New York Jets: Matt Simms

Training camp preview: Quarterback

July, 13, 2014
Jul 13
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Breaking down the New York Jets' roster, unit by unit, in preparation for training camp, which starts July 23.

Position: quarterback

Smith
Projected starter: Geno Smith.

Projected reserves: Michael Vick, Tajh Boyd.

Notable on the bubble: Matt Simms.

Player to watch: Obviously, it's Smith. He'll be under a daily microscope, with everyone -- coaches, media, fans -- looking to see if he has improved as much as the Jets said he has throughout the spring. He'll get about 70 to 75 percent of the first-team reps in practice, which means two things: The coaches are planning to structure training camp in a way that will allow Smith to claim the starting job if he performs at a competent level. But instead of giving him the typical share of starter reps (roughly 90 percent), they're hedging their bet, trying to get Vick ready in case Smith flops. It's a delicate balancing act, but there shouldn't be any issues as long as Smith doesn't blow it.

Top storyline: The Smith-Vick dynamic will be a fascinating watch. Smith has a great deal of respect for Vick, certainly more than he had for Mark Sanchez, but he also knows Vick represents a legitimate threat to his job. Vick already is popular among his new teammates, and his candid style will make him a media favorite as well. How will young Geno handle that?

Training camp will be a success if ... Reporters aren't asking Rex Ryan before the final preseason game why he hasn't named a starting quarterback. If they are, it means the Jets are waffling. Worse, it could mean there's an injury to consider (shades of last summer). The best-case scenario, from the team's perspective, is that Smith plays so well that the announcement is anticlimactic. If that's the case, Ryan could reveal his choice before the third game. Technically, Smith hasn't been named anything even though he has 16 starts on his résumé.

Wild card: General manager John Idzik. We know how he feels about competition. We also know how that backfired last preseason -- i.e., Sanchez's pointless injury. Idzik should have a minimal role in the quarterback decision, leaving it up to the coaches.

By the numbers: Smith has to do a better job under a heavy pass rush. When pressured, he completed only 28.7 percent of his passes (27-for-94) with one touchdown, five interceptions and a 28.5 passer rating, which ranked 38th in the league, per ESPN Stats & Information.

Jets offseason recap: Risers and fallers

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
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With the offseason in the books, let's take a step back to analyze some of the players who helped themselves the most in the offseason -- and some who didn't.

THREE RISERS

1. Oday Aboushi, left guard: The former fifth-round pick, coming off what amounted to a "redshirt" rookie year, played his way into the conversation as a possible starter. He finished minicamp as the starting left guard, replacing Brian Winters, who moved to right guard to replace the injured Willie Colon. Aboushi, who struggled last year at tackle, may benefit from the move inside because it could hide his shortcomings in pass protection. Colon expects to be ready for training camp, so there will be three players vying for two starting jobs. We'll see how Aboushi responds when the pads go on.

[+] EnlargeDexter McDougle
Rich Schultz /Getty ImagesThird-round pick Dexter McDougle worked his way up to second team by the end of minicamp.
2. Dexter McDougle, cornerback: Rex Ryan admitted his concerns about drafting McDougle in the third round -- injury-related worries -- but he's a believer now. After sitting out for most of the offseason to protect his surgically repaired shoulder, McDougle returned for the final two weeks, working his way up the depth chart to second team. He's smart and aggressive, not afraid to mix it up with receivers at the line of scrimmage. The coaches now believe he could push for serious playing time.

3. Ras-I Dowling, cornerback: When the Jets were striking out in free agency, failing to land a big-time corner, Ryan kept insisting he was happy with his current personnel. He named names, always mentioning Dowling. Cynics (including me) wondered the same thing: Ras-I Dowling? He spent last season on the Jets' practice squad after being dumped by the New England Patriots, but the talent is there. He was the 33rd pick in the 2011 draft, only three spots behind Muhammad Wilkerson. It was an impressive spring for Dowling, who now has a legitimate chance to make the team.

THREE FALLERS

1. Caleb Schlauderaff, center: Only a couple of years ago, former general manager Mike Tannenbaum touted Schlauderaff as the Jets' version of Victor Cruz -- a super sleeper. He's almost asleep, all right. Schlauderaff, the Jets' only reserve lineman with regular-season experience (all of 14 snaps), was relegated to third-team duty in minicamp, falling behind Dalton Freeman as Nick Mangold's backup. Schlauderaff will have a tough time making the team if Freeman, an impressive former undrafted free agent, continues to develop.

2. Matt Simms, quarterback: Last year's feel-good story got off to a hot start in organized team activities, but he cooled off toward the end of the offseason, including minicamp. Simms didn't get as many reps as the coaches would've liked, and reps will be hard to come by in training camp as well. Looking ahead, coordinator Marty Mornhinweg said he's "looking for (Simms) to make one more big step" -- an indication he's still in the team's plans. But rookie Tajh Boyd is lurking and will provide competition. Simms needs a strong camp if he wants to claim the No. 3 job.

3. Dawan Landry, safety: From all indications, Landry enjoyed a terrific offseason, receiving effusive praise from Ryan and earning recognition for his work in the conditioning program. But, at the same time, Landry lost ground. How is that possible? They drafted Calvin Pryor in the first round and paired him with third-year safety Antonio Allen in the starting lineup, allowing the young tandem to learn and develop chemistry. Ryan insisted that Landry still will have an important role, but things won't be the same. You can bet he won't play 98 percent of the defensive snaps, as he did last season.

Practice notes: Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A few takeways from Day 1 of the New York Jets' minicamp:

1. What a mess: Let's let Rex Ryan describe the day: "It got ugly out there." Did it ever. The two-hour practice was filled with penalties and dropped passes. As usual, there were game officials at practice and they were told to crack down on defensive holding calls, according to Ryan. The last segment of practice resembled last year's game against the Buffalo Bills, when they set a franchise record with 20 penalties. Linebacker Garrett McIntyre was flagged for holding, negating an interception. Looking at the silver lining, it was a good day for fitness. That is because the entire team dropped for 10 push ups after every penalty.

2. Rookie yips: Rookie WR Shaq Evans, who missed the organized team activities (10 practices) because of school obligations, looked rusty and struggled mightily. He dropped two balls against air (no defense) and he dropped another in team drills. In between the mishaps, he made a nice sideline catch in a 7-on-7 drill. Not surprisingly, Evans, a fourth-round pick, was out of sync with the quarterbacks, resulting in miscommunications. Fellow fourth-round pick Jalen Saunders had a drop in 7-on-7s, but it was an overall solid practice. Sixth-round WR Quincy Enunwa, FB Tommy Bohanon and WR Eric Decker had one drop apiece.

