Most observers have the New York Jets slated for a dismal 2013 season, penciling the team in for an early selection in the 2014 NFL Draft. The team might actually be in a better position to compete than they were last season, especially if key players such as Santonio Holmes can stay healthy for the duration of the season. ESPN First Take recently debated an over/under of 6.5 for Jets wins in 2013, with one analyst going over and two taking the under. The conversation also led into a misguided discussion about Rex Ryan being on the hot seat.
The New York Jets won six games in 2012 with a solid defense and an offense that often seemed to do more harm than good on the scoreboard. The team reached six wins without its two most talented players, Darrelle Revis and Santonio Holmes, for much of the season. Darrelle Revis played two games last year, while Santonio Holmes played four games. The Jets won't have Darrelle Revis at all this season, but in his place the team has upgraded some other areas.
The Jets stand to have a better front seven this season (potentially one of the best in the NFL) with the additions of Sheldon Richardson, Antwan Barnes and Antonio Garay to a group already stocked with young talent. The secondary might not take as big of a step back as some think, especially if Dee Milliner is healthy and able to overtake Kyle Wilson for the starting cornerback job across the field from Antonio Cromartie, as expected. An improved pass rush plus a more aggressive approach to the team's defensive game plan should cover up any deficiencies on the back end.
The offense stands to be more talented in 2013. The team hopes to have its most explosive player, Santonio Holmes, for more than four games this season. That moves Jeremy Kerley and Stephen Hill down the list in terms of pressure on them to make plays and how the opposing defense approaches addressing them in their weekly game plan. Just the presence of Santonio Holmes on the field makes those two better players, beyond whatever contributions he makes with his own play. The Jets also stand to be better over the course of 16 games at tight end, as Dustin Keller only played half of the season last year and was hampered in some of those appearances by lingering injury issues. Kellen Winslow, Jr. may not be the player he once was, but a full season of an experienced, professional tight end is better than just eight games of Dustin Keller.
The Jets also added some young talent to the offensive line in Brian Winters and Oday Aboushi, plus a no-risk veteran signing in the talented but oft-injured Willie Colon. The team's backfield is stocked with much more speed, athleticism and big play potential than years past, with Chris Ivory, Mike Goodson, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. The final piece to the offensive puzzle is Mark Sanchez. In his fifth season, if Mark Sanchez can take the small step of simply protecting the football better this season, the offense will take a big step forward collectively.
All of that makes it difficult to believe that two of the three panelists on ESPN First Take went with under 6.5 wins (Jon Weiner and Jorge Sedano went under, Scoop Jackson went with the over) for the Jets in 2013. If you take a step beyond the outward perception of the team and actually look at the roster in terms of talent in key areas, the Jets stand to be a better team this season than they were in 2012.