New York Jets: 10 Bold Predictions for the 2012 Season
The New York Jets have had one of the most interesting offseasons of any team in 2012. I only use "interesting" because I don't know quite what to make of it all yet.
Truth be told, no one does. But luckily, we'll get answers Week 1 and for 16 more weeks after that.
But what will come of it all? Will the Jets ultimately be successful, or will their perceived headline-grabbing antics get in the way of a return trip to the playoffs after a year away in 2011?
Check out my bold predictions for the answers to those questions.
Stephen Hill Will Have Less Than 30 Receptions
- He came from an option-style offense, and doesn't have much experience running the route tree.
- He never caught more than 28 passes in a season for Georgia Tech, and caught just 49 career passes in college.
- He is the third option in the passing game behind Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller, two of Mark Sanchez's favorite pass-catchers.
- If the Jets are as dedicated to the running game as they seem to be, that technically makes Hill the fourth or fifth option at best for the Jets offense as a whole.
When I set the bar for Stephen Hill's performance soon after he was drafted by averaging the production of other wide receivers drafted around his slot in previous years, I didn't account for a few facts pertinent to Hill:
If Hill jumps off the map with an early string of good performances, he could land in Sanchez's favor, but Hill is a developmental prospect with a lot to learn about the NFL game. An easy transition is not expected.
Shonn Greene Will Total Over 1,000 Yards Rushing
Greene crossed the 1,000-yard plateau last year, but he had the third lowest per-carry average of any back to cross 1,000 yards. Can he replicate the quadruple-digit season he desires?
He's not an explosive runner, but chances are made stronger by the fact that Tony Sparano is the offensive coordinator, and he has promised to help the Jets get back to a run-heavy mentality.
Running back Terrance Ganaway posed the only real threat to Greene's repeated 1,000-yard season, but with him off the roster after cuts, Greene is once again the primary back with Bilal Powell in a third-down role.
Mark Sanchez Will Be the Starting Quarterback in Week 17
A lot has been made of the quarterback controversy between Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. The primary question has been whether Tebow was brought into be a complementary component to Sanchez, or whether he will be asked to man the quarterback spot if Sanchez struggles (or if he was simply brought in for "selling seats, man.")
The Jets made a $10.75 million promise that Sanchez would be the starting quarterback in 2012, and although the contract he signed doesn't guarantee him anything beyond the 2012 season, the Jets would probably like to avoid answering questions about benching their big investment during the season.
The schedule sets Sanchez up to struggle early, but there are some easier games down the stretch. If the Jets can hang tight with Sanchez, he should be able to make it through the gauntlet.
Aaron Maybin Will Log 10 or More Sacks
In Aaron Maybin's first meaningful year in the NFL, he logged six sacks as a rotational pass-rusher, playing just 30 percent of the snaps in his 13 games last season (per Pro Football Focus).
The Jets need to get Maybin on the field more often in 2012, but luckily for him, they still have a desperate need for pass-rushers. As long as the Jets are able to put Maybin in good position to succeed—which is a strength of Rex Ryan's—he should easily cross the plateau of double-digit sacks and permanently erase his image as a first-round bust.
The Jets Defense Will Finish in the Top 5
Over the first three years of the Rex Ryan era in New York, the Jets defense ranked in the top five in yards each year. They were also the league's No. 1 scoring defense in 2009 and No. 6 in 2010, but fell to 20th in 2011 due in large part to an offense that gave up more points to opposing defenses than any other in the league.
Some of the consistency/ball security issues on offense that boiled over to the Jets defense may still be apparent, but the unit still looks like one of the best in football judging off what we saw in the preseason.
Turnovers Will Be Way Down from 2011
The Jets' entire season came unraveled during a three-game stretch in which Mark Sanchez turned the ball over nine times. Sanchez's league-leading 24 turnovers (18 interceptions, six lost fumbles) had a large part to do with that.
As a team, though, the Jets totaled a whopping 34 turnovers, the second-most in the NFL last season.
Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano preaches a ball-control style of offense and is not going to take too kindly to turnovers. Bringing in Sparano may have been the best thing to happen to Sanchez in a while, and expect it to show up on the stat sheet where it matters the most.
Darrelle Revis Will Not Give Up More Than 70 Yards to a Single Receiver
The media has been insistent upon "poking the bear" in continually asking Revis about his matchups with wide receiver Stevie Johnson, which has me thinking he'll be determined to hold Johnson without a single catch in their meeting on Sunday and again in Week 17.
Revis remains the best cornerback in the game, and with a lot of motivation to prove himself from the beginning, this could be another banner year for No. 24.
Santonio Holmes' Chemistry Issues with Sanchez Will Go Away
The rift between Sanchez and wide receiver Santonio Holmes was one of many factors that put an exclamation point on the end of a disappointing season for the Jets.
All indications thus far are that the relationship is being repaired, and we have yet to see anything that would indicate otherwise.
"I'm going to ride with him until the end," Holmes said on Wednesday according to ESPN.
Of course, these things are much more easily said before the season begins, when nothing has gone wrong yet; but Holmes is the best receiver on the Jets' roster and his opportunities will come. It's then up to him to make the most of those opportunities, provided that Sanchez delivers accurate passes.
As long as Holmes understands that this operation is bigger than him, there shouldn't be an overwhelming amount of controversy around the wide receiver this season.
Antonio Cromartie Will Not Catch a Single Pass
The Jets cornerback created quite a stir among his teammates and the media when he called himself the second-best wide receiver on the team (h/t ProFootballTalk).
But despite the Jets' troubles on offense and their inability to find talent at the wide receiver position, they will not call on Cromartie to play a significant role at wide receiver.
And regardless of the number of snaps he takes, he's not likely to be a big part of the plan, nor is he likely to be among Sanchez's primary reads on any given play.
All this has me thinking Cromartie finishes the 2012 season with as many receptions as he has in his NFL career: zero.
9-7, Wild Card
Yep. For all the chaos that the Jets will go through this season, I think they'll still be a playoff team.
How could this be? Well for starters, they have an elite defense which consistently ranks near the top of the league in important efficiency indicators like defensive passer rating (first, sixth and third the past three seasons), yards per pass attempt (first, sixth and fifth) and yards per rush attempt (fourth, fourth and sixth). Exactly two other defenses have ranked in the top six in those categories the past three years: the Ravens and the Steelers.
The offense has significant question marks across the board—quarterback, running back, wide receiver and offensive line—but the defense is one thing they can count on to carry them to multiple wins even without much help from the offense.
Besides, as awful as the Jets offense was in the preseason, it can't possibly be that bad all season long, right?
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.