By Connor Rogers, Staff Writer
It’s been a rough week for the Jets and their fan base, with questions marks being raised about every piece of the team. The quarterback situation is currently a disaster, the front office appears to be clueless, and Rex Ryan is officially on the hot seat.
The redundant topic of who will play quarterback for the Jets next year is pointless at the moment, as the cap situation is foggy and there are no quality quarterbacks on the market.
What is clear are two things: Mark Sanchez can not be the starting quarterback for this team next season and his heir will most likely not be found in this year’s draft. This situation seems all too familiar, right after Eric Mangini’s last season as coach of the Jets they were in the same exact spot. Fans clamored to go into a rebuilding phase with a new coach and a new quarterback.
What they didn’t realize is they were getting an elite defense and a trip to the AFC championship game with a “rebuilding” team. Finding ourselves in the same predicament four years later, one must ask how we can return to contention. The answer is quite simple Jets nation: Defense.
For all the fans clamoring “Fire Rex!”, please ask yourself if their is a coach available that can do a better job. This fan base will not settle for mediocrity and the truth is Rex is an elite defensive coach. What this front office needs to find is an offensive coordinator that has complete control over the offense, more in the role as assistant head coach (Norv Turner, Please).
It’s very difficult to replace a man that is 34-28 in the regular season and 4-2 in the playoffs in his first four seasons. Rex deserves one more year to show if he can develop early draft picks from his regime (Mo Wilkerson is a prime example).
In 2009 Rex not only brought in different players for his defense such as Bart Scott, but an entirely different scheme. He threw different blitz packages to cover up the Jets poor one on one pass rush ability, while heavily relying on defensive backs in one on one coverage match ups. Although Darrelle Revis was playing superb at corner for the Jets under Eric Mangini, Rex Ryan gave him the ultimate chance to draw publicity. In Ryan’s scheme Revis thrived on an “island.” In basic terms, Revis locked down every team’s number one wide receiver without much safety help over the top.
This leaves an extra man to rush the quarterback and it was a strategy that paid off until the Jets met Peyton Manning in the AFC championship game. I’ll stop with the history lesson there, as it is enough proof of where my argument is heading: The New York Jets need to start building this team from the front seven outwards.
Unlike 2009, the Jets now have a firm foundation in their front seven to build on in the offseason. Former first round pick Muhammad Wilkerson has had a superb sophomore season on the defensive line. He’s played more on the interior line this year and dominated, even succeeding against double teams.
Rookie first round pick Quinton Coples has also recently come into his own on the defensive line. Coples received very little playing time in the beginning of the season for reasons no one can understand, but he’s posted two sacks in the last two games and four on the year. More importantly, those who watch the Jets have seen Coples rack up many quarterback rushes and hits, often leading to interceptions or passes thrown away.
Sophomore nose tackle Kenrick Ellis has filled in nicely for Sione Pouha (who’s been quite terrible while also injury plagued). Ellis isn’t the pocket pusher Kris Jenkins once was, but he holds up well against the run and has a lot of potential to develop into a platooning/starting nose tackle.
While these young players have bright futures ahead of them, they desperately need help behind them in the linebacker corps. Bryan Thomas is on a one year deal that the Jets will certainly let expire. It appears both Bart Scott and Calvin Pace will be cut in salary cap moves in the offseason. Scott has hinted he will come back at a much cheaper price, a move the Jets should look into for depth and goal line packages. Pace has no value and needs to be replaced by a much younger, more athletic outside linebacker.
David Harris is overpaid, but he’s still a very good linebacker and will continue to start in the middle for the Jets. It’s pretty much a lock the Jets will be picking in the middle of the first round, an area that should have a ton of front seven talent left on the board. Personally, they should let try to develop Demario Davis as a starter next to David Harris. Use the draft to bring in edge rushers, a role the Jets have desperately needed since trading John Abraham many years ago. A highly detailed list of these edge rushers can be found here.
Many Jets fans are doubting the near future because there are too many holes to fill. While I agree the offense needs to go under a complete renovation, the defense certainly has hope, at a cost though. As previously mentioned, the Jets can complete their youth movement on the front seven by finding edge rushers. In order to fill both Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas spots, and possibly even defensive linemen Mike DeVito’s, it will require precise drafting in deeper rounds. Late round picks often lack the potential talent, which is why the Jets desperately need to acquire another early round pick.
Cornerback is currently a luxury position for the Jets, as I previously mentioned they possess two shut down defensive backs in Cromartie and Revis. Do not be shocked if one of these guys is moved in the offseason for an early round pick and try not to overreact. In the long run, the front seven will play a more vital role than the cornerbacks. Cromartie could quite possible fetch a second round pick with his level of play and reasonable contract. Revis’ value is more of a question mark, as he is coming off a season ending tear and is known to demand a contract that eats a large portion of a team’s salary cap. I personally think the Jets will bring in a new general manager who will attempt to lock up Revis, one of the most dominant players to wear a Jet’s uniform.
Soon to be free agent LaRon Landry will most likely find a higher bidder than the Jets, who will let him walk. Yeremiah Bell will most likely be back on a reasonable contract, as he is thirty four years old. Landry’s possible departure opens up another hole, which must be filled by one of the young safeties on the Jets roster (Josh Bush or Antonio Allen) or through the draft (we only have so many picks, folks).
The Jets have a shot at righting this ship, but it will highly hinder on how the front office plays their cards this offseason. Whoever is calling the shots can not sit back and watch the action much like last offseason. Acquiring more draft picks is a must, even if that means trading talent from areas we have in excess. More importantly, the use of these draft picks is vital. The Jets aren’t a team that can gamble on one player to turn things around (our first round pick will most likely not be a quarterback).
While the offense is a topic for another day, the defense needs to regain it’s roots. It all begins with stopping the run and getting to the quarterback. The front office has a lot to prove to regain the respect of the fan base, but they need to start where they built their reputation: Defense.