“Sauer Notes” AFC East Breakdown: New York Jets
NEW YORK JETS
The Jets played exorbitantly better under first-year head coach Todd Bowles. They went 10-6, which was a six game improvement over 2015. Although they regained interest from fair-weather Jets fans, it was to no avail, as they missed the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year. Their defense allowed 314 points (9th) while finishing with the fourth best defense as far as yards allowed. Their net improvement in points allowed was 87 fewer than 2015 (401). The Jets’ offense was much more explosive with Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, and WR Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker added more stability to consistent offensive production. Although he sputtered down the stretch, RB Chris Ivory (now a Jaguar) added a threat on the ground for most of the season, with Bilal Powell having an immense role as the third down pass catcher. They scored 387 points (11th) last season, which was 104 more than 2015 (283). Overall, their offense ranked 10th in total yards gained. Between offense and defense, New York gained improved by a combined 191 points. Chan Gailey will run the offense for the second straight season, now with added weapons that fit his scheme very adequately. He has 19 years of coaching experience in the NFL, and had a 34-46 record as a head coach with the Cowboys (1998 to 1999) and Bills (2010 to 2012). Kacy Rodgers had success in his first season in the NFL as a defensive coordinator. Over the previous 12 years, Kacy primarily worked as a defensive line coach. With another year of growth, Rodgers may earn himself a head coaching job.
2o15 AFC East Standings
- New England Patriots 12-4
- New York Jets 10-6
- Buffalo Bills 8-8
- Miami Dolphins 6-10
2015 Statistical Recap (averages)
Total Yards For: 370.3 (10th)
Rush Yards For: 116.8 (10th)
Pass Yards For: 253.6 (13th)
Average Score For: 24.2 (11th)
Defensive Total Yards: 318.6 (4th)
Defensive Rush Yards: 83.4 (2nd)
Defensive Pass Yards: 235.2 (13th)
Average Points Against: 19.6 (9th)
2016 New York Jets Offseason
Major Free Agent Moves
- Signed RB Matt Forte
- Signed RB Khiry Robinson
- Signed DE Jarvis Jenkins
- Signed LB Bruce Carter
- Signed NT Steve McLendon
- Cut CB Antonio Cromartie
- Did not re-sign RB Chris Ivory
- Did not re-sign RB Stevan Ridley
- Did not re-sign WR Jeremy Kerley
- Have yet to reach a deal with QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
2016 NFL Draft
1st round (20): ILB Darron Lee,
the Ohio State
2nd round (51): QB Christian Hackenberg, Penn StPTate
3rd round (83): OLB Jordan Jenkins, Georgia
4th round (118): CB Juston Burris, North Carolina State
5th round (158): OT Brandon Shell, South Carolina
7th round (235): PT Lachlan Edwards, Sam Houston State
7th round (241): WR Charon Peake, Clemson
With their first pick in this year’s draft, the Jets drafted LB Darron Lee. He has a nice combination of speed and quickness, with excellent vision and anticipation. Lee doesn’t have the ideal size (6’1’ and 232 lbs.), plus he needs to add more strength to win more battles at the point of contact. His style of play should work well within the Jets’ defensive structure.
With no clear answer at QB headed into the draft, New York invested in Christian Hackenberg with their second round pick. He has NFL size (6’4” and 223 lbs.) and arm strength, with solid quickness and speed. Christian shows the ability to read defense pre-snap with the skill set to make all NFL throws. His biggest liability is his accuracy. Hackenberg needs to improve his mechanics while improving his ability to move within the pocket to limit the damage in sacks and turnovers. He will need time to develop.
The defense continued to be the focus for the Jets with their next two picks. They added LB Jordan Jenkins in the 3rd and CB Juston Burris the fourth round. Jenkins needs to add more upper body strength. His instincts offset his lack of quickness and speed. Jordan’s game is built on power, with his best value coming close to the line of scrimmage when on the attack. Burris will offer size (6’0” and 212 lbs.) and physicality to the cornerback position. His top end speed isn’t elite, which forces him to use his strength to win battles at the line of scrimmage in press coverage. His lack of quickness can lead to him cheating one direction as a WR releases, possibly leading to big mistakes early in his career.
