By Tyson Rauch
On Sunday the New York Jets completed their roller coaster ride of a season with a 20-7 victory over the Miami Dolphins. New York’s inspiring performance against Miami moved the Jets record to 8-8, with back to back victories to close out the 2013 campaign. Following Sunday’s game the organization announced that head coach Rex Ryan would be returning for the 2014 season. The belief within the Jets hierarchy is that Ryan is the right guy to lead a team that appears to be on the rise. Based on the amount of resources that the team will have to play with (salary cap space over $30 million, 10+ draft picks), the organization may very well be right.
The Jets offense was a work in progress throughout the 2013 season as rookie quarterback Geno Smith learned the ropes of the NFL. New York’s rushing attack ended the year ranked 6th in NFL while the passing game struggled due to Smith’s inexperience and the lack of explosive playmakers.
Running backs Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell proved to be a formidable one-two punch while Jeremy Kerley once again emerged as the team’s best wide receiver.
David Nelson (36 catches) was a pleasant surprise for Gang Green while Santonio Holmes had an injury plagued and overall very disappointing season.
Needs for 2014
The New York Jets are in desperate need of dynamic, explosive playmakers at the wide receiver and tight end position. As of now New York fields solid complimentary players but no one that commands the attention of an opposing defense or has the ability to take over a game.
Gang Green will have some decisions to make on the offensive line as Austin Howard and Willie Colon are free agents. In terms of continuity it would not be surprising to see the team try to re-sign both Colon and Howard.
Finally, the Jets will have to bring in some competition for Geno Smith. Matt Simms was a great feel good story for 2013 but I would expect Gang Green to bring in a proven veteran that has the ability to start if Smith struggles.
As expected the defense was the backbone of the team ranking 3rd against the run and 11th in yards allowed. The unit was led by a front seven that often dominated the line of scrimmage and applied significant pressure on the quarterback. Muhammad Wilkerson had a Pro-Bowl caliber season (10.5 sacks), while veterans David Harris and Calvin Pace made significant contributions as well.
Rookie Sheldon Richardson emerged as a disruptive force on the defensive line with Damon Harrison and Leger Douzable consistently making an impact. Linebacker Demario Davis did a solid job in his first year as a starter while Quinton Coples really began to play at a high level at seasons end.
The secondary experienced their share of struggles as Antonio Cromartie battled injuries and rookie Dee Milliner went through a painful NFL learning curve. Safety Dawan Landry had a solid season while Antonio Allen, Jaiquawn Jarrett, and Josh Bush all showed improvement as the season progressed.
Needs for 2014
Upgrading the talent in the secondary will be a priority as the team needs to add playmakers with speed and pop. There is a good chance that the Jets will release Antonio Cromartie if he does not agree to a restructured contract.
Gang Green could look to upgrade the linebacker position as Calvin Pace is a free agent and David Harris will be entering the last year of his contract. A backer that excels in pass coverage would be ideal for Rex Ryan.
Nick Folk had an excellent year for Gang Green (33/36) forcing an argument that he was the MVP of the team. Folk will be a free agent and deserves a multi-year deal at this point.
Outlook is bright
With all things considered the New York Jets appear to be a team heading in the right direction. The return of Rex Ryan was key for New York as it keeps a level of continuity for the organization. The Jets defense is a player or two away from a being a dominant unit while the offense has a chance to be solid with a few additions. The spotlight will be on general manager John Idzik as he uses his substantial resources to upgrade the talent on the team. If Idzik puts together another quality draft class and spends the Jets money wisely in free agency Gang Green could make some noise in 2014.
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Tyson Rauch is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.