We’re back with another FY 2016 NFL team preview! Can’t stand the J-E-T-S? Jump to Arizona; Atlanta; Baltimore; Buffalo; Carolina; Chicago; Cincinnati; Cleveland; Dallas; Denver; Detroit; Green Bay; Houston; Indianapolis; Jacksonville; Kansas City; Los Angeles; Miami; Minnesota; New England; New Orleans; New York Giants.
Where They’re Coming From
A Week 17 loss to the Bills that kept them out of the playoffs for a fifth-consecutive year.
Thanks to a five-game winning streak, the Jets headed into Week 17 in control of their own fate. The situation was simple: beat the Bills and clinch a Wild Card spot. But Ryan Fitzpatrick’s three fourth-quarter interceptions helped Buffalo play the role of spoiler.
The Jets ranked 11th in points scored and ninth in points allowed in 2015. Most weeks, they played like a playoff team, but a few ugly losses – to the Raiders, Eagles, and twice to the Bills – ultimately proved too costly.
Where They’re Going
One more year with a temporary patch at quarterback.
The Jets have a top-ten defense, a top-ten rushing attack, and a couple of great weapons on the outside; yet, they continue to move forward with a journeyman quarterback.
I’m not saying Fitzpatrick is a bad quarterback, and he’s definitely the best option on the roster. (Trust me, he’s far better than Geno.) However, a franchise quarterback would have this team in the playoffs and competing for a Super Bowl. The Jets’ pursuit of one has been lamentable, and that’s putting it nicely.
Key Offseason Moves
Additions: RB Matt Forte, DE Jarvis Jenkins, LT Ryan Clady, LB Darron Lee (drafted)
Losses: NT Damon Harrison, RB Chris Ivory, LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson (retired), LB Demario Davis
What to Watch For
Their defensive alignment.
Once the Jets gave Muhammad Wilkerson the long-term deal that he deserved, it meant they had three great defensive linemen on their roster: Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Leonard Williams, plus the solid Steve McLendon. Under Todd Bowles, the Jets had been using a 3-4 defense – which would have kept at least one on the sideline – but they showcased a 4-3 defense in Week 3 of the preseason against the Giants and held their opponent to just 47 yards in the first half.
“Gang Green” has a bevy of talented pass-rushers, and it appears outside linebacker Lorenzo Mauldin may be the odd man out in their base defense. Don’t expect the second-year pro to become a “second-teamer,” though. Bowles and defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers will find ways to utilize all of their talented defensive players. Expect a lot of different, exotic defensive fronts out of the Jets in 2016.
Who to Watch For
Ryan Clady and Ben Ijalana, offensive tackles
The Jets’ starting left tackle in 2015, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, retired in the offseason, and their starting right tackle, Breno Giacomini, is in jeopardy of starting 2016 on the PUP list.
To replace Ferguson, the Jets traded for the oft-injured Ryan Clady, and it appears Ben Ijalana will fill-in for Giacomini at right tackle – unless they decide to explore other options that are not currently on the roster.
Your two tackles are crucial to your ability to protect the quarterback, and Fitz isn’t the most mobile pivot in the league, so the Jets better hope Clady can stay healthy and Ijalana can hold his own. If not, Fitz will be under constant pressure while newly acquired running back Matt Forte will have a difficult time finding holes, too.
What Could Go Wrong
The defense can’t make up for Fitz’s turnovers.
In 2015, the Jets tied for sixth in turnover ratio (+6), but don’t let that stat mislead you: Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 15 interceptions (tied for fifth in the league) and also lost two fumbles. Their offense turned the ball over 24 times (tied for 12th-most). The 30 turnovers generated by the defense saved the day.
The offense will have to do a much better job protecting the ball in 2016, as you can’t rely on your defense to create almost two turnovers per game.
Where They’ll End Up
Playing in another must-win game in Week 17 against the Bills.
Unfortunately, the Jets don’t get to take advantage of a Brady-less Patriots team in the first four weeks of the regular season, instead drawing Cincinnati, Buffalo, Kansas City, and Seattle – followed by Pittsburgh and Arizona.
That’s a crucible right out of the gate. There is a very good chance that the Jets enter Week 7 with a sub-.500 record. If the Jets want to snap their playoff drought, they’ll have to take care of business down the stretch. That likely means stealing a game from the Pats and going 4-2 or 5-1 in the division.