EA Q&A: Sterling Start for Maccagnan & Bowles

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EA: True. The season-ending loss in Buffalo will sting for a while, but the Jets have come a long way in a calendar year. After a 4-12 season, Woody Johnson started anew last January. After hiring a pair of astute consultants in Charley Casserly and Ron Wolf, Mr. Johnson hired Mike Maccagnan and then Todd Bowles. With final say over the 53-man roster and the draft, Maccagnan made a pair of masterful trades while acquiring Brandon Marshall (109-1,502-14TD) from the Bears and Ryan Fitzpatrick (31 TD & 3,905 Yards) from the Texans. He kept ILB David Harris off the market and he struck in free agency with what was an unheralded signing of LG James Carpenter. He gave the secondary an overhaul as Darrelle Revis (9 Takeaways) and Antonio Cromartie returned and safety Marcus Gilchrist (3 INT) and nickel back Buster Skrine came via free agency. Bilal Powell (47 Receptions) wasn't a flashy re-sign in March, but he became one of the Jets most important offensive players in the season's second half. Sticking to the best player available philosophy on draft weekend, the Jets were delighted when Leonard Williams fell to them at No. 6 overall and they got a pass rusher with potential in the third round in the form of Lorenzo Mauldin (4 Sacks). So after greatly increasing the talent on the roster, Bowles and his brand new coaching staff had to put it all together. Defensively, the Green & White finished T3 in takeaways with 30 and 3rd on third downs at 33.2%. Bowles turned over the offensive controls over to Chan Gailey and the Jets' offense averaged nearly a full touchdown better in scoring per game (24.2 to 17.7) than last year. A unit who struggled at times when the run was taken away in earlier in the season flourished down the stretch with its pass game. And when the Jets hit adversity, they smiled and found a way to get themselves back into playoff contention. Bowles won over his locker room with a direct, no-nonsense approach. There were off-the-field situations that he handled seamlessly and he started to create a culture here. The Jets ultimately fell short of their postseason goal in 2015, but Maccagnan and Bowles pointed this team ahead.

EA: The key is keeping the right people because you can't retain everyone. Roster change is inevitable in the salary cap era. Todd Bowles, who made clear that the Jets would like to retain Ryan Fitzpatrick, talked about the offseason ahead at his season-ending news conference. "It's going to be a lot of work. The way teams are nowadays with free agents, the draft and people getting hurt, you're going to have a new team every year," he said. "There's going to be about 12 to 15 new guys on your team. So, you just have to find the right mix and try to find the right guys to sign back. Obviously, free agency is a crapshoot and a gamble and certain guys may try to leave. Hopefully, a lot of guys stay. We're building something here. Everybody understands that. We'll try to get as many of our guys as we can."

Next Season's Home and Away Foes Are Set; Dates and Times Will Be Revealed in April

EA: No. Now I'd be lying if I said the thought of the Jets matching up with the Bengals didn't go through my head Saturday evening.  John Greetleaf Whittier wrote, "For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, 'It might have been.'" And some people – even in the realm of sports – can't get beyond the might have beens. But to move forward, you have to learn from the past and be ready the next time an opportunity is in front of you. The Jets lost 6 times in 2015 – not once.  

EA: This one I'm assured of – we'll never know.

EA: They certainly like Bryce Petty. From a physical standpoint, the 6'3", 230-pounder has all the tools. A two-time All American QB who led Baylor to back-to-back Big 12 championships, the ball jumps out of Petty's right hand and he delivers with accuracy down the field. But this season was basically a redshirt year for Petty as he had the opportunity to take a step back and watch Ryan Fitzpatrick man the offensive controls. One of the most significant challenges for rookie signal callers is understanding how defenses are trying to attack you. It's not just line up and play. I think back to the Giants game in Week 13 when the Jets were facing a 4th down in the fourth quarter as they were attempting to tie the game. Even before the ball was snapped,Fitzpatrick knew the offense was in a "bad" look against the coverage the G-Men had on the field. So on 4th and 6, Fitzpatrick scrambled for 15. That's not how they drew it up in the film room, but that's a savvy vet coming up big in winning time.

Petty learned a different language last season. Let's see how far he progressed when the players return for spring camps and OTAs.  With that being said, I don't think the Jets would avoid taking a QB if a prospect is the top player on their board. 

EA: Head coach Todd Bowles did stress that the team had to get faster and have more speed on the field in 2016. As far as specific needs, Bowles said the following, "We need a couple different areas and we're going to meet as a staff and go over that. As we go over that, we'll narrow down the specific areas. I can sit here and say we didn't do this well and we didn't do that well, but at the end of the day we probably want to get better at every area."  In the past, Bowles has mentioned more speed off the edge. You can never have enough young talent on the offensive line and the Jets did use their tight ends primarily as inline blockers in 2015. And while the coverage units were a lot better down the stretch, the Jets will have to find some more consistency on special teams in '16. But the personnel staff has done an outstanding job and we'll review some of their recent successes in the weeks ahead.

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