In the 5th round, New York selected OT Brandon Shell. It looks like his future is a right tackle in the NFL. He may have upside as a run blocker, but his technique isn’t where it needs to be, which invites some risk in pass protection. Many of his battles will result in draws, so a RB will have a small window to clear the defensive line on his side of the field.
PT Lachlan Edwards will compete for the starting punting job in 2016 after being selected in the 7th round. New York had poor production from their kicker last season. They hope Edwards will improve their kick coverage as a result of better hang time. His biggest question mark will be his ability to drive the ball when backed up deep on his side of the field.
With their last pick in the 7th, the Jets gambled on WR Charone Peake. There were scouts that suggested Peake has WR1 talent with question marks with his hands. Charone has solid size (6’2” and 209 lbs.), while needing to add more strength to help his release in press coverage. His route running is above average with upside in the open field. He’s had some injuries in his college career, including a torn ACL in 2013. Peake may surprise in the NFL if he stays healthy.
2016 New York Jets Schedule
As of right now, the Jets are tied with the Cardinals for the seventh toughest schedule for the 2016 football season. On average they will be facing teams that had a positive win to loss ratio in 2015, as their schedule maps out to play teams over .500 on a weekly basis, sitting at .531. With the Falcons and 49ers being the teams with the toughest average schedule at .555, the Jets are not far behind, so let’s take a look at it, shall we?
Week 1: vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Week 2: @ Buffalo Bills
Week 3: @ Kansas City Chiefs
Week 4: vs. Seattle Seahawks
Week 5: @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 6: @ Arizona Cardinals
Week 7: vs. Baltimore Ravens
Week 8: @ Cleveland Browns
Week 9: @ Miami Dolphins
Week 10: vs. Los Angeles Rams
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: vs. New England Patriots
Week 13: vs. Indianapolis Colts
Week 14: @ San Fransisco 49ers
Week 15: vs. Miami Dolphins
Week 16: @ New England Patriots
Week 17: vs. Buffalo Bills
The start to the season looks troublesome through their first seven games, and they’ll have to really grind out a win against every team they play. They really need to win all three cupcake match-ups heading into the bye to give them any shot at making a playoff run. Luckily, for the Jets, five out of their last seven games will be home, in the friendly confines of MetLife Stadium.
Jet’s 2016 Odds
Division Winner: 21/4 (Tied with Bills)
Super Bowl Winner: 40/1 (was 50/1 before Free-Agency)
2016 Fantasy Outlook
Geno Smith (QB) – Smith has struggled to win games (11-18) in his first two seasons with the Jets. He showed growth in his completion rate (59.7) while cutting down on his Ints (13) in 2014, but he lost his starting opportunity in 2015. Smith has three 300 yard passing games in his career, with only one game with more than two passing TDs in 29 starts. His only appearance in 2015 led to 265 passing yards and two TDs while completing 64.3 percent of his pass attempts. The Jets passing game made a nice step forward in 2015 with Ryan Fitzpatrick behind center and Brandon Marshall added to the offense. Maybe a year of holding a clipboard will lead to better decision making by Geno. In his career, Smith has 35 Ints and 27 TDs in 31 career games. He has talent at WR, plus an upside pass catching back. If Jace Amaro makes a step forward in 2016, he could have four strong options in the passing game. Based on experience, he will have the inside track for the starting job. If he can’t deliver TDs and wins while minimizing the damage in TDs, Geno will be passed on the depth chart. There is always the chance that Ryan Fitzpatrick is added to the roster once he figures his starting options are extremely limited. New York has enough talent in the passing game to take a flier on Smith in the Fantasy market. I’d think of him as more of a QB3, as he does have job loss risk. This offense has a very good chance of delivering 4000+ yards and close to 30 TDs if the offensive line can protect the QB.
