The Jets were one of the more disappointing teams in 2011. After two straight championship game losses, they failed to make the playoffs. Within their division the Patriots made it to another Super Bowl, and the Dolphins look like an up and coming team. In order for the Jets to keep up they will either need some players to have some dramatic improvement, or they’ll need to bring in some new players.
New York has shown no problems in the past bringing in talent from other teams, as seven of their projected 22 starters have played elsewhere as well as a number of other role players. Now the only question is if they upgrade the positions that need upgrading. They have publicly showed support in the players that are weak points of the team. If they are being honest then these positions won’t be upgraded. However they could be deceiving the media like teams often do, in which we could see a somewhat different Jets team in 2012.
Primary Need: Quarterback
Over the last few years there have been a handful of quarterbacks that start day one and work out well for the franchise. Mark Sanchez hasn’t exactly been one of those quarterbacks. He’s gotten a little bit of a pass his first two seasons because in the playoffs he has had a +5.3 overall rating. However, in his first two regular seasons he had a -31.8 overall rating. You would expect some improvement by year three, but when he was under pressure in 2011 he completed just 36.1% of his passes for 3.4 yards per attempt. Only one quarterback had a worse overall rating in 2011, and if they don’t bring in someone to replace him, he could at least use some competition.
While rumors have been floating around with various free agent quarterbacks possibly ending up in New York, one name that comes to mind is David Garrard. The Jets don’t look like a team that is rebuilding, remaining a franchise that wants to win now. Most of the other free agent quarterbacks are either younger, or just not as good as Garrard was in the past. In 2010 he had an Accuracy Percentage of 74.6, and it would probably be higher with the Jets players surrounding him than what Jacksonville had. Of course, the looming prospect of Peyton Manning becoming free, having him in New York would make the league a lot more interesting.
Secondary Need: Right Tackle
The Jets have been known in recent years for having one of the better offensive lines for good reason. Nick Mangold (+26.0) has been the most consistent center over the last four years, and Brandon Moore (+5.4) accomplished the rare feat of going an entire season without allowing a sack or hit. D’Brickashaw Ferguson (+1.5) only once in a while has a poor game pass protecting. The only problem is Damien Woody was one of the top right tackles in the game, and his replacement, Wayne Hunter (-31.1), allowed 11 sacks, 11 hits and 32 pressures.
If the members of Pro Football Focus were general managers of various NFL teams, then Anthony Collins of the Bengals would become a rich man this offseason. He is clearly the most intriguing talent at the right tackle position in free agency. For the last three years he has been sitting behind Andrew Whitworth and Andre Smith on the Bengals depth chart, so in 2011 he played significant time in just three games. During that time he only allowed one pressure, which included holding Chris Long who led the league in overall pressure this year to one of his worst pass rushing games of the season. He would be able to greatly improve the Jets offensive line and make whoever is playing quarterback’s life a lot easier.
Tertiary Need: Outside Linebacker
In 2010, the Jets top rated pass rushers of Shaun Ellis and Trevor Pryce were firmly in the twilight of their successful careers. Neither player was on the roster in 2011 as the team sought to get younger at the position. Their leader in sacks was Bryan Thomas, who had an odd stat line of eight sacks, zero hits and 14 pressures. He missed most of 2011 with a torn Achilles tendon, will be 33 by next season and is an unrestricted free agent. If they lose him, then they also lose his run stopping skills, and only Aaron Maybin (+4.6) was a viable pass rusher in 2011.
While some rumors have linked Jarrett Johnson (+19.2) to the Jets, a younger player that would also make an interesting fit is Manny Lawson (+10.6). In the middle of the 2009 season, he developed into a strong pass rusher in the 49ers 3-4 defense, which continued into 2010. In 2010 he has a Pass Rushing Productivity of 10.2, which is significantly higher than Calvin Pace’s 7.1 last year. In 2011 he joined the Bengals, and as a 4-3 strong side linebacker he ended up with a +8.0 run defense rating. He would fit nicely across from Maybin on passing downs rushing the quarterback as well as playing across from Pace on run downs.