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ESPN Insider: "Jets can Contend for AFC East Title"


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#1 Villain The Foe

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 12:17 AM

Upgrade at QB, consistently strong defense can help Jets challenge Pats:

The NFL is middle school chemistry. You have variables and controls. The variables create different outcomes, while the control is that unchanging element, the thing you can point to and say, "Well, we know that didn't cause the fire." And in a league where constant turnover is law, few controls exist. Bill Belichick is a control. Peyton Manning is a control. The controls allows at least some level of certainty. It's something the New York Jets have lacked -- at least on the surface.

Consider the coach. Rex Ryan's persona seems to dovetail with the mixed outcomes -- near-Super Bowl seasons, the lows of last place -- and it's all tattooed across the back page. The overall mixed results, a 42-38 mark in New York, would imply Rex is a source of instability.

But when you dig deeper, you realize it's the opposite. Ryan is one of the NFL's true controls. What he does -- what he truly controls on a football field -- never really changes. Ryan controls defenses, and his defenses are routinely excellent. And this year, that could be enough for the Jets to legitimately challenge for the AFC East title.

Consider:

Ryan destroys passing games: It's a passing league, but not against Ryan. From 2009 to 2013, Jets defenses allowed the NFL's lowest QBR, at 40.6, with no real spike of a bad year. And it goes beyond that. Ryan's Baltimore defenses did the same, allowing an absurdly low 33.1 mark from 2006-2008. Over a nine-year period, Ryan's defense turns the average NFL QB into Chad Henne.

Ryan wrecks consistent yardage: With the Jets, his defenses are second in the NFL in yards allowed over his tenure. With Baltimore, he also was second during his four-year run as defensive coordinator.

Ryan is consistent: Using one of Football Outsiders' key metrics, Ryan's average defensive DVOA (explained here) over nine years is sixth. His average total defense is sixth. When your average is that high, you end up with this fact: Ryan has never had a below-average defense. His worst defensive DVOA was 14th. His worst YPG allowed is 17th. In nine years of controlling NFL defenses, only once was Ryan's unit even average. He's a defensive MacGyver -- give him an average D-line, a match and a roll of duct tape and he'll escape in good shape more often than not.

The only other NFL coach to run defenses as effectively as Ryan over the past nine years is Pittsburgh's Dick LeBeau. Ryan has been similarly dominant; it's his quarterbacks who have been the variable that ruins things. And it's the reason the 2014 Jets can challenge for first place in the AFC East, even against a healthy Patriots squad.
[+] EnlargeMichael Vick
Alex Trautwig/Getty ImagesMichael Vick represents a marked improvement at QB for the Jets.

The value of average

Pittsburgh has had Ben Roethlisberger with LeBeau around, and that combination is why they have three Super Bowl appearances in that time, two of them wins. The narrative could say Big Ben has been great, but most know better. Pittsburgh's defenses have been great, Roethlisberger has been situationally great, and has mostly been pretty good overall.

Over the QBR era -- 2006 though 2013 -- among QBs with 1,500 attempts, Roethlisberger is 10th in QBR. No. 11 is Michael Vick. Now, Vick is no Big Ben, but much of that is health, and time away from football, not performance.

Now consider that over Ryan's Jets tenure, the team QBR -- combining the likes of Mark Sanchez, Geno Smith, Matt Simms, etc. -- is a terrifying 36.1, good for 29th in the NFL. Among teams that are in the bottom 10 in QBR over that period, the Jets are the only team with a winning record. At 42-38, the Jets are 16 wins better than Jacksonville, which has the next most awful QB performance in that time.

And it goes beyond that: Over the past nine years, only twice has Ryan had a QB who was at or above average in QBR:

• In 2006, Steve McNair was sixth. The Ravens went 13-3.
• In 2009, Sanchez was 17th (his highest finish). The Jets went 11-5.

The single greatest spikes in team improvement in recent years haven't come through brilliant quarterbacking, they've come through merely OK quarterbacking. A team with terrible QB play simply becomes average in that category. In 2011 the Colts minus Manning were a disaster at QB. In 2012, Andrew Luck wasn't brilliant, he was a tick north of league average as a rookie. The Colts had a nine-win jump. In 2012 the Chiefs were awful at QB and won two games. In 2013 they added Alex Smith, who wasn't remotely great, just competent, and they had a nine-win spike. Seattle's jump with the presence of Russell Wilson also qualifies.

It is impossible for the Jets to "spike" in wins, because as long as Ryan is coaching the defense, they'll never really be bad. Last season was proof enough, when they won eight games even as Geno Smith ranked an unpleasant 34th in QBR.

So what must happen now? And why the optimism?