Smith
3. Your QB update: Despite the overall sloppiness, Geno Smith and Michael Vick managed to avoid any major blunders, meaning turnovers. Smith completed six of 10 passes, with a sack.

Vick was 7-for-10, with a sack. He missed a couple of open receivers on deep throws, once underthrowing David Nelson with a fluttering pass that was nearly intercepted. Vick was intercepted in 7-on-7 drills, when he threw for Decker on a post route. Cornerback Dimitri Patterson made a great read and jumped the route. He's a cagey vet. Patterson figured out the route combination on that side of the field and knew Decker was going to break to the inside. On the positive side, Vick displayed some of his legendary mobility, scrambling away from pressure on at least two occasions.

Obviously, individual stats don't mean much in minicamp. The division of reps sometimes tells you more about a player's progress -- or lack thereof. In the first team period, devoted to third down, Smith worked with the starters for six out of eight reps. Vick got the other two reps. In the second team period, devoted to the no-huddle, Smith got all 10 reps with the first-team offense. Get the picture? If the reps are divided the same way in training camp, it will be tough for Vick to supplant Smith, as the coaches have indicated.

4. Impressive corner: Rookie Dexter McDougle, who got a late start in the offseason program because of a shoulder surgery from a college injury, continued to make plays. Working with the second-team defense, the third-round pick made at least two pass breakups. He's aggressive at the line of scrimmage, not afraid to engage with a receiver. "I think you saw a little of why we're so excited about him," Ryan said. McDougle and Darrin Walls were the second-team cornerbacks, behind Dee Milliner and Patterson.

5. Odds and ends: Nice day for rookie DT Kerry Hyder, an undrafted free agent from Texas Tech. He had a sack and interception. He picked off Matt Simms on a screen pass. ... This was another mediocre practice for Simms, who is battling rookie Tajh Boyd for the No. 3 job. ... Rookie Calvin Pryor and Antonio Allen continued as the starting safety tandem, with veteran Dawan Landry on the second team. ... It looks like rookie TE Jace Amaro already is ahead of Jeff Cumberland in pass-oriented personnel packages. ... Six free agents were invited to participate on a tryout basis, including former Oakland Raiders fourth-round pick Bruce Campbell, a tackle. The others: Punters Drew Butler and Jacon Schum, kickers Andrew Furney and Carson Wiggs and guard Ray Dominguez.

6. Injury report: As expected, RB Chris Johnson (knee), RG Willie Colon (knee) and LB Antwan Barnes (knee) didn't participate in team drills. Johnson, who had surgery in January, participated in individual drills.

Jets notes: Rex's endless pursuit of B&B

June, 15, 2014
Jun 15
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A few thoughts on the New York Jets as we head into the final week of the offseason:

1. Song remains the same: Rex Ryan's remarks the other day about the New England Patriots (in response to Calvin Pryor's "hate" quote) triggered a memory. Ryan's comments -- "[Pryor] knows who the enemy is" -- came almost five years to the day in which he uttered his famous line: "I never came here to kiss Bill Belichick's rings." The takeaway: Five years later, not much has changed.

No one knows how the rest of the Ryan era will play out, but it's quite possible he could be remembered one day as a good coach who failed to rise above also-ran status because he was in the same division as the winningest coach-quarterback combination in history. Ryan hasn't been able to conquer Belichick and Tom Brady. No one has, as the Patriots have won the AFC East every year since Ryan took over the Jets in 2009 -- and a whole bunch of years before that. The same thing happened to the New York Knicks in the 1990s; they had some terrific teams, but couldn't get past Michael Jordan.

The Jets have been respectable under Ryan (42-38), the eighth-best record in the AFC over that span, but the Patriots are a league-best 61-19. The Jets finished four games behind the Patriots last season, and there's no reason to think they will overtake their longtime nemesis this season. With Brady expected to play a few more years, Ryan could be playing catch-up for the rest of the Brady-Belichick era -- if he lasts that long. Lousy timing for Ryan? Yeah, you could say that, but he also knew what he was signing up for in '09.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Julie JacobsonRex Ryan took some heat this past week after skipping the Jets' final OTA session in favor of taking his team on a bowling excursion.
2. Misplaced criticism: Ryan's decision to cancel the final OTA practice in favor of a trip to a bowling alley fueled some mild backlash on social media. Actually, it's not unusual for a coach to skip the last day. Belichick, of all people, canceled his final OTA practices in 2012 and 2013. He also took the Patriots to the movies late last season. The criticism of Ryan is off base. It's June, for crying out loud! It's not like he took the team to Dave & Buster's on the eve of a big game. Oh, wait ...

3. A delivery of Flowers?: Despite all the happy talk from the Jets about their cornerback situation, I think they should explore the possibility of signing Brandon Flowers, who was released Friday by the Kansas City Chiefs. The question is, will they? As of Saturday morning, they hadn't reached out to Flowers, according to a league source. Then again, John Idzik isn't a hurry-up kind of general manager, so you never know. In the end, I'd be surprised if the Jets show serious interest despite a need (in my opinion) at the position.

Despite a Pro Bowl appearance, Flowers is coming off a disappointing season in which he was demoted to nickelback. He was rated 87th out of 110 cornerbacks last season, according to ProFootballFocus. That he struggled under former Jets defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, whose system is similar to that of Ryan's, is worth noting. We also know Idzik is reluctant to spend significant money for another team's trash. But we're also talking about a 28-year-old player with a substantial body of work, someone who could benefit by a change of scenery. If they paid $3 million for the injury-prone Dimitri Patterson, why not make a run at Flowers, who would be an upgrade? They have about $21 million in cap room.

4. Goodson's future: Flowers may have sealed his fate by not attending OTA practices, which are voluntary (wink, wink). The Jets' Mike Goodson did the same, prompting some fans to wonder why the Jets haven't cut ties with the troubled running back. Goodson's situation is complicated by his legal problems and perhaps personal issues. Remember, he was slapped with a four-game suspension last year for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. I find it hard to believe he'd deliberately stay from the team, jeopardizing his roster spot, unless there's an extenuating circumstance. His agent hasn't returned calls or emails seeking comment, and the Jets have been tight-lipped, except Ryan saying he hasn't heard from Goodson. Ryan said he expects Goodson to attend next week's mandatory minicamp.

