Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

05 Apr 2013

State of the Team: New York Jets

by Andy Benoit

The 2013 "State of the Team" articles will run daily through the NFL draft. These offer a snapshot look at a team’s roster, with players classified by color based on how they fit their role. My analysis is based on film study, not statistics, although we will try to note when my judgment differs significantly from FO's advanced stats, and explain a little bit why. Starters are in bold, and you will notice that there are 12 defensive starters rather than just 11. This denotes the extra playing time that nickelbacks and third receivers usually get in today's NFL.

Color Legend:

  • Star
  • Good
  • Adequate
  • Jury’s still out
  • Just a guy
  • Upgrade needed
  • No longer on the team

Some players colored pink as "just a guy" are younger low-round picks who just haven't seen much playing time, but keep in mind that 99 percent of the time, there’s a negative reason why such a player has rarely seen the field.

Players colored red as "upgrade needed" are not necessarily bad players. Sometimes, this simply means the player is a decent backup who should not be starting.

Since I generally don't do analysis on special teams, those categorizations are based strictly on FO stats, with any comments written by Aaron Schatz. We're only listing kickers and punters, as most teams go into training camp without specific players set as return specialists.

Click here for an archive of all State of the Team articles.

NEW YORK JETS

OFFENSE

OVERVIEW

In 2012, the Jets showed what happens when you take a quarterback with ordinary arm strength, inconsistent mechanics, and mediocre pocket savvy, supply him with a group of running backs who don’t have a ton of speed and a lackluster collection of receivers who can’t beat man coverage, put them all in a system that’s not particularly well thought-out, and tie it all together with an iffy offensive line. This season is about the Jets beginning their long road to recovery.

BACKFIELD

QB: Mark Sanchez, David Garrard, Greg McElroy, Tim Tebow
RB: Bilal Powell, Mike Goodson, Joe McKnight, Lex Hilliard (FB); Lost: Shonn Greene

The only thing keeping Sanchez on the field at this point is his embarrassingly inflated contract. He unraveled down the stretch in 2012. Even if he gets his game together, he’s still inadequate. Pocket presence and consistency in reads after the snap have been problems for the former Trojan. And it’s not like Sanchez has great raw arm talent to fall back on. Garrard could maybe be the right answer ... if not for the fact that he hasn't taken a regular-season snap in two seasons.

Obviously, a boost is needed at running back. The hope is that Goodson, a fourth-year pro with a bit of juice, can provide it. He’ll likely need to be in a committee. Powell has a little more agility than you’d guess, but overall he’s not dynamic. McKnight has electrifying wheels, but through three full years he’s yet to make a consistent impact on offense.

RECEIVERS

WR: Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, Clyde Gates; Lost: Chaz Schilens

TE: Jeff Cumberland, Konrad Reuland; Lost: Dustin Keller

Having a healthy (hopefully) Holmes will do wonders for the passing game. He’s one of the best route runners in the league. Unlike the rest of this group, he’s capable of consistently getting himself open. Hill has a long way to go in his development. It’s too early to tell if he’s the next Matt Jones, Darrius Heyward-Bey, or Roddy White. Kerley is a favorite of Sanchez’s and seems to be getting more comfortable with his slot role. He’s worth featuring. At tight end, Cumberland is athletic but unproven. Reuland must learn to play faster.

OFFENSIVE LINE

LT: D'Brickashaw Ferguson LG: Willie Colon C: Nick Mangold RG: Vladimir Ducasse RT: Austin Howard

Backups: Dennis Landholt, Caleb Schlauderaff; Lost: Matt Slauson, Brandon Moore, Jason Smith

Ferguson is a reliable finesse blocker. He doesn't pile-drive opponents off the ball, but he also doesn't require much help with chips or double teams. Colon is an outstanding drive-blocker ... if he’s actually on the field. Injuries have hounded him over the years. Mangold is coming off the worst season of his outstanding seven-year career, but can still be considered one of the best, if not the best, center(s) in football. If Ducasse, a former second-round pick, could truly play, he would have gotten in the lineup a long time ago. Howard is a limited athlete but the Jets learned they can survive with him as long as he’s helped in pass protection.

DEFENSE

OVERVIEW

If any coach can make due with a paucity of pass-rush talent, it’s Rex Ryan. He does a great job making offenses play fast by using overloads, interchangeable blitzers, and zone-exchanges. The goal is often not to bring extra pressure, but rather, to simply create the illusion of pressure. That said, no mastermind is smart enough to make their scheme work without decent players. Ryan has resources at defensive line (albeit a thin defensive line), inside linebacker and cornerback. But there are major questions, if not outright gaping holes, at outside linebacker and safety. And those are the two most important positions in many of the pressure designs. Oh, also, they might want to actual resolve the Darrelle Revis situation. That's important too.

