Last season, the New York Jets finished 4-12 and missed the playoffs for the fourth straight season after back-to-back appearances in the AFC Championship Game.
The 4-12 record was a low-point for head coach Rex Ryan, who was fired after the season. Ryan, who was able to construct a talented defense in New York, never put it together offensively.
Also gone after just two seasons is general manager John Idzik, who tremendously overhyped his previous experience during the interview process and clearly looked lost as an NFL general manager.
Idzik, however, did make one fantastic move with the Jets, especially in hinsight. He traded All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis to Tampa Bay for the ninth overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, which was used on Sheldon Richardson. Richardson made the Pro Bowl last season and Revis only lasted one season with the Bucs before going to New England in 2014. Revis returned to the Jets last March.
The 2014 draft class for the Jets, however, has been an abomination. Four draft picks are already on other teams, top pick Calvin Pryor struggled as a rookie and saw reduced playing time as the season went on, tight end Jace Amaro looked well in limited action.
These moves have made the Jets future worse and they will be forced to extend their rebuild because of it, but they made some significant progress this offseason.
Former Cardinals defensive coordinator Todd Bowles will take over as head coach while Mike Maccagnan, the Texans former director of college scouting, is in as general manager.
Maccagnan hit an immediate home run with Jets fans when he brought Revis back to town. His best move of the offseason, however, came as a product of luck. In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Jets were able to land the top prospect despite holding the No. 6 pick. USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams adds another wrinkle to an already talented defensive line in New York.
Despite bringing in a new head coach and general manager, the Jets did not make any significant change at quarterback, instead opting for a stop-gap solution. The season finale aside, Geno Smith struggled again in 2014, his second NFL season. New York acquired veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick in a trade with the Texans and drafted Baylor quarterback Bryce Petty in the fourth round with hopes of grooming him into a starter.
Fitzpatrick will likely start the season and really is the team’s best option, but he is limited. He has shown flashes at times, but never seems to be able to put it together for a full 16 games.
Former Patriots running back Stevan Ridley will also join the team as well as Zac Stacy, who was traded to New York from the Rams. Ridley will help the team on passing downs and Stacy is a physical back who can be used on the goal line, but the team lacks a game changer at the position. New York thought they had the guy last season with Chris Johnson, but they acquired him well past his prime. With so many mouth to feed at running back, it will be hard to develop any synergy on offense.
The biggest positional makeover on the roster goes to the wide receivers. Brandon Marshall was acquired in a trade with the Bears, Devin Smith was drafted in the second round and the Jets made a second trade with the Houston Texans to land DeVier Posey. Add them with the incumbent Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley and the Jets have a deep group of receivers, though none of them are truly game changers. Marshall was, but at age 31, he declined last season, on pace to finish with just 75 receptions before missing the final three games of the season with a collapsed lung.
The strength of this team still lies on the defense. As mentioned earlier, the defensive line will be among the league’s best and the team improved their secondary, returning both Revis and Antonio Cromartie. Buster Skrinne was also signed away from Cleveland and former first round draft pick Dee Milliner will be put in a make-or-break season in limited playing time this season.
Linebacker is a weak link for the Jets on defense. Calvin Pace is past his prime and will turn 35 during the season and Quinton Coples has not developed as well as the Jets hoped for when they drafted him in 2012. Additionally, the Jets were unable to address the holes at safety. Pryor will return as the starting strong safety, but if he struggles again, he may be on a short leash.
In just a few months, the Jets have made a lot of progress towards improving the team. They have two elite defenders in Revis and Richardson, but the problem lies at quarterback. This year is a transition season for the Jets. The talent is there for them to be competitive, but there were too many holes for Maccagnan to plug in just one offseason. New York will pull a few surprises during the season, but don’t expect them to be playoff contenders.