5. New kid on the block: Right tackle Breno Giacomini has spent his entire career on zone-blocking teams -- the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, his most recent team. The Jets run a mix of zone and gap blocking schemes, which will require a transition for Giacomini. Before signing him as a free agent, the Jets studied tape of how he fared against common opponents, and they came away convinced he could adapt to the specific style they use against certain teams.

6. Big Mike: To improve his oft-questioned durability, quarterback Michael Vick added four pounds of "solid muscle," he told The Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, his hometown. He told the newspaper he felt great throughout OTAs, proudly noting he scored a rushing touchdown last week.

"Still can move," Vick said. "Doesn't seem like any of my skills have diminished. … I still feel like I can play at a high level. That may be tested at some point this season, and I look forward to it."

Vick described himself as a "trendsetter," saying the mobile quarterbacks of today are continuing the style he brought to the league more than a decade ago. He added: "I was kind of the originator. That's something I can take to the grave."

7. Sheldon wants 'Mo money for Wilkerson: Muhammad Wilkerson is taking a low-key approach to his looming contract negotiations, refusing to make public demands. Teammate Sheldon Richardson is doing the talking for him, telling the New York Post, "Hopefully, they do the right thing and pay the man." Oh, they will. The question is when. After exercising a fifth-year option, the Jets have Wilkerson under contract through 2015, so there's no sense of urgency.

Richardson has a personal stake in the matter because in two years, he'll be in the same boat as Wilkerson. If the Jets renegotiate with Wilkerson before his fourth season, it'll set a precedent for Richardson and other former first-round picks.

8. Picture of the week: Here's soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo receiving a throwing lesson from wide receiver David Nelson. No Tebow jokes allowed.

9. The anti-Rex: Can there be two coaches more dissimilar than Ryan and Jurgen Klinsmann? Klinsmann says it's not possible for his team -- the United States -- to win the World Cup. Ryan goes into every game telling his team they will win -- and I honestly think he believes it. Call me traditional, but I like Ryan's approach. Klinsmann might be right, but no one wants to hear that jive. It's a good thing we didn't have a guy like him coaching the 1980 U.S. hockey team.

10. Farewell to a champion: The NFL lost a legend Friday night with the passing of former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Chuck Noll, who won four Super Bowls. Two Noll disciples became important figures in Jets history -- the late Bud Carson and retired personnel director Dick Haley. Carson, the Jets' defensive coordinator from 1985-88, ran the defense for Noll during the iconic Steel Curtain era. Haley, who worked for the Jets from 1991-2002, was one of the architects of the great Steeler drafts in the 1970s.

Tajh Boyd aims to prove doubters wrong

May, 20, 2014
May 20
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If Tajh Boyd is on the field this season, it's a bad sign for the New York Jets.

Nothing against Boyd, a record-setting college quarterback who seems like a terrific young man, but he's starting out as No. 4 on the depth chart. He will compete with Matt Simms for No. 3, meaning the ideal scenario for Boyd is a season of clipboard-holding duty. And yet there's something intriguing about the former Clemson star. It's probably because he's a quarterback, and we tend to obsess over quarterbacks. But there's more to it than that. Here's a player who, going into his senior year, was regarded as a potential high draft pick. He tumbled all the way to the sixth round, the kind of fall that always prompts two contrasting questions:

[+] EnlargeTajh Boyd
Joshua S. Kelly/USA TODAY SportsCurrently the No. 4 quarterback on the roster, Tajh Boyd has a long road ahead of him if he wants to be the starter for the Jets.
What's wrong with him?

Did the team get a steal?

Boyd said he was sitting in the Jets' cafeteria the other day when a couple of his new teammates asked if he regretted returning to school for his senior year. Tough crowd, huh?

"I don't regret the decision at all," Boyd told reporters at last weekend's rookie camp. "I wanted to finish."

He wanted to win the national championship and the Heisman Trophy, neither of which happened. His motivation was admirable, but the extra year allowed pro teams to dissect the perceived flaws in his game. Among the criticisms:

1. Disappointing senior year: Boyd is puzzled by this school of thought. "My stats were actually better this year than my junior year," he said. He's right. He improved his accuracy (67.2 percent to 68.5) and cut down on his interceptions (13 to 11).

2. Mechanics need work. Boyd has a funky delivery, sometime throwing sidearm or three-quarters. He sometimes did it out of necessity, but quarterbacks coach David Lee -- a stickler on fundamentals -- is working with Boyd to get him to throw over the top.

3. Height: Officially, he's a shade under 6-foot-1. No amount of coaching can change that.

4. Benefited from an outstanding supporting cast: No doubt, Boyd was surrounded by a lot of talent at Clemson, but he doesn't believe that should count against him. "In my eyes, everybody has to have somebody to throw to," he said. "My guy just happened to be Sammy Watkins" -- the top receiver in the draft.

Boyd has a lot of work ahead of him, trying to learn the nuances of a pro-style offense. Much like Geno Smith last year, he has to get comfortable under center, a big transition after playing almost exclusively in shotgun. Boyd said he's surprised that Smith, Simms and Michael Vick have been so helpful. His figured the NFL is such a cut-throat business that he wouldn't get much positive input from players at his own position.

"It has a certain perception, aura of what you think is going to happen," Boyd said. "When I got here, it was totally different, like those guys were pretty excited that I was in the room."

The Jets will be excited if Boyd develops into an NFL-caliber quarterback, but the odds are against him. Tom Brady came out of the sixth round in 2000, but he's a once-in-a-generation player. Over the last 20 years, the Jets have drafted five quarterbacks in the fourth round or later, none of whom did much in the league -- Greg McElroy (seventh round, 2011), Erik Ainge (fifth, 2008), Brooks Bollinger (sixth, 2003), Chuck Clements (sixth, 1997) and Glenn Foley (seventh, 1994).

Their last late-round quarterback pick to make an impact was Jeff Blake (sixth, 1992) -- and that happened with the Cincinnati Bengals.
Thoughts and observations on the New York Jets' most prolific draft in 16 years:

1. Cheaper by the dozen: The history books will show that the Jets and San Francisco 49ers tied for the most selections -- 12. In terms of volume, this was the Jets' biggest haul since 1998, when Bill Parcells was running the show and drafted 12 players. They'd better hope this one turns out better than '98, which produced only one quality player -- tackle Jason Fabini.

2. Balanced attack: The Jets selected six players on offense, six on defense. So everybody in the building is happy.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Bill Kostroun"I think we have a lot of excellent football players here, and I know our organization's excited about these players," said Rex Ryan about the Jets' draft.
3. Needy Jets: They always talk about taking the proverbial "best player available," but this smacks of a "need" draft. Basically, the Jets devoted half the draft to their two biggest needs, picking three defensive backs (two corners and one safety) and three wide receivers. The last time they took three receivers was 1990, when they drafted Reggie Rembert (traded before the opener), Terance Mathis and Dale Dawkins.

