Friday, April 18, 2014

What's Old Is New: The Case for the 2014 New York Jets

The 2014 offseason in the NFL featured a number of changes in scenery for notable players. These offseason moves have most notably bolstered the outlook of the upcoming Broncos and Patriots upcoming seasons as well as dramatically improving the Buccaneers chances of a going over .500. Even the Browns look as though they'll have a ferocious defense, matching the prowess of their AFC North rivals. However, as much fun as all that is, this post is not about the aforementioned teams. It's about the two biggest moves of the entire postseason to the brightest lights of America. That's right, what's old is new: Michael Vick and Chris Johnson are headed to New York and the Jets are headed back to the postseason.

Now if you follow football, you may think one of two things: no, you're stupid or no, those two guys used to be good and aren't anymore. I think all of that is fair; however, one could easily make the case that even if Geno Smith was under center, the Jets have a chance at clinching a wild card berth. He's not the best of quarterbacks, but he improved quite a bit along the way in his rookie campaign, leading the Jets to an 8-8 record and second place in the AFC East. Writing this post, I'm assuming that the 2014 Jets will have an improvement at the quarterback position, whether it's with Smith or Vick at the helm.

Michael Vick, who will be 34 at the start of the season, is far past his prime. Defenses have been rattled by him during his years with the Falcons and at the start of his tenure with the Eagles. However, teams now know what to do with Vick: pressure. The former Hokie has never faired well under blitzes and pressure packages while in the pocket, but Vick's true weapon is escaping containment and gaining yards on the ground. Vick's speed and escapability brings about another concern: injuries. With a year of sitting on the bench, the dual threat quarterback should have relatively fresh legs, but I don't think he'll survive the season. By the time he's forced out, he'll already have the Jets in playoff position. When he finally is demoted and Smith is promoted to the starting job, Geno will have had the time on the bench to truly grasp and learn the game.

So why would I be writing this post if I don't think Vick, the quarterback hauled in by the Jets, won't even survive a season? The truth is, he's not what makes the Jets dangerous. The defense is stout, but the true addition will line up five yards behind Vick.

The best acquisition of the New York Jets offseason is Chris Johnson. Simply put, he is most everything you'd want in a running back. Consistency. Speed. Physicality. Elusiveness. Strength. Chris Johnson is all of that. The former Eastern Carolina University running back has rushed over 1,000 yards in each if his first six seasons in the league. I personally don't think that there's a whole lot more you can ask from any player in the backfield. Surely, he didn't carry himself well with the media and New York has the biggest media exposure in America, but if he can be productive without becoming the main feature of the team, Chris Johnson will flourish. The defense already has to worry about Vick running on them, which will place a linebacker in containment, providing plenty of room for Johnson to have cutbacks and big plays.

So is there reason for optimism in the Big Apple? Most certainly. Can the Jets make something out of a berth to the postseason? That remains to be seen. To put it into perspective, Mark Sanchez managed to get the Jets to the AFC Championship game in his dirt two seasons. The defense was much better; however, it is still a quarterback driven league is what Sanchez did was impressive. Ultimately, Vick is better that Sanchez and Geno Smith has potential. The true difference maker for the 2014 Jets will be the explosiveness of Chris Johnson. It should be an interesting season.