Vick must be ... just average

The issue for Vick is always health. We know he's played 16 games just once. But as I noted recently, Vick is safely an above league-average QB, and he almost always improves the win rates of the teams he plays for:

"Vick's record as a starter is 58-48-1. Going into 2013 (excluding 2009 when Vick sat the bench behind Donovan McNabb in his first year back from a prison sentence), his team's record when he didn't start was 13-30. You can argue that with Vick around teams weren't invested financially in another really good QB in most of those seasons, but it's impossible to argue that Vick hasn't been a significant improvement for his team over any other QB on the roster."

I hardly qualify as a "QB win" pusher, but it is the game's most important position, and when the context is reasonable it matters. When he's on the field, since 2005, Vick hasn't been a star, but he's been something safely better than the Jets have had with a QBR profile similar to a Big Ben or Eli Manning. Those guys stay healthy, for the most part. But if Vick does, evidence shows anything even remotely average sets up Ryan's teams for success.

The weapons upgrade

Improved offensive talent should help. That's why the Jets can't sit still even with the addition of Eric Decker. While Decker brings impressive recent credentials -- he was fifth in the NFL in Pro Football Focus' WR rating in 2013 (which measures how good a QB looked when throwing at him) and second in 2012 -- but the control in that experiment was Peyton Manning, so we can't say for certain Decker is a massive upgrade over, say, the departed Santonio Holmes.

Now the draft must pay dividends. The Jets are in a great position to draft the likes of LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. or USC's Marqise Lee with their first pick at No. 18 overall, and they shouldn't stop there. This is one of the best drafts at the wide receiver position in recent memory, and an added pick there or at tight end would be wise. (This week Mel Kiper suggested the Jets add two pass-catchers with their first two picks.) The recent addition of Jacoby Ford is more window dressing than impact, though Ford's speed can be useful. But it's fair to say the Jets need early impact from the draft.

The good news is that's available. As for the running back depth chart, it isn't flush with promise right now (Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory represent the two-deep), but Chris Johnson would be a great change-of-pace solution to pursue following his release from the Titans, as he's the type of explosive runner they haven't had in a while. And the draft offers a lot of depth at the position in the middle and late rounds.

The defense just needs to remain strong

When I asked a few former NFL players who have played for or against Ryan's defenses this week what defines him, I heard a range of answers. Flexible, gets guys to buy in, does an exceptional job of creating in-game scheme counters, and in every case, game planning.

"He is a master game-planner," one said. "If he wants to take away the slot, then he does it. Same goes for a No.1 wide receiver, tight end -- you name it."

What the Jets are certain to take away is any attempt to run against them in 2014. Last season, they held teams to 3.35 yards per attempt, a league-low by a wide margin. And they'll only be better up front, with Muhammad Wilkerson entering Year 4, Damon Harrison and Quinton Coples entering their third NFL seasons, and run-stopping maestro Sheldon Richardson only in Year 2.

The secondary is a concern, but should see improved play from Dee Milliner (in part because he can't be worse than he was early in 2013, not a shock for a rookie) and while neither Dawan Landry nor Antonio Allen is great at safety, a year of playing together could help. But again, the 53.4 QBR the Jets allowed last season was actually the worst of Ryan's tenure, and was balanced by a devastating run defense, which is why the Jets still managed to rank 12th in defensive DVOA. Ryan's now extensive track record points to improvement, even for a defense that was safely above average and, in some areas, dominant.

Ultimately, the Vick health variable seems the likeliest to determine whether the Jets take a step forward, or are merely average. But with the control of Ryan around, that entity that really won't change or let the experiment go too far awry, the Jets really can win just a few more games, making them a true challenger in the AFC East.


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#2 BroadwayJets

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 12:25 AM

The most beautiful thing I've ever read.


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#3 SenorGato

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 12:34 AM

I like how this writer thinks. Its a bit homery but nails how I view this team. The Jets get anything at QB they will be 10 win team. Its my favorite thing about having Ryan here. I dont buy that what he does is outdated. This will be easier to buy after the draft, but this years team can be exciting.


Edited by SenorGato, 05 April 2014 - 12:35 AM.

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#4 Villain The Foe

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 12:48 AM

I like how this writer thinks. Its a bit homery but nails how I view this team. The Jets get anything at QB they will be 10 win team. Its my favorite thing about having Ryan here. I dont buy that what he does is outdated. This will be easier to buy after the draft, but this years team can be exciting.

I agree. This is why the crying over Vick will quickly subside once the season starts because either Geno will flat out be the starting QB we need or Vick will be good enough to get what we need out of the offense. Idzik just provided a win/win situation because at minimum we're going to put an average QB on the field. Adding Decker to the mix with the potential to add another WR and TE in the draft will certainly add a helping hand to that "at minimum" average QB we'll be fielding. We've basically upgraded our QB & WR position cost effectively for a team that was 8-8 last year and has 12 picks in this years draft. 

