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Team Previews: New York Jets

Andrew M. Laird

Andrew M. Laird, a four-time FSWA Award finalist, is RotoWire's Senior Soccer Editor and an editor for the site's NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, CBB and DFS content.

THE SKINNY
The team won't admit it, but the Jets are in full rebuilding mode, and the question marks at QB should make for rough fantasy seasons for everyone involved. The lack of a serviceable passing game will hurt the rushing game, and it seems likely the team will finish last in the AFC East once again.

THREE THINGS TO KNOW

QUARTERBACK QUESTION MARKS
For the second consecutive year, the Jets are on track to enter training camp without knowing who their starting quarterback will be. Last season, veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick dealt with a number of injuries and poor play, a combo that eventually led to 2015 fourth-round pick Bryce Petty taking the reins. Petty was barely an improvement, if one at all, however, and proceeded to miss the final game of the season after suffering a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Additionally, the team had 2016 second-round pick Christian Hackenberg available but he went the entire season without taking a single snap. With both Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith now out of the mix, the team brought in journeyman Josh McCown to compete with Petty and Hackenberg for the starting job. While McCown will provide the offense with an experienced option, he also comes in with a 2-20 record over the past three seasons, which he split between the Buccaneers and Browns. Though he didn't have great players around him on those teams, the Jets aren't exactly teeming with All-Pro-level skill position players either. Even if McCown does win the job for Week 1, it would be surprising if Hackenberg wasn't given a chance at some point, given the high draft pick invested in the Penn State product, who must improve his accuracy to succeed as a pro.

WHO ARE THE PASS CATCHERS?
The Jets released former PPR standout Brandon Marshall this offseason after one of the worst seasons of his career. They proceeded to double down on reshaping their receiving corps by parting ways with Eric Decker, who missed most of last season due to injury but scored 17 times over the previous two years. Quincy Enunwa and Robby Anderson return to the fold and could be the starters in the wake of Decker’s exit, with rookies ArDarius Stewart and Chad Hansen competing with a number of players for complementary roles. After passing on O.J. Howard in the No. 6 overall draft slot, the Jets selected Jordan Leggett in the fifth round, hoping to get some production out of the tight end position after back-to-back years of basically zero output. Once-touted TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins is expected back, but he'll be suspended for the first two games of the regular season in the wake of a DUI arrest. Ultimately, it may be running backs Matt Forte and Bilal Powell who pace the team's pass-catchers, particularly if the Jets rely on one of their young signal-callers. Although in 2016 Forte wasn't nearly the pass catcher he was when he played for the Bears, Powell was tied for second on the team with 58 receptions and could be poised for more snaps if Forte struggles at all to fully recover from an offseason knee procedure.

SAFETY IN NUMBERS
The Jets' secondary was one of the worst in the NFL last season, and they addressed the issue in this year's draft by using the sixth overall pick on LSU safety Jamal Adams and the 39th pick on Florida safety Marcus Maye. The release of once-elite cornerback Darrelle Revis, who looked like a shell of his former self in 2016, should help if newly-signed Morris Claiborne can stay healthy, but the cornerback spots are far from solidified. One of the biggest things from which the Jets could benefit is more production from their defensive line, as the team finished with just 27.0 sacks last year, the fourth-fewest in the league. The lucrative five-year, $86 million contract extension given to Muhammad Wilkerson looks like a miss, though maybe he'll be more motivated this year with no money guaranteed after this season. Speaking of motivation, Sheldon Richardson will be playing on the final year of his rookie deal and has been the subject of numerous trade rumors this offseason, as the Jets can't afford to spend so much on a defensive line that isn't maximizing its production. On the plus side, third-year defensive end Leonard Williams was the Jets' best player in 2016, and if he can build on his seven-sack season, the New York secondary will have more opportunities to defend throws from quarterbacks under pressure.

PIVOTAL PLAYER: Matt Forte
Forte could re-emerge as the starting running back, but he's coming back from surgery to repair a torn meniscus and had the worst season of his career last year. Meanwhile, Bilal Powell was excellent filling in for him, showing that he can carry the load and catch passes out of the backfield, much like the Forte of old.

BAROMETER

RISING: Bilal Powell
Powell showed at the end of last year that he can lead the backfield. With Matt Forte coming off the worst season of his career and a torn meniscus, Powell could get a chance to stay atop the depth chart.

FALLING: Matt Forte
While no Jet has high fantasy expectations, Forte may find it tough to reach even modest projections. Back-to-back years with fewer than 900 rushing yards have him trending in the wrong direction, especially at age 31.

SLEEPER: Robby Anderson
The passing game isn't expected to be prolific, but Anderson showed in the final weeks of the 2016 season that he can be a valuable piece. If the Jets get any kind of stability under center, he could flourish.

KEY JOB BATTLE – STARTING RB
Bilal Powell took off toward the end of last season in place of Matt Forte, who missed the last two games with a torn meniscus, a performance solid enough for many to think Powell could be the starting running back this season. However, there has already been talk that the Jets will use a committee approach this year, or that Forte could still be the no. 1 option, which clouds the fantasy upside of both players. Even if one does win the job outright, with significant questions in the passing game, opposing defenses will surely focus on stopping the run.

KEY ACQUISITIONS:
Josh McCown – QB (from Browns)
Favorite to win starting job but will have competition in camp.

Kelvin Beachum – OT (from Jaguars)
Replaces Ryan Clady as the team's blind-side protector.

ArDarius Stewart – WR (Rd. 3, No. 79 – Alabama)
Tough receiver with run-after-the-catch skills.

Chad Hansen – WR (Rd. 4, No. 141 – California)
Productive in college and has solid size for a team that lacks it.

KEY LOSSES:
Brandon Marshall – WR (to Giants)
Disappointed last year due to QB struggles.

Darrelle Revis – CB (FA)
Coming off an underachieving run and was due $15.3 million.

David Harris – LB (FA)
After 10 years as a Jet, he was unceremoniously sent packing in June.

Eric Decker – WR (to Titans)
Rebuilding Jets decided the veteran wideout was too expensive to retain.

THE INJURY FRONT
Matt Forte, RB – Forte underwent surgery on a torn meniscus in January, but he is expected to be healthy for training camp.

Quincy Enunwa, WR – Enunwa did not participate in OTAs because of a neck injury, but the Jets' top wideout is expected to practice fully when the team reconvenes.

ArDarius Stewart, WR – Stewart is recovering from groin and thumb operations, and while the team is hopeful he'll be healthy for the start of training camp, it's likely his full participation will be delayed, which won't help him in his competition for snaps.