DETROIT -- Imagine walking into a Ferrari showroom and coming out with a Nissan Versa.
Basically, that's what happened to the New York Jets last May in the NFL draft.
On Sunday night, Odell Beckham Jr. reminded everybody with his already-legendary catch that the 2014 wide receiver class is the best and deepest in recent memory. There are emerging stars in each of the first four rounds, and yet the Jets somehow blew it. Consider these sobering facts:
- Eighteen of the 20 receivers selected in the first four rounds have at least one reception. The only two who don't were picked by the Jets -- Jalen Saunders (since released) and Shaq Evans.
- Of the 33 receivers chosen in the entire draft, only nine have no catches -- four of whom are current or former Jets. Those are Saunders, Evans, Quincy Enunwa (practice squad) and Walt Powell, whom they claimed on waivers from the Arizona Cardinals.
Yep, the Jets sure know how to pick 'em. And it's not like there were no opportunities in training camp. Other than Eric Decker and Jeremy Kerley, the wide receiver depth chart was wide open.
The biggest names in the class are Beckham Jr., Mike Evans and Sammy Watkins, whom the Jets will face Monday night in their re-scheduled game against the Buffalo Bills. All three were picked in the top 12, before the Jets were on the clock. But there was plenty of talent throughout the draft.
Jordan Matthews, Allen Robinson and Jarvis Landry -- each with at least 48 catches -- were taken in the second round. John Brown (37 catches, 529 yards, five touchdowns) went in the third and Martavis Bryant (six touchdowns) in the fourth.
The failure to capitalize on the talent-rich receiver crop is one of the biggest strikes on John Idzik's record as general manager. A total of 378 players have caught at least one pass in the league this season, and not one of them is a wide receiver drafted by the Jets.
If it's any consolation (probably not much), the Jets were high on Beckham and would've picked him if he had lasted until the 18th pick.
The Jets are well-rested, coming off the bye, and I think the change to prime time will add some juice for them. Their other motivation is payback, a little redemption after getting blown out by the Bills in the previous meeting. The Jets are 0-4 on the road, having been outscored by 54 points – the third-worst point differential in the league. But I think that gets thrown out the window because this game will feature two "road" teams, basically.
From the Jets' perspective, the No. 1 concern is blocking the Bills' front four. That'll be a problem, which is why I think Michael Vick will finish as the leading rusher.
Shame on the Jets if they let the Bills have a big offensive day. The Bills have gone 21 straight possessions without a touchdown. They make the Jets look like an offensive juggernaut. Kyle Orton, who tore apart the Jets at MetLife Stadium, is struggling. This is one of the few games where the Jets can honestly say they don't have a disadvantage at quarterback.
Prediction: Jets 24, Bills 23
This isn't the sexiest matchup, but it'll be a fascinating game because of what transpired with the Bills, who made it out of Buffalo on Friday after three days of cabin fever. Displaced by the storm and distracted by its frightening impact, the Bills are coping with a unique form of adversity. For the Jets, it was a routine week of preparation. In theory, it should be a competitive advantage for them. Then again, they're 2-8.
"No excuses," Rex Ryan said. "Here we come."
Kickoff is 7 p.m. ET Monday. Here are the top storylines:
2. Post-bye blues: There are two Dave & Buster's locations in the Detroit area, but don't worry: Ryan isn't planning another D & B road trip, not after last year's debacle in the Buffalo area. That came after a bye week. Once again, the Jets are facing the Bills after a bye -- and that usually spells doom. The Jets are 1-4 following the bye under Ryan, who tried to shake up the bye-week routine by actually practicing football. Let's see if the results are any different.
3. Payback in Motown: The Jets' low point this season came in Week 8, a 43-23 loss to the Bills in which they committed six turnovers. It was brutal. Muhammad Wilkerson said it's time to "return the favor." It's not often you hear redemption talk from a two-win team, but, hey, whatever gets you going. In all seriousness, this is an opportunity for the Jets to prove their upset over the Pittsburgh Steelers wasn't a fluke and the team is making real strides. Ryan said they're better in a "zillion ways" since the Week 8 debacle. The Bills (5-5) have gone in the opposite direction, having lost two straight.
