5 Reasons for Jets Fans to Smile at 5-1
FLORHAM PARK, NJ – Every Jet fan with a pulse watched HBO’s Hard Knocks this past summer. And everyone who watched the first episode covered their children’s virgin ears when a fired up Rex Ryan gave his enthusiastic speech about his goals for his team for the upcoming season.
“I want to lead the league in f***ing wins. That’s what I expect on offense. My defensive expectations? It’s about leading the f***ing league in wins on defense. Special teams expectations: I want to lead the league in wins. How about that? If we play every team at our best we will beat every f***ing team at their best.”
A lot of people, including Jets fans, thought of this as a hyperbolic speech in an attempt to rile up Ryan’s team. With teams like the Indianapolis Colts, New England Patriots, and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the same conference, very few might’ve expected the Jets to top some of the perennial powerhouses in the league.
However, at 5-1, the New York Football Jets boasts the NFL’s best record, in what is arguably the best division in football. While there has been bumps along the way (i.e. the lack of a red zone offense, Darrelle Revis/defense not living up to expectations, off-the-field drama, etc.), the Jets and their fans have plenty to smile about heading into their Week 7 bye.
- The Jets are living up to their astronomical expectations. A fairly obvious statement, yes, but take a short stroll down memory lane to August and think about all the talk the Jets were getting. Critics, sports pundits, and any average Joe with a television set were giving their two cents about how no one was going to be able to stand with the Jets. Hell, even the head coach said he didn’t think anyone could stand with his team. And when the attention turned from positive to negative those same critics, pundits and average Joes were ready to say that all that talk was just a bunch of hot air. Well, through the first six weeks, Ryan and company have been making people across the country eat their words. After a disappointing Monday night loss to the Ravens to open the season, the Jets have hit their stride – winning five in a row, with no two wins coming the same way. That is the true sign of a Super Bowl caliber team, not relying on one facet of the game to carry a team, but each week have another person step up to help the team win. Thus far they have won big, won ugly, won by the run, won by the pass, won on defense, and won on special teams. Big plays coming from all over the field has become a staple for Rex Ryan’s team.
- We have yet to see the best the defense/Revis has to offer. Imagine just how good this defense would be had the likes of Revis, Calvin Pace and Kris Jenkins played all season. It’s clear the lingering effects of the Revis training camp holdout has hampered the team’s play. The added pressure of Revis being absent forced the team to hurry the progression of rookie cornerback Kyle Wilson, a player with a lot of raw talent that still needs refinement, and has clearly hurt the mental aspect of his game. The silver lining, of course, is that Wilson is getting early first-team snaps which will hopefully help with his development down the road. The absence of Revis has allowed for the emergence of Dwight Lowery and Drew Coleman, who have played nicely opposite Antonio Cromartie. With the off-week, expect Revis to come back fired up and ready to earn his new contract. The rest of the defense, for the most part, has underachieved. Instead of being a stingy defense allowing few yards in the air and on the ground, the Jets have (as of right now) turned into a bend-but-don’t-break defense. Their pass rush is middle-of-the-pack, however with the return of sack specialist Calvin Pace, they should get to the passer with more frequency. They need to make more stops on third down as they are letting teams convert just under 50% of the time (42%). And most importantly, they need to improve on not being penalized. They rank tied for fourteenth in the league with 33 defense penalties for 333 yards.
- The re-solidification of the offensive line. Remember when you couldn’t even name the two possible replacements for All-Pro lineman Allan Faneca (see Slauson, Matt and Ducasse, Vladimir)? Well Slauson has fit in nicely next to All-Pro linemates D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. The first-year starter had some understandable bumps and bruises early on as he attempted to fill Faneca’s big void at left guard. But since the second game of the season, the 6-5 314 pound Nebraska alum has flown under the radar – a big compliment for a position that usually gets little praise and frequent jabs. And as for Brick, he also looked to be suffering from Faneca-withdrawals early on as he went four straight games (preseason included) with a penalty. But as Slauson found a permanent home at left guard, Brick grew more comfortable with his new neighbor. Need proof? The left side of the Jets line have paved the way for 12 runs of 10 yards or more and gained 16 first downs. And as Mark Sanchez continues to emerge as a big player, so does the credit towards his 0-line. Thus far, the Jets rank tied for 8th in the league with allowing only nine sacks.
- Playoff hero, Shonn Greene, hasn’t lived up to potential. If anyone had thought the Jets were going to excel by their passing game and the runs of 31-year-old LaDanian Tomlinson, they would be quietly mocked by their peers when they got up to use the restroom. I’ve been waiting to see Greene explode for a huge game (partly because I drafted him high on my fantasy team, and partly because I’ve been dying to nickname the Jets backfield tandem “Dash and Bash” – neither of which has worked out in my favor), but that has yet to happen. The rejuvenation of LT and Greene’s early struggles have forced him to a reduced role. Before the season started, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said the run duties would be split 50-50, but as of the last two games it’s been more like 75-25 in Tomlinson’s favor. LT may run wild in the first half of the season, however it will be important for Greene to stay motivated if the tread on LT’s tires begin to wear. LET’S GO TEAM DASH AND BASH!
- The Jets survived a grueling first six games. I’m not saying they have the hardest record this season, because that unfortunate title goes to the Houston Texans. However the Jets faced a gauntlet in their first six games, which would ultimately decide if they were legitimate contenders or premature pretenders. While their combined opponents recorded ranked middle of the pack at 16th (128-128), the Jets play 10 games against teams that either were in the playoffs or in playoff contention last year, with four games coming within the division. To go 5-1 against teams with similar Super Bowl aspirations as the Ravens, Patriots, Vikings and Dolphins, the Jets have separated themselves as the cream of the NFL’s crop. However the rest of the way will not be any easier as they still have six tough games remaining (Green Bay 10/31, Houston 11/21, Cincinnati 11/25, @New England 12/6, and @Pittsburgh 12/19).