New York Jets 2014 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

The Jets obviously needed to make some changes going into 2013, after an embarrassing 6-10 season in which the focus revolved around the mismanaged quarterback situation with Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow. Tebow was let go in the off-season and the Jets used a 2nd round pick on Geno Smith to compete with Mark Sanchez for the starting job. Sanchez ended up injuring his shoulder in the pre-season and missing the whole season, giving Geno Smith the opportunity to start all 16 games and give the Jets, at the very least, a much needed new face for the franchise.

The Jets also fired GM Mike Tannenbaum, who grossly mismanaged their salary cap, and brought in John Idzik. Purely looking at record, it appears that the changes were helpful, as the Jets improved to 8-8 last season. However, that record is misleading. They went 5-1 in games decided by a touchdown or less and had a points differential of -97 (7th worst in the NFL) and 5.4 Pythagorean wins. They finished the season 25th in rate of moving the chains differential and 24th in DVOA. They were essentially a 5-11 team that managed to win 8 games.

The biggest reason for this was their offensive ineptitude, as they ranked 29th in the NFL, moving the chains at a 65.59% rate. That helped waste a strong performance by their defense, as they ranked 12th, allowing opponents to move the chains at a 69.64% rate. They ranked 25th overall with a differential of -4.05%. The quarterback position was their biggest problem as Geno Smith was arguably the worst quarterback in the NFL last season, certainly the worst quarterback in the NFL who started all 16 games.

Smith graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd worst ranked quarterback and their worst ranked quarterback in pure passing grade. He completed 55.8% of his passes for an average of 6.88 YPA, 12 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions, a QB rating of 66.5. For comparison, Mark Sanchez completed 54.3% of his passes for an average of 6.36 YPA, 13 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions in 2012, a QB rating of 66.9, better than Smith’s. The only redeeming quality Smith showed last season was his rushing ability, as he rushed for 366 yards and 6 touchdowns on 72 carries, an average of 5.08 yards per attempt. He graded out above average in this aspect on Pro Football Focus.

Smith, a 2013 2nd round pick, could be better in his 2nd year in the league, but there are no guarantees. After all, the history of quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round over the past decade or two is not promising. Recent successes of Colin Kaepernick, Andy Dalton, and Russell Wilson as quarterbacks drafted outside of the first round are the exception to the rule. Of the 26 quarterbacks drafted in the 2nd-3rd round from 2000-2010, only two of them have ever made a Pro-Bowl.

After Drew Brees and Matt Schaub, the next best quarterbacks in terms of career QB rating include the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, Josh McCown, Kevin Kolb, and Chad Henne. For every Wilson, Dalton, or Kaepernick, there are at least three Andrew Walters, David Greenes, Jimmy Clausens, and Drew Stantons. Quarterbacks are so valuable in the NFL that if you have the baseline abilities to be a starter, you almost never fall out of the 1st round. If you fall out of the first round, there’s usually a good reason for it.

The Jets clearly aren’t 100% sold on Geno Smith, so they signed Michael Vick to a 1-year deal, worth 5 million dollars to compete with Smith for the starting job. Michael Vick has been on the decline in every season since 2010, which makes sense considering how reliant he is on his legs and how many injuries he’s suffered in the past. He put up decent numbers in 7 games last season, completing 54.6% of his passes for an average of 8.62 YPA, 5 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, while rushing for 306 yards and 2 touchdowns on 36 carries. However, a closer examination shows that much of that was Chip Kelly’s system making him look better than he was, much like it did with Nick Foles. Pro Football Focus graded him out 26th among 42 eligible quarterbacks in pass grade, despite limited playing time, 335 snaps.

In 2012, he completed 58.1% of his passes for an average of 6.73 YPA, 12 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions, while rushing for 332 yards and a touchdown on 62 carries. That’s probably more accurate and now he’s two years older, going into his age 34 season. He’s played all 16 games once in 10 seasons in the NFL and has missed 22 games over the past 4 seasons. Early reports about Vick in off-season practices have not been promising and it sounds like Smith has the upper hand on the starting job.

