Interview: Football Outsiders Answers on Jets

Our friends at Football Outsiders were kind enough to answer some questions about their thoughts on the Jets for 2010.  If you like, you can get all the information on ordering the Almanac on Amazon or on their website.

TheJetsBlog: Football Outsiders has stated that the Jets defense – statistically speaking – is unlikely to be as good as last year … why?

Bill Barnwell: Sheer regression to the mean. Last year, the Jets had the league’s best defense, a figure driven by an incredible pass defense — their -34.2% DVOA against the pass was the fourth-best figure of the DVOA Era (1993-2009).

Unfortunately, when teams are that good in one particular facet of the game, they decline in the subsequent season — it’s just too hard to be that good, year after year. Sure, the Jets should have Darrelle Revis, but the 2002 Bucs (who had a ridiculous -52.5% DVOA against the pass) would’ve said "Hey! We’re still going to have Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks and John Lynch and Ronde Barber. How can you project us to decline, you idiots?" A year later, they were still really good, but they had a -25.5% pass defense DVOA, and that was only good for third in the league.

Some of that is an expected decline from Revis. Now, a year ago, Revis had one of the best years of any player at any position in recent memory. That’s absolutely true. Guys just aren’t the best at a given position, though, year after year. Take Dan Marino, for example. He set the passing record in his second season, 1984, at age 23. Had Football Outsiders been around then, we would’ve projected Marino to decline — just because guys don’t set the passing record <i>every year</i> — and people would have been flooding our Gopher page with angry messages. It’s harder to quantify a cornerback’s relative play, but everything we’ve seen (and our statistics) suggest that Revis was playing at the level of someone setting a record at their position.

TJB: Worst case scenario, Revis holds out the whole year, how much would that affect the Jets season? If he returns, was it just a mirage?  Will teams just follow the Colts AFC Championship plan and just throw to the 2s and 3s, even with Cro and Wilson now in-house?

Bill Barnwell: I think Jets fans can probably do the math of what would happen if Revis didn’t play. The scheme would totally change, with no ability to shade the coverage away from one side of the ball. It would push Kyle Wilson into a starting role, and rookie cornerbacks — even guys who end up being very good corners as early as their second season, like Mike Jenkins in Dallas — are usually targets to pick on. The team wouldn’t be able to commit so many players in the back eight to the run, decreasing the effectiveness of the run defense. They could still be good, I suppose, but there’s also a pretty decent chance of the defense being bad without Revis. I can’t imagine them being any worse than good with Revis in the lineup.

It’s hard to follow the Colts’ model because what makes Peyton Manning and the Colts so effective is his ability to stay upright; remember, although Manning was sacked twice in the opening quarter of that game, Rex Ryan defenses had only sacked him three times in 141 dropbacks before that. They didn’t get to him again. Other guys just don’t have the poise and footwork that Manning does.

TJB: We’ve heard that the Jets front office is  trying to give Vernon Gholston (now around 270 lbs.) as much opportunity as possible in 2010 (prelude to a trade for a tackling sled?) .. if you are Rex Ryan, how do you actually use him?

Bill Barnwell: Well, in all fairness, an out-of-favor tackling sled has as many pro sacks as Gholston does. If I were Rex Ryan, I honestly wouldn’t be trying to convert him into something he’s not. I’d ignore his salary, keep him as a situational 3-4 linebacker, and find a way to use his unquestionable athleticism in some sort of limited role.

TJB: It’s hard to go anywhere but up from what we saw during much of Sanchez (20 INTs) for the 2009 season … are the pieces the Jets have put in place on offense going to propel him forward?

Bill Barnwell: I think it’s that and natural growth and regression to the mean, as well. It’s really hard for a quarterback to throw interceptions as frequently as Sanchez did in 2009, and while some of the guys who did ended up becoming busts (with some — including Troy Aikman — becoming stars), everyone improved their interception rate from the five percent neighborhood that Sanchez was in last year.

TJB: Fantasy owners are salivating, but what can we really expect out of Shonn Greene in 2010?

Bill Barnwell: The Jets’ offensive line hasn’t missed a start in three years. They’re the only unit in the past 15 years that pulled that off. They’ve also replaced Alan Faneca, and for all his faults as a pass blocker, the man could still clear out holes in the running game. That stuff’s gonna weigh on Greene, and while I definitely think he’s talented, I do believe that he’s overvalued right now. Our projections have him at 254 carries for 1193 yards, and I think his yards per carry and total yardage is a little high.