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New York Jets At The Quarter-Pole: Reason For Optimism

-- John B. from SB Nation's Jets website, Gang Green Nation, was kind enough to provide us with this analysis of the 3-1 Jets at the quarter-pole of the NFL season.

Jets fans like Fireman Ed have had lots to celebrate so far this season.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Jets fans like Fireman Ed have had lots to celebrate so far this season. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
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The Jets sit tied with New England on top of the AFC East with a 3-1 record a quarter of the way through the 2010 season. Unlike the Patriots, Gang Green has a head to head victory over all three division rivals. In contrast to New England, the Jets will welcome back their best receiver in Week 5 instead of getting rid of him. There have been a few themes to the season so far.
The development of the passing game

The 2009 Jets were known for their elite defense and run game. The passing game was a big weakness. It looked like New York's air game would stay a weakness in a disastrous Week 1 showing against the Ravens, but it has taken off since. Mark Sanchez is finally starting to make good on his vast potential with 8 touchdowns, 0 interceptions, and a passer rating of 105.3. Dustin Keller has 19 catches for 254 yards and five touchdowns. Braylon Edwards has 12 catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns. Both of those guys have always had all the potential in the world but were widely regarded as underachievers entering the season. It's amazing what a quarterback can do. Now the team gets its best receiver, Santonio Holmes, in the lineup.

LaDainian Tomlinson's resurgence
LaDainian Tomlinson looked finished last year with San Diego. His run blocking surely did not help, but the legend looked a step slow. He was statistically one of the worst in the league gaining yards after contact and making defenders miss. He now looks like the player he was five years ago. He has that burst back. He is making defenders miss again. He is hitting his holes with authority. Tomlinson was supposed to spell Shonn Greene. Instead, he is taking Greene's starting job. He owns a 6.1 average per carry and is on pace for over 1,300 yards.
Missing key parts
The Jets are off to their 3-1 start without having some of their best players. Kris Jenkins was lost for the year early in the opener with a torn ACL. The Jets were looking to use he and Sione Pouha for a 3-4 front with two excellent nose tackles. Calvin Pace's preseason ankle injury has kept him off the field to this point. Darrelle Revis' strained hamstring cost him the last two weeks. Santonio Holmes was suspended. This team is in great position at 3-1 with a 3-0 record in division without these guys. Aside from Jenkins, they are all coming back to make the team better.
Pass defense issues
The Jets had the best pass defense in the league a year ago. They rank no. 22 at the quarter point this year. The team has been able to overcome the loss of Revis, but the corner is still very valuable. He followed and shut down elite receivers by himself last year and allowed the team to roll coverage to secondary targets. Antonio Cromartie has been his typical inconsistent self. There were excellent performances against Randy Moss and Lee Evans and some brutal ones against Brandon Marshall and Baltimore's receiving corps. Rookie first-round pick Kyle Wilson has had a ton on his plate. The Jets have left him without help often. He has struggled, looking tentative and struggling to locate the ball in the air. In other words, he looks like a rookie going through growing pains. Rex Ryan's patented blitzes have also been inconsistent early. The returns of Revis and Pace should help a lot.
Bad news off the field
People have heard plenty about the Jets off the field. Their talk on Hard Knocks rubbed some fans and players of other teams the wrong way. The Revis training camp holdout caused a major distraction. So did alleged inappropriate behavior around reporter Ines Sainz, which led to the team underwriting sensitivity training for the rest of the league. Then there was Braylon Edwards' arrest for drunk driving. The Jets have been in the news for a lot of reasons. Not all of them are good.
The Jets are off to a great start and have a very talented team. At this point, they are justifying the Super Bowl hype surrounding them. This club has a chance to go all the way. If that happens, they will have a legacy much like another legendary New York championship team, the 1986 Mets. Those Mets were reviled by almost everybody except their fans. The off field news makes the Jets a target for hate from many. A fan base that has been waiting four decades for a title couldn't care less what others think, though, as long as their team keeps playing well.