4. Hold that tiger: Bills rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins embarrassed the Jets in the last meeting, catching three passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. It should've been two touchdowns, but he slowed down on an 84-yard play because of a premature celebration. The former Clemson Tiger is hot and cold. He has three 100-yard games (all wins), two more than the Jets' receivers have this season, but he tends to disappear for stretches. The Jets, who probably will start Marcus Williams and Darrin Walls at cornerback, have to limit the big plays. They also can't let Kyle Orton be Jim Kelly, which happened in Week 8. Four of his 10 completions that day were touchdowns, which is ridiculous.
DETROIT -- Minutes after the Lions made free tickets available for Monday night's rescheduled game between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets, fans were being turned away from the box office at Ford Field.
The team originally planned on distributing tickets from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, but fans scooped up all 500 tickets -- with a two-ticket limit per person -- within 10 minutes.
Scalpers quickly moved to sell the tickets on the streets outside the stadium, in one case asking $125 for a single ticket.
"This ain't a free game, man," one scalper said.
Meanwhile, the Bills tweeted out a photo of Ralph Wilson Stadium, where the process of removing the snow from last week's storms is still ongoing.
1. Must-win for Rex: It might be a Hail Mary at this point, but if the embattled Rex Ryan wants to keep hope alive, he needs to win Monday night in Detroit. We're talking about his job, of course.
The Jets are healthy and well-rested, coming off a bye week in which Ryan tweaked the practice schedule in an attempt to eliminate their history of post-bye blues. Ryan, perhaps the most confident 2-8 coach in history, claimed his team has improved in a "zillion ways" since the Week 8 blowout loss to the Bills. Those words will be nothing more than empty bravado if they don't take care of business at Ford Field. Losing to a displaced and distracted team that hasn't scored a touchdown in 21 straight possessions probably would be the final nail in his coaching coffin.
2. Numbers don't add up: Consider the following statistics for a moment -- 6.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and zero interceptions. Pretty good year, right?
In this case, not exactly.
Those are the combined numbers for the Jets' past four first-round picks -- Quinton Coples, Dee Milliner, Sheldon Richardson and Calvin Pryor.
Aside from Richardson, the Jets aren't getting much production out of their most recent No. 1s. Milliner is out with a season-ending injury, but Coples (2.5 sacks) has regressed in his third season and Pryor has been a non-factor, resulting in a demotion. If you want to build through the draft, as the Jets do, the draft has to be the foundation, especially the top picks. The Jets are lacking in that area.
Asked if he's interested to see how Pryor responds, defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman said: "Very. We love Calvin. He is a good player -- we drafted him where we drafted him for a reason. He's going to be an excellent pro. He's going to get his opportunities to play, (and) he has to go out there and perform. It’s a performance-based business."
And, presumably, he will show up on time for meetings.
4. C.J. loves to YAC: This might surprise some folks. Chris Johnson isn't known as a "contact" running back, but he's averaging 2.15 yards-after-contact per rush -- 10th in the league, according to ESPN Stats & Information. A year ago, he averaged only 1.29 with the Tennessee Titans -- 46th. Why the sudden improvement? Johnson attributed last season's low number to the fact that he played most of the season with a torn meniscus in his knee.
As part of his rehab from knee surgery, Johnson employed an intensive leg-strengthening program. Now, he believes, his legs are as strong as they've ever been. And fresh, too.
"I'm not even at 100 carries," said Johnson, who has expressed frustration with his reduced role.
5. It's 1989 all over again: I'd be lying if I said I anticipated a bad season for the Jets, but I remember telling a colleague after the season-ending win against the Miami Dolphins that the situation had a 1988 feel to it. For the younger fans, let me explain. The Jets finished the '88 season with an 8-7-1 record, stunning the New York Giants in the finale. Al Toon caught the game-winning touchdown in the final seconds, ruining the Giants' playoff bid. The Jets were euphoric, convinced they were on the right track. Sound familiar?
Those old Jets bottomed out the following year with a 4-12 finish that resulted in an organizational house cleaning. The current Jets are headed toward a similarly disappointing season, making last season's 8-8 record (and the wild locker-room scene with Ryan and Idzik) seem like a lifetime ago. Moral of the story: Don't get sucked into late-season success; it creates false hope.