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE: Muhammad Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Tevita Finau, __________; Lost: Mike DeVito

DT: Antonio Garay, Kenrick Ellis; Lost: Sione Pouha

Wilkerson is a dominant force at both 4-3 tackle and 3-4 end. He has long, strong arms, natural explosiveness, and a unique ability to bend in traffic without sacrificing power. Coples is not quite the player you’d expect a mid-first-rounder to be. The comparisons to Julius Peppers coming out of North Carolina were utterly ridiculous. (That’s what happens when people read program bios instead of watch film.) Coples is a sinewy, methodical athlete who doesn’t have the explosive first or second step to play on the edge. He has the potential to blossom into a very good interior player, though. Garay and Ellis form a stellar nose duo.

LINEBACKER

OLB: Garrett McIntyre, Antwan Barnes, Ricky Sapp, Jacquies Smith; Lost: Calvin Pace, Bryan Thomas

ILB: David Harris, Demario Davis, Nick Bellore; Lost: Bart Scott

Not one of these players is capable of generating pass-rush pressure on his own. That’s a problem. Harris is a sturdy all-around force inside, though it’s a bit concerning that he was so quiet last season. Also concerning is that Davis, the speedy 2012 third-round pick that Ryan purportedly loves, was unable to take a starting job from an ailing Bart Scott down the stretch.

SECONDARY

CB: Darrelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie, Kyle Wilson, Isiah Trufant, Ellis Lankster

S: Antonio Allen, Josh Bush, Jaiquawn Jarrett; Lost: LaRon Landry, Yeremiah Bell, Eric Smith

Revis is a question mark not so much because he’s coming off major knee surgery, but because his future with the franchise is very much up in the air. The uber-athletic Cromartie is coming off his best season in New York; if he plays just as well in 2013, we can safely move him up to the "blue" category. Otherwise this is is a very average cornerback group. Safety is an even bigger question mark. Allen and Bush are both unknowns. Jarrett is a former second-round pick who couldn’t even stay on an Eagles roster that was very unimpressive at the position.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Nick Folk P: Robert Malone

The Jets re-signed Folk this offseason, which makes no sense whatsoever. Folk has been below average on field goals and way below average on kickoffs for three straight years. They really need to bring in a couple of rookie kickers and hope one of them can win the job.

Follow @Andy_Benoit
e-mail andy@footballoutsiders.com

Posted by: Andy Benoit on 05 Apr 2013

36 comments, Last at 10 Apr 2013, 7:21pm by LionInAZ

Comments

1
by nat :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 2:59pm

In 2012, the Jets showed what happens when you take a quarterback with ordinary arm strength, inconsistent mechanics, and mediocre pocket savvy, supply him with a group of running backs who don’t have a ton of speed and a lackluster collection of receivers who can’t beat man coverage, put them all in a system that’s not particularly well thought-out, and tie it all together with an iffy offensive line.

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

26
by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 4:14pm

Hill can beat man coverage, he just can't catch.

2
by are-tee :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 3:03pm

Sanchez pink, not orange? And the RT's name is Austin Howard, not Thomas Howard.

3
by Malene, copenhagen (not verified) :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 3:35pm

Why on earth would the "jury be out" on Sanchez?

Here are just a few QBs who had fewer NFL pass attempts than Sanchez in their entire career:
Sid Luckman (!), Jay Fiedler, Tim Couch, Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Tony Eason, Steve Bono, Jack Trudeau, Rex Grossman - you get the point.

He's closing in on 2000 pass attempts. That's pretty much a career, unless you're good. He is what he is.

5
by Revenge of the NURBS (not verified) :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 3:56pm

He didn't mean "jury's still out", he meant "replacement needed". I think we're all on the same page.

7
by Independent George :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 5:23pm

But for a QB, I'd actually say that "Just a Guy" = "Upgrade Needed". In any other position, there's a distinction between them, but for a QB, anything below 'adequate' is going to kill a team.

9
by Theo :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 5:48pm

Good point, and I'd call him 'upgrade needed'.

27
by LionInAZ :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 4:20pm

That would be 'red' then, not 'orange'.

33
by are-tee :: Sun, 04/07/2013 - 11:01am

I meant red, sorry. Although the red on my computer is kind of a dark orange.

18
by Sifter :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 7:39am

Just to play devil's advocate...I'm betting that Sanchez passed less in college than any of those guys. He only started one full year, so if any guy has a claim to getting more time to learn in the pros, then perhaps it's him.

