Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comLast Sunday, the Jets squared their record at 8-8 with a win against the Dolphins, knocking them out of the playoff hunt. Here, we grade the team’s offense, defense and special teams:
Pass Offense: D-
Seeing Geno Smith, the team’s 16 game rookie starter, throw for 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions won’t win Smith any awards. The team fielded an uninspiring group of pass-catchers that will face a major overhaul between now and the start of training camp. Smith and the Jets took far too many sacks (47) and turned the ball over too many times (5 fumbles lost) to help put this team into the playoffs. But, what keeps this unit from getting a failing grade was how they finished their last four games.
While the Jets didn’t put up Peyton Manning-stats, getting players back and healthy, seeing a developing rapport with players like Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson and Geno’s looseness helped this unit start to get out of their own way. Smith finished the season ahead in yardage of just two other quarterbacks who started 16 games: Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. Geno also already surpassed Mark Sanchez’s completion percentage (55.8%) for the season in all but one of Sanchez’s seasons (2011 – 56.7%) as the Jets starter.
Run Offense: C-
There were a lot of starts and stops for this unit in 2013 and it was nowhere near as efficient as it had been in years past. The offensive line was not their usual stout self, ranking just 21st in adjusted line yards. Powell didn’t offer much more than what the Jets line gave him and it wasn’t until Mornhinweg relied on more a (finally) healthy Chris Ivory did the running game pick up. Geno Smith was a huge boost for this offense when it came to running the ball. There seemed to be a hesitance for Geno to take off during much of the first part of the season, but in games where Geno ran the ball five or more times the Jets were 6-1, with the lone loss to the Panthers. Geno Smith won’t be able to run the ball forever, but for now his use of his legs is going to keep the Jets in close games.
Pass Defense: C+
It didn’t look good for the Jets for much of the middle of the season, but the year ended on an up note. Antonio Cromartie (3 INT, 10 PD, 1 FF) struggled with injury, Dee Milliner (3 INT, 15 PD) was benched three times and the bench didn’t seem as stout as advertised. The addition of Ed Reed (3 INT, 4 PD) seemed a subtraction for the for the first three weeks, but ended off better for the Jets and Reed. Antonio Allen (1 INT, 7 PD) seemed to languish on the bench in favor of the pairing of Reed with the signal caller Dawan Landry (1 INT, 7 PD). Kyle Wilson’s slot corner work was consistent but not remarkable.
What we saw in the last month of the season from Dee Milliner was very promising. Facing CLE WR Josh Gordon and MIA WR Mike Wallace almost exclusively in the last two games, Milliner posted 10 passes defensed and three interceptions, despite being targeted around 30 times. In addition, the Jets totaled 40 sacks, up Rex Ryan’s average of just 34.2 over his first four seasons.
Run Defense: A+
There were concerns about how the defense would respond to the losses of Sione Pouha and Mike DeVito and not many expected this defensive line to be as dominant as it was against the run. Between the team’s three first round defensive linemen, the trio totaled 35 tackles for loss in addition to the breakout play of Damon Harrison, Kenrick Ellis and even veteran Calvin Pace. The conundrum for opponents of who to block made for a tough day for many an opposing offensive line.
Sheldon Richardson was a huge addition to this team and excelled at stopping the run. The young defensive line will be the core around which the Jets build their defense in the next five years, expect very good things from them in the future.
Special Teams: B-
Nick Folk had the best year for a Jets kicker in recent memory going 33/36 on field goals and hitting a career long of 54 yards. Still, Folk’s success was bogged down by a weak return game in both punts and kicks. The Jets have taken pride in being able to create yardage in year’s past through kicks and punts and were unable to do so in 2013. The team also showed some inconsistency in their punt coverage. Expect a more talented team in 2014 to make for a better special teams as well.