2015 AFC Preview: New York Jets
2015 AFC Preview: New York Jets
From now until the Patriots begin training camp, Phil Perry looks at the 15 other AFC teams: The biggest question they face heading into the season, their storyline on offense, their storyline on defense, and their "threat level" to the Patriots.
Today's opponent: The New York Jets
THE BIG STORY
Can Geno Smith prove himself as a capable and consistent starting quarterback?
For all the changes they have made to their coaching staff, for all the star power they added to their secondary, and for all the splash moves this offseason that have altered the look of their offensive skill positions, the most important story line for the Jets this year is how they will deal with their questions at quarterback.
Through two seasons, Geno Smith has not been the answer, but he's going to get every opportunity to win the starter's job once again out of training camp. Despite completing under 60 percent of his passes in both of his pro seasons, and despite turning the ball over 41 times in 30 games, his physical skill set makes him the signal-caller on the roster with the highest upside.
The team signed veteran free agent Ryan Fitzpatrick this offseason to provide depth, and it drafted Bryce Petty as a development pick, but in all likelihood it will be Smith who starts in offensive coordinator Chan Gailey's quick-hitting offense -- at least early on. If Smith slips up, he'll hear it from the fans and from new, often outspoken, wideout Brandon Marshall. If that's the case, first-year head coach Todd Bowles may not hesitate to pull the trigger and go with Fitzpatrick instead.
OFFENSIVE STORY LINE TO WATCH
Which Brandon Marshall will the team get?
When the Jets traded a fifth-round pick for Marshall this offseason, handing him a three-year deal worth $26 million soon thereafter, the thinking was that they had a legitimate No. 1 receiver. But which Marshall will the team see in 2015? Will it be the guy who dealt with nagging injuries last season and ended up with his lowest catch total (61) since his rookie season? Or will it be the dominant-when-healthy receiver who broke the 100-catch plateau and caught 11 and 12 touchdowns in 2012 and 2013, respectively?
The Jets receiving corps looks more dynamic than it did a season ago, with the addition of rookie burner Devin Smith and Eric Decker returning as a legitimate No. 2 wideout. But if Marshall can remain at full strength it would go a long way in providing Smith a security blanket in the passing game that he hasn't had to this point in his career.
DEFENSIVE STORYLINE TO WATCH
How quickly will the Jets secondary gel?
Last season the strength of the Jets defense under Rex Ryan was up front. Defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson were two of the best at their positions, wreaking havoc for opposing offensive lines -- including New England's in Week 16 -- on a weekly basis.
Though the line will remain strong -- especially with the addition of first-round selection Leonard Williams out of University of Southern California -- there are some questions marks there. Richardson has been suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy, and Wilkerson is unhappy with his contract and may hold out.
If the play up front slips, however, the secondary could well make up for it. When the team added Darrelle Revis this offseason, it not only added one of the game's top cornerbacks, it also made sure the Patriots secondary lost its best player from 2014. Joining Revis will be two more new additions in Antonio Cromartie -- returning to New York after a one-year stay in Arizona -- and Buster Skrine. If the changing face of the Jets secondary can get on the same page quickly under Bowles' defense, they could help make up one of the most talented defensive units in football.
THREAT LEVEL: ELEVATED
Jets training camp will feature moving parts galore this summer which could spark some early growing pains, but there's no question that the roster has improved from last season's group that went 4-12. How Geno Smith develops could determine the likelihood of the team's chances of making the postseason and advancing, but don't be surprised if the coaching staff will determine that Fitzpatrick is the best quarterback for a veteran group that will be playing in front of a hungry fan base with a win-now mentality.
Regardless, the team's defense -- led by Bowles and Revis -- should make it competitive in the AFC East.