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Jets Achilles' Heels

Posted Jul 17, 2014

The Jets Need to Improve Their Turnover Differential and Play on the Outside

According to ancient Greek mythology, Achilles was a near-invincible warrior who captured closed to two dozen Trojan towns. But his heel made him vulnerable and he died when Paris shot an arrow into it.

Every team in the National Football League has weakness. Since the Jets haven’t had a winning record in three seasons now, they have had more fatal flaws than some of the perennial contenders of late. The two that stand out to ESPN NFL Insider Phil Savage are turnover differential and the game on the edges.

“They went 8-8 last year with a rookie quarterback who threw 12 touchdowns against 21 interceptions in Geno Smith. So they’ve got to get those numbers flipped in terms of the turnover margin,” Savage told me on our recent visit to ESPN in Bristol, CT. “If they do that, now they have a chance to start talking about 9 or 10 or 11 wins. Because the thing that the Jets do have is they are strong up front on the offensive line and the defensive line as a group.”





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One version of the Achilles story is his mother, Thetis, anointed him with ambrosia (a drink of the Gods) and put him in a fire so that mortal parts would burn away and immortal parts would be left. But Achilles’ dad, Peleus, unfortunately pulled his son out of the fire before his heel was burned.

Smith was burnt early last season by ball security issues, but the Jets think he came through his rookie fire more equipped to handle the infernos that await him in Year 2. New York’s AFC representative has to get some more heat on opposing quarterbacks so the Jets can increase their takeaway number themselves.

Another version of the Achilles story is that Thetis dropped her son into the sacred river Styx and made every part of him that touched the water invulnerable. But she held Achilles in by his heel and that part of his body remained vulnerable. 

The Jets could be swimming against a strong current if they don’t get better play on the outside.

“I do worry a little bit about the New York Jets on the edges,” Savage told me. “Who is rushing off the corner? Who is defending the passes on the perimeter? Who is going to catch the passes from Geno Smith on the offensive side?”

If Chris Johnson is back up to full speed and the re-shuffled O-line can gel quickly, then the Jets could be a Top-5 rushing team in 2014. No team was harder to run against last season than the Jets (3.4 yards per carry) and that isn’t likely to change.

“As far as the run game, stopping the run and being able to control the action between the hashes, I think the Jets can compete with anybody,” Savage said. “They have some of the best players in the league when you talk about Nick Mangold on offense (and) when you talk about Muhammad Wilkerson on defense. But on the edges, outside the hashmarks, out towards the numbers — that’s where they have to answer some questions and we’ll have to see how 2014 plays out.”

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