NFL Team Previews: New York Jets

It’s possible you’ve heard some training camp reports on the New York Jets this year. Perhaps even possible that you heard Tim Tebow is now a Jet. Those stories have kind of slid under the radar, with the media having the audacity to only give them about 35 percent of all available airtime to cover any topic in sports. But Tebow’s the least of the Jets’ concerns right now as Rex Ryan hopes that his tenure in New York won’t come to an end with an unsuccessful fourth year. With that as the backdrop, TheSportsNotebook previews the Jets’ chances in 2012…

OFFENSE: Mark Sanchez has gone from overrated to underappreciated almost overnight. He always was more of a game-managing quarterback, even when the team made its runs to the AFC Championship Game in 2009-10. Then the Jets decided to try and open things up more and Sanchez was exposed for what he was. But “what we was” was still good enough to win games if you had a good running game and defense around him.

The Jets do have the running game. Shonn Greene is a 1,000 yard back and the offensive line in front of him is anchored by center Nick Mangold, the best in the NFL at his position. D’Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle and Brandon Moore at right guard are both prime players at their spots. The other two spots are patchwork, but when you have three caliber-offensive linemen you can run the ball and protect the passer.

A lack of quality receivers has been a consistent theme for the Jets in recent years, and the reason they gambled they could integrate Santonio Holmes’ apparently troublesome personality onto their team. That’s an experiment that looks to be blowing up on their face and the team is said to be trying to dump Holmes. There’s no word on whether the Los Angeles Dodgers’ new ownership group will take him off their hands. But when Holmes does leave, the Jets are going to be back to their original problem, which is that the rest of the receivers’ corps is one of the worst in the NFL. At least tight end Dustin Keller is a good target.

DEFENSE: Because of Ryan’s high-voltage personality, his critics might lose sight of what a good coach he is. The fact this team still plays good defense is testament to the boss’ coaching, because the talent level is not very good. Linebackers are at the heart of any 3-4 scheme, and while David Harris and Bart Scott are good on the inside, neither is as good as their reputation and the outside, where big plays have to be made, is a major problem. Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas are both on the wrong side of 30 and the age decline is evident in both.

The team has a couple good pieces up front, especially nose tackle Sione Pouha, but here again age is rearing its ugly head. Puha is 33. How long can he keep tying up blockers by taking double and triple-teams? Muhammad Wilkerson is a good young player at one of the end spots.

Any success the defense has is heavily dependent on Darrelle Revis, easily the best corner in football and a playmaker extraordinaire. Antonio Cromartie is on the opposite corner and he could be the #1 cover guy for a playoff team himself.  The secondary would benefit from getting a decent free safety. LaRon Landry is back there right now, but he can be overly aggressive and his playmaking style would better work at the strong safety spot, where Yeremiah Bell gives nothing. A competent centerfielder could displace Bell and strengthen two spots at once.

LAS VEGAS OVER/UNDER WIN PROJECTIONS: 8.5–By any reasonable measurement, Ryan’s tenure has been a success. He’s won 28 regular season games in three years. His four playoff wins include a road triumph over Peyton Manning and monster upsets on the road in San Diego and New England. But this season has the look of the end of the line. His critics will say it’s because his loud style has finally wore thin. Others will say the Jets’ talent deficiencies never really got fixed (I’m in the latter group). But whatever the reason I see an Under coming in here.