 

Another dimension to this is the possibility of picking up Chris Johnson. This is less about his rushing skills but more about his catching skills from out of the backfield. Chris Johnson has caught at least 42 passes 5 out of his 6 years in the league (the other year he caught 36). The last time we had a 40+ catch RB was Ladainian Tomlinson in 2010, and we went to the AFCCG that year and it was also Sanchez best year as a starter. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again; John Idzik is building a football team, and by the time he's done Jet fans will love him.


Edited by Villain The Foe, 05 April 2014 - 12:51 AM.

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#5 sourceworx

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 02:56 AM

The most beautiful thing I've ever read.


:)
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#6 Jetknowledge

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 04:15 AM

Exactly, why i feel a playoff birth but geno will be leading it, not average performance neither.

The key is the draft. But CJ2K could make us contenders.
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#7 Villain The Foe

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 05:22 AM

Exactly, why i feel a playoff birth but geno will be leading it, not average performance neither.

The key is the draft. But CJ2K could make us contenders.

You're right. This is one of the reasons why I like Charles Sims. He's great at catching the ball out of the backfield. He just doesnt have Chris Johnson's speed. If Chris can come in for 3 million per, Marty's system could resurrect his career. Look at Lesean McCoy's rushing and receiving stats for his first 4 years. 

 

http://espn.go.com/n...14/lesean-mccoy


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#8 eboozer

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 05:41 AM

I agree. This is why the crying over Vick will quickly subside once the season starts because either Geno will flat out be the starting QB we need or Vick will be good enough to get what we need out of the offense. Idzik just provided a win/win situation because at minimum we're going to put an average QB on the field. Adding Decker to the mix with the potential to add another WR and TE in the draft will certainly add a helping hand to that "at minimum" average QB we'll be fielding. We've basically upgraded our QB & WR position cost effectively for a team that was 8-8 last year and has 12 picks in this years draft. 

 

Another dimension to this is the possibility of picking up Chris Johnson. This is less about his rushing skills but more about his catching skills from out of the backfield. Chris Johnson has caught at least 42 passes 5 out of his 6 years in the league (the other year he caught 36). The last time we had a 40+ catch RB was Ladainian Tomlinson in 2010, and we went to the AFCCG that year and it was also Sanchez best year as a starter. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again; John Idzik is building a football team, and by the time he's done Jet fans will love him.

The thing I like most about CJ1K is the scheme balance he brings. When Ivory or Powell are in the game, the LB's don't have to worry too much about covering them out of the backfield, and they certainly don't cause a mismatch against the LB's. CJ immediately creates a problem for opposing OC's. He can run the rock, play action while slipping out into the flat for an easy dump off. He is also  able to take 1 defender away in coverage which will open up the middle of the field more for Decker & Kerley.

 

Let's get a veteran "offensive weapon" in here before the draft. I would feel a whole lot better than hoping a rookie can make an instant impact.


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#9 CrazyCarl40

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 05:53 AM

This is all well and good but it doesn't really hone in on any realism. Like Vick isn't an average QB anymore and Geno was well below average last year. Tout the last four games all you want but it was inferior competition and they took the ball out of his throwing hand most of the time. Teams will pick up on the fact that neither of the QBs the Jets employ are very accurate and they will feed on it. There are still some decent building blocks in New York but until they get an actual QB that can be more than average, then it's all moot. I have a feeling the Jets will be looking for a few new QBs next season and probably in the first round.

Edited by CrazyCarl40, 05 April 2014 - 05:54 AM.

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#10 Jetfanincanada

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 05:57 AM

This is what I am talking about! Rex Ryan baby! Best thing we have going for us. This  team will win 11-12 games this year. 


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#11 Gastineau Lives

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 05:59 AM

This is impossible. I've read on JetNation that we had no chance of contending for anything this year, but next year, LOOK OUT!


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#12 Integrity28

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 06:53 AM

I like how this writer thinks. Its a bit homery but nails how I view this team. The Jets get anything at QB they will be 10 win team. Its my favorite thing about having Ryan here. I dont buy that what he does is outdated. This will be easier to buy after the draft, but this years team can be exciting.

 

This is the most psyched for the draft I've been in a long time... with such a good core of talent already on the team, I'm really looking forward to seeing how all those picks are leveraged.

 

IMO, we really only have 1-2 gaping holes on the team. The rest we have good 'nuff players as stop gap. Most of what I read here daily is grossly exaggerated.


