THE JETS’ STRENGTH ON OFFENSE: The Jets started over at running back this season after letting Shonn Greene leave as a free agent and replacing him with former Saints backup Chris Ivory. The results haven’t been overwhelming, but the Jets still have done a respectable job running the ball — particularly when considering how limited they are in the passing game. The Jets have reached the 100-yard rushing mark in seven of their 11 games, with outings of more than 175 yards in victories against Buffalo, New England and New Orleans. Ivory has split time this season with 2011 fourth-round pick Bilal Powell and they have combined for three 100-yard individual performances — two by Ivory and Powell’s season-best 149-yard effort against Buffalo back in September.
THE JETS’ QUESTION MARK ON OFFENSE: The Jets had to figure there would be some growing pains when they made the decision to go with rookie second-round pick Geno Smith as their starting quarterback this season. After an up-and-down first few games, Smith has really struggled in recent weeks, with his passer rating not topping 62.4 over the past four games. In the last two games, losses against Buffalo and Baltimore, Smith’s passer rating was 10.1 and 22.3. Smith also didn’t complete more than 42 percent of his passes in his last three starts. Of course, it hasn’t helped that the Jets’ receiving corps has had injury issues. Leading receiver Jeremy Kerley has missed time with an elbow injury, Santonio Holmes was inactive for five games with a bad hamstring, and former Dolphins wide receiver Clyde Gates is on injured reserve with a shoulder injury. The pass protection also hasn’t been reliable, with Smith getting sacked 37 times so far this season.
THE JETS’ STRENGTH ON DEFENSE: The Jets’ decision to take defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson with one of their two picks in the first round of the 2013 draft has paid off when it comes to stopping the run — and in a big way. The Jets not only lead the NFL in run defense, they lead it by a pretty solid margin. New York is allowing 72.6 yards per game on the ground with opponents held to a paltry 2.9 yards per rushing attempt. Arizona is second in rushing yards allowed at 81.3, while Cleveland is second in rushing average at 3.4. While Richardson has been impressive, the star of the Jets’ defensive line is Muhammad Wilkerson, a former first-round pick from Temple. Thanks in large part to those two big bodies, the Jets have held every opponent, except for Buffalo in Week 3, to 90 yards rushing or less.
THE JETS’ QUESTION MARK ON DEFENSE: While adding Richardson was done to help shore up the run defense, another priority for the Jets was boosting the pass rush and that’s been accomplished mainly because of the emergence of Wilkerson in that facet of the game as well. Thanks to Wilkerson’s 10 sacks, the Jets already have surpassed their sack total for all of 2012. The problem, though, is that the Jets aren’t nearly as good in the back end. Despite playing without star cornerback Darrelle Revis for three-quarters of the 2012 season, the Jets were very good in pass defense last year. But now, with Revis in Tampa Bay, the Jets secondary has taken a big step back. Opposing quarterbacks have compiled a 93.1 composite passer rating against the Jets on the strength of 20 touchdown passes and only six interceptions. The Jets signed veteran safety Ed Reed after he was released by the Houston Texans, but the former University of Miami star isn’t the ball-hawking presence he was during his prime with the Baltimore Ravens.
THE JETS’ STRENGTH ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Kicker Nick Folk was selected to the Pro Bowl as a rookie with the Dallas Cowboys in 2007, and it looks like he has regained that form in 2013 after a couple of sub-par seasons with the Jets. Folk has made 24 of his 25 field goal attempts this season, and he hit his first 23 before missing two Sundays ago at Buffalo. The Jets also have gotten good work from punter Ryan Quigley, who is averaging an impressive 40.0 net yards since taking over for Robert Malone early in the season. The Jets return game also deserves attention after the mid-October signing of longtime Cleveland Browns big-play threat Joshua Cribbs.
THE JETS’ QUESTION MARK ON SPECIAL TEAMS: The one area where the Jets haven’t been very good in the kicking game is in coverage. New York ranks in the bottom third in the league in both punt and kickoff return average allowed. Even though the Jets haven’t given up a touchdown on a kick return this season, they were victimized by a 71-yard kickoff return by Cincinnati’s Brandon Tate and a 37-yard punt return by Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones on Sunday.