Here's our reactions to the team's newly named position groups on the offensive side of the ball.
Offensive Line (9)
|74||Mangold, Nick||C||6-4||307||30||9||Ohio State|
|67||Winters, Brian||G||6-4||320||23||2||Kent State|
Analysis: To me, this is the deepest group at offensive line that the team has had in a few years. Is it as good as the 2009 version was? No, but it is the built-in redundancy should there be injuries that I like most about the group. Four of the five starters return from last year and new right tackle Breno Giacomini brings a nasty streak to a line that might rely more on running the football this season with Chris Johnson and Chris Ivory as the team's top backs. The big question for the starters, and the reason the grade isn't an "A" is the concerns I still have about the right side's ability to pass protect.
Winters should be better this season which will keep Mangold and Ferguson from as much babysitting and get them back to the level of play we've come to expect from them over the last nine years. Willie Colon will get called for more procedural and holding penalties than we'd like to see, which could cause the Jets offense to stall at times, but Colon is the veteran enforcer that the line needs. Colon is helping the Jets buy time until players like backups Oday Aboushi and Dakota Dozier are ready to step into the starting lineup.
Really, it is the group of Ijalana, Freeman and Aboushi that intrigues me most. The Jets have backups at three key spots who can play multiple positions (right/left) and they also were able to keep promising rookie Dakota Dozier in the bargain.
Tight Ends / Receivers (10)
|88||Amaro, Jace||TE||6-5||265||22||R||Texas Tech|
|15||Hakim, Saalim||WR||5-11||188||24||2||Palomar Coll. CA (J.C.)|
Analysis: There's no question that this group of pass catchers is better than they were a year ago, but it is hard yet to gauge just how much better. The tight ends have a decidedly pass-catching streak to them; none of the three that the Jets kept are particularly known for their crushing run-blocking. Cumberland might be the best of the bunch and offers the team the best two-way option at the spot, but look for Amaro to line up almost exclusively out of the slot or just off the hips of the tackles. From a targets/production (not a role) standpoint, the addition of Amaro and his recent strides in the offense will more than make up for the loss of the targets that Hill would have otherwise seen this season. Due to the nature of the group, look for the the Jets to rely on a sixth lineman to help boost their run-blocking game.
The addition of Eric Decker normalized the Jets receiver group, but it is still a group that beyond Decker doesn't have a prototypical WR1 and WR2 that a team like the Lions or Redskins can field this year. Reductionist national writers will look at this group and discount the names and the production, but we like how the Jets are moving forward with this group. The removal from Stephen Hill from the equation breaks the logjam for a group that had too many players stuck in the waiting room behind him that could otherwise provide more value with him off the roster.
Nelson and Salas might line up along the boundary across from Decker, but it is Jeremy Kerley that is the team's second receiver -- a statement we've emphatically stood by for months. Kerley might line up in the slot, but he is the team's second option and history has proven that he can be productive with or without big names around him. It was no coincidence that the offense sputtered and the team lost three straight when Jeremy Kerley was absent to injury last season. He'll never get the respect he deserves but if you put Kerley on the Broncos, aside from Welker's excellent blocking, we think that Kerley could provide a close facsimile to what Welker does for that offense. Yes, really.
As far as Nelson and Salas? The team has gone bigger in recent years at the receiver position and both seem to have the on-the-field chemistry with Geno Smith and Mike Vick. Both are possession-style receivers which will be helpful for the Jets quarterback especially in third down and red-zone situations.
Hakim and Saunders will provide positive change on kick and coverage special teams -- specifically as a kick returner and punt returner respectively. We imagine that one or both of them will be worked into the offense as deep threats at some point during the season in an attempt to take advantage of Geno's deep pass prowess. Enunwa is a player the Jets like and will try to groom into a future role with this team.
Running Backs (4)
|40||Bohanon, Tommy||FB||6-1||247||23||2||Wake Forest|
|33||Ivory, Chris||RB||6-0||222||26||5||Tiffin University|
|21||Johnson, Chris||RB||5-11||203||28||7||East Carolina|
If there's any concerns about this group, it is due to concerns about age and durability. While it doesn't appear that Chris Johnson is as far gone as many suggested he was this offseason, the key for Ryan and Mornhinweg will be to keep Johnson fresh and put him in situations where he can get in isolation against a defender. Ivory is the team's best between the tackles runner, but injuries seem to be the only thing he can't bowl over.
Bilal Powell is the mortar to Johnson & Ivory's bricks, he can complement either and fill in for either role if one or the another needs a blow or gets sidelined with injuries. Powell might not be as dynamic as either Johnson or Ivory, but he is more than almost every NFL team has as their third running back.
Bohanon makes the roster again and we'll see how he progresses this season. Bohanon will be called on as a blocker more with so many more targets for the offense this season. That was an area he struggled with in 2013, so growth will be necessary here for the Jets to stand pat at the position.
|7||Smith, Geno||QB||6-3||221||23||2||West Virginia|
|1||Vick, Michael||QB||6-0||215||34||13||Virginia Tech|
Analysis: Keeping a third quarterback while Smith and Vick are both healthy is unnecessary and with 10 of 12 draft picks to keep and concerns elsewhere on the roster, the Jets were smart to use their roster spots elsewhere to better effect. We fully expect that Matt Simms and/or Tajh Boyd to be on the practice squad once the team can name their additions in the next 24 hours.
Before we talk about Geno, let's compare him to EJ Manuel. Manuel was drafted earlier and has better young guns around him, but he has struggled to establish himself as a viable option and now the Bills are panicking by bringing in the five million dollar man, Kyle Orton. Comparatively, the Jets young quarterback might be settling in and the team gave their veteran backup four million and he's already been with the team since the spring.
It is only his second year, but Geno Smith is taking ownership of this offense and making the progression that Rex Ryan desperately wanted to see from his former quarterback but never did. The "competition" this summer might have been cock-eyed, but there was purpose in it all the same. In a perfect world, Smith's play elevates during his second season and the team doesn't need to make a determination between their starter and backup at any point this season.
Of course this is reality and until we see the elevation in play from Geno Smith the offense (and the team) will live and die with what the quarterback can or can't do. Geno's been named the "week to week" starter for the Jets, but with Mike Vick and an urgency to win in a division that is foundering outside of New England, it makes sense that Ryan and Idzik are keeping their options open. Vick might only be marginally better than Smith at this point, but that margin could make all the difference for a defense that could be better than last year's version once the secondary gets healthy.
Why do I write that?
I believe that the season's starting quarterback will be resolved in the first month of the Jets season. Many look nervously at the slate of NFC North games because of the prolific offenses that litter the North and which the Jets will face before the leaves start turning, but the truth is that many of those North defenses are ripe for the plucking.
The Packers defense might be the only group that was improved, but that secondary could still be very bad. Bears coach Marc Trestman is being lauded as an offensive mastermind but the Bears defense won't recapture the team's '85 magic. Meanwhile, the Lions secondary hasn't done nothing to make improvement.
Shootouts aren't the Jets milieu. But if the Jets defense can slow down any of those offenses, it is going to come down to the Jets quarterback to take advantage. Just be glad that that the Jets aren't relying on EJ Manuel or Kyle Orton to navigate the same treacherous waters.