10 Jets storylines entering the 2014 season
Newsday's Kimberley A. Martin shares 10 storylines for the Jets as they enter the 2014 season.
WAITING ON GENO(Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)
Which Geno Smith will we see in 2014: the one capable of leading game-winning drives or the one who committed 25 turnovers in 2013? His burgeoning confidence is a good sign, but it might not result in more wins. It’s clear the Jets are committed to Smith starting the season, but with Michael Vick waiting in the wings, he still has to prove each week that he’s the right man for the job.
VICK WAITS HIS TURN(Credit: Daniel Rader)
In his heart, MIchael Vick believes he still can lead a franchise, but the backup quarterback has done nothing but be supportive of Smith. But ask any Jets coach and he’ll tell you the same thing: Vick is a QB who can win games. Now the question is: Will he be called upon to lead the offense if Geno Smith struggles? Every miscue by Smith will be scrutinized by the masses, and if that happens, there inevitably will be calls for Vick to take over the reins.
MILLINER BEST BY DEFAULT?(Credit: Hans Pennink)
Imagine this: Jets fans can’t wait to see Dee Milliner back on the field! The former Alabama star often appeared lost as a rookie last year and was benched three times. But with so many question marks within the secondary, Milliner suddenly seems like a shutdown corner compared to some of the other guys. The high ankle sprain he suffered during training camp has made his status questionable for Sunday’s opener, though. And it’s unclear when he’ll be back.
REX RYAN'S JOB STATUS(Credit: Hans Pennink )
If the losses start to pile up, expect to hear rumblings about the head coach. Many joked that Rex Ryan had nine lives after he survived when Mike Tannenbaum was fired, and again when he was retained after an 8-8 finish in 2013. General manager John Idzik improved the Jets’ offense this past offseason but failed to make significant upgrades to the secondary. And everyone knows there’s nothing Ryan loves more than cornerbacks. But will the holes in his secondary ultimately cost him his job?
CJ2K READY TO DELIVER(Credit: Hans Pennink)
The Jets’ rushing attack ranked sixth overall in the NFL in 2013 (134.9 ypg), but Chris Johnson is aiming for even better. In hopes of resurrecting his career, he signed a two-year, $8-million contract, and the former 2,000-yard rusher -- who had knee surgery in the offseason -- believes he’s capable of putting up big numbers again. The former Pro Bowler with the Titans won’t be a No. 1 back, per se, with the Jets, but his playmaking ability will continue to turn heads.
DECKER STEPS UP TO NO. 1(Credit: Getty Images / Alex Trautwig)
The Jets landed the top free-agent receiver this offseason, but it’s unclear whether Eric Decker will put up numbers expected of top receivers. There have been debates about whether the former Bronco should even be considered a No. 1, but his presence undoubtedly will help the Jets. With Peyton Manning as his quarterback the last two seasons, Decker caught 24 touchdown passes. He had 11 last year, and you would expect him to have far less teaming up with Geno Smith. Tight end Jeff Cumberland led the Jets with four TD catches in 2013.
WATCH OUT FOR PRYOR(Credit: AP / Julio Cortez)
Rex Ryan has been raving about rookie safety Calvin Pryor since he was drafted, and fans are anxious to see the “Louisville Slugger’’ put a hurting on opponents in the regular season. Though he was slowed by a concussion during training camp, the injury didn’t force Pryor to alter his hard-hitting ways. Ryan loves physical defenders, and Pryor fits that mold to a T.
RICHARDSON EXPECTS A LOT MORE(Credit: AP)
Sheldon Richardson clearly was the home run pick of Idzik’s 2013 draft class. The defensive tackle was NFL Rookie Defensive Player of the Year and now has his sights set on bigger goals: a Super Bowl and some personal recognition. Richardson won’t rest until he’s held in the same regard as linemate Muhammad Wilkerson, J.J. Watt, Mario Williams and Robert Mathis. But Richardson, who had 78 combined tackles, 3 1/2 sacks and two (rushing) touchdowns last season, has set the bar pretty high for himself.
WILL WILKERSON BE EXTENDED?(Credit: Jim McIsaac)
Muhammad Wilkerson believes he’s an elite player, but do the Jets plan to pay him accordingly? One would assume Idzik is holding on to all of this cap money (more than $20 million), in part, to lock up Wilkerson long-term. He led the team with 10 1/2 sacks and was a first alternate for the Pro Bowl last year, and as one of the league’s brightest defensive stars, he’s expected to fetch decent offers in the open market. The Jets, however, already have exercised a fifth-year option for 2015 (worth just under $7 million), and that means they can bide their time. For now.
BACK TO GROUND AND POUND(Credit: AP / Frank Franklin II)
What kind of season can we expect? The Jets could go 6-10, 8-8 or even 9-7. Crazy, right? On paper, this team is much improved -- especially on offense. But Geno Smith remains a wild card. The team goes as he goes, so if he gets off to a slow start, it’ll be difficult for the Jets to get a footing in the playoff race. It appears they have returned to their tried-and-true formula: strong defense, a standout running game and solid quarterback play. We’ll see if that strategy still works.