Bryce Petty (QB) – Petty was a two-year starter for the Baylor Bears, where he threw for 8195 yards and 61 TDs with 10 Ints. His senior season was a slight step back from his junior year in yards (3855 – 4200), TDs (29 – 32), and Ints (7 – 3), which led to him falling to 10th in Heisman voting from 7th in 2013. Bryce had 178 rushes over his last two seasons in college, for 310 yards with a surprising 20 rushing TDs. Baylor’s offense was explosive, which gave him a huge edge in passing in some games. In 2014, he threw for 400+ yards twice and 500+ yards in two other games. His ability to read defenses is still a long ways away from being ready to lead an NFL team, plus he needs to improve his throws when under pressure. Petty has the size (6’3” and 230 lbs.) that NFL teams want from the QB position, with probably only a league average arm. His quickness and athletic ability will allow him to open up a larger passing window at the next level with the Jets. His resume is strong enough to contend for the starting job.
The Jets became more of a passing team in 2015, resulting in them throwing the ball 604 times, or 57.4 percent of the time. The change at QB could lead to more conservative offensive play in 2016, but their best assets all catch the ball in Marshall, Decker, and Forte.
Jets Insider, Chris Nimbley, said this about the current Fitzpatrick situation, “I still think Ryan Fitzpatrick returns on a one-year deal, most likely around $8 million with incentives. GM Mike Maccagnan has played this perfectly, and Fitzpatrick simply doesn’t have any better offers. Eventually, he’ll decide to take the best offer and best situation for him. If Fitzpatrick doesn’t return, it will be Geno Smith as the starting quarterback. The Jets do not intend on starting Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty this season, and I honestly don’t think Jets would be much better or worse for it. Fitzpatrick would be more consistent, but Smith can throw the ball downfield. Obviously, you have to worry about turnovers with Smith, but Fitzpatrick has a terrible habit of turning the ball over as well. Regardless who the starter is, it’s not someone you’re going to be comfortable starting except for possible bye week/injury situations.”
That statement does not give much praise to Fitzpatrick and his quarterbacking skills, and probably for good reason. He is very turnover prone (at the worst of times as a Bill, or best possible times giving the ball to the Bills) and has a hard time pushing the ball down the field. Nevertheless, I think myself (along with many other fantasy players) would rather have Fitzpatrick under-center than Smith. We know Fitz can utilize the arsenal he has around him and put up some voluminous numbers with his main targets in B-Marsh and Decker. Now imagine putting one of the league’s best pass catching backs in Matt Forte in the mix. I tend to ponder whether or not Geno would be able to make all of these guys relevant in a single game, like I believe Fitz could do. Chan Gailey loves to use his RB as receivers out of the back-field, which is why Forte was a really smart pick-up for the Jets. Geno may be able to push the ball down the field better, but Fitz has more experience and is more cognizant of when it’s time to just dump the ball down to the back. In the end, if Fitz indeed does sign a contract with the Jets, you can consider him a high-end QB2 with some upside. Whereas if Geno gets the nod, I would consider him only in two quarterback leagues as my third back-up QB.