Grade: C-

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

If the Jets play like they did last season, they probably win about 5 games this season, but there are reasons to believe they’ll be a better team this season. For one, they had a very poor turnover margin last season, as their turnover margin of -14 was 3rd worst in the NFL, only ahead of the Giants (-15) and the Texans (-20).  Turnover margins are really unpredictable and inconsistent on a week-to-week and year-to-year basis.

Teams with a turnover margin of +4 in a week on average have the same turnover margin the next week as a team that had a turnover margin of -4 the previous week, a turnover margin of about +0.0. Meanwhile, teams that have a turnover margin of +15 or better in a season see their turnover margins drop by an average of about 15.8 the following season, resulting in 2.32 fewer wins. Teams with a turnover margin of -15 or worse in a season have an average turnover margin the following season of +2.04. Meanwhile, teams with a turnover margin of +15 or better in a season have an average turnover margin the following season of +3.42, a difference of about 1.38.

If you’re using a team’s turnover margin from the previous season as a reason why they’re going to continue to struggle (or have success) the next season, it’s usually not going to work out well. Even if Geno Smith doesn’t improve upon his horrible 4.7% interception rate (which he probably will, just by default), the Jets should have a better turnover margin next season simply because they should recover more fumbles. The Jets recovered a league worst 30.30% of fumbles last season, a number that should be closer to 50% this season.

Another reason why the Jets should be a better team this season is because they’ve added more talent, without really losing any key contributors this off-season. Their biggest addition was Eric Decker, who comes over from the Broncos on a 5-year, 36.25 million dollar deal. Eric Decker is going to get a massive downgrade at the quarterback position going from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith/Michael Vick.

The last time he played with a quarterback other than Peyton Manning, he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 82nd ranked wide receiver out of 115 eligible and averaged just 1.28 yards per route run, 65th out of 95 eligible. That was in 2011 with the combination of Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton, which is comparable to what Decker will be dealing with in New York. Decker will also see more of the defense’s attention and, even though he’ll be the #1 receiver, he might not necessarily get more targets, simply because the Jets don’t pass as much as the Broncos do. Decker has had 120 and 135 targets over the past 2 seasons respectively, an average of 127.5 targets per season. That would have been 26.6% of the Jets’ 480 pass attempts last season.

That being said, it’s unfair to suggest that he’ll just go back to his 2011 level of production, when he caught 44 passes for 612 yards and 8 touchdowns. While much of his increased production since then is due to the arrival of Peyton Manning, he’s still an improved player over when he was in his 2nd year in the league in 2011, after being drafted in the 3rd round in 2010. He’s averaged 1.80 and 2.03 yards per route run over the past 2 seasons, grading out 36th and 11th in those two seasons respectively among wide receivers, peaking in his contract year.

He’s not a true coverage changing #1 receiver, he’s not overly explosive, and he drops too many passes (29 drops compared to 216 catches over the past 3 seasons). However, he is going to be easily the Jets’ best wide receiver this season, he’s the difference maker the Jets needed downfield, and he’s incredibly reliable around the goal line (32 touchdowns in the last 3 seasons, including 8 even in 2011). After averaging 86 catches for 1176 yards and 11 touchdowns over the past 2 seasons, Decker will probably have between 60-70 catches for 800-900 yards and 6-8 touchdowns next season, which is a significant upgrade over anything the Jets had from the wide receiver position last year.

Opposite him, the Jets still have issues though. After all, their leading receiver last season had 43 catches for 523 yards and 3 touchdowns. That receiver was Jeremy Kerley, who is probably their 2nd best wide receiver, but the 5-9 188 pounder is pretty much purely a slot receiver. He ran 77.2% of his routes from the slot last season and 71.2% of his routes from the slot in 2012. Kerley had that production in 12 games and in 2012 he led the team with 56 catches for 827 yards and 2 touchdowns in 16 games. Kerley has averaged 1.77 yards per route run over the past 2 seasons, despite poor quarterback play. Last season, he caught 43 of 63 targets and Jet quarterbacks had a 96.2 QB rating when throwing to him, as opposed to a 66.6 QB rating in general. He also dropped just 1 pass all season and graded out 38th among wide receivers in pure pass catching grade.

