At the midway point of the 2011 NFL season the New York Jets stand at 5-3, tied for first place in the AFC East. Lets take a look at Gang Green’s midseason report card.
Quarterback (C) – Entering his third season the expectations were very high for quarterback Mark Sanchez. The young signal caller has had an up and down first half of 2011 tallying 1,775 passing yards with 13 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and a completion percentage of 57.5. Some of Sanchez’ struggles can be attributed to personnel changes at the wide receiver position, and injuries to the offensive line, but he has also made some terrible decisions (and throws) that resulted in interceptions in the redzone. Mark must do a better job limiting turnovers in the second half of the season.
Running backs (C)– The New York Jets running backs have struggled in 2011 with Shonn Greene leading the group with 502 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. Again some of the issues can be related to the offensive line struggles, but there were also times where Greene did not run with the explosive power that everyone has become accustomed to. LaDainian Tomlinson has done an excellent job in the 3rd down back role (especially in blitz pickup), with Joe McKnight earning more carries in the second half of the season as well.
Wide receivers (B-) – It is hard to truly grade the New York Jets wide receivers as they had to deal with a myriad of issues in the first half of the season, including a quarterback that was running for his life out of the pocket. Plaxico Burress (5tds) is starting to emerge as the redzone threat that the Jets were desperate for, while Santonio Holmes (4tds) and Jeremy Kerley (1td) are starting to open up the field out of the slot position. The group as a whole must become more consistent with their hands.
Tight ends (B-)- Dustin Keller leads the team in the catches (29) and yards (436) and could work his way to Hawaii with a great second half of the season. Matthew Mulligan has done a fair job replacing Ben Hartsock at the blocking tight end position, but he has to do a better job in terms of eliminating costly penalties.
Offensive line (C)- Now that center Nick Mangold has returned from his ankle injury it appears that the offensive line is getting back to their physical ways. Wayne Hunter continues to struggle at times which will be something to keep an eye on in the second half.
Defensive line (B-)– The Jets have added some youth, power, and energy to the defense line and it is starting to make a huge difference. Rookie Muhammad Wilkerson has shown flashes, while Sione Pouha and Mike Devito give consistent performances every week.
Linebackers (B-)-The injury to Bryan Thomas was a big blow to this unit, but players like Josh Mauga, Aaron Maybin, and Jamaal Westerman have stepped up their game. Calvin Pace could be having his best year as a Jet, and may explode in the second half of the season.
Defensive backs (A)– Led by All-Pro Darrelle Revis this group is playing at a very high level. Kyle Wilson is playing with a tremendous amount of confidence while Antonio Cromartie has cleaned up his technique and reduced his penalty issues. Tip of the cap to Donald Strickland as well, who has done a solid job in nickel and dime situations.
Safeties (B-) – This group has struggled at times in terms of coverage, especially against tight ends, but overall has played fairly well. Eric Smith (leads team with 48 tackles) remains a thumper in the secondary while Jim Leonhard remains the brains of the defense. Brodney Pool has made several big plays that have gone unnoticed.
Returners (A)- Brad Smith who? Joe McKnight has had a fantastic first half of the season averaging a league high 40.2 yards on kickoff returns. Rookie Jeremy Kerley will need to be a little more consistent on punt returns.
Kicking (A)- This grade is more for Nick Folk who had an excellent first half of the season making 12/13 kicks with a long of 50 yards. T.J. Conley is averaging 43 yards a punt, but has had several shaky punts in a big spot.
Offensive MVP– LaDainian Tomlinson (this award is more for what LT had to do in the locker room during the Jets losing streak than his performance on the field)
Defensive MVP- Darrelle Revis (should be leading candidate for NFL Defensive Player of the Year)
Most improved- Kyle Wilson, Joe McKnight
Biggest surprise- Aaron Maybin
After 8 games of the season the New York Jets have a chance at a division title and a playoff berth. I think everyone would have signed up for that at the beginning of the season.