If I remeber, Alex Smith didn't pass much in college either and it's taken him a while to 'get it'.

4
by Rivers McCown :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 3:53pm

Fixed, thanks.

8
by Karl Cuba :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 5:39pm

Sanchez still isn't red...

11
by Insancipitory :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 5:56pm

Wait till the bruises heal.

15
by commissionerleaf :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 10:51pm

I don't know about anyone else, but I thought McElroy was alright in relief of Sanchez last year. I would characterize him as at least "just a guy". He may not be the most spectacular physical talent, but he's not an idiot.

And that makes him head-and-shoulders above The Mighty Buttfumble.

29
by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 5:02pm

He was ok against Arizona. Then came the Sackelroy debacle, and there are differing opinions on that. That 11 sack game is the main reason the line is written up as iffy here. I'm sure PFF would blame McElroy on that one, since they ranked the line third in the league.

6
by theslothook :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 4:59pm

Its strange. I know he sucked as a rookie, but his sophmore season was just garden variety mediocre. And while I know he was abysmal in that colts playoff game, he was actually pretty good against NE and decent enough against Pittsburgh. At the time, I really thought sanchez was likely headed for a mid tier qb career. Instead, he somehow regressed horribly and ended up playing about as well as he had as a rookie. Its kind of hard to imagine someone having that kind of career arc.

10
by jackiel :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 5:49pm

It's not strange when you read the top of the article. Everything about the offense sucked last year. I have a hard time believing that Sanchez can be worse in 2013 if the coaching staff develops a scheme that caters to his strengths, key members remain healthy, and the Jets draft starting capable players at RB, TE, and OL.

17
by Sifter :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 7:35am

Health was a pretty important factor. Very noticeable for Sanchez was that he and his receivers were never on the same page. Not surprising when his 2 leading receivers of 2011 (Holmes and Keller) combined for only 12 games between them in 2012, and only in week 1 were both on the field at the same time. Coincidentally, that was arguably Sanchez'z best game of the season. Interestingly, his 3th and 4th leading receivers of 2011 weren't even on the team again (Burress and Tomlinson).

Before I'm accused of being a Sanchez apologist...let me happily emphasise that Sanchez was still poor, and deserves to be called out. Just mentioning a possible contributing factor.

Will be interesting to see if the Jets draft someone at QB. Personally, I think signing a veteran QB to challenge him was the right move (whether Garrard was the right veteran is another matter...) and maybe give Sanchez one last roll of the dice with a different OC. They haven't done anything on the receiver market though. Keller is gone...they are relying on Holmes to get healthy, Hill to develop and Mornhinweg to be brilliant.

30
by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 5:09pm

One thing to keep in mind is the potential star quality at the Qb position in the 2014 draft; Bridgewater, Boyd, Fales, Manziel and Murray may all go in the first round next year, and might all have better careers than Geno Smith. They all look better to me, but what do I know.

12
by Brian Johnson (not verified) :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 6:46pm

Good piece overall, yet I totally disagree with "The Jets re-signed Folk this offseason, which makes no sense whatsoever."

Folk had a very respectable year last season. Blocks excluded, Folk had an accuracy of 87.5%, which was good enough for 14th in the league (with all teams' blocked FG's excluded). Folk can't be held responsible for the poor special teams he had around him. He has also not missed an XP in his career, which should somewhat be expected, but it adds to his consistency.

The Jets can't allow him to walk in FA and just hope some kicker can come in and be better. I'm all for competition, but you have to ensure you will have a true best option at the end of one. Rookies are unknown, solid veterans are not.

-Brian, OneJetAtATime.com

21
by komakom (not verified) :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 1:18pm

One of FO's main themes regarding kickers is that kickoff value tends to be much more stable value-wise than FG/XP value.

22
by komakom (not verified) :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 1:18pm

That sentence was terrible but you get my point.

34
by are-tee :: Sun, 04/07/2013 - 11:09am

I agree about Folk - I don't think the Jets ever lost a game because of him. The blocked FG's were attributable to missed assignments on the line. His poor kickoff stats are due to Westhoff's philosophy of avoiding touchbacks in the hope that the coverage team can make a tackle inside the 20.

13
by jonnyblazin :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 6:47pm

I'm not a Sanchez fan, but I do think whatever promise he had was wasted by Rex Ryan. If Sanchez was playing under Andy Reid or Jim Harbaugh I get the feeling he'd be halfway decent. Maybe in a couple years he'll get a chance to compete and play for a coach who has a clue about how to run an offense.

