New York Jets 2015 NFL Season Preview

Quarterback

The Jets were one of the worst teams in the NFL last season, finishing just 28th in rate of moving the chains differential. Like most awful teams, the Jets had a terrible quarterback situation. Geno Smith played in 14 games (13 starts), while Michael Vick played in 10 games (3 starts) and they graded out 5th worst and 4th worst among quarterbacks respectively on Pro Football Focus. As a result, they finished 26th in rate of moving the chains. Unfortunately, they won just too many games to be able to select a top quarterback in the draft, going 4-12, as a result of a solid defense that ranked 15th in rate of moving the chains allowed.

Because neither Winston nor Mariota fell to the Jets’ pick at 6, the Jets had to settle for trading a 7th round pick to Houston for veteran journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick and using a 4th round pick on Bryce Perry, who will only play as a rookie if disaster strikes. Fitzpatrick has actually played pretty well over the past 2 seasons, grading out above average for the first two times in his career, including arguably the best season of his career in 2014. He graded out 12th among quarterbacks on Pro Football Focus and completed 63.1% of his passes for an average of 7.96 YPA, 17 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions last season. Now in New York, Fitzpatrick is reunited with Chan Gailey, formerly his Head Coach in Buffalo and now the Jets’ offensive coordinator.

Usually I like when players reunite with former coaches because of the familiarity aspect, but Fitzpatrick never did very well under Gailey’s tutelage, as evidenced by the fact that some of his poor seasons earlier in his career were with Gailey. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 29th ranked quarterback out of 37 eligible in 2010, 26th out of 38 eligible in 2011, and 35th out of 38 eligible in 2012, the three seasons he played under Gailey. On top of that, he’s going into his age 33 season coming off of a broken leg. There’s reason why the Texans felt comfortable trading him for a mere 7th round pick, despite the fact that he is only owed 3.25 million this season. I’d still start him over Smith, but it sounds like the Jets are going to be sticking with the incumbent for at least a few weeks.

Smith has been terrible in 2 years in the league. He’s completed 57.5% of his passes for an average of 6.88 YPA, 25 touchdowns, and 34 interceptions, while grading out 40th among 42 eligible quarterbacks in 2013 and 36th among 39 eligible quarterbacks in 2014. He was better than Michael Vick last season though, as Vick completed 52.9% of his passes for an average of 4.99 YPA, 3 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. In the 5 games where Vick played more than 50% of the snaps, the Jets moved the chains at a 64.44% rate, as opposed to 69.18% in their other games. Neither of those rates is good, but the Jets’ quarterback situation figures to be better this season than last season simply because of the swap of Vick for Fitzpatrick. Their passing offense still won’t be a very effective way to move the chains though, unless Fitzpatrick is somehow able to win the job and repeat the best season of his career again at age 33, coming off of a broken leg.

Grade: C-

Receiving Corps

Knowing they wouldn’t be able to do anything real at the quarterback position this off-season, the Jets spent a lot of money to upgrade their team around the quarterback spot this off-season, going into the off-season with close to the most cap space in the league. Their biggest move on the offensive side of the ball wasn’t a free agent acquisition. It was the trade of a 5th round pick to the Chicago Bears for Brandon Marshall, who will make 9 million dollars this season, after the Jets gave him a restructured 3-year, 26 million dollar deal upon his arrival.

The Bears were willing to part with him because he’s coming off of a down year, catching just 61 passes for 721 yards and 8 touchdowns last season, and grading out just 26th among wide receivers, including just 46th in pure pass catching grade. However, while he’s going into his age 31 season, he does have bounce back potential. He’s graded out above average in 7 of 8 seasons in Pro Football Focus’ history, including 8th in 2012, and 1st in 2013. He might be aging and a little overpaid, but he represents a significant upgrade for the Jets at wide receiver.