6. Castoff shines in Tampa: Remember Danny Lansanah? He spent last season on the Jets' practice squad, waiting for a chance that never came. He got a shot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and he's making the most of it. Starting at strongside linebacker, Lansanah has three interceptions, including two touchdown returns. He was signed off the Jets' practice squad late last season, appearing in the Bucs' final game. He became only the 12th player since 1998 to go at least five years between NFL appearances. He played for the Green Bay Packers in 2008 -- quite a journey.
8. Woe-ffense: The Jets are averaging 17.4 points per game. A year ago, they averaged 18.1 with a new system, a rookie quarterback and injuries at wide receiver. This isn't what you'd call progress.
9. Snow job: On their way to Detroit, the Jets should drop off Calvin Pace in Buffalo and leave him there with a shovel. His comments the other day, saying the killer snowstorm is an "inconvenience" for him, were insensitive. He needs a dose of reality.
10. Good dudes: With Thanksgiving approaching, this is a time when players like to give back to the community. Jeff Cumberland, Demario Davis and Muhammad Wilkerson have provided turkeys and/or dinners for the underprivileged in various areas. Cumberland assisted in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, with Davis and Wilkerson helping in New Jersey communities.
After being made available Saturday morning, a full distribution of free tickets already has been handed out for the game.
"It's incredible to think that that many tickets have been distributed in that short period of time," Bills president Russ Brandon said Saturday night. "We're looking forward to a robust house that night, and hopefully we'll have a lot of Bills fans in there as well."
The capacity of Ford Field is 65,000, but Brandon does not expect fans to be turned away.
"With free tickets, your no-show rate has a tendency to be higher," Brandon said.
The Bills are offering full refunds for fans who held tickets to Sunday's originally scheduled game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Even if fans receive a refund, they can use those tickets at Ford Field on Monday night.
While seating is general admission, the Bills will have "preferred seating" between the 20-yard lines for those who held tickets to Sunday's game.
"Those individuals have the opportunity to sit behind our bench area and root us on," Brandon said.
A couple of weeks ago, the New York Jets were beseiged with hate from their own fans. There was the plane over their practice facility ("Fire John Idzik"), the plane over their stadium ("Jets Rebuilding Since 1969") and, of course, the anti-Idzik billboards near MetLife Stadium.
Now the Jets are going on the road to Detroit, where they can expect to receive ...
A warm embrace?
Yep, it's a possibility.
A local radio station, Detroit Sports 105.1, has started a pro-Jets campaign. Or maybe we should say it's an anti-Jim Schwartz campaign.
The station has dubbed game day "Green Monday," imploring fans to root for the Jets. The locals are down on Schwartz, the former Detroit Lions coach who compiled a 29-51 record in five seasons. He was fired after last season and, after being hired by the Buffalo Bills as their defensive coordinator, he asked his new players to carry him off the field if they beat the Lions in Week 5 at Ford Field.
They did, and they did. Schwartz, milking the moment, pumped his fist as they carried him off.
So now you know why Detroit loathes Schwartz.
The folks in Detroit apparently have short memories. Marty Mornhinweg, the Jets' offensive coordinator, also is a former Lions coach. He was 5-27 in 2001 and 2002.
The size and makeup of the crowd will be interesting, considering Buffalo is only 250 miles from Detroit. The Lions sold out an undisclosed number of free on-line tickets and are offering another 500 free tickets. When the New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings played at Ford Field in 2010 -- the game was moved because the Metrodome roof collapsed -- the announced crowd exceeded 40,000.
There have been only two true neutral-site games in franchise history. One was pretty famous -- Super Bowl III at the Orange Bowl in Miami, where the Jets upset the Baltimore Colts. The other occurred only a few months earlier -- Sept. 22, 1968, at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.
What were the Jets doing in Alabama? They faced the Boston Patriots in what was considered the Patriots' home opener. It was supposed to be played at Fenway Park, but the Boston Red Sox said it was unavailable for that date. So, at the urging of AFL president Wilt Woodard, they moved it to Birmingham. The primary reason was the league wanted to gauge Alabama's interest in pro football for a possible franchise relocation. The other reason: Joe Namath. He played college ball at Alabama and they figured he'd sell tickets.
A crowd of 29,192 watched the Jets defeat the Patriots, 47-31.
There have been a few other semi-neutral sites. For instance, in 2009, the Jets played the Bills at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, but it was a Bills' home game in every sense. In 1963 and 1964, the Jets faced the Patriots in Chesnut Hill, Mass., a Boston suburb. In 1974, they played the New York Giants at the Yale Bowl, which served as the Giants' home field in 1973 and 1974.
