After five games, the New York Jets have already hit rock bottom. Gang Green is coming off the wrong side of a shutout courtesy of the San Diego Chargers. Rex Ryan and various players faced heavy criticism following an embarrassing loss, but the blame starts up top.
Adjustments aren’t general manager John Idzik’s strong suit. In his second year with the organization, he’s failed to construct a balanced roster. A lack of depth is causing a slow but steady leak, sinking the Jets season.
Long-term success is the ultimate goal of the general manager but failure to win now after three seasons of mediocrity could cost players and coaches their jobs.
Contrary to popular belief—Idzik attempted to bring in impact players on both sides of the ball in the last two years.
|Starting Players Drafted or Signed by John Idzik|
|2013||Dee Milliner, Geno Smith, Brian Winters, Tommy Bohanon||Dawan Landry, Chris Ivory, Willie Colon|
|2014||Calvin Pryor, Jace Amaro||Chris Johnson, Eric Decker, Breno Giacomini|
Before a slew of injuries plagued Dee Milliner this year, the second-year player out of Alabama was viewed as a potential premier cornerback in the NFL. The fact is, Idzik drafted and signed players to contend this year, but failed to formulate plan B in case of unforeseen occurrences. Injuries, underachievers and a tough early 2014 schedule have made the Jets look abysmal.
The lack of depth at wide receiver and cornerback are inexcusable.
Decker is a solid No. 1 option at wide receiver. He leads the team in touchdowns and receiving yards, despite missing significant time with a bad hamstring. He doesn’t dominate games like Calvin Johnson or A.J. Green, but the former Denver Broncos receiver is consistently productive when healthy.
The depth behind Decker features a surplus of inconsistent slot receivers. If defenses sell out to stop Decker, Smith doesn’t have a another threat on the outside who demands attention from opposing defenses. The second-year quarterback's options are limited to players who would be No. 3 or No. 4 wide receiver options on any other NFL team.
Sure, Kerley led the team in receptions for two years, but was because he was the only viable option in an otherwise poor receiver corps. He led Gang Green’s below-average offense last year with 523 receiving yards. A clear sign he’s a role player with no business in the starting lineup as a featured receiver.
Idzik failed to address the wide receiver position after releasing former 2012 second-round draft pick—Stephen Hill. Whether or not Hill’s departure was premature is a smaller issue than not having a plan to replace him. None of the Jets’ receivers rose up the ranks during the offseason.
According to Matt Conner per sbnation.com, Hill’s struggles were well-documented and his release wasn’t a surprise. Therefore, Idzik had time to explore more options than simply going with Kerley as a starter.
Dimitri Patterson was the other significant cut prior that was absolutely necessary, but unanticipated.
The writing was already on the wall as the nucleus of the Jets' pass defense fell apart before the season was underway. Seth Walder of the New York Daily News described it accurately.
Patterson was brought in to solidify a remodeled pass defense without Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Milliner’s injuries forced Ryan to start Darrin Walls, who started only four games in his three-year career, and convert safety Antonio Allen into a starting cornerback. All of this happened within the span of a couple of weeks leading up to the regular season.
The unexpected, put the Jets in a bind. But the absence of a plan B places the Jets’ playoff hopes in peril. The defensive backs started the season playing better than expected but consistently broke down in the red zone. According to teamrankings.com, the Jets are giving up approximately two red-zone touchdowns per game.
In Week 5 against Philip Rivers, it was clear there were gaping holes in the defensive backfield. Phillip Adams recorded New York's first interception of the season, but it was overshadowed by a pitiful team effort defensively.
How dire does a situation have to be before Idzik entertains an alternative plan to stop the bleeding in pass defense?
The current grouping of defensive backs neutralizes Ryan’s blitz-happy defensive schemes.
In previous seasons, Ryan was able to design clever blitz schemes because he had confidence in the defensive backs to cover downfield. Revis and Cromartie excelled in one-on-one coverage situations. As a result, Rex was able to overwhelm opposing offensive lines and quarterbacks by bringing extra men to apply the pressure.
Milliner is still developing and the other cornerbacks lack experience; thus Ryan’s stifling defense becomes permeable.
Coaches should be able to reshuffle the deck and adjust, but Idzik didn’t provide the defensive depth needed to combat the obstacles of fielding an unproven secondary. The roster certainly doesn’t suit Ryan’s strengths as a defensive guru, but he can work only with what’s on the roster.
Which isn’t much.
It’s essential to connect a young quarterback with a brilliant offensive mind, whether it’s the head coach, offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach. New York brought in Marty Mornhinweg. He has a lengthy NFL history—his latest achievement was leading the Philadelphia Eagles offense with a “reformed” Michael Vick. This gave credence to the idea that he can aid in Smith's development.
Mornhinweg balanced the offense in Philadelphia, but he didn’t reinvent Vick. In fact, after one good season, Vick reverted back to the turnover-prone, injury-prone player that has plagued his career.
Vick flourished after taking over for Kevin Kolb. His tremendous athleticism provided a spark that Kolb couldn’t emulate. The team proceeded to win eight of the remaining 11 games Vick started in 2010.
After losing two years of his NFL career he proved to be effective playing similarly to his days in Atlanta. The biggest difference was the talent around him. LeSean McCoy was in the early stages of becoming a prominent running back. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were two receivers with different skill sets, but both very productive within the Eagles offense.
The Smith-Mornhinweg connection is far from what Vick experienced with the coordinator in Philadelphia. The Jets skill positions are much less proficient.
As a coordinator, Mornhinweg hasn’t done any favors in terms of utilizing Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson to their strengths to alleviate pressure on Smith. The volume of Ivory’s workload is inconsistent. At this point, Johnson looks like a big disappointment because he’s not featured in screen plays, not asked top to catch the ball in the flat. He's also not used in running back sweeps with any regularity.
Mornhinweg also fails to see the benefit of two-tight end sets, which keeps a decent pass-blocker, Jeff Cumberland on the field and adds their second-most talented receiver Amaro as a viable target. Thus far, Cumberland has a snap count of 289 compared to 115 for Amaro, per rotowire.com.
Maybe Mornhinweg isn’t the right coordinator to aid Geno’s development. It’s only Marty’s second year on the job. It’ll take a significant regression at the quarterback position to send him packing. Meanwhile, most of the world will wonder, what can Mornhinweg accomplish with an already faulty offense?
The Jets' injury misfortunes underscore the need for depth, and Idzik should learn from this experience that acquiring talent for a quick fix isn’t a negative. Players like Asante Samuel are available. He’s a former Super Bowl champion and fourth among active players in interceptions with 51. Samuel could finally help the Jets to force some turnovers.
Decker’s hamstring issue will possibly be a year-long saga, and right now he’s not fully dependable. The trio of Kerley, Greg Salas and David Nelson won't get much respect from opposing defenses. Defensive coordinators will likely load the box against Gang Green’s sixth-ranked rushing attack and dare Geno to beat them with his arm.
Watching the Jets offense sputter reminds you how effective Brian Schottenheimer was as an offensive coordinator early in the Mark Sanchez era, when the two helped lead the Jets to consecutive AFC Championship Games.
Mornhinweg isn’t the worst coordinator, but he’s clearly struggling to help Smith progress. Then again, who could be successful within the Jets’ offense as presently constructed? Idzik’s mess is the result of his long-term plan of sustained success—in the short term, don’t expect a playoff push.