Darrelle Revis is one of the National Football League's best players. Since the New York Jets aren't exactly bursting out of the seams with talent, Revis is clearly the team's best player. On Sunday in Miami he fell hopelessly to the ground as he tore his ACL, bringing down with him any chance of the Jets having a positive season. At least, that's how it felt.
But it's not exactly the case. If the Jets finish this season with, say, 5-7 wins, they're going to have a built in excuse with Revis' injury. However, the Jets shouldn't simply fold up shop and start looking towards 2013 just yet.
While Revis is the team's best player, he doesn't play the most important position on a football team (quarterback, of course). The Jets reinforced their secondary this offseason with the addition of safeties LaRon Landry Yeremiah Bell. Antonio Cromartie is often referred to by his coach Rex Ryan as a "Number one cornerback", and Kyle Wilson was a first round pick just two years ago. There is talent there. The overall talent level takes a considerable hit without Revis, but there are much weaker secondaries around the NFL; just go down the hallway in MetLife Stadium and take a look at the depth chart. Outside of the secondary, the Jets do have a defensive unit that was believed to be one of the league's better overall sides coming into the season.
That isn't to say that they've played well this season. They absolutely have not. The Jets rank 21st in the NFL in total defense, are the worst unit in the league on third down and are 28th in the league against the run. The Jets too talented on defense to post these numbers, even without Revis. What this Revis injury gives the Jets, and more specifically coach Rex Ryan, is prove their worth. If the Jets simply go in the tank from now on, how is that going to look for Ryan's viability as an NFL head coach? If Ryan's defensive prowess is so heavily tied to one great player, how exactly is he worthy of being a head coach?
And of course there are other facets of football, like offense, something Jets fans have miserably endured over the past few seasons. With Revis out, the onus is even more so on Mark Sanchez, if that's even possible. The Jets essentially were always going to go as far as Sanchez could take them. A lot of people think that's nowhere. I don't necessarily agree with that, but we'll see. Sanchez has these next two weeks to go out and prove that he can be the type of franchise quarterback that galvanizes his entire team. In Weeks 4 and 5 the Jets will go up against two very tough opponents with excellent defenses - the San Francisco 49ers and the Houston Texans. Neither team is an unbeatable juggernaut. The Jets can at the very least split these two games if Sanchez plays well.
Sanchez can be helped out much more than he has been so far this season by the rest of the offense. The offensive line has been suspect. Shonn Greene has done nothing this season but prove that he's not a starting-caliber running back. Rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill has dropped about as many passes as he has caught, including touchdowns. Additionally, Dustin Keller hasn't played yet due to injury, and Mike Tannenbaum did a pretty poor job of assembling talent in the offseason. Aside from Santonio Holmes and Jeremy Kerley, Sanchez has the likes of Chaz Schilens and Jeff Cumberland to throw to. When you're looking at the prospect of a high level of dependency on guys like Schilens and Bilal Powell, you haven't exactly stocked your young quarterback's toolshed. Still, Sanchez can play better, and with Revis out he simply has to.
The Jets also have a fairly favorable schedule the rest of the way. It eases up a bit as the season wears on, with home games against the Indianapolis and Miami and winnable road games at St. Louis and Jacksonville. Even without Revis, those are all winnable games for the Jets.
It can't be denied that the loss of Revis is a huge one for the Jets. Ask any team in the NFL if they want to lose their best player on either side of the ball and see how easily they think they'll move on. The Jets will be adversely affected by Revis' absence. But Ryan, Sanchez and the rest of the Jets can minimize the effect and salvage the season.
We'll see if they actually do.