New York Jets
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Jets optimistic entering offseason
New York Jets linebacker Jordan Jenkins said something most people would deem odd after New York finished its second straight five-win season with a loss in New England on Sunday.
"The gap is not big at all," Jenkins said comparing the Patriots, the top seed in the AFC playoffs, with his Jets, the last-place team in the AFC East for the second year in a row.
But that attitude epitomizes the type of season it was for Gang Green. They were supposed to be horrible, with some predicting a no-win season. Instead, they were just good enough to get a lower draft pick (No. 6) than most fans would have liked.
Close to the Patriots? No. But the players believe the team is turning the corner. So, too, does ownership, as seen in the two-year extensions given to head coach Todd Bowles and general manager Mike Maccagnan last week.
At the Jets' first home game, there were a handful of green "Darnold" jerseys, as in current USC sophomore Sam Darnold. New York was 0-2, and many believed headed for the top pick in the draft.
But the Jets dominated the Dolphins on that balmy late September afternoon, the first of a three-game winning streak that had the same delusional fans thinking they would go 0-16 starting to talk playoffs.
Josh McCown, the team's 38-year-old journeyman quarterback, galvanized a ragtag group on offense that provided some entertaining moments, especially at MetLife Stadium. But the Jets still lost nine of their last 11, and the wheels completely fell off when McCown broke his hand in Week 14 in Denver and was replaced by Bryce Petty.
WHAT WENT RIGHT: The Jets took a flier on McCown, signing the 15-year veteran to a one year, $6 million contract in the spring. He paid off, with career highs in passing yards (2,926) and passing touchdowns (18) before breaking his hand, and the 11th best passer rating in the league (94.5). He also developed a strong deep-ball rapport with Robby Anderson, as the receiver had 17 receptions of 20 or more yards, 12th best in the league. Also, the Jets played well at home, going 4-4, with all four losses coming by one possession or less.
WHAT WENT WRONG: Closing out games. The Jets were outscored 140-64 in the fourth quarter, and they lost two games in which they held a 14-point lead and three they led at some point in the fourth quarter. Their minus-4 turnover differential was tied for seventh worst in the league, and their only road win came against the winless Browns by three points.
MOST SURPRISING PLAYER: Linebacker Demario Davis was brought back to the Jets after a year in Cleveland in a June trade for draft bust Calvin Pryor, and it proved to be a spectacular move for New York. The 28-year-old, who played his first four seasons for the Jets after they drafted him in the third round out of Arkansas State in 2012, had a career-high 135 tackles (sixth best in the league) and five sacks. Pryor was released by the Browns in September after getting into a fight with a teammate.
Honorable mention in this category goes to wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who the Jets got in a trade with Seattle for Sheldon Richardson just before the start of the regular season. Kearse, a six-year veteran, had career highs in receptions (65) and receiving yards (810), and tied his career high with five touchdowns.
MOST DISAPPOINTING PLAYER: Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was repeatedly late to team meetings, earning him a suspension for the New Orleans game and a likely release in March. The 28-year-old finished with 3.5 sacks, his lowest total since his rookie season in 2011, and was inactive the last two games because the five-year, $86 million contract he signed before last season is guaranteed for injury.
Running back Matt Forte earns honorable mention here. Beset by toe and knee injuries, the 10-year veteran rushed for only 381 yards, more than 400 yards less than his previous career low.
ASSISTANT COACH ON THE RISE: Most of those that watched the Jets closely this season believed offensive coordinator John Morton did a good job with quarterback Josh McCown and a supporting cast that wasn't outstanding. However, Morton was fired, and now is looking for another opportunity.