After #1 receiver Eric Decker, the Jets next 3 wide receivers in terms of snaps played in 2014 were Jeremy Kerley (752 snaps), Percy Harvin (373 snaps), and David Nelson (305 snaps). Harvin was decent in limited action, but Kerley and Nelson struggled mightily, grading out 76th and 109th respectively among 110 eligible wide receivers. Nelson was especially bad, with no receivers grading out worse on fewer snaps. Harvin is gone, but Nelson is as well, and, with Marshall coming in, they have finally locked in a #2 receiver, moving Kerley to the 3rd receiver job, where he’s a much better fit.

Decker was their big off-season acquisition last off-season, coming over as a free agent from Denver and adding much needed life to a receiving corps that was led in snaps played by Stephen Hill in 2013. Decker didn’t continue his big numbers from 2012 and 2013, when he put up slash lines of 85/1064/13 and 87/1288/11 respectively, but that was to be expected, given the switch of Peyton Manning to Geno Smith at quarterback. Decker’s 74/962/5 slash line in 2014 was still very respectable given the circumstances he dealt with, frequent double teams and a hot mess at quarterback. He graded out 24th among wide receivers, which lines up with how he played in 2012 (42th) or 2013 (12th), and overall I’d say he lived up to his 5-year, 36.25 million dollar deal on a team that desperately needed a guy like him. He’s not a true #1 receiver, but he has Marshall to take some of the focus off of him this season, which should help him and this whole offense.

Kerley, meanwhile, will be a slot specialist between them in obvious passing situations. He’s a solid slot receiver. He’s graded out above average in 2 of 4 seasons in the league, since going in the 5th round of the 2011 NFL Draft, catching 166 passes for 2073 yards and 7 touchdowns on 259 targets (64.1%) and 1408 routes run (1.47 yards per route run). He’s also plenty experienced, having played 2331 snaps in 4 seasons in the league and having started 23 of 58 career games. The trio of Decker, Marshall, and Kerley is solid and much better than what Jets fans are used to. Devin Smith, meanwhile, is the 4th receiver. The 2nd round rookie was seen as an option to beat out Kerley for the #3 job, but broke his ribs in training camp, essentially ending the battle. Smith is still expected to play week 1, but I don’t see him pushing for any real playing time until later in the season. He’s just missed too much valuable practice time.

Despite that, Kerley might not even finish 3rd on the team in yardage, because the Jets are expecting a breakout year from 2nd year tight end Jace Amaro. That might be wishful thinking, after the 2014 2nd rounder graded out below average on 385 snaps as a rookie, but he did show some upside and could easily be a solid starter in his 2nd season in the league. At the very least, he’ll be a significant upgrade on Jeff Cumberland, who graded out dead last among 67 eligible tight ends last season. Cumberland, a 2010 undrafted free agent, has graded out below average in 3 of 5 seasons in the league, is coming off the worst season of his career, and has been overstretched as a starter over the past 2 seasons. He’s a low-end #2 tight end. He’s the only real weak spot in a solid receiving corps though.

Grade: B

Running Backs

One area the Jets needed to improve this off-season on offense that they didn’t really was the running back position. They didn’t necessarily need to add a great runner, because lead back Chris Ivory is solid at running the football. Ivory has averaged 4.66 yards per carry on 636 carries in his career (2961 yards) and added another 17 touchdowns. The 2010 undrafted free agent has also graded out above average in pure running grade in all 5 seasons he’s been in the league, including 10th among eligible running backs in pure running grade in 2014. The issue with Ivory is he’s useless in passing situations, with just 23 career catches in 55 career games. He’s graded out below average as a pass catcher in 4 of 5 seasons in the league and last season was so inept in both pass protection and pass catching on a career high 454 snaps that he graded out 39th among 57 eligible running backs, despite running the ball so well.