4. Enough speed? The prevailing thought going into the draft was they needed to pick a burner at wide receiver, a home run threat to play opposite Eric Decker. It's still an issue, as they passed on the high-profile prospects. Who are the starting receivers? Decker and ... Jeremy Kerley? He's better in the slot. Stephen Hill? Come on. The Jets are hoping one (or more) of their three receiver picks can develop into that kind of player. Jalen Saunders (fourth round) is small and shifty. Shaq Evans (fourth) had five touchdown catches of 54-plus yards in his career. Quincy Enunwa (sixth) set a Nebraska single-season record with 12 touchdowns, including a 99-yarder in the Gator Bowl. So we'll see.

5. John the deliberate: There were 27 trades during the draft, but the Jets were one of only seven teams that didn't get involved. General manager John Idzik took a passive approach, letting the draft come to him, as they like to say. That's unfortunate, because the Jets -- armed with eight tradable picks at the outset -- wasted an opportunity to jump up and grab players they really liked. You're not going to have 12 rookies on your opening-day roster, so why not use some of the picks to improve your draft position? Instead of attacking, they played a read-and-react style. I wonder if everyone in the draft room was comfortable with that strategy.

6. Mission impossible: We live in a world of instant analysis, so draft experts and folks like me are required to assign grades as soon as the draft is complete. In most cases, it's a pointless exercise. For the record, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. gave the Jets a B, same grade as last year. The Jets received generally favorable reviews from the so-called gurus, yet it's interesting to note that only two picks (Calvin Pryor and Jace Amaro) appeared in the pre-draft top-100 lists of Kiper, Todd McShay, Mike Mayock and Scouts Inc. As a matter of fact, eight of their picks were ranked 200 or lower on the Scouts Inc. list. Hmm.

7. Rex the restrained: Rex Ryan, who famously gloated last season that the 2013 draft was an "A-plus" for the Jets, refrained from making any over-the-top declarations -- well, kind of. "To say it's an A-plus now, I’m not going to do that," he said. "But I think give us the season, let that thing run out, then I’ll be more than happy to. But I wouldn't be surprised if it's an A-plus again because I think we have a lot of excellent football players here, and I know our organization’s excited about these players." Last year's draft produced five starters; that won't happen this year.

8. Coach Mac attack: The happiest guy in the building might have been new special teams coach Thomas McGaughey. Except for quarterback Tajh Boyd, the draft is filled with prime candidates for special teams. That should help improve the overall athleticism on a unit that showed signs of decay last season. The most dynamic addition is Saunders, who scored on two punt returns last season and averaged 15.4 yards.

9. I.K. is OK: I never thought defensive Michael Sam was a serious possibility for the Jets because, at 6-foot-2, 261 pounds, he's not an ideal scheme fit in Ryan's base 3-4. But in the sixth round, the Jets drafted defensive end I.K. Enemkpali, who is 6-1, 261 pounds. Not only is Enemkpali slower than Sam, based on their reported 40-yard dash times, but his level of competition in college doesn't match that of Sam -- Louisiana Tech and Missouri, respectively.

"I don’t know that we’ll get into guys that we would have considered and comparing them against ours," said Idzik, when asked why he took Enemkpali over Sam. "Obviously, we felt very good about I.K. and he has a chance to fit a role here, come in and compete." The Jets did Sam a favor by not picking him. The media attention in New York would've been crazy, a major distraction for him and the team. Sam landed in the ideal place. Kudos to the St. Louis Rams.

10. Character issues: At least three of the 12 picks were arrested in college. Enemkpali was arrested in the spring of 2011, and charged with disturbing the peace and battery of a police officer. He received a school suspension. In March 2012, Amaro was arrested on felony credit card fraud; the charges were eventually dropped. In December 2012, Saunders was arrested for marijuana possession. The charge was dropped when a teammate took responsibility.

11. Two firsts: Enemkpali became the first player from Louisiana Tech drafted by the Jets. Ditto for cornerback Brandon Dixon, from NW Missouri State.

12. Different strokes, different folks: Under Idzik, the Jets have drafted 19 players in two years. His predecessor, Mike Tannenbaum, selected 21 players in his last four drafts.

13. Matty Iced: If I'm Matt Simms, I'm feeling a bit concerned about my job security. Ryan made it quite clear he was the driving force behind the Boyd selection.

14. The Black Holes: I found it interesting the Jets used their first two picks on positions in which they haven't had much drafting success -- safety and tight end. The last drafted tight end to make the Pro Bowl was Mickey Shuler (1978, third round) and the last safety was Erik McMillan (1988, third round).

15. Quote of the draft: From Ryan's post-draft news conference: "Did we get everybody we wanted? As far as you guys know, we did."

Jets draft preview: Quarterback

April, 28, 2014
Apr 28
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This is the first installment in a position-by-position analysis of the New York Jets as they prepare for the draft:

Position: Quarterback

Vick
Vick
Smith
Current personnel: Geno Smith (signed through 2016), Michael Vick (2014), Matt Simms (2014).

Projected starter: Smith.

Newcomers: Vick.

Departures: Mark Sanchez (released/Philadelphia Eagles), David Garrard (free agent).

Top salary-cap charge: Vick, $4 million.

Scouting report: Welcome to the hottest story on the team. The Smith-Vick battle in training camp will make most of the headlines, and with good reason. Right now, Vick is a better quarterback than Smith, especially since he's already familiar with Marty Mornhinweg's system, but the playing field is tilted in Smith's favor because he's a lot younger and could be the future of the franchise. Key words: Could be. They won't be as patient with him as they were last season, when, by all rights, he should've been benched. Smith fought through the adversity to finish on an upbeat note, but there needs to be a carryover. Ball security will be key, as both quarterbacks have struggled with turnovers. Since 2011, Vick has committed one turnover for every 28 dropbacks (not good). For Smith, it was one every 21 dropbacks as a rookie (not good at all).

The last time: The Jets stopped Smith's free fall last spring, drafting him in the second round and changing the landscape of the position.

