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New York Jets 2013 Season Preview
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - Some fans see the glass as half-full. Others see the glass as half-empty.
And still others, often wearing the green and white of the New York Jets, seem predisposed to bash the glass repeatedly off their foreheads while cursing the fate that's befallen them since January 1969.
Unless a remarkably unforeseen circumstance becomes reality, Gang Green looks likely to mark the 45th anniversary of its lone Super Bowl championship with a second consecutive sub-.500 season, a third straight playoff-free January and a 15th coaching coach change since Joe Namath's signature win.
The hiring of general manager John Idzik in January to replace Mike Tannenbaum immediately started the clock ticking on incumbent coach Rex Ryan, who reached the AFC Championship Game in his first two seasons but has since gone 14-18 in two years while a media honeymoon has screeched to a halt.
New York Daily News beat writer Manish Mehta sounded a death knell following a preseason loss to Detroit, saying, "It all spells trouble for Ryan, who is left to defend a team that even Bill Belichick couldn't win with. Ryan's future beyond this season remains in doubt. He'll keep his job if the Jets show improvement from their six-win disaster a year ago. But how realistic is that?"
A new low point arrived later in the preseason, when Ryan lost rookie quarterback Geno Smith to a sprained ankle and subsequently inserted four-year starter Mark Sanchez into the fourth quarter of a meaningless game against the New York Giants.
Sanchez was hit and hurt while scrambling to complete a pass, suffering a bruised shoulder that has reduced his status to day to day and rendered his prognosis iffy for the real opener against Tampa Bay.
Still, Ryan can only wish that was his only offseason problem.
Rather, the Jets traded their best player -- cornerback Darrelle Revis -- to Tampa Bay for a draft pick, saw a slew of veteran defensive players leave via free agency and saw Idzik fail to sign potentially impactful offensive players like Matt Hasselbeck or Matt Cassel while instead pursuing an ultimately failed experiment with David Garrard, who retired two months after signing.
Free-agent running back Mike Goodson was arrested after joining the team and received a four-game regular-season suspension from the NFL, and another back, Chris Ivory, arrived via trade with New Orleans but missed most of the postseason with recurring hamstring problems.
One of two pass-catching signees, Braylon Edwards, was released late in the preseason, and tight end Kellen Winslow is coming off a season in which he had just one reception for New England.
CBSSports.com columnist Pat Kirwan summed up what seems to be an imminent train wreck.
"The Jets are in a tough spot. There's a new GM who drafted quarterback Geno Smith and a head coach fighting for his job. They've got a fan base that will go ballistic the first time Mark Sanchez throws an interception and an owner still trying to sell seats."
If only Tim Tebow were still around to steal some headlines.
2012 RECORD: 6-10 (tied for 3rd, AFC North)
LAST PLAYOFF APPEARANCE: 2010, lost to Pittsburgh Steelers in AFC Championship Game
COACH (RECORD): Rex Ryan (34-30 in four seasons with Jets)
OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Marty Mornhinweg (first season with Jets)
DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Dennis Thurman (first season with Jets)
KEY ADDITIONS: OT Oday Aboushi (fifth round, Virginia), DE/OLB Antwan Barnes (from Chargers), G/OT Willie Colon (from Steelers), NT Antonio Garay (from Chargers), RB Mike Goodson (from Raiders), RB Chris Ivory (from Saints), S Dawan Landry (from Jaguars), CB DeMarcus Milliner (first round, Alabama), DE/DT Sheldon Richardson (first round, Missouri), QB Geno Smith (second round, West Virginia), TE Kellen Winslow (from Patriots), G Brian Winters (third round, Kent State).
KEY SUBTRACTIONS: TE Josh Baker (free agent), S Yeremiah Bell (to Cardinals), DE/DT Mike DeVito (to Chiefs), WR Braylon Edwards (free agent), RB Shonn Greene (to Titans), TE Dustin Keller (to Dolphins), S LaRon Landry (to Colts), G Brandon Moore (retired), NT Sione Pouha (free agent), CB Darrelle Revis (to Buccaneers), WR Chaz Schilens (free agent), ILB Bart Scott (retired), G Matt Slauson (to Bears), S Eric Smith (free agent), QB Tim Tebow (to Patriots), DE/OLB Bryan Thomas (free agent).