He’s a good runner, but he’s simply not a feature back. The Jets needed to add a complement for him this off-season, a smaller, speedier back that can complement the 6-0 222 pound Ivory as a runner and also handle all obvious passing situations. Chris Johnson played that role last season, but struggled mightily, grading out 46th among 57 eligible running backs. There’s a reason he remains unsigned as of this writing. Instead, the only running backs the Jets brought in this off-season were Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy, essentially lesser versions of Ivory. Now they just have three one-dimensional backs instead of one.

Both are solid runners between the tackles, but don’t represent any sort of change of pace from Ivory and they’ve caught a combined 67 career passes in a combined 79 career games. On top of that, neither one has ever graded out above average as a pass catcher in 6 combined seasons in the league. Both have had one season as a lead back, but both have also done little much else in their careers. Ridley (5-11 225) is probably the better of the two, grading out above average as a runner in 2 of 4 seasons in the NFL, since going in the 3rd round in 2011, including 8th among running backs in pure run grade in 2012 and 13th in 2013. In his one year as a lead back (2012), he rushed for 1263 yards and 12 touchdowns on 290 carries (4.36 YPC) and has rushed for 2817 yards and 22 touchdowns on 649 career carries (4.34 YPC) in his career.

Stacy (5-8 216), meanwhile, has rushed for 1266 yards and 8 touchdowns on 326 carries (3.88 YPC) in 2 seasons in the league. He’s been better than those numbers have suggested, as he’s been stifled by consistently poor offensive line play, and he graded out 31st among running backs in running grade in 2013, but they’re still vastly inferior numbers to Ridley. Most of that production came as a starter as a 5th round rookie in 2013 and it was a quick fall for him, as the Rams (his old team) drafted Tre Mason in the 3rd round last year, Todd Gurley in the 1st round this year, and sent Stacy to the Jets for a 7th round pick during this year’s draft.

Ridley should be the favorite to be Ivory’s backup on pure talent, but he’s coming off of a torn ACL that he suffered last October. He might not be ready for the start of the season and, even if he is, it’s unclear what kind of shape he’s going to be in. For that reason, Stacy could win the backup job. It’s also likely that whoever loses the battle for the backup job will be outright cut because the Jets don’t want to have three of the same backs. It would be weird to see the Jets outright cut Ridley, but they guaranteed him just 80K because of the knee so it’s certainly a possibility if he can’t get healthy.

Bilal Powell, meanwhile, will slide into Johnson’s old role and could lead this backfield in snaps played, as he did in this role in 2013 (633 snaps). Powell is a decent pass catcher and pass protector and caught 36 passes in 2013, but he has a career 3.90 YPC average and struggled mightily overall in 2013, grading out 50th among 55 eligible running backs. Powell is no guarantee to even be an upgrade on the departed Chris Johnson. It’s not a backfield without some talent, but it’s a very one-dimensional one.

Grade: C

Offensive Line

The Jets also needed to upgrade the offensive line this off-season, particularly at guard. They spent money trying to do that, giving James Carpenter a 4-year, 19.1 million dollar deal to be their starting left guard, but they definitely overpaid and I’m not sure so he represents much of an upgrade. Carpenter, a 2011 1st round pick by the Seahawks, started just 39 games in 4 seasons (31 at left guard, 8 at right tackle) in the league. That’s a result of several injuries and overall poor play, as he’s graded out well below average in all 4 of those seasons.

Of course, the Jets had horrible guard play last season so Carpenter could still be an upgrade. Right guard Willie Colon struggled, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 66th ranked guard out of 78 eligible, and is now going into his age 32 season. Meanwhile at left guard, Brian Winters has been a disaster since they drafted him in the 3rd round in 2013. He was Pro Football Focus’ 77th ranked guard out of 81 eligible as a rookie and last year he was 66th out of 78 eligible, despite playing just 381 snaps. Oday Aboushi, a 2013 5th round pick, took over the starting job from him week 7 and was better, but only by default. None of those three players are capable starters.

