10 Bold Predictions for the New York Jets' 2013 Season
Expectations could not be much lower for the New York Jets headed into the 2013 season.
A new offensive and defensive coordinator. A "lame duck" head coach. An offseason that saw a cap-strapped Jets team target several bargain-bin free agents. A quarterback battle between Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez where each seems to be trying their hardest to gift-wrap the outcome in favor of their opponent.
Good or bad, the Jets' season will be eventful, if nothing else.
Here are some predictions for what might happen over the course of the season.
Demario Davis Leads the Jets in Tackles
After playing just 30.7 percent of the snaps in his 15 games in 2012, Demario Davis will be the Jets' starting "Will" linebacker, next to David Harris. The job opened up when the Jets released Bart Scott from his contract.
Harris has led the Jets in tackles each year since 2009, and each healthy year of his career, so while Davis has his work cut out for him, he is by far the most athletic linebacker on the Jets roster, and figures to make plays all over the field in that aggressive defense.
No Jets Defender Will Finish with More Than 10 Sacks
The Jets defense doesn't produce sack monsters. Sure, they haven't had a player of that caliber on their defense since Rex Ryan took over, but the Jets aren't known for a straight-up rush that sends the same players after the quarterback one play after another.
With pressure coming from all directions and with exotic blitz packages designed to create confusion for the offensive line, the Jets are more focused on generating pressure by scheme than by pure talent, and there's nothing wrong with that. In fact, it's better that way, because it makes the pressure harder to protect against.
It also means there's only a slim chance anyone from Gang Green broaches double-digit sacks in 2013, or just about any season for that matter.
Santonio Holmes Will Not Finish the 2013 Season with the Jets
The rift between the Jets and veteran wide receiver Santonio Holmes has taken shape in the media. At one point, a report from the New York Post said that "many people around the team" believed Holmes was milking his injury earlier in the preseason.
"I have a long career ahead of me," Holmes said, when asked whether he could play at less than 100 percent, "so I'm going to take the best risk and the best chances for myself and for the team."
Holmes is set to make $7.5 million this season whether they cut him or keep him, but if they trade him, that money could be prorated to a different team. Injuries could force a team into a receiver-needy scenario where it would be willing to pick up Holmes' remaining contract to see if he might be closer to 100 percent playing for a different team.
If he's become more trouble than he's worth, the Jets could even foot the bill on some of the remaining guarantee to make the deal more palatable.
Jets Quarterbacks Will Throw More Interceptions Than Touchdowns
Regardless of whether it's Geno Smith or Mark Sanchez throwing the ball, the Jets quarterbacks look primed to turn the ball over frequently yet again in 2013.
Sanchez couldn't wait to get the party started, throwing an interception on his third pass attempt of the preseason on a screen pass, which was picked off by Lions rookie defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. He's had bright spots this season, but those have been dulled by the grim outlook of bad throws like his interception in the end zone against the Jaguars.
Those interceptions led to the belief that, if Geno Smith could stay turnover-free for two quarters against the New York Giants, he could be named the Jets starter for the season. Three interceptions later (each more brutal than the one before it), it looks like he's far from ready to lead an efficient, turnover-free NFL offense.
It doesn't help that he Jets lack top-notch talent at the skill positions, but until the quarterbacks clean up their tendency to throw back-breaking interceptions, their lack of skill position talent almost doesn't even matter.
Jeremy Kerley Will Finish with 1,000 Receiving Yards
Even if the jets quarterbacks are throwing interceptions all over the field, one of their receivers still figures to make a big impact.
Stephen Hill is still rough around the edges. Santonio Holmes, as mentioned previously, has his injury woes. That leaves Jeremy Kerley as the receiver who looks the most ready to have a big year for the Jets.
Kerley finished with 56 catches for 827 yards (14.8 YPR) and two touchdowns, but he wasn't a featured receiver in the offense until after Holmes' injury in Week 4. Kerley didn't play more than 55 percent of the offensive snaps in the first four games of the season and finished below that number just twice in the final 12 games.
