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Top 5 observations about 2017 season after Patriots thrash Jets

By Steven Blush
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 31: Dion Lewis #33 of the New England Patriots carries the ball against Demario Davis #56 of the New York Jets during the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 31: Dion Lewis #33 of the New England Patriots carries the ball against Demario Davis #56 of the New York Jets during the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /
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FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 31: Dion Lewis #33 of the New England Patriots carries the ball against Demario Davis #56 of the New York Jets during the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 31: Dion Lewis #33 of the New England Patriots carries the ball against Demario Davis #56 of the New York Jets during the second half at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

There’s little to say after the Week 17 road loss by the New York Jets in subzero conditions to the New England Patriots.  Here are the top five observations on another losing season after the Jets got thrashed by the Patriots on New Year’s Eve.

There’s no doubt that the New York Jets love Todd Bowles and that they come to play for him almost every week.  But each game, different Jets make mind-boggling defensive miscues.  Against the New England Patriots, that list also included an inexcusable 12-men on the field call.  Who’s fault is that?

What we learned from this game is that Bryce Petty (19-36, 232) yards will never be that star QB to take this team to the promised land.  He didn’t exactly make the most of his three-game audition.  Plus, the Texas kid simply cannot endure frigid football conditions, and would probably succeed with some team in a dome.  (Do they still play arena football?)

We learned that we’ll likely never live to see the Christian Hackenberg era.  If the ex Penn State star didn’t warrant a look after Petty’s underwhelming recent performances, he never will.  Hack’s value has fallen so far, they can stash him on the practice squad — if they choose to go that route.

Worst of all, we learned that Muhammad Wilkerson literally quit on this team.  He demanded the “respect” of a big money deal.  In the end, he’ll be remembered as that former All-Pro who missed out on $50 million for showing up late, if at all, for meetings/practices/workouts. It’s a sad case of underachievement, worthy of academic study.  But his departure will result in mega salary space.

In tribute to this weekend’s sold-out reunion of American hardcore punk legends The Misfits at the LA Forum, here are five areas of examination of this torturous 2018 season — and why to look forward to next year.

Next: 5. Where Eagles Dare

MIAMI GARDENS, FL – NOVEMBER 06: Robby Anderson #11 of the New York Jets makes a catch during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL – NOVEMBER 06: Robby Anderson #11 of the New York Jets makes a catch during a game against the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 6, 2016 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

5. Where Eagles Dare

Beyond QB, there’s plenty to address on the offensive side of the ball.  There are reasons to be cheerful between receivers Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, and a returning Quincy Enunwa.  They may have found something in rookie Chad Hansen.  ArDarius Stewart rates an Incomplete.

Bilal Powell is one of the NFL’s top running backs.  It is baffling that he remains so underutilized.  He is a terrific blocker, an explosive off-tackle runner, and deadly on the swing pass.  Instead, he contributes in spurts and almost always gets positioned to run vertical and wide.  Elijah McGuire had his worst pro game against the Patriots with negative-six net yards.  But the rook outta Louisiana-Lafayette was clearly overwhelmed by the Arctic tundra playing conditions.

The offensive line finished 2017 ranked 26th in the 32-team league.  There’s work to be done, and questions to be answered.  The staff sounds excited by Brandon Shell at right tackle.  But Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Shell‘s young nephew had a shaky season, even before missing the final three games.  Left tackle Kelvin Beachum proved to be a stabilizing force, but he’s no long-term solution.  Props to Brian Winters, for gritting out the season after rupturing his ab muscles in Week 2!

Wesley Johnson was given a make-do contract as Nick Mangold‘s heir.  At one point this season, of the 34 centers who’d started multiple games, the Vanderbilt product was ranked 34th.  Possible long-term fixes may be found in under-age-30 free agents like Titan Brian Schwenke, Lion Travis Swanson or Redskin Spencer Long.  The Jets should try to retain Johnson as a versatile backup.

Next: 4. Violent World

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 24: Melvin Gordon #28 of the Los Angeles Chargers avoids the tackle attempt from Darron Lee #58 of the New York Jets during the second half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on December 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – DECEMBER 24: Melvin Gordon #28 of the Los Angeles Chargers avoids the tackle attempt from Darron Lee #58 of the New York Jets during the second half of an NFL game at MetLife Stadium on December 24, 2017 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

4. Violent World

So here’s the deal with the Jets defense.  If any defense allows an NFL-caliber QB enough time to throw the ball, they will shred your defense.  Give them five-plus seconds safe in the pocket, and they all look All-Pro.  But a sustained monster pass rush can rattle even Tom Brady.   That’s why they gave so much money to Muhammad Wilkerson.  Instead, defenses double-teamed Leonard Williams, and QBs had more than enough time to complete passes — or to cause the inevitable holding/interference calls that result from being forced to cover for inordinate amounts of time.

Darron Lee‘s unique skill set is not being effectively utilized at inside linebacker.  Yes, 2016’s top draft pick has been invaluable in stopping behemoth tight ends over the middle.  But the scrawny kid gets blown off the ball in every phase of the power game.  Say what you will, but Demario Davis was the season’s mad backer, followed by Jordan Jenkins, Josh Martin, and Julian Stanford.

Don’t be surprised if they can’t re-sign former Cowboy Morris Claiborne, who earned his right for a big-money deal after an injury-free season as a shut-down cornerback.  But are you comfortable going into 2018 with Buster Skrine, Juston Burris, Darryl Roberts, Rashard Robinson, Derrick Jones, Jeremy Clark, and Xavier Coleman?  Prior to 2017, Burris was considered building-block material.  But the former NC Stater got thoroughly dominated so badly and so often, that his Jet future remains in question.

