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NFL Thursday Night; Jets vs Patriots

Rex Ryan has seen better days in New York. Is there anything but cloudy days ahead? (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Rex Ryan had it all. A young, dominant offensive line. A young quarterback to groom and build the franchise around. A solid defense that terrorized elite quarterbacks en route to back-to-back AFC Championship Games. That was four years ago. Since then, everything has come off the rails. Mark Sanchez became a punchline and was released. That young offensive line grew together but never established itself as one of the league’s best. The punishing ground game that carried the New York offense through those deep playoff runs slowly evaporated and never came back. The defense has been the only consistency. Despite aging players, departed superstars and underachieving top draft picks, Ryan has continued to field a respectable and capable defense.

Though the Jet defense has remained effective, it’s not quite elite. Only an elite defense can carry a subpar offense. Since their last AFC Championship Game appearance in 2011, the Jets have had 12 picks in the top three rounds of the NFL draft. Of those 12 picks, only three have been used to take offensive players. None of those three picks were 1st rounders. If your investing that much into your defense, your defense better equate to the Seahawk defense of recent seasons. While the Jets defense has been good, it hasn’t ranked among the top seven defenses since the 2011 season and has even fallen out of the top 10 the last two seasons. You can’t neglect your offense through the draft for that long and expect to compete for division titles unless the defense you’ve stockpiled is exceptional.

Obviously, the New York defense may grow into an elite defense, but at this point, the Jets are stuck in no man’s land. There’s no elite talent at the offensive skill positions. Instead of drafting electric playmakers, New York continues to build its rushing attack around veteran castoffs. The Jets hoped they drafted their franchise quarterback in 2013 but Geno Smith has only looked worse in his 2nd season. While less than two seasons isn’t enough to judge a young quarterback, most experts do not have Smith evolving into a great NFL quarterback.

In other words, the Jets of today are the same team they’ve been for three seasons. What’s worse, the Jets of today will likely be the Jets of tomorrow, too. PATRIOTS If I were Charles Barkley; Jets +10

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