Now that the Jets have seen what Kerley can bring to the table, he should be a big part of their offensive game plan from Week 1.
The Jets Will Not Have a 1,000-Yard Running Back
The Jets have featured a 1,000-yard rusher five of the past six seasons, but that trend could end in 2013.
Running back Chris Ivory has injury issues dating back to college, when he played in only 22 games in his three seasons at Washington State and only five games in his lone season at Tiffin.
Even if Ivory stays healthy, the Jets have a solid counterpunch with third-year running back Bilal Powell, who has been taking direct snaps in the Jets' Wildcat package this preseason.
Also, the Jets have some question marks at guard, where they replace veterans Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore with fourth-year project Vladimir Ducasse and former Steelers guard Willie Colon, who has had multiple knee surgeries in the past two years.
The workload could be split, and the interior push may not be what it once was. For those reasons, this prediction feels less bold than obvious.
Jets Will Have a Top-10 Defense in Yards
The Jets have ranked in the top 10 in total defense each year in the Rex Ryan era, and only slipped outside the top five for the first time last year.
While last year's defense was loaded with aging veterans, the Jets have begun the youth movement at several positions, including the defensive line and at safety.
On one hand, having young players opens up the potential for missed assignments and poor field awareness. On the other hand, the Jets defense is at its best when it plays fast—whether that speed is for rushing the passer up front or covering sideline-to-sideline in the secondary.
The Jets only had one-and-a-half games with a healthy Darrelle Revis at their disposal in 2012 and still managed to rank eighth overall and second against the pass. If they can improve against the run, where they ranked 26th, this defense could be even better than it was last year.
Geno Smith Will Be the Full-Time Starter by Week 11 (following Bye Week)
If Geno Smith somehow ends up not being the Week 1 starter—an event that seems unlikely now, given the injury to Mark Sanchez's throwing shoulder—he will most certainly be the starter by Week 11.
Sanchez played poorly enough in 2011 and 2012 to merit permanently losing his status as the starter. His margin for error may have seemed slim last year, but in reality, the illusion of Tim Tebow as a threat to Sanchez's starting job was never grounded in reality.
With Smith waiting in the wings, the Jets may have very little cause for pause when deciding to move on from Sanchez at the midway point.
And as we'll learn later, the Jets' season could be nearly over at that point, anyway.
Rex Ryan Will Keep His Job Through the 2013 Season
After two disappointing seasons out of the playoffs, Rex Ryan is considered to be on the hot seat as Jets head coach this year. His status in the decision-making process has been marginalized by the presence of new general manager John Idzik, and that has led many to coin this a "lame duck" season for Rex.
All that is certainly true, but the Jets have little to gain by exiling Ryan at any point during the season. It would only serve to perpetuate the idea of their organization as a circus, and that owner Woody Johnson hasn't the slightest clue how to run an NFL franchise (he could have fired Rex after last season, if he was on that thin ice).
It seems especially likely that Ryan stays head coach throughout the season if Geno Smith is the starting quarterback, as the presence of a developing rookie quarterback could be something of a "built-in excuse" for their struggles.
Final Record: 6-10
Sorry, Jets fans, but it looks like another disappointing season awaits.
There are still question marks at several key positions, including outside linebacker, safety, wide receiver, guard and, most importantly, quarterback.
The Jets schedule for the first nine weeks includes games against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Atlanta Falcons, New Orleans Saints, Cincinnati Bengals and two games against the New England Patriots. A win in any of those games would be considered a big upset.
Even if we assume the Jets win two of the three "easier" games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans, the Jets could still enter the bye at 4-5 or 3-6, barely alive in the playoff race headed into the bye. From there, the Jets play four of their final seven games on the road.
The Jets have begun building toward the future, but in the present, they are still under construction.
Erik Frenz is also a Patriots/AFC East writer for Boston.com. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes obtained firsthand or via team news releases.