2008 Record: 9-7
The Jets are the latest example of what happens when you take on a high-risk signing in free agency. In late November, no one would have argued with you that this was the team to beat in the AFC East. But then Brett Favre turned into Walther Mathau and the Jets went 1-4 after turkey day, missing the playoffs by 2 games. This losing streak consisted of losses to Denver, San Francisco, Seattle, and Miami, and a gift victory against Buffalo in a game they never should have won. As a result, Eric Mangini got the boot, and Rex Ryan was brought in from Baltimore. If the demeanor between the two wasn't different enough, Ryan has actually encouraged his players to fight during practice to build their intensity level. We wouldn't expect anything else from a Baltimore guy (or a Ryan for that matter).
The Jets do boast some tools that Ryan should be able to use, based on his experience in Baltimore, to turn this into a winning team eventually. With Favre gone, the mantle falls to rookie QB Mark Sanchez to lead the offense. He will be aided by a solid running game with Thomas Jones and the burner Leon Washington. The most exciting back might be Shonne Greene (rookie from Iowa) who just dominated the Big 10 last season. The offensive line is full of former first-round studs including tackle D'Brickshaw Ferguson, tackle Damien Woody, guard Alan Faneca, and center Nick Mangold.
The Jets did lose #1 receiver Laverneous Coles to Cincinnati in free agency, placing the bulk of the receiving load on Jerricho Cotchery. Without much help in the passing game, Cotchery will likely see a lot of double-teams this season. Dustin Keller is a legitimate talent at tight end, and after a rookie year where he posted 535 yards and 3 TDs, he should be able to grow as a weapon for Sanchez.
The Jets offensive success will be wholy reliant on their ability to run the ball and maintain clock control. This is not a team that is going to put up a lot of points, and their passing game is a long way from scaring anyone. That being said, this offense has a lot in common with last year's Baltimore Ravens. However, they have a harder schedule than the Ravens played, and not nearly as much talent on defense. In the end, it's going to be a low-scoring season for the Jets offense.
Speaking of defense, there is some talent there, starting with newly acquired linebacker Bart Scott. In 3-4 alignments, defensive ends don't usually lead teams in sacks. However, Shaun Ellis (8.0 sacks) was the exception to that rule. Outside linebacker Calvin Pace was second with 7, and the Jets got no production out of pass-rusher extraordinaire Vernon Gholston who they spent a first-round pick on. Pro Bowler Kris Jenkins is a beast on the interior line at nose tackle, and he presents a challenge for any team trying to block him.
Former Pitt star Darelle Revis had a Pro Bowl year at cornerback last year and is quickly blossoming into one of the young stars at the position. Safety Kerry Rhodes is solid, and the Jets brought in Jim Leonhard to play the other safety spot. On the whole, New York's defense is pretty much the same as last year, with Scott and Leonhard taking their places in the starting lineups. For all the preseason accolades the Jets defense is getting, let's not forget that this unit was 29th in the league in passing defense, 16th in total defense and 18th in scoring defense. Their only Top 10 categories were run defense (7th) and takeaways (5th).
On the whole, this Jets team will be reliant on their defense to keep them in games, and with the schedule they have this year, it doesn't seem likely that they will improve upon last season's win mark. This is a rebuilding year, particularly on offense, for the Jets. They would do well to go out and get themselves some receivers in the offseason and to develop Shonne Greene. There are some pieces in place here, but this team is at least a year away.
Ian's Prediction: 6-10
I really just don't see these guys being all that good. Sanchez will learn as he goes and get better as the season goes on, so they will win a few games. Don't forget they have Buffalo in their division. The Jets also get Oakland and Cincy, which are teams of similar ilk. It wouldn't be a complete surprise to see this team start 0-5 with Houston, New England, Tennessee, New Orleans, and Miami at the front end of the schedule.