With training camps still a couple of weeks away and (fortunately) not many arrests or other misdeeds to fill the slow time, there’s a void that needs to be filled. So we’ll fill it with a look at each of the NFL’s franchises, ranked bottom to top based on where they’re currently perceived to be in relation to their 31 competitors at this stage of the season.
Feel free to complain in the comment about whether a team is ranked too high or too low. The first team could be ranked no lower; we start with the bottom of the barrel and dig upward.
Someone has to be last at the start of the season, and the Jets seem to be determined to be last at the end of the season. So we’ll go ahead and given them the distinction right now.
Biggest positive change: In an offseason without many of them for the Jets, the acquisition of cornerback Morris Claiborne stands out. Banged up and arguably misused in the Cowboys Cover-2 base defense that came after Claiborne was drafted, the former top-10 pick could become a difference maker in the Jets defense as a free-agent arrival. Or maybe not. Either way, there isn’t much to choose from by way of potentially positive changes.
Biggest negative change: Take your pick. The mass exodus of talented veteran players, from Nick Mangold to Ryan Clady to Darrelle Revis to Erin Henderson to Brandon Marshall to David Harris to Eric Decker, will make it much harder for the team to compete in 2017. Then again, chances are the Jets wouldn’t have been very competitive with them. So why not tear it down, earn the first pick in the draft, and take solace in the notion that 2018 will bring them one year closer to not having to deal with Tom Brady?
Coaching thermometer: It’s at least 200 degrees for Todd Bowles as he enters his third year. Although owner Woody Johnson (who’ll soon be handing the day-to-day reins to his brother but who surely will be involved in the big decisions) has said he’s looking only for improvement this season, improvement will be difficult with so many key players gone and so many unproven players in their place.
We’d like to crack a beer with . . . Matt Forte. It may take more than a few to get him going, but it would be great to hear what he really thinks about finishing his career with a franchise that clearly is in rebuilding mode, but that hasn’t cut him. Yet.
How they can prove us wrong: Most teams have at least semi-plausible hope this time of year. But not the Jets. It’s possible that they could avoid serious injuries throughout training camp and the preseason and slowly build confidence in September and then October, winning as many games as they lose. The guy who can help make that happen the most is veteran quarterback Josh McCown, who played very well with the Bears in 2013 but who has had tough situations in Tampa three years ago (no offensive coordinator) and in Cleveland for each of the past two seasons. If he can stay healthy and get help from Forte, a young receiving corps, and an offensive line firmly in flux, maybe the Jets can surprise us. Which, based on currently expectations, would mean winning more than four games.