Burning Questions for the New York Jets' 2013-14 Season
After an offseason filled with change and roster turnover, the Jets enter the 2013 season with more questions than answers.
From the head coach to the quarterback and everyone in-between, everyone on the Jets sideline is fighting for a future with the organization with a new general manager calling the shots.
The only way to find out whether or not the Jets are back in the right direction is to watch the story unfold over the next 17 weeks.
Here are burning questions for the Jets that need to be answered by the end of the season.
Is Geno Smith the Future?
No matter how many games the Jets manage to win this season, they cannot close the curtains on 2013 without knowing whether or not they have a future franchise quarterback in Geno Smith.
Smith certainly did not look like a future star last Saturday night, throwing three interceptions and “pulling an Orlovsky” in the process.
However, as bad as the headlines made Geno’s debut as a starter sound, he was far from a complete disaster. He made rookie mistakes that signify that he may not be ready to take the league by storm just yet, but he did make a handful of impressive throws to show off his untapped potential.
After all, Smith was a second-round pick for a reason. He was not asked to make many complex post-snap reads at West Virginia, and his tendency to stare down receivers reared its ugly head on Saturday night.
The good news is many of Smith’s problems are fixable. Smith has a strong arm with solid accuracy and enough mobility to make plays with his legs when needed, but he does have to clean up some mechanical issues and learn how to process information at an accelerated speed.
As of this writing, it is unknown who the starter will be on opening day against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. If Sanchez is the starter, Geno must be inserted into the starting lineup unless the Jets find themselves in the unlikely position of contending for a playoff spot.
Geno has the potential to be a franchise quarterback—but it may not be right away. As difficult as it may be after watching Russell Wilson and Robert Griffin III light up the league last year, the Jets and their fans must show patience when bringing along their young quarterback.
Will Rex Ryan Keep His Job?
With a dismal roster to work with on the heels of a 6-10 season, it has been all but assumed by many that this season will be Rex Ryan’s last as head coach of the Jets.
On the surface, it may seem as if Rex should already get started making his LinkedIn profile, but the embattled coach has a better chance to stick around than most would assume.
For reasons unknown, it has become popular belief that Ryan is a lame duck coach with just one year left on his contract—which is flat-out untrue. Ryan is under contract through the 2014 season. He is certainly on the hot seat, but to assume that the organization has already dismissed him as a part of their future is inaccurate.
Still, unless Mark Sanchez has a 2011 Alex Smith-esque resurgence, Ryan needs some help from his new young core of players to show that the franchise is headed in the right direction once again—especially Geno Smith.
Winning a certain number of games is not necessarily going to be the determining factor in Ryan’s employment (although making the playoffs would certainly go a long way). More important than anything will be for Ryan to prove that his team has a new core to build around, starting with a quarterback the franchise can hang its hat on.
Only time will tell just how competitive the Jets will be this year, but Ryan stands a better chance to stick around than most would assume.
Can Stephen Hill Develop into a Real Threat?
Stephen Hill fell far below expectations as a rookie and became an easy target of criticism while the Jets failed to do much of anything on offense last year.
In fairness to Hill, he was hardly put in a position to succeed. Hill was a raw prospect coming out of Georgia Tech's run-heavy triple-option offense to begin with, but he was thrust into a starting role with Mark Sanchez throwing him passes. Sprinkle in some hamstring problems and a devastating drop late in a game against the Patriots, and Hill's rookie season was over before it ever had a chance to take off.
However, because Hill was so raw coming out of Georgia Tech, he has plenty of room to grow into a potential superstar. Oozing with athletic ability, Hill has all of the tools to be a dynamic deep threat—if he gets the proper coaching and takes advantage of it.
Hill's preseason results have been solid—he caught four passes for 56 yards in three quarters. He did draw a penalty for swinging at a Giants' defender, but Hill is flashing the potential the Jets saw in him when they moved up to draft him in the 2012 draft.
Santonio Holmes will provide a huge relief for Hill whenever he comes back, but it will also signify that he will also be just about out of excuses. The time is now for him to combine his natural ability with his newfound experience to become the caliber of player he is capable of becoming.
Will David Harris Ever Return to Form?
Just three years removed from his status as an All-Pro linebacker, David Harris has transformed into one of the biggest liabilities on the Jets' defense.
Last year, Pro Football Focus graded Harris as the single worst defender on the team.
Harris has always been a liability in coverage with his average athleticism and speed, but he has seen a drop-off in all areas of his game. He also graded out as the worst run defender on the team in 2012.
Where has the old David Harris gone?
Perhaps Harris was dealing with an undisclosed nagging injury that affected him more than numbers can quantify, but the stark contrast in performance from previous seasons is nothing short of alarming. Harris, who will take up more cap space than any other player this season (via overthecap.com), has not given the Jets a fair return on their investment.
As the Jets start to break in new starting inside linebacker Demario Davis, Harris needs to return to his consistent self if the Jets plan on continuing their reputation of defensive excellence.
Is Chris Ivory the Real Deal?
The Jets exchanged a fourth-round pick with the expectation that Ivory would become the dynamic threat at running back that they have not enjoyed since the days of Curtis Martin.
So far, through two preseason games, Ivory has done little to resemble the future star the Jets were hoping they would get.
In his preseason debut against the Jaguars, Ivory averaged just 2.2 yards on six carries. A week later, he followed up his disappointing debut by averaging just 1.9 yards on eight carries.
Ivory has shown off his willingness to be physical and take contact, but he has lacked an ideal level of decisiveness and burst through the hole. Ivory's physical talent flashes, but it appears as if he has not yet nailed down the mental aspects of playing in a brand new offense.
