Why you should care
Because the jolly green men won’t be so jolly.
During a seven-on-seven drill on Aug. 5, New York Jets wide receiver Quincy Enunwa ran a slant route, dove for a pass and hit his head on the ground, suffering a season-ending neck injury. That dealt a critical blow to New York’s beleaguered offense.
“He was a big part of it,” said Jets coach Todd Bowles. And now “our young guys will have to grow up fast.”
The onus is on the youth after the Jets released veteran receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, who have a combined 17,314 career receiving yards. Even with them, the Jets, who finished 26th in offense during last year’s 5-11 season, were poised to struggle. Now they could be historically awful. Several, including ESPN’s Mike Clay, have predicted the Jets will go 0-16 and become the first winless team since the 2008 Detroit Lions. “It’s not looking too pretty,” says Pro Football Weekly’s Eric Edholm.
The ugly offense belies a competent defense. It ranked 11th in the league last season and has one of the best young defensive lines in football. Muhammad Wilkerson (27) and Leonard Williams (23) each made a Pro Bowl in the last two years. Having relied on the defense and neglected the offense, the Jets last spent a first-round pick on the offensive side of the ball in 2009 when they drafted quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Could they be in the bottom five or 10? Absolutely.
Eric Edholm, Pro Football Weekly
Quarterback is the game’s most important position, and the Jets’ signal caller, 38-year-old Josh McCown, is well past his prime, which was never exactly stellar. He enters 2017 with an 18-42 record as starting quarterback. Backing him up are Bryce Petty, who threw more than twice as many interceptions as touchdowns last year, and second-year Christian Hackenberg, who was drafted to be the team’s future. “He was going to redshirt last year,” Bowles said. “He’s learning the offense.” But during practices Hackenberg embarrassingly hit reporters with errant passes and was ordered off the field after he couldn’t break the huddle properly.
The Jets offense is in such dire straits that their potential starters are QB (McCown) and running back (Matt Forte) — both of whom are castoffs from the Chicago Bears, a team which hasn’t won more than six games or finished above last place since 2013. “These are players who shouldn’t be your first or second options,” says Edholm.
With so few weapons, the Jets may have the worst NFL offense in a decade. “Could they be in the bottom five or 10? Absolutely,” Edholm warns. The Los Angeles Rams have had the worst offense statistically each of the past two years, but 22-year-old QB Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, gives them hope, and they traded for wide receiver Sammy Watkins. In the past 10 years, the 2007 San Francisco 49ers had the worst offense, amassing just 3,797 yards while also finishing last in points that season. That rebuilding team, though, had some young pillars — 23-year-old quarterback Alex Smith, 24-year-old running back Frank Gore and 23-year-old tight ends Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker — unlike the 2017 Jets.
Perhaps that’s the point. With the 2018 draft featuring quarterback talent like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen, many have speculated that the Jets may have purposefully assembled an anemic offensive unit so they can snag the No. 1 overall pick. “It raises an eyebrow,” Edholm says. “But I just don’t think that tanking is real in the NFL.”
But likely knowing the sad state of their offense, the Jets, who ranked fifth in the league in home attendance in 2016, did not increase season ticket prices for 2017 and have offered $20 to $100 in “Jets Cash” for those ticket holders to use at MetLife Stadium.
At least the poor fans of the Gang Green can save a little green.