Potential targets: With Smith, Vick and Simms, the Jets have quarterbacks at three different levels of experience, so they don't feel an overwhelming need at the position. But you can never rule out a middle- or late-round pick, especially with a total of 12 choices, including three in the fourth round. Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois) and Logan Thomas (Virginia Tech) visited the Jets' facility. They've also been paying a lot of attention to Tajh Boyd (Clemson) throughout the scouting process, engaging in multiple meetings and a private workout. Boyd is an inconsistent thrower, but he's a winner. If they pick a quarterback on the first or second day, it would send a message to Smith.

Need rating (scale of 1 to 10): 5

Examining team needs: Quarterback

February, 12, 2014
Feb 12
10:00
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The New York Jets rode Geno Smith the entire way in 2013 and, let's face it, it was as bumpy as a Smart Car driving the surface of the moon.

In 2014, they need to install a shock absorber -- a proven quarterback who can replace Smith if he slumps. Team expectations will be higher than last season, and the Jets can't afford to be as patient with Smith as they were during his rookie year.

Smith
So, yes, the Jets will be in the quarterback market -- again. Finding the right guy, as they learned the hard way last year with David Garrard, is easier said than done. They have to decide if they want an experienced insurance policy (read: an old guy) or a quarterback that can give Smith a legitimate run for the starting job. Problem is, most castoffs (i.e. former starters) won't go to a team unless they're promised a shot at the No. 1 spot. Maybe that's one of the reasons why general manager John Idzik has yet to anoint Smith; he doesn't want to alienate potential targets in free agency.

The Jets have three quarterbacks under contract -- Smith, Mark Sanchez and Matt Simms. Sanchez ($13.1 million cap charge) is likely to be released, but he actually fits the profile for what they need. He has won in the league and he knows Marty Mornhinweg's system. There are other factors to consider, though: His massive contract, his surgically-repaired shoulder and all the baggage. The key question is, would Sanchez, who believes he beat out Smith last summer, return on a restructured contract if promised an open competition? When he spoke to the media late in the season, he was fired up about the prospect of returning. We'll see if he still feels that way.

The good news for the Jets is they don't have to make an immediate decision. Sanchez's $2 million roster bonus is due March 25, giving them time to shop around.

Projected offseason plan: If Sanchez goes, they need to acquire an experienced quarterback. Don't be surprised if Idzik also adds a developmental quarterback via the draft.

Free agency: The speculation will focus on Michael Vick (Philadelphia Eagles), who was Wally Pipped by Nick Foles. Vick's play has deteriorated over the last three years (35 touchdowns, 27 interceptions), and there are durability issues, but he will intrigue the Jets because of his familiarity with Mornhinweg's system. Is the feeling mutual? Vick said recently he wants to be a starter. The Jets also may check into the availability of Matt Schaub, who probably will be cut or traded by the Houston Texans. Schaub was a train wreck last season, but, remember, he was a Pro Bowl player in 2012. Quarterbacks coach David Lee is strong on fundamentals and he could work wonders with Schaub. Problem is, his price tag could be too rich for the Jets. They could explore a possible trade for Kirk Cousins (Washington Redskins), giving them a young veteran with upside. If they go that route, we'd know they still have serious doubts about Smith.

Draft: Idzik won't go into his second draft thinking quarterback in the first round (18th overall). And he won't have to, because there's no chance one of the Big Three falls to 18 -- Johnny Manziel (Texas A&M), Blake Bortles (Central Florida) or Teddy Bridgewater (Louisville). But we all know Idzik believes in competition, and it makes sense to take a middle- to late-round quarterback, especially if they receive a couple of compensatory selections. Keep an eye on Jimmy Garoppolo (Eastern Illinois), who turned heads at the Senior Bowl.

Sunday notes: A spy in the house?

January, 19, 2014
Jan 19
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Championship notes (hopefully) for a championship Sunday:

1. Knock, knock. Who's there? Bill. Bill Belichick: The New England Patriots' coach is one win away from his sixth Super Bowl and a full week of access to the New York Jets' facility in Florham Park, N.J. The prospect of the SpyGate kingpin roaming the halls has to be unnerving for Jets fans -- and maybe the organization, too.

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The AFC team in Super Bowl XLVIII will practice at the Jets' facility, the NFC team at the Giants' place. That's the set-up. The trepidation is understandable, considering Belichick once got into a heap of trouble for illegally videotaping the Jets' signals during a game, but I wouldn't get too concerned. The facility will remain fairly secure. According to the league:
  • Coaches don't share coaches' offices. So, no, Belichick wouldn't have the chance to put his feet up on Rex Ryan's desk.
  • Teams usually hold meetings at their hotel, where meeting space is set up by the league. Both teams are staying in Jersey City.
  • Teams usually eat at the team hotel, so they won't get to sample the impressive fare at the Jets' cafeteria.
  • Equipment is loaded into the locker room and kept there for the duration. Depending on the type of practice, the players will get dressed in the locker room. You can bet the Jets' staff will inspect it beforehand, removing any type of intelligence (i.e. game plans or iPads) left behind from the season.
  • Most host teams will have their staff off during the times the Super Bowl participant is at the facility, so there's no chance for the staff to see the AFC team's staff or players. Too bad; a Ryan-Tom Brady encounter at the water cooler would've been priceless.
  • The visiting team will be protected from potential espionage as well. Windows of any office with a view of the practice field will be taped over.

Chances are, Belichick, whose disdain for his former team is well documented, would feel more uncomfortable than his hosts. In the field house, he'd practice beneath giant murals of members of the Jets' Ring of Honor, including the one that got away from the Patriots -- Curtis Martin. Around the building, he'd see "Play Like a Jet" references on the walls, probably making him queasy. In short, it's probably the last place in the world he'd want to prepare for a Super Bowl.

2. Thoughts on the Rex-tension: Before Ryan finalized his contract extension, there were some people who thought he'd take a chance and coach out his current deal, becoming a free agent in 2015. That's tough to do, of course. When someone puts $4 million on the table, it's hard to walk away. He reportedly is due to make $3.3 million in 2014 (under his previous contract) and, from what I understand, he'll get a small raise for 2015 -- figuring close to $4 million guaranteed. Some people say he didn't get as much security as he coveted -- 2016 is a quasi-option year -- but I think he did OK for a coach who has missed the playoffs for three straight years.

3. Bottom line on Rex: Because it's technically a "multi-year" extension, the contract will create the perception that Ryan is safe beyond 2014. Yeah, it might quiet some of the speculation, but here's the reality: He's back to where he was before the 2013 season. As someone who knows Ryan told me, "If he bombs, he's gone."