19
by Nathan :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 11:07am

If Sanchez played under Andy Reid he'd probably have been pawned off to some desperate team for a 2nd and a 3rd years ago.

14
by samc (not verified) :: Fri, 04/05/2013 - 7:54pm

I disagree with your evaluation of Coples. He lead the team in sacks while playing a limited number of snaps. This all coming from a guy who was learning a new defense, position, and league which was evident in the first 12 games, but he found his groove towards the end of the year and recorded 4 sacks in the last 4 games.

This evident learning curve and late season success was also witnessed by Wilkerson his rookie year and was followed up by his outstanding campaign last season.

25
by Mehllageman56 (not verified) :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 4:11pm

I concur with your disagreeing opinion. Coples consistently required double teams, and showed a lot of promise. The reason peppers comparisons are silly is that they play different positions: 3/4 end and 4/3 end. Coples also ended up with just a half sack less than chandler in n.e. As a Jets fan, I'm much more worried about the nose tackle position, to the point where I would not gripe if they drafted Star.

16
by justanothersteve :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 12:31am

Frankly, I'd like to see what Tebow would do here. I doubt Ryan will give him a chance. I do think Tebow will fail. But I can't imagine him being worse than the Sanchize.

20
by commissionerleaf :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 11:17am

Sanchez should hang it up now. He just made FO readers nostalgic for Tim Tebow, starting quarterback. After all, if you're choosing between two quarterbacks incapable of completing half their passes, you might as well take the one covered in "winner sauce"!

28
by LionInAZ :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 4:36pm

Tebow has had his chance and has already proven to be a worse QB than Sanchez. Still, I wouldn't mind seeing him given the chance to face the NY media after every week to explain his suckitude.

23
by DEW (not verified) :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 3:56pm

Yeah, I have no idea how Sanchez can be considered anything but "needs an upgrade"; at his best he was a mediocre game-manager type on a team with a sound running game and a superb defense, and the more weight that was placed on his shoulders the worse he got. I can't see why McElroy's marked in red instead of orange unless it's assumed he sucks because he couldn't beat out Sanchez, which...has some merit. And I have no idea whatsoever what to expect from Garrard due to all the recent injuries. Tebow is the only one of that bunch I can agree with the rankings on...

24
by Led :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 3:58pm

A lot to disagree with here. Austin Howard is a good right tackle. PFW had him #31 among all tackles last year. He's actually quite good against the run, although he needs polish as a pass blocker. Certainly worthy of "adequate." (By the way, PFW had the o-line as one of the best last year. I think that's closer to being right than not. Can't blame them for Sanchez imploding into a black hole of suck and Greene falling down on first contact all year.) I also think this underrates Coples and Powell, but we'll see.

On the other hand, if Sanchez doesn't fit into the category of "upgrade needed" then nobody does! Holmes is no more than adequate at this point in his career, especially as a #1 receiver. Harris is probably closer to adequate than good, unfortunately.

Overall, I think the offense and the team appear a lot worse than they are because of the QB. The Jets had as bad play at QB (if not worse) as Arizona, and was still 10% better in offensive DVOA. This was an offense with adequate overall talent (skewed to the OL) destroyed by bad QB play.

32
by Anonymoushfgyg (not verified) :: Sun, 04/07/2013 - 10:01am

Like

31
by JonFrum :: Sat, 04/06/2013 - 7:06pm

I can only assume this will be a 'suck for the next Luck' year for the Jets. If they get in the top (bottom) three, they'll be guaranteed either one of two top QBS or Cloweney. And next year's QBs are pretty well guaranteed to be better than this year's. I can see Johnny Football following in Broadway Joe's footsteps already. ;-)

35
by Dzwill (not verified) :: Sun, 04/07/2013 - 11:13am

I'd love to see Johnny Football next year! Sanchez can be cut after this season along with Holmes. If Hill doesn't learn to catch he may need to go as well. Need to draft a WR this year and next and see what's in FA next year. Revis is A STAR! BLUE! speaking of Revis since they let the entire D walk away especially at the Safety position they need to get a deal done with 24. Coming off the injury and lack of trade offers may be the best time to get a cheaper deal done. Rebuild around Revis (again)

36
by LionInAZ :: Wed, 04/10/2013 - 7:21pm

I agree that Revis rates a blue grade here but THE JETS HAVEN'T SIGNED HIM YET!! As long as that hasn' t been done the position is a question mark. Frankly, I think that they shouldn't bother with Revis because they've trashed their front seven by letting Scott and Pace walk.

Beyond that, the Jets will need a lot more than Manziel to build an offense, and they couldn't even figure out how to do that for Sanchez!