It’s Monday Night Football and it means getting to know the New York Jets a little better. To do so, we talked with Gang Green Nation, the SB Nation site for New York Jets coverage with Smackdad.
Get the inside scoop from the Jets fans and coverage on the game and what the heck is going on in New York.
1. How hot is Todd Bowles seat? Is it a combination of him not doing well and the expectations or is he really not ready to be the head man?
A: I don't think Bowles is really in the hot seat quite yet. Certainly many Jets fans are frustrated and concerned, and some of the least patient among them have begun calling for Bowles to be replaced, but unless the Jets just completely fall apart and become uncompetitive the rest of the way, and finish with the worst record in the NFL, I think it's very unlikely Bowles is replaced. Two years just is not enough time for a rookie head coach to learn on the job, get his system in place, get the players he needs to execute the system, and see results. Particularly after the Jets 10-6 season in 2015, one bad season is almost certainly not enough to get Bowles fired.
As far as whether Bowles can become a good head coach, the jury's still out. Expectations were probably too high this year, as the Jets benefited from the NFL's easiest schedule in 2015 and posted a 10-6 record that was probably better than the talent justified. In 2016 the Jets might have the toughest schedule in the NFL over the first six games, with five of the six coming against playoff teams from last year and four of six on the road. Win or lose on Monday, the acid test for Bowles will come after this stretch is done. The schedule becomes much more favorable then. If this team can't turn it around after the really tough stretch is over, questions about Bowles will mount. Certainly there are already questions mounting. Bowles comes from a background in the secondary, yet his secondary might be the worst in the NFL, and is constantly having blown assignments and miscommunications. In addition, Bowles' game management has been suspect, the latest example of which was in the Steelers' game last Sunday when the Jets inexplicably chose to punt on 4th and 2 at midfield with less than eight minutes left and down two scores. That was just the latest in a series of time management and game management head scratchers. So there are signs Bowles might not be up to the job, but it's still early and he will be given a chance to learn and grow. If by the end of 2017 the Jets still stink and Bowles' coaching is still suspect, then the seat will be growing very hot, but not yet.
2. When does good Ryan Fitzpatrick show back up?
A: I'm not sure there is a good Ryan Fitzpatrick. For all the hype about Fitzpatrick's "career year" in 2015, he still managed to finish slightly below NFL average in passer rating. The "good" Fitzpatrick of 2015 primarily feasted on terrible pass defenses and was terrible against good pass defenses. Yes, every quarterback does better against bad pass defenses and worse against good ones, but Fitzpatrick outperforms against bad pass defenses much more than the average quarterback, and he underperforms against good pass defenses much more than the average quarterback. The Jets were simply fortunate in 2015 to face a slew of bad pass defenses, and Fitzpatrick routinely cleaned up against them. Against the few good pass defenses he faced in 2015 Fitzpatrick was awful, and he has picked up where he left off this year, performing at a worst in the NFL level when he has had to face a string of good pass defenses early on. As the season wears on Fitzpatrick will face some lesser pass defenses, and then the "good" Fitzpatrick will likely make an appearance, but it is fool's gold. Fitzpatrick is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. 2015 was largely a mirage built on feasting on terrible pass defenses.
3. Why is the secondary so bad?
The secondary is so bad due to a combination of a lack of talent and terrible communication leading to multiple blown assignments. Several times a game you have seen receivers running completely free, nobody having picked them up while other receivers are inexplicably double and even triple teamed. There just seems to be a lack of cohesiveness and communication in the secondary that wasn't there last year, and with the personnel mostly the same as last year, it's difficult to understand why this is happening. However, the problems go deeper than that. Darrelle Revis has clearly declined and is no longer a shutdown cornerback. He isn't as terrible as he looked against A.J. Green on opening day, but Revis Island is no more. The Jets counted on Revis to be able to shut down the opponent's best receiver without safety help, and now that that's gone, it seems the entire secondary is struggling to adjust to the new reality. In addition, strong safety Calvin Pryor just can't cover anyone. That isn't scheme related, he's just terrible in coverage. The same goes for second outside cornerback Marcus Williams. He just isn't good in coverage. Williams is a bit of a ball hawk and will come up with interceptions more than most cornerbacks, but that doesn't make up for being routinely toasted on the outside. Free safety Marcus Gilchrist is only so-so in coverage and is having an awful year in terms of blown assignments. He is often caught literally covering nobody while big plays are being completed. While the question was about the secondary, the Jets' linebackers complete the picture, with blown assignments and below average coverage ability. The poor communication and blown assignments can presumably be fixed by Bowles, whose background is in the secondary. The overall lack of coverage ability, however, is something the Jets have to live with until better talent can be brought in. The defensive line can help here by getting to the quarterback quickly, giving the back seven less time to get toasted, but even there the vaunted Jets line has not been effective.
4. How is Sheldon Richardson doing as an outside linebacker?
Richardson is only used part time as an outside linebacker, with mixed results. For a 300 pound man he is amazing as an outside linebacker. Richardson is blessed with rare quickness and instincts for a man his size. But that doesn't quite mean he is doing well as an outside linebacker. A man that size, no matter how talented, is miscast in coverage, and is not really ideal for edge rushing. Richardson is very fast for a man his size, but relatively slow for a true edge rusher. He is relentless in pursuit and does his best, but this is a misuse of Richardson's considerable talents. The Jets move Richardson around quite a bit, but the problem is they have three stud defensive tackles in Wilkerson, Richardson and Williams, and no stud edge rushers. The Jets want all three guys on the field as much as possible, and Richardson is the closest of the three to being suited to play as an edge rusher, so he gets stuck with the responsibility. The Jets would probably do better with a traditional 3-4 with Wilkerson at nose tackle and Williams and Richardson on either side, but they don't seem inclined to do that. As it now stands, Richardson does his best and really isn't bad when asked to play as an edge rusher, but it really is not a great use of his abilities.
5. What's the immediate future for the Jets?
I assume this is meant to address what happens the rest of the season? Tough to figure. This Monday is a very difficult game on the road, traveling across the country against a good Cardinals team. If the Jets lose again and Fitzpatrick struggles you have to wonder how long until he is replaced in the lineup. The schedule gets easier after Monday, at least on paper, and regardless of who is quarterback there is a decent chance the Jets go on a run against easier opponents, with most of the games at home. Nonetheless, with two games against the Patriots still on the schedule it is difficult to see the Jets being good enough to sneak into the playoffs. That would probably take a 9-2 record from here, 9-1 if they lose to the Cardinals. Easier schedule or not, the Jets just aren't a good enough team to go on such a run. So the most likely scenario is this team rebounds as the year goes on against easier opponents and finishes maybe 8-8 or 7-9, something like that. Then the question will be, who the heck is going to be the quarterback in 2017? The plan is probably Christian Hackenberg (gulp!), or Bryce Petty if Hackenberg isn't ready (double gulp!). Without a good quarterback it is just too difficult to win in the NFL, and it isn't clear there is a future good one on the Jets roster right now.