4. Merit raises: RB Bilal Powell and WR Jeremy Kerley, heading into the final year of their rookie contracts, each received a $744,000 bump for 2014, thanks to salary escalators, according to overthecap.com. It brings their salary up to $1.389 million in '14. To earn an escalator, a player (drafted in Rounds 3 through 7) must play in at least 35 percent of the snaps in two of his first three seasons or 35 percent of the total snaps over the three-year period.

5. The Simms spotlight: Backup QB Matt Simms has a link to two of the "Final Four" quarterbacks -- and, no, I'm not referring to the fact that his famous dad will be broadcasting the Patriots-Broncos AFC championship. In 2010, Simms attended the Manning passing academy in Louisiana, hosted by Peyton Manning, Eli and their father, Archie. It's a four-day event for high school and college quarterbacks. One of Simms' fellow campers was Colin Kaepernick. In a skills competition, Simms finished second, ahead of Kaepernick and some kid named Andrew Luck. Yeah, Simms always could sling it, and now he's starting to mature as a player. The Jets recognize it, signing him before the season ended to a one-year, $495,000 contract (the second-year minimum).

By the way, Taylor Potts of Texas Tech (who?) beat out Simms in the skills competition.

6. Not 'The Man': After Friday's incident, I guess Geno Smith shouldn't expect to land one of those cool headphones commercials, a la Kaepernick.

7. So long, Sammy: Waiting in line at a restaurant the other night, a Jets fan asked me, "Can we get Sammy Watkins?" The draft still is more than three months away, but fans already have developed an affinity for Clemson's stud wide receiver, who would address a huge need for the Jets. Could Watkins fall to 18th? No way. An NFC scout, whose team picks in the top 15, said Watkins wouldn't get past them.

"He ain't gonna be there," said the scout, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "Tell John Idzik, unless he trades up, he won't get him. He's a great kid, he works hard and he has some of the quickest hands you'll ever see. This kid has an unbelievable talent. He can fly and he has courage."

8. If not Watkins, then ...: There will be other wide receiver options for the Jets at 18. Marqise Lee (USC) could be there. A longtime scout told me, "I like him. Big-play ability. I could see the Jets taking two receivers in this draft and signing one in free agency." Kelvin Benjamin (Florida State) is a rising talent. Said the NFC scout: "He's got first-round talent. Before this year, every time I saw him, he was dropping easy ones, but he's matured and improved. He's running routes better and it seems like he's finally figured it out."

9. Dreaming of Johnny Football: Unless Johnny Manziel pulls an embarrassing stunt before the draft (thrown off a plane?), he won't fall to the Jets at 18. Some mock drafts project him going No. 1 overall to the Houston Texans. Our NFC scout said of Manziel, "He has unbelievable instincts. He's got eyes in the back of his head. He can run and throw and win games. But he's kind of small. He looks like a peanut. Durability could be a big issue, but that [kid] can play." It would be a major upset if he lasts beyond the top 8.

10. Losing games and viewers: TV ratings are soaring for the NFL, but the Jets are one of 10 teams whose local ratings have declined for two straight years, according to the Sports Business Daily. Their two-year drop is 19 percent, the second highest in the league. Only the Oakland Raiders (22 percent) suffered a bigger fall off. By the way, the New York Giants weren't far behind at minus-15 percent.

10 plays that shaped the season (6 to 10)

January, 14, 2014
Jan 14
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Of the 2,068 plays in the New York Jets' season (not including special teams), we've selected 10 that shaped 2013. Numbers six through 10:

10. The push heard 'round the world: The Jets' 30-27 overtime win against the New England Patriots in Week 7 ended with a controversy, sparking a back-and-forth between Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick. The Patriots' Chris Jones was called for an unprecedented pushing penalty while attempting to block a 56-yard field goal, setting up Nick Folk's eventual game winner from 42 yards. Jones pushed a teammate into the line of scrimmage -- a no-no. Belichick questioned the call and, after reviewing the film, accused the Jets of using the same illegal technique on an earlier field goal. Ryan fired back, insisting his team did nothing wrong. In fact, it did. The league eventually said a penalty should have been called on the Jets, but it was too late. They had their stunning upset.

Smith
9. The Behind-the-Butt Fumble: Geno Smith committed 25 turnovers, none more ... uh, creative than his embarrassing fumble at the Tennessee Titans in Week 4. With a pass-rusher crashing into his right side, Smith tried to switch the ball to his left hand, going around his back. That type of ballhandling might work on a basketball court, but not the football field. Predictably, he lost the ball and it was recovered by the Titans in the end zone for a touchdown. It was one of four turnovers by Smith in a humbling 38-13 loss. In terms of slapstick, it wasn't as extraordinary as Mark Sanchez's Butt Fumble in 2012, but it was unusual on its own merit.

8. The Wildcat strikes: One year after the Tim Tebow debacle, the Jets finally figured out how to run the Wildcat -- and throw a pass out of the formation. Bilal Powell's 30-yard completion to Jeff Cumberland was one of the key plays in the season-ending win against the Miami Dolphins. Even though it was a meaningless game for the Jets, they were loose, but confident, wrecking the Dolphins' playoff hopes with an attitude best exemplied by Powell's pass. The day was capped by the postgame announcement that Ryan would return as coach.

Holmes
7. Holmes, sweet Holmes: Smith hooked up with Santonio Holmes for the longest scoring play of the season, a 69-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner in the 27-20 win against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3. In a case of poetic symmetry, Holmes caught the ball in the same spot on the field in which he suffered his devastating foot injury one year earlier. It capped a brilliant, 154-yard game, but it was his last feel-good moment. He tore a hamstring the following week, missed five games and never scored again, finishing with only 23 catches in what probably was his final year with the Jets.

6. Geno's 19th interception and a seat on the bench: The low point of Smith's up and down season came in Week 13, when he was intercepted by Dolphins linebacker Dannell Ellerbe late in the second quarter. Ryan had seen enough of his rookie and pulled him at halftime, losing patience after five bad games in a row. The media and fans were screaming for Matt Simms, but Ryan stuck with Smith the following week and he was rewarded. Smith rallied in the final four games, providing optimism for 2014. His QBR over that stretch (78.9) was second to Peyton Manning.

Green Day: Examining Jets QB situation

December, 31, 2013
12/31/13
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Are the New York Jets all in with Geno Smith?

Smith
No doubt, that'll be one of the first questions Tuesday when Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik meet the media for their season-ending news conference. The quarterback position will be the hottest topic of the offseason because it's a multi-layered issue. And because we love quarterback stories.

