The Jets had a wildly disappointing finish to the 2011 NFL season, losing their last 3 games, finishing 8-8 and missing the postseason for the first time under head coach Rex Ryan. While many fans were disappointed in the Jets lose to the Dolphins that eliminated them from playoff contention, I believe the loss was a blessing in disguise in that now it’ll allow the Jets to seriously evaluate their team and objectively make personnel decisions without the backdrop of “we went to the AFC Championship game.” Despite those recent trips to the AFC Title game, I believe this team has been flawed for years now at multiple positions. Here are 5 things the Jets need to do this offseason to get back into contention for a Super Bowl.
1) Find a New Offensive Coordinator
-I’ve defended Brian Schottenheimer on numerous occasions throughout his tenure as Jets OC, but this season has been indefensible. His play-calling has been atrocious all year and the lack of progression we’ve seen from Mark Sanchez in year 3 is a clear indictment on the Offensive Coordinator. Schotty’s belief in Sanchez (or disbelief in the running game) put Sanchez in games in which he threw 40 and on one occasion 50 times in games this season. Putting Sanchez in that many dropback situations is a recipe for disaster and Jets fans learned the hard way. The offense lacked cohesion and explosive plays all season and for those reasons, Schotty has to go.
2) Find a Legit Pass Rusher(s)
-The Jets have built their defense backwards from the way Rex Ryan built his defenses in Baltimore. Those teams had top notch players in the front four and fearless pass rushers (Terell Suggs, Adalius Thomas, Trevor Pryce, Haloti Ngata) that gave opposing QBs and Offensive Lines nightmares. Since Rex has been in New York, the Jets have relied more on elite players in coverage (Darelle Revis, Antonio Cromartie) with very little pass rush coming from the front 7 without the help of blitzes of Corners and Safeties. The Jets have neglected this problem of not being able to generate pressure with four rushers, and it’s time they address it. Calvin Pace has underachieved, Aaron Maybin is only a situational pass rusher, while Jamal Westerman and Bryan Thomas are average players at best. The Jets need to find someone through the draft (Brandon Jenkins, Melvin Ingram) or through trade/free agency.
3) Bring in a Speed Demon to stretch the field
-I thought this was one of the biggest missteps the Jets made this offseason. It’s easy to put all the blame on Schotty and Sanchez, but I believe Mike Tannenbaum deserves some blam for how this offense was put together. When the Jets lost Braylon Edwards, they never brought in a replacement who had the ability to blow a top off the defense and open things up underneath for Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller. This allowed teams to creep up on the short passes and make those throwing windows tighter for Mark Sanchez to throw the ball through. The Jets lacked any kind of vertical passing attack this season and I think the lack of a big-time deep threat was a big reason for Mark Sanchez’s decline this season. In a perfect world, a deep-threat like DeSean Jackson would be exactly what this offense needs.
4) Improve the Offensive Line
-The Jets have had arguably the best offensive line in the AFC the past 2 seasons, but this season we’ve seen this unit fall to being perhaps one of the worst. Sanchez took a lot of sacks this year (39, 5th most in the league) and I blame the losses of Damien Woody and Alan Faneca the last two seasons along with the shortened training camp due to the lockout for the O-Line struggles. Wayne Hunter is perhaps the worst starting right tackle in the NFL and needs to be replaced, I also think Matt Slauson is mediocre player that could be replaced for an upgrade.
5) Bring in some real veteran leadership
-The lack of veteran leadership on this team bothered me heading into the season and my worst nightmares manifested itself with plenty of in-house fighting, mutinies against the offensive coordinator, and lack of discipline on the football field. The Jets have lost a lot of great locker room leaders over the past few seasons (Woody, Faneca, Jason Taylor, Tony Richardson, Kris Jenkins, Jericho Cotchery) and didn’t replace them with anyone worth following. We saw “Captain” Santonio Holmes fracture the locker room all season and quit on his team, while Sanchez never seemed to take a stronghold of the team over the course of the season.
6) Infuse some youth and speed on the defense
-This to me was a team that had a lot of “fat cats” that were content with the success the Jets have had over the past two seasons and as veteran players, were lacking the hunger and freshness this team needed this season (Calvin Pace and Bart Scott come to mind). The Jets on defense looked old and slow at almost every position outside of cornerback and I think it would help them to bring in some young guys that can play and hopefully push some of these veterans or better yet push them right out the door. I look at linebacker and safety as positions that could really use a complete overhaul heading into next season.