Matt Forte (RB) – 2015 was a bad season to draft Forte. He played in only 13 games, which led to a career low in rushing yards (898). The change in coaching staff on the Bears hurt his opportunity in the passing game as well. After catching 102 passes for 808 yards and four TDs on 130 targets in 2014, Matt finished with only 44 catches for 389 yards and 3 TDs on 58 targets in 2015. Overall, Chicago completed 71 passes for 681 yards and 5 TDs on 106 to the RB position last year. His season was cut short, due to a right knee injury. Before the injury, Forte averaged 24 touches per game with only one game with 100+ yards in six starts. Over his last six games of the season, Matt had 93 touches (15.5 per game). In his eight seasons in the NFL, he’s missed eight games, with five seasons with 1000 yards or more rushing. Forte struggles to score TDs (64 in 120 career games) while offering high value in the passing game (487 catches in his career – 4.1 per game). In 2015, the Jets threw 124 passes to the RB position, leading to 95 catches for 724 yards and 3 TDs. Matt will start the season at 29 with a long resume of success. Health was clearly the reason for his decline over the second half of last year. New York will throw to the RB, and Forte will see plenty of action in the running game. I expect between 275 and 300 touches leading to 1300+ yards and mid-level TDs. He has a backend top 10 RB opportunity in PPR leagues while being in the twilight part of his career.
Bilal Powell (RB) – Powell turned out to be a nice find on the waiver wire in 2015, while delivering playable value in PPR leagues over weeks 12 through 15. Over this period, Bilal caught 25 passes for 225 yards and 2 TDs on 32 targets. Also, he had 22 rushes for 134 yards and another TD. This worked out to 89.9 Fantasy points (19.7 per game). I’m sure someone in the high-stakes market picked up a huge check in the overall standing as a result of his upside ride. His season in 2015 started with mid-teen touches over his first three games (14.3 per game) while splitting time with Chris Ivory. He battled a groin injury and ankle from Week 4 to Week 10, leading to no value for more than half of the season. In 2013, Powell had his best opportunity for success (213 touches for 969 combined yards with 36 catches and only 1 TD). His skill set will be overlapped in the passing game by Forte, and he has no upside as a runner at this point in his career. His pass-catching ability makes him worth a flier as insurance if you decide to draft the lead back on the Jets.
Khiry Robinson (RB) – Fantasy owners in the high-stakes market have chased Robinson over the last couple of seasons. He’s never developed as expected, with a broken leg ruining any chance of future success in 2015. Khiry has a power running skill set in a similar way as Chris Ivory. He had a short window for starting snaps in 2014 over three games (52 touches for 271 yards with one TD and three catches), while failing to seize the opportunity. This season he could emerge as the short yardage or goal line back if Forte isn’t productive in either area. Robinson is a player to watch this summer, as he may be the best handcuff option for the Jets.
Brandon Marshall (WR) – There were Fantasy owners that doubted Marshall’s talent and opportunity with the Jets in 2015. His draft value was severely discounted in the early draft season, leading to Brandon finishing as an impact player (5th in WR scoring in PPR leagues). He caught the second most catches (109) of his career for 1502 yards, and a career-high 14 TDs on 173 targets. Marshall has six seasons with 100 catches or more and eight years with 1000 yards receiving or more. His production in TDs has been much stronger in his last four seasons (45 TDs in 61 games). On the year, Brandon had ten games with 100+ yards receiving and nine games with seven catches or more. His value in catches, yards, and TDs puts in the mix to be a top five WR selected in 2016. His resume is long. The Jets know their offense works best when it flows through him. The question at QB could hurt his upside, but I have a feeling the Jets get better than expected QB play. Marshall is a solid foundation in PPR leagues with an excellent chance at 100+ catches for 1200+ yards and double digit TDs.
Eric Decker (WR) – The best thing that happened for Decker in 2015 was the addition of Marshall. This created better matchups all around while removing some attention at the goal line. His production stepped back in 2014 (74/962/5) due to weak QB play and lack of complementary WRs on the Jets. Over the last four years, Eric has averaged 82 catches for 1085 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 126 targets. In 2015, Decker scored a TD in 12 different games, which allowed him to deliver a high level of consistency. Even with his plus success, Eric only had one game with 100+ yards receiving. He did miss one game due to a knee issue, and the injury did linger all season. Decker had a strong skill set that works much better as a WR2 in the real football world. His game even has more explosiveness if a defense wanted to take away Marshall. His skill set and opportunity is a step below a WR1 in the Fantasy market in PPR leagues. I like the direction of Jets’ offense, and I expect another solid success with a chance at 90 catches for 1300 yards and double digit TDs.
