Heading into this Sunday’s game, it is impossible to sit here and make any kind of accurate prediction for the second half of the season. At the beginning of the year, it said here the Jets would go 9-7, which I did not think was unreasonable at the time. Last season’s prediction was 8-8.
There are a few factors that will have to be answered on the field in the next eight games that will determine whether this is a total washout of a season or a salvageable situation heading into next year. Depending on how it plays out, it could go anywhere from 2-6 to 5-3. Anything worse is completely disastrous- anything better than 5-3 will be Nirvana. Odds are it will be somewhere in between. A solid finish reassures that the team is headed in the right direction. A collapse along the lines of the Mets in September could spell a lot of questions for the organization.
-The Kellen Clemens Era- he is the young gun. If he is protected and is allowed to find his sea legs and get into a rhythm, he will shine. Opposing defenses are going to blitz and put pressure on him. The OL is uneven, and there will be plays he is running for his life, getting overwhelmed by the rush, and generally under the gun. Whether he learns to throw it away or makes the mistake of throwing into coverage will make or break drives. If the OL can protect him, he will make things happen. He can be that good.
-Schottie’s Play calling- It’s time to go vertical, not horizontal. Let’s see if they can open up the playbook, and go downfield, which will open up some breathing room for TJ and the running game. I expect the game will have a different look with a different QB in there. The play calling will also depend on how Clemens is doing, and whether the OL gives him enough time to find receivers after they run downfield. If he is sacked before the WRs run their pattern, it will be on the OL, not him. I think he’ll give us plenty to cheer for, and put some excitement back into the Jets’ offense.
-Sutton’s Defense- he is closer to the hot seat, if not the door, than anyone. If the defense doesn’t get it together, he is as good as gone. David Harris may save his job. Harris plays North-South like an ILB must do in the 3-4. The best part about Harris not playing the first half is that he won’t be hitting the rookie wall in December. I expect he is going to be a monster the rest of the way. But he can’t do it alone, and he won’t have 17 tackles every week. Other guys must step up, especially Bryan Thomas and Ellis and other guys who were invisible for long stretches in September and October. The secondary found some heartbreaking ways to give up long TDs. They must turn that around.
-Mangini- it’s no secret that he hasn’t been the same coach as he was last year. He too must raise his game to the next level, just like the players need to execute better. Whether the players execute the way he wants them to will reflect how good of a leader he is. He also needs to make better game decisions to put the team in better positions. Special attention should be given to the halftime adjustments that are made, as well as how the Jets’ units react to the other team’s halftime adjustments.
Can they turn it around?
It is do-able. That is the bright side, the optimistic outlook. They played a strong second half last year against weak teams. They will need to play a very strong second half to do well against some very good teams. Facing Pitt, Dallas, NE and Tenn at their place is a formidable challenge. We will either see a team with a young nucleus rise to the challenge and play well, or else it will be a very rough road from here on out. Who shows up to play in the second half and who doesn’t will go a long way toward determining what the biggest needs are that must be met in the off-season and draft.
-Leadership- teams get leadership from either the locker room or the man running the show. In this case, the intangible part of the leadership seems to be coming from the locker room. But Chad is on the bench, Vilma on the IR, and Coles has headaches. It will be up to someone else to step up, and the best way to do it is by example. Clemens, Harris, Revis, Cotchery, Rhodes, Mangold, some of these young guys can make it happen. Barton, Kenyon, TJ, any of these guys who can step it up in their production will lead by example. There is no better way to get the team to follow your lead than by excelling on the field. It needs to happen for this team to snap out of its funk. It will be fun watching to see who emerges as the new leaders on the team.
It may be easier for Jets fans to see what the second half will bring after this next game. I am looking for positive signs of life with some new blood out there. It can be a Tale of Two Seasons, get the bad taste of 1-7 out of our mouths, and give the long suffering fans something to look forward to heading into the next season.