The official 2018 realistic expectations handbook for the New York Jets fan is out and it includes several pressing topics.
The New York Jets are the Super Bowl 53 champions. Despite the deliciously-sounding flavor the previous sentence comes drenched in, the statement will probably fail to ring true this coming February.
These Jets just aren’t ready for that type of primetime. That’s OK.
Proactive was the feeling of the offseason after a terribly disappointing five-win 2016 campaign. Mike Maccagnan’s “aggressive rebuild” featuring the likes of Darrelle Revis and others failed after a surprising 10-win opening campaign. Proactivity led to the organization to come clean and announce a plan of youth while building the core through the NFL Draft.
One surprising 5-11 season and here we are.
Though the Super Bowl is a longshot, other forms of football treats fall within the legitimate range of striking distance.
Here’s the New York Jets fans’ official 2018 realistic expectations handbook:
The Jets Don't Possess A Championship Roster
No. This isn’t a championship roster. It doesn’t mean the Jets are completely hopeless as it pertains to Super Bowl 53 in New Orleans. Honestly, who saw the Philadelphia Eagles as champs a year ago today?
Still, the odds are greatly against the green and white. The two major reasons lie within the ugly trenches.
The Jets offensive line is bad. Actually, “bad” might be a bit unfair. Wesley Johnson playing center a year ago for virtually the entire season with an extremely banged up Brian Winters dragged the O-line down to a massive degree. James Carpenter also experienced a down season as his age creeps up to the point of no return.
Pro Football Focus ranked the Jets O-line No. 31 in the land. Only the Houston Texans rank worse. What makes things look even bleaker is the idea that Mikey Mac has drafted just two offensive linemen in 28 total draft picks over his four years in charge while signing no big names this past offseason when guys like Nate Solder and Andrew Norwell were up for grabs with over $100 million in cap space available.
Instead, Solder went to the New York Giants who quickly solved that O-line while also drafting nasty Will Hernandez, and Nowell went to the Jacksonville Jaguars, the franchise already boasting a terrific O-line (leading the NFL in rushing a year ago).
Could Spencer Long make that much of a difference? Can he actually stay on the field and throw away his concerning injury history? It’s tough to believe, even if things break perfectly right, the Jets can showcase a top third O-line. (For reference, the champs, the Eagles, rank No. 1 on PFF’s O-line ranking.)
Any coach who believes football is won and/or begins within the trenches won’t like the Jets 2018 depth chart. Not only is the O-line a question mark, the Jets pass rushing ability looks even worse with PFF placing them dead last in the NFL.
Interestingly enough, New York’s interior rushing game is better than most squads. Leonard Williams coupled with either young Nathan Shepherd or Henry Anderson is a solid bunch. The edge is where the issue remains and what’s curious is how Maccagnan and the organization failed to take even one flier on an edge man during the middle rounds of the draft (hello, Josh Sweat out of Florida State).
Overall, the roster is solid. It boasts a few excellent strengths. The problem comes when understanding championship teams are won up front both sides of the ball. Protecting the QB and rushing the ball while having the ability to get after the quarterback defensively with a conventional four-man rush is what wins in this league. New York can field a good team. It’s simply not championship-worthy unless the O-line and/or edge game step up in a shocking and amazing way.
(Oh yeah, the Eagles also rank No. 1 by PFF in the pass-rushing category.)
The Jets Secondary May Be Best In NFL
The foursome of Jamal Adams, Marcus Maye, Morris Claiborne and newcomer Trumaine Johnson might represent the best defensive backfield of this NFL moment. That’s how good these guys are.
Forget the rankings a year ago. Forget the fact the Jets finished 21st in total pass defense while surrendering 234.3 yards per contest. Should they finish 15th in 2018, the secondary could still easily claim league-best status.
The confusing point is all too true due to one problematic idea: the pass rush isn’t doing them any favors.
Adams, Maye, Claiborne and Johnson could play like Ronnie Lott, Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders and Dick “Night Train” Lane and still finish in the middle of the pack in pass defense if those boys up front aren’t doing their jobs.
Blitzing is cool. It’s an evil necessary in the football world. But it’s only cool when the conventional four-man rush can at least make the QB uncomfortable at times. Todd Bowles knows blitzing is overly necessary.
Forget the stats. This secondary, especially with the up-and-coming Parry Nickerson, veteran Buster Skrine and third safety J.J. Wilcox may easily be the best DB group in the NFL.
The Jury Is Still Very Much Out On Maccagnan & Bowles
Make no mistake about it: the Jersey duo of Mike Maccagnan and Todd Bowles still have much to prove.
Much of the 2018 storyline will revolve around this tandem but strangely enough, it feels as though both are completely safe regardless of performance. Woody Johnson is overseas and Christopher Johnson is carrying the company mission statement that’s, for the first time in a long time, preaching patience.
As previously noted, the non-activity involving the offensive line and edge positions are concerning to many. Now that Sam Darnold is in the house, the engine can officially begin. Never can “not having the QB” act as a legit excuse.
As the Jets play on through 16 regular-season games, development is key in concluding whether or not the Jets Jersey duo should be holding their heads high.
Allow Sam Darnold To Make His Mistakes
Folks, when dealing with New York Jets expectations, usually, the backup quarterback is always the most popular man in the building. Unless Josh McCown or Teddy Bridgewater are named the starter, that narrative won’t hold true in 2018.
It’s an interesting time for this fanbase. Finally, the face of the franchise is employed and in the building. (Save for a year or two with Mark Sanchez, this hasn’t been felt since the Chad Pennington or even Ken O’Brien days.)
How do fans act? How will they act? Do they even know?
Darnold can easily represent a hall of fame quarterback. He can represent a bust. No matter the tag or the heavy overall expectation, the fanbase must allow the kid to make and play through mistakes.
Ease up on those boos. Expect over 23 touchdowns to around 15 interceptions for close to 4,000 yards during his rookie season. There’s no reason those stats can’t be had in such a crazy offensive-filled league that throws around 15-yard penalties like white Tic-Tacs.
Just allow him to get there relatively “heavy-boo” free.
The Playoffs Are A Possibility
Finally, yes … the NFL Playoffs are absolutely a real possibility. The very same fashion the national and local media turn out 100 percent wrong in thinking the Jets roster was the worst in the league this time last year could resemble this year’s team relating to the postseason.
Having said that, it will be tough.
Sam Darnold will need to plug in and find his way before Week 5. The secondary will have to play flawless, nasty football. Darron Lee and Avery Williamson will have to represent the leaders the defense needs. Somebody along the edge will need to step up to allow Leonard Williams to do his regular All-Pro thing on the inside. Most importantly, the O-line will need to play like a Top 10 unit.
Expect a .500 (8-8) season yet don’t be surprised if six wins come as a bit of a disappointment or 10 wins ends the campaign in a surprising and stellar playoff berth.
It can happen. This is the National Football League, the place Jerry Glanville so famously once dubbed “Not For Long.” Fortunes change in a heartbeat.
Just make sure, as that diehard New York Jets fan, you keep your expectations in check. Now that you’ve read the official guide, you have no excuse.