There is no denying it. The New York Jets, at 1-5, are off to an abysmal start. A hole that will be very hard to climb out of, especially in a season where it was playoffs or bust.
It does not matter that the Jets first six games were “the hard part of the schedule.” This is currently a bad football team, that is poorly prepared, poorly coached, and vastly underachieving after an impressive roster turnover from the front office.
The team needs to find out about their future. That doesn’t necessarily mean phase out every veteran (Brandon Marshall is not going to sit on the bench), but it’s time to think about the years ahead.
That could (should) include an active trade deadline for the Jets. They are overloaded with talented interior defensive linemen, causing a premium talent like Sheldon Richardson to be played out of position. While he has been one of the only bright spots on a horrendous defense, Richardson is most likely the obvious candidate to be traded.
Muhammad Wilkerson is carrying a massive contract, and the film hasn’t been too pretty this season. Leonard Williams is blossoming but is the new regime’s first draft pick on a very affordable rookie contract – not the type of asset you move on from.
The Jets will not be able to tie up even more money on the interior of their defensive line, meaning Richardson would be a Jet for one more year at most. Getting a return for him now could pay dividends for the future.
Now, back to the future and what it may hold for the team. Rookie linebackers Darron Lee and Jordan Jenkins have played a ton and flashed at times. The staff has high expectations for both to be major players of the overhauled linebacker corps.
Fourth-round pick Juston Burris deserves reps at cornerback after a relatively solid preseason. He’s a physical boundary corner that fits Jets head coach Todd Bowles’ system. It’s hard to imagine Darrelle Revis wearing green and white next year, which makes a complete makeover in the secondary as a real possibility this offseason. It’s not fair to throw rookie corners into the fire, but helping Burris gain some momentum before his second season would be good for him in the long run.
Now for the biggest stage of all: the quarterback position. Forget about Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is currently playing on a one-year, $12 million deal. He will not be back next season and should not factor into the team’s future at all.
Geno Smith should have seen the field a few games back, but Bowles trusted his veteran signal caller to break out of his slump. While Smith deserves to start, he will also be a free agent after the 2016 season, and it would be a major surprise if he returns to the team.
This leaves Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg as the only quarterbacks on the roster that are under contract for the 2017 season. Hackenberg is serving an NFL ‘redshirt’ year as the staff would prefer to let him watch and learn from the sidelines. Bryce Petty, on the other hand, is the most obvious candidate for playing time at some point this season. While he was far from spectacular this summer, he made major strides from his days running the Baylor spread offense.
Even if Petty is not expected to be the future starter of the team, getting him in real game situations could tell the front office whether he is worth keeping a roster spot for down the road. If not, the Jets will go into the offseason needing to find a starter and another backup alongside Hackenberg.
Questions are mounting for the Jets and, as always, answers are pressing. If they can get a head start for their future, it may serve them well in the long run. Most fans won’t like it ,and Woody Johnson will not want a losing product out on the field for the remainder of the season, but a true rebuild needs to be given a chance.
The days of picking in the middle of the draft and hovering between 6-8 wins with no playoffs will not help the team down the road. If the Jets want to turn this thing around for a better future, the time to find out about their youth movement is now.