What to watch for: Jets 2016 finale

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What’s been a grind of a season has finally dwindled down to the closing days of the regular season. The 2016 New York Jets will be remembered for their failures to live up to expectations that were set in stone back in 2015 after finishing 10-6.

EJ Manuel’s bid for the future

At quarterback, EJ Manuel will make his first start for the Bills. Ryan Fitzpatrick will again start for the Jets. Though both are low on the totem pole of NFL-caliber quarterbacks, Manuel has everything to show for on Sunday as he will try and earn a roster spot elsewhere after the Bills declined his fifth-year option. It’s not likely that he’ll return to Buffalo on a new deal but anything could happen as it appears the Bills will push the restart button this offseason.

In his first start this season, Manuel has the opportunity to find footing underneath him as he faces a Jets secondary that is 28th against the pass. The Jets have blown zone defense coverages over and over this year, and don’t have the bodies to go man to man on opposing receivers.

Here’s a big third down conversion from last weeks game against New England that led to a touchdown. The Jets employ their dime defense with six defensive backs. Outside linebacker, David Harris shows pressure off the left but slips out into coverage on Chris Hogan (furthest inside slot receiver on the right).

Here’s the end zone shot.

Strong safety Calvin Pryor lines up between the guard and the tackle showing B gap pressure but backs out to play the middle hook and take away any crossing routes. Harris continues up the seam, passing Hogan off to Pryor who is baited by Tom Brady’s eyes. Hogan does a nice job finding the hole in the defense and moves the chains on 3rd down.

Now, if given time to sit back in the pocket, Manuel will have opportunities to complete big plays like the one above against the Jets. Manuel’s last start came against the Jaguars in Week 7 of last season. In that game, Manuel had four turnovers, including this pick six.

Manuel getting the opportunity to start was deemed a “Business decision” according to Bills interim head coach, Anthony Lynn.

Even with a solid outing on Sunday, it’s not likely that Manuel will have earned himself a spot on the Bills next year. Perhaps at the least, a good outing Sunday assures his spot on a bench in 2017 on a different team.

Revis’ last outing as a Jet?

The Jets have already paid $33 million of the $39 million Darrelle Revis was guaranteed back in the offseason of 2015. In 2017, he’s due another $15 million but has a dead cap hit of just $6 million dollars. If the Jets elect to cut him this offseason and another team signs him, for say $4 million, the Jets would simply owe him only $2 million, per NJ.com.

Revis spoke on the matter this week, expressing his desire to return to the Jets for next season.

“Would I love to be here? Yes,” Revis said. “Will I be back? That’s a great question. My thing would be this: Do the New York Jets want to treat my situation with class or no class? With me being one of the best players in the history of this franchise, do they want me to retire here or not retire here?” Revis said per Mark Cannizzaro of the NY Post.

The Jets are limited in options as to what they could do with Revis moving forward so he could play out the rest of his contract as a Jet. Moving him to free safety doesn’t seem applicable with Revis’ struggles in one on one coverage this year. Leaving him as the last line of defense doesn’t seem fitting for a defense that could use an upgrade at free safety.

Moving him to strong safety isn’t an option either with how unwilling of a tackler he was this season.

He could be moved to the slot on a team who already has established perimeter corners and is in need of a slot cornerback. This season in New York, the Jets had to rely on Revis to travel and face the opponents #1 receivers for a majority of the year. He still hasn’t recorded an interception this season and if he fails to do so against Buffalo, it’ll be his first season without a pick in his 10-year career.

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Sammy Watkins Revival 

In Week 16 against the Dolphins, Watkins recorded his first 100+ receiving yard game and just his second touchdown of the season. On seven catches, Watkins had 154 yards and a score. Here are a few clips from his performance.

In their Week 2 matchup this season, the Jets didn’t match Watkins with Revis the entire game, which led to Marquise Goodwin exploding for over 100 yards receiving on only two receptions, including this bomb.

Conclusion

It wasn’t easy nitpicking matchups for this game because quite frankly, there just aren’t that many noteworthy storylines for this game. There are a handful of players on these two rosters that have talent but possibly won’t be with their respective squad come next Fall. With records thrown out of the window for this duel, the only thing these two teams have left to play for is pride, and even that might be a stretch.

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