The New York Jets are the best team in football.
Just not at football.
Sure, there are better teams at football. But do you want to watch the Ravens more than the Jets? Jay Cutler plays bored. Of course it makes it boring to watch. But the Jets? Think about the roster of stars they have (again, not stars at football): Mark Sanchez, Antonio Cromartie, Rex Ryan, Joe McKnight, LaRon Landry, Sal Alosi (he's at UCLA now, but he'll forever count as a Jet star for this)...and THE BIGGEST STAR OF ALL STARS OF EVER...
While I'm biased, I'm expecting the Rams to win on Sunday. And if that happens, well, the best just gon keep gettin better.
Treading cautiously around the flashing lights and microphones, I linked up with Scott Salmon of Gang Green Nation to get some info on the Jets.
What's going on with the Jets right now? After week 7 with the Indy blowout and the overtime loss to the Pats, it looked like you guys had found some solid footing. The two losses on both sides of the bye week suggest the opposite. What do you point to as the key factor in the three-game losing skid?
I think our defense has been getting better each week (until the fourth quarter when they're gassed because they've been on the field the whole time) but our offense continues to struggle against physical defenses. When our receivers are pressed or there's a particularly nasty defensive line, the offense just can't get any traction like they used to.
So the Jets extended Mark Sanchez's contract through 2016. Is there any sentiment that he's a long tail player, like Alex Smith, as someone who's going to need five years to get it? Obviously with his career highs in nearly everything except interceptions last year, the franchise saw him as a viable component for the long term. Has this season completely changed that, or is this just a tough stretch to get through?
Most people expected him to get significantly better this year, based along an Eli Manning-like model. His experience combined with a simpler offense built around his strengths were supposed to be the key. The problem is the personnel around him is weaker than it's ever been, and Sanchez just isn't a guy who can elevate above that and make everyone else better. He's pretty clearly, at this point, a product of his surroundings. If the receivers, offensive line, and running backs are good, he'll do just fine. If it's on him to pull the team through (unless it's the playoffs, apparently), he folds.
For all intents and purposes, Sanchez has one real year left due to his contract. After that the team can cut bait. The current thinking is he'll be here for at least another year and will have to compete with either a rookie QB or a veteran, but someone that can actually play the position (unlike one Mr. Tebow).
The offensive line has been very inconsistent through the season. There are games where they've been dominant (Bills, Colts, even last week against the Seahawks ProFootballFocus had them rated highly). There are other games in which they've gotten manhandled. On the whole though, their pass-protection is much better than their run-blocking. Howard is a significant improvement over Hunter, just like a beaded curtain is better than an open doorway. Just kidding, Howard is much better than a beaded curtain. He's not great, and on most teams he wouldn't be starting, but he's significantly better than what Hunter provided last year. As for Smith, he's only been asked to play in the jumbo tight-end role. In that spot, he's done very well as a blocker. I'm very happy with the trade overall. There was one series a few games ago in which Howard went down with an injury before returning, and Smith looked serviceable during his brief time as a right tackle for us.
On to the defense. Where's the hole? Advanced stats suggest the defense hasn't really been the problem, though it hasn't played at an elite level. Is that accurate in your opinion?
Yes, it's definitely played well enough to keep us in most of the games this year. The problem lies in the fourth quarter, where as I mentioned above, they get gassed because the offense can't stay on the field long enough to give them a break. They've improved in run defense since the beginning of the year, although their fourth quarter production I think skews the stats. The pass defense is nearly as good as it was with Darrelle Revis. If I had to pick a hole, I'd say it's against speedier backs that can get to the edge and evade tackles. With our defensive line finally all healthy, I doubt very much that anything significant is going to happen up the middle.
Big picture - It certainly looks like the 2009 and 2010 seasons were the peak of the mountain for you guys. How steep is the downside? Can Rex Ryan stop the slide, or is this going to be a painful transition that takes half a decade and some significant roster overhaul?
The way that this team is currently structured, cap-wise and front office wise, I think we're headed for an awful year next year (like, first overall pick bad) unless something changes dramatically. I think Rex can stop the slide, but he's going to need more talent in his roster. GM Mike Tannenbaum has done an incredibly bad job and the roster has thinned significantly since '09 and '10, and that's limiting a lot what the Jets can do.
Thanks again to Scott for taking the time to answer these.