You already have a player on campus with upside (Smith). You have the possibility of a few big names in the draft (Teddy Bridgewater and Johnny Manziel). You have an intriguing young veteran that could be on the trading block (Kirk Cousins). And you have a handful of interesting free agents (Josh McCown and Michael Vick).

Oh, yes, and let's not forget about the resident quarterback in limbo, Mark Sanchez.

Idzik drafted Smith and wants him to succeed. Everybody wants to see him succeed because he's likable and works hard, and because the Jets haven't had a franchise quarterback since Joe Namath. But the Jets have to be careful, because it would be a big mistake to place too much emphasis on the last few games. Even the most experienced GMs sometimes can't tell the difference between a late-season rally and a late-season mirage.

Yes, Smith improved over the final four games, but there were no 300-yard games that blew you away. His cumulative passer rating over that stretch was a modest 83.6. He beat two dead teams, the Oakland Raiders and Cleveland Browns, before rising up with a terrific game against the Miami Dolphins. He looked so good in those game because his bar had dropped so low. You can't forget about the 21 interceptions.

Let me be clear: Smith deserves a shot at the starting job. The Jets should continue to develop him because there's potential. He started every game and won eight, a fairly impressive feat for a rookie in a new system, surrounded by mediocre skill-position talent.

In short, he didn't do anything to lose the job -- a job, technically, he was never given in the first place. The Jets, playing the semantic game, never anointed him as the starting quarterback.

But now is not the time to stand pat. They need to augment the position. I'd be surprised if Idzik selected a quarterback in the first or second round, one year after investing a second-round pick in Smith, but he should keep an open mind. If he falls in love with a guy, grab him.

How about a veteran acquisition? Yes, the Jets absolutely must consider a competent veteran. They need someone who can start in the event of injury or slump, someone to push Smith. They got away with not having that guy in a rebuilding year, but the expectations will be greater in 2014. The Jets should spend a little extra money for a legit No. 1/No. 2 quarterback, someone willing to accept a backup role.

There's a lot to like about Smith. But you can't build a prosperous marriage on like.

ICYMI: As they cleaned out their lockers, the Jets offered strong support for Smith. ... The Jets are reportedly poised to offer Ryan a one-year contract extension. ... Sheldon Richardson should be the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. So says Sheldon Richardson. ... Kicker Nick Folk is looking for a pay day. ... Ed Reed wants to play another year.

Green Day: (Ed) Reed it and weep

December, 3, 2013
12/03/13
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- I'm on record as saying Ed Reed was a good signing for the New York Jets. I was wrong. More importantly, so were the Jets.

The future Hall of Famer has made zero impact in three games. Truth be told, Reed could be hurting the defense. He was directly involved in the longest pass play in each of the last two games, misplaying the ball on Joe Flacco's 66-yard touchdown bomb in Baltimore and missing a tackle on Brian Hartline's 31-yard catch and run Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.

Coach Rex Ryan sounded so convincing the day he introduced Reed, challenging opponents to throw it deep on the Jets' beleaguered secondary. With Reed at safety, they've allowed six touchdown passes, all longer than 26 yards. It's not like they've faced a Murderer's Row of quarterbacks; they got torched by the Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill and the Buffalo Bills' EJ Manuel.

Ryan, loyal to a fault, believes Reed can do no wrong, quickly dismissing the notion of cutting the safety's playing time.

"He's going to be starting unless he's injured," said Ryan, who coached Reed during their years together in Baltimore. "I think Ed gives us the best shot."

Reed, 35, looked old and slow on the Hartline play. Then again, he is old and slow.

"If you look at it from a statistical standpoint, I can understand the question," Ryan said. "We all saw him miss the tackle on Hartline's touchdown. But Ed did his job, I don't think there's any doubt."

Does that mean Tannehill would've thrown for 400 yards instead of 331 if it weren't for Reed patrolling the deep middle?

I didn't think Reed would be an every-down player when they signed him, but he has played 87 percent of the defensive snaps in three games, reducing safety Antonio Allen to an afterthought. Ryan said he wanted to play Allen more than nine snaps against the Dolphins, but he claimed they had to alter their game plan. What Ryan should do is create a platoon system with Reed and Allen, but that will never happen.

Reed is an all-time great, but he's like Willie Mays on the 1973 New York Mets. You appreciate and respect what they've done, but it's sad when we see what they can no longer do.

ICYMI: Despite a horrendous slump, Geno Smith remains the Jets' starting quarterback. His passer rating for the last three games is 40.7 -- that's combined, not an average. Peyton Manning over the same span -- 282.7 ... Matt Simms supports the quarterback decision: "Geno is the man." Simms is just happy to have a job. ... KR Josh Cribbs suffered an apparent season-ending injury to his shoulder/pectoral area. This is a tough blow for the Jets. Cribbs sparked the kickoff-return unit, returned punts and played in the Wildcat package. Antonio Cromartie did a nice job on kickoffs Sunday, averaging 31.5 yards, but he's their top cornerback and the risk is too great to play him on special teams. They might have to sign a kickoff returner.

Matt Simms: 'Geno's the man'

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- As he waited Sunday night to find out whether he had replaced Geno Smith as the New York Jets starting quarterback, backup Matt Simms was anxious.

Earlier that day, Simms played the entire second half in relief of Smith in the Jets' 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins. There was a chance he could make his first career start this upcoming Sunday against the Oakland Raiders.

That first start will have to come at another time, though. The Jets decided to keep the beleaguered Smith as their starter, sending Simms back to the sideline at least for the time being.

"Obviously when you get out there on the field and you get a little taste of the real action, you just want more of it," Simms said. "Nonetheless Geno's the man and I'm going to support him and prepare like I have been, and if my number is called again, I'll go out there and play as hard as I can again."

Simms had played twice prior to Sunday, both times coming in blowout losses when the Jets pulled Smith late in the game. Sunday, with the Jets down 6-0 at the half and failing to get anything going offensively, the switch was made and Simms commanded the offense for the entire second half.

The offense put up its only points under Simms, but it wasn't enough as Miami rolled to a win. Simms finished 9-of-18 for 79 yards and threw an interception, which came on a 4th-and-18 play with less than four minutes remaining. The offense did seem to function better Sunday with Simms at the helm.

Simms believed he did some things well in his playing time, including his communication with the offense and his command of the unit, as well as making sound decisions. His father, former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms, told him he was pleased he was able to obtain that experience.

"He was pleased I didn't make it worse," Simms said. "You guys laugh, but the first thing a quarterback needs to do is make sure that you don't lose the game. At the same time, we needed to be more aggressive and make more plays offensively. That's just something I'll have to get better at."

