24 September 2012
Through all of the chaos of the past four years, through Mangini and Rex, through Favre and Tebow, there has been one constant. One thing Jets fans could take pride in. One thing Jets haters had to concede. One thing that NFL fans universally acknowledged: The Jets had the best defensive player in the sport and arguably the best cornerback in the history of the league. Regardless of the opponent, you knew Darrelle Revis was going to shut down their best wide receiver. It was an honor and a privilege to watch him play every weekend.
Now, that is all gone.
The Jets won the game Sunday in Miami, yes, but if you consider how poorly they played, and that the franchise's best player since Joe Namath's knees fully functioned suffered what may be a career-debilitating injury, it was undoubtedly the worst win in the team's 52-year history. Darrelle Revis is out for the season, and even the most optimistic Jets fan must admit the season is over. Was this team going to win the Super Bowl? No. Were they going to make the playoffs? Probably not. Does it suck beyond comprehension to see your best player's knee explode on a non-contact play? Yes, yes it does.
Having spoke realistically and honestly about what Revis' injury means to the Jets and their playoff hopes, let's pretend the season isn't over. How do they recover? Well, as The Likely Lad tweeted today, "What the Jets lack in depth they make up for in incompetent starters." That means general manager Mike Tannenbaum will have to get off his fat, lazy, condescending, pompous arse and make a trade for not just a cornerback---that's obvious---but a wide receiver, as well. You could have argued (incorrectly) that the Jets would have survived with their offense had they had a healthy defense and moreover, a healthy Revis, but with what is now an incredibly average defense the Jets will need to score far more points. (That's how important Revis is to the Jets. The offense suffers by having him injured.) Yes, Sanchez missed a host of open receivers and threw a mind-boggling interception in the end zone on Sunday, but the Jets receivers outside of Santonio Holmes are not NFL-caliber players. Stephen Hill is a raw talent with hands of stone, Chaz Schillens can barely get on the field, and Clyde Gates looks utterly lost---not lost like he was overmatched, lost like he was playing the wrong sport and wasn't sure how he got to the stadium. Dustin Keller's eventual return will help, but if you're going to sport an ordinary offensive line with a quarterback who needs a strong supporting cast, the Jets will need to add a wide receiver (and preferably one without a pending court case).
Defensively, and perhaps for the team on the whole, the most disappointing part of this season has been the lack of a pass rush. I should have known better than to put stock in the preseason, but I really thought the trio of Maybin, Wilkerson and Coples was going to be a destructive force in the backfield. Instead, the Jets have barely laid a hand on the quarterback this season (3 sacks and 10 QB hits in three games), and their rush defense has gotten significantly worse (149 yards per game!). Is that only the defensive line's fault? No, it's not. The linebackers are old and slow and do not have playmaking ability. With that said, the three aforementioned names must step up their games if the Jets defense is going to survive Revis' absence. The secondary has gone from one of the league's elite units to one in desperate need of help. LaRon Landry has been fantastic for the most part and Yeremiah Bell has acquitted himself well, but with Cromartie moving to the No. 1 spot on the depth chart and Kyle Wilson taking over a starting role (fighting back tears), the Jets need to add a cornerback. I hate to break bad news to the naive among us, but Ellis Lankster cannot be the team's top nickelback. Actually, let me rephrase that. Ellis Lankster cannot be the Jets nickelback if they are going to win more than four games this season.
I know it's a bit unfair to ask an NFL general manager to bring in difference makers on offense and defense in Week Four of an NFL season, but Tannenbaum must redeem himself for back-to-lost offseasons and a series of poor draft picks. Their schedule is weak enough (although those NFC West games don't seem as easy anymore) where they can stay in playoff contention if the right guys are brought in. They weren't going to win either of the next two games even if Revis was healthy, so by the time the Jets take the field against the Colts in Week Six, there must be new personnel on both sides of the ball. If there's not, the light will be extinguished on another Jets season.
First place has never seemed so dark.