The Jets really don’t have anyone to be the other outside receiver opposite Decker though. Stephen Hill was a 2nd round pick in 2012, but he’s struggled mightily in two years in the league. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 94th ranked wide receiver out of 105 eligible in 2012 and 103rd ranked wide receiver out of 111 eligible in 2013. He’s caught 45 of 97 targets (46.4%) for 593 yards and 4 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions over the past 2 seasons combined and dropped 9 passes. Over that time period, he’s averaged 0.99 yards per route run. He could be better going into his 3rd season in the league, but more likely he’ll just end up being a bust.

David Nelson is a veteran option that could beat out Hill for that job. He caught 36 passes for 423 yards and 2 touchdowns last season on 298 routes run (1.42 yards per route run), a season after suffering a devastating injury. The Jets also drafted 3 wide receivers, taking Jalen Saunders and Shaquelle Evans in the 4th round and Quincy Enunwa in the 6th round. One of them could push for playing time as a rookie. The other outside receiver position should be a weakness either way though.

The Jets also drafted a tight end, taking Jace Amaro in the 2nd round. He could be an immediate upgrade over Jeff Cumberland, who has averaged 1.43 yards per route run in his 4 year career since going undrafted in 2010. Cumberland is a better pass catcher than he’s given credit for, but Amaro has more upside than him and could be a bigger contributor in the passing game. At the very least, Amaro should be able to replace Kellen Winslow, who flashed as a pass catcher last season, but remains unsigned as of this writing going into his age 31 season because of his age, his injury history, and his off-the-field problems.

Grade: B

Running Backs

The Jets also made an off-season addition at running back this off-season, in an attempt to fix their issues at that position, signing Chris Johnson. However, he’s unlikely to provide much, if any, help. Chris Johnson hasn’t been the same player since 2009, his 2000 yard season, though few people are able to repeat that kind of season.

He was still an above average starting running back for a few seasons after that and an incredibly durable one at that, not missing a game since his rookie year in 2008 and totaling over 250 carries in all 6 of his professional seasons. However, last year he significantly declined in efficiency, averaging just 3.9 yards per carry, including just 1.8 yards per carry after contact and ranked 3rd worst in the NFL in elusive rating. He was Pro Football Focus’ 42nd ranked running back out of 55 eligible. That’s why the Titans cut him, instead of paying him a large salary.

He should become more efficient this season as he’ll see a smaller workload, splitting carries with power back Chris Ivory (probably in the neighborhood of 180-220 carries). He could also be healthier after dealing with significant knee problems all last season. However, he’s also going into his age 29 season with 2014 career touches so he’s not getting any better any time soon. Injury problems could become commonplace for him and there’s already some concern about a potentially arthritic knee.

He’s on the decline and the Jets’ run blocking is significantly worse than the Titans. They were Pro Football Focus’ 31st ranked run blocking team last season (more on the offensive line’s issues in a little bit), while the Titans were 5th. My prediction for Johnson is that he has one highlight reel touchdown run of 40+ yards that keeps him relevant in the national spotlight, but ultimately averages less than 4 yards per carry and gets cut going into his age 30 season in 2015, rather than being paid a 4 million dollar salary.

Johnson will take over Bilal Powell’s old role. Powell is a marginal talent at best, who rushed for 697 yards and a touchdown on 176 carries last season, an average of 3.96 YPC. He’s averaged just 3.86 yards per carry for his career in 3 seasons since being drafted in the 4th round by the Jets in 2011. Powell won’t have much of a role this season, but it’s unclear how much of an upgrade Johnson can even be over him. He was Pro Football Focus’ 48th ranked running back last season, while Johnson was 42nd.

