After making a major splash in the playoffs last season, the New York Jets came into the 2010 NFL season talking a big game and soaking in more than their share of the spotlight. The team’s featured role on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” introduced the world to the inner workings of the Rex Ryan operation, and if you saw the show, you realize that Ryan is not afraid to express his confidence in himself and his team. Under the circumstances, many in the media and among the NFL fan base questioned whether the Ryan and the Jets were due for a comeuppance once the games kicked in. Guess again.
As they pass the halfway mark, the Jets are sitting alongside the New England Patriots atop the AFC East with a 7-2 record, tied with the Pats and Atlanta Falcons for the best record in the league. And here’s the scary part: the Jets haven’t necessarily played their best football yet. Offensively, LaDainian Tomlinson has been a pleasant surprise. Tossed onto the scrapheap by the Chargers, Tomlinson has been running with an explosive burst that recalls his glory days in San Diego. Of course it helps to be running behind the Jet offensive line, quite possibly the best in the league. Tomlinson has been so good that Shonn Greene has had to fight for carries. That says something about the depth of this running game, a team strength that translates well to the postseason and the cold weather it brings.
That said, the Jets seem on the verge of developing an element of offensive balance that was lacking last year. The arrivals of Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes add much-needed explosiveness. Most importantly, Mark Sanchez seems to be taking a few steps forward in his development as a quarterback. Sanchez hasn’t quite lit things up as frequently as the Jets might like, relying more often on emerging tight end Dustin Keller as a security blanket, but he could be getting close. If Sanchez ever gets things going with Edwards and Holmes on the perimeter, this team can win the Super Bowl.
Defensively, of course, the Jets remain one of the strongest outfits in the league. This is Ryan’s specialty, and with Darrelle Revis rounding into form after a preseason holdout, there’s no reason to think they won’t get better over time. There is some concern over the lack of a pass rush thus far in 2010, but if anyone can solve that problem moving forward it’ll be Rex Ryan. The more Revis and fellow corner Antonio Cromartie can lock down their assignments one-on-one, the more heat Ryan can afford to bring.
With trips to New England and Pittsburgh on tap for the coming weeks, the Jets will have every opportunity to prove their mettle. As it stand right now, with their outstanding defense and running game, the Jets have the look of a team that could go far into the postseason—maybe even all the way to Dallas.