Ryan made a very controversial decision to leave projected starting quarterback Mark Sanchez in during the fourth quarter of New York's third exhibition game and Sanchez hurt his shoulder. He would have beaten out rookie Geno Smith, who had struggled mightily, for the starting job but Sanchez would end up missing the season. Considering how Smith was thrown into the fire and how few weapons the Jets offense had, it was a pretty good job overall by Ryan to coach this team to a .500 record. Many expected much worse. Smith led a late fourth-quarter comeback victory Week 1 against Tampa Bay and proved pretty adept at those fourth-quarter rallies during the season.
Smith played in all 16 games, despite the occasional rumor Ryan would start someone else with the rookie struggling, and completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 3,046 yards, 12 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The picks were too frequent, but Peyton Manning threw 28 in his rookie year. No. 1 receiver Santonio Holmes was either hurt or ineffective all season. The running game of Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell proved solid enough, with those two combining for more than 1,500 yards on the ground. The defense, which Ryan largely took control of again, was much improved last year. It ranked No. 3 against the rush but only No. 19 in points (24.2 per game) in part because of all the offensive turnovers.
Key Offseason Moves
The Jets could/should have a new No. 1 quarterback, running back and receiver this season with the additions of Philadelphia's Michael Vick, Tennessee's Chris Johnson and Denver's Eric Decker, respectively. Ryan says there will be competition in camp at quarterback, although Vick admits it's Smith's job to lose. Vick was pretty effective when healthy last year, but therein lies the rub. It's unrealistic to expect him to start more than 12 games if he wins the job. Johnson has never rushed for less than 1,077 yards in a season, but he's a long way from the 2009 2,000-yard version. Decker was the best receiver on the market, at least until DeSean Jackson was cut free by the Eagles. Decker had 87 catches for 1,288 yards and 11 scores with the Broncos. New York re-signed the likes of tight end Jeff Cumberland and kicker Nick Folk. The only losses of note were Sanchez, Holmes, offensive lineman Austin Howard and cornerback Antonio Cromartie.
2014 Schedule (all
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 7, Oakland, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 14, at Green Bay, 4:25 p.m.
Week 3: Monday, Sept. 22, Chicago, 8:30 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 28, Detroit, 1 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 5, at San Diego, 4:25 p.m.
Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 12, Denver, 1 p.m.
Week 7: Thursday, Oct. 16, at New England, 8:25 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 26, Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 2, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 9, Pittsburgh, 1 p.m.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 23, at Buffalo, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Monday, Dec. 1, Miami, 8:30 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 7, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 14, at Tennessee, 4:05 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 21, New England, 1 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 28, at Miami, 1 p.m.
New York has a schedule that ranks as the ninth toughest in the NFL with an opponents' 2013 winning percentage of .520. It has six games against playoff teams.
The Jets opened as 4.5-point home favorites at sportsbooks for Week 1 against Oakland. The total is 39.5 on NFL odds, the lowest of all the openers. New York hosted the Raiders in Week 14 last year and won 37-27, the Jets' highest-scoring game of the year. Smith was 16 of 25 for 219 yards with a touchdown and a pick and rushed five times for 50 yards with a touchdown. This will be the first time ever the Raiders will be the Jets' home opening opponent.
Following the Raiders, the Jets play three straight against the NFC North, with only the Packers a playoff team from a season ago. No team from that division finished with more than the Jets' eight wins. There is little question Weeks 5-7 is the toughest stretch of the season, all against playoff teams. Gang Green didn't play the Chargers or Broncos last year but gave the Patriots fits in splitting the two meetings. Facing Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the span of four days is pretty rough.
Then it's three winnable games heading into the bye -- most expect the Chiefs to take a step back this season. Buffalo and New York split last year, while the Jets lost 19-6 at home to the Steelers, managing only 184 yards. Just one playoff foe, the Patriots, follows the bye so that's when New York really can make hay. The Jets were blown out at Tennessee, 38-13, last year thanks to four turnovers. It will be the third time in the past four years that New York closes with Miami. New York bounced the Fins out of the playoffs with a 20-7 victory at Sun Life Stadium last year.
NFL Free Picks
'Over' 6.5 wins. The question is: Does Ryan play for this year and use Vick as his starter or for the future and let Smith continue learning on the job? Ryan got an extension through 2016 last season so he has security. Decker might have been a product of the system in Denver but still solidly upgrades receiver. Ditto Johnson in the backfield. Here's saying that Vick wins the job and stays healthy enough for New York to contend for a wild-card spot.