Ivory will continue to be the power back, even if he doesn’t quite have the 182 carries he had last season again. He graded out below average on Pro Football Focus last season, but that’s because he’s useless on passing downs, with 5 catches in his career, including just 2 last season on 72 routes run. Despite his limited playing time on passing downs, he was still Pro Football Focus’ 48th ranked running back out of 55 eligible in terms of pass catching grade. However, he’s probably their best pure runner, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 26th ranked running back in run grade last season. He rushed for 833 yards and 3 touchdowns on 182 carries, an average of 4.58 yards per carry. He’s averaged 4.89 yards per carry for his career. He’s had issues staying healthy through.

Grade: C+

Offensive Line

I mentioned earlier the Jets’ offensive line has issues. They graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 31st ranked run blocking team and 21st ranked pass blocking team last season. They have talent, but there are definitely issues here. One of their issues is that 3 of their starters upfront are going into their age 30+ season. D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold were once among the best players in the NFL at their respective positions, but they are on the decline.

Mangold was once inarguably the top center in the NFL, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ #1 or #2 center in every season from 2007-2011, something no one else could come close to saying. However, he “fell” to 6th in 2012 and then all the way to 19th in 2013, below average. He could bounce back this season, but his best years are probably behind him as he goes into his age 30 season. Ferguson, meanwhile, was Pro Football Focus’ 4th ranked offensive tackle in 2008, 7th ranked in 2009, 4th ranked in 2010, 20th ranked in 2011, and 7th ranked in 2012. However, he fell all the way to 40th in 2013. Now he’s going into his age 31 season, so, while he could bounce back, his best days are also likely behind him.

At left guard, Willie Colon is going into his age 31 season as well. There was a time when Willie Colon was one of the best right tackles in the game, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 14th ranked offensive tackle in 2008 and 3rd ranked offensive tackle in 2009, but he missed every game but one in 2010 and 2011 combined. He returned as a guard in 2012 and played solid in 11 games and then signed a one-year deal with the Jets for the 2013 season. Last season, he played all 16 games for the first time since 2009 and he was a decent starter at right guard. He’s definitely not the player he once was and he’s going into his age 31 season, with an extensive injury history, missing 36 games from 2010-2012, but he’s still probably a starting caliber player.

Left guard is their biggest issue. Brian Winters is currently penciled in as the starter for the 2nd straight season, but he was awful last season, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 77th ranked guard out of 81 eligible on 771 snaps over 12 starts. The 2013 3rd round pick could be better in his 2nd year in the league, but there’s no guarantee. The Jets don’t have many other alternatives. Oday Aboushi and William Campbell were 5th and 6th round picks respectively in 2013, but neither played a snap as a rookie. The latter was a collegiate defensive lineman.

They have issues at right tackle as well. Austin Howard left as a free agent and he was a solid right tackle, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 31st and 47th ranked offensive tackle in the last 2 seasons respectively. The Jets replaced him with Breno Giacomini on a 4-year, 18 million dollar deal this off-season, which was an overpay. Giacomini, a 2008 5th round pick, has never graded out above average on Pro Football Focus. He had the best season of his career last season, grading out 41st, but he also missed 7 games with injury and struggled mightily during the Seahawks’ post-season run. In 2012, the only season he started all 16 games, he graded out 69th among 80 eligible offensive tackles on Pro Football Focus.

Grade: C+

Defensive Line

The Jets’ defensive line is easily their best unit and arguably the best 3-man defensive line in the NFL. They are a big part of the reason why the Jets had a solid defense last year and why the Jets had easily the best run defense in the league last season. The Jets allowed 3.35 yards per carry last season. No one else allowed fewer than 3.65 yards per carry. There was a bigger difference between 2nd and 11th than there was between 2nd and 1st in terms of yards per carry allowed. That’s how good their run defense was last season. I argued that all three of their starting defensive linemen should have gone to the Pro-Bowl as a result of that.

