Can these players make Rex Ryan's Jets respectable in 2013?
Trying to predict an offseason acquisition's statistical contribution to the 2013 New York Jets so early in the NFL year yields an appreciation for the symbiotic relationships within an NFL team. It's especially challenging because so many 2012 Jets who are pursuing free agency do not know who their next employer will be.
For example, the Jets may need to replace starting guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson as well as starting tackle Austin Howard. Predicting the productivity of a running back such as Mike Goodson without knowing the quality of the Jets' offensive line sounds like an exercise in futility.
It doesn't matter how good the back is if he doesn't have guys in the trenches who can create the initial running lane. He'll just keep racking up rushing attempts that yield little or no gain.
It's the same with quarterbacks. How can we project their passing efficiency without knowing the quality of protection they'll get and the ability of their receivers to get open?
The Jets face that situation in the third full week of March 2013. As noted, three of the offensive line's starters, tackle Austin Howard as well as guards Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson, are pursuing free agency (although Howard has been tendered but not officially re-signed).
A starting wide receiver, Braylon Edwards is unsigned. Tight end Dustin Keller is gone, and his backup, Jeff Cumberland, is tendered, but not officially re-signed.
That's not the only problem. Many acquisitions' roles are not finalized. For example, David Garrard's place on the quarterback depth chart will not be clear until Rex Ryan announces his starter during training camp.
If that were not enough, many of the Jets' new acquisitions have lost significant playing time because of injuries.
You'll learn more about this in the upcoming slides, but it's suffice to say that the best-case scenarios assume that the new guys make the team, stay healthy and realize the potential they displayed before the injury bug struck. Should the injury bug strike again, the Jets could easily face a repeat of 2012 or worse.
So take this all with the proverbial grain of salt and let's have a look at the Jets who are coming back and the new faces who will join them.
Josh Mauga returns to compete for an inside linebacker job.
Josh Mauga showed some promise in the Jets' 2012 training camp and made the team. However, a torn pectoral muscle put him on injured reserve in October, cutting his season short.
Bart Scott's departure means there's room for inside linebackers on the 2013 Jets. Mauga may not displace David Harris or Scott's projected replacement Demario Davis from their starting roles. However, Mauga should see much more playing time.
If he stays healthy, Mauga should see enough action to match Davis' rookie contribution of 20-plus tackles, with any sacks, fumble recoveries or forced fumbles serving as an added bonus.
Mauga might also see time on special teams.
Will the Jets' West Coast offense use Lex Hilliard's receiving skills?
The Jets' decision to re-sign Lex Hilliard surprised many, such as ESPN New York's Rich Cimini. Cimini once wrote of Hilliard, "The Jets plucked him off the scrap heap, and that's where he'll end up." However, it's possible Hilliard's receiving abilities may come in handy in the new West Coast offense.
Hilliard never had imposing offensive numbers. His busiest season was 2009, his rookie year. Hilliard carried the ball 23 times for 89 yards and a touchdown. He added 20 receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns. He has not approached either yardage number since.
However, when announcing the re-signing, The Star-Ledger reporter Conor Orr called Hilliard "a strong presence on special teams."
Maybe the Jets' new West Coast offense will call for more use of Hilliard's receiving skills, as throwing to backs is one way the system uses a passing attack to establish ball control.
If Hilliard caught a couple of passes per game, he could contribute around 15 yards a week or 240 yards a season. Add a carry a game for three or four yards, and Hilliard's total offense could hit 300 yards. Touchdowns would be a bonus.
He'd continue to play on special teams as well.
Will a competitor await Nick Folk in training camp?
Nick Folk is coming back. However, he may face competition.
According to The Star-Ledger's Conor Orr, Folk signed a one-year contract. Special teams coach Ben Kotwica sang Folk's praises, saying,
Nick's done a lot of great things for us. We're really appreciative of the things he's done in the past. When I look at Nick, I think back to the kick there on opening day against Dallas and obviously the playoff kick there against Indianapolis. Then you had the game-winner last year against Miami.
