Before I begin I have to apologize to the entire Jets organization and fanbase for my immediate reaction to the Tim Tebow trade in March.
I was shocked and distraught at first seeing the Jets trade for a media frenzy in Tebow, who plays a position that is already held by a fourth-year player desperately in need of a stable setting with a competent backup to provide a push, but not a both-arms-together shove.
I was, and still am, not impressed in any way with Tim Tebow's abilities to lead a team for 16 games or be the front man in any kind of consistent patterns on offense. He can't consistently complete passes and seems to have benefited from an slew of fortunate, miraculous outcomes in his stint with Denver last season.
The bottom line for me with Tebow is the Broncos were outscored by 75 points in his 13 starts (includes postseason), and mental breakdowns by an opposing team's RB (running out of bounds) and Matt Prater's exceptional leg, contributed to his win total.
His other stats were also disturbing as only Blaine Gabbert and Curtis Painter had worse QBR ratings (ESPN statistic to evaluate QB effectiveness) among qualifiers. Add to that a completion percentage of 46.7, and I wasn't especially excited to see him become the Jets backup QB. Along with that, Tebow's followers were sure to provide a circus-like atmosphere that would have Mark Sanchez always looking over his shoulder.
Lowest Total QBR, 2011 Qualifiers
- Blaine Gabbert 21.1
- Curtis Painter 23.4
- Tim Tebow 27.2
- Sam Bradford 27.3
- Mark Sanchez 33.6
If one were to sign Tim Tebow to participate on their football team, there are very specific areas where he can thrive. After listening to the Jets and watching how they plan to use Tebow, I am now excited at the prospect of him providing a rare threat that could really excel in his role.
If the Jets use Tebow as they say they will, which is in short-yardage, goal line and punt-formation packages, along with an element of surprise on other downs, then I am hopeful to see him in a Jets uniform. The one aspect I overlooked when the trade was made initially was the impact Tebow can have on the Jets' locker room.
Tebow has my infinite respect as a person. He is a genuine believer in Jesus Christ who lives his life and makes decisions based on his personal relationship with Him. He is an honest, open, kind-hearted man who always seems to bring the best out in his teammates.
Tebow's humility and team-first approach are two other very important factors that will have an enormous effect on the Jets' locker room. If I had a daughter, I would be thrilled to have Tebow as a son-in-law. Since I don't have any kids, I would trust Tebow with dog-sitting my Bischon, whom I have come to love as a child. Those words express the kind of affinity I have for Tebow the man.
However...I do not want Mr. Tebow anywhere near the Jets' offense in a consistent, every-down QB role. That is not a strength of his right now. He might grow into it with time and practice, but if after four years of college, three NFL training camps and two regular seasons, he still can't consistently complete passes, then I would venture to think it's not likely to happen.
OK...now that I am done with my apologies, which are truly sincere, I can start on the Jets' season.
The Jets now enter their 44th season since they won Super Bowl III. The collapse of 2011 and the gaping holes that were on their roster as they fell to Miami in Week 17 were addressed in some ways, and drastically ignored in others during the offseason.
OFFSEASON UPGRADES - DEFENSE
In my previous rant about Tebow, I also criticized LaRon Landry as one-dimensional. Perhaps I was a bit harsh. When healthy, Landry is a terrific player, who can cover TEs and assist against the run as well.
He is a major upgrade as far as speed at safety, and along with Yeremiah Bell should drastically improve the Jets' ability to defend against game-breaking TEs such as the pair in New England that lit the Jets up last season.
In the 2012 NFL draft, the Jets addressed a major need at LB with Demario Davis. Davis not only has speed they need, but is a born leader and has even drawn comparisons to, dare I say, Ray Lewis.
Ok, lets not get crazy, but the coaching staff has raved about Davis, and he has already been given many assignments in his short time with the Jets. He could really be a difference-maker in the long run, and should immediately provide much needed speed at LB.
Aaron Maybin is having an exceptional camp and should benefit from increased work. It's no secret how fast Maybin is, and I'm very interested to see how, with a full offseason of work under his belt, he will improve and provide the Jets with needed pressure from the outside, along with defending the occasional TE.
The rest of the LB core is very solid. Bart Scott looks like his 2009 self after losing weight and trash-talking through camp. Calvin Pace has teased Jets fans with his potential as a difference-maker in the pass rush, but has not lived up to that as of yet. Along with Brian Thomas, Pace does provide consistency in coverage and experience.
Thomas and Pace could be the best all-around LBs on the squad. David Harris is a tackling wiz, and entering his sixth season, could have his best season with the added speed on the defense. Youngsters Nick Bellore, Josh Mauga and Garrett McIntyre contributed on special teams last season and are players the Jets' brass have a lot of confidence in.
Quinton Coples was drafted in the first round, and although reviews have been mixed as far as him grasping the playbook, his effort has not been questioned. Time should provide Coples, another drastic improvement in speed, the chance to learn and contribute as the season moves along.
