As we begin the heavy lifting over the next two weeks in preparation for training camp and the 2014 season, here’s ESPN’s future power rankings run by their top analysts with panels to grade specific areas of all 32 NFL teams from roster composition, quarterback, the team’s drafting history along with front office and coaching. Last year, the Jets were at the back of the pack when ESPN analysts ranked the team. This year the team was ranked 22nd by ESPN.com, which are designed to determine teams positioned for success over the next three seasons.
The breakdown, with five categories ranked on a scale of 10 points (2013 grade in parentheses) and then weighted was as follows:
- Roster — 6.0 (3.8)
- Quarterback — 7.0 (3.2)
- Draft — 7.1 (5.3)
- Front Office — 7.4 (5.0)
- Coaching — 8.8 (3.7)
Compared to last year, there’s not a single grade that went down. The team’s talent is better, the quarterback position is more stable with Sanchez gone and Smith being backed up by Mike Vick. The team has done a great job in the draft, coming away with a number of starters in Idzik’s first year and potential playmakers again in the team’s second year. There’s also more confidence in the front office and coaching staff.
We’ll take the comments from the ESPNers in snippets and then add our two cents after each section:
The overview: The Jets’ coaching outlook improved 20 spots, from last to 12th, which ties with the Jaguars’ drafting leap for largest year-over-year gain in any single category. It’s not that Rex Ryan suddenly rediscovered how to coach; it’s that his ability to go 8-8 with a struggling rookie QB led to a contract extension that could help him stay with the team for the longer term. The team’s coaching outlook is better now that Ryan is no longer considered a long shot to keep his job. The Jets ranked between 20th and 28th in every category other than coaching. That isn’t great, but the team did gain ground in every category since the past offseason. The lack of optimism over Geno Smith stands out, but the Jets did rank ahead of Minnesota, Buffalo, Houston and Tennessee in QB voting. —Mike Sando
Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comAs a reminder, Sando recently posted an article (ESPN, July 3) in which Geno Smith was ranked dead last among starting quarterbacks the NFL.
If there was any perceptive jump on the Jets coaching, it has less to do with Rex Ryan and more to do with another coach. No offense to Ryan, but we believe that a large part of the regained general league-wide confidence in Ryan stems from the savvy hiring of Marty Mornhinweg as the team’s offensive coordinator. With MM in the house, Ryan didn’t have to manage the likes of Tony Sparano or Brian Schottenheimer. Mornhinweg demonstrated that he is fully capable of running an NFL offense and did his best to help an with the team’s obvious talent concerns at the skill and quarterback positions.
Not to beat a dead horse, but Bucky Brooks had an excellent summation of Brian Schottenheimer and his failures so far as a coordinator on the ATL podcast (NFL, June 6 start at 25:30 mark), saying that “great play callers … take the strengths of a quarterback and they find a way to recycle those same concepts over and over again by giving you window dressings with formations and motions.” Instead, Schotty recycled window dressings to set up plays that would break the tendency of prior plays — it’s betting on the play call rather than the strength of the player and it’s the exact opposite of how Rex Ryan runs his defense and as I’ve seen so far from Mornhinweg, the way he runs his offense.
The dilemma: On the positive side, the Jets are set up to have maximum cap and cash flexibility going forward, and they have the makings of a dominant defense with the future addition of an edge rusher and another corner. On the negative side, they are a work in progress on offense. The future really depends on Smith’s development, which will be affected by the ability of the front office to continue building around him and by the stability of the coaching staff going forward. Nonetheless, they appear to be on the right track. —Louis Riddick
Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comThe Jets are trying to grow their own when it comes to the two defensive positions mentioned. Quinton Coples is more than poised to take that leap as pass rusher, he was hindered by his fracture at the start of last season but came on strong. Kyle Wilson might have one foot out the door after this year, but the team seems to love (for right or wrong) Dexter McDougle.
Even though the Jets are likely going to face some big-money deals one-year at a time over the next five years, the reigning in on spending has opened wide the possibilities for the Jets when it comes to the cap. John Idzik doesn’t seem like a man in a rush to use up all his cap space (he still has over $20 million on the cap) and he’s not racing to get a deal done with Mo Wilkerson, the Jets best player.
It does boil down to Geno Smith. The team’s long-term plan will revolve around whether Geno Smith can take the bump in offensive talent and the lessons he learned last season (and was implementing in December) and make the leap. Otherwise, the Jets are going to have to come up with another long-term plan.
The youth movement: Ryan has managed to maintain a consistently strong defense in New York, even with the talent level at safety a constant question. Look for rookie Calvin Pryor to change that conversation quickly, as he’s a potential defensive rookie of the year and will be the QB for the defense. On offense, Jace Amaro can help create different looks and put more pressure on defenses with his size out of the slot. The young talent on this team is looking better and better. —Mel Kiper
Brian Bassett, TheJetsBlog.comRyan has long coveted top talent at his cornerback position, but the stress that the spread formation and “12” personnel packages have put on NFL defenses might have John Idzik and Rex Ryan requiring more on their safeties. The NFL will be an adjustment for Pryor, but we trust that Ryan can keep it simple for Pryor early on before adding a larger playmaking role by season end. We are looking for good things from Amaro, but if he can catch 30-45 catches in his first year that might be enough with the additions of Eric Decker, Chris Johnson and the rookie receivers. Tight ends usually see their production increase after their first season, and playing the F receiver role will be a big adjustment, even for the very capable Amaro.