Sheldon Richardson is the best of the trio. The 13th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Richardson won Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, excelling against the run. Richardson’s 52 solo tackles were 2nd most at the 5-technique defensive end position behind all-everything JJ Watt and he also had 16 assisted tackles, which led the position, and missed just 4 tackles. As good as JJ Watt was, he missed 7 tackles.

Richardson also had 41 “stops” which also came in 2nd at his position, again behind Watt. Stops refer to a tackle within 4 yards of the original line of scrimmage on 1st down, 6 yards on 2nd down, and the full distance and 3rd and 4th down. 32 of those stops came on run plays, on 325 run snaps, a rate of 9.8% that was 7th among eligible 5-technique defensive ends. He also did a great job of tying up multiple blockers when asked. For his work against the run, he was Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 3-4 defensive end against the run and 5th overall.

He wasn’t nearly as impressive as a pass rusher, with those aforementioned 4 sacks. He also had 5 hits and 24 hurries on 509 pass rush snaps, a rate of 6.5%. That isn’t that bad and he only graded out slightly below average in this aspect on Pro Football Focus. He’s still technically a one-year wonder, but technically all rookies are. I don’t have much doubt that he can continue to be an elite player in 2014, possibly even better than he was as a rookie.

Muhammad Wilkerson is the biggest name on the unit. Many saw Wilkerson as having a breakout season last year, as evidenced by his 11 sacks, but he was actually better in 2012, when he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 3-4 defensive end. In 2013, he was “only” 8th at his position. In 2013, he had 11 sacks, 9 hits, and 32 hurries on 636 pass rush snaps, a rate of 8.2%. In 2012, he had 5 sacks, 10 hits, and 22 hurries on 472 pass rush snaps, a rate of 7.8%, which is comparable, and he was also much better against the run. Still, he’s one of the best young defensive linemen in the NFL and has been for two seasons. The 2011 1st round pick has really panned out and already has had his option picked up for 2015. The Jets are also reportedly in talks with him about an extension. He’s their best interior pass rusher.

Damon Harrison, their nose tackle, is probably their best run stopper. The man affectionately known as Snacks, Harrison is a massive 6-4 350. The 2012 undrafted free agent cut down on the snacks a little bit last season and moved to feasting on offensive linemen and running backs. He was easily Pro Football Focus’ #1 ranked defensive tackle in terms of run stopping grade and only JJ Watt had a higher run stopping grade at any position.

He doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher, with 1 sack and 9 hurries on 226 pass rush snaps, a 4.4% rate, grading out below average, but it didn’t matter that much. He was still Pro Football Focus’ 5th ranked defensive tackle last season on 510 snaps and no one played fewer snaps and graded out higher. There might not be a better two-down player in the NFL. He’s still a one year wonder, playing just 22 snaps as an undrafted rookie in 2012, and his history of weight problems is concerning, but he could easily have another strong year against the run.

The Jets also have two very talented reserves on the defensive line. Kenrick Ellis, a 2011 3rd round pick, was dominant on 210 snaps last season. He would have graded out 17th among defensive tackles overall, despite his playing time, if he had been eligible. He also would have been 5th among defensive tackles in pure run grade. In 3 years in the league, he’s graded out above average in 2 seasons, though he never did anything like he did last season before. Meanwhile, Leger Douzable graded out above average, specializing in the run, on 242 snaps last season. He’s graded out above average in 3 of the last 4 seasons in which he’s played.

Grade: A

Linebackers

As good as the Jets’ defensive line was last season, they weren’t great at getting to the quarterback. Because of that, they needed strong edge rush from their rush linebackers, but they didn’t really get that. As a result, they were Pro Football Focus’ 25th ranked team in terms of pass rush grade. Calvin Pace had a career high 11 sacks last season. Some people mistake that for having the best year of his career, which isn’t true as you can’t just look at sack numbers. He graded out slightly below average on Pro Football Focus, thanks to just 3 quarterback hits and 21 quarterback hurries.

