The New York Jets have one goal in mind: win now.
It’s clear that Gang Green, led by head coach Rex Ryan, needs to win and win fast if they want to be relevant and if Ryan wants to hang on to his job. The first step to that process was to rebuild a team which went on playoff run after playoff run but saw its quarterback, Mark Sanchez, fall off the edge of a cliff.
Replacing that quarterback and finding one that would move them back into the win column was a high priority after last season. Thus, Ryan and the Jets took Geno Smith in the second round of last year’s NFL Draft.
It may not have been the plan to have Smith start as quickly as he did but the game time was valuable for a quarterback who the Jets seemed to have planned on making the future signal caller.
In the offseason, the Jets have brought in playmakers like Eric Decker and speedster Chris Johnson, further proving the necessity to “win now”.
But the mind-boggling move of the offseason was when the Jets signed quarterback Michael Vick to a deal, setting up an interesting battle with Smith.
But if the Jets want to win, Smith needs to be the guy slotted in the first quarterback spot on the depth chart come August.
Sure, Vick can provide some exciting plays with his feet and sling the ball down field but Smith gives the Jets the best chance moving forward.
After starting the season 5-7, Smith led the Jets to an 8-8 record in his first season under center. And he did it with basically no weapons on offense with the team’s leading receiver, Jeremy Kerley catching 43 passes for 523 yards and just three scores. In the running game, Chris Ivory ran for a meager 833 yards and three touchdowns.
Now, with a solid receiver in Decker, the Jets are hoping to build an offense and put proven producers around a young quarterback.
Last season Decker caught 87 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Denver Broncos. The season before, he caught 85 passes for 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns. For his four seasons in the league, Decker has continued to progress and improve, totaling 3,070 yards and 33 touchdowns. Take away his rookie season in which he caught six balls for 106 yards, Decker averaged 72 catches for 988 yards per season. Even in his worst season of the three productive years, Decker caught one more pass and racked up 89 yards and five touchdowns more than Kerley did last season.
Kerley returns, giving Smith a familiar target to throw to, while pass catchers like Stephen Hill and Greg Salas hope to step up. I’d also expect the Jets to take a receiver or a tight end fairly early in this year’s draft.
If you can put all of that together, Smith will have a solid supporting cast split out to either side of him. Couple that with Johnson, Ivory and Bilal Powell in the backfield and the Jets may have a legitimate shot to win games.
If Smith can win eight games with very few contributors last season, you have to think the Jets will go with him to build this offense around as they seek more than a .500 season.