Week 9, with Decker, Henderson, Giacomini and Clady on IR, it was clear that this year would be tormented with injuries. It was just a feeling of “this is exactly what we DON’T need.”

Our offensive line was depleted, and with Fitz having a less-than-mediocre year already, there was no way this team would survive without Decker outside to compliment Brandon Marshall. Wide receiver Quincy Enunwa had proven himself early, but he’s no Decker; not just yet. The injuries later in the year from Week 10+ were just morale-killing. Seeing center Nick Mangold go down was painful to watch, as he has been one of if not the most influential and consistent Jet since being drafted in 2006.

The Fitzpatrick Experiment, and why it shouldn’t have been done

Front offices around the league were in awe after Brock Osweiler signed a huge contract with the Houston Texans. Four years, $72m with more-than-half of that guaranteed within two years. All for a backup quarterback that played well in a handful of games? This meant that quarterbacks, such as Ryan Fitzpatrick, were going to want to be paid. If someone like Osweiler gets paid, why wouldn’t someone who set a franchise-record gets paid too?

After what seemed like a million years spent of whining, and non-contact with teammates and coaches, Fitz finally got what he wanted. A one-year, $12M deal was agreed upon, and it was a good deal. Signing this guy, knowing he won’t be a franchise quarterback. But, he blew your opportunity of going 11-5 (imagine that) and hitting the playoffs in stride. He’s known for being extremely inconsistent, and wherever Fitz lands, he does exactly what he showed in New York. One good year, filled with disappointment (Week 17), but “he’s done enough to earn another opportunity.” Clearly, he’s made great progress with his opportunity this year (kidding).

We, as fans, have to relax and know we can’t be optimistic with this team

More from The Jet Press

As foreshadowed with the Fitzpatrick segment, Jets fans have to realize that we can’t be optimistic. No matter what, you can’t be. This season should’ve been expected, right? The 2015 dream year that was disrupted by the ghosts of the Jets’ past gave fans a hint of what was to come. They did a great job last year of building us up to yet again tear us down, and why would this year be anything different?

I wrote an article earlier in October about the culture of the Jets, and why we’ve turned “same old Jets” into the team’s slogan. This season was a prime example. Veterans like Forte and Marshall promised a lot before the campaign went underway.

Forte came to New York to win a title this year. Clearly, that hasn’t come to form. Is it too late? Yeah, maybe just a bit. Marshall came out and challenged who I believe is the best receiver in football; Antonio Brown. The wager was for who had the most receiving yards at seasons-end. Marshall wagered his Porsche, with Brown wagering his Rolls Royce. Stupid? Yes. Winnable? No way. Both are at two different ends of the spectrum. Brown is catching passes from a Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback, and Marshall is working with a quarterback as inconsistent as my college’s internet connection.

The whole wager and overall idea of this made me mad. Why? Because it was unnecessary. Focus on the season. Focus on making the NFL Playoffs once in your career. Fix what you broke last season; Jets fans’ hearts (I just did that. Deal with it).

This year versus last

Everyone talked about the dominance of the Jets’ defense last year. Darrelle Revis slowed down but was still efficient. The defensive line was stacked. Damon Harrison, Sheldon Richardson, Muhammad Wilkerson, and now the addition of then-rookie Leonard Williams. David Harris led the team yet again in tackles, defining the aging-theory. All around, the experiment of “built to win now” was proving to be a success. What happened this year? Harrison went across-the-stadium to the New York Giants, Richardson and Wilkerson played undisciplined, and the secondary was sour. REVIS JUST GOT HIS FIRST PICK OF THE YEAR! Sorry, I’m writing this while watching the game. Almost a pick-six! Back to the article.

Regression of the secondary

Revis’ age showed this year, as he was beaten off the ball left and right to guys like Chris Hogan and Terrelle Pryor. Buster Skrine proved that he’s really not an every-play corner, and is more suitable back in the dime package. Marcus Gilchrist was absolutely horrible this year, as I saw him shag-off of help coverage more than everyone in the league combined. Also, Marcus Williams has downplayed all year. After leading the team in interceptions (6) last year, Williams has two. But he was picked on all season, especially against Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers. On the third play of that game, Williams was beaten by Sammie Coates for a 72-yard touchdown on a go-route.

Regression of the defensive front

Along with the atrocious play from the secondary, came that of the defensive line. As stated before, Richardson and Wilkerson were unmotivated all year and undoubtedly undisciplined. With social media and missing team meetings, both proved they are not leaders of this team. That being said, I was so happy for “Big Cat” Leonard Williams, who won the team’s MVP. Most-deserving, for sure. This kid is going to be a monster, as he’s already showing flashes of greatness. They finished with 24 sacks compared to last year’s 39.

But, there was something to like about the season; the young guys

As the season came to a close, I continued to see some great play by the young guns on this team. Here’s my top three:

     1. Running Back Bilal Powell

Powell scorched fantasy teams around the league after getting the starting nod Week 14 against the San Fransisco 49ers. He had his most productive season as a Jet since 2013. This year, he rushed for 600 yards on the dot on 109 carries and three touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards-a-carry. In 2013, Powell had 176 rushes for 697 yards and a lone touchdown, averaging 4 yards-a-carry. Although there were more touches in 2013, Powell did a lot more with fewer carries than he did three years ago. Receiving-wise, the back had a career-high 53 receptions for 373 yards and one touchdown. The Jets need to be smart with Powell, and please please please, utilize him next year. I’d love to have Powell start, and part ways with Forte.

      2. Linebacker Darron Lee

After picking this kid up in the first round, I was ecstatic. I thought “he’s a different linebacker. Fast and smaller but strong. He can learn so much from David Harris.” Lee played in 12 games and started eight. Accumulating 66 combined tackles, Lee was tied with Leonard Williams for second on the team in the category. Early in the year, Lee was playing hyped, but a bit too hyped. I mean, I would be too. You’re a rookie, playing in New York, living the dream and getting paid big bucks for it, as well. But the over-aggressiveness from Lee costed him in pass coverage, where he really struggled this season. He couldn’t match up against tight ends, and when getting mismatched against receivers, it wasn’t pretty.

      3. Wide Receiver Quincy Enunwa

Enunwa emerged immediately in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals, and followed that up with another strong performance against the Buffalo Bills in Week 2. Combined, Enunwa had 13 catches for 146 yards and a touchdown. He would only have five-or-more catches three times after those weeks, as the story of his season turned from special, to inconsistent. The inconsistency is mostly to blame on the quarterback play. Enunwa was catching passes from three out of the four quarterbacks on the Jets’ roster. He, like Darron Lee, is another hybrid player on the Jets’ roster. It’s been said all year that Enunwa can fly by linebackers and outmuscle corners. He put it on display, tallying 58 receptions for 857 yards and four touchdowns. With Brandon Marshall sitting out Week 17, Enunwa claimed the top-receiver spot for the Jets in the 2016-2017 season.

Next: Bills vs Jets: Top 5 takeaways from Week 17 matchup

So, it’s all over…

This was by far the fastest I’ve felt a season go by. I want to thank everyone that has taken the time out of your day to go over and read my articles, as you all are what I love about this career path. Now, it’s time to forget about this season and work towards researching and talking about the next. I wish you all a Happy New Year, and can’t wait to write more for you in 2017. And, even though this wasn’t the season we all hoped for, we are all fans of the Jets. That being said, go Jets, and give us something to look forward to in the years to come!