The time that Nick and I have spent together has been very rewarding. I don't know how things are going to shake out in the future and we'll just have to see how all that lays out to rest here in the next few weeks and months.
The Jets probably assume Folk will continue to convert PATs at his typical automatic rate and convert on between 75 percent and 80 percent of his field-goal attempts.
However, Orr also points out, "Folk has been in a kicking competition during training camp each of the last two seasons." In a season where competition is supposed to reign supreme, expect no less this year.
Long snapper Tanner Purdum signed a two-year deal.
According to reporter Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, the New York Jets have re-signed long snapper Tanner Purdum to a two-year contract. This may have come as a surprise to some. Rich Cimini, for example, had predicted that Purdum would go, writing,
They brought in some competition by signing Travis Tripuka to a reserve/future contract. He's the son of former NBA player Kelly Tripuka and grandson of former Broncos great Frank Tripuka. The Jets probably won't tender Purdum, letting him test the waters.
Orr offers a different interpretation of Tripuka's signing, calling him a "camp body." According to Orr, having two long snappers in training camp "...has been a common practice through the years."
It makes sense. Aside from the competition this invites, it's smart to prepare for the worst. Assume Purdum wins the job. The Jets could put Tripuka on the practice squad. Should Purdum have to miss a game, there would be a long snapper available for call-up with whom the punter and holder would be familiar.
In the Jets' case, punter Robert Malone is the holder as well. Purdum will fulfill the team's expectations if he keeps Malone happy with accurate snaps and makes an occasional special teams stop as well.
Willie Colon faces the Jets in 2012. He'll wear green and white in 2013.
From 2007 to 2009, Willie Colon played in every Pittsburgh Steelers' regular-season game. It's his history before and after those years that might cause concern.
Colon's rookie status probably explains his two games played in 2006. However, he caught the injury bug in July 2010, when an Achilles tendon injury resulted in his placement on injured reserve. He missed the entire 2010 season.
In 2011, a triceps injury returned Colon to injured reserve shortly after the season began. He played in one game that year. The 2012 season saw Colon last 12 games before a knee injury ended his year in mid-December.
Here comes the scary part: If both Brandon Moore and Matt Slauson depart, the Jets will find themselves woefully thin at guard. Signing Colon after his release by the Pittsburgh Steelers attempts to address that. However, signing someone who hasn't played a 16-game season since 2009 might raise a few fans' eyebrows.
On the other hand, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN New York, "Colon, when healthy, is a punishing run blocker." Cimini calls the signing "low-risk."
Depending on the number of guards in camp, Colon could find himself competing for a starting position. Alternatively, he could serve as a run-blocking specialist. For the Jets' sake as well as his own, hopefully Colon's injury-prone days are behind him.
If Antonio Garay stays healthy, he may strengthen the Jets' defensive line.
If Antonio Garay stays healthy for a full season, he could help the Jets' defense overcome the departures of defensive tackle Mike DeVito and nose tackle Sione Pouha.
The problem is, Garay has only played in all 16 regular-season games twice in a career that began in 2003.
Garay's first trip to the injured reserve list came near the end of 2003, his rookie season with the Cleveland Browns. He moved to the physically unable to perform list and saw no action until 2006 with the Chicago Bears. An ankle injury effectively ended his Bears' career after playing 10 games in two seasons.
Garay's first 16-game season was 2010 as a nose tackle with the San Diego Chargers. He recorded 5.5 sacks, 37 tackles and 11 assists. He followed that performance with another 16-game season in 2011 in which he recorded 2.5 sacks, 37 tackles and 20 assists. Garay must meet or surpass the performances in those two seasons to replace DeVito or Pouha.
However, Garay appeared in only eight games in 2012, recording a sack, seven tackles and nine assists. Which Garay will Jets' fans see in 2013?
