Sunday notes: Swinging (and missing) on O
December, 1, 2013
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com
Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets:
1. Woe-ffense: The common alibi for the lack of skill-position talent on offense is to blame Rex Ryan's defensive-minded influence in the draft room. While it's true the Jets have picked defensive players in each of the past four first rounds, they can't be accused of ignoring the offense. In the five drafts of the Ryan era, they've used 13 of 28 picks (46 percent) on skill-position players -- by far the highest percentage among AFC East teams. The next-closest team is the Miami Dolphins (13 of 40 picks, 33 percent).
The problem for the Jets isn't quantity, it's quality. Not one of those 13 picks is a productive starter for the team. WR Jeremy Kerley and RB Bilal Powell are the best of the bunch, but they're complementary players best suited for part-time roles. Obviously, the Jets can improve the success ratio by investing a first-round pick in an offensive player -- and they probably will next spring -- but smart-drafting teams are able to find impact running backs and wide receivers in the middle rounds. The Jets have failed to do that.
2. Costly miss: The pick that hurts the most is WR Stephen Hill, chosen in the second round (No. 43 overall) in 2012. It cost the Jets a fifth-rounder as well, because that was the price for trading up. Why trade up? The scouting department was high on Hill. How high? This might surprise you: The Jets gave Hill a mid-first-round grade.
3. A forever drought: The last Jets draft pick at a skill position to make the Pro Bowl was WR Santana Moss (2001 draft), but he was selected as a member of the Washington Redskins. The same could be said of WR Laveranues Coles (2000) and WR Keyshawn Johnson (1996), who made it while playing for the Redskins and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively. The last player drafted by the Jets to make the Pro Bowl in a Jets uniform was FB Richie Anderson (1993), a Pro Bowler in 2000. That was a scary long time ago. RB Thomas Jones and QB Brett Favre made it in 2008, but they were drafted by other teams.
4. Slamming on the brakes: Coaches talk about the rookie wall. Well, it seems like Powell has hit the veteran wall. One of the Jets' biggest surprises in the first month, Powell hasn't rushed for more than 41 yards in seven straight games. He doesn't have the same elusiveness as he did in September, which could be traced to training camp. Because of injuries to other backs, he was overworked in camp. Ryan expressed concern about it, and now it seems like all those reps have caught up to Powell.
5. Been there, done that: At a community event the other day, QB Mark Sanchez said of rookie Geno Smith, "I've totally experienced what he's going through" -- probably more than he realizes. Sanchez's statistics in his first 11 career starts were eerily similar to those of Smith. Check it out: As a rookie, Sanchez posted a 5-6 record, with a 53.5 percent completion rate, 6.9 yards per attempt and 17 interceptions. Smith has a 5-6 record, a 55.2 percent completion mark, 7.0 yards per attempt and 18 interceptions. It must be déjà vu for Ryan.
6. More bad Geno: At the risk of piling on, Smith is suffering through one of the worst statistical seasons in recent memory. He already has had three games in which his QBR was lower than 5.0 (on a scale of 100). Since 2006, when ESPN started compiling the QBR stat, only four quarterbacks have done that. The other three are Rex Grossman (Chicago Bears, 2006), Sanchez (2009 and 2012) and Blaine Gabbert (Jacksonville Jaguars, 2013). Like I said, it's déjà vu for Ryan.
7. A long (country) road from West Virginia: On Friday, Ryan spoke of the challenges Smith has faced this season -- learning to play under center and trying to master the rhythm of five- and seven-step drops in an NFL offense. I'm sorry, but that's not what Ryan was selling at the start of the season. He downplayed those factors, insisting Smith was ready. Clearly, he wasn't. Ryan finally admitted what many have known since the outset.
8. The quarterback option: If Ryan thought David Garrard was the answer, he'd already be in there. Ditto, Matt Simms. It's not like Smith has given the coaching staff a bunch of reasons to stick with him. He has gone 120 straight attempts without a touchdown pass, going 0-for-November.
9. Made of iron and brick: New York is home to two of the most durable players in the league. LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson has started 123 consecutive games. The only non-kickers with a longer streak are Redskins LB London Fletcher (210) and New York Giants QB Eli Manning (146).
10. Expect the unexpected: Weird and memorable things tend to happen whenever the Jets and Miami Dolphins play at this time of the year. In 2010, there was the Sal Alosi game. In 1994, there was the infamous Fake Spike. What will happen this time? Maybe it'll be something totally off the hook ... like, maybe, an outburst by the Jets' offense.