Lessons the Jets Learned Against the Bills
Lesson 1: Underestimating a Mike Pettine Defense is Asking For Trouble – The Jets came into this game thinking it would be exactly the same scenario as Week 3 (A team you can run and shoot all day against and use your fast receivers to burn the DBs). Unfortunately, they forgot that the Defensive Coordinator is Mike Pettine, who coached under Rex Ryan for 4 years in New York and several more years in Baltimore prior to the move to the Jets. Pettine’s defensive line and DBs were much healthier than in their previous meeting – Jairus Byrd and Leodis McKelvin were in the game this time and the line got tons of push (though it should be noted that Austin Howard once again blanked Mario Williams from the sack line). Pettine clearly learned from his defensive adjustment mistakes in Week 3 and was able to get his ball hawks in the perfect locations to get 4 INTs from Geno Smith and keep him on the ground most of the game. Pettine may not be Rex Ryan in terms of defensive acumen, but he knows how to get a great performance out of his defense.
Lesson 2: Stephen Hill is Not the Jets Starting Wide Receiver – 3 straight games without a catch is unacceptable for any starting wide receiver on any team that wants to be successful. He may be an excellent down the field blocker, but that doesn’t cut it as a WR in the NFL. He has the speed, height and strength to win matchups with most cornerbacks, so what is the problem Hill is having? Whether it is lack of patience, overexerting himself, or simply not building any chemistry with Geno Smith, Hill is simply not getting the job done and needs to be replaced with someone who can. Whether that is David Nelson, Greg Salas, Jeremy Kerley (when he returns), Josh Cribbs or someone off the street, there needs to be someone to compete with Hill for the starting job, or the Jets might as well be playing only 10 men on the field each play.
Lesson 3: Geno Smith May Be Better Than Mark Sanchez, But He Still Has a Long Way To Go – Statistically speaking, Smith is still having a better rookie season than Mark Sanchez. He has more wins after 10 games, (5 vs. Sanchez’s 4), more passing yards, more rushing yards, more completions and more accuracy on his throws. The problem is he still isn’t even in the Top 20 of NFL QBs in any major category, and his 10.1 passer rating is the worst in the NFL this year, and the worst by any Jets QB since Sanchez’s 8.3, 5 INT game against (ironically) the Bills back in his 2009 rookie season. Sadly, the very fact that Smith has so many comparisons to Sanchez’s numbers already will lead many to believe that they will become the same person, which is a bit unfair to Smith, but at the same time well-deserved considering how poorly he has played. The NFL has no time for rookie learning curves after the stellar play from rookies we have seen since 2010. If Smith doesn’t prove definitely that he is the Jets Franchise QB before the off-season, he could be their clipboard holder in 2014.
Lesson 4: The Jets Are an Average NFL Team – There is no great shame in being an average team, and average teams can still make the Playoffs. The 2008 Cardinals had 5 games where they gave up well over 35 points, and 2010 Seahawks made the Playoffs with a 7-9 record. In this league, all you need to do is get to the dance and let destiny take you from there. The real question this year will not be whether or not the Jets can get to the Playoffs, much less the Superbowl. The question every week will be: Can the Jets win a game, and look like a complete team in the process? So far the answer in even numbered game has been “No,” but the odd numbered games has been “Yes” or at the worst, “Maybe.”
Lesson 5: The Secondary Is The Jets Biggest Liability – From 2009 to 2012 the weakness of the Jets was the run defense. In many games the Jets defense would be tired by the 4th quarter and allow a back breaking big play to kill their chances of winning a game. Now it is a strength, but with the CB tandem of Cromartie-Wilson-Milliner, the once elite secondary of the Jets has become a bottom 10 unit. Antonio Cromartie has clearly lost a step and cannot keep up with wide receivers anymore, Kyle Wilson is an overachieving nickel corner who struggles greatly as a #2, and Dee Milliner has shown flashes but has been benched twice already. Combine that with simply average to below average play by safeties Dawan Landry and Antonio Allen/J. Jarrett, and you have a Secondary that constantly allows big plays against a team that used to never allow those kinds of consistent big plays.