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New York Jets: 5 ways to win AFC East

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The New York Jets shocked some people last season by doing a complete 180. At 10-6, they were only two games behind the New England Patriots for control of the division. Where did they go wrong and how can they make up those extra two games? There’s plenty of potential to build upon after offseason acquisitions. Can they repeat the success?

Improve on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s success
While Ryan Fitzpatrick never lit of the stat sheet, he enjoyed more than mild success last season. Just shy of 4,000 yards, Fitzpatrick had two receivers over 1,000 yards. New York saw it as being just good enough to bring back, so they didn’t have to roll with Geno Smith. Geno may never be a starting quarterback, but he’s just good enough to keep Fitzpatrick from resting on his laurels. In order to keep defenses guessing, the Jets need more players involved in the receiving game. Sure Brandon Marshall put up 1500 receiving yards but after Eric Decker, the next closest receiver only tallied 388 yards. The dynamic duo can’t do it all themselves, so look for Matt Forte to give the short passing game a boost out of the backfield. He will need to because apparently, the tight end position went missing.

Tighten up Pass Coverage
New York did a great job against the run last year. Music to a Jets fan’s ears, especially with the top rushing attack in their division. On the flip side of the card, the Jet were in the top 3rd in pass defense. How can you complain about that? Well, unfortunately for the Jets, again it’s in their division that kills them. Rob Gronkowski has been terrorizing the middle of defenses for years and will probably for years to come. The Jets’ first-round pick Darron Lee is expected to change that. He may not have your typical linebacker size, but his speed is what the Jets coveted. Running at the combine, it’s almost as if the Jets picked him strictly with Gronkowski in mind.

More reliability out of their running backs.
While Chris Ivory rushed for 1,000 yards last season, you can expect Matt Forte will match his productivity. The one thing Forte brings out of the backfield is the ability to catch and run. Often in Chicago’s offense he’d be more involved in the passing game than the actual rushing attack. Don’t look for the same to happen in New York, but expect Forte to get out past the hash marks and make things happen. If he can tutor some of the younger backs as well, expect a new wrinkle in the Jets offense. Fake one way and give the other or extra attention to play action for their deep receivers will truly test Fitzpatrick’s arm late in the season.
Win the gut check games.
The Jets need to find a way to win the tough games. Against teams with less than stellar defenses, the Jets averaged 12 points better than their opponents in their wins. Of the Jets’ 6 losses, five were by 7 points or less. Even their loss to the Oakland Raiders was only a two touchdown affair. To have such a strong showing on defense and lose close games, the Jets lost on gut check moments. Somehow, someway they need to find a way to tip the scale in their favor. Whether it be better, special teams play, quicker two-minute drills, or simply not turning the ball over as much. Five games by a touchdown or less is a kick to the groin.

Todd Bowles
One of the main reasons for the Jets’ turn around is Bowles. While he might not be named with the all time greatest coaches, if he can keep up momentum with the Jets, he might climb the ranks. A journeyman coach, Bowles has been praised for his defensive work throughout his career. Bowles took over for Rex Ryan who had already built a strong defense before him. Having traveled to enough teams in his career, it’s no shock that he and his team found a way to beat the schemes he usually taught. Hoping to build on his current success the head coach has already stated he may loosen the reigns this season. Giving up some of his responsibilities can do wonders for a coach, giving them more time to focus on game planning. It wasn’t until Tom Coughlin decided to loosen up that he won his first Super Bowl with the other New York team. Todd Bowles can do the same for the Jets.

The Jets are totally unpredictable. It seems as if every year you expect a good season out of them. Then you blink, and they’re in free fall mode. The Jets have a tough schedule along with the rest of the AFC East. If they can’t find a way to beat the tough defenses, it might be back to square one. Maybe not regarding rebuilding, but there will be some questions left unanswered.

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com