By Jason Leach
2013 will be the 5th year of the Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez era, and if it’s anything like the past two seasons, this will be their last year as members of the Jets organization. Here are the top 5 questions for the Jets for this upcoming season.
For the past two seasons Mark Sanchez has been a turnover machine leading the NFL with 52 turnovers in that time span. The straw that broke the camel’s back as far as Jets fans are concerned was Sanchez’s infamous butt fumble against the Patriots on Thanksgiving.
When the Jets drafted Geno Smith in the 2nd round in April’s draft, speculation immediately began on who will be the Jets starting quarterback. Sanchez appears to have the inside track on being named the starter, but when you draft a quarterback in the 2nd round, you don’t plan on him being the backup for long, especially since Smith is more mobile and has a stronger arm than Sanchez. If Sanchez is named the starting quarterback to start the season, the coaching staff will probably have a short lease on him if he struggles.
My prediction on this, is that one way or another Smith is the starter by week 7 against the New England Patriots.
2. CAN CHRIS IVORY STAY HEALTHY AND BECOME THE JETS WORKHORSE?
When Shonn Greene left via free agency and signed with the Tennessee Titans, the Jets reached a deal with Chris Ivory. Ivory spent the past 3 seasons with the New Orleans Saints. Injuries and the Saints crowded backfield limited Ivory’s carries. But when Ivory was given an opportunity he was productive averaging 5.1 yards per carry.
Rex Ryan loves to run the ball and play smash mouth football. If Ivory can stay healthy the Jets running game can be even more productive than it was last year when it was 12th in the league in rushing. If Ivory is unable to stay healthy, look for Bilal Powell to handle the work load. Last season Powell average 4.0 yards per carry and scored 4 touchdowns.
3. WILL THE JETS FINALLY BE ABLE TO HAVE A CONSISTENT PASS RUSH?
While there’s no doubt that since Rex Ryan’s arrival in 2009, the Jets defense has been one of the best in the league at keeping the opposing offenses’ out of the end zone. However despite drafting numerous defensive linemen in the draft, the Jets have yet to find a consistent pass rusher that commands double teams. This has been one of the reasons for the Jets struggles against elite teams.
With the 13th pick in the April draft, the Jets drafted defense tackle Sheldon Richardson from Missouri to provide a push up front. Richardson is a welcome to the Jets and to defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman who emphasized that the Jets defense will wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
4. CAN SANTONIO HOLMES COMEBACK FROM HIS LISFRANC INJURY, AND BE A SOLID NUMBER 1 RECEIVING OPTION?
The former Super Bowl MVP’s first 3 seasons has been a disappointment as he has yet to top 800 receiving yards in a season, or catch 60 passes in a season. Although Holmes has struggled, he is clearly the best and most talented receiving option for the Jets.
With the departure of Dustin Keller, look for the Jets to rely on Holmes more than ever before. If he’s fully recovered from his lisfranc injury, Holmes could be poised for a 1,000 yard season.
5. WILL THE JETS BE 8-8 OR BETTER THIS SEASON?
This question will be the question that decides Rex Ryan’s fate in New York. If the Jets are 8-8 or better and sneak into the playoffs he’ll be back with the Jets next season. If the Jets are a sub 500 team and miss the playoffs for the third straight season, Ryan will more than likely be gone.
The NFL is all about winning and the Jets two trips to the AFC Championship game in 2009 & 2010 seem eons ago to Jets fans, especially since their co-tenants at MetLife Stadium the Giants won a Super Bowl in 2011.
SEASON PREDICTION: The Jets have a tough road schedule with games at the Falcons, at the Bengals, and at Ravens. This coupled with their lack of fire power on offense I see the Jets finishing 7-9 in the last year of the Sanchez/Ryan era.