As underwhelming as these results are, it is important to keep in mind that this is a relatively small sample size based on a couple of preseason games. Ivory may just need some time to shake off the rust after missing out on the early stages of camp dealing with a hamstring injury.
Either way, expectations are sky-high for Ivory, and he will need to ramp up his production when the games start to count.
Can Quinton Coples Make the Transition to Outside Linebacker?
The Jets have needed a young stud at the outside linebacker position for the better part of a decade now, but moving 2012 first-round pick Quinton Coples to the position is certainly a curious way to go about filling their need.
Having played most of his career in the 290-pound range at both defensive end and defensive tackle in the college ranks, making the shift to a position that caters to players about 35 pounds lighter is tricky business.
Coples managed to get down to a realistic playing weight for the position at 278 pounds (via Brian Costello of the New York Post)—but that was the easy part. Having played along the defensive line throughout his career, Coples was going to learn how to play in space and drop into coverage.
Coples is an athletic player, but playing in space is a completely new realm of the game he has not been exposed to. While capable of eventually making the transition, this was set up to be a lengthy process that has now been derailed by an ankle injury that will keep him out “indefinitely.”
With this combination of injury issues and positional uncertainty, a soaking wet towel has been thrown on the hopes of Coples having a breakout season in 2013.
Do the Jets Have Any Long-Term Solutions at Safety on the Roster?
No position has been more of a turnstile of change during the Rex Ryan era than the safety position.
For the 2013 season, the Jets have exchanged LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell for Dawan Landry and the winner of the battle between Antonio Allen and Jaiquawn Jarrett.
At this point in his career, the 30-year-old Landry is nothing more than a stop-gap solution who won't make many game-changing plays that his brother LaRon is famous for, but he won't cost the team a touchdown by lining up in the wrong spot.
Even if the Jets wind up bringing him back for 2014, Landry is the type of player with a replaceable skill set teams are always looking to move on from. Unless Landry wildly outperforms his reputation, replacing Landry will be a priority for the Jets moving forward.
Meanwhile, the free safety position remains up for grabs between two young players with upside, Allen and Jarrett. Both players have had their chance to seize the starting job, as both Allen and Jarrett have started in preseason games (Allen started the third preseason game against the Giants).
Despite being later-round picks, both players have starting potential. However, they are cast in the wrong position at free safety, Allen and Jarrett are much better suited to play strong safety, running downhill to make plays in the box.
Because of the increased use of "Big Nickel" sets that involve three safeties, both players will see plenty of on-field action to prove that they will finally be the long-term solution at the position the Jets have been searching for.
Is Santonio Holmes Healthy?
After activating him off the PUP list on Tuesday, the Jets are starting to work Santonio Holmes back into the lineup for the first time since his Lisfranc injury in Week 4 of the 2012 season.
However, according to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, Holmes claims that he still “got a ways to go.”
Why are Holmes and the Jets not seeing eye-to-eye on this issue? According to a report from Rich Cimini of ESPN.com, Holmes may be “milking” the injury.
Outside of getting out of a few extra practices, Holmes’ motive for “milking” an injury seems curious. Because of his $10.75 million cap number next season, Holmes may be a cap casualty at the end of the year, essentially making this a contract year for him. Sitting on the sidelines certainly keeps him healthy—but it doesn’t exactly convince another team to sign him up to a big contract either.
Only Holmes knows for sure whether or not he will be able to return to the field before the season opener. Either way, this is just another chapter in the unpredictable storyline of Santonio Holmes.
Can the New Veteran Additions Stay Healthy?
Because of their dismal salary cap situation, general manager John Idzik was forced to take chances on low-budget free agents with a checkered injury history.
While these players could turn into terrific signings because of their natural ability, counting on them to be a significant part of the game plan on a week-to-week basis is risky business.
Two of the biggest injury risks the Jets have brought on are tight end Kellen Winslow and guard Willie Colon.
Winslow's once-promising career has been tattered by a slew of leg and knee injuries that have plagued him since his rookie season in 2004. Colon, on the other hand, was a productive guard and right tackle for the Steelers (he landed a $29 million extension in 2011), but he could never quite fully recover from a torn triceps in Week 1 of 2011.
Now, both players have a chance to squeeze a little more out of their careers with a rebuilding Jets team that has a sudden void of veteran leadership at their respective positions.
So far, neither player has suffered a setback, but it has only been three preseason games. If these two players can hold up over the course of 16 games, they will go down as some of the best signings of the entire 2013 offseason.
Is Ryan Spadola the Next Wayne Chrebet?
Earning the title of the next Wayne Chrebet is a tall task for any undrafted receiver looking to repeat history, but there is no discounting the striking similarities between the local Jets hero and up-and-coming local product.
Undrafted out of nearby Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, Spadola has emerged as an answer to the team’s problems at wide receiver behind the three starters.
In fact, Spadola was so impressive in his team-high 110-yard performance against the Giants last Saturday night that the Jets felt comfortable enough to cut veteran Braylon Edwards a few days later (h/t Rich Cimini of ESPN.com).
According to Cimini, Spadola was given an “electronic pep talk” from Chrebet himself before his breakout performance. The Hofstra legend reached out to Spadola on his own and likes his game: "He's a Jersey guy—small school, undrafted. You can't beat that. It's a great story, but it's his story, the Ryan Spadola story. Who knows where this could end up?"
You’re right Wayne, no one knows where exactly Spadola will end up by season’s end, but he is one of the many young players on the roster who could turn out to be difference-makers for the green and white.
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