The New York Jets: The Second Coming
Can it be true? There seems to be a change in the direction of the wind for the New York Jets. The direction is pointing to “W,” not for “West,” but for “Wins.”
The Jets 2014 4-12 record placed them 4th in the AFC East division. They were a directionless team that was hard to love. But, that was 2014. With the hire of Houston Texans director of college scouting, Mike Maccagnan as general manager, and former Arizona defensive coordinator, Todd Bowles as head coach, the pair has flipped the team upside down, sideways and back on its feet. And, they’ve hit the ground running during this off-season.
Act I : The Defense
The New York Jets weren’t all bad in the 2014 NFL season. Surprised? The Jets finished 6th over all in total yards allowed, lead the league in total tackles, 1233, had 47 sacks, 15 interceptions (3 returned for a touchdown) and 14 forced fumbles (1 return for a touchdown).
Its not surprising that Todd Bowles wanted to focus on strengthening the teams secondary, hoping to make a good secondary great. How many of us were shocked and elated to hear the return of cornerback Darrelle Revis (who started his career with the Jets, spent a year as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer and a year as a New England Patriot winning the Super Bowl). Cornerback Antonio Cromartie also signed with the Jets, returning after a one year stint with the Arizona Cardinals. And safety Marcus Gilchrist, a free agency pick-up from the San Diego Chargers who finished the season with 77 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 5 pass defenses. The trio will be aided by 2nd year strong safety Calvin Pryor and cornerback free agency pick-up Buster Skrine, who played 4 years with the Cleveland Browns and finished the season with 67 tackles, 18 pass defenses and 4 interceptions.
Fantasy players might also want to keep an eye on this potential defensive powerhouse for the up-coming 2015 season.
ACT II: The Quarterback Battle
If you haven’t heard, the Jets signed 32-year-old Harvard graduate quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (formally a St. Louis Ram, Cincinnati Bengal, Buffalo Bill, Tennessee Titan and Houston Texan).
While playing for the Texans, Fitzpatrick was benched after nine games with a 4-5 record before their bye-week. But in week 13, Fitzpatrick returned as quarterback after Ryan Mallett was injured, having the game of his life with six-touchdown passes against the Tennessee Titans. Of course, Fitzpatrick’s Achilles heel are turnovers with 101 career interceptions and 54 fumbles (24 lost).
Although Fitzpatrick was signed for a conditional 7th round draft pick in 2016 to Houston, don’t let the low pick and his career interceptions lead you to dismiss Fitzpatrick and his potential value to the Jets.
There is a reason to the madness. GM, Maccagnan, was with the Texans before coming to the Jets and clearly was impressed with what he saw out of Fitzpatrick.
While playing with the Buffalo Bills (2010-2012), Fitzpatrick’s accuracy and quick release thrived in Chan Gailey’s offensive system as he put up 71 touchdown passes, 10,232 passing yards and a completion percentage of 60.1%. Hopefully, Fitzpatrick will thrive in this system again.
Fitzpatrick’s knowledge of Gailey’s system will provide the Jets with flexibility going forward at the quarterback position. Potentially, the Jets can draft a late quarterback and use their earlier selections to build their offensive line.
Fitzpatrick’s knowledge of the system will help the offense quickly get up to speed and create a cohesive team for the upcoming season.
Fitzpatrick might not have amazing arm strength, but he certainly has demonstrated that he has the ability to competently direct an offense as a game manager and get out of trouble if pressured (with the right offensive line).
It’s possible that with Fitzpatrick in town, Geno Smith might be warming the bench. In 2014, with quarterback Geno Smith, the Jets ranked 32nd in total passing yards, 2946, scoring only 16 passing touchdowns (3 of which were thrown by Micheal Vick).
So who’s potentially the better quarterback?
- Passer Rating: 71.5
- Average Yards per Completion: 6.88
- Completion Percentage: 57.5%
- TD / INT Ratio: 0.74
- Passer Rating: 79.5
- Average Yards per Completion 6.62
- Completion Percentage 60.2%
- TD / INT Ratio 1.22
Fitzpatrick is the more efficient quarterback at running an offense with a higher TD/INT ratio, consistently scoring while avoiding turnovers. The accuracy based on completetion percentage might be similar, but Fitzpatrick is better at handling the ball and avoiding interceptions (which actually isn’t saying much in light of Smith’s turnover tendencies).
ACT III: The Receiving Core
In 2014, the Jets fell to last in receiving yards, 3206, with starting wide receivers Eric Decker (5 TD), Jeremy Kerley (1 TD) and a late addition of Percy Harvin, who never really connected with the quarterback Smith and scored only 1 touchdown pass in week 14 against the Minnesota Vikings. Tight ends, veteran Jeff Cumberland (3 TD) and rookie Jace Amaro (2 TD), also contributed, helping to pad the teams pathetic 2014 offensive stats.
With Percy Harvin going to the Buffalo Bills, the jets obtained Brandon Marshall and a 7th round draft pick for a 5th round draft pick.
Brandon Marshall’s productivity declined in the 2014 season with the Chicago Bears, having under a thousand receiving yards (721), which he hasn’t had since his rookie season (309), and 61 total receptions on 105 targets. Even with last year’s declining productivity, Marshall represents a good option with significant potential at wideout for the Jets.
ACT IV: What’s Next?
With the 6th pick in the first round, the Jets have several options.
1) Building the Backfield
The Jets ranked third in total rushing yards, 2280, only behind Seattle Seahawks (2762) and Dallas Cowboys (2354). They had 11 rushing touchdowns with starting running back Chris Ivory (6 rushing TD and 1 passing TD) as the “lead” back and re-signed running back Bilal Powell for a one-year contract for $2 million. Clearly, another more dynamic option could be helpful here,.
There is a lot of talent in the 2015 draft class for running backs. The Jets can find this dynamic option early or late in the draft, but there’s a significant opportunity to get one of the two best backs in the draft. With the 6th pick in the first round, the Jets can draft Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon, both of which would be solid options with significant upside.
2) A Wide Receiver
The Jets might want to consider drafting Kevin White or Amari Cooper to further build their receiving core. Both athletes are fast, strong and could do for a team what Odell Beckham Jr. did for the New York Giants.
Reggie Wayne is currently an unsigned free agent. The 36 year-old wide receiver played his entire career (15 seasons) with the Indianapolis Colts. Although his stats have dropped, scoring only 2 touchdowns in 2014, Wayne might be a good veteran option for the Jets if they can get him on the cheap.
3) A Defensive Front
The Jets exercised inexpensive options by keeping Calvin Pace (34) and Jason Babin (34), but they can use a dynamic pass-rusher on the edge.
Dante Fowler Jr. is predicted to be drafted by the Jacksonville Jaguars in the 3rd pick of the first round, but the Jets will have their pick of Vic Beasley, Shaq Thompson or Hau’oli Kikaha if they choose to draft an outside linebacker in the first round.
4) Another Fireman Ed?
If you haven’t attended a Jet’s home game, you probably never heard of Fireman Ed, a long time fan known as the voice for Jets fans everywhere. In 2014, he retired. Although the Jets tired to convince him to return to the stands of MetLife stadium, he refused. Maybe the Jets can find the second coming of Fireman Ed.
The Jets have doled out more than $160 million in free-agent contracts during this off-season, but will the players be worth their contracts? History has shown us that big bucks doesn’t necessarily bring a brighter season. During the 2014 off season, the New York Giants were among the big spenders but won less games than the previous year.
Only time will tell, but the Jets are shaping up to be a force to be reckoned with. If nothing else, it should be fun to watch.