With Smith back as the starter for at least another week, Simms will once again be in his backup role, while David Garrard will be the team's No. 3 quarterback. Simms said he's not worried that the team might turn to the veteran ahead of him moving forward, pointing out how he's been the backup quarterback the entire time Garrard as been here, as well as Brady Quinn before him.

He even joked that Sunday's performance ensured he's still worthy of being the backup.

"I did enough to solidify that I'm still the two. At least I didn't play myself out of my job. That's the key," Simms said with a laugh. "I get to stay around and play football for one more week and considering the strides that I've made this year that's good enough for right now."

Analysis: QB decision a mixed message

December, 2, 2013
12/02/13
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- A few takeaways on the New York Jets' decision to stick with Geno Smith as the starting quarterback:

1. What it means: This decision shows the organization hasn't wavered in its season-long objective, which is to find out if Smith can be the long-term answer at quarterback. Presumably, the thinking is: If he can recover from this, he can recover from anything.

2. Lesser of three evils: Let's face it, this quarterback decision was like a riddle: A multiple-choice question with no clear-cut answers. The Jets can't possibly have confidence in Smith, who is mired in a funk for the ages. This shows what they think of Matt Simms and David Garrard. From my understanding, it was a Smith-Simms decision. Garrard never was strongly considered.

3. Mixed message: Ryan benches rookie cornerback Dee Milliner whenever he makes a big mistake, yet he sticks with someone (Smith) who clearly hasn't performed well enough at his position to maintain a starting position. What kind of message does that convey to the locker room?

4. Who made the call?: Ryan, of course, will paint it as a group decision, but you have to wonder if general manager John Idzik was the driving force. Idzik's rear end isn't on the hot seat, so he can afford to take a long-term view of the situation. Ryan needs to win now.

5. What they should've done: Smith needed time to step back and watch for a week or two. Even though he described Sunday's halftime benching as a wake-up call, it's hard to imagine him learning and improving by sitting for two lousy quarters. They should've gone with Simms for a week or two. It wouldn't have been ideal, but it would've helped Smith in the long run.

Rex Ryan has four weeks to save his job

December, 1, 2013
12/01/13
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Let's start by dismissing any talk of the playoffs. It's not worth mentioning, not after the green slop the New York Jets served up Sunday to their paying customers. There are bigger issues to tackle than wasting brain cells on postseason impossibilities.

For instance: Will the Jets win another game? It's a fair question, because this team -- based on three consecutive blowout losses -- is on a death march to 5-11. The Jets have collapsed in a span of 14 days, in spectacular fashion, putting Rex Ryan on the hot seat.

The Rex Watch is on.

This isn't entirely Ryan's fault, because he's dealing with the Jets' worst quarterback situation since 2005 -- where have you gone, Brooks Bollinger? -- but there will be a scapegoat if they finish 5-11 or 6-10, and we know the general manager won't get whacked this time.

"This," Ryan said after a 23-3 loss to the Miami Dolphins at MetLife Stadium, "was an awful performance by us."

He apologized to the fans for having to watch the Jets' Keystone offense, which has gone two games without a touchdown. To see Ryan at the postgame podium, with a blank expression on his face, was a stark contrast to the scene 28 days earlier. That day, at the same podium, he was ebullient after a stunning win over the New Orleans Saints.

The Jets were 5-4, mocking experts that had the audacity to predict doom for 2013.

Now they're 5-7, with a three-way quarterback quandary -- the same record and same mess as last season, except with different names at quarterback. The Same Old Jets, indeed.

The Jets aren't a charming underdog story anymore. They're an underdog with fleas, having been outscored 79-20 in the past three games.

"We've been so inconsistent, and a lot of it is in all three phases," Ryan said, adding: "We haven't done anything offensively."

A few weeks ago, Ryan was being mentioned as a possible Coach of the Year candidate. He was doing a terrific job with a young, rebuilding team, carefully managing the ups and downs of Geno Smith.

But Smith's problems got too big, overwhelming him and the rest of the offense, leaving the coaching staff at a loss. Coordinator Marty Mornhinweg has caught the Tony Sparano virus.

[+] EnlargeRex Ryan
AP Photo/Bill KostrounRex Ryan's Jets have been outscored 79-20 over the past three games.
Ryan benched Smith at halftime, when it was still a game at 6-0, giving Matt Simms the chance of a lifetime. Simms failed to seize the opportunity, creating the question: Who starts next week? Smith? Simms? How 'bout dusting off David Garrard? Ryan wouldn't say.

One thing is certain: We can eliminate Tim Tebow from the conversation.

"We did absolutely nothing in the first half, offensively, so I was just trying to give us a spark somehow," Ryan said, explaining his halftime decision to change quarterbacks.

Thing is, you can't light a damp firecracker. There's no one in the quarterback room who can save this offense. Ryan deserves some blame there because he foolishly decided to play Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter of a preseason game, leading to his season-ending shoulder injury.

Sanchez, two months removed from surgery, returned to the sideline Sunday in a spectator role, trying to encourage the neophytes, Smith and Simms. It's hard to say where the Jets would be if Sanchez had been healthy, but at least they would have had a viable veteran on the depth chart. The current quarterback situation is a stain on John Idzik's first-year record as general manager.

Nothing makes a team look more hopeless than an offense that can't score. It looks like the season is getting away from the Jets.

"We have to do a better job of not letting it look like it's getting away," Garrard said.

Tight end Kellen Winslow shined a harsh light on the offensive woes, explaining that what we saw Sunday -- 2-for-12 on third down, 177 total yards -- goes on during the week, too.

"Whatever happens in practice usually happens in the game," he said. "That's just how it goes."

It's wrong to blame Ryan for the lousy offense because of the marginal talent at the skill positions. To save his job, Ryan has to convince his bosses the team isn't fracturing amid the adversity and that his defense is a rising force in the league.

On Sunday, Ryan's defense got played by the 28th-ranked offense, missing tackles galore and letting the Dolphins (6-6) rack up 453 total yards -- the most allowed this season by the Jets.

"I think that was, without question, my biggest disappointment," Ryan said of the shoddy tackling.

They can beat Tom Brady and Drew Brees, but they fall apart in the face of Ryan Tannehill? Please, someone explain this. The Jets are wildly inconsistent, and that, too, is a strike against Ryan's record, especially with a second-half schedule that was supposed to be easier than the first half.

The Jets finish with the Oakland Raiders, Carolina Panthers, Cleveland Browns and Dolphins. If Ryan can't find two wins, he could be Dead Man Walking out the door.

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