So, really, Monday night's game in Detroit is historic. Too bad they're 2-8.
@RichCimini: If Rex Ryan is fired, owner Woody Johnson would owe it to the franchise and the fan base to explore Jim Harbaugh, if he shakes free from the San Francisco 49ers. It's not often a coach of his caliber becomes available, so it would be a huge mistake to have a short list without Harbaugh's name on it. It would be a departure for Johnson, whose previous head coaching hires never had any previous experience in the big chair. It also would be costly, easily $7 million per year. There also could be the question of final say. If Harbaugh were to demand control over personnel, what would happen to John Idzik? Johnson probably would have to re-structure the organization, but Harbaugh is a big name with a proven record. No doubt, Harbaugh would have multiple suitors.
#jetsmail So if Rex is probably gone and the season is over, are there any obvious HC hires for next year? Todd Bowles? Maybe Harbaugh?— Tony McDermot (@TonyMcDermot) November 14, 2014
@RichCimini: There will be no Jets-Revis reunion as long as Woody Johnson is the owner. If they really wanted him, they would've made a move last offseason, but Johnson made it clear there was no interest in Darrelle Revis 2.0. Looking ahead, I don't think Revis would even consider the Jets if Ryan isn't the coach. My hunch is that Revis and Ryan will reunite somewhere, but it won't be in New York.
@RichCimini: Let's put it this way: The Jets have only four cornerbacks under contract for 2015, and two of them will be coming off major surgery -- Dee Milliner and Dexter McDougle. The other two are Darrin Walls and Marcus Williams. So, to answer your question, yes, cornerback has to be a top priority in the offseason. They have to invest in a veteran free agent, maybe two, and they have to be better than Dimitri Patterson. They also have to consider drafting one. They can't leave themselves short two years in a row.
@RichCimini: I think they will try because his current contract includes a substantial cap hit -- $10.5 million, the amount of his base salary. In case you're wondering, that's the eighth-highest cap charge for a wide receiver in 2015, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Ideally, you'd like to convert base salary into signing bonus, pro-rating the bonus over the final four years of the deal for cap purposes. But the Jets have to ask themselves: Do we want to put guaranteed money in this player's pocket? Percy Harvin has a history of off-the-field problems. He's well-behaved now, but will he revert to his old ways if his financial motivation is gone? Obviously, Harvin could refuse to re-work his deal, forcing the Jets' hand.
@RichCimini: Yes, I have seen it, and I think it's hilarious. It's so Nick Mangold. I talked to him about it the other day and he said they shot it in one day at a real gas station with real customers. I don't know how the locker room feels about it, but I know what the head coach thinks. Mangold told me Rex Ryan texted one night recently to tell he'd just seen the commercial and liked it a lot.
The NFL is giving something away for free.
Tickets for Monday night's game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills that was moved to Detroit are free and available first to season-ticket holders beginning Friday, and then to the general public starting Saturday on the Detroit Lions' website. Tickets also can be claimed at Ford Field on Sunday and Monday prior to the 7 p.m. ET game. All of the tickets are general admission seating, so first come, first serve.
The game was moved because of snowstorms in Western New York this week that made Ralph Wilson Stadium unplayable Sunday.
The Lions also will hold a 50/50 raffle Monday night with benefits going to the American Red Cross of Western and Central New York Disaster Relief Fund. The Lions' first four home games of the season averaged around $100,000 in the pot for each one.
"We are pleased to be hosting the Bills and Jets for their game Monday night," Lions president Tom Lewand said. "While our thoughts are with the people of the Buffalo area during this difficult time, our team at Ford Field will do everything we can to be good hosts to their team this weekend."
This isn't the first time Ford Field has hosted a displaced NFL game and is not the first time tickets have been free, either. When the collapsing Metrodome roof moved the New York Giants-Minnesota Vikings game in December 2010 from Minneapolis to Detroit, tickets were also free and general admission.
That said, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan announced in his Friday afternoon press conference that all the Jets had practiced fully and would be probable for Monday night's game in Detroit against the Bills.
"Everyone was a full go today and everybody's probable for the game," Ryan said. "Like I said, no excuses. Here we come."
That won't be official now until Saturday, but it's a good sign for the Jets.