Willie Colon remains the favorite to keep his starting job at right guard opposite Colon, despite the poor 2014 season. I don’t expect 2015 to be much better for him. After missing 36 out of a possible 48 games from 2010-2012 with injuries, Colon has made all 32 starts over the past 2 seasons and actually graded out slightly above average in 2013. However, going into his age 32 season, with a very serious injury history, it’s definitely plausible that he could be done, at least as a starter. He’s certainly no lock to make all 16 starts this season and the sooner he’s benched the better.

Of course, the Jets’ other options aren’t very good. Obay Aboushi, as I mentioned, struggled last season, in the first 734 snaps of his career, after not playing a snap as a 5th round rookie in 2013. He wasn’t horrible (43rd among 78 eligible) and he’d be better than Colon, but he’s a below average starter. Dakota Dozier is the longshot option, after not playing a snap as a 4th round rookie in 2014. He’d probably need both Colon and Aboushi to struggle or get hurt to see the field. Guard figures to be a problem area for the Jets once again in 2015.

The rest of the offensive line isn’t terrible, with a trio of experienced veterans locked into their current spots, D’Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle, Nick Mangold at center, and Breno Giacomini at right tackle. Ferguson and Mangold have been staples on the Jets’ offensive line for years. Ferguson has made 144 starts in 9 seasons in the league (never missing a game) and has graded out above average in 5 of 8 seasons in Pro Football Focus’ history, while Mangold has made 141 starts in 9 seasons in the league (only 3 games missed) and has graded out above average in all 8 years in Pro Football Focus’ history.

However, they are going into their age 32 and 31 seasons respectively, which is a concern. Mangold hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down yet, grading out 1st among centers last season, making it 8 straight seasons where he’s graded out above average. He’s been in the top-2 among centers in 6 of those 8 seasons and in the top-6 among centers in 6 of those 8 seasons and could easily do so again this season. However, Ferguson has been on the decline over the past 2 seasons, not grading out above average in either of them, after grading out above average in 5 straight seasons from 2008-2012. He could still be a decent starter this year, but he’s not the same player he used to be and he’s unlikely to be back in 2016, owed a non-guaranteed 10.375 million. Meanwhile, even though he’s played so well, Mangold’s age is a concern and he might not be quite as dominant in 2015, though he should still play very well.

Giacomini is also a veteran, but he hasn’t been around nearly as long as Ferguson and Mangold, who were both drafted by the Jets in the 1st round in 2006. He’s only been in New York for 1 year, signing with them as a free agent last off-season. Like Carpenter this off-season, Giacomini is a marginal player at best who was overpaid like a solid starter. Giacomini, who also came over from Seattle, signed a 4-year, 18 million dollar deal last off-season and proceeded to grade out 51st among 84 eligible offensive tackles in 2014, which is below average.

That is no surprise because Giacomini hasn’t once graded out above average in his career, since going in the 5th round in 2008. He’s experienced, with 49 starts in his career, but he’s not a good player and he won’t be better in his age 30 season in 2015. He wasn’t terrible last season, but he’s a marginal starter at best. It’s a weak offensive line overall on a weak offense overall. They’re more talented than they were last season thanks to some offensive additions, but not too much better and they should also have significantly more offensive injuries, after having the 5th fewest adjusted games lost to injury in the league last season. They’ll still struggle to move the chains.

Grade: C+

Defensive Line

The Jets also barely had any injuries on defense last season, with the 4th fewest adjusted games lost to injury on that side of the ball. Overall, they had the 2nd fewest adjusted games lost to injury in the league last season, only behind the Denver Broncos. That’s not good news, considering how bad the Jets were last season. They’re more talented this season on both sides of the ball, but, if they could only win 4 games last season despite barely having any injuries, it’s clear that they weren’t that talented at all to begin with. This year, they should have more games lost on both sides of the ball, which will hurt their chances of being significantly improved.