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#13 eboozer

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 07:03 AM

This is the most psyched for the draft I've been in a long time... with such a good core of talent already on the team, I'm really looking forward to seeing how all those picks are leveraged.

 

IMO, we really only have 1-2 gaping holes on the team. The rest we have good 'nuff players as stop gap. Most of what I read here daily is grossly exaggerated.

Now, I'm not trying to complain.... I'm patiently waiting for the draft and have purposely toned down my criticism, but do you think, if we get 5 starting caliber players from this draft in say the next 3 years, when can we compete for a title? We will assume Geno & Milliner cont. to improve each yr. 

 

Would you say in 3 years? I'm just curious. I'm very excited for this Draft as well. It kills me I'll be on a plain to Spain during Rd. 1

 

Remember, this is an honest, no agenda question. :shake:


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#14 TnT

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 07:04 AM

Rex def has his pluses and minuses.
His pluses outweigh his minuses.
And with the little bit of filter on his mouth lately...improvement.
With MM there to drive the O ship...improvement.
the locker room circus environment gone...improvement.

For anyone to want to replace him with someone who isnt a clear major upgrade...is idiotic.
You dont take chances on inexperienced college coaches and nfl coordinators to replace what rex brings.

QB!
Solid qb play swings this team from 7 wins to 11 wins in a hurry.

Hopefully Idzik knows keeping Rex is best for this franchise and Id continues to do things his way...I think thats the best chance for Rex's success and survival...and vice versa.

Edited by TnT, 05 April 2014 - 07:04 AM.

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#15 The Gun Of Bavaria

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 07:22 AM

ESPN is out of their god damned minds if they think the Jets contend for the East. If contending means being 3 games back they might have a shot.

 

Best cast this year is a Wild Card.


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#16 slats

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 07:32 AM

This is the most psyched for the draft I've been in a long time... with such a good core of talent already on the team, I'm really looking forward to seeing how all those picks are leveraged.
 
IMO, we really only have 1-2 gaping holes on the team. The rest we have good 'nuff players as stop gap. Most of what I read here daily is grossly exaggerated.


The receiving positions and secondary are both weak, and the LBs and OL are questionable. I would've liked to see a little more attention paid to the former in free agency to allow a true BAP approach in May. I feel right now that they need to draft starting caliber players at WR and CB.

It's nice to read such a positive article about Rex, though. And on JN of all places? Nice.
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#17 Gastineau Lives

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 07:39 AM

The receiving positions and secondary are both weak, and the LBs and OL are questionable. I would've liked to see a little more attention paid to the former in free agency to allow a true BAP approach in May. I feel right now that they need to draft starting caliber players at WR and CB.

It's nice to read such a positive article about Rex, though. And on JN of all places? Nice.

 

I feel the same way. How much is a little flexibility in the draft worth? Because I don't think we have as much now.


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#18 New York Mick

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 07:42 AM

No Tom yet??
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#19 eboozer

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 07:51 AM

ESPN is out of their god damned minds if they think the Jets contend for the East. If contending means being 3 games back they might have a shot.

 

Best cast this year is a Wild Card.

And they made you a Moderator on a Jets Fan site? That's like making the "UniBomber" the Post Master General. :admin_power:


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#20 JiF

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 08:13 AM

Rex. Ryan.
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#21 TnT

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 08:16 AM

No Tom yet??


Hes doing his research and number crunching right now.
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#22 Larz

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 08:21 AM

without cro, this is a 4 win team


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#23 eboozer

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 08:25 AM

without cro, this is a 4 win team

That can also be phrased this way.

 

" With our current defensive backfield, this is a 4 win team"

 

I think that is a more accurate sentiment.


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#24 Larz

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 08:34 AM

That can also be phrased this way.

 

" With our current defensive backfield, this is a 4 win team"

 

I think that is a more accurate sentiment.

 

cro was the weak link, you realize it's the same backfield, right ?

 

I was mocking your ridiculous ignorance. did u read the article ?

 

The secondary is a concern, but should see improved play from Dee Milliner (in part because he can't be worse than he was early in 2013, not a shock for a rookie) and while neither Dawan Landry nor Antonio Allen is great at safety, a year of playing together could help. But again, the 53.4 QBR the Jets allowed last season was actually the worst of Ryan's tenure, and was balanced by a devastating run defense, which is why the Jets still managed to rank 12th in defensive DVOA. Ryan's now extensive track record points to improvement, even for a defense that was safely above average and, in some areas, dominant.

 


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#25 SenorGato

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Posted 05 April 2014 - 08:49 AM

No Tom yet??

 

He's been really disappointed in himself since that post about Lee in the Watkins thread. No RJF or dbates either, but it is early! 


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