While the rest of the NFL bolstered their rosters, the Jets entered the 2012 season clearly undermanned. And despite blatant holes at wide receiver, offensive line and running back, their biggest offseason splash was Tim Tebow. Really.
So now, the Jets are 3-5 and Rex Ryan is challenging his coaching staff during the bye week to offer him suggestions on how to salvage their season.
Where do we begin?
It was obvious in the preseason that the Jets' offense would struggle. And now, after eight weeks, "struggle" seems far too lenient. Aside from Shonn Greene's career day (161 rushing yards) against the Colts in Week 6, the Jets' running game has been virtually nonexistent. Blame the backs if you like, but the weaknesses along the offensive line were glaring way back in training camp -- and long after Wayne Hunter was traded to the Rams.
Not to mention, the Jets' much-hyped acquisition of Tim Tebow now seems like a failure. His arrival not only stunted Mark Sanchez's growth but it has disrupted the flow of an already limited offense. The Jets' front office and Ryan raved in the offseason about Tebow being a dynamic "weapon," yet he barely gets a whiff of the field on game day. It's obvious Ryan doesn't believe the backup quarterback is as good as they tried to make us believe, or else Tebow would have been given plenty of opportunities to help this 3-5 team win.
The Jets' secondary exceeded expectations when it lost All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis (ACL tear). Antonio Cromartie has done well as the team's new No. 1 cornerback, while safety LaRon Landry has brought much-needed toughness to the unit. But as a whole, the defense has been disappointing. The group hasn't finished lower than fifth overall in Ryan's three previous seasons, but the defense is ranked 16th, and 29th against the run. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine delivered the "one step faster" mantra this summer, but his players have been anything but.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B-
Nick Folk's streak of 11 straight field goals came to an end Sunday thanks to the Dolphins. But the Jets' kicker had been tremendous before that block. New punter Robert Malone also has performed well. The return units had been tops in the league, thanks to Jeremy Kerley's 68-yard punt-return touchdown against the Bills and Joe McKnight's 100-yard kickoff-return TD against the Texans. But the special-teams coverage has been abysmal the past two weeks. The Jets allowed a 104-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in their overtime loss to the Patriots and last Sunday the Dolphins recovered an onside kick, blocked a punt -- the second allowed by the Jets this season -- and a field goal.
Tony Sparano was billed as a Wildcat guru, and Tebow was supposed to be the vehicle for his creativity. But instead, the Jets' offense has appeared disjointed behind the coordinator's unimaginative play-calling. As head coach, Ryan must shoulder blame as well. On Monday, he admitted the coaching staff will look into getting Tebow more involved in the offense -- an assessment that shouldn't have taken eight weeks to make. If Ryan's once-heralded defense finishes the season out of the Top 10, can he really call himself the "best defensive coach" in the NFL?
First-round pick Quinton Coples has earned more playing time of late, but he has yet to live up to Ryan's hype as a pass-rushing stud. Meanwhile, Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones, selected five spots after Coples at No. 21 overall, was named defensive player of the month for September. Growing pains were to be expected with receiver Stephen Hill, who came out of a run-heavy Georgia Tech offense. But his propensity for dropping passes in key moments has contributed to losses. Third-round linebacker Demario Davis and sixth-round safety Josh Bush have gotten more playing time because of injuries. Seventh-rounder Antonio Allen, who recently was promoted from the practice squad, came up with a big fumble recovery against the Patriots two weeks ago.
OFFENSIVE MVP: JEREMY KERLEY
The slot receiver emerged as a go-to guy for Sanchez in the absence of Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller. Kerley had a breakout day against the Patriots with seven catches for 120 yards, and he totaled 94 receiving yards on five catches against the Texans. Kerley has already exceeded his 2011 stats (29 catches, 314 yards), registering 30 receptions for 478 yards and two touchdowns.
DEFENSIVE MVP: ANTONIO CROMARTIE
The former Pro Bowl corner hasn't always shown the best judgment (see his head-butt on Miami's Reggie Bush), but Cromartie has done a good job of reminding fans that he has the skills to be a shutdown corner with Revis gone. Cromartie has three interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.