QB: It was only two years ago, but it seems like decades since Sanchez was the quarterback who'd led the Jets to four road playoff wins and a pair of AFC Championship Game appearances in his initial two NFL seasons. His two subsequent years at the helm have been progressively more disastrous, with a dip from 26 TDs to 13, a flat line of 18 INTs in both years and an already suspect 56.7 completion percentage dropping to 54.3.
Hence, the urgency in the front office to select Smith out of West Virginia in the second round to give Sanchez a training camp push. The rookie looked the part of a rookie through three preseason games, however, and the incumbent seemed on the way to a Week 1 start before sustaining a shoulder injury after an unusual fourth- quarter insertion against the New York Giants.
He was listed day to day heading into the final preseason game against Philadelphia. Also on the depth chart is third-year man Greg McElroy, who made two starts last season and completed 19 of 31 passes for 214 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
RB: With former feature back Shonn Greene off to Tennessee, in steps ex-New Orleans runner Ivory, who was acquired for a fourth-round draft pick. The 6-foot, 222-pounder gained 716 yards and scored five times in his initial season in 2010, then dipped to 374 and 217 in two subsequent seasons -- though his per-carry average spiked to a career-best 5.4 in 2012. He'll compete for early-season feature carries with Bilal Powell, who had 437 yards on 110 runs last season.
In the fold for Week 5 will be free-agent signee Goodson, who was picked up from Oakland in the offseason but got a four-game suspension from the NFL after an arrest for marijuana possession and possession of a handgun in May.
Seventh-round draft pick Tommy Bohanon, a 6-foot-1, 246-pounder from Wake Forest, is listed No. 1 on the depth chart at fullback.
WR: Veteran Santonio Holmes missed most of the preseason while recovering from a Lisfranc foot injury that limited him to just four games and 20 catches in 2012. He had 52 and 51 catches in his initial two years in New York, after catching a career- best 79 balls for 1,248 yards in his final season with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Manning the opposite side is second-year man Stephen Hill, a second-round pick from Georgia Tech in 2012 who caught for 21 passes for 252 yards in 11 games as a rookie. Hill has been intermittently troubled by a knee injury throughout training camp, which could open up playing time for understudies Clyde Gates (16 catches, 224 yards in 2012), Ben Obomanu (four catches, 58 yards with Seattle) and Jeremy Kerley (56 catches, 827 yards).
TE: The exit to Miami by Dustin Keller took away one of Sanchez's most reliable long-term targets, leaving incoming veteran Winslow and incumbent blocking specialist Jeff Cumberland to compete for top billing. Cumberland had 29 catches for 359 yards while making 12 starts last season in New York, while Winslow caught one pass for 12 yards in one game with New England.
OL: Though the skill positions have noticeable holes, the Jets are respectably strong up front with the presence of elite-level D'Brickashaw Ferguson at left tackle and Nick Mangold at center.
Austin Howard, a 6-foot-7, 333-pounder, is a premier run blocker who struggles a bit on pass blocking. He reinvigorated his career by starting all 16 games in 2012, after starting just once in 2010 and 2011 with New York and Pittsburgh.
Former second-round draft pick Vladimir Ducasse essentially earned the starting slot at left guard when the Jets released veteran Stephen Peterman late in the preseason. At right guard is Willie Colon, who arrived as a free agent after six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
DL: The pass rush could be reenergized by the arrival of first-round pick Sheldon Richardson, the 13th overall pick out of Missouri who had 75 tackles, four sacks and three forced fumbles in his final college season. He'll line up at right end, while the left end slot is taken by 6-foot-4, 315-pounder Muhammad Wilkerson, a first-rounder from Temple in 2011 who had five sacks in his second NFL year.
In the middle of the base 3-4 scheme is third-year man Kenrick Ellis, who played 12 games in 2012 and made 18 tackles with two stops for losses.
