The 2013 Jets will forever be known as a team that exceeded rather low expectations. Here is how Gang Green fared at each position after the completion of their 16-game schedule:
Quarterback, C+: Progress is all you can ask for out of a rookie quarterback and, despite a few brutal performances, Geno Smith closed out the season in promising fashion. After struggling with turnovers, Smith didn’t throw a single interception over the final two games. Smith also rushed for over 40 yards in each of his final four starts, adding an important dynamic to his repertoire. He still has a long way to go, and general manager John Idzik wouldn’t fully commit to Smith being the starter next season, but the signs he showed at the end of the year at least erased some doubt.
Running Backs, A+: Chris Ivory and Bilal Powell were terrific this year. Ivory had the seventh-most yards per rush in the league, while Powell finished second on the team in receptions. The offense wasn’t pretty for much of the season, but the running game was the one constant. The only complaint would be that the two didn’t get more carries – though that’s no fault of their own.
Wide Receivers, D+: It took a while, but the receivers finally started to develop some chemistry with Smith down the stretch. Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson stepped up towards the end and made plays the Jets had sorely been lacking earlier in the year. Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes, the team’s two starters, were absolutely invisible and contributed far too little. Not everything can be blamed on the unit, but it would’ve been interesting to see how Smith performed had he had better targets to work with.
Tight Ends, C+: Jeff Cumberland and Kellen Winslow had a tendency to disappear, and probably should’ve been more involved in the offensive game plan. Both are now free agents and it’s quite possible neither comes back next season.
Offensive Line, C+: The group was outstanding in the running game, but left a lot to be desired when it came to pass protection. Smith’s inability to get rid of the ball led to a few sacks that shouldn’t have happened, but there were plenty of instances where he had no time to throw at all. The Vlad Ducasse and Brian Winters combination was brutal to watch, and the Jets cannot go into next season with either one as a starter.
Defensive Line, A+: It's been said countless times throughout the season but it’s certainly worth repeating – this is the best defensive line in all of football. The Jets led the NFL in yards allowed per rush and Muhammad Wilkerson finished the year with the ninth-most sacks in the league. Sheldon Richardson had a strong rookie year and Damon Harrison ate up a ton of space inside. Given their young age, it’s entirely possible the starters are going to get even better.
Linebackers, B+: Calvin Pace came from absolutely nowhere to record 10 sacks. David Harris and Demario Davis were solid, while Quinton Coples showed flashes of reaching his potential. They did a good job of getting after the quarterback and stopping the run, but didn’t help much when dropping back into coverage.
Cornerbacks, F: If the same Dee Milliner who had three interceptions over the last two games shows up next season, the Jets will be in good shape. Milliner was terrible for much of the season, but ended on a positive note by being named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in Week 17. Antonio Cromartie looked old and slow and it’s likely he will be released in the offseason. This is one position the team must absolutely upgrade.
Safeties, B-: Once Ed Reed started coming off the bench, both he and the group played much better. Antonio Allen never deserved to lose his starting job in the first place, and Dawan Landry finished third on the team in tackles.
Kickers, A: Nick Folk showed signs of being human with a missed field goal in each of the final two games, but he still had a great year. Punter Ryan Quigley was average, yet inconsistent.
Kick & Punt Returns, C+: Josh Cribbs added a much needed jolt to the return game, but he only appeared in six games. For a team that had their problems on offense, it would’ve been nice to have good field position via a long kick return every now and then, though that was rarely the case.
Coaching, B: Rex Ryan will be back next season, but the fate of the rest of his coaching staff is unknown. The team absolutely loves playing for Ryan, and as bad as things got at times, effort was never an issue. However, penalties continue to be a problem and the game plans didn’t always make sense. Eight wins might have been enough for Ryan to stay on as coach, although he’ll likely need a playoff appearance next season if he wants to be here any longer than that.
Overall, B-: Maybe the Jets weren’t the worst team in the NFL as some predicted, but celebrating mediocrity is a slippery slope. While wildly inconsistent, the roster is young and has a bright future. Addressing their needs and bringing in a few playmakers is a must if the team hopes to return to the postseason.