As 2014 wrapped, the New York Jets found themselves at 4-12, a distant fourth place in the competitive AFC East. They were the only team in the division that finished with a negative point differential, and New York allowed over 100 points more than it produced.
During the offseason, the Jets have been as busy as any team in the NFL to fix what ailed them and get this team back into playoff contention. This started first on the sidelines. Head coach Rex Ryan was removed from his position, replaced by former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. This will be Bowles’ first head-coaching position, but he is already thought of as a great defensive mind.
New York Jets Offseason Creates Exciting Defense
To help Bowles and the defense, New York added a slew of pieces on that side of the ball, with most of the punch entering the secondary.
Two former Jet corners were brought back after stints on other clubs. Darrelle Revis, arguably the best corner in the entire league, and Antonio Cromartie will immediately move into the starting lineup for this team. The additions are gigantic for a team that allowed the third-highest opponent passer rating in the NFL in 2014. Revis is one of the best press cover corners this league has seen in ages and Cromartie isn’t too shabby himself.
New York didn’t stop there. It also brought in nickel corner Buster Skrine who was a useful player during his four years in Cleveland. Safety Marcus Gilchrist was added as well and will likely find himself slotted into a starting position. All in, the Jets brought in four defensive backs who will be four of their top five players at the position. These additions also slide the holdover players into reserve roles, buoying their value as well. The unit, which was an area of concern last year, may turn into one of the premiere secondaries in the conference if everyone stays healthy.
To solidify the defense even further, the Jets spent its first-round draft pick, sixth overall, to grab the player many felt was the best overall in the entire draft: defensive lineman Leonard Williams. If the DBs all pick up a unit that was poor last year, Williams does the opposite by adding to a defensive line that was simply magnificent. New York allowed the fifth-fewest rushing yards in the NFL and the sixth-lowest yards per carry average. It was also tied for sixth in sacks. With Williams slotting in along the front, and once Sheldon Richardson returns from suspension, there is no reason to believe the Jets’ front four can’t be the best in the game.
Those moves are what Coach Bowles loves about his new team. The defensive guru will have a field day controlling this defense. But he also needed a revamped offense, and he got that as well.
While the quarterback position remains a question mark, New York traded for veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick to come in and battle for the starting gig. He isn’t a world-beater but Fitzpatrick has shown he’s capable of playing the position. The Jets also spent their fourth-round draft pick on Baylor QB Bryce Petty. Petty may not be ready to contribute in year one, but he has a big arm and big potential down the line.
Since this team isn’t going to defeat opponents with its quarterback shredding defenses, help was brought in elsewhere. New wide receiver Brandon Marshall is a five-time Pro Bowler. He is on the backside of his career but can still come in and be this team’s number-one option. Rookie burner Devin Smith will also be in the mix along the outside. Smith was drafted in the second round and is a big-play man; he led all of FBS college football in yards per catch in his final season.
In the running game, new additions flood the backfield. Although Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell still remain, the Jets added Stevan Ridley and Zac Stacy to battle for carries. None of the four have All-Pro upside (unless Ridley permanently solves his fumble troubles), but the quartet is an interesting mix of capable bodies. If the coaching staff finds a suitable rotation or two guys separate themselves from the others, the unit could certainly keep pace with the third-best rushing attack the Jets put forth last year.
Helping the backs by making holes up front and helping whoever snares the starting quarterback job will be new offensive guard James Carpenter. Carpenter was a bit of a disappointment in Seattle, but he has first-round pedigree and a starting spot is his to lose.
Each individual piece the Jets added during the spring may not amount to much (outside of Revis), but as a conglomeration they greatly improve the talent and depth of this roster. Some of the questions of how these new additions are going to impact the team will be answered in less than 40 days when the Jets face Detroit for the their preseason opener on August 13th.
The 2015 regular season will be hard sledding in the AFC East as the Patriots, Dolphins and Bills all look tough, but New York should be well-positioned to excel the aggressive moves it made in the offseason. .