It’s extremely easy to take a look at the last few games played by the New York Jets, and completely write this team off for the rest of the season. However, despite the cruelty Jets fans are being put through when staring straight into the sixth year of a playoff drought, there are reasons to see the light at the end of this very long and winding tunnel.
When looking at the heavily criticized Jets defense, it is very easy to place blame on them for giving up a combined 51 points to the Kansas City Chiefs and Seattle Seahawks in the last two weeks. By only glancing at the box score, it looks as if the entire defense collapsed on itself, allowing mediocre receivers and backs to torch them repeatedly over the progression of the game.
Yet, if one looks closely at the Jets defensive production this season, this is not exactly the case. Rookie Darron Lee has been consistently making clutch tackles all over the field, while covering multiple different positions throughout the course of a game. He’s recorded the most tackles on this Jets team– taking the crown from David Harris, who had possessed this accomplishment for many years. Now on the wrong side of 30, Harris doesn’t have the elite speed to keep up with some of today’s freakish athletes that dominate the NFL, nevertheless, he has been a solid force against the run, providing a strong second line of defense to the commanding defensive line whenever needed.
With the help of Harris, along with the the starting defensive line of Leonard WIlliams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Sheldon Richardson, and Steve McLennan, the Jets front seven have continued to be a force against the powerful running backs of today’s NFL. Similar to years past, they have been dominant in stopping any sort of run game an opponent attempts to instill in their game plan. The Jets defense surrenders only 70.2 rushing yards a game to the opposing offense, placing them second in the league behind only the Green Bay Packers. This degree of success and dominance has been overlooked this year due to the erratic play of the Jets secondary, consequently causing many fans to pass over the ascendency of this front seven.
Speaking of the Jets secondary, there has been an extreme amount of opprobrium from fans, analysts, and journalists alike, mainly spurring from the many substantial pass plays the Jets have given up throughout this season. However, despite the harsh condemnation players such as Marcus Williams, Darrelle Revis, and Calvin Pryor have gotten for their defensive play, there is data to show that the Jets are not as execrable as detractors like to think.
The 2015 Jets defense on average gave up 11.6 first downs through the air, and 21.4 completions per game– stats that placed them in the upper echelon of the league. In spite of what many critics may think, this year’s Jets still rank reasonably well in these categories compared to the rest of the NFL (13th and 15th respectively), with just a slight increase in opponent first downs per game (12.2) and opponent completions per game (22.5).
Of course, the secondary does have its issues, as proven by its terrible rankings in opponent average team passer rating where it places second to last in the league, with opposing quarterback putting up a 116.5 passer rating on average against the Jets defense. We have also seen first-hand how sluggish the defensive backs have been, as there has been a lack of playmaking (only two interceptions through four games this season, both by Marcus Williams) that has allowed the opposition to get into and maintain a flowing and succinct offense.
Despite these flaws, there is reason to believe that improvement will be made as the season progresses. If nothing else, the Jets schedule gets significantly easier in the coming weeks, with games against the Browns, Dolphins, and 49ers. But, it is sensible to believe that players such as Calvin Pryor and Darrelle Revis will ameliorate their games as they shift into midseason form, and become more comfortable with the system Todd Bowles is using. It can almost be guaranteed that by the time the Jets reach the halfway point in this season, we will see a significant drop in plays like this, as the miscommunications that have plagued the Jets so far this year will definitely be less likely to occur.
Optimism springs eternal in the hearts and minds of Jets fans, as it has been 47 years since their only Super Bowl win back in January of 1969. Let’s not give up on that hope just yet.