That being said, it was clearly a better year than 2012. Calvin Pace looked pretty done after the 2012 season, after recording 8 sacks in 2011 and 2012 combined and grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd worst ranked 3-4 outside linebacker in 2012. The Jets cut Pace going into his age 33 season last off-season, but brought him back on a cheap one year deal. That paid off obviously, but now he’s going into his age 34 season. It’s unlikely that he’ll be able to have even a decent season again this season and he could really struggle. At the most, he’s only a stopgap starter, after being brought back on a 2-year, 5 million dollar deal this off-season. The Jets needed to find a long-term solution behind him this off-season, but they weren’t able to.

Quinton Coples is the starter opposite him. He was drafted in the 1st round in 2011 to be that long-term edge rusher, but he’s disappointed so far. He was alright on 516 snaps as a rookie, but struggled on 834 snaps last season, particularly as a pass rusher. He was Pro Football Focus’ 32nd ranked 3-4 outside linebacker out of 42 eligible and 39th ranked in pure pass rush grade. The 6-6 285 pounder played the run pretty well, but he’s not a natural fit as a 3-4 outside linebacker. He also rarely drops into coverage, dropping on just 26 snaps last season, as opposed to 238 snaps for Calvin Pace. That makes it hard for the Jets to disguise what they’re doing pre-snap. Coples could be better in his 3rd year in the league, but there are no guarantees. Another issue at the position is the lack of depth. Garret McIntyre is their top reserve, but he’s graded out below average in 2012 and 2013 on 412 snaps and 271 snaps respectively.

The Jets have issues in the middle of their linebacking corps as well. Demario Davis was the inferior of their two starters at middle linebacker, struggling mightily in his first season as a starter. Davis played 315 uninspiring snaps as a rookie and then graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 49th ranked middle linebacker out of 55 eligible on 1077 snaps as an every-down linebacker last season. He could be better in his 3rd year in the league, but at the same time, he was just a 3rd round pick so it wouldn’t be a shock if he never developed into a solid starter.

Opposite him, David Harris is a veteran middle linebacker, going into his age 30 season. He was re-signed to a big 4-year, 36 million dollar deal in the 2011 off-season, one of many ill-advised contracts given out by ex-GM Mike Tannenbaum. Harris has graded out below average in all 3 seasons since signing that deal, with 2012 being his worst season, as he graded out 48th out of 53 eligible middle linebackers that season.

He wasn’t terrible last season, grading out 20th at his position, but he’s unlikely to get any better going into his 30s. On top of that, he was never that great even before the extension, as he graded out below average in 2007 and 2008 and graded out only slightly above average in 2009 and 2010. The only reason he’s still around at a 4.9 million dollar salary in his contract year is the veteran leadership he provides. Like with outside linebacker, the Jets don’t really have that much depth at the position should either of the starters struggle or get hurt.

Grade: C+

Secondary

The Jets had a lot of money to play with this off-season and were seemingly in on every single top free agent cornerback in this strong free agent cornerback class, after cutting Antonio Cromartie, and struck out on all of them, as new GM John Idzik refused to get into bidding wars. This upset a lot of Jets fans, but, with the exception of Darrelle Revis, an ex-Jet who probably wouldn’t have returned anyway, they probably would have ended up overpaying if they had signed any free agent cornerback. They all had their warts, so there’s no shame in the Jets accurately setting prices and refusing to go above them. The inability to do that is what ended up costing Tannenbaum his job.

A lot of Jets fans were also upset that they let Antonio  Cromartie go, saving them 9.5 million in cash and cap space ahead of his contract year in 2014, and then didn’t re-sign him to a cheaper deal, letting him sign with the Cardinals for 3.25 million over 1 year. However, they won’t really miss him. They might miss what he could be this season if he’s healthy and able to bounce back this season, but they won’t miss the 2013 version of him.

