What a difference a few weeks has made for the Jets. Once mentioned in the same breath as the playoffs, the team is in a freefall entering the final four weeks of the season. Here is how Gang Green has fared at each position through 12 games:
Quarterback, F: It’s one thing to hit a rookie wall, but Geno Smith appears to have ran into it face-first. Smith hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since October 20, and hasn’t completed 10 passes in a game since October 27. Instead of getting better, he’s getting worse before our very eyes.
Running Backs, B+: The running game has been the lone bright spot for the Jets on offense. Despite all the ineptitude surrounding them, Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell still average 4.4 and 3.9 yards per carry, respectively. Considering how little the team continues to get out of the quarterback position, the running backs should hopefully see an increase in carries down the stretch.
Wide Receivers, F: Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers leads the league with 85 catches on the year, which also happens to be the same amount of receptions that Jeremy Kerley, Stephen Hill, David Nelson, and Santonio Holmes have combined. It’s hard to tell if the main reason Smith is struggling is because the receivers aren’t giving him any help, or vice versa. Either way, it hasn’t been pretty.
Tight Ends, C: Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow have been underwhelming of late. Winslow’s role has been reduced in the past couple weeks, and it doesn’t make much sense given the team’s desperate need for a reliable target.
Offensive Line, C-: Adding to Smith’s issues has been an offensive line that hasn’t provided him with much protection. Yes, he needs to do a better job of making quicker decisions, but he’s getting blitzed at will. Brian Winters’ play has been unacceptable, yet it doesn’t appear Vlad Ducasse is going to regain his starting role anytime soon. The line’s done a decent enough job of in the running game, preventing them from receiving a failing grade.
Defensive Line, A+: Muhammad Wilkerson and company should sue the rest of the team for non-support. Wilkerson ranks sixth in the league in sacks and is the first Jet since John Abraham in 2005 to record 10 in a season. With impressive years out of youngsters Sheldon Richardson and Damon Harrison, and the Jets expected to sign Wilkerson to a long-term deal in the offseason, the future appears to be bright for the unit.
Linebackers, B+: The group has been active in getting after the quarterback and helping stop the run. David Harris leads the team in tackles, while Calvin Pace has chipped in with a surprising seven sacks. In just his second season, Demario Davis appears to be a keeper. Quinton Coples, also in his second year, has not looked like a first round draft pick.
Cornerbacks, F: Dee Milliner has been benched three times in his first nine games as a pro, and is still making the same mistakes in Week 13 that he made in Week One. Antonio Cromartie’s struggles have been well-documented throughout the season, but he continues to play without having to pay the price for his poor play. By default, Darrin Walls and Kyle Wilson have been the best corners on the team, yet have just four starts between them.
Safeties, C-: Consider the low grade an Ed Reed tax. Reed has brought nothing to the table in his three games since joining the Jets. Antonio Allen didn’t deserve to lose his starting spot, but nonetheless has become an afterthought. Dawan Landry ranks third on the team in tackles.
Kickers, A: Where would the Jets be without Nick Folk? For a team that is starved for points, he’s been the only reliable scoring source. Folk has missed just one field goal all year, while hitting three game-winners. Ryan Quigley has gotten better as the season progresses, and sits just outside the top 10 in yards per punt.
Kick & Punt Returns, B-: Josh Cribbs has probably been more valuable in the Wildcat offense than he has been in the return game. The excitement of his arrival has since turned into disappointment. With Cribbs now out due to a shoulder injury, the team has signed Darius Reynaud to take his place. If Cromartie’s hip is feeling up to it, he is probably their best option at returning kicks.
Coaching, F: Failure to make adjustments has rendered the Jets a much easier team to beat as of late, and that’s on the coaching staff. Rex Ryan’s blind loyalty to Reed is hurting them and there’s been a real lack of creativity all around. Smith and Milliner haven’t progressed at all, which also doesn’t speak well of the coaches. The Jets rank dead last in turnover differential and still commit far too many penalties. Any job security Ryan earned after the team’s feel-good start appears to be out the window.
Overall, F: When you lose your last three games by a combined score of 79-20, that’s cause for concern. The Jets are slowly morphing into the horrendous team that many pundits predicted they would be before the season. While the decent start in the first half of the year was a welcomed surprise, the second half is shaping up to be a colossal disaster.