Before even training camp started, the Jets were dealt a huge blow to their defense and it didn’t even involve an injury, as stud defensive end Sheldon Richardson was suspended for 4 games in violation of the league’s substance abuse policy. Making matters even worse, Richardson was arrested on a variety of counts after that, including reckless driving and drug possession, and now he’s expected to get an even longer suspension. Richardson, a 2013 1st round pick, has graded out 5th and 2nd among 3-4 defensive ends in 2013 and 2014 respectively, emerging as one of the best defensive players in the whole league, only going into his age 25 season. He’ll definitely be missed, especially if he misses 6-8 games, which sounds likely.

The Jets were luckily prepared for this, at least as prepared for this as they could have been, using the 6th overall pick on Leonard Williams. That selection was seen as a weird one at the time, as the Jets already had a great pair of defensive ends in Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson, but Williams was seen as a top-3 pick and fell out of circumstance, so the Jets decided they couldn’t pass on him. I didn’t like the move because it didn’t fill an immediate need and essentially signaled that they were giving up on re-signing Wilkerson (a 2016 free agent), but it ended up being the good move in hindsight because of the suspension. Now Williams goes from being a pure backup in 2015 and maybe starting in 2016 and beyond if Wilkerson leaves as a free agent next off-season to having a significant rookie year role. He should be more than capable of handling it. He obviously won’t be as good as Richardson would have been, but he should be a solid starter.

As I mentioned, Wilkerson remains on the other side and he should have yet another strong season. The 2011 1st round pick struggled as a rookie, but has graded out 2nd, 15th, and 3rd among 3-4 defensive ends on Pro Football Focus in 2012, 2013, and 2014 respectively. He heads into the contract year of his rookie deal in 2015 and is set to make a boatload from someone in the next calendar year and, with the selection of Williams, it doesn’t seem like that someone will be the Jets. The Jets would have been better off giving him a large extension this off-season and using the 6th overall pick to grab help somewhere else on the field, like taking edge rusher Vic Beasley, who went 8th to Atlanta. I think that plan would have worked better in the short-term and the long-term. The Williams selection only worked out in the short-term because Richardson did a bunch of stupid things.

The Jets are also strong at nose tackle, in between Williams/Richardson and Wilkerson, as Damon Harrison has shaken off early career weight problems to grade out 4th and 14th among defensive tackles on Pro Football Focus in 2013 and 2014 respectively, including 1st and 3rd among defensive tackles in pure run grade. He’s just a pure two-down base player, but you’d be hard pressed to find a better pure two-down base player in the league. Weight concerns will always exist for the 6-4 350 pound 2012 undrafted free agent, but, as long as he’s in shape, he’s borderline impossible to move off the nose. It’s still a strong defensive line, despite the loss of Richardson for an extended period of time with a suspension, but the Richardson loss is obviously huge and the Williams selection took away much needed resources from other parts of the field.

Grade: A

Linebackers

One of those parts of the field that needed it, as I mentioned, was the outside linebacker/edge rusher spot, where Vic Beasley would have fit like a glove. Instead, the Jets are left with a pair of veterans who are both going into their age 35 season in Calvin Pace and Jason Babin, a borderline 2012 1st round pick bust in Quentin Coples, and 3rd round rookie Lorenzo Mauldin. Pace and Coples were the starters last season, but Babin actually played the best, grading out 9th among eligible 3-4 outside linebackers, on just 470 snaps, with no one playing fewer snaps and grading out better at the position. He definitely can’t be counted on to repeat that in 2015 though, given his age and that he actually graded out below average in 2013. Last year’s success was likely a fluky thing for him. Recent reports have him not even making the 53-man roster, in favor of 2014 6th round pick IK Enemkpali, who flashed on 40 snaps as a rookie, a move that would save the Jets 1.5 million in cash and cap space.

