When New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan compared this year's team to the 2009 team that went to the AFC Championship game, it drew snickers and was brushed off as hot air from Rex. The "experts" have been writing this Jets team off since before the start of this past offseason. How could a team that has been penciled in for one of the top five picks in the 2014 NFL Draft be compared to a playoff team? As has been written on this site multiple times, there is more talent on this year's team than most realize. In truth, the 2013 team is very reminiscent of the 2009 Jets.
The bedrock of the 2009 New York Jets was a physical, punishing defense that stuffed the run. This year's defense has been just that, with the added ability to get after the quarterback with their front seven. This is a Rex Ryan defense through and through, with an underrated secondary. Antonio Cromartie is still underrated, while Dawan Landry, Jaiquawn Jarrett and Antonio Allen have turned into a fearsome package at safety.
The offense is built to allow its rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, to rely on others. The offensive weaponry isn't exactly explosive, but with a strong offensive line and solid running backs the Jets can keep Geno Smith in manageable situations. Marty Mornhinweg has built a nice package of screens and some easy throws, but isn't afraid to cut Geno Smith loose and let him run and gun a bit.
The missing link at this point may be the special teams. under Mike Westhoff, it was known that if the personnel matched up evenly the Jets had an edge. So far, and it has only been three games, the Jets haven't made many big plays on special teams to establish themselves as a cut above. If the special teams can return to the 2009-2010 level, the Jets will be in a great spot.
The Jets haven't arrived yet, but they are showing the signs of being a team that deserves to be in the hunt late in the season. If the Jets continue to play dominant defense, continue to grow on offense while limiting turnovers and take steps forward on special teams, they will be a tough out for any team.
The Jets force their opponents to play an ugly game. It was on display in the team's loss to the New England Patriots, a 13-10 slugfest that the Patriots looked very uncomfortable playing. The Jets are built to play ugly and are comfortable playing that game. If they can impose their will and force that style of play in the majority of their games, they will win enough to be in the hunt for a playoff berth. And if they get in, they can give any team problems for 60 minutes of football.
That was the formula in 2009. Early on in 2013, the same formula has an overlooked team at 2-1 with a three-point loss to the Patriots on the road as their only defeat.
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