He was awful last season, playing through a hip injury, which led to his release. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th worst cornerback, 2nd worst in terms of coverage grade. He was torched with regularity, allowing 19.1 yards per completion, 2nd highest in the NFL. He could be better this season in Arizona, but there are no guarantees, especially with him going into his age 30 season, and, again, the Jets won’t miss the 2013 version of him. They aren’t worse at cornerback than they were in 2013 as a result of releasing him.

That doesn’t mean they don’t have issues at the position though, as there’s a reason they were so actively pursuing cornerbacks in free agency. After missing out on Vontae Davis, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Aqib Talib, and Alterraun Verner, as well as some other mid-level free agent cornerbacks, the Jets had to settle for signing Dimitri Patterson from the Dolphins. Patterson is good when he’s healthy, but he’s missed 17 games over the past 2 seasons combined and he’s played just 1 full season since he came in the league as an undrafted free agent in 2005.

He won’t suddenly become more durable (or better, for that matter) now that he’s going into his age 31 season. However, he’s graded out above average in each of his last 3 seasons (though he didn’t play more than 558 snaps in any of those 3 seasons). Last season, he played just 241 snaps, but no one played fewer snaps than him and graded out higher, as a result of his 4 interceptions. He would have been Pro Football Focus’ 17th ranked cornerback in terms of coverage grade if he had been eligible. If he can stay on the field, he could be an asset for them.

Patterson could be one of the starters and Dee Milliner would line up opposite him. Milliner has the potential to be their best cornerback. After all, he was the 9th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, though it was one of the weaker drafts at the top in recent history. Still, he definitely has the ability to bounce back from a down rookie season. Cornerbacks tend to take a year or so to transition to the NFL. Milliner graded out 86th among 110 eligible cornerbacks in coverage grade last season, as he allowed 7 touchdowns, though he was solid against the run and didn’t commit a penalty on 747 snaps. We’ll see how he does in his 2nd year in the league, but the upside is still there.

It’s a 3-way battle for the 3rd cornerback job. Kyle Wilson is the veteran of the bunch, but the 2010 1st round pick has largely been a bust thus far in his career. He’s graded out below average in each of the last 3 seasons and only played 480 snaps last season. He’s reportedly not having a good off-season and reportedly could be phased out of the defense entirely. Darrin Walls is also in the mix. He played 292 snaps last season, but graded out below average and he has only played 393 snaps in 3 seasons since going undrafted in 2011. Meanwhile, Dexter McDougle was a 3rd round pick in this past draft.

The Jets also used a high draft pick on a safety, taking Calvin Pryor out of Louisville with the 18th overall pick and making him the top safety off the board. Pryor instantly becomes their best safety, even as a rookie, which shows how big of an issue they have at the position. They had to sign the archaic Ed Reed midway through last season, after he was cut by the Texans halfway into the first season of a 3-year, 15 million dollar deal with 6 million guaranteed. That’s how bad things were.

Opposite Pryor, it should be either Antonio Allen or Dawan Landry. Landry is the veteran option and an incumbent starter, but he graded out below average last season, as he has in each of his last 3 seasons, and he now is going into his age 32 season. Allen, meanwhile, was a 7th round pick in 2012. He’s graded out below average in both seasons he’s been in the league, doing so on 72 snaps in 2012 and 550 snaps in 2013. The Jets have a lot of issues in the secondary, as well as in the back 7 in general, but they have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, which allowed them to have a solid defense last season.

Grade: C+

Conclusion

The Jets won 8 games last season, but that required a lot of luck, specifically a 5-1 record in games decided by a touchdown or less. Their point differential (-97) suggested they were a 5 win team and they actually had a worse point differential than 2012, when they had a -94 point differential and went 6-10. However, they also had some bad luck with fumbles and they should be overall a more talented team this season. All that being said, looking at this team and the level of talent they have, they are clearly the least talented team in the AFC East and one of the least talented teams in the NFL. They’re definitely going to have fewer wins than last season. The question is how many fewer. I’ll have an official prediction for them at the end of all my previews.

Prediction: 4-12 4th in AFC East

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