Signings like DE Kony Ealy, OLB David Bass, and NT Mike Pennel had their moments.  But none have punched their ticket for a 2018 return. A good indication of the turnover will be in how many of those three names appear on next season’s opening roster.

Next: 3. Green Hell

3. Green Hell

Gang Green’ 2018 special teams unit was once again a nightmare.  They have not returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Flo Rida and Carly Rae Jepsen topped the charts.

First, the good news.  Lachlan Edwards has proven to be among GM Mike Maccagnan‘s finest draft picks.  The Aussie booter finished the season ranked No. 2 in the league, and he averaged 46.3 per punts against the Pats, under very difficult kicking conditions.

The team’s 2017 return-men simply couldn’t hold on to the damn ball.  Fans won’t soon forget Kalif Raymond‘s Week 2 punt-fumbling exhibition in Oakland, or his 5’7″ stand-in Jojo Natson‘s unique ability to amass negative return yardage!

Then there was the scenario involving Jeremy Kerley.  Not only did the once-reliable “human fair catch machine” fumble punts in his brief return this season, but he also became the first player to burn the front office twice.  First for his derisive comments about Chan Gailey when he got cut the first time.  Then with his not-quite-forthcoming P.E.D.-test positive, when he returned to Florham Park for a second chance this September.  The TCU product’s late-season four-game ban hurt this team and corresponded to the downward spiral.

Chandler Catanzaro has earned a new deal.   The two field goals he nailed in the subzero wind blasts at Foxboro were not easy — especially that 50-plus yarder, late in the first half.  His 40-yard miss was a case of him trying to make the best of a bad situation.  Having said that, there are tremendous kickers in this year’s draft, between Auburn’s Daniel Carlson, internet legend Florida’s Eddie Pinero, and Miami’s Michael Badgely.  Long snapper Thomas Hennessy has gotten the job done.

Next: 2. Hybrid Moments

FLORHAM PARK, NJ – JANUARY 21: New York Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan addresses the media during a press conference on January 21, 2015 in Florham Park, New Jersey. Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles were both introduced for the first time. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
FLORHAM PARK, NJ – JANUARY 21: New York Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan addresses the media during a press conference on January 21, 2015 in Florham Park, New Jersey. Maccagnan and Head Coach Todd Bowles were both introduced for the first time. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images) /

2. Hybrid Moments

Much of 2017’s narrative was over whether general manager Mike Maccagnan and head coach Todd Bowles deserved new contracts.  The Johnson brothers correctly chose to keep the brain trust intact.  But now these two men have targets on their backs to get their collective job done, asap.

Todd Bowles is a leader of men.  He’s also a solid defensive coordinator.  But he needs to blend the skill sets as an effective field general.  He really needs to develop his in-game coaching moves.  He at least to needs hire someone to help on-field with time-management and situational choices.

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Maccagnan got this job because of his film-room-rat acumen.  Now it’s time for the GM to deliver.  Between the high draft picks and close to a $100 million in cap space, there are a number of holes that need to be effectively plugged.

He did not find that diamond-in-the-rough QB in either Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg.  The sad truth is, they currently have a better hunky former Big 12 QB than Hackenberg on the roster in Wisconsin grad Joel Stave, just signed to a Futures-Reserve Contract.  But all is forgiven with a strong decision at QB, be it a high draft pick — along with a re-signed Josh McCown — or a proven free agent like Kirk Cousins or Teddy Bridgewater.

FWIW,  this team has not a legit pass rusher since they traded John Abraham to the Falcons over 12 years ago!   They think they’ve got something in the IR’d Dylan Donahue as that third-down passing-rushing outside linebacker.  But that’s what they thought about Lorenzo Mauldin.

Next: 1. Last Caress

FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 31: Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets looks on during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
FOXBORO, MA – DECEMBER 31: Head coach Todd Bowles of the New York Jets looks on during the second half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 31, 2017 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) /

1. Last Caress

If 2017 was a season of talent evaluation, then now’s the time to take the kid gloves off.  True, there were a few weeks of feel-good.  But there was also no excuse for losing seven of their final eight games.  And no excuse for week after week of backbreaking mental errors.  Do you think such a situation would be tolerated on a Bill Belichick team?  In other words, this team needs to develop a strong sense of character.  But that’s tough to teach.

With the sixth pick in April’s draft, they’ll lose out on can’t-miss prospects Sam Darold and Josh Rosen.  And it’s hard to imagine Denver president John Elway not selecting the Drew Brees/Brett Favre-esque Baker Mayfield.  So Trader Mike better have his draft board correct, between one of the aforementioned prospects falling, and other likely Sunday stars between Wyoming’s young gun Josh Allen and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (think Deshaun Watson meets Bridgewater).

Must Read: Breaking down key Jets players to keep or cut

The Jets should not convince themselves that this five-win team is a few tweaks away from an uphill climb. It was nice to hear Bowles complain about the 5-11 record.  The front office must remain in that bottom-feeder best-player-available mode.  Having said that, they need to anchor the O-line at center and complement whatever future QB with playmakers at RB, WR, and TE.  In terms of the defense, the front seven desperately needs three or four ferocious pass rushers.  Then there are the situations at cornerback and the entire kick return game.  So there’s a lot to get right this offseason.  Stay tuned!

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