New York Jets Midseason Report Cards for Each Positional Unit

Ryan Alfieri@Ryan_AlfieriCorrespondent IIIOctober 28, 2013

New York Jets Midseason Report Cards for Each Positional Unit

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    As bad as the loss was against the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Jets can be thankful for the fact that they have already surpassed expectations with their .500 record through eight games. 

    Consistency has certainly not been the Jets' motto this year but no matter what happens over the next half of the season, they have shown promise on both sides of the ball to garner excitement about the future. 

    Here are positional grades for each unit on the team with half of the 2013 season in the books.

     

    Stats are courtesy of Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

Quarterback: B+

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    Geno Smith: B+

    Yes, this past week was not a good showing from the rookie signal-caller, but all things considered, the Jets have to be pleased with what they have seen from Geno Smith in eight games.

    The fact that Smith has a talented arm hardly comes as a surprise. The fact that he has been so accurate (thanks to cleaned-up footwork) has been a pleasant surprise. 

    Still, the most impressive aspect of Smith's game has to be his levelheadedness. No matter what the score is or how much time is left, Smith has yet to have a breakdown that cost his team the game. Instead, Smith's late-game heroics are a big reason why the Jets even have a relevant season so far. 

    There is still a lot of football left in this season, but the early returns on Smith are positive, despite the recent loss.

Running Backs: B-

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    Bilal Powell, Chris Ivory, Tommy Bohanon

    Bilal Powell was off to a fast September, as he seized the starting role, while Chris Ivory was nursing a hamstring injury. Powell was among the leading rushers in the AFC and the most reliable offensive player on the Jets. 

    However, Powell's role and production has taken a major dip in recent weeks as Ivory has taken away a healthy amount of carries. Powell has also been less-than-stellar in pass protection. Powell is still a useful player, but his production has been coming back down to earth in recent weeks and will only continue to do so.

    Ivory has been very boom-or-bust so far. For seven of the last eight games, Ivory was hardly much of a factor—but the one game he shined in, he showed why the Jets were willing to part with a fourth-round pick for him.

    Had Ivory not gone over 100 yards against the New England Patriots, his grade would be much lower, but he is starting to give the Jets a return on their investment.

    Expectations weren't exactly sky-high for Bohanon, but he proved to at least be a versatile player. Bohanon is viable blocker who could take handoffs and catch passes out of the backfield. 

Wide Receivers: C+

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    Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill, Jeremy Kerley, David Nelson

    When Santonio Holmes has been on the field, he has been rather explosive. He had a breakout game against the Buffalo Bills, accounting for three big plays that turned out to be the difference in the game. 

    Problem is, Holmes is never on the field—his hamstring issues have kept him sidelined for several games. Holmes is a great player when he has been available, but he simply has not been reliable, so far, this season.

    Meanwhile, Stephen Hill's sophomore campaign is developing into a disappointment. Hill has had a few spectacular games, generating huge plays with his speed, but he has a tendency to disappear for weeks at a time. 

    Hill has just 19 receptions on the year. While he's not the type of receiver to lead the team in catches, the Jets need him to be more consistent on a week-to-week basis.

    Kerley has solidified himself as one of the better slot receivers in the NFL, developing into Geno Smith's favorite third-down target. 

    However, he did have a quiet stretch that led to his low reception total (24), but he should get more one-on-one looks as Holmes and Kellen Winslow return to the lineup.

    The midseason addition has proven his worth already, as he led the Jets in catches against the Bengals. Nelson has been great at making contested catches to help out his rookie quarterback.

Tight Ends: C+

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    Jeff Cumberland, Kellen Winslow

    Jeff Cumberland was developing into a real threat in the second quarter of the season, but he has had two disappointing weeks in a row that were filled with dropped passes to bring expectations for him back down to earth. 

    Cumberland has done a solid job replacing the suspended Winslow, but he is still not quite ready to be the clear-cut, No. 1 tight end.

    Winslow was developing into one of the best finds of the offseason, going from camp tryout to a starter, but a recent four-game suspension has put his season on hold.

Offensive Line: B-

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    D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Vladimir Ducasse/Brian Winters, Nick Mangold, Willie Colon, Austin Howard

    While they were certainly less-than-stellar against the Bengals, the Jets' offensive line has been a solid unit over eight games. 

    D'Brickashaw Ferguson has been solid at left tackle (although he struggled against the Patriots) and Austin Howard has been solid on the other side at right tackle.

    Nick Mangold, however, has been a bit disappointing. According to Pro Football Focus, he is responsible for nine quarterback hurries.

    The big position to watch is both guard positions. Willie Colon has been a nice veteran addition at right guard. The left guard position, however, has been much less stable with rookie Brian Winters taking over for Vladimir Ducasse in Week 5. Winters has made a few isolated errors, but he has been at least serviceable in all four of his starts. 

    As a unit, they have played well against average defensive teams such as Atlanta or New England. However, they struggled against more physical units in Cincinnati or Pittsburgh.