Coples and Pace, meanwhile, struggled as starters, grading out 40th and 39th respectively among 46 eligible 3-4 outside linebackers last season. Coples is only going into his age 25 season so he could be better this season, but he’s graded out below average in all 3 seasons he’s been in the league since being selected 16th overall in 2012 and appears on his way to becoming a bust. He does have more hope that Pace though, as Pace is going into his age 35 season and hasn’t graded out above average since 2011. Both he and Babin will be free agents after the season and this could easily not just be their final seasons with the Jets, but in the league. Mauldin was drafted more for 2016 as a long-term replacement opposite Coples, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he saw a decent amount of action as a rookie down the stretch, given how unsettled things are ahead of him on the depth chart.

Things are better and much more settled inside at middle linebacker, where Demario Davis and David Harris remain the starters. Davis had a bit of a breakout year last season, grading out 15th among middle linebackers, the first time in the 2012 3rd round pick’s career that he had graded out above average. He’s obviously a one-year wonder and struggled mightily in his first year as a starter in 2013, grading out 49th among 55 eligible middle linebackers, so he might not continue this solid play, but, if he does, it could set him up for a decent sized payday as a free agent next off-season.

Harris, meanwhile, isn’t as good, but weirdly got a 3-year, 21.5 million dollar deal as a free agent this off-season. Harris is, by all reports, a nice guy, a likeable teammate, and easy to coach. He’s been a defensive captain and signal caller for the Jets defensively for years and he’s been a leader on and off the field. I feel like that gets him overpaid. Four off-seasons ago, Harris signed a 4-year, 36 million dollar deal with the Jets, even though he graded out below average in his first 2 seasons in the league and then just 21st and 25th respectively in 2009 and 2010.

The Jets kept him through the duration of that deal even though he graded out below average in 2 of 4 seasons, including 48th out of 53 eligible in 2012, and maxed out at 18th. He was Pro Football Focus’ 29th ranked middle linebacker in 2014. He didn’t get quite as much money the 2nd time around, but he’s also going into his age 31 season. He was still overpaid by a significant amount. He’s part of a weak and aging linebacking corps.

Grade: C

Secondary

The place where the Jets added the most this off-season was definitely the secondary. They added an all new top-3 cornerbacks through free agency, all on major multi-year deals, after they didn’t have a single cornerback that played more than 50 snaps grade out above average last season. The Jets reunite Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie, who played together from 2010-2012 and both started all 16 games for the Jets in 2011. Both are over 30 now, so they won’t be quite the same, but Revis is still one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL.

Revis finished 3rd among cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus in 2008, 2nd in 2009, 18th in 2010, 1st in 2011, 1st in 2013, and 4th in 2014, with a torn ACL in 2012 that didn’t slow his career down in between. He’s bounced around from the Jets to the Buccaneers to the Patriots back to the Jets over the past few seasons for a few reasons. He tore his ACL in 2012 and then was traded to the Buccaneers for a 1stround pick ahead of his contract year. Tampa Bay then let him go rather than paying him $16 million in 2014 and the Patriots did the same this off-season, rather than paying him $20 million in 2015. However, he’s arguably the best cornerback in the NFL, one of the best players in the entire NFL, and absolutely deserves long-term security, even going into his age 30 season, which he got on a 5-year, 70 million dollar deal. He’s yet to show a single sign of slowing down thus far.

Cromartie, however, has shown signs of slowing down and was overpaid on a 4-year, 32 million dollar deal. Cromartie was cut by the Jets’ old John Idzik/Rex Ryan regime last off-season after a nagging hip injury caused him to grade out 102nd out of 110 eligible cornerbacks in 2013. Given that he was owed 9.5 million dollars non-guaranteed, it was absolutely the right move. The common narrative is that Cromartie, who graded out above average in every season from 2009-2012, bounced back in 2014 in his one season in Arizona under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who is the Jets’ new Head Coach.