Big things are also expected out of 2011 first-round pick Mo Wilkerson, who was possibly the best defensive lineman toward the end of the season after struggling early in training camp with the same things Coples has so far. Along with Sione Pouha, Mike De Vito, Kendrick Ellis and Marcus Dixon, the Jets have depth and athleticism that they have lacked in previous seasons on the defensive line.
One thing that should be mentioned is the mysterious injury to DT Sione Pouha, perhaps the Jets' best defensive lineman. Pouha is out for the preseason, and the Jets are being very suspicious about his availability.
Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie are shaping up to be one of the best CB tandems in the league. Behind them are unknowns, inconsistency, promise and despair all rolled into one.
Players such as Ryan Steed, Ellis Lankster and Antonio Allen (not a true CB, but played the "spur" position at South Carolina, which is a mixture of LB, CB and safety) have all impressed in camp and could provide the Jets with excellent depth and speed. Leftovers Eric Smith and Kyle Wilson struggled with consistency last season, but know the system well and might benefit from the added depth where they don't feel like more of a burden is put on them.
Other sleepers in the offseason program and training camp that might have an impact are players like LB Ricky Sapp, DB Royce Adams, DE Jay Richardson and LB Marcus Dowtin.
Sadly, GM Mike Tannenbaum did not address the team's largest offseason need offensively when he stayed pat on the offensive line. RT is still a mess with Wayne Hunter (who has missed all of training camp and the preseason so far with a mythic injury). Matt Slauson is coming off surgery and the front office thinks so positively about him that they forced a near $300,000 pay cut on him.
Perhaps the largest area of concern on the o-line is the shocking lack of depth. The only thing worse than the first team o-line is the backups that enter. Caleb Schlauderaff, Austin Howard, Stephon Heyer, Vlad Ducasse, Dennis Landolt and Robert Griffin (the OTHER Robert Griffin) could all possibly face being cut at the end of training camp just like the group that failed last preseason when the front office signed two rejects off the scrap heap of the rest of the NFL and entered the regular season with no backups that were familiar with the Jets' offensive scheme.
After nearly ending Mark Sanchez' preseason against the Giants by escorting Giants DL into the Jets backfield, the team mercifully traded RT Wayne Hunter to the St. Louis Rams for 2009 NFL Draft bust Jason Smith. Smith failed to earn a starting job this preseason and has been labeled as a quitter and someone who lacks any drive to compete. Jets are hoping a change of scenery will help Smith, but unless Smith has an infusion of drive, the Jets basically just traded problem for problem.
Without the needed help on the offensive line, the Jets find themselves a major injury to Brandon Moore, D'Brickashaw Ferguson or Nick Mangold away from panic mode. The situation on the offensive line makes the other areas of concern on offense (lack of depth or experience at WR, no legitimate blocking TE, no game-breaking RB and two of the worst QBs in the NFL in terms of accuracy) seem minor.
Where there is possible talent, there is lack of experience. Where there is experience, there is lack of talent. Where there is consistency, there is no blocking TE. Then you have the absurdity at QB.
If the Jets stick to their original plan, there is hope for success with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. However, logic says the disaster that is the Jets' offensive line will end that plan and force Tebow into action, which might provide success at first, but is a major disaster if it is needed for longer than two games.
Did the Jets improve enough in addressing their offensive line issues in 2011?
There is hope for the future with second-round draft pick Stephen HIll, who has major game-breaking speed and could provide the Jets with a weapon they have lacked in recent years. Hill's ability to grasp the offense, click with Sanchez and hold onto the football (a problem he had at Georgia Tech) will determine how much the Jets improve their passing game (provided the offensive line keeps Sanchez healthy).
Jordan White is another sleeper at WR who has fantastic hands, catching 234 balls for over 3,200 yards and 27 TD in his last two seasons at Western Michigan. If White can stay healthy (something he struggled with in college) he could also provide a nice third-down target.
Injuries to Santonio Holmes, Chaz Schillens and Jeremy Kerley have left the Jets that much more uncertain about their comfort level at WR. This is a major area of concern for the Jets if they aren't ready and in sync with Sanchez come Week 1.
It's shocking the way the front office failed to supply Sanchez and Tebow the upgrades and depth that the Jets severely lacked last season on the offensive line. Perhaps the most disturbing opinions coming out of Jets camp is this insistence that new OC Tony Sparano can simply will the same offensive line to better results after a disaster in 2011. For the "ground and pound" hopefuls, the Jets ranked 30th in the NFL in YPA last season (3.8), their lowest since their last losing season in 2007.
One of the other major areas of concern is the amount of pressure that the Jets will put on their defense if they can't sustain drives. The Jets finished third in the NFL last season in most three-and-outs with 60, and fourth in percentage of drives that ended in three-and-out. If you think Tebow would help in that area, think again.