If he returns to his form of 2010 and 2011, Garay could provide more quarterback pressure up the middle than Jets' opponents have come to expect. Tom Brady knows Garay's capabilities. In 2011, Garay incurred a $15,000 fine for a below-the-knees hit on Brady.
Add Garay's pass-rushing capabilities to those of Muhammad Wilkerson and Quinton Coples and the Jets' defensive line will continue to improve. Now they need help from the outside linebackers.
Antwan Barnes in 2011, when he had 11 sacks.
Antwan Barnes could provide the outside pass rush the Jets have lacked if he regains his 2011 form.
That year, Barnes had 11 sacks. He also contributed 32 tackles, seven assists and two forced fumbles. Coincidentally, it was the only season in Barnes's six-year career in which he appeared in all 16 regular-season games.
Barnes never lost an entire season to injury. However, injuries have impacted his career.
- A chest injury cost him a couple of games in 2008.
- A hamstring injury ended his 2012 season in mid-December.
He has also experienced his share of controversy.
- In 2010, his first season with the San Diego Chargers, Barnes incurred a $5,000 fine for a neck-and-chest hit on St. Louis Rams' quarterback Sam Bradford.
- In 2011, he earned a game ejection and $25,000 fine for bumping a referee during the Chargers' road game against the Oakland Raiders.
If these incidents do not indicate future behavior, if Barnes stays healthy and if he is not the Chargers' answer to the Jets' Aaron Maybin (who went from six sacks, four forced fumbles, 10 tackles and two assists in 2011 to one tackle and placement on waivers in 2012), then Barnes should improve the Jets' ability to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
Equaling Maybin's 2011 sacks would surpass the combined total of 2012’s starters Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas by half-a-sack.
If the other starting outside linebacker delivers four sacks and a backup matches Garrett McIntyre's 2012 total of 3.5 sacks, Barnes would be part of an outside linebacking unit that achieves double figures in sacks.
With Wilkerson and Coples already capable of six sacks apiece, the Jets' front seven might have 30-sack potential, assuming the inside linebackers match last year's total of 5.5 sacks.
Add a few sacks from secondary blitzes and the Jets' defense has an outside chance of equaling last year's opponents' sack tally of 47. It's a long shot, but if Barnes does his part and gets capable teammates, it might very well be possible.
Mike Goodson must combine durability with big-play capability to be the Jets' feature back.
Jets' fans who monitor the team's payroll will be disappointed in John Idzik if Mike Goodson doesn't emerge as the team's feature back. Goodson's three-year, $6.9 million contract is an extravagance compared to what the Jets paid Shonn Greene to deliver two consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. Greene did that at roughly half the price.
What's more, Greene was durable. He appeared in 61 of a possible 64 games during his Jets' career and was never out because of injury. He never had fewer than 108 carries in a season. In fact, over his last two seasons, Greene carried the ball 529 times, averaging between 16 and 17 carries per game.
Goodson, on the other hand has 160 carries over his four-year career. His high of 103 carries in 2010 is five carries fewer than Greene's low.
In contrast to Greene, Goodson has struggled with injuries since his second year.
- He suffered a concussion in October 2009.
- In mid-November 2011, a hamstring injury placed Goodson on injured reserve. He only saw action in four games.
- Ankle injuries made Goodson miss at least two games in 2012. He appeared in 12.
As if that weren't enough, Goodson brings other baggage to the table. The NFL has fined him twice for unsportsmanlike conduct.
- While with the Carolina Panthers, Goodson incurred a $7,500 fine for making a slashing gesture at fans during a preseason game against the New York Giants. Goodson had just scored a touchdown.
- With the Raiders, Goodson ended his 2012 campaign by being ejected from the season finale against the San Diego Chargers for his role in a scuffle with Chargers' linebacker Takeo Spikes. That incident cost Goodson a $7,875 fine.
That's a risky history, especially for a team that needs to repair its public image.
On the other hand, Goodson presents an intriguing upside that promises to deliver qualities that Greene lacked.
- In 2012, Goodson's 35 carries produced 221 yards, an average of 6.3 yards per carry.