Devin Smith (WR) – Devin can’t make every move, but he could beat you in the blink of an eye if he was overlooked in pass coverage before blowing out his right knee last December. Smith had 4.4 speed with questionable strength entering the NFL. In 2014 at Ohio State, he averaged 28.2 yards on his 33 catches with 12 TDs. Over four years in college, Devin caught 121 passes for 2503 yards (20.7 YPC) with 30 TDs. He averaged a TD once every four times he’s caught the ball in his college career. Smith could add value in the return game down the road, but his lack of strength hurts him when trying to break tackles. This same issue will limit his upside against press coverage. Overall, Devin needs to improve his route running while getting stronger. In his first season in the NFL, Devin caught nine of 28 targets for 115 yards and a TD while battling multiple injuries (broken ribs, sprained ankle, and a torn ACL). Typically, it takes about ten months of recovery after having ACL surgery to regain some playable football form. Based on the timing of his injury and his lack of success in 2015, I would say Smith has no Fantasy value in 2016.
Quincy Enunwa (WR) – Based on playing time in 2015, Enunwa looks like the favorite to be the WR3 for the Jets at the start of this season. Last year he caught 12 of his 46 targets for 315 yards after being shutout in his rookie season in 2013. Over his last three seasons at Nebraska, Quincy caught 114 passes for 1516 yards and 15 TDs, highlighted by his rookie campaign (51/753/12). He had six catches for 20 yards or more for the Jets in 2015, with the best game (5/50) coming in Week 3. Enunwa has limited upside, and he could just as well be cut before the season.
Jace Amaro (TE) – Jace had no real fantasy value in 2014 other than Week 6 against the Broncos, when he caught ten passes for 68 yards and a TD on 12 targets. He finished with 38 catches for 345 yards and 2 TDs on 53 targets. His season was cut short in 2015 due to a torn labrum. Even before his injury, the Jets’ coaching staff was downs on his upside. In college, Amaro had a huge breakout year in his junior season at Texas Tech, where he caught 106 passes for 1352 yards and 7 TDs. In 2013, he had a run of nine games in which he caught eight or more passes. During that stretch, Jace had 82 catches for 1060 yards and 3 TDs. Texas Tech used him primarily out of the slot position, where many times he had free releases downfield. He showed value working the middle of the field, but he doesn’t have elite speed (4.74 forty yard dash) or quickness (4.30 20 yard shuttle). He showed strength at the combine (28 reps on the bench press), but his blocking technique wasn’t impressive, as many times he didn’t attack when engaging his opponent. Amaro’s lack of a first step and wiggle may limit his value at the goal line. When catching the ball, he runs with power with some downfield acceleration. He’ll need to improve his in-line blocking while showing the ability to beat a physical defender off the line of scrimmage. The addition of Marshall paired with Decker should give Amaro a larger window to make plays, while drawing weaker coverage in all areas of the field. Last year the Jets only completed 8 passes to the TE for 95 yards and 1 TD (lowest production by a wide margin in the NFL). Amaro has a lot to prove in 2016, but New York has no real talent behind him at the TE position. His college resume points to high upside, but this offense isn’t structured for him to be a huge factor in the passing game. At best, Jace is the 4th option in the passing game behind Marshal, Decker, and the RBs. Unless we start to hear some positive words about Amaro in training camp, it would be best to leave him off your draft board, and maybe pick him up during the season if he starts to get more involved in this offense.
Nick Folk (K) – Folk is expected to return as the Jets’ kicker in 2016 after blowing out a quad before Week 9 last season. New York was more productive in TDs in 2015, leading to Nick being on a sub-par pace prior to his injury. After eight games, he made 13 of his 16 field goal attempts, while making all 19 of his extra point tries. In 2014, the Jets only scored 23 TDs with extra point tries, leading to Folk attempting 39 field goals (league high). He made 23 of those chances, which led to an 82.1 percent success rate. In his career, Nick is 212 for 263 in FGs (80.6), while making 21 of 35 from 50 yards or longer. If healthy, Folk has a steady leg with his upside tied to more growth by New York’s offense. The Jets should play well defensively, so Nick may get above the league average field goal chances.
