The less said about the 2016 New York Jets season the better. In 2015, the Jets under first year HC Todd Bowles compiled a 10-6 record with a loss in Week 17 to the Rex Ryan-led Buffalo Bills denying them a play off appearance. Prior to 2016, the focus in New York was surrounding Ryan Fitzpatrick’s contract situation as ownership were reluctant to hand the QB who dazzled in 2015 a long-term extension. Front offices fears came true as the Jets collapsed in 2016 finishing last in the AFC East for only the 2nd time since 2006 and going 5-11.
2017 will be the third and potentially final year of the Todd Bowles-era for the Jets. The team looks to be in full ‘tank mode’ with the departures of Brandon Marshall, Darrelle Revis, Nick Mangold, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Calvin Pryor, Marcus Gilchrist, Nick Folk and Breno Giacomini. The 2018 NFL Draft class looks set to be loaded with premiere QB talent (read my article on the 2018 QB Class here!) and the Jets look primed to do all they can to pick first in the draft. This is now being referred to as ‘Scam for Sam’ the same way teams tried to ‘Suck for Luck’ prior to the 2012 Draft.
In true tank mode fashion, the Jets signed veteran journeyman Josh McCown (his 11 NFL teams in 16 years). In seasons where Josh McCown has started more than 3 games, the teams position in the Draft was: 2004- 3rd; 2005- 8th; 2006- 10th; 2008- 4th; 2014- 14th; 2015- 1st; 2016- 2nd; 2017- 1st. Bryce Petty was drafted in the 4th round of 2015 and has struggled to adjust to NFL Defenses after playing in Baylor’s spread offense. He notably admitted that he could not identify the MLB in NFL Defenses early in his career. Petty has looked good in small batches so far in the pre-season, but needs to learn how to read NFL Defenses. He doesn’t have a cannon but has the arm talent to be a competent NFL starter. Christian Hackenberg is entering his 2nd season as a largely unknown commodity after not playing a down in 2016. The 51st pick in 2016, he was the 4th QB selected and taken ahead of Dak Prescott and Jacoby Brissett. Hackenberg has the most arm-talent of any QB on this roster and has the ability to take deep shots that the other two could only dream of. Jets fans will hope his abysmal accuracy has improved since leaving Penn State.
The Jets have the most talent-poor roster in the NFL and their Offense comes in dead-last with a significant gap to the next worse. It’s difficult viewing looking at this WR and TE group. Hopefully rookie 5th round TE Jordan Leggett can develop quickly, however, it has historically been difficult for rookie tight ends to be productive. The New York Jets’ starting TE is Austin Seferian-Jenkins who is suspended the first 2 games of 2017 and underwhelmed for three years in Tampa Bay. WR Quincy Enunwa had a breakout 2016 campaign but won’t feature in 2017 after undergoing back surgery. The Jets starting WRs at the time of writing are: Robby Anderson, Jalin Marshall (both undrafted in 2016) and rookie 3rd round pick ArDarius Stewart. Recently signed Lucky Whitehead suffered a broken foot and unfortunately for Jets fans it looks likely be a horror show on Offense in 2017.
The running back position is the only area of remote strength on this Jets Offense. Bilal Power is a good, starting-NFL caliber RB while Matt Forte can still be productive in the twilight of his career. Based on the likely state of the offensive line, both will need to excel in pass blocking this season to keep whatever QB lines up under center upright after most plays. And now for the O-Line….
Long-time center Nick Mangold will be replaced by Wesley Johnson. He started 8 games in 2016 and struggled in both pass protection and run blocking. RG Brian Winters was serviceable in his 13 starts in 2016 while LG James Carpenter (25th overall pick by Seattle in 2011) played well for the first time in 2016. He was a reliable presence in pass protection and looks to be reacting well to a change of scenery in New York. Newly signed LT Kelvin Beachum had an excellent 2014 season as the Pittsburgh Steelers LT but failed spectacularly at LT for the Jaguars last season. The Jets will hope he can re-find his form. Right tackle Brandon Shell started the final three games on 2016 and looked ok as a rookie. The jury is still out on whether he will be able to cope with speedy edge rushers as I view him more as a starting guard than tackle.
Defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers will continue to call the plays in 2017 after HC Todd Bowles relinquished the responsibility late in 2016. The Jets play a base 3-4 Defense, however, they increasingly operated out of a 4-3 front in 2016 with Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson operating as outside DEs with Leonard Williams shifting inside. While the Jets overall roster is talent-poor, they have some of the games most explosive young pass rushers with Wilkerson (aged 27) Richardson (aged 26) and Williams (aged 23). Mo Wilkerson took a step back in 2016 after being one of the most dynamic pass rushers in the NFL between 2012-2015. Steve McLendon is a good interior run-stuffer who excels occupying gaps.
Richardson is technically a starting OLB, despite playing DE in nickel and dime packages. Jordan Jenkins will be the other starting OLB. He is an effective pass rusher but struggles to set the edge against the run. He started 14 games as a rookie and will hope to beat his 2.5 sacks in 2016. Starting at inside linebacker will be 2nd year Darron Lee and 6th year veteran DeMario Davis. Davis spent last season with the Browns before returning to New York. Davis’ role will be to line up across from tight ends as he excels in coverage but has struggled in all other aspects as a linebacker. This was a guy who Rex Ryan made Ray Lewis comparisons to as a rookie. Darron Lee was drafted 20th overall in 2016 (a reach in my opinion) and was dreadful as a rookie. Lee was always a better athlete than football player and that showed up as he went missing against the run and was a liability in coverage. Spencer Paysinger is an average backup if Lee under performs in 2017.
No more Revis Island which looked like it had been hit by a deadly plague in 2016. The Jets’ answer was to sign Morris Claiborne from the Cowboys. He was the 6th overall pick in 2012 but has routinely struggled with injuries before having a career year last season. Marcus Williams started 4 games in 2016 but is a below-average CB who other teams will likely pick on and target. The feisty Buster Skrine will return to play in the slot in 2017, while 2016 4th round selection Juston Burris might challenge Williams for the starting gig. At safety, the Jets will likely start their first two selections with 6th overall pick Jamal Adams (who I loved coming out of college, read our scouting report here!) starting at SS and 39th overall pick Marcus Maye playing the center fielder free safety position. Both have a big task ahead trying to form an effective duo while adjusting to the speed of the NFL game. If both play well it could be the start of a very long partnership at safety.
Players to watch
Jordan Leggett – I really liked Leggett coming out of Clemson and this New York Jets team (in the first year of what appears to be a complete franchise overhaul) needs to find play makers for the future.
Darron Lee – It’s too early to use the word “bust” especially as he started as a rookie last season. Lee has all the athleticism you want at the linebacker position but needs to put work in (in the film room) to use his athleticism to get into the backfield and break up run plays early.
Jamal Adams & Marcus Maye – I know I’m cheating with two players but if Adams and Maye both develop into the players I believe they can be, front office will have hit two home runs here drafting back-to-back pro bowl safeties. These two youngsters alongside Leonard Williams look like promising future playmakers for a young Jets Defense.
W1 @ Bills // W2 @ Raiders // W3 vs Dolphins // W4 vs Jaguars // W5 @ Browns // W6 vs Patriots // W7 @ Dolphins // W8 vs Falcons // W9 vs Bills // W10 @ Buccaneers // W11 BYE
W12 vs Panthers // W13 vs Chiefs // W14 @ Broncos // W15 @ Saints // W16 @ vs Chargers // W17 @ Patriots.
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