Revisiting 10 Bold New York Jets Predictions from the Preseason
The New York Jets finished 8-8, marking their third straight season with a record of .500 or worse. This 8-8, however, felt a lot better than the previous two seasons. The Jets did much better than (almost) anyone expected this season, including myself.
With their season in the books, now may be the best time to go back and see how hilariously wrong I was about the Jets.
Exceeding those expectations may have been exactly what saved head coach Rex Ryan this year. Certainly, being even moderately successful given the struggles of quarterback Geno Smith is something to be proud of. Smith showed some signs of life at the end, so while his rookie season was far from a success, there are some signs of hope for the road ahead.
For now, let's take a look back at my list of 10 predictions from the beginning of the season. And with the intent of maintaining credibility, we'll see where I was right and where I was painfully wrong.
Demario Davis Leads the Jets in Tackles: False
What I Said: "[David] 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."
What Happened: Davis played all 16 games and hardly came off the field, playing 95 percent of the snaps. But it wasn't enough, as the elder statesman Harris edged the young buck by 21 total tackles. Davis could have helped his case if he hadn't missed 14 tackles, which were the most on the team.
Although Davis could still be a solid building block for the defense, he struggled this year, specifically in pass coverage. He has the talent, but questions remain about how far that talent can take him.
No Jets Defender Will Finish with More Than 10 Sacks: False
What I Said: "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."
What Happened: How do I score it when I'm double-wrong? Luckily for me, all these predictions count equally, because not one, but two, defenders proved me wrong.
Both defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson and linebacker Calvin Pace finished with 10 or more sacks—although, technically, I said "more than 10" sacks, so that means Wilkerson was the only one who proved me wrong.
Still, both Wilkerson and Pace had solid seasons when it comes to bringing down the quarterback. There has been some debate over whether Pace's sack total was just a product of "clean-up" duty behind the likes of Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison, but few would argue that Wilkerson didn't have a stellar season. He continues to develop into one of the premier 3-4 defensive ends in the league.
Santonio Holmes Will Not Finish the 2013 Season with the Jets: False
What I Said: "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. ...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."
What Happened: Holmes was up and down with his play and his health all season long, but the Jets kept the receiver around, despite his hefty cap hit of $9 million this season.
He is a prime candidate to be cut in the offseason, though, as his cap hit of $10.75 million next season simply doesn't match up with his production or his diminishing talents. This was his second straight season dealing with injuries as well.
Jets Quarterbacks Will Throw More Interceptions Than Touchdowns: True
What I Said: "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. ...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."
What Happened: Make enough predictions and you're bound to get one right!
Smith threw three interceptions in the second game of the season against the New England Patriots, and he was never able to get back into "plus" territory in regards to his TD-INT ratio. There was also his ghastly seven-game midseason stretch in which he threw one touchdown against 11 interceptions.
It wasn't all bad, though, as Smith ended the season on a high note by throwing four touchdown and three interceptions over the final four games of the season. That's not enough to say for certain that the Jets have found their quarterback of the future, but it is enough to at least keep him in the mix in a quarterback competition next year.
Jeremy Kerley Will Finish with 1,000 Receiving Yards: False
What I Said: "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."
What Happened: Kerley was another injured receiver for the Jets this year, missing four games due to an elbow injury. Those games were not the difference in my being right or wrong; his name would have to be Calvin Johnson to earn 477 receiving yards in four games. He just didn't make as many big plays this year as last year; he had seven receptions of 20 yards or more in 2013, compared to 14 such receptions in 2012.
Kerley is still a solid building block, particularly in the slot, but he didn't have the breakout year some were expecting in his third season.
The Jets Will Not Have a 1,000-Yard Running Back: True
What I Said: "Even if [Chris] 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. ...The workload could be split, and the interior push may not be what it once was."
What Happened: As expected, the workload was split—nearly down the middle, in fact. Chris Ivory earned 182 carries, while Bilal Powell had 176. Powell began the season as the back of choice before Ivory earned his shot in the spotlight.
Overall, Ivory was the more effective back, finishing with 4.6 yards per carry, and according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he averaged 3.01 yards after contact, the third-best in the league.
The Jets have a nice one-two punch in the backfield to build around. If they add one more back for depth, this position is set.
Jets Will Have a Top-10 Defense in Yards: False
What I Said: "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."
What Happened: Oh, man. Missed it by that much. The Jets finished the season ranked 11th in total defense, the first time they've finished outside the top-10 in Rex Ryan's five years as head coach.
Interestingly enough, they improved dramatically against the run, going from the 26th-ranked unit in 2012 to the third-best defense in the league against the run this season.
It was against the pass, however, where they struggled. Cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Dee Milliner were all too often on the wrong end of big plays in the passing game, and the Jets have some significant question marks at the position heading into the offseason. Milliner picked it up in the season's final two games, though, notching 10 passes defensed and three interceptions.
Geno Smith Will Be the Full-Time Starter by Week 11 (following Bye Week): True
What I Said: "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."
What Happened: Mark Sanchez eventually went on injured reserve with the shoulder injury he suffered in the preseason. As a result, Geno's status as the starter was never in jeopardy, even through his epic midseason struggles.
That being said, prior to the bye week, Smith had led the Jets to two huge wins in three weeks over the Patriots and Saints. If there was any decision to be made, it would most certainly have been in Smith's favor at the midseason point.
Rex Ryan Will Keep His Job Through the 2013 Season: True
What I Said: "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."
What Happened: He'll also keep his job for the 2014 season. The Jets didn't get off to the tough start many (including myself) thought they would, and as a result, there was no way the Jets front office was going to fire him amid an early season stretch where the Jets were sitting at or above .500 and kept finding ways to win.
Given the lack of talent at key positions and the struggles at the quarterback position, it was clear that Rex Ryan wasn't the problem and that there likely wasn't a better man for the job.
Final Record of 6-10: False
What I Said: "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."
What Happened: Time to eat a season's worth of crow.
As it turned out, the Jets won several of those "upset" games (although the Falcons win didn't end up being much of an upset given how their season turned out), but dropped one of the "easier" games against the Titans. They entered the bye week at 5-4 and were alive and well in the playoff race. However, they were undone by a five-game stretch where they went 1-4.
If they want to do better next year, they should probably bring their talents with them when they go on the road; they were 6-2 at home and 2-6 away from MetLife Stadium.
All in all, the Jets exceeded my expectations and the expectations of many others.
Final Score Card: 4 out of 10
There are fails, and there are epic fails. My preseason Jets predictions may fall into the latter category.
Let this serve as a reminder of how unpredictable the NFL season can be. Just when you thought the Jets would be the worst team in football, they ended up being better than anyone expected. Just when you thought they had a chance at the playoffs, they go and collapse in the middle of the season.
Hopefully, I will do better next time. Hopefully for Jets fans, their team continues to improve.
Who knows what will happen, but whatever I predict, you can safely bet against it.