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As the 2014 Jets report to Cortland, New York for training camp this Wednesday, we start to think about the possibilities for this team. The general consensus around the league is that this team is a tough one to prognosticate.
The more “reserved” Rex Ryan squeaked by in 2013 with an 8-8 record, which allowed him to keep his job. This season however, general manager John Idzik will have to see a major step-up for Ryan to return in 2015.
Smith – Vick QB Controversy
The incumbent is second-year QB Geno Smith, while the newcomer is veteran Michael Vick. Smith struggled mightily during the first 12 games of the season as turnovers and shaky play plagued the offense. Although, the positive was he showed many glimpses of brilliance including a Monday Night Football final-drive victory against the Atlanta Falcons, and an opening-day final-drive victory against the Tampa Bay Bucs. That “calm-like” presence Smith showed during those two games is very promising, and something every QB in this league needs.
Image courtesy of German Silva/INFphoto.com
The final four games of the season is where Smith seemed to take a big leap forward. He won three of those games while only committing two turnovers, according to ESPN. Smith rediscovered his running game during that span, as he rushed for at least 44 yards in each. The dual-threat presence served him well.
Image courtesy of MediaPunch/INFphoto.com
A QB who is very familiar with the dual-threat presence is 34-year-old Michael Vick. Vick comes in after struggling with injuries the past few seasons. If the Jets had their way, Smith would win the job and Vick would see action in a few games as that “arm out of the bull-pen,” so to speak. Vick is a nightmare to game-plan against and he could steal a couple of wins in 2014.
Related to the QB controversy is how well this offense goes under second-year Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. Mornhinweg is a very talented offensive mind and, from the start of 2013, showed Jets fans that they were without a solid OC for years.
The problem was, they had a rookie QB and zero talent for Mornhinweg to work with. New offensive signings WR Eric Decker and RB Chris Johnson will change that.
The good-looking Decker (on and off the field might I add) grabbed 87 balls and 11 TDs for 1,288 yards last year from Peyton Manning in Denver, according to ProFootballReference. He immediately brings stability to a position, which was quite sorry-looking last year.
Johnson, on the other hand, is an aging RB. At 28 years old, it will be quite interesting to see how the team uses him and Chris Ivory together. On paper, it looks like a perfect “thunder and lightning” duo. Durability has been one of Johnson’s top attributes as he’s only missed one game in six seasons, and has rushed for over 1,000 yards in each.
The offensive rookies the Jets drafted will need to make a splash in training camp if this unit wants to come full circle. Rookie TE Jace Amaro was a reception machine in college and could become Geno Smith’s best friend this year.
Perhaps one of the more accomplished things the more “subtle” Rex Ryan has done during his tenure in New York is developing this defensive line. Mo Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson (2013 AFC Defensive Player of the Year), and Quinton Coples are a downright scary group rushing the passer. Finally, Ryan has a pass rush that can get after the QB without having to design elaborate blitzes.
ML Demario Davis took a big step last season as he ranked second on the team with 107 total tackles (David Harris led with 124), and is one of the faster LBs in the league.
The secondary, on the other hand, is brutally untested. Going through 2013 was a rough one for this group. After Darrelle Revis took his talents to Tampa Bay, Antonio Cromartie could not fill that number one CB spot adequately enough after a brilliant 2012 season. Now, Cromartie is in Arizona.
Second-year CB Dee Milliner is one of the bigger names to watch out for this training camp and 2014 season. A lot of the defensive success or failure of this team hinges on his play. In 2013, he was overwhelmingly disappointing until the final few games.
First-round pick SS Calvin Pryor will bring a nastiness to the defense that Ryan absolutely adores. The kid will quickly become the captain of the defense. The only issue with him is he tends to lead with the crown of his helmet and, as we all know, today’s NFL is not a place for the fierce hitters to enjoy themselves.
The biggest question on the defense during training camp will be who starts opposite of Dee Milliner at CB. Veteran Kyle Wilson has been an adequate nickel back for the team in recent years, but does not seem to possess starting-caliber talents. Free agent pickup CB Dimitri Patterson was one of the more under-the-radar moves Idzik made this off-season. If the nine-year pro can be solid this season, it might be just enough as that ferocious pass rush gets after QBs.