That’s only half true though as, while Cromartie was dominant to start the season, he was horrible in the 2nd half of the season thanks to a nagging ankle injury and ended up grading out slightly below average overall. Cromartie graded out above average in every season from 2009-2012, prior to the last 2 seasons, so there definitely has been a decline in his play and, even though he’s missed just 1 game with injury in 9 seasons in the league, the fact that injuries have been a big part of it makes it even worse. Going into his age 31 season, he could still be a decent starter, but he’s certainly not the player he was in 2011 and 2012 and he was definitely overpaid. The only good news is he can doesn’t have any guaranteed money beyond this season and can be cut after the season after only being paid 7 million over 1 year. Revis is still as good as he ever was, but the same cannot be said of his former and current co-starter.

The three major deals the Jets gave to cornerbacks this off-season were essentially the good, the bad, and the ugly. Revis was the good. Cromartie was the bad, because he was overpaid. Meanwhile, Buster Skrine is the ugly, signing a 4-year, 25 million dollar deal. Not only is 6.25 million annually way too much for a 3rd cornerback who is only going to play 50%-60% of the snaps, Skrine has struggled mightily thus far in his career, since going in the 5th round in the 2011 NFL Draft. He’s a below average 3rd cornerback, but he’s getting paid like the best 3rd cornerback in the league.

Skrine made 37 starts in 4 seasons with the Browns, after they drafted him in the 5th round in 2011, and started 31 of 32 games over the past 2 seasons. He was never good though, grading out below average in all 4 seasons, with his worst year coming in 2013, when he graded out 105th out of 110 eligible, leading the position in both missed tackles and touchdowns allowed. The Browns used a 1st round pick on Justin Gilbert to replace him last off-seasoj, but Gilbert struggled so Skrine kept his starting job. His 2014 campaign was better, but only by default, as he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 82nd ranked cornerback out of 108 eligible, thanks largely to the whopping 17 penalties he committed. There’s no way he deserves to be making this kind of money. He was one of the off-season’s worst overpays.

The Jets also gave a big contract to Marcus Gilchrist, who will start at safety for the Jets, after signing a 4-year, 22 million dollar deal. If Gilchrist plays like he did in 2013, when he made all 16 starts and graded out 20th among safeties, he’s worth it, but the 2011 2nd round pick is a one-year wonder, grading out below average in 2011 and 2012 on 279 and 640 snaps respectively to start his career at cornerback (the reason why he converted to safety) and grading out 72nd out of 87 eligible safeties last season in another 16-start season at his new position. He’s unlikely to be as good as Dawan Landry was last season. Landry graded out 9th among eligible safeties before leaving as a free agent. They should have locked up Wilkerson long-term instead of giving Skrine and Gilchrist those kinds of deals and then used the 6th overall pick on an edge rusher or a cornerback.

The only significant member of this secondary who wasn’t brought in as a free agent this off-season is Calvin Pryor, their 2014 1st round pick. Pryor played well as a rookie, grading out above average, 29th among safeties. He only played 699 snaps because he was benched mid-season for being late to meetings, but his play was solid and, if he can avoid dumb rookie mistakes off-the-field in his 2nd year in the league, he could take the next step as a player. He’s a naturally talented player who is only going into his age 23 season. Gilchrist replacing the bigger Landry does allow Pryor to play in a more natural spot for him, closer to the line of scrimmage, which should help him.

Grade: B

Conclusion

Like on offense, the Jets have more talent on defense this season, but, like on offense, they’ll also have more injuries. They’re already missing Sheldon Richardson for a big chunk of the season due to suspension. Also, a lot of their big off-season additions were overpays and, as a result, the Jets have just 1.8 million in cap space for 2016 right now, without locking up Muhammad Wilkerson, Demario Davis, or Damon Harrison, all of whom will be big free agents this off-season. They’ll win more games than the 4 they won last season, but not enough to justify this spending spree and not enough for them to be a respectable team. As with all teams, I’ll have official win/loss records for the Jets after I’ve done all teams’ previews.

Final Update (9/9/15): Geno Smith is out for an extended period of time after a teammate punched him and broke his jaw, but that might actually help this team because Ryan Fitzpatrick is the better of the two quarterbacks. Still, this is one of the worst teams in the league.

Prediction: 5-11 4th in AFC East

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