Maybe it was the change in scenery down in Florham Park that sparked it, but now with the 2015 NFL Draft officially over, it can be all but unanimously agreed that the New York Jets have made some very impressive moves this offseason and the buzz that will lead into the summer will be tremendous in anticipation for the regular season.
After the PR nightmare that was the 2014 Jets season, drastic changes needed to be made. Jets owner Woody Johnson came through on his fans’ wishes by firing general manager John Idzik, and, with a heavy heart, bid farewell to head coach Rex Ryan, who assumed that position in 2009 and quickly restored the enthusiasm in a team that appeared lost under the guidance of his predecessor Eric Mangini.
Despite initial progress in those first two seasons, the Jets began to head down a slippery slope starting in 2011, when they missed the playoffs after two consecutive years in the AFC Championship Game. Quarterback issues plagued the team from then on. Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, Geno Smith and Michael Vick assumed the starting job over the course of three seasons. Out of the four, only Smith remains on the Jets roster. Sanchez is the only other player currently on a NFL roster.
In 2015, the Jets will be led by head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan. One of the first big splashes they made was bringing back cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis in March. A month later, they picked up New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley. The team was also successful trading for Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall and Houston Texans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Those kinds of positive additions also transcended well into the coaching staff. Bowles rounded out his staff with many prominent and experienced figures. Some coaches of note are offensive coordinator Chan Gailey, defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers and special teams coordinator Bobby April.
With all of that as a precursor for what they were going to do in Chicago this past weekend, many were anxious to see what rookies would be joining the Jets this year. It got off to a good start in the first two round with the selections of USC defensive lineman Leonard Williams and Ohio State wide receiver Devin Smith.
On the last day Saturday, the Jets once again pulled out all the stops and picked up some more valuable pieces. With their fourth round selection they selected decorated Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty. As the day wound down, the Jets were still not done, trading the St. Louis Rams their seventh round pick in exchange for running back Zac Stacy, who rushed close to 1,000 yards in his rookie campaign in 2013.
So now that they have added some valuable pieces that can get the Jets back to the top, the question now is to define each of those players’ roles over the course of this season. First order of business is to settle on a starting quarterback and stick with that decision. Going forward, the long-term solution is most likely Petty, but the Jets have to make sure he is definitely ready for that responsibility.
New York does have an impressive lineup of quarterbacks between Petty, Smith and Fitzpatrick, so now it comes down to giving the ball to one of them and giving them a coach’s confidence. Last year we saw a lot of “Geno Smith is my main man… until he throws an interception” coming from the powers that be, which may have stalled Smith’s progression.
Now with Gailey handling the offense, those three will be in good company, whoever gets the chance to start.
All in all, the Jets offseason has been a successful one. Once all the contracts get finalized, signed and filed from this rookie class, we will get to see what this new and improved Jets team has in store for the rest of the league. If we were to make a prediction right now this early, the Jets can finish second this year in the AFC East.
Record-wise, we’ll be safe and say they’ll finish 8-8. As long as nearly everyone makes it out of preseason healthy, it will be a healthy season production-wise for the New York Jets.