New York Jets: 5 Areas for Offseason Improvement
Anyone in the Jets organization is probably considering the 2011 season as a failure.
When you have been to two straight AFC Championship games, have Super Bowl aspirations and have Super Bowl predictions from your head coach, failure seems like an accurate description when you fall short of the playoffs.
If Rex Ryan has Super Bowl ambitions for the Jets again next year, they will need to improve in several areas.
5. Running Back
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Last week, LaDainian Tomlinson announced that he was considering retirement. Shonn Greene was wildly inconsistent and ineffective at times this year, especially early in the season.
Rex Ryan has been preaching his “Ground and Pound” philosophy with the Jets, yet Mark Sanchez threw the ball at least 35 times in seven of their 16 games this year. This is not the offense that Ryan has tried to institute and the Jets might need to redefine their running game.
Is Joe McKnight ready to step into Tomlinson’s shoes and become a third-down back and someone who can be a speedy alternative to Greene’s power game? Probably not.
It might be in the Jets’ best interest to look elsewhere.
Ray Rice, Matt Forte and Marshawn Lynch are all free agents at the end of this season but might end up with their current teams.
One running back who the Jets could go after is Peyton Hillis. He has been at odds with the Browns organization all season with a contract dispute. He would fit perfectly into Rex’s Ground and Pound system.
4. Offensive Coordinator
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Jets fans have been calling for the firing of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer all season. He has been overly conservative in his play-calling, which has led to some of the ineffectiveness of the offense and the growing disdain of Jets supporters.
In Week 17, the Jets had their second-longest play of the season. It was a pass play for 41 yards from wide receiver Jeremy Kerley.
Yes, that’s right. Jeremy Kerley threw the ball for the second-longest gain of the season.
There must be some issues with your play-calling if your second-longest gain of the season is from your top slot receiver.
Mark Sanchez did not have any issues throwing the deep ball at USC, but for some reason, Schottenheimer doesn’t want him doing it as a Jet.
Sanchez has weapons to throw down the field, but the offense isn’t geared toward these types of plays. Holmes has great speed and can beat most corners down the field. When Burress played on the Giants, Eli Manning would use Burress as a downfield threat, but the Jets' offensive system did not use him that way.
3. Wide Receiver
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It could be a byproduct of the system that Mark Sanchez is playing in, but he needs an elite weapon that he can consistently target.
Look at the other young QB’s in the league. Matt Stafford has Calvin Johnson. Matt Ryan has Roddy White and Julio Jones. Andy Dalton has A.J. Green.
Mark Sanchez has Santonio Holmes. That is the same receiver who reportedly quit on the team in the last couple of weeks in the season and missed quarterback and receiver meetings leading up to their Week 17 game. It seems as if there is a lack of trust and connection between Sanchez and his top target.
Sanchez needs a young elite target that Sanchez can develop chemistry with and build their pass offense around. Someone like Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon or South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery could be a huge weapon for Sanchez.
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The Jets secondary is probably one of the strengths of their team with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie on the outside and the emergence of young corner Kyle Wilson.
Yet the Jets continue to get burned by opposing tight ends. Unfortunately for the Jets, this is a time that their biggest rival has one of the best tight ends in the league in Rob Gronkowski. Not to mention, he has a pretty good teammate, Aaron Hernandez, to play tight end opposite him.
If the Jets want to have any serious chance in competing for the AFC East title in the foreseeable future, they are going to have to attempt to tame the Patriots aerial attack. In their 37-16 loss to the Patriots in Week 10, Rob Gronkowski burned the Jets for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
With consecutive season-ending injuries to Jim Leonhard, there are also questions as to whether he will return to the Jets next year. Leonhard has been the anchor that has held this defense together the past two years, but the team has missed him in crunch time.
Whether or not Jim Leonhard is included in the Jets secondary next year, they will absolutely have to revamp their unit if they want to compete in the AFC.
1. Offensive Line
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Pro Bowlers Nick Mangold and D’Brickashaw Ferguson anchor the Jets' offensive line, yet Mark Sanchez was constantly under pressure towards the end of the season.
Wayne Hunter was not one of the strong points for the Jets down the stretch. He was constantly getting beat off the rush and gave the offense little time to work with.
When you watch Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees in the rest of playoffs, look at the protection that they get from their offensive lines. Some of their success has to be attributed to their offensive line and how much time they have in the pocket to find their receivers. It is unreasonable for anyone to expect Sanchez to do what Rodgers and Brees do with their offensive lines, but the protection certainly helps.
The Jets threw the ball 36 more times than they did last year and 179 more times than they did in 2009. The 2009 season was when Ryan tried to implement his Ground and Pound system and a revamped offensive line might help the Jets get back to this style of offense.