    While there is room for improvement in both run blocking and pass protection, the Jets line has usually played well enough to win.

Defensive Tackles: A+

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    Damon Harrison, Kenrick Ellis

    Simply put, Damon Harrison has been one of the most remarkable stories in the NFL. An undrafted free agent in 2012, Harrison has quickly developed into one of, if not, the best run-stopping nose tackles in football.

    Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson get most of the publicity, but Harrison has been just as good eating up blocks and stuffing runs.

    According to Pro Football Focus, Harrison is the third-best defensive tackle in the game.

    While the Jets were planning to get a bit more out of Kenrick Ellis, his lack of playing time is more of a result of Harrison playing so well than Ellis being a disappointment. 

Defensive Ends: A

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    Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, Leger Douzable

    Despite being ineffective against the Bengals, this position group has developed into the face of the team. 

    Now the team's best pass-rusher, Muhammad Wilkerson, has developed into a complete defensive end with six sacks on the season. He is, by far, the team's most valuable player. 

    Meanwhile, rookie first-round pick Sheldon Richardson has been surprisingly stout against the run. He ranks as the second-best run defender at his position in Pro Football Focus' rankings, behind J.J. Watt. One of the knocks on Richardson when he was coming out of Missouri was his run defense, so this comes as a pleasant surprise.

    Leger Douzable has been solid as a rotational player as well, although he will always have a tough time getting playing time over these other two studs. 

Linebackers: B-

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    David Harris, DeMario Davis, Calvin Pace, Quinton Coples

    David Harris has certainly returned to form after his subpar 2012 campaign, particularly as a run defender. However, he is still a liability in coverage and needs to be kept out of situations in which he has to move in space. 

    The biggest difference in this unit has been DeMario Davis, who is now halfway through his first year as a full-time starter. Davis has been a welcome upgrade in coverage, highlighted by his rundown of Vincent Jackson in Week 1. 

    The key player to watch moving forward is Quinton Coples. Outside of one strip-sack against the Patriots, Coples has been a complete non-factor in his recovery from his ankle injury. He has not shown much improvement in his explosiveness or movement ability since his surgery, which has to be a concern for the Jets. 

    Meanwhile, Calvin Pace has been at least serviceable at the opposite outside linebacker position. However, the Jets need to get a better pass rush from this position than what Pace has been giving them so far. 

    Overall, this unit has been much better stopping the run than the pass, but that may change if Coples can start to get healthy and back to playing like his old self.

Cornerbacks: D

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    Antonio Cromartie, Dee Milliner, Darrin Walls, Kyle Wilson, Isaiah Trufant, Ellis Lankster

    Simply put, this is the most disappointing group on the team. 

    The Jets knew that their pass defense would eventually start to decline without Darrelle Revis in the backfield, but the deterioration of key veterans like Antonio Cromartie is alarming. Cromartie was allowing a 103.8 quarterback rating against him before the Bengals game. 

    To make matters worse, rookie Dee Milliner has struggled mightily, getting benched for the second time this season against the Bengals. There is time for Milliner to improve, but the early returns on the Jets' top pick are discouraging.

    Meanwhile, Darrin Walls has been the Jets' most consistent cover man when given a chance to start. He has earned the right to start over Milliner for at least the next few weeks. 

    Kyle Wilson is hardly a fan favorite, but he has been very solid playing in the slot. An underrated tackler, Wilson is at least serviceable in the specific role the Jets have him in, but he struggles when having to track receivers down the field.

    There is far too much talent in this position for it to be struggling as much as it has been. If the Jets want to be an "elite" defense, they need to get a lot more out of this position group.

Safeties: B+

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    Dawan Landry, Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett

    While the cornerbacks have been a massive disappointment, the Jets' safeties have been a pleasant surprise. 

    Dawan Landry has been serviceable playing the run game and dropping back in coverage in single-high looks. Landry won't make many "splash" plays, but he will rarely get burned for a touchdown. 

    Antonio Allen has been a nice find as a former seventh-round pick. He has become the Jets' designated man to cover tight ends after giving Rob Gronkowski all he could handle. Along with Darrin Walls, Allen has been the most reliable player in the secondary. 

    Jaiquawn Jarrett has lost playing time to the improving Allen, but he has been useful as a rotational player against multiple tight end packages. 

Special Teams: B+

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    Nick Folk, Ryan Quigley, Tanner Purdum, Josh Cribbs

    Nick Folk has been stellar kicking field goals. Still perfect on the season, he already has three game-winning kicks to his name this season. 

    Without Nick Folk, the Jets' season may be much different. 

    Meanwhile, the midseason switch to Ryan Quigley has yielded mediocre results. Outside of a few bad punts against the Patriots, Quigley has been relatively steady, even if he has not been booming kicks out of the building. 

    While Josh Cribbs may not be the same guy he was in Cleveland, he has been an upgrade over Clyde Gates and Jeremy Kerley returning punts and kicks, respectively.