Despite the decline in their defense and constant quarterback controversy, the Jets actually made a backdoor push for the playoffs, holding a 6-7 record with three games to go. But they lost all three games after that, as the offense had become completely ineffective. They scored more than 19 points just once in their last nine games. And much of that had to do with the quarterback situation, as neither Mark Sanchez, Greg McElroy, nor Tim Tebow were effective at QB. Fans pressured the team to start Tebow, but he only got eight pass attempts all year. Sanchez was plain bad with a 54% completion percentage, 13 touchdowns to 18 interceptions, and a locker room that still has little faith in him. Enter Geno Smith, who will make things exciting if given playing time. Scouts could not be more divided on Smith’s NFL potential, so he’s a must-watch for this year. He has his work cut out for him, though, as grinder Shonn Greene departed and key offensive linemen Matt Slauson and Brandon Moore are gone. Running backs Chris Ivory and Mike Goodson are going to get the carries, becoming the poorest of a poor man’s running back duo. Smith will have to do some running himself. His options at wide receiver are very weak too. There’s inconsistent Santonio Holmes, and then there’s Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill. Jeff Cumberland and his whopping 29 career receptions will start at tight end after they lost Dustin Keller. The Jets were dead last in passing yards a year ago, so it can’t get much worse. Smith will improve the offense, if given playing time.
Defensively, the Jets were still an elite unit against the pass last year thanks to a deadly combo of corners, Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Revis was traded to Tampa Bay, however, so who will start opposite him? That would be first round pick Dee Milliner out of Alabama, who could be just as good as Revis eventually. The Jets also snagged highly regarded defensive end Sheldon Richardson to start opposite Muhammad Wilkerson, a unit that should create more pressure this year. They lost LaRon Landry at strong safety but replaced him with his brother Dawan Landry. Their weakness comes at linebacker, a key position to stopping the run. And the Jets didn’t do much of that last season, ranking 26th in the NFL in rushing defense. But the D-line and secondary should be enough to keep this defense strong. While it may be a rough start, the Jets face just one 2012 playoff team in their last eight games, so a late hot streak could push them into the playoffs.