By Steve Silverman
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The Jets have gotten off to a sharp start that only just begins with their 2-1-record. With a roster that included the disastrous Mark Sanchez and a very questionable rookie at quarterback in Geno Smith, it looked like Rex Ryan might quickly turn into a lame-duck coach and the Jets would teeter on the edge of disaster.
They have won two of their first three games and face a hungry, yet beatable, Tennessee Titans team that features an improving quarterback in Jake Locker and a nasty and aggressive defense.
Does that makeup sound familiar?
Smith is not a master by any estimation at the quarterback position. He gets confused at times and he does make mistakes. However, he does not get overwhelmed and he has been able to move on to the next play after each of those mistakes without dwelling on them.
The book on Smith before the Jets drafted him was that he was somewhat selfish, and concerned about his own performance rather than the team’s. If that was accurate, he has put it behind him and has shown some growth to his game.
Somehow, the Jets have the 10th-rated offense in the league. They are sixth in rushing the ball, with an average of 133.7 yards per game, because Bilal Powell has turned into an unlikely hero. They are 17th in passing, but even that figure is dramatically better than any of the preseason estimations.
Most of those preseason estimations looked at the Jets with Sanchez in the lineup. Thankfully, he is sidelined with a shoulder injury and he’s not going to get back into the starting lineup through anything but an injury to Smith.
It’s not that Smith is playing the way Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson played last year. It’s that he’s playing well enough to give the Jets a chance to win. That’s something that Sanchez was unable to do either of the past two years.
If any coach was living on borrowed time, it appeared to be Ryan. In the last year of his contract, it seemed certain that he was just holding down his spot while new general manager John Idzik compiled names and figured out who the best man for the job was.
That’s what new general managers do. That’s what may be happening at this very moment.
After Week 4, the Jets will either be a solid 3-1 or a so-so 2-2. They would be able to make a run or fall apart with either record.
Idzik knows that, and the schedule will get very tough with Atlanta, Pittsburgh, New England, Cincinnati and New Orleans coming up in the next five games.
After the Saints game in Week 8, that’s when fans will know if the Jets are for real or not.
But there are good things happening right now as Smith is making progress, Powell has some chops as a running back and the defense is playing the way a Ryan defense is supposed to.
They rank third in yards allowed and they are tied for third in sacks. The Jets are making it tough on everyone who wants to move the ball downfield.
Much of that is due to DE Muhammad Wilkerson and his three sacks, LB David Harris and his team-high 22 tackles and SS Dawan Landry, who has two passes defensed, an interception and 13 tackles.
More than their numbers, they are all aggressive players who attack the ball.
Three games is too early to make a judgment, but this season has a chance to work out well. An aggressive defense, combined with a young quarterback who is making progress, gives the Jets an opportunity to pull off a number of surprises the rest of the season.
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