Halfway through the 2013 NFL schedule the New York Jets have exceeded all outside expectations. Many pundits had the Jets ranked 32 out of 32 NFL teams with ESPNs Mel Kiper Jr. going as far as comparing the Jets to a "glorified expansion team". The Jets were expected to be fortunate to finish the season with a record of 4-12. The only ones that had the Jets being a competative Franchise this season was the Jets organization and the few fans who truly understood this team and its staff. With a new GM cleaning house in the beginnings of a rebuild, it was believed that the Jets would take a step back before they got better. With 7 more games left to be played in the 2013 regular season the Jets are sitting at 5-4, and forcing the doubters to eat crow, but lets examine the current state of the Jets and why 2014 will be the year that the pundits and fans believe in the J-E-T-S JETS JETS JETS!!!
2013 started with Former General Manager Mike Tannenbaum being let go along with several Coaches leaving the team via, retirement, better opportunities, and a possible riot from fans if they remained in the organization. Their replacements cane from outside of the Organization and some pramotions from within. These decisions were made by Head Coach Rex Ryan. The biggest difference came in Offensive Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg who has a reputation for being pass happy in his play calling which is a huge departure from the ground and pound philosophy of Rex Ryans tenure since coming to the Jets in 2009. Marty has proven that he is one of the best Offensive minds in the League, making magic with a Rookie QB and an almost insurmountable amount of injuries. It remains to be seen if Mornhinweg will be able to steer the Offense towards being a Playoff Caliber threat in his first year with the team, but it is clear that Rex had found a play caller that will be as aggressive and unpredictable as his Defense.
General Manager John Idzick was hired and told that he must keep Head Coach Rex Ryan for at least one year and after the way the team has played many believe that Ryan should be the Head Coach for the foreseeable future. Idzick removed some members of the front office after the Draft and to his credit the "unnamed sources" that leaked information to the media has not steered its head this season and it would appear that the Jets as an organization will be more professional under Idzick, but the big test will be when the new front office handles a very important Draft in which the team may have up to 13 Draft picks.The Jets will also have plenty of Cap space after Idzick cleared some bloated contracts and trading away it's best player in Darrelle Revis, but the team has a very good head start thanks to a promising Draft Class this year.
Thanks to the trade of Revis the Jets had 2 first round picks in the top 13 of the 2013 Draft. With the first of those picks the Jets selected Dee Milliner out of Alabama who was widely considered the best CB in the Draft. Milliner has missed time at various times since being with the Jets and has struggled mightily. He was already benched in 2 games this Season, but after Rex Ryan promised that Milliner would be the best Rookie CB by the end of the Season he had a strong showing against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in week 9 just before the bye week which prompted Rex to warn the"experts" about betting against him on Defensive Players. If Milliner has truly turned a corner in his development it will be a big boost to a struggling Secondary.
Sheldon Richardson was the Jets second pick and many if not all Draft experts blasted the pick of the DT out of Mizzou going to the Jets. One person who was over the moon about the pick was the same Head Coach that challenges anyone to bet against him when it comes to Defensive Players. Rex Ryan was positively giddy when Richardson was selected and the rest of the fan base has followed suit as Richardson has positioned himself as the man to beat for Defensive Rookie of the Year. Richardson is an absolute monster along the Defensive front and besides racking up stats for himself, his constant double teams have allowed his fellow teammates to make plays. One thing is very clear, the Jets have a Defensive front that will be dominant for years to come and Sheldon Richardson is one of the main reasons why.
What isn't clear is if the Jets Drafted their Franchise QB in the 2nd Round when they selected Geno Smith out of West Virginia. Like Dee Milliner the Jets selected the consensous pick of the best player at his position, but just like Milliner, Geno has struggled mightily at times. Young Quarterbacks tend to struggle until they learn all of the nuances that come with playing that position at the Pro level. Geno has shown enough that he should at least compete for the starting position next year regardless of how the Organization handles the Off Season.
In his first year on the job, new GM John Idzik had a mess to deal with in the team's finances. This was addressed by releasing over payed veterans and attacking Free Agency with bargins that were expected to man their positions for the short term with one year contacts. 2014 will be a completely different story. The Jets will be roughly $30m under the Cap when the new calender year begins. That number jumps to above $40m if the team releases both QB Mark Sanchez and WR Santonio Holmes. This does not include moves and deals that could be made with some the other veteran players like CB Antonio Cromartie and ILB David Harris who could take team friendly extensions. No matter how you look at it the New York Jets are in position to be big players in Free Agency if that's how they choose to build their team, but the biggest reason why the Jets will be a deadly team in 2014 has to do with that other way to bring in new players.
DOUBLE DIGIT DRAFT PICKS:
It is usually hard to figure out a first time GMs "style" but what was very clear before the Season even started is that the Jets GM wants to build through the Draft. This was set up by allowing most of the Jets Free Agents to leave and sign with other teams while Idzik mostly signed players that were cut by other teams. What that strategy does is allow the Jets to be rewarded Compensatory Draft Picks and the Jets may have up to 13 selections when the 2014 NFL Draft rolls around in May. The team played the year with 7 new starters and for the most part those positions don't need upgrades. CB Dee Milliner, despite his struggles should be the number 2 CB next year. Rookie FB Tommy Bohanan has proven to be a steal that doesn't receive much attention due to the position. DT Sheldon Richardson May end up winning the Defensive Rookie of the year award and push Wilkerson next year for the best Defensive Lineman wearing Green and White. Thanks to these Rookies coming in and stepping up it just leaves less holes to be filled in year two of the rebuilding process. The team still needs help at OLB, WR, TE, O-LINE and S. With 13 picks, 4 in the top 90 the team should be able to come away with some difference makers.
The Jets have shown that they have made progress from last year, even with a struggling Rookie QB, but with the development of young players, plenty of Cap Space and a boat load of Draft Picks the Jets are in a great position to make a run at the Super Bowl next year ESPECIALLY if the Organization keeps Head Coach Rex Ryan to continue to build a dominant Defense that could be prime to set record numbers next year with the addition of a Pass Rushing OLB and ball hawking FS and allow the Offensive Players who were learning a new System under new OC Marty Mornhinweg to put the pedal to the floor.
What do you think is the biggest hurdle for the Jets next year and the best way to finish the rebuilding process?