New York ranked number two in the league in rushing defense in 2015. They allowed 1335 yards on 373 rushing attempts, with only four TDs allowed (best in the NFL). Ball carries only gained 3.6 yards per rush. The Jets had 39 sacks while allowing 3763 passing yards (13th), with 25 passing TDs allowed and 18 INTs.
The strength of their defense is the defensive line led by Muhammad Wilkerson and Leonard Williams. Both players offer an edge against the runs with value in the pass rush (Wilkerson – 12 sacks and Williams – 3 sacks). Also, Sheldon Richardson will be a third strong defender on the defensive line. Last year he missed five games due to a hamstring injury. Sheldon ended with five sacks with some risk against the run. The Jets will run multiple fronts to their defense. Their only weak link on the defensive line looks like DT Steve McLendon. He’s a neutral run defender with no real value attacking the QB.
Of the linebackers returning from 2015, Erin Henderson was the only player successful against the run while being on the field for minimal plays. LB David Harris held his own in coverage with occasional value rushing the QB (4.5). It appears rookies Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins are slated to start. Lorenzo Mauldin will jockey between the defensive line and linebackers, while adding some value to the pass rush. The upside of this core is tied to the success of their young talent.
CB Darrelle Revis lost his thunder in 2015, where he graded as only league average in coverage. He still has talent, but some of the younger upside WRs can now take advantage of his lost speed. Buster Skrine will battle Dee Milliner for the other starting job. Skrine struggled badly in 2015, while Milliner missed most of the season with a groin and wrist injury. Dee was drafted in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft, but he’s been a bust so far in his career. S Marcus Gilchrist played well in his first season with Jets after signing before the 2015 season. Marcus played well in run support with league average success in pass coverage. S Calvin Pryor was an asset in pass coverage, while struggling in all other areas of the game.
This defense is in transition at the 2nd and 3rd levels of the defense. The secondary has strength at three positions with a possible hole at the second CB slot. As Long as Revis plays well, their weakness can be support by slanted coverage. The linebacking additions will upgrade this defense with each game played. From a Fantasy perspective, the Jets will force many teams to be one dimensional on offense, especially when playing from the lead. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a winning situation, as it plays possibly into an area where they have risk. Depending on your format and scoring, this defense will fall into the backup zone with matchup value.
I believe that they reach an agreement with Fitzpatrick to return on some kind of one-year deal, which gives much more promise to this offense. The addition of Forte was a great one. Even though he has hit that dreaded age of 30 for a RB, I do not think we will see such steep digression due to his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and avoid those big boys up the middle. Marshall and Decker can be drafted as WR1, although Marshall will probably go 10-20 spots higher dependent on different formats. I believe this defense can be a top-five group with that absolutely frightening D-line, and they just need to figure out who can serviceably play corner across from Revis. If Fitzpatrick indeed does return, I believe out of any team in the AFC East to challenge the Patriots for that division crown, it will be the Jets. Solid coaching, which is often overlooked, combined with the personal to be a brute force in the AFC, and my call is the Jets ending up with one of the Wild Card playoff matches.
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Major League Fantasy Football Weekly: Join Corey D Roberts, Zak Sauer, and Coach Jeff Nelson live Saturday June 11th, 2016 from 1-2:30pm EST for episode #22 of Major League Fantasy Football Weekly. We will run our show on Saturday until August 27th, and then move back to Tuesday nights from 8-10pm EST on September 13th. This is a live broadcast and we do take callers at 323-870-4395. We will discuss the AFC North from a NFL and fantasy football perspective.
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