- He's had 40-yard runs in two seasons, a feat Greene never accomplished.
- Last year's 16 catches for 195 yards, an average of 12.2 yards per catch, approaches Greene's career best in receiving yardage, 211. However, Greene needed 30 catches to do it.
In other words, Goodson can make Jets' fans forget about Shonn Greene if he stays healthy and controls himself.
If he assumes Greene's workload, Goodson's average could drop to five yards per carry, and he'd still average 85 rushing yards per game. That would give him 1,360 yards rushing. Adding around five catches per game at an average of eight yards per catch would give Goodson 2,000 yards in total offense. He should be good for around 10 touchdowns rushing plus four or five receiving.
If Goodson becomes a change-of-pace back or part of a run-by-committee system, his carries could drop to around six per game. He'd still be good for around 30 yards rushing, then add a couple of catches for 15 yards more, giving him a total offensive contribution of just over 600 yards with three touchdowns rushing, maybe one receiving.
Ideally, however, Goodson's price tag means he's ready to do big things, provided the Jets supply the offensive line and quarterback to help.
David Garrard must regain his Jacksonville form to start for the Jets.
If David Garrard wrests the starting quarterback position from Mark Sanchez, it will mean that two years of inactivity hasn't taken away three essential elements of his game: accuracy, mobility and productivity. Here's how he stacks up against Mark Sanchez.
From 2006 to 2010, Garrard's completion percentage never fell below 60.2 percent. From 2009 to 2012, Mark Sanchez's completion percentage never exceeded 56.7 percent.
Garrard has produced with his legs as well has his arm. His 380 carries for 1,746 yards translate to 4.6 yards per carry and 20.3 yards per game. Sanchez has rushed 125 times for 342 yards, averaging 2.7 yards per carry and 5.5 yards per game.
Garrard only threw more interceptions than touchdown passes once, in 2002, his rookie year. He threw one touchdown pass and two interceptions.
Sanchez's career is volatile. In 2009 and 2012, he threw a combined total of 38 interceptions and 25 touchdowns. His combined totals for 2010 and 2011 were 31 interceptions and 43 touchdowns. Which Sanchez will we see in 2013?
Sanchez has an advantage here—6.3% of the pass plays he has attempted resulted in sacks. Garrard's career percentage is 7.3.
Sanchez missed one game in 2009 with a knee injury. Garrard's injuries have been more costly. In 2007, he missed four games with an injured ankle. In 2010, Garrard missed two games then went on injured reserve because of a concussion followed by a right-finger injury. His release followed, and he has not played since.
If Garrard returns to the form he displayed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, Sanchez's job could be in jeopardy. Garrard at his best is a double threat, as both a runner and passer.
Say Garrard wins the starting job and stays healthy. Also, assume that the Jets implement a West Coast offense similar to that which offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and quarterback Jeff Garcia employed at San Francisco in 2000 and the team provides its quarterback with competent support.
In 2000, Garcia attempted to pass 561 times. That translates to 35 pass attempts per game.
Based on Garrard’s lifetime statistics, if he passes between 30 and 35 times a game he would complete between 18 and 21. Given his lifetime average of seven yards per attempt, 210 to 245 yards passing would not be inconceivable.
That translates to a rounded seasonal projection of between 3,400 and 4,000 yards. Again, given his lifetime tendencies, he'd throw between 19 and 22 touchdown passes, around 13 interceptions and take around 25 sacks. He'd add four or five carries per game for 20 to 25 yards more.
However, these rosy predictions ignore that Garrard hasn't played a full season since his 2009 Pro Bowl season (ironically, Sanchez's rookie year). That year, he surpassed the lower bounds of these yardage projections, completing 314 of 516 passes for 3,597 yards.
These projections assume success in assembling a team that runs a pass-intensive West Coast offense competently. If Garrard gets that kind of team and stays healthy, he could have a banner year. Otherwise, 2013 will be a long season for whoever’s behind center.