As we go on through the 2016 NFL season, we see which teams should consider a rebuild, and which teams can establish themselves as legitimate contenders. There are always teams in the middle, but they are not focused on as much as the ones on the ends of the spectrum. Here we can focus on any team that isn’t a top-tier Super Bowl favorite this year. After writing about the Browns, the Bills, and the Bears, the New York Jets are in the spotlight today.They knocked on the playoff door in 2015, but suffered due to some unfortunate losses and an AFC mixup right at the end of the year. While they were expected to return to form with an improved team in 2016, they have fell short of expectations with a 3-8 record, recently losing to the Patriots, 22-17, and a horrendous 9-6 loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Changes can be made, and here are some that they should really consider when looking towards the 2017 season and beyond.
Coaching and Front Office: Not too shabby
Now that the Jets have been free of former GM John Idzik for almost two seasons now, some of the changes have been noticeable. This also comes with a coaching change, when Rex Ryan was let go and former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles was brought in. Some strong free agency periods brought in players like Matt Forte, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and CB Darrelle Revis, they have also acquired good talent through the draft, hitting on players like Leonard Williams, Lorenzo Mauldin, Quincy Enunwa, and seemingly Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins. They have a strong mix of veterans and young players that have meshed well and created a decent team in terms of talent. Fans have yet to see the talent work together this year.
Offense: Fitzpatrick a no-go
One of the biggest storylines of the offseason preceding 2016 was the Jets’ refusal to budge on a contract for Ryan Fitzpatrick. That seems to have been both a gift and a curse for them at this point, where Fitzpatrick isn’t playing up to his 2015 level, but they paid him less than he desired, keeping some salary cap space available. Todd Bowles continues to play the 12th year man out of Harvard because he “gives them the best chance to win.” This causes an issue in which they will not know what kind of talent they have in 2015 draft pick Bryce Petty, as well as 2016 draftee Christian Hackenberg.
While Fitzpatrick has struggled, some new additions have been helpful to the team, as players like Matt Forte and Robby Anderson have seen good numbers in their team with the team. New tackle Ryan Clady was playing well before being relegated to the injured reserve with an injury early on. The return of 2015 second round WR Devin Smith will hopefully be helpful to the team. One bright spot has been young receiver Quincy Enunwa, who has played well in a no. 2 role behind star wideout Brandon Marshall. With some help along the offensive line (Nick Mangold is injured and old, and some of their starters are free agents soon) and a new starting quarterback, this Jets’ offense could become a strong force to possibly even challenge the perennial contenders in New England.
Defense: Back end help necessary
The Jets’ defense has been a staple for a long time, as most Rex Ryan-led teams tend to be. Now that they have another former defensive coordinator as their coach, the team has continued its strong defensive performances. The team showed struggles in pass coverage early in the year, but that concern has started to blow over. Their main source of talent is the defensive line, where they have studs like Muhammud Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams to form a formidable line. Their linebacker core isn’t the same as it used to be, but has seen an infusion of youth recently, with Darron Lee, Jordan Jenkins, and Lorenzo Mauldin all being brought in in the past two years. The secondary has been troubling for the team so far this year, with former star Darrelle Revis looking shaky through the first 3/4 of the season. The team should look to cut him within a year or two to relinquish some cap space, but they must first find a suitable replacement for him. First year man Darryl Roberts and 2015 signee Buster Skrine have looked great in their team here, and they will likely continue to improve. All in all, this team looks poised to compete within the division soon.
2017 Free Agents of Note: QB Geno Smith, OG Brian Winters, OL Wesley Johnson, S Antonio Allen
Positions of Need: QB, OT, OG, C, CB, S
2017 NFL Draft*:
Round 1, Pick 5: QB Deshaun Watson, Clemson
Round 2, Pick 5: C Mason Cole, Michigan
Round 3, Pick 5: S Marcus Maye, Florida
Round 5, Pick 5: OT Erik Magnuson, Michigan
Round 6, Pick 5: CB MJ Stewart, North Carolina
Round 7, Pick 5: RB Justin Davis, USC
*Compensatory picks not counted at this time