So much has changed for the New York Jets in two calendar years.
The Green & White reached their high-water mark under Rex Ryan in New England, hammering the hated Patriots on Jan. 16, 2011. Mark Sanchez completed 64 percent of his passes on that memorable Sunday, throwing three TDs in front of stunned onlookers at Gillette Stadium. The Jets confused Tom Brady all afternoon and sacked him five times in victory. In fairness to the future Hall of Famer, nobody was open and I will never forget Brady going down on his own at one point.
And while the Patriots will host another divisional playoff game on Sunday, the Jets are down two years later. Those 2010 Jets experienced great redemption (the Pats pounded the Jets 45-3 at Gillette on Dec. 6) against their nemesis, but that team is history and the roster turnover is only going to continue this offseason.
“We are going to be a dangerous football team — I can promise you that,” Rex Ryan told reporters this week. “How many wins (and) all that? I don’t know. But I’m going to tell you — you’re not going to want to play the New York Jets because I know the mentality that we’re going to take and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
The Jets went 6-10 in 2012 and fans are worried about the salary cap situation. There are many ways to navigate and a number of media outlets have reported the team can save a good amount of money if they release OLB Calvin Pace, WLB Bart Scott, S Eric Smith, T Jason Smith and QB Tim Tebow. There is also a lot of restructuring that can take place as well, so the Jets will put themselves in a more favorable situation in the future than they sit today.
Neither Ryan nor CEO Woody Johnson would ever mention the world rebuild. That is not in their DNA, but the Jets are about to reshuffle the deck. The offense will be directed by a third coordinator in three years and it appears likely DB Coach Dennis Thurman will be promoted to defensive coordinator. It is a testament to just how well-regarded the Jets’ defensive staff has been that Mike Pettine, Bob Sutton and Mike Smith are slated to be DCs in Buffalo, Kansas City and at Texas Tech respectively.
After a few more staff changes, the Jets have to take a long look at their roster and attack the offseason. Both of their starting guards — LG Matt Slauson and RG Brandon Moore — are scheduled to become free agents and RT Austin Howard is a restricted free agent. Did Vladimir Duccase show enough to move into the one of the starting G slots and can you pencil Howard in at RT?
Tight end is a question mark because the Green & White don’t have a No. 1 if Dustin Keller finds another home on the open market. Perhaps the emergence of Bilal Powell in his second season will mean the Jets won’t be in a hurry to re-sign UFA Shonn Greene, but the latter still has his place in the NFL as a battering ram. Jeremy Kerley flourished in 2012 and the Jets should be set in the slot for the foreseeable future. The hope is Santonio Holmes can return to form on the outside, but the game-changer is set to have another surgery on his left foot in February after suffering a Lisfranc injury. Braylon Edwards wants to return, but will new management want the soon to be 30-year-old wideout to start the season. This is huge offseason for Stephen Hill because his growth and maturation is critical for the future of the receiving corps.
With Ryan and Thurman leading the defense, the Jets will field another strong unit. But two key cogs from 2012 — DE Mike DeVito and Pro Bowl S LaRon Landry — are expected to attract a number of suitors. If the Jets do indeed release both Pace and Scott, then you may have a LB unit with three new starters and a new position coach. Is Demario Davis ready to be an every down player and what two players will line up at the all-important OLB spots?
In the secondary, the hope is Darrelle Revis will be back to his old self after suffering a torn ACL in Week 3. The trio of Revis and Cro on the outside along with Kyle Wilson at nickel is as solid as they come, but then you wonder what’s next at safety. Yeremiah Bell isn’t a kid anymore, but the soon to be 35-year-old is more than competent. If Landry is just too pricey, can a youngster like Antonio Allen or Josh Bush start?
Quarterback remains the biggest issue of all. Two years after out-dueling Tom Brady in his own house, some wonder where Mark Sanchez will call home in 2013.
“Let’s get the general manager and the offensive coordinator in place before we answer any questions specifically about players,” Ryan said this week.