Providing depth is Antonio Garay, who had 5 1/2 sacks with San Diego in 2010 but played just eight games with the Chargers last season.
LB: In the middle of the defense, incumbent right inside man David Harris is back after making 79 tackles and posting three sacks in 2012. The left inside slot becomes the home of second-year man DeMario Davis, who replaces the since-retired Bart Scott. Davis started three of 16 games last season and had 22 tackles and a fumble recovery.
On the outside, second-year man Quinton Coples shifts from defensive end to left outside linebacker after racking up 5 2/2 sacks as a rookie. Coples, though, suffered a hairline fracture in his ankle in the preseason and his status moving forward is up in the air. Veteran Calvin Pace keeps his outside job on the right side of the defense in spite of a skid from 8.0 sacks in 2009 to 3.0 last season. His tackles also declined to 34 in 2012, his lowest output since he had 27 with Arizona in 2006.
Antwan Barnes has status as a pass-rushing specialist after an 11-sack output in 2011 with San Diego, though he had just three with the Chargers in 2012.
DB: Ironically, had it not been for the trade of one of the NFL's top players at his position, the New York secondary might be considered at least average if not better. Problem is, the Jets lost true top-end status when they dealt Revis to Tampa Bay for the draft pick that ultimately yielded first-rounder Richardson.
Revis played just two games before an ACL tear ended his 2012 season and forced the Jets to get used to playing without him. Into the No. 1 shutdown role stepped veteran Antonio Cromartie, who had three interceptions, made 30 tackles and will retain the marquee position even with the arrival of first- round pick Dee Milliner. Milliner had 54 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two interceptions at Alabama last season.
Former Rutgers University star Kyle Wilson will be the nickel back after recording an interception and 41 tackles in 2012, his third NFL season.
Last year's safeties, LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell, both left via free agency, leaving those roles to newcomers Dawan Landry (LaRon's brother) and Josh Bush, a sixth-round pick in 2012 who played mostly on special teams as a rookie. Antonio Allen, a seventh-round pick last year, will also get some backfield time after playing seven games and getting one start.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Nick Folk's third season with the Jets saw him connect on 77.8 percent of his field goal attempts and 30 of 30 extra-point tries. The ex- Dallas Cowboy was eight of 11 from 40 yards and out and 13 of 16 from 20 to 39 yards. He was given an early offseason push by Billy Cundiff, who was subsequently cut and replaced by signee Dan Carpenter.
Punter Rob Malone punted 84 times for a 45.8-yard average in his initial season with the Jets, after averaging 41.5 yards with Tampa Bay in 2010 and 49.0 yards with Detroit in 2011.
Last year's top kick returner, Joe McKnight, was released in the preseason, leaving the job to receiver Gates (five returns, 28.8-yard average in 2012) and cornerback Wilson (one return, 9.0 yards in 2012).
Wilson will get some action on punt returns, too, in relief of receiver Kerley, who returned 19 punts for a 10.9-yard average and one TD in 2012.
COACHING: As with Sanchez at QB, it's hard to comprehend that Ryan was the toast of the NFL just two years ago after restoring swagger and relevance to Gang Green. It's plummeted since then, to the point where there were loud calls for his job after Sanchez was injured after the hard-to-justify preseason substitution against the Giants. Either way, with a new general manager overseeing his every move, it's difficult to imagine Rex still patrolling to East Rutherford sidelines past the 2013 finale in December.
THE SKINNY: As fate would have it, the Jets will get a glimpse at their past selves in the opener against Tampa Bay, when Revis returns to New Jersey as a member of the Buccaneers.
It gets no easier with a Week 2 trip to New England, which is ultimately followed by a brutal five-week stretch from Oct. 7 through Nov. 3 in which New York visits Atlanta, hosts Pittsburgh and New England, visits Cincinnati and hosts New Orleans.
Unfortunately for Ryan, the 5-4 start that might save his job seems as unlikely as a Sanchez MVP. Rather, expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 3-6 or 2-7, which ultimately ends along the lines of 5-11 or 6-10 and signals the end of the Rex Era after five seasons.
08/30 09:10:52 ET
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