In one of the bigger surprises last year, the New York Jets were not totally awful. They ultimately finished with a 5-11 record, but a few of their losses were very close. Josh McCown had a solid year and the Jets young safety pairing of Jamal Adams and Marcus Maye showed signs of life. Despite this, the Jets once again missed the playoffs, and Todd Bowles will once again be on the hot seat this season.
2017 Season Review:
Entering the season, there were many who thought the Jets were nailed on to get the number one pick. The supposed Cleveland Browns’ revival coupled with other teams changing coaches and personnel made the Jets the odd man out in the eyes of many. The Jets entered the season with an unheralded offensive coordinator who was given Josh McCown and a bunch of no names at receiver.
The main positive for the Jets though was the surprising emergence of Robby Anderson out of this group of no names. The Jets ran a pass-happy offense, and the main reason for this was that Robby Anderson emerged as a legitimate WR1. He scored seven touchdowns and was close to being a 1000 yard receiver, as he emerged primarily as a deep threat.
The highlight of the Jets season was a win over the Chiefs in week 13, where they kept Alex Smith from scoring a single touchdown and forced him to throw four interceptions. Sadly for the Jets who had shown promise until that point, that was their final win of the season. The positivity against good teams such as the Chiefs and the Patriots was enough for Todd Bowles to keep his job, and this is the year where it all must come together for the Jets.
On the whole, the Jets roster has not changed that much. They attempted to go for Kirk Cousins in free agency but he signed with the Vikings, so they kept their number three pick and selected Sam Darnold from USC. I had Darnold as my QB2 behind Baker Mayfield. I think his accuracy issues and turnovers could be a concern, but I would always rather have a QB who can make big time throws alongside the occasional mistake than a QB who makes fewer mistakes but fewer big plays.
From day one Josh McCown is likely to start as he has comfortably been the best QB in training camp, and to his credit he did play quite well in 2017. He will have pretty much the same supporting cast as last season, with only the center position on the line being changed as Spencer Long joined from the Washington Redskins. In terms of pass catchers, Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse will once again play on the outside, and Quincy Enunwa returns from injury to man the slot and acquire yards after the catch.
At running back the Jets added Isaiah Crowell, and this might be the year it all comes together for him. He will be backed up by the likes of Trenton Cannon and Bilal Powell until Elijah McGuire returns from his injury to be the pass-catching back.
Defensively, the Jets spent big on Trumaine Johnson from the Los Angeles Rams. They grossly overpaid him as I think he struggles in pure man coverage, but he completes a secondary that could honestly be one of the best in the NFL. They have two interchangeable safeties and three solid corners who can cover in zone and man. Todd Bowles’ scheme is very aggressive and he needs pure man corners, and I do question whether Johnson can do this. Regardless, he fits zone concepts and plays well against the run.
On the defensive line, the Jets lost Mo Wilkerson but replaced him with the underrated Henry Anderson. The Indianapolis Colts switching to a 4 man front is really the only reason Anderson was let go, he was solid against the run throughout his time in Indianapolis and he was a rare bright spot on a historically terrible defensive unit.
Henry Anderson was productive against the run as he bounced back from injury in 2016. pic.twitter.com/4yhVW5NRD2
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) July 5, 2017
The Jets defense is a couple of edge rushers away from being very good, but they are still yet to address this properly. The argument against drafting high edge players is that Todd Bowles’ scheme generates pressure from interior blitzes, but there is only so far you can go in the NFL without a consistent natural edge rush. Bowles’ has generally targeted coverage linebackers and downhill attackers on his edges, but the results haven’t exactly been great.
Offensive coordinator John Morton did well with very limited resources in 2017, but reported conflicts with Todd Bowles and his insistence on running a pass-happy offense saw him replaced by Jeremy Bates. Bad teams seem to be obsessed with committing to the run, and it doesn’t really make much sense. The RB1 for the Jets last year was Bilal Powell and he was behind a below average run blocking line. Committing to the run in these circumstances would have been a disastrous strategy.
The Jets defense should be relatively good as they have a good secondary and a very good run stuffing unit at the front. The only worry I have defensively is the middle, as I think they lack playmakers against the pass. They lack a natural pass rush and Avery Williamson is more of a run defender than a coverage back. I expect the Jets to play very close to the line of scrimmage to try and cover their linebackers, who struggle in coverage.
I also think they have one of the most undervalued receiving corps in the NFL. Robby Anderson is a legit WR1, and Quincy Enunwa is a dark horse to finish as a top 25 wideout in fantasy football. The tight end position has been a battle in training camp, but Jordan Leggett and Christopher Herndon could both emerge as reliable options in the short pass game.
The run game concerns me heading into the season, for a variety of reasons. The Jets offensive line was a weird evaluation last year. On tape they actually looked OK in pass protection and a lot of the sacks were simply because they were overworked and the QBs held the ball for too long. Despite this, the run blocking was terrible. Spencer Long should help them get some movement up front and he is valuable in the screen game, but this is still not a great unit.
Their running backs are not bad players, but they are going to need to create yards for themselves as they won’t be getting much help from the offensive line.
The Jets will also struggle for sacks, especially with the loss of Mo Wilkerson. He was a low effort player at times but teams still feared him. Henry Anderson is a good replacement, but my worry is that the Jets won’t have anyone even getting close to double-digit sacks.
Best Case Scenario:
The Jets proved a lot of people wrong last year and they could possibly do it again this season. They would need another solid year from Josh McCown and a step up from the defense, but an 8-8 season with a second-placed finish in the AFC East is not too unrealistic.
Worst Case Scenario:
I do not think the Jets are bad enough to be absolutely dismal, so the worst I see is a repeat of last years record of 5-11 with a last-place finish in the AFC East.
I think the Jets will once again be surprisingly competitive and finish with a 7-9 record and a third-placed finish in the AFC East. Todd Bowles’ team turned up to play in most games last year, and I think they will get closer to the playoffs than many others do. I think the floor is very high for this Jets team, but the ceiling is not.