5 Keys for New York Jets to Bounce Back in 2012
Many adjectives could be used to describe the New York Jets in 2011, and a vast majority of them are negative.
The team failed to maintain any sort of consistency all season long, and they were constantly dominated by superior opponents.
However, the roster is still littered with talent. With a few crucial moves and improvement from some key players, Rex Ryan and company will be heading back to the playoffs next season.
Acquire a Solid Safety This Offseason
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The Jets were absolutely destroyed by the interior pass game last season.
Eric Smith and Brodney Pool did not possess the skill or size to compete with some of the league's most prolific pass catchers, and it doomed New York on the defensive side of the ball.
Teams would not have to challenge the feared duo of Revis and Cromartie on the outside, as they would have the middle of the field open for business.
It is crucial that Gang Green finds a more talented safety this offseason.
The team could bring back Jim Leonhard—he is a solid player and locker room leader when on the field. However, Leonhard is injury-plagued and is a huge gamble.
Mike Tannenbaum could also decide to hit the free agency market for an upgrade at the safety position, with the best options being LaRon Landry and Michael Griffin. Both options have good size and tackling ability and could be significant upgrades over Eric Smith.
However, the best long-term answer at safety is through the draft. Mark Barron out of Alabama is a perfect first-round selection for the Jets, as he will bring on-field smarts, unprecedented athleticism and good size to the next level.
Find a Viable Replacement for Wayne Hunter
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Wayne Hunter was a mess in his first season as a starter in 2011.
The Hawaii product was consistently dominated by opposing defenders, and he was a huge liability on offense.
Hunter is a subpar run blocker and a terrible pass protector. With him manning the right tackle position, Mark Sanchez is likely to get his head knocked off.
New York is almost certainly releasing Hunter this offseason, and will probably attempt to replace him through the draft.
There are many solid options in the middle rounds of this year's draft, including Brandon Mosley, Tony Bergstrom and Marcus Zusevics.
All these players might have some troubles as immediate starters, but it's almost certain that they would be an improvement over Wayne Hunter.
Better Decision-Making by Mark Sanchez
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After significantly cutting down his turnovers in his sophomore season, Mark Sanchez returned to his rookie self in 2011.
The USC product committed a league-high 26 turnovers this season, including several pick-sixes.
Most of these turnovers are not from a lack of accuracy from Sanchez, but rather from poor decision making.
Sanchez often attempts to squeeze the ball into tight areas and force it over the middle. This often results in key turnovers that will eventually doom the Jets.
If Gang Green is to improve in 2012, then Mark Sanchez needs to relax and make better decisions in the pocket. Otherwise, the Jets are doomed from the start.
Revert Back to Ground and Pound
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The Jets were outrushed for the first time in the Rex Ryan era in 2011.
The team ran for only 1,692 yards, while opponents racked up 1,777 yards.
New York lost at their own game for most of last season—teams could attack through the run on offense and control the Jets rushing game on defense.
If they are to bounce back in 2012, then Rex Ryan and company need to revert back to the physical style of play that took them to two straight AFC Championship games.
Shonn Greene needs to be more consistent as a lead back, and the offensive line has to be the stronger unit at all times.
The defensive line also needs to be more physical and avoid getting pushed back and allowing holes for opposing runners.
If Gang Green can dominate their opponents on the ground like in 2009 and 2010 next season, then the team is almost certainly heading to the postseason.
Clear Up Locker Room Mess
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It is impossible to win as a team when you do not act like a team.
The Jets locker room was in shambles last season, and constant arguments and bickering turned the attention off of football.
If New York is to revert back to their playoff form in 2012, then the team needs to get on the same page. Clubhouse cancers like Santonio Holmes need to settle down or be released, and veterans have to be better leaders in the locker room.
This is the most vital key to improving for next season. Gang Green will regress even more if the team cannot function.