Starting with when Tebow took over as starter in Week 7 through the end of the regular season, the Broncos led the NFL with 50 three-and-outs, nine more than any other team. While the Jets could have a terrific defense, one could almost see the Denver game repeating itself over and over again in 2012. After dominating an opposing offense for 59 minutes, the defense falls apart, suffering from severe exhaustion.
During the Jets collapse in losing the final three games last season, only the Bills converted a lower percentage of third downs than the Jets. The Jets converted just 24.4 pct (3.7-15.0) of third downs when their season was on the line.
Some..Some of the blame for the Jets lack of execution and pathetic ability to continue drives is on the prior offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Sanchez and Schotty never really clicked. On the opposite side of the argument is the point that the Jets lack of execution in creating holes and keeping defenders away from Mark Sanchez is the main reason why the Jets performed so poorly. Whatever the reason, 2012 will provide the answers for which was true.
The Jets' best area of execution on offense last season was their ability to put the ball in the end zone once they got into the red zone. Since this will be an area where Tebow will be relied on significantly, it should be noted the the 2011 New York Jets finished second to Detroit in the NFL in red zone TD percentage last season. They scored a TD 65.4 percent of the time once they entered the Red Zone.
Some stats are hard to explain, but in this instance, the Jets' inability to ever create space and throw the ball down field was why they were so successful. The Jets were used to working in tight spaces, and very rarely did their WRs run routes beyond 20 yards, so when they were inside the 20, they were able to execute better.
It's hard to imagine the Jets getting better in red zone TD percentage, so when you consider that they were so successful last season and still were awful overall, it makes the chance of success in 2012 that less likely.
This has always been an area of strength for the Jets in past seasons, and most likely will be again this season as far as punt and kick return and defending both. However, with veteran journeymen Josh Brown and Nick Folk, the Jets find themselves in the bottom half of potential success.
While neither is awful, Brown languished in the barren wasteland of St. Louis for the last four seasons and hasn't kicked a pressure field goal since 2007, and Folk is one missed 30-yarder away from triggering a Cary Blanchard at Buffalo in December 1993 meltdown. While the Jets have never had a noticeable deficiency in the punting department, T.J. Conley won't make anyone forget Ray Guy.
I fully expect the 2012 New York Jets defense to torture opposing offenses on a regular basis, and this could be the most talented group to take the field in team history. However, they are still somewhat susceptible to TEs, RBs and slot receivers taking advantage of matchup problems against LBs. If they can find a way to hide the few areas of weakness they have, I anticipate a group that will rank in the top-5 in points, yards and sacks.
Offensively, this might be a very long season for the Jets. This is supposed to be a make or break year for Mark Sanchez. If I were Sanchez, I would be very worried about my future, because despite signing him to an extension, they did nothing else to help him succeed. Not only does he have to deal with the media torment of the Tim Tebow fanbase, but he will be running for his life on a consistent basis.
In order to hide the lack of protection Sanchez will be provided this season, the Jets announced a return to "ground and pound". After 2012 is over, ground and pound will signify the Jets fan throwing himself to the ground and pounding it with his fist. While new offensive coordinator Tony Sparano means well with his no-nonsense Parcells-like approach, you just can't will talent where there is none.
Despite trying to consistently run the ball, the Jets will be lucky if they average 3.5 YPC on the season, which will result in many low-scoring games that the Jets will only have a chance at if they are playing equally inept offenses.
Rex Ryan might lose another 50 pounds watching his defense suffer physical exhaustion from constantly being on the field because the Jets will be among the leaders in three-and-outs. Despite the dominance his defense will show, many fourth quarters will be difficult, as they will be fighting extreme fatigue.
Bottom line is this could be a very frustrating season for Jets fans. The sad part is the Jets fans didn't need to be in this position. For the second straight offseason Mike Tannenbaum failed to provide a loyal and tortured fanbase the replacements and upgrades to make this team a contender. While the Jets did address the gaping holes they had on defense, a major area of concern was again ignored, and the lack of talent and depth will doom this team in 2012.
Worse Case Scenario: Offensive line never gels or suffers a major injury to Mangold, Moore or Ferguson. Hill struggles grasping playbook and holding on to the ball. The defense suffers from being on the field too long.
Final Record: 5-11, last place in AFC East.
Best Case Scenario: Offensive line gels, Hill develops nicely and turns into a major deep threat. Holmes and Kerley stay healthy and contribute, while Sanchez turns in his best season behind a line that gives him time. Defense ranks among the best in the NFL.
Final Record: 11-5, 2nd place AFC East #5 seed in AFC Playoffs
Most Likely scenario: Offensive line struggles, but does improve if they avoid injury. Hill has issues at first, but develops as season moves on and is a consistent deep threat by the end of the season. Defense plays well, but struggles to slam the door in games due to the offense not being able to consistently convert on third down. Jets lose four games by five points or less.
Final Record: 8-8, T-Second AFC East, Miss Playoffs