The New York Jets entered training camp with a new coach and GM, a revived secondary, a reviled quarterback and the same expectations of mediocrity. Will they contend for the playoffs, or are these the same ol’ Jets?
Last year, they were difficult to watch. They threatened the record of fewest takeaways in an NFL season by recording a total of 13 (the record is 12, set by the 2006 Redskins). Their secondary was non-existent and their offense was probably even more futile.
But this year, through the first two games, Gang Green gave their fans something to be excited about.
The Jets are set to dismantle their takeaway total this season, as they already have 11. Trendy preseason MVP-pick Andrew Luck struggled to make plays against them in their second game this year and was under consistent pressure from New York’s formidable front line all night, as he was forced into four crucial turnovers.
New head coach Todd Bowles’ defensive line does not generate many sacks. However, they’ve been able to pressure the opposing quarterbacks into tough throws under pressure, enabling the secondary to make plays. This is the winning formula for the Jets. Their defense will need to be elite in order for them to secure a playoff spot.
Bowles plays his cornerbacks in consistent man-to man coverage while utilizing multiple safeties that play aggressively. Having ballhawks like Revis Island and Antonio Cromartie at his disposal definitely makes this possible. He’s shown during his past coaching stints as a defensive coordinator in Philadelphia and Arizona, an ability to adapt his schemes to the strengths of his personnel.
Bowles' predecessor in New York, current Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan, was reluctant to change his defensive principles despite the lack of secondary talent last season, which proved costly against elite quarterbacks.
Back To Reality
On Sunday, the Jets predictably could not handle rising expectations that they generated among the fan base during the season’s first two weeks. They came out flat and lost at home to a desperate Eagles squad.
They found themselves in an early 24-0 deficit, fought back within a touchdown, but four costly turnovers ultimately foiled any comeback.
So far, journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick has proven himself to be a more capable game manager than Geno Smith. But on Sunday he channeled his inner-Geno, as he struggled to move the offense and had three interceptions, although one of those was from a dropped Brandon Marshall pass.
The Eagles effectively exposed the Jets lack of depth. Fitzpatrick’s struggles can largely be attributed to the absence of wide receiver Eric Decker and running back Chris Ivory. The Jets in their first two wins were able to gain 248 rushing yards. Ivory was responsible for 148 of those, along with two touchdowns. He is a power back with the ability to wear out the opposition’s front line and open up the Jets’ passing attack.
Without Ivory, the Jets got away from their ground-and-pound mentality, as Fitzpatrick threw the ball a career high 58 times. Although he completed 35 passes for 283 yards, with Marshall snagging ten of those completions for 109 yards, that won't be a winning formula for Gang Green. Fitzpatrick is just not that dude.
He didn’t seem to place too much weight on the loss, half-jokingly telling the media afterwards, “Now we know we’re not going to go undefeated this year.”
With Decker inactive, the Eagles were able to double Marshall as their young receivers, Devin Smith and Quincy Enunwa, struggled to make big plays.
"They beat us at our own game,” Bowles said after the game.
Much of the Jets success will depend heavily on the health and consistency of their offense. Their defense can be depended upon weekly to hold down the fort. Will the offense be able to capitalize and contribute?
Their limitations were exposed on Sunday, but their strengths, especially defensively, can overwhelm any team on their best day. These don’t seem to be same ol’ Jets, as they appear to have enough weapons to be legit contenders.
For now, they’re off to London to square off against the Dolphins, who got trounced by Buffalo, 41-14 and now stand at 1-2. It’s a long season, but coming home from across the pond with a victory and a 3-1 record would add fuel to this new Jets energy.
Contenders or pretenders? We’ll soon see. But it appears that Bowles and his team are not satisfied with simply showing up at the party this year. They’re ready to dance.